Why a Non-American Should Promote American Interests
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
On founding the Middle East Forum in January 1994, I chose the slogan "Promoting American Interests" because I was struck that American participation in the just-concluded Oslo accords and other Middle East diplomacy tended not to consider U.S. interests. This same lacuna existed, to a somewhat lesser degree, also in U.S. policy toward Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. In these cases, Washington seemed overly concerned with the welfare of those countries and not enough with the U.S. stake.
Michael Mandelbaum caught the spirit of this trend in 1996 with the derisive but accurate sobriquet "foreign policy as social work." That approach reached its awful apogee with the bizarrely named "Operation Iraqi Freedom" of 2003. I criticized this approach under George W. Bush, complaining that the Afghan and Iraqi wars "are judged more by the welfare of the defeated than by the gains to the victors."
"Promoting American Interests" serves as a corrective to this disinterested mentality.
I raise this question 17 years later because a British reader recently asked me where he fits in: "Why should I back American interests in the Middle East?" Fair question.
Looking at the past rival (the Soviet Union) and the future one (China) only confirm this point, but so does a comparison with the United Kingdom. London balanced hostile elements and encouraged free trade but it lacked the principled, humanitarian, idealistic approach found in U.S. foreign policy.
That's why non-Americans should also promote American interests. (January 1, 2011)
Feb. 21, 2015 update: The Middle East Forum has grown in size since I wrote the above four years ago and now includes substantial numbers of non-Americans on its roster from such countries such as Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Lebanon, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. This has again prompted questions: Can analysts from these ten very different countries be seen as promoting American interests? Is this even a useful concept?
Yes, they can and yes, it is. An example: I served on the U.S. team working at the UN Human Rights Commission in early 1988 when our ambassador and leader was Armando Valladares, a most unusual choice.. As I wrote at the time,
I went on to mention my initial skepticism about this unusual ambassador and my conclusion that he symbolizes the American spirit:
Anyone, in short, can work on the project of American interests – and all the more so at a time when the U.S. president is plausibly accused not to "love America." Discerning and promoting the country's interests is something Americans need everyone sensible to pitch in and help with, including MEF's non-American staff and fellows.
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