Sunday, July 5, 2009

What is a simple way to understand US foreign policy?

Follow the money.

With some exceptions, US foreign policy is usually about protecting and furthering US commercial interests. US foreign policy becomes inconsistent when looked at from a humanitarian perspective - e.g., no intervention in genocides in Rwanda, Sudan, and Cambodia - or when looked at from a threat perspective - e.g., no intervention when nuclear capabilities were acquired by India, Pakistan, and Israel but strong interventions under the communist "domino effect" theory in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Korea, Chile, Cuba, etc.

Although, one could also argue that these humanitarian and threat responses are perfectly in line with the "follow the money" rule.

Some classic and recent examples of "follow the money" interventions include Guatemala to protect the United Fruit Company (1954), China to protect Taiwan (1958), Serbia/Kosovo to prevent larger impact in Europe (1999), Kuwait (1991) and Iraq (2003) to protect oil supplies, Panama to protect the canal (1989), etc.

Is this an oversimplification? Absolutely, but the point is that protecting economic interests explains US foreign policy best.