Donald Trump Should Embrace a Realist Foreign Policy - John J. Mearsheimer
November 27, 2016
Trump campaigned against America’s powerful foreign policy community—what one of President Obama’s advisors derisively labeled “the Blob.” Its members include prominent Democrats and Republicans with similar views on foreign policy. He accused them of producing “one foreign policy disaster after another,” and promised to “develop a new foreign policy direction for our country.” This was precisely the message many voters wanted to hear, and the president-elect now has the opportunity to change how the United States deploys its power around the world.
Over the past twenty-five years, American leaders have pursued a policy of liberal hegemony, which calls for the United States to dominate the entire globe. This strategy assumes every region of the world matters greatly for American security, and it calls for extending the U.S. security umbrella to nearly any country that wants protection as well as trying to spread democracy far and wide. In practice, this objective means toppling regimes and then doing nation building. Small wonder the United States has been at war for two out of every three years since the Cold War ended.
Liberal hegemony is a bankrupt strategy. The United States has worked to topple regimes and promote democracy in six countries in the greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Each attempt has been an abject failure: wars are raging in every one of those countries except Egypt, which is once again a military dictatorship. This campaign has also made America’s terrorism problem worse: Al Qaeda has morphed and multiplied, and we are now at war with ISIS, which is largely a consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
In Europe, the United States foolishly tried to integrate Georgia and Ukraine into the West, precipitating an unnecessary crisis with Russia that upset the peace in eastern Europe and made it harder for Moscow and Washington to cooperate on other matters, like ending the bloodletting in Syria.
Spreading democracy, especially by force, almost always fails. It inevitably involves large-scale social engineering in societies that most Americans poorly understand. Dismantling and then replacing existing political institutions inevitably creates winners and losers, and the latter usually take up arms in opposition, which forces the U.S. military to wage costly counterinsurgency campaigns that are extremely difficult to win. The end result is precisely the sort of quagmire we faced in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Trump administration should abandon liberal hegemony and adopt a realist foreign policy. Realism is chiefly concerned with America’s position in the global balance of power, and it shuns doing social engineering inside other countries. Instead, Washington would respect the sovereignty of other states even when it disagrees with their internal policies. Americans prize their own sovereignty, which is why they recoiled at the idea that Russia might be interfering in the recent presidential election. The United States should treat other countries according to the same standard and respect their sovereignty as well. - Read More