August 8, 2007

It's just the way America is...

Some interesting poll results...

Altruism, the Global Interest, and the National Interest...

....A large majority of Americans feel that US foreign policy should at times serve altruistic purposes independent of US national interests. Americans also feel that US foreign policy should be oriented to the global interest not just the national interest and are highly responsive to arguments that serving the global interest ultimately serves the national interest. Americans show substantial concern for global conditions in a wide range of areas.

It is often assumed that most Americans feel US foreign policy should be tied closely to the national interest, narrowly defined, and are opposed to the idea of making sacrifices based on altruistic purposes. Polling data reveal quite a different picture. In numerous cases Americans show support for altruism in US foreign policy independent of any impact it might have on US interests.

In January 2000 Beldon and Russonello asked respondents to rate a list of reasons "for the US to be active in world affairs" on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning "it is not at all an important reason" and 10 meaning "it is an extremely important reason to you personally." Altruistic reasons scored quite well.[1]....(Thanks to Orrin).

This is pleasant to me, because I despise utterly the "realist" school. I am, in Walter Russell Mead's indispensable classification, partly a Wilsonian. However, the trouble with an idealistic approach to foreign policy is that it tends towards soft-mindedness. Towards the sort of thinking that assumes that "soft power" and negotiations will solve all problems. (Which makes the name very appropriate, since few human beings have exemplified the debacles that result from mushy idealism like Woodrow Wilson.)

Unmodified Wilsonianism is catastrophic folly, and the sort of thing that got us into the present war. What's required, for the good of the world, is a combination of Wilsonian and Jacksonian foreign policy. What's needed, if we want peace, is to be willing to BOTH crush the forces of evil with stunning force, AND reach out to the needy (including the defeated enemy) with idealism and generosity.

Posted by John Weidner at August 8, 2007 8:44 AM
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