View Poll Results: In the broadest of terms, which of the following most closely describes your geopolitical expectations for the post-US world order?

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  • A truly multipolar reorientation of geopolitics with few or no globally dominant “great powers.”

    4 22.22%
  • A division of the world into “spheres of influence” dominated by authoritarian powers (China, Russia, Iran, for example)

    4 22.22%
  • The US will remain globally dominant thanks to King Dollar and its sheer size, even if politically or militarily weaker relative to its turn of the century peak.

    5 27.78%
  • The EU will pull itself together, emerge from the US’ shadow, neutralize Russian interests on its doorstep, and Europe will once again carry the torch of the liberal/western world order.

    0 0%
  • Other (please explain)

    5 27.78%
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Thread: On US Isolationism, Expectations for the Post-US World Order

  1. #21
    Legio_Italica's Avatar Lost in Limbo
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    Default Re: On US Isolationism, Expectations for the Post-US World Order

    RandomPerson2000:
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandomPerson2000 View Post
    It's almost certainly the latter, the U.S was largely unprepared to deal with several long lasting insurgencies whose death tolls for everyone ran into tens or even hundreds of thousands.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Do you see any trends to suggest the US military is learning from its mistakes in a way that will give it an edge in a new age of unconventional warfare? Can US foreign policy interests recover from the PR disaster that is the War on Terror? Perhaps aggressive expansion by US adversaries will actually help with this?


    One could argue based on casualty rates relative to past wars and the objectives achieved, the War on Terror was a phenomenal success, tactically speaking. The lack of clear strategy in individual cases meant the US was left holding the bag when things went sideways in the aftermath, and the military was left playing whackamole in the desert. Could the weakness of civic institutions in the Middle East, unlike those of post-WW2 Europe, mean America’s naive expectations of a pivot to stable democracies was doomed from the start? Or was the insurgency a function of America’s failure to clean up after itself? Could the resulting perceived weakness of the US actually be an advantage as it seeks to reorient its priorities abroad?

    Sukiyama:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sukiyama View Post
    Not necessarily overblown, I do think we are headed into that direction, but definitely premature. The international system is still intact. Before Trump was in office, Obama still ironed out the Iran nuclear agreement, fostered international cooperation against ISIL, and other various things. Despite Trump's haphazard and brute force approach, he is still bound by many norms of the international system. The way some of these experts talk, you would think that the multipolar world is arriving tomorrow. They are projecting into the future, and if we stay on the same trend, then by 2030-2040 we'll be well on the way to multipolarity.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sukiyama View Post


    But there is nothing to say that we can't reverse it. I also like to say that isolationism isn't really a policy, it's more an attitude or national sentiment. Most Americans today don't actually know what isolationism is. For those reasons, I expect US to simply avoid aggressive interventions. But by no means is America going to completely withdraw itself from the world. That's a fantasy in my eyes.
    Do you expect this national attitude to eventually reverse course? Is it a function of war weariness that will wear off? A result of domestic concerns being blamed on excessive military spending? A shift in attitudes toward the fundamental morality or immorality of the US’ leadership role?


    Then yes. A real danger is that France and Germany will succeed in creating an independent power in Europe with a foreign policy completely independent from Washington.
    Considering the current aversion to war (due to either Republican isolationism and/or Democratic liberalism), other powers like China and Russia will have far more space to maneuver in. 20 years ago, if Russia invaded Kazakhstan, it would be very plausible that U.S. would intervene. Today, I don't we'd even consider something like that. We'd probably send commandos to slow Russians down at best. Chances are, that either a progressive or Trump will win 2020, which may shape the entire discourse on US foreign policy for the next two decades. So it can really go either way.


    In my opinion, the interests of USA and Europe don't directly clash, but they also don't directly align. Especially right now, where America's foreign policy is unclear due to vehement polarization of domestic policies. France, who is likely going to be driving European foreign policy, is far more concerned with Africa than with the Middle East. Quite frankly, I don't see Europe caring much at all about the Middle East. It's a PR issue for them, strategically, so long as someone provides oil, Europe is happy. A much more pressing concern for them, is the stability of the European Union and all of these populist leaders rising up who are challenging EU authority.
    Is this a danger in the sense that European power would eventually clash more directly with US interests? Or a conventional danger in the way Putin’s or Xi’s expansionism is dangerous for the world? I’m of the opinion that rather than trying to drag the world along with its interests and thereby exposing weaknesses, the US should make strengthening Europe a priority. Working with France and Germany, incorporating their interests into US foreign policy, could give them more incentive to maintain the liberal order against US adversaries, rather than obsess over dreams of a United States of Europe. Perhaps European powers are too weak to pull it off in any case?


