President Trump’s recent appointment of John Bolton as national security advisor raises questions about where U.S. foreign policy is headed. For Texas A&M foreign relations and international security professor Josh Shifrinson, Bolton’s militant rhetoric and hawkish approach to foreign policy are troubling because of the United States’ current position in world politics. In Shifrinson’s Washington Post analysis, he lists the main reasons why.
Shifrinson says one concern is that, because of its military dominance, the U.S. hasn’t had to pay a large cost for engaging in aggressive and dangerous military behavior.
“If other big powers had been around, they could have helped arm some of the militants to a greater degree and even some of the local countries did,” Shifrinson says. “They could have tried to take advantage of American attention being diverted. They could have said to the U.S., ‘Hey if you get involved in this country, we’re going to come after you and arm someone else,’ which would have caused the US to step back and think about it.”
Shifrinson says he’s also concerned about Bolton’s appointment because of the increasing power of individual U.S. leaders.
“When the U.S. is unrivaled in this manner, individual leaders, usually in the oval office, have a lot of influence over foreign policy,” Shifrinson says. “And at this day and age, with someone like Trump who is inexperienced and perhaps sometimes reacts to things differently than standard American leaders, that means that the people he surrounds himself with play a very big role in shaping his attitude, shaping the information, shaping the ideas coming to him.”
Still, Shifrinson says that, over the last 25 years or so, U.S. advantages in economic affairs, diplomacy, and security have been whittled down by rising countries like China, Brazil, India, and Russia. While the U.S. still has dominance, it’s not what it used to be.
Shifrinson says that historically when countries see their advantages waning, they rely on their dominant force to compensate – for the U.S., that’s the military.
“And so, if I was truly worried about this over the long term,” Shifrinson says, “I would expect to see that as American economic and political and diplomatic advantages wane over time – don’t get overturned, but wane a little bit – we see the U.S. resorting more and more to force when challenges emerge.”
Written by Elizabeth Ucles.