American foreign policy is often a result of the struggle to assist people in need or under duress and the American people’s desire to mind their own business. America is often the reluctant warrior when using her vast military might abroad and even when using that might there is a definitive reluctance to unleash her entire might and fury. The problem is that even the measured and restrained use of American military might does not appear to be such as even that is well beyond the capability of any other nation on the planet and often more destructive than the entire forces from the combined forces of an entire region in which it is used. A typical example was the American use of force to take Panamanian strongman and international drug dealer and facilitator General Manuel Antonio Noriega into custody and to stand trial on charges in the United States. The force utilized to bring him to face charges in America were very limited by American standards yet were likely capable of not only overwhelming the Panamanian military but also that of the several surrounding nations if that had become necessary. The troops and forces represented by a single United States battle group attached to a single aircraft carrier and supporting ships which includes a contingent of United States Marines would be capable of conquering most nations on the face of the earth without needing to call for reserves or other reinforcements. The United States was probably the sole power in the history of the human race since the first city states brought civilization into existence and led to the formation of nations which had the capability and the opportunity to literally conquer the entire globe. Had the United States been a colonizing power in the ideals of the great European colonizers such as Spain, England, France, Portugal, and the Dutch; then perhaps the President and Congress would have acted on the suggestions of two of the greatest American Generals from World War II and as General George Patton suggested taken Russia and as General Douglas MacArthur suggested have taken China and as there were more American troops in Germany, Italy, France and England at the end of World War II, the world today might look vastly different with everybody throughout the globe voting for the President of the United States and for their own members to its Congress and there would be no United Nations other than the United Nations of America. That is the upper limit of American power at its zenith at the end of World War II. Every use of American military might since World War II had been but a small contingent of the potential strength America is capable of fielding and since she has done so on only the most dire of occasions, we can only hope we do not need her maximum efforts ever again.
On the other hand, and as was witnessed in both World Wars, America is the reluctant warrior and only enters into the fray as a final resort or in response to an actual attack on her people or threat thereof. More often we witness American military might bringing aid to areas struck by the most horrific catastrophes, be they the result of natural catastrophe or the result of human indifference. The American people are mostly of a mind to allow the world to decide on their own policies and to fight their own battles as long as they have no direct effect or bring harm to the Americans themselves. The Americans have often been called isolationists who more often than not withdraw from the rest of the world’s problems only acting by invitation or as a last resort to restore a balance they perceive has been lost. There was a period after World War II where the United States would respond and act to prevent the spread of Communist influence which was being spread by military means and most often against nations which had limited military ability to resist the forces backed by the Soviet Union on their own and without assistance. After the fall of the Soviet Union the United States also retreated from its use of military might throughout the world. This calm was broken by the attacks of September 11, 2001 when terrorists from al-Qaeda struck the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and were prevented from striking a fourth target when the passengers brought United Airlines Flight 93 to the ground in western Pennsylvania. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq followed these events and America once again used a portion of her military might to avenge herself and strike at those they perceived had struck them. Before this vengeance was completed by many American’s ideas of what should have been accomplished and who held the strongest of angers the American military was brought home and once again the United States began to withdraw into her solitude until being required again to answer the call. We saw the other side of American military might in Haiti after the horrendous earthquake and again in Japan after the disastrous trio of an earthquake, followed by a tsunami and then the explosive failures of nuclear power reactors as a result of the flooding and force of the tidal waves. These are the more common examples of American use of her military might, that of bringing relief to those in dire need resulting from natural disasters. The United States is unmatched in her ability to provide such aid though a few other nations also spring to mind who are amongst the first to respond when the calamity of natural forces strike and wreak their havoc. The majority of Americans, that so-called silent majority, would be pleased if the world would never require the deployment of American military might except for the hopefully rare natural disaster where such military force is used to relieve the pain and suffering of the victims of the whims of Mother Nature and her forces often unleashed from within the planet herself.
