American foreign policy is becoming an unruly wild horse

China Plus Published: 2019-05-25 22:23:37
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Note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs".

USA Today recently published an article by Tom Nichols, a national security professor at the U.S. Naval War College, which looked at American foreign policy. It says national security adviser John Bolton had to swallow almost every position he ever held to get his job in the White House, and it would be reasonable to assume that he is now trying to execute his own agenda. Nichols concludes that American foreign policy has “spiraled completely out of control.”

U.S. National security adviser John Bolton discussing new administration policy during a speech on April 17, 2019, in Coral Gables, Florida, at the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association on the 58th anniversary of the United States' failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government. [Photo: IC]

U.S. National security adviser John Bolton discussing new administration policy during a speech on April 17, 2019, in Coral Gables, Florida, at the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association on the 58th anniversary of the United States' failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government. [Photo: IC]

Here’s just some of what Bolton has been up to since he got into office: He’s pressing the Defense Department to issue a military plan against Iran and to deploy heavy forces to the Persian Gulf; he’s provoking Venezuela by saying the Monroe Doctrine could be used in the country in what amounts to a blunt attempt to interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs; and he’s criticizing Russia and China with groundless accusations and playing them off against one another. These actions demonstrate that Nichols’ concerns didn’t come out of nowhere: American diplomacy under Bolton is like a wild horse running out of control.

Bolton is a leading figure of the hawkish camp in Washington. He’s never been shy about his desire to suppress North Korea and Iran. His position on American foreign policy is explicit in his published titles, including “Surrender Is Not An Option” and “How Barack Obama Is Endangering Our National Sovereignty”, which oppose negotiation and call for confrontation. When he was the United States permanent representative to the United Nations, he said “The United States makes the UN work when it wants it to work, and that is exactly the way it should be, because the only question, the only question for the United States is what is in our national interest. And if you don’t like that, I’m sorry, but that is the fact."

After becoming the national security advisor to the current American president, Bolton touted the idea that China’s missile capabilities posed a threat to Russia, as the “Russian heartland” was within striking distance. He was rebuffed when Moscow said it is the United States and NATO, not China, that threaten Russia's national interests. And last month, when speaking to the press at the White House, Bolton said Cuban security forces were in Venezuela to help President Nicolás Maduro maintain order. But that was disputed by Cuba when the country’s foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla accused the United States of outright falsehoods about Cuba’s role in Venezuela, describing Bolton as a “pathological liar who misinforms Trump.”

It’s little wonder that the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pointed out in an interview that the Iraq war was sold to the American people based on a series of lies about weapons of mass destruction, and that “one of the leading advocates for that war was John Bolton.” And now “it appears that John Bolton wants a war in Iran” and Bolton, who “likes the war”, “apparently hasn’t learned the lessons of the war in Iraq.”

In fact, Bolton is not the only one manipulating foreign policy at the White House. Mike Pompeo and Peter Navarro are among other hawkish politicians bent on ensuring the United States continues to dominate the world. In aid of this goal, they don’t hesitate to break promises, intensify contradictions, talk through their hat, and deliberately tarnish the image of others. But the world today is undergoing great changes and, despite their best efforts, their attempts to stand in the way are doomed to fail.

Major adjustments have taken place in the global order over the past three decades, thanks to the advance of economic globalization and the creation of a multipolar power structure. Developing countries continue to rise, and emerging market countries have become the main engine of economic growth. Last December, the Development Research Center of China’s State Council published a report on future changes to the international economic structure and laid out the country's strategic options. The report predicted that in 2035, the GDP of developing countries will surpass that of advanced economies, accounting for nearly 60 percent of the global economy and investment.

In this context, it’s clear that the world political order, dominated by the United States since the Second World War, is undergoing profound adjustments. This has put the old hegemonists on tenterhooks. Over the past few years, the United States has repeatedly demanded a higher price from friends for their alliances with its calls for protection money, while it continues to retreat from international organizations and tries to establish new rules that serve its own interests.

The United States is ramping up the pressure on Russia, step by step. It is suppressing Chinese companies with state power in an attempt to curb China’s scientific and technological development. And when it comes to America’s structural problems, such as the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the hollowing out of industries, and the intensification of racial conflicts, the power brokers in Washington have turned to simplistic narrow-minded populism. But this has merely intensified the class divisions and social contradictions, and led American governance into a vicious circle.

The era of American dominance is fading away. People like John Bolton, who like to reach for the language of war, are trying to force America to deal with its new problems by turning to out-of-date solutions. They fail to understand the major trends in global development, and they lack magnanimity and self-confidence in the face of the great changes of the times. They are burning through the strength, credit, and influence of the United States for no good reason, and risk leading American diplomacy into the abyss.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.