Barack Obama: The Audacity Of Hope. Chapter Eight: The World Beyond Our Borders. Book Review. Foreign Policy And Its Evolution From Isolationist To Globalization.
In this chapter Obama discusses the history of foreign policy. He notes that George Washington counseled against foreign entanglements. Indeed we mostly didn’t during the late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase and the Country was concentrated on expanding its borders from coast to coast. In 1898 we fought the Spanish American War and annexed Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. President Monroe had declared the Monroe Doctrine regarding foreign intervention in the affairs of Central and South America. However America remained distant from World affairs until World War I. Then we became a World power and took our place on the World stage. President Wilson played a major if not a decisive role in the Treaty of Versailles and formed the League Of Nations but our Senate failed to ratify the treaty and we never became a member.
After World War I we withdrew from World affairs and let our military languish. During this time we saw the rise of Fascism in Japan and Germany and Communism in Russia.
World War II led us back on the World stage. Afterwards We took an active role in the rebuilding of Germany and other countries in Europe and also Japan. We formed security and trade alliances around the World to contain the Soviet Union and the threat of World Communism. We watched as colonialism faded and our European Allies turned to Democratic Socialism while we remained a Capitalistic Democracy. The World divided into to The Democratic Nations, Communist Nations and the Third World composed usually of the poorest of nations.
We had a blue water navy which kept the sea lanes open and we built a massive military force armed with nuclear weapons to keep the threat of Communism at bay.
Up until this time the threats to our country came from other countries. The Soviet Union collapsed from our external pressure and the internal flaws of Communism. The Soviet Union being the greatest World producer of oil saw the price of oil drop to about $10 a barrel and the Soviet Union no longer had the economic resources to sustain its empire and it collapsed no longer to be a super power.
During the 1990’s under Clinton we were the World’s sole superpower, but failed to take adequate note of the rise of terrorist enemies who were not organized on a country basis. They fought an asymmetric type of warfare different from the clash of armies like we saw in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. We had to change our military and intelligence services to confront the threat of bombing and killing against randomly selected targets.
In addition to terrorism we now face a new nuclear threat by rogue states like North Korea and Iran who in the case of Iran also support terrorist groups.
We are the sole superpower in the World, in 2006 our defense budget was more than the next 30 countries combined, and the world looks to us to solve its problems. Under Bush II we had a go it alone attitude which alienated many of our long time allies.
Obama in 2006 saw the future of Foreign Policy as we being the World leader but we would seek the consensus of our Allies and others in any action we undertook military or otherwise. When action was under taken we would try to form a consortium of countries involved in the problem as we have done in dealing with N. Korea and Iran on nuclear problems and with our Allies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since the World is a much smaller place now because of technologies like the internet and jet travel we cannot rely on the two oceans to protect us from foreign violence. Also with the advent of Globalization the World is more united on an economic basis. Obama sees the rising economic power of China as an opportunity to broaden trade and improve the welfare of other people. However he notes that billions still live on a subsistence level without adequate schooling, medical services, sanitation, food and other services we take for granted in the West. That is the challenge to bring these poor countries into the orbit of the trading nations of the World so they can improve their livelihood and also make the World a safer place to live. It is in the back alleys of these third world countries that terrorist plots are hatched and because of unsanitary conditions new diseases and viruses’ emanate that threaten the rest of the World including the United States. (About 20% of the World controls 82% of the wealth and the lowest 40% share about 5 or 6 %.)