The End of Grand Strategy or Why it’s Fine to do Business with Dictators
The US spent most of the 20th century “making the world safe for democracy.” During the years after World War II, as the United States reluctantly took on a global policy role, the focus was encouraging freedom and democracy and resisting oppression. But now, this strategy is tired, worn out, and simply ineffective. It’s time to work with the planet we have, not the one we wish we had. The idea of spreading democracy is undoubtedly an excellent idea. Democracy, freedom, and liberal values are perfect ways to live, but the reality is that not every country is going to adopt these values. Unlike communist containment, the West cannot afford to isolate those regimes that it doesn’t like.
Isolation doesn’t encourage change
During the Cold War, “containment” became a primary doctrine for the US and its allies. The idea was that if communism could be contained to where it already existed, the spread of communism could be stopped. This led to wars in Korea, Vietnam and more minor conflicts throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia. President Nixon decided to open relations with China in 1971 and laid the groundwork for market liberalization and positive relations between the US and China. Once the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, most communist regimes fell alongside the Soviet Union. A few remained, and often the US began to engage with these regimes. Isolation did not encourage any regime to change. The US has been isolating Cuba for decades, and it has not resulted in regime change on the Caribbean island. The US enjoys trade with Vietnam and China. Ultimately, engagement with these regimes was more effective than isolating them forever.
Isolation rarely works
Cuba is an excellent example of how isolation rarely works. This has also been true for other countries like Syria and Lebanon. The gold star example is the containment strategy of communism. But history recalls that didn’t even work. During containment, communism spread to China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. Two wars and a major international crisis didn’t remove communism from any of those countries. How could the cold war have been different if the US had chosen an engagement strategy with communist countries? If perestroika or…