The advent of the September 11 terrorist attack on America has led to much reconsideration in the lifestyle and decision-making process of a great number of people; dealing a huge blow on the individual lives of more than a million Americans, but mostly putting pressure on government, especially regarding foreign and defense policies.
The US government’s approach to foreign concerns over the years have usually presented themselves in the form of interventions, evident in instances such as the war in Vietnam, in Germany, the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and up until recently, the toppling over of Saddam Hussein and the raid for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Political Realism or power politics appears the most relevant of terms and approaches that could best identify how America dealt with the conflicts which arose in the previously stated countries, but this is not the approach that America largely considers with regards to foreign policy. Political Realism is widely recognized in Europe and most other western countries, but is of lesser significance to the United States, which incorporates its own brand of ‘American style’ through the Wilsonian Idealism, its central approach to foreign policy. In Realism – sometimes referred to as classical diplomacy – justice is fickle and not absolute.
The moral subject of right and wrong is considered as something that varies with every nation because of the differences each country has in history, culture, ideologies, race, location, and so on. What is therefore considered to be of more importance is not the concerns of other nations, which may not apply and directly affect one’s own country, but national issues, interests and concerns. Conversely, the issue of power and the use of force in realism is not considered as something entirely evil, but is in fact, a key aspect of conducting international affairs which exists to further national interests.
Power is the main element and ingredient in the realist point of view. It exists among the developed nations to be imposed on developing ones, perhaps to the detriment of the other country, but justice exists in no certain standards, and one country’s use of its power to wield over others is done with the best of national interest in mind; a judgment viewed as correct in their own terms. The concept of deterrence, or the use of power to deter actions that would not serve to benefit the country’s interest is also a key component of Realism’s approach.
Wilsonian Idealism, on the other hand, stresses the need to distinguish right from wrong, and good from evil. In the case of the United States’ approach to foreign policy for instance, the concept of ‘right’ and ‘good’ exists in democratic countries like ours with which we are allied with; while the concept of ‘wrong’ and ‘evil’ exists in communism and countries who practice it. This has proven itself evident in the various times America has intervened and tried to drive out communism and communist involvement in most countries in the east.
After the evils of communism have been driven out, America turns to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a matter of evil that needs to be necessarily dealt with. Of course, there’s also the matter of the ‘war on terror’ in the middle east; and it goes back to September 11, how America turned to Iraq in preemptive response after Afghan terrorists and the Taliban pitched in their blow; but a lot of critics and ordinary people are debating over its validity and justification, whether or not the stake over Iraq was necessary.
And it isn’t about to be settled anytime soon. Ultimately, Realism and Idealism are just perspectives in foreign policy; an approach, a point of view. When it comes down to reality and its application, and in dealing with a nation as complex and immense as ours, no single ‘approach’ can be rendered absolute, or be found as