American Foreign Policy

Walter Russell Mead has written the book “Power, terror, peace and war: America’s Grand Strategy in a World at Risk” in which he has paid attention to the dilemma faced by the United States after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Even though terrorism has remained a major security concern of the United States in the aftermath of the events of 9/11, the security policies of the nation are more due to economic reasons. Mead talks about the rise of millennial capitalism which has created income inequalities between nations and groups. This capitalism has led to some groups and nations being resentful of their declining power towards the United States of America. Mead points out to the fact that anti Americanism is very strong in the Middle East. The post 9/11 world has also witnessed the creation of new power groups and alliances between US corporations, neoconservatives and other politicians who seek to increase the global reach of the United States. Mead says that the Bush administration has sought a policy of actively interfering in the affairs of the Middle East, ignoring international institutions like the United Nations and a growing dispute with traditional allies like the European Union (Mead, 2004). Some conclusions of Mead will be disputed but the fact is that the book is very well written account of the post 9/11 security scenario which the United States faces. Mead brilliantly portrays the security policies which have been conducted by the United States in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Walter Mead provides an insight into the reaction of the world against the policies of President Bush. He says that the international system has reacted with shock, anger and despair against the policies of the United States of America. The international system since the end of the cold war had already become unstable. The book is a defense of the Bush administration’s policies. The years between the fall of communism and 9/11 are termed as a lost decade for American foreign policy. American policy makers were concerned about the rise of China as a threat to the United States. There was the illusion that the world was based on the policies of the United States of America (Mead, 2004). The Iraq conflict further caused a division between the United States and its allies. The Middle East had become anti American because of American ideals that had become omnipresent and intolerable. A section of Muslim society had acquired the ideology and means to attack the United States by launching terrorist attacks against American interests.

Mead says that democracies and dictatorships had several incentives to resist American hegemony. The United States had backed the formation of international organizations for the common interests of the world. But this policy of backing international organizations was already breeding the future conflicts. Some political parties in Europe and Canada seek to place the world under a single world government (Mead, 2004). They seek to restrict the power of the United States in the international arena. Other political factions in the world seek to create a multipolar order.

During the first decades of the twentieth century, the United States promoted the ideology of Fordian capitalism in which the government sought to regulate the economy and society. This capitalism backed the idea of big institutions taking care of the needs of society. The ideology of Fordism fostered international peace and cooperation between nations. It transformed dissidents into non political experts and created a secular society.  Fordism could not sustain itself according to Mead because it was centralized and power lied in the hands of middle managers. The capitalism of today is based on decentralized decision making because globalization and information has made the world into a small place. Mead says that millennial capitalism has replaced Fordian capitalism because of its opposition to the practice of monopolies by large institutions and corporations (Mead, 2004).  Millennialism opposes the presence of the government in regulating the affairs of economy and society. It calls for the use of overwhelming force to achieve American political and military objectives.

Millennialism is hated by the elite of national states because it reduces their ability to control and dominate the economy and society. It is resented by the people because it calls for an end to subsidies upon which they are dependant. Individualism of the United States is clearly in harmony with the concept of millennialism. Millennialism calls for spreading American values to other states (Mead, 2004).  It deploys Christian rhetoric to support the justification for American foreign policy in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

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Mead also counters the argument that the United States is on the verge of collapse because of its economic, political and military policies. He answers the question of the US public and private debt by pointing out that Britain’s founding of the Bank of England transformed the nation’s debt into national power. Mead says that military might will remain the cornerstone of American foreign policy. Further America’s economic institutions and policies ensure that other states will always try to be part of the system. Very few nations would dare to leave the American economic system because of their dependence on the global economic system. American ideas of politics and democracy will remain attractive for nations. The American military system acts as a benefit for other states because they do not need to maintain well armed and well equipped militaries of their own (Mead, 2004).  Mead says that harmonic convergence was the key principle which allowed the United States to defeat the USSR and its communist system.

