America Led Astray

Author: Gary Hart

One of the best, indeed quite possibly the best, book on the derailment of U.S. foreign policy in the early 21st century is Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray–and How to Return to Reality.  It was published last year by Ambassador Jack Matlock, one of the finest members of the diplomatic corps of his, or any, generation.

In too brief a word, Ambassador Matlock argues that a misinterpretation, in part a purposeful one, of the end of the Cold War led a group of ideologues, generally identified as neo-conservatives, to the conclusion that America could democratize the world largely through the threat and/or use of force, that what they call “regime change” was an acceptable policy for the U.S., and that strength trumped principle in American foreign policy.

Ambassador Matlock, who served as our ambassador to the Soviet Union under President Reagan and who admired that iconic Republican president, refutes at every point these notions.  Mighty as we are, we cannot govern the world by force or intimidation.  Traditional military power might awe inferior regimes but not insurgents.  And we pay a heavy price in respect when we operate outside our proclaimed principles.

All this would seem self-evident, except the cycles of history suggest that, sooner or later, possibly beyond a second Obama term, the foreign policy of bullying, cloaked again in a phony Wilsonian patina, will re-emerge.  It will do so, that is, if we have figured out a way to keep our own society and economy from collapsing because of the trillions of dollars we have put into unnecessary foreign wars instead of into nation building at home.

[This will be the last appearance of this blog-site under the banner of the University of Colorado.  But it is my hope and intention to maintain Matters of Principle under a new banner.  Please stay tuned and continue to provide those overwhelmingly thoughtful and intelligent comments.]

10 Responses to “America Led Astray”

  1. Bud Warren Says:

    The misguided idea that “Strength trumps Principle” has been applied to many other facets of public policy beyond foreign affairs; whether excusing torture or serving as the guide to disenfranchising and abandoning large swaths of the population under the guise of Fiscal Responsibility. We need a different word to describe this plutocratic ideology; it’s not Conservatism, certainly not the Conservatism of Reagan, Goldwater, Rockefeller, Teddy Roosevelt, or Lincoln. It is rather an egocentric,childish, amoral, Hagar the Horrible “Get Yours!” stridency that measures the price of everything and the value of nothing. The Nation is much the worse for these unprincipled bullies.

  2. Pat Boice Says:

    Upon your recommendation I intend to buy the book! And by all means, please keep your blog going – and with a wider audience somehow!!

  3. Gary Hart: America Led Astray Says:

    […] into unnecessary foreign wars instead of into nation building at home. To comment, please visit Senator Hart's blog.   This Blogger's Books from Under The Eagle's Wing: A National […]

  4. Wildthang Says:

    Well msot likely the Middel East polucy we are on was started by Carter for force and and strategic dominance and the ususally catchphrase of our national strategic interests…
    So a covert operation to lure the Soviets to occupy Afghanistan and use then in a 30 years wer first against the Soviets and then for our own occupation beleid by teh Enron heiress bearing stingers… and skip a Moscow Olympics
    Pitting Iraq against Iran and selling or giving arms to both sides and saying we wished that they killed each other off. After being softened up enticing Saddam into a Kuwaiti trap and a super power weapons demo massacre.
    We’ve gone far beyond the limits of civilized and moral behavior in my humble opinion and it can’t all be blamed on neo-cons. Our military induistrial missionary intelligence and university research complex perhaps. The final chapeter in ivnvading Iraq for lies and Might Makes Right however has left the US product label in tatters.

  5. Bill Pruden Says:

    Senator Hart’s post is yet another insightful assessment of the tottering state of American politics and statecraft. Yes, we have been led astray and our position in the world has changed, but that should not really be a surprise. At our best the United States has served as a beacon, an example of what a democratic system can be, how power can be harnessed to serve the common good, but as we stray from those founding principles at home—led by the same people who offer force and threats as an approach to international nation making–it is not surprising that we are unable to convince the rest of the world of its value. For generations our example was infinitely more powerful that our armies, themselves a force which was unleashed only in virtual desperation, when all else had failed and even then it was always with an eye to ultimately seeing democracy triumph in the aftermath. But our own example is tarnished. We must restore its luster and in turn offer anew a singular example. It is a monumental challenge and one from which we must not shrink. I hope that the effort to do so will include continued thoughts and challenges from Senator Hart in whatever forum is available. Senator, your voice needs to be a part of the continuing dialogue.

