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What Is America’s Goal in the World?

For the World War II generation there was clarity.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, united the nation as it had never been before—in the conviction that Japan must be smashed, no matter how long it took or how many lives it cost.

After the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945, however, Americans divided.

Only with the Berlin Blockade of 1948, the fall of China to Mao and Russia’s explosion of an atom bomb in 1949, and North Korea’s invasion of the South in 1950, did we unite around the proposition that, for our own security, we had to go back to Europe and Asia.


What was called the Cold War consensus—that only America could “contain” Stalin’s empire—led to NATO and new U.S. alliances from the Elbe to the East China Sea.

Vietnam, however, shattered that Cold War consensus.

The far left of the Democratic Party that had taken us into Vietnam had repudiated the war by 1968, and switched sides to sympathize with such Third World communists as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, and the Sandinistas.

Center-right presidents—JFK, Nixon, Reagan—accepted the need to cooperate with dictators who would side with us in fighting Communism.

And we did. Park Chung-Hee in Korea. The Shah in Iran. President Diem in Saigon. General Franco in Spain. Somoza in Nicaragua. General Mobuto in the Congo. General Pinochet in Chile. Ferdinand Marcos in Manila. The list goes on.

Under Reagan, the Soviet Empire finally fell apart and the USSR then disintegrated in one of the epochal events of history.

The American Century had ended in America’s triumph.

Yet, after 1989, no new national consensus emerged over what ought to be our role in the World. What should we stand for? What should we fight for?

What Dean Acheson had said of our cousins in 1962: “Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role,” was true of us.

What was our role in the world, now that the Cold War was history?

George H.W. Bush took us to war to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Soaring to 90 percent approval, he declared America’s new role was to construct a New World Order.

Those who opposed him, Bush acidly dismissed in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1991, the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor:

“We stand here today on the site of a tragedy spawned by isolationism. … And it is here we must learn—and this time avoid—the dangers of today’s isolationism and its … accomplice, protectionism.”

Neither Bush nor his New World Order survived the next November.

Then came payback for our sanctions that had brought death to thousands of Iraqis, and for the U.S. bases we had foolishly planted on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia—Sept. 11, 2001.

George W. Bush reacted by launching the two longest wars in our history, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and announced that our new role was to “end tyranny in our world.”

The Bush II crusade for global democracy also fizzled out.

Barack Obama tried to extricate us from Afghanistan and Iraq. But he, too, failed, and got us into wars in Yemen and Syria, and then started his own war in Libya, producing yet another failed state.

What does the balance sheet of post-Cold War interventions look like?

Since 1991, we have lost our global preeminence, quadrupled our national debt, and gotten ourselves mired in five Mideast wars, with the neocons clamoring for a sixth, with Iran.

With the New World Order and global democracy having been abandoned as America’s great goals, what is the new goal of U.S. foreign policy? What is the strategy to achieve it? Does anyone know?

Globalists say we should stand for a “rules-based world order.” Not exactly “Remember the Alamo!” or “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

A quarter-century after the Cold War, we remain committed to 60-year-old Cold War alliances to defend scores of nations on the other side of the world. Consider some of the places where America collides today with nuclear powers: the DMZ, the Senkakus, Scarborough Shoal, Crimea, the Donbass.

What is vital to us in any of these venues to justify sending an American army to fight, or risking a nuclear war?

We have lost control of our destiny. We have lost the freedom our Founding Fathers implored us to maintain—the freedom to stay out of wars of foreign counties on faraway continents.

Like the British and French empires, the American imperium is not sustainable. We have issued so many war guarantees it is almost assured that we will be dragged into every future great crisis and conflict on the planet.

If we do not review and discard some of these war guarantees, we shall never know peace. Donald Trump once seemed to understand this. Does he still?

Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever [1].

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "What Is America’s Goal in the World?"

#1 Comment By Sebastian On May 11, 2017 @ 10:56 pm

The root cause of our engagement in the world is to justify our treaty to protect israel no matter what.

#2 Comment By Mac61 On May 12, 2017 @ 12:34 am

Excellent, concise summary of Cold War and post-Cold War military history. I also thought that during the campaign Trump was broadly outlining a less interventionist approach–with the exception of ISIS. It’s clear now his only political philosophy is “flexibility” and he surrounds himself with people of all kinds of persuasions, including neocons. I tend to favor “flexibility” over a all-neocon administration (Geo. W. Bush) but Trump’s “flexibility” is in reality “impulsiveness” — let’s just hope more stable voices prevail inside the White House of the President of the United States Donald “It’s Complicated” Trump, AKA The Apprentice.

