John Mearsheimer on American foreign policy and the UN


OCALA, Fla., February 10, 2014 — The international community is in the midst of a serious power shift. 

For decades on end, the former empires of Europe have been losing ground on the world stage. Left in their wake were two creations of our post-aristocratic age; the United States and the Soviet Union.

After the Cold War came to an end during the early 1990s, most thought that America stood as a nation without parallel. Why not? The Soviet Union’s transition into the Russian Federation brought it economic turbulence and social upheaval.

For awhile, one could have surmised that America would be the globe’s one and only superpower.

These days, however, such an idea seems foolish. Russia is rising to dominate the Middle East, China is climbing out of communism to conquer the manufacturing market, and India is emerging as a technological powerhouse.

In short, America is going the way of those empires which preceded it.

Terrible news like this raises the uncomfortable subject of foreign policy. What can our country do not only to rebuild its image, but recapture its vitality?

Some would say that a wise first step is making the United Nations more involved with American affairs. They claim that this makes sense as globalization now plays a central theme in our lives.

So, would it be a good idea for America to make its foreign policy more reliant on the U.N.?

Few of our country’s public intellectuals have done so much brainstorming as John Mearsheimer. A longtime professor at the University of Chicago, his scholarly work has made him world famous. Like one might presume, his ideas have generated ample praise and controversy.

Dr. Mearsheimer tells Communities Digital News that he “think(s) the United States has it just about right when it comes to dealing with the United Nations.  It would be foolish not to take advantage of that institution when it can help facilitate the execution of American foreign policy.  But there are limits to how much help we can get from the United Nations, as the Obama administration found out when it turned to the Security Council for help on Syria.”

John Bolton is a man with very different opinions. He served in several Republican administrations, holding the posts of assistant attorney general and undersecretary of state. By far, though, he found most prominence as ambassador to the United Nations, a position secured for him by George W. Bush.

Last January, Ambassador Bolton told this journalist that it would “(a)bsolutely not” be prudent for America to include the U.N. in more of its foreign policy matters. He believed “President Obama would like nothing better than to do just that. He has, after all, nominated John Kerry as Secretary of State, the man who, in his 2004 presidential campaign, proposed a ‘global test’ for American foreign policy, in effect asking for UN Security Council permission to defend our vital interests.

“Obama’s inclination to multilateralize U.S. foreign policy could well be a major source of debate in the next four years, now that he no longer has to worry about re-election.” 

Today, isolationism is an increasingly popular idea. What role might this philosophy play in American foreign policy during the years ahead?

“This is a red herring,” Dr. Mearsheimer says. “Isolationism is not becoming a popular idea.  The American public is not returning to the 1930s.  Instead, it is fed up with our failed attempt to dominate the globe at the end of a rifle barrel and wisely wants to scale back our interventionist tendencies.  The public wants restraint, not isolationism.  Let’s hope the public has a major influence on our foreign policy.  

“The reason that neoconservatives and others interested in global domination call advocates of restraint isolationists is they know that isolationism is a thoroughly discredited strategy in the United States, and thus falsely labeling anyone an isolationist is a way of discrediting their ideas.”

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