  6. Henry Pelifian Says:

    How could any misguided group, including Neo-Cons, influence major policy without our Congress approving it and endorsing it with public monies? It seems to me we have a failure of government and of the two party system whose outlook is far too narrow and subscribed to be effective for the American people and the country as a whole.

    How could more parties be more effective? When someone on a job is incompetent they are fired. The concept of keeping an incompetent is rarely considered. Adding political parties to the mix is necessary and the fact that the two political parties make it more difficult to access the political process shows how damaging our system has become to the American people.

    Unless money is taken out of politics, which to me would be simple, changes will always be cosmetic without fairness and equity.

  7. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart,

    I am sorry to hear that your excellent blog will not be available from this site. I have come to look forward to your weekly insight into our country and its system of governance. I look forward to reading your comments on these same issues in the future. Please keep us informed as to where we might be able to find you in the future.

    Thank you for all that you have done to enlighten the citizens of this wonderful country about the issues that confront them on a daily basis.

    Stephen D. Pillow

  8. Ken Dean Says:

    Senator Hart, this blog must continue, and perhaps even, one step more. You always have a keen eye for what matters most, the particles of light in oure culture politics and history, the deeper truths most people miss or are not told. The real story behind the story we hear. You always see that.

    “The Senators” could be a gathering of yourself and 4 or 5 other retired US Senators, that appear on CSPAN or PBS, once a month or every two weeks to discuss the matters that are affecting the country. What you really see taking place. A gathering of the elders of the tribe, wise sages offering insights that run deeper beyond the thin packaging we hear all day from…..well almost everyone.

    Yourself and Senator John Danforth and Senator Bill Bradley could be a core group and another Republican you pick, and you have special guests on from time to time. Bill Bradley connections to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street could provide some, one would think, easy early sponsors.

    You and Senator Danforth have your own excellent sources of potential sponsors as well. MacArthur Foundation perhaps, and Foundations like it.

    People, guests and US Senator can hook up electronically upon need to present and prepare the show. You can be in Denver, Senator Danforth in St Louis, Senator Bradley in New York or NJ.

    The blog reaches about 10,000 people one would think, on an active basis. A monthly CSPAN or PBS show would reach 10 million, and more, as die hard fans. People who want to see it each time it is on.

    You have great wisdom. You have some Democratic and Republican peers that have great wisdom as well. A quiet reflection of what you see and hear on public issues facing the country on a monthly basis could be a special PBS presentation. All the content in this essay “America Led Astray” would make an excellent broadcast. Help enlightened and expand the debate. Just as a start.

    The Republican and Democratic sages ought to gather together, and offer their best wisdom,once a month, in a new PBS television show called “The Senators” The wisdom tribe for the nation.

    What two people could you call to get it started. Attempting to push out the horizons a bit, so the multitudes can be fed.

  9. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart,

    Most of us wnat and need for your voice to continue to be heard. Ken Dean even goes so far as to make an excellent suggestion about a brosder based format that includes both Democratic and Republican representation. I would add Senator Richard Luger (Rep. Indiana) to the list of participants. I have always admired his ideas and ideals, even when I did not fully agree with them.

    Please do not let this vital source of perspective vanish at a time when it is so vitally needed.

    Stephen D. Pillow

  10. Brian C McCarthy Says:

    Senator, no need to post this to the site – but I am the administrator of your Facebook fan site. I enjoy your weekly blogs and hope to be able to continue posting them to the FB site. Please do let us know where your posts will continue to appear if they will not be on this page. Opinions on current events, guided by thought and reason, rather than sensationalism and salaciousness, are unfortunately premium items these days. Best wishes as always to you, sir. Hope to meet you in person someday.

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