The Chinese version of American strategist Professor Joseph Nye’s latest book “Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump” has been published by Jincheng Press, and I have the honor to undertake the translation work.
This book explores the relationship between ethics and diplomacy. Professor Nye raised a proposition that he believes has been discussed for a long time but lacks breadth and depth: Does “morality matter” to a country’s foreign strategy and policy? The reference Nye uses is the evolution of the foreign policy of successive U.S. presidents after World War II. Although Nye emphasizes that “this is not a historical work” and only provides “a practice of normative thinking,” the book’s outline of the major U.S. foreign policy-making process since 1945, especially the ethical entanglement that has plagued U.S. presidents, still remains unresolved. It can provide a logical basis for Chinese scholars of American studies and scholars of contemporary world history, and help them understand more clearly how the global strategy of the United States has fallen into the moral abyss step by step.
American diplomacy full of “Machiavellian lies”
The ethical entanglement enumerated in this book exists between the “exceptionalism” that props up American arrogance and the universal values that influence the behavior of all members of the international community, between the two currents of American isolationism and liberalism, and between Between the personal ambitions of U.S. leaders, shifting national interests, and public likes and dislikes.
Under various paradoxes, the moral yardstick of US foreign policy is constantly shifting, and it can promote the establishment of international institutions that benefit the world in order to enhance the global role of the United States – just as Franklin Roosevelt and his successor Truman did in the 1940s and 1950s. can be humanely prudent to abandon policy options that he has touted so strongly—as Eisenhower repeatedly rejected the use of nuclear weapons during the Korean War; or he can distort America’s cosmopolitan goals for personal ambition—as Lyndon Johnson allowed or even manipulated the escalation of the Vietnam War in order to get his “Great Society” project through Congress; or blatantly lied to the public in order to achieve America’s cosmopolitan goals – just as Franklin Roosevelt tried to gain public participation in the United States The support of the European war made up the story of the German submarine attacking the USS Greer destroyer, and Bush believed in false information and mistakenly launched the second Gulf War. These examples make it hard for readers not to realize that there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all moral system for American diplomacy, as some Americans themselves preach.
As you can see from Joseph Nye’s book, American foreign policy practice is never short of lies. Nye writes that “Machiavellian deception is often part of a clever strategy”. But he also pointed out that deception carried out purely for self-interest is just selfish manipulation of others, and over time, attention and trust will gradually diminish. This view of Nye can be interpreted as: First, the short-term interests and long-term interests of US foreign policy are not consistent most of the time, and the contradictions between them force the US presidents to make a choice at the juncture of every major decision. , and policies that reflect a long-term vision are difficult to sell to the public. The flaws in the US political system make presidents tend to compromise with immediate interests; second, the expansion and contraction of the US global strategy and the adjustment of foreign policies are directly related to the evolution of domestic politics. Interactions, the moral consequences of deceit in the service of foreign policy will ultimately translate into domestic political pressures and challenges to presidential power.
The Foreign Policy Morality Curve Reflects the Rise and Fall of U.S. Hegemony
Joseph Nye’s research can confirm that the foreign policy moral curve of US presidents is closely related to the decline of US national strength and the rise and fall of national fortunes.
After the end of the Cold War, the United States, which enjoyed the “unipolar moment” alone, was lost in the arrogance of power, made strategic mistakes externally, and increasingly fell into a swamp of political polarization and social polarization at home. A topic that is widely discussed and increasingly looks like an objective trend. Bush proposed a “new world order”, but he lacked grasp of the drastic changes in the international situation. He had to strike a balance between opportunism and realism in a prudent way, thereby limiting short-term goals in pursuit of long-term stability. Clinton failed to take concrete action to stop the genocide in Rwanda during the “golden growth” period of the US economy. During those two periods, the United States was at the peak or recovery period of global strategic expansion. The sense of universal morality in society was overwhelming. Both presidents were morally rebuked for their prudence. Multi-risk to set more transformative goals.”
