The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Review of: Menon, Rajan. The End of Alliances. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007.

Review of: Menon, Rajan. The End of Alliances. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007.

In The End of Alliances, Rajan Menon presents convincing reasons for re-ordering United States Government “grand strategy”--the over-encompassing political-economic-military policy of a nation-state—from the system implemented in the period of 1945-1955. He suggests a more sensible, economical, and less provocative security structure within 21st Century realities. Part of Menon's proposal for a more relevant grand strategy contains changes to the third rail of US foreign policy for the last 61 years: Ending the system of permanent alliances, with unlimited commitments by the United States, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Japan and Korea (though not Australia and New Zealand ).

Menon begins with an examination of the major United States foreign policies, its grand strategy, from Independence to around 2005-6. From the founding of the republic in the War of Independence and the ratification of the Federal Constitution in 1788, through America's entry into The Great (World) War of 1914-18, Menon asserts that US policy was not one of isolationism or the surrender of its power and interests to others. Instead, the policy adopted early in the nation's history, influenced by the writings of Thomas Paine and established by the precedents of President Washington, arose from the great advantages afforded the New World by its geographic distance from the European “Old World:” That is, the barrier of the Atlantic Ocean, and complemented by the even vaster ocean of the Pacific.

In terms of military power, the United States was relatively weak and undeveloped until the temporary expansion for the 1861-1865 Civil War. For its unlimited cultural, social, economic and intellectual ability to expand and grow into a mighty power in due course, the need for peace to germinate prosperity in the Western Hemisphere was the one fundamental requirement for early America. Thus, Presidents George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson pursued a course of strict neutrality in the politics of war and peace between the empires in Europe, declaring the US the permanent friend and commercial partner of all and the lasting enemy and villain of no one.

Conflicts early in the American republic's history, in and across the Atlantic and Pacific, affected the Americas, with the United States taking its own side for its permanent interest in those European power struggles. As a commercial nation, and one particularly apt for seaborne trade to enrich it, America developed a small army at home and a small, but excellent naval force to protect its interests off-shore and overseas.

The French Revolution and the Wars of Napoleon from 1789 to 1815 involved the cradle of republican liberty in the Quasi-War against France, and in the trade and maritime wars between the French Empire and everyone else. In all the instances, America was threatened either with oppression at home, for example, the “Alien and Sedition Acts”; or its was confronted with militarism at home and wars on the North American coasts and lands: such as the enlarged army in the late 1790s, the “Embargo and Non-Intercourse Acts,” and the War of 1812.

In each case, America defeated the enemies of liberty at home and resisted the enemies of its self-interest from abroad. And as nation that both benefited from foreign trade and defended itself, a short naval war was fought early in American history against the French and a longer naval war in the Mediterranean against the Barbary states of northwest Africa. America never shied away, nor should it today, in Menon's viewpoint, from exercising a cold, calculated foreign policy, one that is active and assertive in the world-wide politics of both diplomacy and war. Hence, early on America pursued a “maritime” political-economic-&-military grand strategy, and has remained an architect of maritime power politics ever since.

Against European powers tempted to reconquer lost empires in the Western Hemisphere, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams led President Monroe's effort to separate, politically, the “New World” from Europe's aggressions with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, the second rail of US foreign policy. In sum, the enduring doctrine declares that events in “New World” independent republics were the sole concern and duty of the northern American republic to manage and resolve. Along with the earlier, first rail of “no Entangling Alliances” (Jefferson's words) that could draw the United States into conflicts, these two policies sought to avoid conflicts of non-American interests, conflicts in peace or war which would only harm the nation's people and destroy their liberty, and thus impoverishing the nation as well.

US interventions in the First and then Second World wars over nationalism, militarism, racism and imperialism, the shift in the perspective and beliefs of American political leaders led to permanent alliances and their dilemmas, including Soviet interference in Latin America. Regarding NATO, and the military alliances with Japan and Korea, the Cold War political-&tc. grand strategy may no longer be relevant. The demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the European Union via the Maastricht treaty in 1992, and the potential of the prosperous Asian democracies to take of themselves, American foreign policy, as Menon believes, needs to undergo another paradigm shift, back to older one, but one just as self-interested and assertive in its interested as ever. Read his book, and then decide how the 21st Century world security architecture might look without America in other people's issues, and allowing America to fight its own wars at home and abroad to a victorious conclusion for liberty, prosperity, peace and equality.