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Chapter XI AN AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY THIS BOOK has assessed the performance and promise of alternative security strategies as they bear upon the nation’s security and extrasecurity values. This final chapter addresses the strategies’ political attractiveness. No matter how well designed, how intellectually persuasive a security strategy and its attendant foreign policy may be, it must be compatible with the predominant foreign policy culture to be widely embraced and to enjoy support in the face of occasional setbacks. Strategy and politics are brought together here by way of the country’s foreign policy culture, its externally focused behavioral dispositions. They encompass the generalized attitudes—values, norms, beliefs, and expectations—that speak to its position in the world, external goals, and the means for their realization . With cultural patterns constituting pervasive influences, laying the alternative foreign policy designs alongside them should reveal a great deal about the latter’s current appeal, political potential, and effective management. America’s foreign policy culture is inordinately demanding in being deeply contradictory. The first half of this chapter interprets it in terms of four cultural dualisms. Analyzing the fit between policy and culture in the second part leads to this conclusion: A national strategy embedded within the concurrent design matches up sufficiently well with the country ’s predominant external orientations for it to be portrayed as America ’s characteristic foreign policy. At the least, the design is markedly more congruent with the political culture than the alternative foreign policy configurations—those of historical isolationism and realist and liberal internationalism in their adversarial and conciliatory modes. Insofar as both parts of the chapter are persuasive the concurrent foreign policy can be depicted as the American foreign policy. I Our foreign policy culture features a truly dialectical display of attitudinal polarities shifting over time in their leanings, dispersed among different parts of the population, and commonly embedded within the same individuals at the same time—with and without a suspension of their contradictions . There are the dualisms of isolationist domesticism and internationalist activism, the imperatives of realism and idealism, a sense of CHAPTER XI 264 extraordinary power and the anxieties of weakness, expectations of consistent success and its achievement at no more than modest costs. The grip of this culture may be all the greater insofar as it is reinforced by the dualistic form and substantive content of some pervasive domestic orientations. America’s principal cultural interpreter was most struck by the enormous emphasis placed upon the accumulation of material goods, the relentless strivings and competitiveness behind their acquisition. Yet alongside this driving worldly culture Tocqueville also observed outbursts of evangelical fervor, religious spirituality, and periodic moral enthusiasm .1 Some 150 years later Michael Kammen entitled his study of the country’s historical and cultural roots People of Paradox. In the concluding chapter he summarizes the several dimensions of our “dualistic state of mind,” including those with a foreign policy focus. “Americans have managed to be both puritanical and hedonistic, idealistic and materialistic , peace-loving and war-mongering, isolationist and interventionist , conformist and individualist, consensus-minded and conflict prone.”2 Louis Hartz portrayed American exceptionalism in terms of the “liberal tradition.”3 Rooted in domestic conditions and developments, it also has distinct and distinctive externally focused meanings. In severely encapsulated form, the tradition is characterized by the beliefs that “Change and development [abroad] are easy, all good things go together, radicalism and revolution are bad, distributing power is more important than accumulating power.”4 That all good things go together helps gloss over the contradictions among and within each of the dualisms. Samuel Huntington ’s cultural interpretation focused on the country’s political ideals. Inordinately high expectations have regularly left great gaps with their institutional realization.5 Nearly all interpretations of the foreign policy culture highlight the isolationism-internationalism dualism.6 On the one hand, military, political , and idealistic involvements have been considered superfluous, ineffectual, counterproductive, much too costly in blood and treasure, and outrightly dangerous. Their rejection was greatly reinforced by the powerful pulls of nationalism and unilateralism, continental development and economic growth, the domestic demands of major social and economic reforms, and a life of private normality and public virtue. On the other hand, with the emergence of great power the thoroughly activist culture has directed the country’s energies far beyond the homeland. We have defined our security interests in a far-flung and then globally indivisible manner, taken the lead in trying to create a better world politically and materially, and engaged...


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