Stephen Walt is a professor of international relations at Harvard University as well as a very prominent figure in the international affairs field. He taught on at Princeton University and the University of Chicago and is a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-chair of the editorial board of “International Security.” Just recently he spoke at Iowa State regarding the direction that US policy is heading.
According to him, the strategy that the US still uses is dating from Cold War era, and it’s all about that famous “liberal hegemony.” That basically means that the US is trying to use its power to ensure and spread liberal principles of democratic governments, human rights and open-market economies. During this lecture he also addressed the turmoil’s the United States has with China (worse now than ever since Cold War), Russia, terrorist attacks that happen frequently and many others.
According to professor Walt “Instead of defending American territory and working to uphold the balance of power in key strategic regions, liberal hegemony seeks to spread democracy in markets around the world, peacefully, if possible, but if necessary, with military force.” As far as he is concerned the current US foreign policy now holds “more uncertainty on this topic than there has been in any time in recent history.” He feels that liberal hegemony is fundamentally flawed mainly because it adds to the number of places the US is formally committed to defend (which is a burden by itself), and secondly countries that are not liberal democracies may feel threatened when you barge in and force liberal democracy on their neighbor. He stated that “Some of those countries are able to do various things to get in our way. It’s one of the reasons countries are getting interested in acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Thanks to its many flaws, Donald Trump made it to the president spot by criticising the existing foreign policy which, truthfully, couldn’t be defended at all. Trump, even during his campaign, promised that he would give the US a new set of strategies and the “American First” policy, but as we can see it right now, his administration simply picked up after the previous one, and it is business as usual. “It’s true that he is paying much less attention to democracy promotion, to nation building and to human rights, but the differences here are not as dramatic as we might think,” Walt stated. He backs this up by the recent airstrike in Syria and states that “This is again a classic right out of the D.C. playbook. It’s not going to affect the situation in Syria at all, but it makes us look like we are doing something. One percent of the deaths in the Syrian civil war were caused by chemical weapons. We got very excited and energized over the use of chemical weapons, but the vast majority people lost their lives in Syria were killed by ordinary weapons. We are still following the same blueprint, but now being managed by the least competent president in my remembering.”
Walt, at the end of his thought, gave a piece of advice for Trump administration – the main goal should be to prevent any other country from dominating its region the same way America dominates the Western atmosphere. Don’t worry about Europe or even Russia, they are not the adversaries, military nor in economics. China is the one to worry about. “The bad news is that China is a potentially dominant power in Asia and our allies in Asia are not strong enough to balance against China. The United States has to still take the lead in forging a balancing coalition in Asia,” Walt stated. According to Walt, the US should not try to control the Middle East, take sides with countries there or have any “special relationships” because, basically, no country in the Middle East “deserves unconditionally, American support.”
Besides this, Walt suggests that there should be a huge deemphasize on the role of military power in foreign policy and put a greater accent on peace. Walt thinks that most politicians today forgot about the word peace simply because of the environment that makes you look idealistic and soft if you use a peace card. He also stated that “Peace time tends to elevate to prominent people who are good at promoting human wealth or good innovation and good invention. Warfare tends to elevate people who are good at using violence.”
In the end, Walt also made a notion that the US should (under the ideal government policies) get out of the business of nation-building and reduce their military footprint in Europe and the Middle East and turn toward the improvement of relationship with Russia and try and nurture more attention in creating a partnership in Asia.