    Well my argument is that Putin convinced everyone that he can impose conventional costs upon anyone who gets in his way in Crimea. There really isn't anything to "stop" as Putin's effectively been on the defensive for the last twenty years. The fact that Ukraine, a core state to Russia's sphere of influence, is turning West, should be seen as a big blow against Putin. Putin's seizure of Crimea is an action of desperation, rather than a sign of grand ambitions.


    China is doing the exact same thing. That's just how revisionist powers do things, especially if they militarily inferior. Putin and China are succeeding by sowing discord in the international community. The lack of consensus on these issues cannot be solely be blamed on China and Russia though. A bigger issue is the lack of US leadership on these issues. We were effectively putting fairly strong pressure on Russia before Trump took office, but that's the thing with sanctions and other "war by other means". You have to change and raise these punitive measures. Otherwise, countries like Russia with a strong central state, will simply adapt and get used to the new reality.
    Well that’s the crux of the issue. If the US doesn’t want to lead, what might that mean for our traditional allies? Perhaps US hyperpower was always a mere facade waiting to be shattered? If territorial expansion as a bluff to hide internal weakness becomes the new normal, where would it end, absent fear of US reprisals?


    US foreign policy has been neoliberal for the last 20-30 years. Considering how progressives absolutely hate neoliberal foreign policy, and how Trump does not seem to understand what he is doing, no. I don't expect a return to normalcy any time soon. I personally cannot picture Warren or Sanders making hard choices that will be unpopular with Democrats. I feel that they will try to leave these issues alone when they can, and resort to economic measures in issues they cannot ignore. Canceling arms sales to saudi arabia for example.


    Mmm, I doubt it. I mean people talk about US becoming more protectionist and how other countries can and will reply with their own tarrifs and embargoes and whatnot. I can certainly see that with agricultural products and cars, but people forget that USA exports mostly high-end goods that people can't really do without. Consider the Boeing-Airbus duopoly. There is not enough production, and there never will be, to satisfy the global market with Airbus alone. The world will continue to buy Boeing aircraft because their airlines still need to run. The same goes with industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, high-end machining tools, etc... Heck, I can't imagine people banning iPhones from being imported
    Do you think economic measures like tariffs, sanctions, and embargoes could be an effective substitute for more traditional white hat military and diplomatic efforts aimed at “exporting/defending democracy?” I might argue that Trump’s arrogance in throwing the US’ weight around economically is mostly exposing its weakness and incentivizing our adversaries to learn to work together.


    We saw Obama try to walk the middle ground between traditional neoliberal foreign policy and the dovish priorities of his party. He had no visible success militarily. He had some diplomatic success built around economic incentives or commitments (Iran nuclear deal, Paris climate accord), but subsequent collective action problems rendered even these functionally irrelevant just months after he left office.


    The EU is an example of a trading bloc using its economic power as a bargaining chip in geopolitics, and this has been largely ineffective beyond its own borders. Its attempts to help Iran evade US sanctions merely allowed Tehran use the JCPA as nuclear extortion against the remaining cosigners.


    Economics is often subordinate to politics. You would think that countries like Pakistan and Ethiopia would know better than to borrow from China. Yet here we are, both Pakistan and Ethiopia borrowed billions form China for infrastructure products that would help Chinese trade. I'm expecting China to make very strong progress in global markets and geopolitical reach. I must admit I'm not a China expert but I'm aware of their general strategy by reading second hand sources. CSIS and the like.


    I think you're pretty spot on here. I can't foresee a lot of change in China-West posture. China will continue to gain and the "West" will be happy to benefit.
    Speculation: could the willingness of the developing world to accept Chinese investment, despite the lessons of colonialism, mean borrowers don’t expect China to have the power to enforce its claims in the long run (free money)? Or does it reflect a good faith belief that China is different in a positive way?

