In an incredibly concise piece just published in Foreign Policy magazine, Stephen Walt outlines why we are so deeply screwed in foreign policy by the power of the US Foreign Policy Establishment.
Check the article out here: Is America Addicted to War?.
I will still vote for Barack Obama, without a doubt, but I can't say that I'm not more than a little disappointed in our unchanging foreign policy. I can't say I did not see it coming. I am an avid reader of William Greider, and in Come Home America he makes a fair point that we overestimate pretty consistently what a single President can do. Stephen Walt's piece effectively identifies some of the reasons for Presidential underachievement in the change category regarding foreign policy. However, I am still sad about it.
In many ways, Stephen Walt's article is a shorthand version of the excellent work done recently by Professor Andrew Bacevich in both The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008) and The Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (2010). We have a system in place that has developed a logic of its own, but the truly sad part is that this system has succeeded so well in justifying itself that many Americans seem to think it is patriotic to engage in endless foreign interventions while our own social and material infrastructure must face "inevitable" cuts.
From the article:
By the way, lurking underneath the Establishment consensus on foreign-policy activism is the most successful Jedi mind trick that the American right ever pulled. Since the mid-1960s, American conservatism has waged a relentless and successful campaign to convince U.S. voters that it is wasteful, foolish, and stupid to pay taxes to support domestic programs here at home, but it is our patriotic duty to pay taxes to support a military establishment that costs more than all other militaries put together and that is used not to defend American soil but to fight wars mostly on behalf of other people.
The above quote came toward the end. Professor Walt supplies substantive support for this assertion in his "Top 5 Reasons Why America Keeps Fighting Foolish Wars" contained in the article. The overall effect of the article is pretty jolting, but not so much because of what it says, but in its brevity. There's not a point he makes that most of us who follow foreign policy from the leftist perspective don't already know, but his assembly here is perfect for wide distribution. Here are a couple more highlights:
It is as if the president has big red button on his desk, and then his aides come in and say, "There's something really nasty happening to some unfortunate people, Mr. President, but if you push that button, you can stop it. It might cost a few hundred million dollars, maybe even a few billion by the time we are done, but we can always float a bit more debt.
It's really quite ironic: Because the American homeland is safe from serious external dangers (which is a good thing), Americans have the luxury of going abroad "in search of monsters to destroy" (which is not).
Read this article. Forward it to everyone you know--especially those who lean right. They probably would not read a Bacevich book if you bought it for them, but they might read this article--it will only take 10 minutes.