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Hegemony or Survival?: American Foreign Policy in the 21st Century

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I never would have thought that I would go to a college for liberal education where the professor I would have for a U.S. Foreign Policy course would not spout off about the imperialism of American foreign policy in the world. However, with one week left until I get my “A” for the semester in foreign policy, I must admit that I have learned a great deal from my professor who speaks highly of Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Condoleezza Rice, and any other “realist” foreign policy thinker that has led us to where we are today. Regardless of the premise with which he approaches his teaching (he rejects the premise that the U.S. is an imperialist state and operates on the idea that everything we do is based on expanding our hegemony or survival, which is what all states or nations do), I have learned much about the machinations of foreign policy and America.

For those of you out there that have been terrified that we would go into Iran for quite some time, I have not been a member of this group in fear for a little over a month now. The reason being is that unless we truly wanted to bring about an end to our dominance in the world we would not attack Iran because China threatens our hegemony (dominance over the world) right now. However, I join the cry to “Stop War With Iran” based on the notion that threatening war is criminal and insane.

With this new NIE out, it is clear that our move can not be war, it probably never was war, and in fact, the war pimping may have been to just get Americans behind getting tough on Iran in the same way the government got Americans to be tough on Iraq.

Now, I know the recent news. A report says Israel is still considering an Iran attack. Another says that Republicans want a “review” of the intelligence estimate. And this recent news allows me to make two points. One, Israel is a liability for us and for what it is worth, it ain’t worth it anymore. Israel can no longer be the excuse for anything we do.  And two, Republicans and Democrats have no idea what do with foreign policy except to do what they are told by the president or the leadership of their party, which is probably told what to do by the president. Now for the lucky districts and states who have politicians that read the legislation and analyze it and do some thinking, be happy because you are lucky to have a politician or two from your state that does his or here homework. Republicans are just frustrated they can’t use a future Iran war for political gain if there is no proof to threaten an attack and will probably get their “review” even if it is set in stone that we are not going to attack.

China is waiting for us to make a mistake and if we attacked Iran, it could be very possible that would be the mistake that brought us down to a low where China could begin to pump its fists and show it is the sole superpower in the world. It is no joke that China was one of the main topics at the NPR Debate this week. Unfortunately, you probably heard no mention of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which has allowed Iran observer status. The organization proves that China and Russia will defend Iran because if we attack, we will threaten their interests. 

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For the testosterone-driven foreign policymakers in America, Chinese dominance as a result of a mistake with Iran cannot be allowed , which is why much of the plans for Iran have tended towards the idealist line of foreign policy where you hold negotiations or tough diplomacy. Whether we have taken action or not and executed diplomacy does not matter. What does matter is that we were waiting to make a move.

Let’s be honest here.

Governments lie. But in the past, there have been repercussions for those that lie. Only in the 1980s did we start to see the fall off in accountability. America let Reagan and his band of thugs get away with the Iran-Contra scandal (and also the Savings and Loan Scandal). Bush Sr. pardoned six government employees who had been implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal on Christmas Eve in 1992 right before he was on his way out. Also, under Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton (and now Bush II), a pattern of waging “theater wars” to pimp our power has emerged.

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The American people who follow the truth in the alternative news media, who get their political messages from Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul, and who follow the “Special Comments” by Keith Olbermann look on in frustration at the fact that nothing can be done. These Americans shudder every second they have to look at one more neglected report, one more catastrophe, one more scandalous corporate war profiteering incident, or one more resource or economic nightmare. Americans are beginning to see from history that foreign policy is wrong.

The basic line of reasoning in foreign policy for quite some time has been that America exists to advance its hegemony and survive go hand in hand with one another. But no longer can America continue to advance its dominance. It is a failure at this quest for advancement.

America seeks to nation build and remove weak states but has failed with Afghanistan and Iraq. America seeks to diplomatically resolve issues but has no idea how to take care of Iran much less figure out what to do with China or Russia, which has an interest in keeping Iran’s nuclear power secure. America seeks to expand its space program into dominating the space above mankind with weapons that can further project power on people all over. Yet power for what?

The power or dominance looking to be shown now no longer is for being the first to get the piece of the pie, as was the case a couple centuries ago. This is no Louisiana Purchase or trip to the Moon for that matter. We are speaking about the formation of a permanent foreign policy that used to be isolationist but has now turned to blind realism where all lines of thought are abandoned and all is carried out with no guilt or shame. For, the United States knows now and incidents like 9/11 prove that America’s foreign policy is infringing on the lives of people worldwide while also promoting ideas that are destined to create clashes in the future.

These clashes are expected by policymakers unfortunately. Samuel P. Huntington wrote in his book Clash of Civilizations that we can expect people to be frustrated with the way we live. People like Bush have picked up this argument and manifested it into the line, “They hate us for our freedom.” In any case, Huntington has prepared Washington for a 21st Century filled with bloody warfare and the policymakers seem hell-bent to say, “Bring it on!”

This line of reasoning along with Francis Fukuyama’s idea that democracy is the “end of history” for after democracy there is no form of government to follow and nothing can top being given the choice to decide has created this utter rejection of diplomacy, the abolition of war and nuclear weapons, and fair trade. The policymakers and statesmen involved think that there is no way of reasoning with people upset that we may or may not be in their Holy Land. And thus, they feel there is no reason to reason with these “terrorists” or “axis of evil” because it would waste time and resources. Instead, America must continue to build up its dominance of the world, continue to claim high ground in all areas and fields, and continue to show a zero tolerance for anything less than what America deems to be acceptable---the acceptable being tailored to fit America’s needs whenever, wherever, however, and for whomever.

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Poised on the brink of further economic woes, with a rise in gas prices, with a rise in homelessness, with a rise in food prices, with a home foreclosure problem, with a Congress incapable of carrying out the rule of law, and with an Executive Branch which has neglected its people and instead chosen to purely follow John Locke’s philosophy that government’s role is to protect and that is all and the rest is up to the people, the reality is that no longer does this strategy protect people, which to most political thinkers and academics in America is the only thing government guaranteed in the Constitution of America. 

When our policies are hindering the survival of Americans, it is time to reverse. It is time to appreciate and consider the interconnectedness of the world. It is time to stop exploiting countries and peoples and set up fair trade and negotiations for a peaceful world that all can prosper in. 

My professor claims that foreign policy can go largely unchanged for decades because during elections, the foreign policy does not have to change and in fact, the same policymakers can remain in the next administration. Since I believe this to be true, I request and demand that the American people start asking our presidential candidates who their friends are so that we do not get another bunch from a group like the Project for the New American Century waging another world war. Don’t elect people who put cronies or friends in the Executive Branch to go on adventurous theater wars that ravage our nation’s economy and resources and permanently scar soldiers for no good reason at all.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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