    Heathen Hammer:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heathen Hammer View Post
    I think one of the fundamental factors here is that end of "Pax Americana" comes from within the US.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heathen Hammer View Post

    One must understand that maintenance of both US military-industrial complex and its network of "allies" come out of taxpayer's dime, with no direct benefit for the taxpayer. So we can't really blame average America Joe for lack of enthusiasm in handing over his income to to be spent on Israel or to bomb some Middle Eastern country.
    “Why don’t we take care of our own first” is the theme driving the events of today. I agree with you there. However, there are practical if not moral issues with that worldview.


    Practically speaking, we’ve seen “the WW2 framework is a ripoff” isolationism play out during the presidency of Donald Trump. The Administration’s masochistic tendencies arise directly from its failure to understand the political and economic benefits the US gains from its superpower status, a status which was built and maintained by the so-called military industrial complex. The main reason one can even have a realistic discussion about imminent or current US decline is because of the weaknesses exposed by the Trump Admin’s assumption that US power and status is akin to a law of nature. Isolationism on the left and right operates under the assumption that the US-led world order will continue to be the status quo forever. The latter is the only scenario in which a robust foreign policy and defense apparatus is “too expensive.”
    The other factor is that post-Cold War American interventionism has mostly negative effects. 2003 Iraq war and Libya war are perfect examples of how American attempts to supposedly "help" resulted with worsening situation, as both Iraq and Libya were better off under "evil dictators" then under "American liberation".

    Win some, lose some. It’s easy to paint failures of American policy abroad as nebulously nefarious. I doubt anyone might attempt to argue Europe would have been better off under the Soviets, or that SE Asia would be better off as a collection of communist or imperial Japanese satellites. Yet that’s the world as it might likely have been, had the US maintained its historically traditional isolationism. It’s not that the US is somehow special or uniquely equipped to hold back the tide of global authoritarianism. It’s a matter of, if not us, then who? If anyone else wants to take the wheel, I’d wager there are numerous advantages to being number two or three as opposed to number one.

    Abdülmecid I:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    In my opinion, the content of the OP seems a bit biased against the geopolitical competitors of Washington.

    I am as biased as anyone. However, I would clarify that my bias in posting this thread isn’t necessarily for any specific national interests, as it is against the interests of any government which seeks to defy or undermine global progress towards a world community built on democratic norms. My bias is therefore also against the current US Administration, for example.
    Firstly, I disagree about their policy often being qualified as aggressive, with the potential exception of China. However, both the Russian Federation and the Iranian Republic are much weaker than the United States, which have essentially encircled them with the installation of a great number of military bases. Tehran and Moscow are mainly preoccupied with maintaining their fragile sphere of influence in regions like Northern Caucasus, Syria or Eastern Ukraine. Their strategy may involve morally controversial tactics, like, for instance, the annexation of Crimea following a shady referendum, but, again, their primary goal is the preservation of the status-quo, because frankly expansion is out of question simply for practical reasons. It is true that Iran has exploited the sloppiness of its adversaries to meddle in the affairs of Yemen or Iraq, but its role is merely opportunistic and quitesecondary, despite the hyperbole of the pundits actively advocating for a hawkish approach.

    I understand that you wouldn’t classify Russian or Iranian activities abroad as expansionist. Doesn’t Russian invasions of its neighbors or Iran’s proxy wars represent a desire to change a status quo which is entirely disadvantageous to these regimes? I might argue Putin or the Ayatollah are perfectly capable of maintaining the status quo and their regimes without doing those things.
    Thirdly, linking states to certain political systems is quite arbitrary. The strengthened middle-class in China can perfectly lead to democratisation and liberalisation, while the opposite phenomenon in America or Europe can also provoke a return to authoritarianism. The first signs have already appeared, while even NATO, which is now described by propaganda as the bastion of liberalism and democracy, initially included among its founders a couple of oppressive regimes, such as a clerical fascist dictatorship. In any case, foreign policy is not determined by concerns over ethics or human rights, so the political system of the superpower will hardly affect that of the rest of the East, even regarding its closest satellites.

    I would agree that economic development and political liberalization don’t necessarily trend together in every case. I disagree that expanded Chinese, Russian or Iranian influence would not necessarily impact democratic norms in the nations brought into their respective orbits.


