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William Ruger: US Must Change Attitude Toward Foreign Policy

By    |   Thursday, 12 January 2023 04:28 PM EST

American foreign policy has changed widely over the 20 years spanning the 21st century.

The early 2000s saw a greater pivot to fighting international terrorism and terrorist-harboring countries after Sept. 11, 2001. Russia resurfaced to the world stage in early 2010s after the initial invasion and annexation of Crimea. China launched the now-infamous Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese geopolitical strategy that funds infrastructure projects throughout the world as a way to assert influence in global affairs and promote economic interests.

Throughout the 21st century, U.S. foreign policy has approached international challenges using an interventionist approach.

Although once highly praised by many within the foreign policy community, more and more voices have begun to take a critical view of that foreign policy theory.

William Ruger is one of the nation's leading U.S. foreign policy experts and one who has challenged the use and legitimacy of military interventionism.

He was also President Donald Trump's nominee for ambassador to Afghanistan, but the nomination was stonewalled in the Senate.

Ruger, who also serves as president of American Institute for Economic Research, recently spoke to Newsmax about how he feels the U.S. should be handling current international crises.

"I loved my previous job," said Ruger, the former vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute and vice president for foreign policy at Stand Together, "but I was excited by the opportunity to lead an organization — especially one that had so much potential. As a scholar and longtime advocate for individual liberty, I was also drawn to AIER's wholehearted commitment to both rigorous research and the unabashed advancement of a classical liberal vision for our country."

He added: "It didn't hurt that I saw some similarities between myself and the founder of AIER, E.C. Harwood. Harwood also served in the military, loved freedom and free markets, and had realist instincts in foreign policy."

Based on his experience, Ruger strongly believes there are critical lessons that our next generation of analysts and leaders should know when they assume the helm in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

Specifically, he said, the rising generation of leaders should not "internalize boomer habits of mind that dominate the foreign policy establishment today. For example, don't think that everything in the world can be understood as a Manichaean struggle between good and evil. Avoid thinking that the most relevant historical example for every situation today is World War II and the events surrounding it, whether 1938 and Munich or how the war ended and the Marshall Plan."

Ruger said people ought to "read and learn beyond that exceptional period, whether all the way back to the Peloponnesian War and Athens' Sicilian expedition to America's approach to foreign policy from [George] Washington to [William] McKinley to the harsh lamp of experience we've lived through since the end of the Cold War."

He added, "I'm no child of the ’60s and have proudly served in the U.S. military, but also maintain a healthy distrust of authority."

Ruger firmly believes that Americans need to stay vigilant against the foreign policy establishment.

"Our leaders in civilian government, the military, and other commanding heights institutions haven't earned your faith," he said, "so keep one hand on your wallet and another on your intellectual holster when they speak. If you don't agree, read 'The Afghanistan Papers,'"  documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that revealed that several generals privately expressed concerns that the war in Afghanistan was not winnable while refusing to admit or acknowledge their sentiments publicly.

Ruger also suggested that nuclear war is something to think about when conducting foreign affairs.

"One thing you can learn from the Cold War period is to take the specter of nuclear war very seriously," he said. "I worry that today's establishment is more risk acceptant when it comes to nuclear powers like Russia and China than Cold War leaders were. Beware — as nuclear conflict is the most serious security risk to the U.S., not what happens in the strategic backwater of Ukraine or to a small island off the coast of China. Finally, think more about trade-offs, especially with domestic priorities."

Ruger also suggested where he thinks American foreign and defense policy should pivot after the winding up of our involvement in the Middle East in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I was right on the money when, years before the big push for Afghanistan withdrawal, I was really worried about what was happening under the radar vis-à-vis Ukraine," he said. "I was shouting from the rooftops that what the U.S. and NATO were doing with Ukraine and Georgia was going to cause us trouble. And I argued for greater burden sharing and burden shifting within the NATO alliance, as well as closing the open door.

"Right now, it is hard to have a rational conversation about allies and partners; but I hope that soon enough we can have a saner conversation about our security commitments and whether they benefit or unnecessarily entangle us.

"Geopolitically, we still have work to do to more fully extricate ourselves from the Middle East," said Ruger. "Afghanistan shouldn't have been a one-and-done retrenchment. In particular, we should fully get out of Syria and Iraq while reducing the scope of our engagement with Saudi Arabia and in the Horn of Africa."

Under such circumstances, he said, "We can then more fully commit to the Pacific since China is our most important strategic adversary. But this doesn't mean Cold War II. The relationship is more complicated than that and needs a more nuanced approach. But a lot of the most important work ahead is to avoid getting involved in tomorrow's conflicts that don't meaningfully implicate vital U.S. national interests."

Ruger firmly believes that it will be a difficult road to rein in the interventionist tendencies in Washington. He told Newsmax: "Washington has a hard time practicing benign neglect or restraint. So ultimately, a major shift in our strategic culture — or at least the development of a strong counter-elite that thinks differently than the establishment — is going to be necessary for our future."

Michael Cozzi is a Ph.D. candidate at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

American foreign policy has changed widely over the 20 years spanning the 21st century. The early 2000s saw a greater pivot to fighting international terrorism and terrorist-harboring countries after Sept. 11, 2001.
china, ukraine, afghanistan, russia
Thursday, 12 January 2023 04:28 PM
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