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Foreign policy, American style: speak loudly and carry a massive stick

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Message Michael Payne

Foreign policy, as generally defined, is "the diplomatic policy of a nation in its interactions with other nations; economically, politically, socially and militarily." Nations have utilized any or all of these four elements of foreign policy with varied success throughout history. Unfortunately, America has, for too long, used military force as the primary means to achieve its world objectives. Diplomacy is a thing of the past, no longer a relevant part of our foreign policy.

To examine this premise fairly and objectively we need to compare the instances in which our government has vigorously pursued strategies of peaceful cooperation with other nations to the instances where military action has been the prevalent policy. What exactly has the U.S., the most powerful, influential nation in the world, done to promote real world peace in recent decades? I don't mean just getting along with our neighbors to the North or South of us, or with our long-time European allies. I mean sincere attempts at initiating peaceful co-existence in the world.

The U.S. has, for years, attempted to establish peace between Israel and Palestine but without any meaningful success. By now, it is clear that Israel has not the slightest intention of trying to make peace with Palestine or even think about a two-state solution. Barack Obama has made several feeble attempts to get a peace initiative underway but when Mr. Netanyahu slams his fist on the peace table, Obama and company meekly back off.

On the other hand, to what extent has U.S. foreign policy, since World War II, been based on wars and regional military actions? Let's see; there was the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And, we may well witness soon are incursions into Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and who knows where else.

When we compare U.S. attempts at peaceful foreign policy initiatives to our aggressive military actions, war wins hands down. America has made it known in recent years that there are no borders that it will not cross to go after any enemy that it feels threatens our national safety. That policy, created by the imperial war hawks Bush and Cheney, introduced the doctrine of preemptive warfare that they applied to the world at large.

Can this steady march to perpetual war be slowed to the point that America can revert back to a rational foreign policy, one that includes interaction with other nations economically, politically, socially and, when all other options have failed, militarily? It would be great to think that such a new direction might be possible but it appears that we may have reached a point of no-return. America, whether we recognize it or not, has now become a modern-day empire that dominates the entire world.

History reminds us that the great empires of the past, most notably the Roman and British, saw their reigns come to an end after they had vastly overextended their world domination. Empires are born, they grow and expand and they all eventually end. But, even as they rapidly propagate, as is the case with America today, they are sowing the seeds of their own inevitable demise.

To what degree has the military assumed control over America's foreign policy? Its influence over the executive branch has become very pervasive. During the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, the power and might of the generals, admirals and the Joint Chiefs of Staff brought immense, unrelenting pressures to expand our involvement in the Vietnam War. While Kennedy thwarted their power grab, Johnson succumbed to it, with devastating results. As we witness what is going on with our escalation in Afghanistan, it is becoming evident that Generals Patraeus and McCrystal are dictating the war agenda.

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