Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Containment and the current US foreign policy

During the Cold War years the US foreign policy was characterised by the word containment which meant containing the spread of communism and that translated into limiting the influence of the former Soviet Republic.

The current US foreign policy also revolves around the same word, namely containment. However, this time around the containment means containing the economic and military powers of all potential adversaries.

The theoretical underpinning of this policy was provided in the late 1980s in a book titled,"The Rise and Fall of Great Powers". The thesis described in that monumental work is that when nations grow economically then they also grow militarily and if that growth continues unhindered then such nations start to expand and then turn into new empires which then threaten the existing powers or empires.

The logical policy implication of this thesis is that the existing empires or powers must check and retard the economic and military growth of all potential adversaries in order for them to sustain their supremacy.

The clearest example of the application of the above was provided in the explanation for the second invasion of Iraq in 2003. Among other arguments, it was stated that Iraq had wealth and the manpower to develop economically and militarily and with a potential adversary in power, that country could become something like Nazi Germany thus its progress had to be stopped and the potential adversary taken out of power.

Similar arguments are given for the invasion on Iran and the so called War on Terror.

Now one can question the validity of Paul Kennedy's thesis but the fact of the matter is that most of the US policy makers have read and digested his thesis in their college days or otherwise and firmly believe in it. So we must be ready for the continuation of the new "containment" for foreseeable future.

Now one can draw many conclusions from the above analysis for Pakistan, India and China. All three are growing economic and military powers. Will the US policy makers allow their growth unhindered and risk them becoming a threat to the US?

In case of India, because it is a democracy and a liberal country the threat to US is not that apparent and thus the US may not object to its growth. However, Pakistan, because of its Islamic and somewhat militant Islamic nature, and China because of its centrist regime and also because of the fact that it is now in the third phase as per the said thesis i.e. expansion of influence and borders, the US foreign policy makers may not allow their unhindered growth without some sort of assurance that these two countries will not be a threat to them.

Both China and Pakistan need to build a strong and reliable partnership with the US with democratic reforms at home if they wish to avoid friction in the world in the coming years.

As a Pakistani, my advise to fellow country men and women will be to pursue a fair pro US policy which simply means minding our own business and not become a pawn in the designs of Anti-US forces.