Over the long run, the main adjustment which the United States will most likely have to make in terms of its foreign policy and strategy is the adjustment away from the inertia and sunk costs of an imperial and global hegemonic policy and towards a clear-cut and calculated assessment and advancement of basic and core national interests. As mentioned before, everything about human action and human life revolves around basic and core interests, and what makes the United States different and unique from all other countries and states thus far is that the United States cannot clearly and resolutely define what its basic and core “national interests” are.
Although the United States had the luxury of pursuing global hegemony and doing whatever it wanted for a certain period of time due to its surplus of energy and resources, that surplus and that period of history have largely ended. And arguably, where the future stands and where the focus will most likely be for the United States in terms of its foreign policy focus and interests is its own backyard, even though the United States will preserve some of its vested interests in regions of the world such as Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. As Joseph Nye wrote: “More can be done with trade initiatives with Europe and Asia as well as a reduction of barriers to the integration of North America. While East Asia has been a region of economic dynamism, in the coming decades the demographic and energy situation will be more promising in North America.”
Hence, the United States will have to switch from a policy and strategy of “global hegemony” to a policy of “retrenchment” over the long run. In terms of what “retrenchment” means, Joseph Nye wrote: “Retrenchment is not isolationism, but an adjustment of strategic goals and means.” Moreover, the template for “retrenchment” towards a hemispheric foreign policy focus on the part of the United States has its roots in the “Monroe Doctrine” of the early 19th century. The default foreign policy focus of the United States is the solidification of the Western Hemisphere as its natural ‘sphere of influence.’ Thus, an adjustment or shift towards a hemispheric focus essentially translates into a reversion towards America’s first major foreign policy doctrine.
The major challenge towards solidifying a sense of “community” amongst the countries and states in the Americas and the Western Hemisphere in general, however, is the inability of these countries and states to cooperate and to uphold their mutual agreements in addition to their inability to view each other as neighbors and friends who share a common geographical space and common interests rather than as enemies and foreigners, as Robert Pastor noted in a book titled “The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future.” Pastor also argued that there is a natural “American design” with “three sets of priorities” which help explain this natural “American design”:
- “America First” – This means focusing on cultivating and utilizing the geographical isolation which the United States has from the rest of world and the peace it has along its northern and southern borders, while putting to good use the natural resources, human resources, and the wealth which America is endowed with
- “The Americas Second” – This means putting the aforementioned “Monroe Doctrine” into practice but in a manner which cultivates a sense of community amongst the countries of the Western Hemisphere
- “The World Third” – After the first two sets of priorities are met, the United States will have to maintain a balanced and calculated engagement with international institutions while determining what its basic and core interests are vis-à-vis the countries outside of its hemispheric sphere of influence
In sum, the realization of this “American design” and its implementation is long overdue.