Joseph Nye brings together Obama and Trump in one chapter, titled “Power Shifts in the 21st Century.” In his view, US presidents since George W. Bush must say goodbye to “unipolar arrogance” and focus on two major changes in the distribution of global power: one is the “horizontal” power transfer between different countries – the main contradiction here is obviously the United States. How do established powers respond to the growth of China as a rising power; the second is the “vertical” diffusion of technology-driven power from the state to non-state actors—with the development of information technology, more and more things are happening beyond the great power The United States must learn to “share” power with other countries in order to cooperate in addressing complex global challenges. In Nye’s view, neither Obama nor Trump is an isolationist, but both govern the United States during a period of strategic contraction in the United States. The two have pushed the contraction of U.S. foreign policy in different ways, but both are more means than ends.
It’s a rather interesting and important perspective that helps us fully understand how America and the world are changing today. Although both Obama and Trump refused to acknowledge the decline of the United States, vowing respectively to “make America a world leader for 50 years” and “make America great again”, their respective policy orientations – one is liberal, global The collaborative, the conservative and “America First,” failed to successfully meet the power-shift challenges laid out by Joseph Nye, one was criticized for being “too weak,” and the other was accused of using “unorientated” methods to provoke external friction. Missiles” messed up the world.
The normal logic is that when neither of the two routes can restore the fate of America’s decline, then according to the self-adjustment and repair ability of the United States, it is possible for the two routes to collide to form a “middle route”. The current President Biden is campaigning and electing. The policy orientation of integrating the Democratic establishment, progressives and even some Republicans advocated during the period also seems to foreshadow this. Yet while Trump was voted out of office by urban elites who couldn’t bear him, he and the ism he represented did not. The more than 74 million popular votes for Trump in the 2020 election mean that the Republican Party is very likely to accelerate the completion of “Trumpization” or “Republicanization” of “Trump Legacy” in the next few years “The political party division and value division in the US’s domestic and foreign policies will continue to expand, and because of its violent swings in a short period of time, it will continue to inject turbulence and division into the world.
Professor Joseph Nye designed a “scorecard” in the book to give a comprehensive score to the foreign policy morality of successive US presidents after the war. As a result, Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Obama all scored well. They either effectively advanced the design and development of international institutions, or they consistently represented American values in the world, or they were flexible and flexible. deal with the thorny problems encountered by the United States, or better maintain the relationship between the United States and its allies and partners.
The difference in Trump’s score was not unexpected. Although Joseph Nye is careful to stress that his ratings for Trump were made before his term ended, and that “it is still too early to assess the gains and, consequently, a balanced net assessment,” many readers may be looking at A long time before the score, I gave Trump a “bad review” in my heart. To quote Nye, “Trump rejected the liberal international order, questioned America’s foreign alliances, attacked international multilateral institutions, pulled out of the Obama administration’s trade and climate agreements, plunged into the trade war with China, and Refocused U.S. Middle East policy on Saudi Arabia and Iran. He promised to ‘make America great again,’ but through a parochial approach to dealmaking and destructive diplomacy that challenged conventional wisdom.
” The epidemic has not yet broken out in the world, and the Ukraine crisis has not entered people’s field of vision. It is impossible to predict the coming of the most important historical watershed after the Cold War, let alone the political fate it may give Trump, the domestic political ecology of the United States and the international community. Impact caused by influence. Now, Biden has been in power for more than a year, and the United States is once again adjusting itself. However, Trump’s policy of placing US domestic politics absolutely above global public welfare, and its mismatch of goals, traditions, principles and methods, has led to the collapse of the US’s moral image and value appeal in the world. Even its allies and partners are aware of the importance of “going their own way” and seeking “strategic autonomy”. The reconstruction of the moral standard of US foreign policy may not be achieved in a short period of time through posture correction. What is left to the US presidents after Trump is not a simple “moral choice” problem, but how to deal with the contradiction between strategic contraction and maintaining US global leadership.
China’s competition with the United States and its moral aspects
In the book “The President of the United States and His Foreign Policy”, Joseph Nye wrote a lot about “the rise of China”. He believes that it is wrong to underestimate or overestimate the challenges posed by the rise of China to the United States. Even if China’s economic aggregate exceeds that of the United States, that’s not the only measure of strength. China lags behind the United States in both military and “soft power” indicators, and the United States will maintain its comparative advantage in finance, technological prowess, and even demographics. He also believes that for the current world order, China’s ambition is not to overturn the poker table, but to expand its chances of winning at the poker table. But he also cautioned that strategic goals can change as capabilities grow.
