To the Editor:
I applaud Peter Hamilton for eloquently laying out an idealistic vision for a peaceful world (“U.S. must change to P.R. foreign policy,” 9/7).
Unfortunately, his “P.R. foreign policy” is mired in saccharine fallacy.
However heartfelt Hamilton’s desires may be, they will never be able to “create a world where it doesn’t matter who’s strongest at the time, because we all have the same goals and we all respect each other.”
History has unequivocally shown us that the interplay between nations is a direct result of relative power; “who’s strongest” is the dispositive consideration in foreign policy. Looking to prevent any one nation or bloc from gaining too much power, states will alter their national policies (e.g. U.S. recognition of China to drive a wedge into Sino-Soviet relations, pacifist Japan’s dispatch of troops to Iraq to please the U.S.), form alliances (e.g. the E.U., NATO, and the Axis), and even fight (e.g. Arab-Israeli wars and Vietnam) to prevent any one state or group of states from winning too much power and posing too much of a threat.
Thus the U.S. and USSR became allies in World War II, only to become staunch enemies when there was no longer a common enemy to bind them. As a result of this flip-flop, Japan and Germany, mortal enemies a short while before, suddenly found themselves friends of America in the balancing act between Moscow and Washington. This legacy of power balancing can be traced back to the sticks and spears of warring feudal Europe as well as forward to the multi-national blocs of today’s trade negotiations.
How grand it would be to imagine a world in which nations rejected grimy self-interest and solemnly embraced their roles as one another’s keepers.
Sadly, I, like most rational thinkers, only draw a blank when trying to see this modern Eden. As long as nations value their own self-preservation, considerations of power and politics will always be at the forefront of foreign policy.
Lee Hiromoto ’06
September 7, 2004