The principle of harmonic convergence allowed the world to accept the idea of the superiority of the American system. Most Americans see the spread of American ideas as a project of the American state which must be continued after the end of the cold war. President Bush has been attempting to redefine the American foreign policy. He has shifted away from the importance of Europe as the cornerstone of American foreign policy (Mead, 2004). The United States has successfully used language to deter rouge regimes which sponsor terrorism.

Mead defends the right of the United States to abandon its Eurocentric foreign policy. He states that American foreign policy must be based on the interests of the United States. He criticizes President Clinton for failing to persuade Europe about how unreasonable it was for the United States to adhere to international protocols like the Kyoto Treaty and International Court of Justice. The reasons for the rift between Europe and the United States were because of different strategic perceptions. Europe felt itself to be a rising power and they perceived Al Qaeda as being a threat similar to European terrorist groups. Mead criticizes this approach of Europe because he believes that Al Qaeda is a global terrorist organization with far greater resources, motivation and ability to hurt Western interests as compared with local terrorists groups like the Basque separatists and IRA (Mead, 2004). Al Qaeda represented a global threat which could only be countered by a superpower. Mead also says that the United States had three reasons for going to war in Iraq.

The country was not fulfilling the obligations under the United Nations resolutions which had been placed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He further states that the Baath party regime was violating the human rights of the Iraqi people which further justified the Iraq war. The third reason according to Mead was that the previous policy of containing Iraq was breeding much greater resentment amongst the Muslim population (Mead, 2004).  US forces were engaged in a low level military conflict against suspected Iraqi military installations. Mead says that the invasion of Iraq was the only choice for the Bush administration to change the status quo.

Mead says that the occupation of Iraq has led to several foreign policy successes. However he criticizes the Bush Administration for failing to take public opinion into confidence regarding the occupation of Iraq. Mead says that the United States must actively pursue terrorist organizations. He says that the US must create an attractive world order which would appease different countries of the world. Terrorist groups must be harassed and their links with states should be cut off. Even paying the families of suicide bombers should be considered an act of war by the United States of America (Mead, 2004).  Islamic terrorists must clearly be distinguished as some nationalist and conservative groups in the Islamic world are not opponents of the United States. Mead calls for a religious revival to counter the propaganda of Islamic terrorists that the United States is an agnostic and secular state. Mead suggests that the American system is friendlier to religion as compared with the state of minorities in Middle Eastern countries. Mead also suggests that the Palestinian conflict must be resolved in order to reduce the incidence of terrorism.

A compensation mechanism should be created which would assist the Palestinians in creating a democratic and modern state in the occupied territories without threatening the existence of the state of Israel.  Mead says that the United Nations still has relevance in the new world order (Mead, 2004).  He suggests that the number of permanent members in the United Nations Security Council should be increased. However Mead does not make any recommendations about changing the structure of international institutions.

Walter Mead’s book says that the United States has a global reach which has not been enjoyed by any power since the Roman Empire. Mead suggests that the United States should adopt a moderate policy where the consent and aspirations of other nations are respected without undermining the ability of the United States to underwrite the world system (Mead, 2004).  Under the Bush administration, the Middle East has acquired a new strategic position with respect to American foreign policy. While Mead may sound as an advocate of the Bush administration, the reality is that he says that the United States should respect global institutions. He says that these institutions should be restructured and reformed according to the realities of the world. Mead is convinced that the occupation of Iraq was necessary to change the political landscape of the Middle East.

He also coins the term “Arabian fascism” as an appropriate word for the threat posed by Islamic terrorist groups. Arabian fascism is an ideology which seeks to dominate the world by restoring a golden mythological past throughout the world. Europe’s military and economic power has been declining as compared with the United States of America. They will continue to seek means to undermine the power of the United States by forcing it to sign international conventions and treaties which would limit American decision making. Mead says that the struggle against Islamic militancy would allow the creation of spiritual values in the United States of America.


Mead, Walter Russell (2004). Power Terror Peace And War : America’s Grand Strategy in a World at Risk. Random House Inc.



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