Podcast July 24, 2023

US Foreign Policy – Liberal Idealism v Realism. Steve Williamson and Gary LaMaster look at the many challenges now facing our nation. Our current situation stands in stark contrast to the unbridled optimism that followed the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

What went wrong?

Since the 1990s, US administrations of both parties have followed a policy of liberal idealism. Distinct from the traditional definition of liberalism used in domestic politics, as it pertains to foreign policy, it is defined as the belief that a nation should make its internal political philosophy the goal of its foreign policy. As a result, most especially during the George W. Bush administration, the US embarked on a policy of regime change and nation building. The hope was that we could use the world’s most powerful military to export our style of democracy to much of the world beginning with Afghanistan and Iraq.

By almost any measure, that approach has been an abysmal failure.

The alternative approach is what is usually referred to as realism. Or as foreign policy expert, Stepen Walt, terms “Offshore Balancing.” With this approach, he suggests that we maintain relations with ALL other nations, even our rivals and enemies; that we gradually draw down troop deployments in Europe and elsewhere; and that we help create balance. For example, Europe would provide balance to Russia. And a multination Pacific alliance would balance China.

The money needed to serve as the world’s police force could then be put to use to help underdeveloped nations and head off many conflicts.

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