American hegemony is now on life support. Intensive care specialists are still scurrying about trying to resuscitate the patient. Family and friends are saying he’s still putting up a fight. However, the undertakers of this dying order have already arrived, and are standing just outside the door: one is named Russia, and the other China. When the obituary is read we will learn that the deceased is survived by an older cousin representing a different order – balance of power realism.
As John Mearsheimer observed, the unipolar moment after the fall of the former Soviet Union was an absolutely unique period of history. At that moment, and for the next 30 years, America was the only superpower left standing. Francis Fukuyama’s vision of democratizing the world proved to be an irresistible temptation for Western foreign policy elites. So, the evangelists of this new world order set out to spread democracy throughout Eastern Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
They used the existing architecture of cold war institutions like the UN, NATO, the EC, the WB, IMF, and WTO to spread liberal values, and to "addict people to capitalism." Blinded by their own idealism, they couldn’t imagine anyone would reject such a generous offer. After all, as President George W. Bush often boasted, "Freedom is in the heart of every individual." In other words, given the opportunity everyone would naturally choose to be free. Of course, this idea is an echo from President Wilson’s dictum, "The world must be made safe for democracy [emphasis mine]."
The Wilson doctrine, however, must be interpreted in light of the French thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau believed that "Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains." However, for Rousseau, the human predicament is such that people don’t always know for themselves what’s good for them. So, they need to be forced to be free by others who know better than they do. As Rousseau asserted, "Whoever refuses to obey the general will, will be forced to do so by the entire body; this means merely that he will be forced to be free."
Scarcely has there ever been a more accurate sentence written to describe the essence of American foreign policy in the post-Cold War era. America, has steadily been going about the violent business of forcing men to be free, and yet, they are everywhere in chains.
We need not look further than Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iran, to see the failures of American foreign policy. What’s more, the foreign policy elites in America seem to be emboldened by their failures as they are now trying the same tired policies in Ukraine, and Taiwan.
Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and the letter from Mitch McConnell and 25 other senators supporting her action, are the latest example of the liberal order’s politics of provocation.
It should be obvious to anyone paying attention that, rather than prevent wars, American hegemony creates wars where there were none. Indeed, America has been at war throughout the entire unipolar era, and Pelosi and others seem to want to provoke another war.
But things are changing, and they are changing fast. Russia is not the weak, anemic, nation it was 30 years ago. China is not the same poor country of the post-World War II era. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put the American hegemonic project on notice, and it has almost single handedly exposed the expansionist aims of institutions like NATO.
This is why nearly all foreign policy types in Washington, the heads of international institutions and thinktanks are going apoplectic right now. Their order is collapsing, and their decisions and actions appear to be done in desperation.
Unfortunately, there is no sign that these policy makers are willing to change course. They are living examples of Einstein’s definition of insanity: "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
They seem wholly unable to extricate themselves from a mindset that, in terms of foreign policy, has already run its course. If they don’t change their policies, then the American people will change their politicians.
The next generation of politicians should abandon American hegemony, and adopt a foreign policy based on realism and the balance of power. Balance of power realism provides a macro picture of the way great powers behave on the world stage. However, this realist theory needs to be thoroughly infused with noninterventionist foreign policy. Noninterventionism was the foreign policy of our Founding Father, George Washington, who counseled future generations of Americans to avoid foreign entanglements in his Farewell Address in 1796. This is the only system capable of stabilizing the great powers in the new multipolar world, and the only one likely to ensure peace going forward.
Jim Fitzgerald is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and a missionary in the Middle East and North Africa. His articles have appeared in American Greatness, American Thinker, Antiwar.com, and the Aquila Report.