The dichotomy the American military is often accused of suffering from is actually a dichotomy found in the American public. Trying to classify the American public is a fool’s effort as it is comprised of individuals as diverse as any population anywhere, partially because they come from almost everywhere originally. The secret of America has been that they take the best from each culture and merge it into the whole of American culture just as they would merge the people from every culture into the American body public. While the customs from the old world, as it is often referred to, would remain within the family at gatherings and at home while each generation would slowly meld into the American ethos while still remembering their roots and knowing that a small part of what they brought was now part of the greater whole and this allowed them to feel at home and a part of a greater whole. This is how the multiethnic American people can unite and believe they are one. It is also why it is near impossible to read the American people as simply being from a single culture and background. Where the British are known for their stiff upper lip, the French for l’amour, and all the other stereotypes can be found among the American peoples because they are not a single, harmonious identity. Instead of their familiar background, the American slowly fits into their new identity such as the western cowboy ethos, the cosmopolitan New Yorker, the proper Bostonian, the unrestrained and experimental Californian, the middle America farmer and almost countless others all of which might describe a few but nothing is that straight forward. The same comes to bear when attempting to figure the American foreign policies. First off is that with every new President the person who shapes foreign policy the most is replaced often with somebody with a completely different point of view. This could not have been more evident than when President Obama followed President Bush and the interventional policies of President Bush were replaced by the regressive retreat which was enacted by President Obama. The other side of the equation is that even though President Obama and President Bush could not have had any more disparate foreign policy goals, one trying to right the grievance from the September 11 attacks and the other trying to reverse everything and retreat from the world and give the United States a smaller and more passive world presence, President Obama had been unable to completely reverse every last iota of the policies of President Bush most evidenced by the inability to close the Guantanamo prison as President Obama likely realized that not everything is controllable, even for the President of the United States.
The one sure and unalterable truth about the American foreign policy will change direction, not completely though possibly more radically than can be predicted, every change of the family occupying the White House. Still, there are certain core principles which even a President is obliged to follow; the will of the American people should they ever unite behind a cause or as a reaction to events, especially a perceived assault on the United States or her interests or allies. That is the one power which is capable of taking American foreign policy to its furthest extremes. The other truth is that it is near impossible to predict when or where the American people might demand a President respond. Where a President can resist or even deny the desires and demands of the American public, if their positions are strongly felt the next President will be elected to carry out their exact desires. It is this strange mixture of the whims of the people, the regular changes in the leader of the United States, and most of all, the fact that for the large part the American people have very little if any interest in most foreign policy and could not care or find a reason to follow foreign affairs and largely only care about domestic policies and their own expectations of the government. That means that when it comes to foreign policy decisions and setting the priorities the American people, probably the best regulating control over government ever invented, have little desire to use their regulatory control over the foreign policy of the United States. That means that the only real controlling and limiting influence on American foreign policy is the five hundred and thirty-five members of Congress, the one-hundred Senators and the four-hundred-thirty-five members of the House of Representatives who are mostly concerned with assuring their reelection as many are not capable of honest work. Many of these representatives of the American public are simply walking through their assigned paces, repeating lines fed them by their advisors, and attempting to satisfy those who finance their next campaign as well as attempting to meet any needs any of their constituents may request their assistance with right down to tracking down their errant Social Security check as each voter satisfied could mean another hundred votes the next election and an unsatisfied voter definitely means a few thousand lost voters support simply from viral word of mouth and social media. Mostly though they just read their teleprompters or recite memorized positions which often they have no knowledge or concept of their position beyond what they have been instructed. Yet these are the main and often only people with any power to affect the American foreign policy from simply being the result of some ulterior motives and schemes of the President or that of his handlers and advisors. The people and functionaries who hold the uppermost positions in the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security, the National Security Administration and the military, especially in the Pentagon, have the most direct influence on the President as they also control much of the research ordered by the President’s closest advisors and those who the government assigns the responsibility for crafting and influencing American foreign policy. Is it any wonder that it often appears as those controlling the American foreign policy are clueless or many on opposing pages all talking at once and the resultant output is pure gibberish, gibberish, a decent definition for American foreign policy if ever I heard one.
Beyond the Cusp