#3 Comment By MEOW On May 12, 2017 @ 3:11 am

Patrick again draws attention to our over commitment around the world. It is time to implode and focus on issues here at home. We still have an immigration problem. The problem of chronic unemployment continues to exist. The people that were displaced by the transfer of our industrial sector overseas continue to haunt us. Student loans are like a millstone around our academic necks. We bailed out the banksters after giving them an open-door policy to near ad infinitum indebt our student body. The Fed not only creates money out of thin air, but it is a price setting entity owned and operated in large foreign bankers; not Federal but Foreign. Does anyone know when setting wages and prices have been successful? We know the Fed has been a dismal and costly failure. Count their made in DC disasters since its inception in 1913. The unemployment stabilizer for the young from the non- elite class is the U.S. military with risk to life and limb. Time to bring back the military draft without any exceptions then designer wars will be challenged by the vast-unwilling when war becomes a reality not something to watch on nightly TV. Is there hope? There was absolutely no hope in the 2016 presidential election. The worst imaginable field of candidates in modern-history and we are now stuck with Trump and family who seem to enjoy wars, but have not participated in U.S. wars.

#4 Comment By John S On May 12, 2017 @ 7:07 am

Is Mr. Buchanan aware that these “war guarantees” are a two-way street? Is he aware that Latvians and Montenegrans have fought for America? And out of proportion to their size?

#5 Comment By Liam On May 12, 2017 @ 8:13 am


No, Pat, you just were too eager to believe he understood this.

He never understood this.

And never will.

Pay much more attention to that disturbance you are feeling rather than your hopes.

#6 Comment By Brian On May 12, 2017 @ 8:49 am

I believe the question should be more like what is the Pentagons Empire Dreams and Goals?

December 24, 2013 The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel

The US Military has bases in *63* countries. Brand new military bases have been built since September 11, 2001 in seven countries. In total, there are 255,065 US military personnel deployed Worldwide. These facilities include a total of 845,441 different buildings and equipments. The underlying land surface is of the order of *30* million acres. According to Gelman, who examined 2005 official Pentagon data, the US is thought to own a total of *737* bases in foreign lands. Adding to the bases inside U.S. territory, the total land area occupied by US military bases domestically within the US and internationally is of the order of *2,202,735 hectares*, which makes the *Pentagon* one of the largest landowners worldwide!


#7 Comment By SDS On May 12, 2017 @ 9:01 am

“Donald Trump once seemed to understand this. Does he still?”

It appears he never did nor cared to…..
P.T. Barnum was right…again….
We who clamored for an alternate path stuck our jaws out in desperation and were sucker-punched again….
The Donald laughing all the way…as he had no intent to know, care, or understand what he was getting into or what he wanted to do.

He just wanted to be the Boss….
SO he is; and floundering by the hour.

God help the United States.

#8 Comment By collin On May 12, 2017 @ 10:56 am

May I suggest taking a different course here? Why are the ‘Peace’ Presidents winners change when in they are in the White House? And for all the complaints of the liberal MSM, why is the MSM so pro-war? Look the peace writers on the Times are the economist, Krugman, and religious one, Douthat.

Anyway, I don’t think Trump ever understood this because he believed the big mistake of the Iraq was not winning in 12 months and taking their oil.

#9 Comment By Moi On May 12, 2017 @ 2:15 pm

Once a nation starts thinking it’s exceptional, it’s screwed. It’s really that simple.

#10 Comment By Igor On May 12, 2017 @ 2:41 pm

USA made a strategic mistake in the 1990s, focusing on the destruction and the weakening of Russia after the collapse of communism and the collapse of the USSR.
If the US instead went the other way and supported Russia and strengthened its position in the post-Soviet space and in Eastern Europe, now US would have had a good ally in Eurasia, and not on what the Baltic dregs and torn by civil war fascist Ukraine.
Eurasia under the control of the United States, anyway, will not take place for any scenario, but especially now – with the loss of the state of world hegemony.
Eurasia under the leadership of Germany, Poland or Ukraine is the same scenario from the category of unscientific fantasy.
But Eurasia led by Russia – it was a very real and viable project in the 1990s, the word, alive now only in a different, less responsive to the interests of the United States, form.
By the way, the project more attractive to US than indicated by the perspective of the hegemony of China in Eurasia.
Only now, the US should try very hard to, despite the flaws in his politics in the 1990s, to strengthen the position of Russia, and not any other player as Eurasian leader.

