Interpretation of "American pragmatism"

UPDATED: 17:10, June 14, 2007

During a speech on US foreign policy recently delivered at the New York Economic Club, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defined the US diplomatic policy as "American-style pragmatism."

Rice believes that, based on global political realities and national character of the country, "American-style pragmatism" integrates American "moral ideals" with "material interests", and keep America strong and hefty target, so as to promote the world's transition and transformation. These are the ultimate objectives and guiding principles of American foreign policy.

Rice has the greatest esteem for to two US presidents in history, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman, because she regards the two as representatives of American pragmatic foreign policy.

Theodore Roosevelt served as a US president in early 20th Century. He sent troops to invade Cuba and suppress revolution in the country. This president is famous for pursuing the aggressive "Big-stick policy," and seizing the opening and control rights of the Panama Canal. Rice said that Roosevelt could speak softly while carrying a big stick. This seems to be a good way to explain Bush's claim and action on the issue of missile defense systems. On the one hand, the United States said that it will never stop establishing missile defense systems in East Europe, despite opposition from Russia. On the other hand, however, the US has also invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the United States to discuss the issue.

The reason why Rice recalled former US president Harry Truman is because she believes that he was the one who launched the Cold War, and confronted the communists as the communist movement was sweeping across Europe. Actually, the current US President could compete with Truman. Both White House officials and Rice have repeatedly claimed, overtly or covertly, that Bush is the "second Truman." Although Bush rates low in public opinion polls now, he may "go down in history" for his strong stance against Islamic extremism in the near future.

Then, how does one promote the world's transition and transformation? Rice gave three ways. The first ways is to promote free trade. Rice said, "Free trade is a foreign policy tool" and "is not only the engine of economic growth but also the engine to promote political transition." In other words, Rice is an advocate for politicizing trade issues and letting trade contribute to the transformation of other countries.

The second measure is to make full use of foreign aid. "We should use foreign aid to promote the transition of (other) countries," Rice said, "And we should use foreign aid as a tool to influence our strategic partnership." It is for this purpose that the United States has increased external assistance by three times in the past six years.

The third is to use "all our factors of strength to promote (other) countries' transition." Clearly, armed force is one of the most important factors. In other words, armed intervention has also become an important means to promote the "restructuring" of other countries.

In fact, American pragmatism is no different from the previous "practical idealism" put forward by Rice earlier. Being practical means that the United States does not let go of any opportunity to seize material interests in the real world. Idealism refers to the so-called concepts of democracy and freedom that the US is determined to promote across the world. Of course, sometimes the US's "moral ideals and the material interests" may clash with each other. This is also the root cause for the double standards in US foreign policy.

The clearest example of this lies in the performance of its Middle East policy: on the one hand, the United States needs oil supplies as well as support for its Iraq policy from Arab nations. On the other hand, the US also forces Arab countries to accept the US Greater Middle East democratic transformation scheme. The focus of this Middle East policy at a certain time totally depends on the US national interests at the time. Therefore, no matter what name it gives to its policy, the fundamental element of US diplomacy is consideration for pragmatism.

By People's Daily Online

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