    In the case of China, for example, we’ve already seen the lengths the Politburo will go to to prevent ideologically undesirable influences from gaining any traction on the mainland, as well as the methodical relentlessness with which it seeks to dismantle existing democratic institutions in places it claims to control, even peripherally, like Hong Kong or Taiwan. In such a way, China has already indicated its strategy for Pacific expansion and governance.
    Relative isolationism is the natural consequence of decreased prosperity, which means that the budget for foreign adventures has been considerably curtailed and that the voters are less willing to accept such costly endeavours, instead of dealing with income inequality (not to mention the symbolic role of the casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq). Perhaps I wouldn't even exclude the scenario of a possible fragmentation, with the wealthy states of the West Coast, especially California, being the main suspects. Similarly, the European Union could also partially disintegrate, as the conflicting interests between the elites render it exceptionally vulnerable to recessions and diplomatic pressure. Cohesion was reinforced in times of prosperity, but the current indicators point towards pessimism and not optimism, as the example of the United Kingdom reveals. The inclusion of impoverished Romania or Bulgaria did create more opportunities, at least temporarily, but in the long term, such greedy policies undermine the basis of the project, in my opinion.
    Therefore, I expect a world, where the protagonist is China, with Kremlin, Paris, Berlin, Washington or even San Francisco playing a secondary role. Of course, the reality will be much more nuanced, but predicting anything less vague seems a bit risky.
    This bit in particular is a very interesting take, and provides a frame of reference I hadn’t thought of myself. Thank you.

    Cookiegod:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    No, US adversaries are not behaving as if the US are a wounded elefant. The US is behaving like a red giant, becoming ever more aggressive and necessitating responses by those threatened.
    Are you referring to the Trump Admin or to US foreign policy since the Cold War more generally?

    US low skilled workers aren't alone in feeling ripped off and yes they are being ripped of. Yet that's an important part of the US domination of the global markets. Half the globe depends on the US to export their goods to. It used to be the exact opposite.
    Yet it's also completely untenable in the long run. But as the protectionism increases, the incentives for other countries to be part of a US dominated sphere lessen. US voters are completely irrelevant to the establishment, btw., as has been evidenced by the last decades.

    It very much wants to lead. It would be very easy for it to "escape the world" if it wanted to. It does not.


    Can you clarify what you mean by “it wants to lead?”

    Doesn’t the populist and isolationist rebellion against “establishment” foreign policy indicate that a) voters are relevant and force the establishment to operate within their constraints and b) US voters are “tired” of leading?
    I hope the world dollar dies both because it's outdated and because it's being abused.
    China will not be an Icarus, and the US is already causing the Chinese a lot of trouble. E.g. their attempt to kill HUAWEI from international markets. How well China will do doesn't so much depend on their economy per se but more on how successful the US will be in such efforts. The free trade agreements were trying to do the same thing btw. Retaining the American sphere of influence by de facto excluding the Chinese (and the Russians) from that economy.

    Due to protectionism, the US simply decided to use tougher measures.

    Basically: Kill Chinese access to global markets, maintain de facto control the worlds energy supply, kill off the Nord Stream 2 pipeline so that both Germany and Russia can be controlled through the US proxies in between.
    I would agree with this assessment. Toward that end, I wonder whether the US’ failure to accomplish this, or even the failure to prevent the situation from developing, indicates a shift and permanent decline of US power is already in progress.

    pchalk:
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    Quote Originally Posted by pchalk View Post
    I have chosen the third point as I cannot see any of the mentioned major changes as realistic enough. Global Influence is a shared commodity.
    Quote Originally Posted by pchalk View Post
    When one country gains influence, the one or ones who have influence inherently lose some degree of that influence.
    I do not see any real evidence that the US has in fact become "weaker" as compared to its high point at the end of the cold war. What has happened is that global influence has shifted: Russia has recovered to a degree, China has gained influence, East and West Germany has reunited,
    for example
    . This means that the US has had to share its influence with competition and partners.
    I would agree that the US is certainly in a material position to maintain its dominance. Could domestic sentiment allow external threats to progress to a “point of no return?” There seems to be no appetite at all in the current or foreseeable future of US domestic politics for the traditional “neoliberal” policies that powered US success abroad. US power can withstand and recover from assaults from without. But from within?
    Last edited by Legio_Italica; Yesterday at 02:21 PM.

