The Foreign Service Journal, May 2004

M A Y 2 0 0 4 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 55 merican foreign policy at its best com- bines a clear understanding of our national interests, the limits of our power, and the real and psychological needs of the American people. Effective foreign policy in our democ- racy has always been a combination of realpolitik and moral idealism. Pearl Harbor remains the classic example: a Japanese attack created the catalyst that allowed President Franklin Roosevelt to unite the American people behind moral and idealistic policies which success- fully structured U.S policies and advanced U.S. interests for the remainder of the 20th century. Yet the U.S. foreign policy record over the past half-cen- tury has been mixed. All too often, our political leadership appears to suffer from attention deficit disorder and the dangerous, self-destructive behaviors that too often accom- pany ADD. The Vietnam War failed the test of meeting a clearly defined and limited national interest. In addition, the reali- ties of conducting guerrilla warfare meant that the average American perceived a nightmare rather than an idealistic and moral crusade for a better world. Both the Korean and Persian Gulf Wars had clear causes, limited objectives (recall President Harry Truman’s dismissal of Gen. Douglas MacArthur over widening the scope of the Korean War) and wide global support. The Persian Gulf War was a good example of clear causes, limited objectives, morality, and broad international support. By contrast, Somalia was an example of unrealistic moral idealism combined with a lack of concrete national interest. The 2003 invasion of Iraq failed to meet these criteria. It lacked virtually every element of this formula for success: a clearly defined casus belli, an overriding national interest, limited goals, and international legitimacy. Indeed, the Bush administration was able to win popular support for the war only by pandering to the worst fears of the American public, conjuring up a link of terror between the secular nationalist Ba’thist rulers of Iraq and the diametrically opposed pan-Islamic religious fundamentalists of al-Qaida. The two represent essentially opposing ends of the political spectrum in the Middle East with little in common other than shared anti-Americanism. Equally unbelievable was the portrait of an “axis of evil” linking Iran and Iraq (and North Korea). Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran and the ensuing 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War ren- der such a linkage a grotesque distortion of historical reality, as does the participation of several senior officials from the current Bush administration in the Reagan administration’s efforts to cultivate Saddam during that period. More generally, the Bush administration has attempted to argue that the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center ushered in a new geo-strategic reality requiring new domes- tic and foreign policy approaches. This is a false premise. All that changed with 9/11 was a naive assumption that somehow the U.S. — unlike any other nation — could involve itself in ever-expanding external acts without poten- tial negative or retaliatory responses on its territory. In this regard, it is useful to recall that terrorism is specif- ically designed to cause overreaction. Perhaps terrorism’s greatest success in the past century was Austria-Hungary’s N EO -I MPERIALISM AND U.S. F OREIGN P OLICY T HE B USH ADMINISTRATION HAS ARGUED THAT THE 9/11 ATTACKS USHERED IN A NEW GEO - STRATEGIC REALITY REQUIRING NEW DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN POLICY APPROACHES . T HIS IS A FALSE AND DANGEROUS PREMISE . B Y L OUIS J ANOWSKI A Lou Janowski was a Foreign Service officer from 1966 to 1988, serving in Jeddah, South Vietnam (the Mekong Delta with the CORDS program), Paris, Addis Ababa (twice, the second time as DCM), Nairobi, New York and Washington. A graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College, he lives and works in Madison, Wisc.