“American Interest:” foreign policy needs fundamental change

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:1-5)

I’ve been thinking seriously about U.S. foreign policy this week, and I’ve come to the conclusion that we (the people, the government, the State Department, Congress…) need to first contemplate and then adopt a fundamental shift in how the United States of America relates to the rest of the world.

What I’m recommending is completely a-political. In fact, I think it’s a safe bet to say that my approach would be pretty-much impossible to pull off for either major party.

AMERICAN INTEREST: Essentially – and simplicity is important in a blog post – I believe our problem stems from one of the oldest “doctrines” in U.S. foreign policy: that of “America Interest.”

The idea of “American Interest” as the bedrock of foreign policy has been articulated since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Additionally, part of the subtext of this thinking also has its roots in the 19th Century idea of “Manifest Destiny.” Then there’s America’s self-appointed mission to promote and defend democracy, and the belief of many evangelicals that the USA is God’s new “Chosen Nation.”

The Bush Doctrine of 2001 added a “We’ll come and get you before you come to us” dimension, and that really hasn’t changed under President Obama.

A NEW AND LIVING WAY: What I’m proposing, instead, is an across-the-board recalibration of what it means for the United States to interact with the world community. I’m proposing a re-write where the term “American Interest” is replaced – in every instance – with “The Interests of Others.”

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

citizens of the world

THEY’RE NOT ASKING FOR THIS KIND OF HELP! That’s the first part. For the second, I recommend a deeper understanding of the important fact that “The entire world does not think like us.”

Case in point, have we noticed what’s been going on in response to that distasteful, poorly produced, insulting to everyone video about the  Prophet Mohamed that’s got so many people riled up?

The same folk who we are so determined to bring democracy, free speech, and civil liberties to are more than happy to attack and kill those who exercise such rights.

When will we learn that we can’t (indeed, shouldn’t) export “Americanism” as a magic pill, and expect it to take hold from the outside? Likely as not we’re going to be treated like an invasive virus that eventually gets swamped by white blood-cells and needs to be excised from the host.

Just look at Afghanistan. And don’t be saying, “That’s the work of evil-doers; once we defeat them things will settle down.” No. We cannot, must not, use military force to establish “American Interest” and then expect the host culture to fall – gratefully – in line. That’s not the way the world works. We’re not going to change that by sticking our heels in and trying harder.

LONG TERM BENEFITS: Lastly, and I think this should help, I firmly believe that “valuing others above ourselves,” “not looking to our own interests,” and “looking to the interests of others” as our first order of business will ultimately advance “American Interest” by virtue of the spiritual principle of “Doing Right.”

  • A world in which the leading power and most influential culture shifts its core value away from self-interest and toward the interests of others is going to be more profoundly changed than via any military conquest.
always thinking about “stuff”

And – lest readers think I’ve forgotten this – I am not discounting the HUGE amount of good the U.S. already does in the world, both via Government sponsored aid and the heroic, epic work of so many non-profits. However, there’s a difference between altruism and foreign policy doctrine.

It’s not like what we’re doing thus far has been working…

Peace, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart – DEREK


  1. May I quote you, with or without attribution? I’m serious – this says what I have been thinking, but you are so clear about it.


    • Thanks, Candy… Please, quote to your heart’s content. I prefer attribution, because my world of freelance writing and speaking needs all the publicity it can get!
      Peace – DEREK


  2. Hi, Derek,

    When we discuss “policy” in any governmental context “foreign policy, economic policy, domestic policy, environmental policy, etc.” we need to be keenly aware that we ordinary folk have almost no access to any policy formulation. When we look at the policymakers, we look at people like the Cabinet of the President of the United States, the Chairman and Boards of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the Brookings Institution, the Diplomatic Corps, etc. The crucial shared characteristic that all these policymakers have is that their powers are uncheckable by we common folk in that none of these people occupy an ELECTED office. They are all APPOINTEES who are not subject to recall and they bear absolutely no accountability to “We, the People”. That’s how the royal family of Saudi Arabia get away with being insufferable tyrants because petroleum policy dictates that we’ll tolerate them at just about any cost just so long as their petroleum continues to flow in our direction to fuel our national addiction to petroleum. Rarely, if ever, do the policywonks do justice or love kindness or walk humbly with our God.

    Peace and Blessings, Henry


  3. Derek,
    You are right. One problem is that we are becoming more and more a secular society. I have even heard leaders say the we are no longer a Christian nation. It would probably be very difficult for some one to get elected with a stated foreign policy like that. If everyone would truly live by the golden rule, we all would be much better off. In fact, in the long run, American interests would be better served.
    Walter Urquhart


  4. Derek, thank you for giving me something to pray about and contemplate. As I have watched the recent events, my mind returns to something I heard many years ago. When Brian was undergoing chemo, I was struggling with my relationship with someone. I decided to see a therapist to help me with not only this issue, but my overall anger surrounding my hubby’s diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer. This counselor said to me one day, “Why are you trying to deal rationally with irrational people? You need to shift your view of this relationship and learn to see the things that ________ (name of person) is doing that, in his/her mind, are doing to reach out.” In effect, he was telling me that I needed to shift my ‘worldview’ because I was not going to get the person to change their view. Yet, the constant struggle then becomes

    In a way, I think that we need to do the same w/our (‘our’ being, the USA) approach to other countries. How do we do this when it is impossible to truly understand/appreciate some cultures. An example of this (and one relatively removed from the Middle East—-I say relatively because we all affect each other), is China. Their culture is so very different from ours that I suspect very few Americans are truly able to “walk in their shoes.” Since 2005, I have read more books I can count, spent 2 weeks in the country and adopted our sweet girl in 2008. The big thing I hear often from other adults is, “I just don’t understand how her Mom could just abandon her.” I now reply with a few facts about the culture and then say, “Honestly, the world Madison’s first mom (birthmom) lives in is different from ours. I submit we really can’t fully comprehend it.”

    The same basic principle applies in this case. We simply can’t understand their culture. As a result, we can’t “speak their language” in a way that truly communicates. Communication is so much more than just language/vocabulary.

    If we all agree that, 1. We can’t truly understand their worldview, and, 2. We can’t deal rationally with irrational people, we then are at another challenge/issue. Do we continue to give financial assistance to countries who are housing and, at a minimum, ignoring the violence? Do we respond with violence if dealing with a group that only responds to violence (and that does exist)? Should we limit the Freedom of Spech of Americans when we know that, right or wrong, there will be violence in response to SOME speech.

    As the spouse of a military member, I must be honest and say that my gut response is to repond in whatever way keeps our military members (DOD, contracters, Americans) safe. I recognize that keep them safe in the short-term, may have long-term implications. Just wanted to be honest…

    Lastly, until we ALL realize that just because Americans disagree on how to handle the situation, it does mean the other side is hateful, ignorant or irrational. As I have seen you say in the past, loving, caring, wondeful people can disagree on these huge issues. If there was a “right and a wrong” don’t we all believe that the right path would have been folowed a long, long, time ago……(tribute there to Star Wars and by extention, Darth Maul)

    Thanks for making me think today! 🙂 SOrry I was long-winded.


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