The Dangerous Foreign Policy of America’s Presidential Candidates - part 2
by Richard Palmer
Democrats, Republicans and even Donald Trump share a fatal flaw.
Hillary Clinton -
The desire to see more spending and military power from America’s allies is found across America’s political system. At first glance, Hillary Clinton has a very different approach from Trump. Her time as secretary of state and first lady clearly show that she would use and support NATO more, rather than disband it. But she has the same unshakable trust in America’s allies.
She played a vital role in NATO’s bombing of Serbia. In the Balkans, Germany and the Vatican used NATO to break up Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia as a whole could have been a real power in Eastern Europe and a thorn in the side of a German-dominated Europe. Germany and the Vatican were the first to recognize Croatia’s breakaway from Yugoslavia. Britain and France especially warned that this would start a bloody civil war. Germany pushed on regardless, and eventually, Britain and America gave in and got behind them. The U.S. secretary of state at the time, Warren Christopher, said Germany had “a certain responsibility” for that war. The New York Times wrote, “Germany has stirred troubling historical associations” (for more on this history, read our free booklet Germany’s Conquest of the Balkans).
Later, former President Bill Clinton continued to support Europe’s takeover of Yugoslavia, in no small part because of his wife. As the CATO Institute think tank wrote:
As first lady, Clinton played a key role in convincing her husband to bomb Serbia without congressional approval. For eight months after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, she refused to speak to her husband, until, in March 1999, she phoned him with a directive to attack.
“I urged him to bomb,” she later explained.
Later as secretary of state, she was thoroughly supportive of France and Britain’s plans to bomb Libya. She is much keener on foreign interventions than other presidential candidates and has a solid track record in working with Europe to carry them out.
Mrs. Clinton has strongly criticized Trump’s comments on NATO. But she too wants Europe’s militaries to do more, saying last month:
There’s also more they can do to share the burden with us. We’d like to see more European countries investing in defense and security, following the example Germany and others have set during the Obama administration.
She has consistently lamented the fact that Europe is not doing more. “NATO is turning into a two-tiered alliance with shrinking percentage of members willing—and able—to pay the price and bear the burdens of common defense,” she said at a NATO awards dinner three years ago. “Even in these difficult economic times, we cannot afford to let the greatest alliance in history slide into military irrelevance.”
This approach shares the same weakness as Donald Trump’s. One may be more isolationist, the other interventionist, but they both fundamentally trust America’s allies. If anything, Clinton’s approach is more dangerous; she would actively help Europe take territory.
This view is everywhere. “I will rally our NATO allies to contribute more troops to collective security operations and to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization capabilities,” said President Barack Obama in the run up to his first election. “Americans should welcome the rise of a strong, confident European Union,” wrote his opponent Sen. John McCain. “Building a strong NATO alliance also requires a strong European defense capacity,” then President George W. Bush said at a NATO summit in 2008. “So at this summit, I will encourage our European partners to increase their defense investments to support both NATO and EU operations.” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has often expressed sentiments such as “a strong and capable Europe is profoundly in America’s interest, and I might add, presumptuously, the world’s interest.”
Someone Else’s Problem
It’s no surprise that the American people also think the same way. There is a clear desire for America to do less and leave more on the shoulders of its allies. Only 22 percent of Americans believe the U.S., as “moral leader, … has a responsibility to use its military to protect democracy around the globe,” according to a 2014 survey.
“The picture that emerges from the survey is consistent across issues of foreign policy and national security: Americans are profoundly wary of getting entangled overseas and seem to be skeptical of the value of projecting U.S. power on foreign conflicts,” wrote Politico, who coordinated the poll.
A new Rasmussen poll found that only 21 percent believe the U.S. should
be the world’s policeman.
While these polls don’t specifically address the question of whether America’s allies should do more, they give some good background into the thinking of the American people.
For most, this isn’t about America’s allies. It is about a nation that has spent its strength in vain in the Middle East and is fed up with taking responsibility for the world. It no longer wants that burden.
But if America does less, someone has to do more. Stepping back from the world inevitably means having someone else step forward. And even those like Hillary Clinton, who want America to do more, also want Europe to do more.
Almost no one sees the danger here. It seems that everyone has forgotten the reason America shouldered so much of this burden in the first place. One of the few warning against this is Walter Russell Mead, editor at large at the American Interest Online. He wrote:
What’s forgotten among all the grousing by President Obama and Donald Trump about “free riding” allies is this basic fact of international life: The Pax Americana was intended to suppress global geopolitical and military competition by providing a framework for international security. That benefited the world by making countries safer at a lower cost and by assuring people that their national defense and access to world trade and markets did not require them to build huge military establishments.
People who don’t know much about history or understand American foreign policy will look at the result—that the U.S. spent more on the military than other countries—and think that we were somehow getting snookered.
One key reason America has encouraged other powers to spend less on their military is, as Mead writes, “the bitter experience of the past that teaches an important lesson: Multipolar arms races lead to great-power war.” He continues:
The U.S. has believed since the 1940s that another global conflict on the scale of World War I and World War II would mean the collapse of global civilization, or even the extermination of the human race. We have therefore made it a centerpiece of our policy to deter other powers from building huge military establishments and, when they do it—as the USSR did in its day—to ensure that such powers are deterred from war and that other powers feel safe enough in the shadow of U.S. strength that their military responses, though real, are limited.
For 70 years this strategic approach has prevented the outbreak of devastating wars like those of the first half of the 20th century. That we did so at an affordable, though not an insignificant, cost, is a triumph of strategic thinking and of American foreign policy.
But now America wants to reverse this approach and actively encourage military spending and even, in Trump’s case, encourage nuclear proliferation. By stepping back, the U.S. is already encouraging arms races across the world. It is leading to an increase in fear and suspicion—it has already made the world more unstable.
Beyond that, there is an even greater risk. As Henry Kissinger said (paraphrasing Britain’s Lord Palmerston), “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” Just because a nation is America’s ally now, it doesn’t mean it will always remain that way. Herbert W. Armstrong, editor in chief of the Plain Truth, described the same shortsightedness back in 1959:
In America we are prone to see only one enemy at a time. For the past 13 or 14 years, the only enemy that we have been able to see is Russia. During World War II, the only enemy we could see was Germany, and, of course, the ally of Germany at that time, Japan. Russia was then, we thought, our ally.
But now that Russia is our enemy and we see that enemy, we seem to think that Germany, Japan and the nations that we fought in World War II are now our allies.
There’s no mature thinking about how world events could develop in the future. As the American Interest piece shows, a sober reflection on world history should be enough to expose the folly in pushing these other powers to rearm. But almost no one in American leadership is willing to do even that.
The Bible gives even starker warnings of what these allies, that America trusts so much will do to it. For more on these warnings, read Gerald Flurry’s article “The Significance of Germany’s Break From America” from the October 2014 Trumpet magazine.