Thursday, May 28, 2015

What Do Americans Want for Their Future?

Since I spent a year in college studying in Europe, I've held the belief that America is not responsible for all the other countries in the world.  America is responsible for herself.  The other countries are responsible for themselves and their futures.  If they want America's help, they ask and America then forges an agreement to help.  But to just assume that America will always be there to bail out or save other countries from themselves or others should not be true at all.  This is not to dismiss or diminish what America has done in the past to help other countries.  But I'm one of those Americans who's tired of hearing other countries yell for America every time something happens and they need help, especially countries capable of determining their own futures.

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Now I've found a kindred spirit in Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy. An excerpt from his book, Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World, published in the June 1, 2015 issue of Time magazine, laid out three possibilities for American involvement in the world.  We cannot become totally isolationist, nor would America really want to do that.  We need to be a robust trading partner and global economic participant.  But we don't need to have soldiers stationed everywhere, and we don't need to become involved in nation building or creating democracy where it hadn't existed before, especially if it might be imposing our values on others.

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Bremmer's three choices are:

-- Indispensable America: This is where we are at present and would simply continue this kind of foreign policy.  This choice supports nation building, America "spreading" democracy throughout the world, and only America has the power and will to make the world a safer place.  This choice has gotten us involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other wars over the years.  I think this choice makes America look like an imperial bully, and there are countries that share that view.  This choice also implies that America knows the "right" way and everyone else is wrong which I do not believe is true.

-- Moneyball America: This choice is basically foreign policy based on profit and loss, economic risks, and a hyperrational approach to assessing financial risk.  With this choice, America would safeguard her interests but not export American values, and she'd focus on nation building herself rather than other countries.  This choice allows for American involvement in coalitions that prevent terrorism and the proliferation of dangerous weapons.  The American economy depends on the global economy, so American foreign policy needs to promote global growth.  America would support other countries in their commerce and investment.  But America would back off from taking leadership positions all over the world, e.g. regarding Russia.  Europe has deeper economic ties with Russia and therefore Europe needs to take the lead in dealing with Russia, not America.  I think this foreign policy choice has some positive elements that America needs to utilize.

-- Independent America: This choice could be mistakenly seen as isolationist, but that's not the case.  I really like this choice.  America needs to back away from international involvements that burden us militarily and economically in order to focus on improving America.  For example, think of the billions of dollars that America has poured into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Billions of dollars.  What if we had not become involved in those wars but rather had used that money to improve and expand infrastructure in America?  Why is it that Americans think of themselves as the only superpower (why does the world need a superpower?), or the only country capable of leading everyone else?  America needs to be a global economic participant, but I think other countries are perfectly capable of making their own decisions and determining their own futures.  America needs to let go of the notion that we are the only ones who can spread democracy.  We would do better to improve our own democracy.  We are not anywhere near a "perfect" example of democracy in action, although we do enjoy more democratic processes and rights than many other countries.

I want to thank Time for publishing the excerpt of Bremmer's book in their magazine.  I would not have known about it otherwise, and it is reassuring to me to see that I am not alone in the way I think of America's future.  It will be interesting to see what kind of impact Bremmer's thinking has on our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. or if they are stuck in thinking America is indispensable.....

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