The real American foreign policy

On the world stage, America’s government talks liberally but acts realistically.

Hadley Gustin

Samuel P. Huntington, one of the foremost authorities on international relations during the 20th century said, âÄúI think clearly the United States, as well as other western nations, should stand by their commitments to human rights and democracy and should try to influence other countries to move in that direction.âÄù Contrary to what this statement might suggest, Huntington was a leading international relations scholar of the realist strain, not liberalism. For those unfamiliar with this terminology, realism is a school of thought in political science that professes that nations are individual actors on the world stage, consistently operating to protect their own interests; they are not inherently benevolent or committed to a world order of collective security. Liberalism, however, deems countries to be munificent and wants a global community that is united and shared by all. Liberal thinkers believe in ideals such as democracy and human rights for all and understand the world to be intrinsically compassionate, not malevolent. The United States, the first modern state to be founded on the principles of freedom and equality, claims to be the epitome of liberal ideology. Here , we are taught that the federal government employs foreign policy initiatives representative of domestic standards. Our leaders supposedly yearn for all peoples of the world to enjoy the personal liberties and protections that Americans hold in high esteem. In addition, international organizations like the United Nations, NATO and the European Union are thought to be righteous because they bring a diverse set of countries into the fold of egalitarianism and consensus. Because this harmonious and well-balanced picture fits the majority American schema, it ultimately goes unchallenged. As an advocate for the realist premise, I consider it necessary to defend the other side. Time and again we see cases like Chile, the Dominican Republic and Iraq, where the U.S. government funds and supports dictators and other non-democratic regimes for its own advantage. If this is not the perfect example of liberal theoryâÄôs shortcomings, then what is? Case in point: Last week, when the military in Niger, a country in West Africa, ousted their president, Mamadou Tandja, and replaced him with a junta regime under Colonel Salou Djibou. According to Foreign Policy magazine, âÄúthe military has promised to restore civilian rule and turn the country into âÄòan example of democracy and of good governance.âÄô [Still,] the African Union and former colonial power France have both condemned the coup as an unconstitutional seizure of power.âÄù This bold statement by the AU and France sounds like the words of past and present American political dignitaries, proving that if any state should be protesting the illegality of a government, it should be the United States. Therefore, why are we not hearing President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deplore NigerâÄôs new military junta? The answer is simple; although they will not admit it, the people who run this country use what University of Chicago international relations professor John Mearsheimer cunningly titles âÄúliberal talk, realist thinking.âÄù By effectively manipulating the media, our politicians are able to proliferate the notions of America as GodâÄôs gift to the world. They cleverly insert words like freedom, democracy, liberty and equality into their dramatic and inspirational monologues in an attempt to raise our spirits and affirm that the propaganda they sell is factual and honest. The United States is just like every other nation-state out there. Unlike the model of perfection it propagates itself to be, America cuts deals and compromises its integrity behind closed doors in efforts to guard its supremacy and compositional wealth. In other words, the United States plays dirty to stay atop the international hierarchy of this cold, cruel world. With respect to Niger, Reuters reported Friday that âÄúDeputy Assistant Secretary of State William Fitzgerald said ThursdayâÄôs coup against President Mamadou Tandja could launch a democratic restoration in the poor West African nation.âÄù Nowhere in his address did Fitzgerald agree with the AU and FranceâÄôs stance on Niger or constitute the situation as an âÄúunconstitutional seizure of power,âÄù which was exactly what it was. There are surely multiple reasons for this decision. A major point worth mentioning is ChinaâÄôs controversial oil deal with Niger. âÄúChinaâÄôs state oil company was given oil exploration rights in Niger in June [2007]. Under the agreement, it will build a 2000-km pipeline and a refinery with a capacity of 20,000 barrels a day,âÄù as stated by the BBC. The deal was worth $5 billion and was agreed to and signed in great secrecy, which upset nations with competing interests. One need not look any further than AmericaâÄôs involvement in Iraq to understand our nationâÄôs unparalleled level of greed in relation to the acquisition of oil contracts. Therefore, it is plausible to think that United StatesâÄô support for NigerâÄôs military junta may be due in large part to the Chinese and their beneficial relationship with the countryâÄôs former president. Whatever the logic, one thing is clear: AmericaâÄôs government did not empathize with NigerâÄôs rebel leadership out of respect for democracy and autonomy. Instead, it seized the opportunity to back the purging of a president who was agitating American interests. With Tandja out of the picture, it will be much easier for the United States to balance against the relative clout of China in this peripheral country, demonstrating its ability to contain Chinese power as a true realist state would. Hadley Gustin welcomes comments at [email protected]