October 23, 2006

What Do We Do Now?

There was a fundamental failure under Bush 41 and Carter to rethink America's position in the world after the collapse of communism.

Lend-Lease began a 50-year period of exception in American foreign policy, brought about because totalitarian industrial states, first Germany allied with Japan, and then the Soviet Union, threatened to assume control of Europe and possibly all Eurasia. These were arguably existential threats that required responses such as this country made.

Those threats are no more. The jihadi threat is real and potentially deadly, but it's of a different order than Nazism or communism.

We are not a competent imperial power. Consider the Philippines.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, there was no reason to preserve NATO, let alone expand it, and little reason to maintain troops in Germany or Korea or even Japan. We tried, like the March of Dimes after the invention of the Salk and Sabin vaccines, to maintain a structure whose purpose was gone.

Rather than trying to revive the desiccated corpse of Woodrow Wilson, we can return to the Washingtonian precept of avoiding foreign entanglements. Consider the following:
  • Bring most of our troops back from the Eastern Hemisphere

  • Build a strong Navy and keep our powder dry.

  • Encourage energy independence by building nuclear electric plants and encouraging conservation.

  • Radically limit immigration, especially from Muslim countries and of unskilled workers.

  • Balance globalism with a degree of autarky, preserving domestic productive capacity for strategic purposes.

  • Avoid foreign intervention unless necessary to preserve the homeland.
The fate of Europe may well be either Islamization or a drift to authoritarianism and exclusivism in the name of self-preservation. Failed states will continue to fester in Africa and elsewhere, but we've proven were not very good at fixing them.

Some claim there is a threat from China, or Iran. Neither, however, threatens our homeland, or even domination of Eurasia. The expansion of both is self-limited, Iran by the sea of Sunnis around it, China by its own problems, the presence of India and Japan, and the ocean between us, although if I were Putin I'd worry about losing Eastern Siberia to China, and soon.

Likewise, Russia remains authoritarian, but with a collapsing population, weak institutions, and no ideology to attract the dissidents among its neighbors and us, it may be a threat to Georgia or Lithuania, but it isn't to us.

Of greater concern, perhaps, are the perennial Chavezes and Moraleses of Latin America, but these, too, are manageable, and of greater concern to Brazil than to us.

In short, why not return to the historic pattern of enjoying advantages our transoceanic location provides, and avoiding the quarrels of the Old World? Call it "isolatonism" if you will, but there's no decent argument against it under present world conditions. If we remember the Hippocratic inunction to first, do no harm, such a policy is likely to be humane compared to its interventonist alternatives.

ADDENDUM: I'd also reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal while encouraging others to do the same.

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