The Offshore Balancer

In the previous blog post, I mentioned Epicurus and his core teaching, which amounts to the axiom or principle that whatever is good leads to pleasure, and whatever is evil leads to pain. I also mentioned Viktor Frankl, and his argument that the human race is divided into two groups, namely, pleasure-seeking “pigs” on one hand, and “Saints” on the other hand. What distinguishes a Saint from everyone else is his or her ability to assume an ascetic, isolated, and withdrawn lifestyle and thus transcend above everyone else. In turn, assuming an ascetic, isolated, withdrawn, and transcendent lifestyle enables a person to achieve two things, according to the Islamic tradition. For one, a lifestyle characterized by a certain level of asceticism, isolation, withdrawal, and transcendence elevates a person to the level of a Caliph on earth. Also, this particular lifestyle enables a person to get the best of both this world and the other world.

Thus, there is balance and moderation on one hand, and there is discord and imbalance on the other hand. Sir Winston Churchill once said that if he were forced into a position to choose between either Germany – which represents Europe – on one hand, and Russia on the other hand, he would balance both of these entities, because both are “equally hedonistic.” Thus, the original and traditional foreign policy of Anglo-America is one of “offshore balancing.” By virtue of America’s “Special Relationship” with Britain, Anglo-American foreign policy is such that America was supposed to assume the role of “offshore balancer” after the decline of the British Empire in the mid to late 20th century.

But in the 21st century, America took on a hegemonic approach to the world, as opposed to continuing with the traditional Anglo-American policy of “offshore balancing.” Thus, America’s hegemonic approach has to be reset to the original and traditional approach that Anglo-America has had towards the world since the heyday of the British Empire, namely, “offshore balancing.” One American scholar of politics and international relations – namely, Stephen Walt – is one of the few present-day scholars in the United States to highlight this particular role of “offshore balancing,” which in turn was the original and traditional role of Anglo-America in the international system.

As Churchill was faced with “equally hedonistic” powers in the past, America is today facing equally hedonistic powers if Congress can overcome its own tendency towards hedonism. For one, America has to balance between Europe and Russia, given that the discord and tensions between these two entities have endured to this day. Then, there is Iran and Israel which have to be balanced. Finally, there is China and the rest of Northeast Asia which are in need of balancing. Thus, as opposed to taking an imbalanced and lopsided approach to the international system as well as the subdivisions within the international system, America’s role is essentially to act as the “offshore balancer” in the international system and thus bring balance and equilibrium within the various subdivisions of the international system.

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