#11 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 12, 2017 @ 5:57 pm

“Once a nation starts thinking it’s exceptional, it’s . . .”

Nonsense. It’s perfectly well and good to be exceptional and think of oneself as such. The issue does one’s exceptionalism lead to taking unnecessary risks or needlessly throwing one’s weight around.

I think that is the issue. I think we are also being reminded that our exceptionalism does always make us right or intimidate others to do our bidding. That in the long run, it might have been a good idea not to disrupt the lives of others merely because they disagree or live a life different from our own. It fact, needlessly destroying the life of others for the sake of whatever – in unethical, something we used to press for, despite our own imperfections.

Nothing quite so empty as undermining other people to get one’s way and then attempting to blackmail with the consequence of your underhanded behavior.

#12 Comment By Lee On May 12, 2017 @ 11:45 pm

America’s goal in the world is audacious mendacity! By any measure it has been a wildly successful strategy for a handful, and incredibly costly for the masses…

#13 Comment By libertarian jerry On May 13, 2017 @ 11:41 am

War is a racket. It is now and has always been a racket. The goal of the people that own and run America is to continue that racket for their own benefit. The people that benefit from that racket are the Deep State,the Military industrial Complex,Bankers and the Globalists with their corporations that for the last 100 or so years have controlled the money creation,taxes and government in America. In the end,the above benefit while the rest of us pay the price for war in blood,treasure and liberty. As Bourne once said,”War is the health of the State” and those that control that State are the ones that benefit. Not the common man.

#14 Comment By John S On May 13, 2017 @ 12:48 pm

“If the US instead went the other way and supported Russia and strengthened its position in the post-Soviet space and in Eastern Europe, now US would have had a good ally in Eurasia…”

The US did support Russia. We gave billions in foreign aid, and helped build institutions.

P.S. Does the Kremlin pay well?

#15 Comment By Jay Green On May 13, 2017 @ 7:59 pm

Israel and the Military Industrial Complex. QED

#16 Comment By RockMeAmadeus On May 14, 2017 @ 12:28 am

“Alliances” with countries like Germany, Japan, Korea are not about “protecting” them, they are about “containing” them and not letting them become global strategic “rivals” which they are potentially capable of being as they were before they were defeated in WWII.

Trump didn’t “know” this during the elections and thus said the things he said. After the elections he was given “the briefing” and now NATO and other alliances are “no longer obsolete”.

#17 Comment By Dr.Diprospan On May 14, 2017 @ 6:42 am

Good question, Mr. Buchanan.
Recently I received a new Russian bank card. The Russian government changes the
bank accounts with MasterCard’s plastic card to the Russian banking system with a plastic card – Mir. Western banking systems are losing confidence in Russia.
A traditional system of trust is a system built on the reputation of someone whom people trust. Intuitively people trust “power”. The state has the maximum degree of confidence, because power gives the state the opportunity to enforce its will, the ability to dictate its terms to other states. We trust the state, not because it is right, but because it can force us to agree with it in any case.
In other words, the military power of the state is the guarantee of trust. We believe in military power. Demonstration of military force, including abroad, strengthens this faith. Western plastic cards lose credibility in Russia, but many Russians still rely on the American monetary banknote, where very good words about trust are written. You ask: What Is America’s Goal in the World? Strengthening Faith – I would answer your question that way.

#18 Comment By LouisM On May 14, 2017 @ 3:48 pm

I don’t think that Trump still understands that its the citizenry that voted for a no apologies strengthening of our military and a retraction from foreign entanglements and a commitment for allies to pay their own way.

I don’t agree with the foreign policy in the middle east but in Asia I strongly support the reunification of Korea to eliminate the nuclear north korea. I don’t think north korea an be ignored anymore.

#19 Comment By VikingLS On May 14, 2017 @ 9:40 pm

“P.S. Does the Kremlin pay well?”

Does Soros pay you well?

See, other people can play the “you’re a paid troll!” game too.