  2. #22
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    Default Re: On US Isolationism, Expectations for the Post-US World Order

    The US maintains its military and economic dominance unchallenged at this point. It has a vast technological and infrastructure advantage that's beyond the reach of other powers or combination of powers (if such a thing were possible) ATM and for the next 20 years.

    China is the only power on a fast growth track which if we extrapolate will lead to Chinese dominance in 20-40 years but don't expect the graph to continue to spike upwards. IMHO China is already approaching an energy envelope beyond which it will take a world war to encroach further, and the US would win that war.

    Europe has a stronger infrastructure base (still inferior) but divided leadership. Russia has the resource base but lacks tech, infrastructure and population. Good luck even patching together trade deal among the second tier, I think the US won this game in 1991.

    Basically in the current paradigm the US has an unassailable lead. It would take ten Trump presidencies to erode that.

    I think a post-US world is either a post nuclear or a post ecological disaster one. Probably Russia and possibly China and/or the EU could pull off MAD, then the leading power would be maybe a struggling New Zealand or Falklands.

    Another possibility is a robotic future where Boston Dynamics acquires an AI patent to go with their militarised hounds and a handful of billionaires plays IRL 4X RTS across a wasteland with our children as pets. In that scenario the US would continue as a hood ornament for mechas to be tussled over by Immortal Soros IV.2 and Multi-CephCyborg KochBros.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

  3. #23

    Default Re: On US Isolationism, Expectations for the Post-US World Order

    “Why don’t we take care of our own first” is the theme driving the events of today. I agree with you there. However, there are practical if not moral issues with that worldview.


    Practically speaking, we’ve seen “the WW2 framework is a ripoff” isolationism play out during the presidency of Donald Trump. The Administration’s masochistic tendencies arise directly from its failure to understand the political and economic benefits the US gains from its superpower status, a status which was built and maintained by the so-called military industrial complex. The main reason one can even have a realistic discussion about imminent or current US decline is because of the weaknesses exposed by the Trump Admin’s assumption that US power and status is akin to a law of nature. Isolationism on the left and right operates under the assumption that the US-led world order will continue to be the status quo forever. The latter is the only scenario in which a robust foreign policy and defense apparatus is “too expensive.”
    One has to understand that US isn't just a single hive-mind entity. The problem of American interventionism is that only a small minority of population benefits from it, mainly corporate elites, military-industrial complex and such. If foreign geopolitical endeavors were funded out of these elite's private wealth, it would at least make sense, but since majority of population pays for it, but gets nothing out of America's status of a hegemony. Realistically, from taxpayer perspective it would make sense for US to transition into becoming a less global power. Focus on internal issues and save money in budget for things like infrastructure, healthcare, scientific/medical research, etc and keep a smaller basic military to defend borders and territorial waters.

  4. #24

    Default Re: On US Isolationism, Expectations for the Post-US World Order

    Quote Originally Posted by Legio_Italica View Post
    Do you see any trends to suggest the US military is learning from its mistakes in a way that will give it an edge in a new age of unconventional warfare? Can US foreign policy interests recover from the PR disaster that is the War on Terror? Perhaps aggressive expansion by US adversaries will actually help with this?
    I think United States already has an edge in unconventional warfare. The lack of success in recent conflicts is due to the goals United States have set. Otherwise I think we're pretty good at unconventional warfare. Drone strikes and raids by special forces eliminate threats without resorting to war. Both options take advantage of the huge logistical and diplomatic advantage we wield over out enemies. To that end, despite foreign policy critics, I think Obama's foreign policy was effective, considering the disastrous campaigns waged by his predecessor. I also think that he restored a lot of trust in America's leadership. Unfortunately, that has been compromised and undone by his successor, Trump. Taking the unpredictable nature of electoral cycles into account, and the current polarized political climate in United States, most world leaders will be hesitant to trust United States in the same way that they did before. In my opinion, predictability and norm-setting is what allows other actors to build lasting relationships with you. Trump has disrupted these norms, thus compromising our ability to conduct meaningful diplomacy. It will take several election cycles of predictable foreign policy to undo the damage.

