"The West is the best and we'll do the rest," sang Jim Morrison on that damning 1967 indictment of poor parenting and pharmacological excess, The End. Despite it's intended irony, the lyric nevertheless reflected the realities underlying US foreign policy at the time, which consisted of believing in the Western way, stepping up to the mark when challenged, taking responsibility for what happened on one’s watch, and trying to win in the cold light of day and with the world’s media watching. Heck, America still gets it in the neck for that famous photo of one gook shooting another gook in the head.
With the Soviet Union doing such a good job of being a shining beacon of progress in those days with its cheap shots against post-colonialism, inequalities of wealth, and mean differences in height and body mass, America had to do its best to fight the good fight and to go down with the ship when holed below the waterline, as it did in the 1970s, a decade which can be likened to one enormous session of navel gazing: cue Apocalypse Now.
After the US took its bumps, the 80s and the 90s saw Uncle Sam getting a more comfortable ride on his high horse, with overseas adventures like Panama, Grenada, and the Lebanon, that were over almost before they began, although the Lebanon, it has to be said, didn't quite go according to plan.
Even the more drawn out set pieces like Gulf War I and Serbia/Kosovo went well with plenty of allies, UN support, and idiot villains from central casting to provide easy piñatas for a crusading US foreign policy, although there were also some worrying signs.
In Iraq there was much less of a glasnost feel than in Vietnam as the press were kept at arms length in case some towelhead offed another towelhead and someone won a Pulitzer again with the US getting it in the neck; and in Serbia, the US was too chickenshit to commit ground forces until after the bombing had finished the war, but at least the façade that the West was morally better, braver, and stronger than everyone else was maintained.
By the time 9-11 came along, the Neocons were firmly in charge with all their starry-eyed, crusading zeal, but while it took an earlier incarnation of an ascendant America several decades (1941 to 1973) and four meatgrinder wars against bitch opponents (Japan, Germany, North Korea/ China, and Vietnam) to lose its bounce, Neocon America was looking bedraggled after a few rounds with some part-time camel jockeys.
The weakness of Neocon America had many sources, among which were corrupt contracting, the Hollywoodization of reality, the flabbiness of a society whose economic function had been reduced to mere consumption, and most importantly a flawed universalist morality.
Many on the Left and the Alternative Right prefer to see the Neocons as Machiavellian moral vacuums. But, even though corruption and self interest is the fuel that runs the machine, the machine itself is a moral construct of sorts. The main tenet is that everyone everywhere has the potential to become American, with the possible exception of the Jews, who seem to be reserved for a higher loyalty in the Neocon system. If only enough bombs can be dropped and local contracts made tying the subject economies into the Wall Street matrix, then Walmarts, Hooters, Disneylands, and the other signs of materialist Nirvana will automatically sprout up overnight.
Goofy as it is, this is nevertheless a universalist system, plus it even echoes the lyric of the Lizard King that the West is unquestionably the best, with the possible exception of Israel, which seems to be reserved for an unacknowledged higher status in the Neocon system.
Of course, such stupidity has its costs, and the contradictions of the system are there for all to see. The only thing that might make it more apparent would be to actually open a Hooters on the outskirts of Kandahar right now; the floor would be covered in amputated breasts before we even got to Happy Hour.
Moral standards, any kind of standards, in fact, require discipline, consistency, and the ability to reformulate ideas to take account of empirical inputs. Having principled foreign policy can pay long-term dividends but it also means that immediate interests and pragmatism need to be sacrificed.
The intellectual foundations of America's ruling establishment are now so firmly Leftist and therefore based on a completely mistaken view of humanity, sovereignty, and international relations, that to base any kind of consistent foreign policy on them is highly dangerous. Honestly admitting empirical inputs and changing the policy is also impossible as that would destroy the intellectual foundations to which the ruling establishment is inextricably tied.
Deep down the foreign policy goons, like Hillary Clinton, are aware of these problems. Recently there is a tendency to comment on Ms. Clinton’s increasingly eccentric facial expressions as an outer sign of her inner lunacy, but a simpler explanation is that the poor woman is merely contorting her face in a desperate attempt to suck up all those rolls of fat that seem to be congregating round her jowls like "heroes of the Libyan revolution" with smartphones round the bloody corpse of Colonel Gaddafi.
Hillary may look crazy, but she's sane enough to realize that under present conditions the West certainly isn't the best. It is militarily weak, morally inconsistent, and also deeply worried about pissing off anyone really important, like North Korea.
This has led her in her gurning genius to formulate the West's new win-win foreign policy, which after the effective way in which Gaddafi was disposed of, with an ingenuous shrug of the shoulders and a graceless guffaw from Hilary herself, we can now christen the 'Shit Happens' Foreign Policy.
A few months ago AR ran an interesting article by Igor Shishkin, translated from the Russian, which said that the US was applying Chaos Theory to its foreign policy. According to Shishkin, this was founded on a rejection of "linear deterministic process," a view of the world as "a complex dynamic system, consisting of nations, states, religions, etc., which, in turn, are also complex dynamic systems," and the realization that "dynamic systems never reach equilibrium."
Based on these premises, Shishkin described a US foreign policy that rejected the maintenance of stability and instead adopted a cost-effective, flexible approach that sought to "navigate between the islands of order in the global world of political chaos."
Shishkin pointed to the way the US was increasingly using information warfare, e.g. using "Twitter technology" to accumulate "protest energy," as well as a certain amount of ambivalence and cap-changing in the Libya campaign, switching from a US-led operation in the early days to a NATO-led one as if that somehow lessened US involvement.
Using chaos as a cloak for foreign policy ends of course predates official Chaos Theory by several millennia with many states resorting to such pragmatic shenanigans throughout history. Shishkin's theory nevertheless is a plausible fit with the facts and interesting in the way that it allows the flailing, weakening attempts of late empire American geopolitics to be presented as a cunning dangerous new threat. This has natural utility in a Russian context. However, as with Hillary's facial gymnastics, I think a simpler explanation can be suggested.
America is in a state of retreat both physically and morally. The recent fashion for "just wars" and "humanitarian interventions" threatens America with a major loss of face, as it has perhaps suffered in the case of Syria, where Russia and China vetoed its attempt to escalate anti-Assad activity with a UN resolution.
Being a humanitarian interventionist is like being pregnant; it can't be a question of degrees. Once you start abandoning one set of people to starvation or dictatorship, you start looking bad. Your principles look like what they are – pragmatic hypocrisy. Furthermore, imposing 'humanitarianism' through bombs makes you an easy target for criticism.
America's foreign policy wonks are now starting to realize these inherent weaknesses and contradictions and have started to adjust to them, but in a way that will not threaten the ruling elite's Leftist intellectual foundations. This is why Hillary and Co. have gone with the 'Shit Happens' Foreign Policy.
This involves stirring the shit with a very long stick, so that when things go wrong as they did in Syria you stay well back and pretend not to notice, hoping all the time that the wind doesn't blow in your face. Then, when things do go right, like with the silencing of Gaddafi, you pretend that, hell, you're so glad it happened, but that, hey, it would have happened without you anyway, because, like, y'know, shit just happens!