Foreign Affairs


The Middle East Conflict, War on Terror, Africa, and Global Warming


By most standards, the United States is the most powerful nation on earth, be it militarily, economically, technologically, or politically. We all know that power can be used for many purposes, both good and bad. But while Americans have the expectation that our power should be used responsibly and for the good of the country, sometimes, the good of the country–or the national interest, as it is known in foreign policy—is interpreted in a nationalist, i.e., self-centered or egoistic, manner. When this happens, our policies tend to be formulated within a zero-sum framework resulting in a “let-others-be-damned” attitude. These two forces, altruism and egoism, too often battle each other in pursuit of our national interest.

Ironically, dramatic changes in world affairs have led to new circumstances in international politics. Interdependence—and its driving force, globalization—has changed the political equation in American foreign policy. Today, the close proximity and reliance of nations with each other is making altruism a matter of self-interest. That is, the well-being and survival of other peoples and nations may very well determine our own. This is potentially true in the cases of the Iraq war, the Middle East conflict, the situation in Darfur, global warming, oil dependency, and AIDS. Our own well-being may depend on whether or not our government will be able to exert strong leadership on these issues.

The Middle East conflict has become a part of the war on terror our government is waging around the world. Darfur and conditions in Africa question the moral foundations of our nation. Global warming threatens the very existence of the planet. These are issues that we cannot resolve by ourselves, but they most certainly cannot be dealt with successfully without our leadership. This section examines the reasons why our foreign policy requires a new and more dynamic moral paradigm.