    Do you expect this national attitude to eventually reverse course? Is it a function of war weariness that will wear off? A result of domestic concerns being blamed on excessive military spending? A shift in attitudes toward the fundamental morality or immorality of the US’ leadership role?
    It will wear off eventually, people move on and forget about this sort of thing. We saw this in the aftermath of Vietnam. Obviously, a lot of things happened in domestic policies in the aftermath of Vietnam, this is also the same era that saw very dramatic changes in politics due to the Civil Rights Era, but I want to ignore all of that for a quick second and take a look at the list of wars United States was involved in.

    Vietnam 1955-1975, Thailand 1965-1983, Cambodia 1965-1975, Lebanon 1982-1984, Grenada 1983, Panama 1989, Gulf War 1990-1991.

    The Gulf War was the first major war after Vietnam. I am of the opinion that we are likely to see a repeat of history. Following the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are likely to see reduced US activity until we can restore public trust in our ability to use the military responsibly. History also shows us that expectations for morality, humanitarianism, and other "isms" has only grown with time. That doesn't mean United States will no longer fight "dirty wars", but it does mean that there will be a bigger effort to justify the involvement of United States in conflict. Especially, in my opinion, from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. On that topic, I did come across this article today, Democratic Candidates Answer CFR’s Foreign Policy Questions, and I must say, I found Sanders' answers to be refreshing and reasonable. I am not worried about his foreign policy anymore. I am not in total agreement with everything, but it's not disastrous as I originally imagined.

    Is this a danger in the sense that European power would eventually clash more directly with US interests? Or a conventional danger in the way Putin’s or Xi’s expansionism is dangerous for the world? I’m of the opinion that rather than trying to drag the world along with its interests and thereby exposing weaknesses, the US should make strengthening Europe a priority. Working with France and Germany, incorporating their interests into US foreign policy, could give them more incentive to maintain the liberal order against US adversaries, rather than obsess over dreams of a United States of Europe. Perhaps European powers are too weak to pull it off in any case?
    A new actor in the international system can stabilize it, but they can also do the opposite. In my opinion, a Franco-German alliance will be beneficial to the international system because they can serve as a mediator between Russia and United States. In addition to that, due to a potential rivalry between France and China in Africa, as well as natural conflicts between European corporations and China's, Europe is likely to support United States in its efforts to contain China. I actually disagree with you about the direction in which United States should go. I think that despite some conflicts between European and American interests, they will maintain a loose alliance. Both Europe and United States have a desire for an international system based on Western rules and standards. This, combined with cultural affinity and a shared history, will likely result in co-operation between the two powers. NATO will also likely survive well into the 21st century, which is another powerful pillar that will hold the two together. Due to this, I think that Europe will be secure and ready to provide airstrips and basing rights for American troops despite a new European power rising, which opens up United States should focus on Asia.

    Well that’s the crux of the issue. If the US doesn’t want to lead, what might that mean for our traditional allies? Perhaps US hyperpower was always a mere facade waiting to be shattered? If territorial expansion as a bluff to hide internal weakness becomes the new normal, where would it end, absent fear of US reprisals?
    I don't think that Russia will attempt to annex any more territory. Swedes and Finns may laugh at this, cue the Munich Agreement references, but in my opinion United States and Europe grossly miscalculated Russian resolve to protect their sphere of influence. I have said this before, but I think United States should have taken the lead during the Euromaidan. They could've brokered a deal where Yanukovich stepped down, where the next government would've been obligated to lease Crimea's naval port for 99 years, and where Ukraine would be part of the EU and Russian free trade area. This could've satisfied all parties and prevented a Russian annexation of Crimea. I don't expect United States to show this level of nuance and skill in its diplomacy, it's very hard to achieve such deals. Free trade deals, for example, take months, if not years to iron out. Liberal international theory is often too naive to see such end results as a success. My fear is that United States will continue to rely on clumsy threats of sanctions and blunt instruments of force in order to obtain its desired diplomatic results. This approach can aggravate allies and enemies, which is detrimental to a lasting agreement. We can certainly expand our power and weaken enemies with such an approach, but I prefer goodwill over fostering resentment.

    Do you think economic measures like tariffs, sanctions, and embargoes could be an effective substitute for more traditional white hat military and diplomatic efforts aimed at “exporting/defending democracy?” I might argue that Trump’s arrogance in throwing the US’ weight around economically is mostly exposing its weakness and incentivizing our adversaries to learn to work together.