#20 Comment By Stephen On May 14, 2017 @ 9:47 pm

One of our major goals in the world, the primary driver of so much destruction and death which we have brought to the middle east, is the protection of Saudi Arabia. When Nixon made the agreement with the Saudis which guaranteed that all the oil they sold had to be paid for in dollars. In exchange for this, we agreed to provide them with military defense. This is why we kicked Iraq out of Kuwait in ’91, why we finished their destruction in 2003, why we have been aching to destroy Iran, why we aided and abetted the terrorists who have destroyed Syria, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions homeless. Yes, much of our agression also served the interests of Israel (hence the neocons,. My primary complaint with all of this is not that it has bankrupted the country, which it has, but that we had no moral right for any of this. Our government has become an instrument of mass murder, as part of a business deal. The only government in the world more evil than our own is that of Saudi Arabia, the source and primary backer of Islamic terror in the world. And we commit all these crimes to protect this Satanic cult of a country. This country is in deep trouble and is heading for a terrible fall.

#21 Comment By delia ruhe On May 15, 2017 @ 2:19 am

It’s not often I agree with anything Pat Buchanan has to say, but this is one of those rare times. The American nation is in no moral or physical shape to be lecturing and slapping sanctions on others for that which the US does with impunity.

The only thing left that should be effective but isn’t is the American military machine. All one can say for sure about it is that it’s one helluva sinkhole for American treasure — or, more accurately a growing pile of IOUs.

Buchanan is right: Washington needs to update American foreign policy to bring it into the twenty-first century. There’s plenty of work to do at home, starting with the establishing of two or three political parties, since the two that have been royally screwing up for the last three decades are totally dysfunctional.

#22 Comment By Fred Bowman On May 15, 2017 @ 12:22 pm

Pat, you do realize that War IS the business of Empire. Of course this business will completely “hollow out” the needs of the Republic from which it was born. And when the Empire crashed (which history has shown eventually happens) it generally takes the Republic down with it. Now whether the Republic remains to be seen. Right now it don’t look so good.

#23 Comment By cdugga On May 15, 2017 @ 12:44 pm

I agree with the author that jimmy carter was our best leader in recent times. Unfortunately the MIC and fossil fuel industries in charge of policy and campaign sponsorship are unlikely to allow another jimmy. And I doubt very many intelligent commentators here put there money where their mouth is, and that while bemoaning empire they actually have allot invested in it. Like, the president just said the MIC was going to get 50 billion additional dollars. Follow the money, not the mouths. Like, the whole arguement against climate change derives from fossil fuels investment. And the smartest money still talks that talk while building windmills just as fast as they can on top of the oil fields.
Donald trump is the most representative president we have ever had. Way too bad that carter was not. The trueth is that swinging a golf club with privileged cronies hyping pseudo patriotism, and intervention labeled fighting for freedom, is the american dream, not swinging a hammer for the poor. The average AM talk radio listener probably still thinks that he would be better off if the government would stop spending such an overwhelming part of the budget on foreign aid while the next aircraft carrier being completed awaits its presidential name. Go trump! Go GOP!

#24 Comment By John S On May 15, 2017 @ 1:42 pm


If George Soros would pay me to point out simple historical facts, I would have no objection.

#25 Comment By Pelham On May 15, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

Capitalism, whether loved or loathed, needs room to expand if it is to continue functioning at all. As the world’s chief proponent of this system, our leaders have imposed on us the burden of keeping as many territorial doors open to the material/real-economy form of this expansion as possible. No corner of the Earth shall be off limits.

It’s a service we perform not just for our own financial elites but for all others as well. In return, their countries pay us tribute by tolerating and sustaining our favorable terms of trade. This is one reason we can run enormous trade deficits year after year.

#26 Comment By Lord Koos On May 16, 2017 @ 12:37 am

“The far left of the Democratic Party that had taken us into Vietnam…”

Pat, where do you get this stuff?

November 1, 1955 — President Eisenhower deploys the Military Assistance Advisory Group to train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. This marks the official beginning of American involvement in the war as recognized by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

#27 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 16, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

“Capitalism, whether loved or loathed, needs room to expand if it is to continue functioning at all.”

What capitalism needs right now is a good dose of integrity.

#28 Comment By TomL On May 19, 2017 @ 8:54 pm

Has anybody read John’s Perkins’s book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man?” It’s depressing but enlightening. Gives one an insight into the national purpose.

Maybe not. I should have written “the elite purpose.”