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Tuesday, January 16

Capitalism vs Democracy, Part 1: What is a foreign policy, anyhow?

It is fair to say that for almost a quarter century prior to September 12, 2001, the United States of America did not have a foreign policy; we had economics theories fobbed off as foreign policy. So from the long view it could be considered a kind of cosmic comment on insane policymaking that America's twin cathedrals to neoliberalism, globalization and economics 'shock therapy' were blasted to rubble.

One would hope that the catastrophic attack on the World Trade Center marked the end of the Insane Era in US foreign policy, but at this time the application of defense doctrine to US foreign policy should be considered a blip. There is no guarantee that the policy will outlive the Bush presidency. What's more, there's no guarantee that US foreign policy won't revert to a showcase for economics policy once Bush leaves office.

There was much right about the Reaganomics revolution -- for America. There was much right about Thatcher's economics revolution -- for Britain. There was much right about unrestricted global trade -- for the rich countries. And when viewed on a limited basis, the revolutions had positive consequences when applied to several countries. The revolutions had terrible consequences for developing countries that did not have the government and private sector infrastructures in place to accommodate a radical shift to privatization and free market economics, which could not count on NATO to come to their defense, and which had big trouble coming up with enough petrodollars to purchase energy to fuel their experimental market economy.

The fall guy for the debacles should have been the International Monetary Fund and their structural adjustment program. (Here's a foreign policy tip for governments: If you're going to do something that you're only hoping will work, you need a front man.) But no, the US government under Bush 41 and Clinton wanted to be the world standard bearer for neoliberalism, shock therapy and globalization.

So here we are today, with a good portion of the world hopping mad at the United States for pushing disastrous economic policies on them. And with foreign policy advisors who are still seriously wondering whether it's strictly necessary to work the concept of national defense into a nation's foreign policy.

To be continued tomorrow.

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