    We saw Obama try to walk the middle ground between traditional neoliberal foreign policy and the dovish priorities of his party. He had no visible success militarily. He had some diplomatic success built around economic incentives or commitments (Iran nuclear deal, Paris climate accord), but subsequent collective action problems rendered even these functionally irrelevant just months after he left office.


    The EU is an example of a trading bloc using its economic power as a bargaining chip in geopolitics, and this has been largely ineffective beyond its own borders. Its attempts to help Iran evade US sanctions merely allowed Tehran use the JCPA as nuclear extortion against the remaining cosigners.
    These things are context dependent. For example, levying tariffs, sanctions, and embargoes on a country like North Korea demonstrates American resolve and commitment to a liberal world order. This strengthens our legitimacy around the world. On the other hand, strong-arming states, especially nation-states, into adopting democracy or certain western values will not strengthen our legitimacy in the eyes of the people we are trying to win over, (or American voters in the next election). All of these things are just tools in the kit, how we use them is much more important than which ones we use. In regards to the Obama foreign policy, I feel like he has achieved success, unfortunately, he did not take greater care in fostering a successor to his Presidency. I realize that the result of the 2016 election is not Obama's fault, but I feel he could've done more to prevent it. In general, while folks like Bill Scher praise the virtues of non-partisanship, it was Obama's willingness to compromise and "taking the high road" that allowed Republicans to dominate the national consciousness with their narratives. I'm thinking about, "Thanks Obama", "Obamacare", "Taking your guns away". A lot of these narratives helped stage the ground for the arrival of Donald Trump. There are a lot of other things as well, such as the midterms, electoral laws, etc... but I don't want to diverge too much from the main topic.

    In regards to EU, the EU does not have a lot of autonomy in foreign policy. It swings its weight where it can, mostly economics, but for the most part it's toothless. Thus, I attribute the lack of meaningful EU success in foreign policy due to a lack of agency.

    Speculation: could the willingness of the developing world to accept Chinese investment, despite the lessons of colonialism, mean borrowers don’t expect China to have the power to enforce its claims in the long run (free money)? Or does it reflect a good faith belief that China is different in a positive way?

    “Why don’t we take care of our own first” is the theme driving the events of today. I agree with you there. However, there are practical if not moral issues with that worldview.
    No, I think there are two reasons for why countries accept China's loans. First, many leaders believe that China will restructure its loans because Chinese investments are "too big to fail". China's projects need to succeed for their Belt and Road project to be a success. Second, corruption plays a big role. Many people are simply paid off, especially in these poor countries. Third, China is willing to let some of these loans fail in order to gain more control over the country in debt (because their corrupt officials will gladly sell off their countries in order to enrich themselves) or the projects its building. Just look at Sri Lanka and their debt restructure. It wouldn't be a gigantic leap of logic to speculate that China predicted the situation to turn out the way it did.

  5. #25
    Legio_Italica's Avatar Lost in Limbo
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    Default Re: On US Isolationism, Expectations for the Post-US World Order

    Cyclops:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    The US maintains its military and economic dominance unchallenged at this point. It has a vast technological and infrastructure advantage that's beyond the reach of other powers or combination of powers (if such a thing were possible) ATM and for the next 20 years.


    China is the only power on a fast growth track which if we extrapolate will lead to Chinese dominance in 20-40 years but don't expect the graph to continue to spike upwards. IMHO China is already approaching an energy envelope beyond which it will take a world war to encroach further, and the US would win that war.


    Europe has a stronger infrastructure base (still inferior) but divided leadership. Russia has the resource base but lacks tech, infrastructure and population. Good luck even patching together trade deal among the second tier, I think the US won this game in 1991.


    Basically in the current paradigm the US has an unassailable lead. It would take ten Trump presidencies to erode that.
    I agree in principle, but traditional US power is failing to adapt in alot of ways as well. 5-15 years in the past and future is the timeframe my assumptions are based on. It's not so much a question of the US becoming weaker, but of circumstances and a failure of US leadership strengthening and emboldening the geopolitical positions of its adversaries.


