Does the US Need a Reality Check?

‘US needs Reality Check’: A China View of US Foreign Policy

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China President Xi Jinping with US President Barak Obama

During my stay in Beijing last year, I came across a thought provoking editorial entitled ‘US needs reality check ‘ (China Daily newspaper, 30th May 2014). Alongside the editorial was another article: ‘Time for China to go it alone’, an interesting juxtaposition. One might interpret this juxtaposition, as the decline of the United States as global leader and the rise of China’s territorial ambitions!

However, it is the China Daily editorial that I intend to focus upon. US President Obama had declared in a speech to the US Military Academy, West Point, that ‘America has rarely been stronger, and that it ‘must always lead on the world stage’. The question the editorial posed was ‘not whether America will lead’ but in what style or form that future leadership would take. As Obama has admitted: America has made many costly mistakes through military adventures, though many western writers might use the word ‘hegemony’. In particular, Obama spoke about Iraq and Afghanistan; to which might now be added Libya and Ukraine, with the United Kingdom (special relationship), and in the case of Ukraine: the European Union, both seen as proxies of US hegemony.

Obama it is claimed, seems at least a little wiser than former president George W Bush, ‘his trigger-happy’ predecessor’. In his policy statement, Obama reached the astounding conclusion that diplomacy is a tool that should be added to the US leadership toolbox (military campaign chest), so as to reach non-military solutions!

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United States Capitol, Washington D.C.

Yet, US defence spending at 41% of GDP, (2012), is the highest of any country in the world. According to the World Policy Institute in 1999: the United States supplied arms or military technology to more than 92% of world conflicts under way that year. Not a lot has changed since 1999. The bedrock of the US economy is founded upon the manufacture and export of military equipment and the exploitation of its military power and influence, and hegemony as a cornerstone of US foreign policy. Whilst in the past this may have suited and comforted the neoconservatives on Capitol Hill, slowly but surely the hegemonic world order is changing.

It is unfortunate, the China Daily editorial states, that there is a total failure by the US administration to see the world in any other way than according to itself. That a ‘preoccupation with protection of its treaty allies’ has resulted in a failure to grasp ‘the obvious truths at the roots of tensions’ particularly in the East and South China Seas.

Given US bias and the misconceptions that showed through during Obama’s speech, in respect of ‘China’s economic rise and military reach , this it is suggested ‘ would ‘only enlarge the trust deficit between Beijing and Washington. It was suggested that this trust deficit would undermine ‘US moral integrity as global leader’.

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Guided missile ships – US 7th fleet

So, it’s all very well President Obama speaking about diplomacy as a tool. Nevertheless, whilst the the US continues to follow a hegemonic foreign policy through military superiority, will the US ever succumb to a reality check? It is doubtful that any military conflagration, with the exception of a nuclear conflagration, could bring about such a reality check. Some commentators might suggest that moribund western democracy, and cultural decay will weaken the US and the west generally. However, the more likely outcome is that in the long-run the US will become more inward-looking, and more reflective about its past military adventures. Perhaps that stage will be the starting point for a new US foreign policy based upon building international trust. I am sure China would welcome the re-building of trust with the US, whenever a new foreign policy agenda is pursued?

© 2015 Dr Robert Frew. All rights reserved.