    It has been widely studied and reported to Congress, for example, that the US presence in East Asia would be almost immediately destroyed in the event of a Chinese first strike. The US could then find itself in 1941 all over again, trying to island hop its way over the Pacific to assist besieged allies from the decks of its carriers. Even without a "hot" war, the US' isolationism and growing unwillingness to assert its role in Asia could easily become a "cold" war defeat:


    https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion...s-increasingly
    https://www.usip.org/publications/20...common-defense


    In either of these cases, traditional conservative or neoliberal politics is so thoroughly out of fashion, and resources so strained by the War on Terror, I wonder if the public would even care enough to support a full scale defensive operation in the region, let alone a counterattack.


    The same oceans that all but ensure the safety of the contiguous US also mean the latter cannot function abroad without allies and broad public support at home for an active foreign policy - two things that are in shorter and shorter supply.

    Heathen Hammer:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Quote Originally Posted by Heathen Hammer View Post
    One has to understand that US isn't just a single hive-mind entity. The problem of American interventionism is that only a small minority of population benefits from it, mainly corporate elites, military-industrial complex and such. If foreign geopolitical endeavors were funded out of these elite's private wealth, it would at least make sense, but since majority of population pays for it, but gets nothing out of America's status of a hegemony. Realistically, from taxpayer perspective it would make sense for US to transition into becoming a less global power. Focus on internal issues and save money in budget for things like infrastructure, healthcare, scientific/medical research, etc and keep a smaller basic military to defend borders and territorial waters.
    This 19th century mentality simply is not realistic in a globalized world, even if one disregards the fact that much of the world outsources their defense to the US. Your take on what benefits the taxpayers here is actually the focus of alot of 2020 Dem foreign policy, slashing the military to fund domestic projects, and retooling the US economy to be more protectionist and export-driven, which purportedly favors low skilled labor at the expense of the "elites."


    In any case, even if the US did undertake such an extreme reversal of over a century of foreign policy, the impact on "taxpayers" would be fairly immediate. Trump's unilateral trade war with China is already costing each US household nearly 600 dollars a year according to the CBO, and one can extrapolate from there as an example of the "cost" of isolationism.


    A reduction in US military presence to its own national borders would effectively mean unilateral disarmament, since no other major nation operates in such a limited fashion.


    With no US military in the way, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam are toast, assuming China sticks to its most current and vocal territory claims. Even a temporary loss of trade due to the upheaval caused by the PLA "reclaiming its rightful territories" would cost each US household over 2500 dollars per year based on current trade volume, not to mention the reverberating impact across the global economy. That's equivalent to at least half the current US defense budget, alone.


    War between China and Japan over disputed waters and territories would also be all but certain, destabilizing the entire region, and all the goods which travel through it. The Philippines is already complaining about increasingly bold Chinese aggression in their territory.

    We can all speculate about just how high global energy prices will skyrocket if markets realize the US is no longer a factor in the Persian Gulf.

    The Baltics? Ukraine? Finland? Poland? South Asia? Australia?

    The list goes on and on, not to mention that the DoD provides jobs, contracts, and income to millions of people. As far as "taxpayers" are concerned, they would be suicidal to take out their frustration with income inequality and the cost of healthcare and education on the military, to the extent that you suggest.



    Sukiyama:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I agree with your points in principle. Sanders' comments on foreign policy, while vague and deferential to Obama's status quo, at least aren't quite the isolationist horror show I expected. The question is whether the War on Terror hangover will "wear off" before the US loses its edge definitively. I would argue alot of it has been lost/surrendered already, but the trend could certainly reverse, hypothetically.


    It will be interesting to see if China can continue to crank out loans given its own looming debt and liquidity problems, and whether that will impact its overall ambitions. There's also the question of whether China's neighbors can successfully work together to contain the waking giant. So far they seem to merely be rekindling old rivalries in the absence of firm US leadership. And then there are Russian attempts to put Europe in a chokehold from the Middle East to Ukraine to the Arctic. We're already seeing the impacts of weakening US ability or willingness to project its power successfully in concert with our fraying alliances.

    I didn't vote on my own poll, because I honestly don't know the answer. My bias tells me the baddies are winning, but that's probably because I'm on the side of the status quo, and the latter is changing rapidly.


    I also went back and spoilered some of my prior responses by poster, in case any of them are still following the thread. TWC keeps tossing in extra spoilers for some reason, so I'd previously tried to avoid it.
    Last edited by Legio_Italica; Yesterday at 02:59 PM.

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