Regarding how to deal with the rise of China, Nye is most worried that the United States “plays a good hand in hysteria”, such as turning its face with its allies and closing immigration channels. He advocated that the relationship between the United States and China should be a kind of “a cooperative rivalry”, and it is necessary to implement a “smart competition” strategy against China, and give equal treatment to the cooperation and competition aspects of the relationship between the two countries. focus on. He also advocated that the United States abandon concepts such as “liberal” or “American” and consider building an “open and rules-based” world order.
In the past four years, Trump has shattered the “responsible stakeholders” consensus that has dominated U.S. policy toward China for decades, and replaced it with a new paradigm of strategic competition, leading to a sharp deterioration in Sino-U.S. relations. Although the Biden administration has adjusted the hysterical approach of the Trump era, it has also continued the big framework of strategic competition, giving priority to economic and technological competition, while strengthening coordination with allies and partner countries, and striving to reconstruct the “value alliance” against China. . Under such circumstances, the crisis alarm of Sino-US relations has not been lifted, but has become stronger. The outbreak and deepening of the Ukrainian crisis further complicates the development and evolution of the structural contradiction between China and the United States on the global platform and the Taiwan issue. If the two countries cannot establish a minimum consensus on managing their relations, the possibility of falling into a global confrontation is still very high, regardless of the difference between the Democratic Party and the “Trump Republicans”.
Joseph Nye’s book inspires us to think: If competition with China becomes the priority of US global strategy, and the struggle with the United States becomes the main contradiction in China’s foreign relations, then whether this century competition is also a competition of diplomatic ethics ?
It should be admitted that moral diplomacy is a worldwide issue. The moral standard of a country’s foreign policy, as stated in the book “The President of the United States and His Foreign Policy,” depends on the balance between goals, means, and outcomes, as well as the interaction between the public and foreign policy makers, but foreign policy goals Justice itself should be paramount. Without the justice of the goal, there is no way to talk about moral diplomacy. In the eyes of many Chinese people, the fundamental goal of US foreign policy is to uphold its world hegemony, while the goal of its China policy is to subvert China’s system and hinder China’s development. In the eyes of many Americans, the goal of Chinese foreign policy is to challenge and replace American global leadership. If both sides follow this logic to set up policies and measures against each other, and regard each other’s contradictions as a battle between good and evil, it seems that there is little room for reconciliation. How should both sides explain their strategic goals to the other? There is a need for a frank dialogue.
China is a country that has traditionally attached great importance to diplomatic ethics. From the millennia-long “sage inside and outside king” “do not do to others what you would not want to do to yourself” and “deal with neighboring countries”, to the new China’s advocacy The “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”, the “correct view of justice and interests” repeatedly mentioned by Chinese leaders in recent years, and the pursuit of “a constructive and responsible role as a major power” all embody moral diplomacy with a strong idealistic element. consciousness.
Examining the historical trajectory of China’s relations with the world, it can be seen that the emphasis and practice of morality in China’s diplomacy is essentially the externalization of domestic morality. It has also unprecedentedly enhanced China’s national consciousness and moral instinct in dealing with the external world. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, in the evolution of the basic narrative clues from revolutionary diplomacy to pragmatic diplomacy of reform and opening up, China declared “never seek hegemony” and “do not do to others what you want to do to others”, and resolutely safeguarded its own path choice while not interfering. The internal affairs of other countries do not engage in system export; it also shows the consciousness of being a strong country, expecting to become a different global power when it becomes strong, and gradually and thoroughly solve the problems of its own system security, sovereignty security, and development security left over from history and given by reality. At the same time, contribute to the world in a Chinese way.
In 1967, US soldiers waiting for rescue on the battlefield in Vietnam.
The achievements China has achieved so far have followed the institutional model and development path that the United States and the West did not expect or agree with. It has broken the so-called historical law that “a powerful country must rise through warfare”, and will also break the “country” in the future. The so-called historical law of the strong must dominate. In this sense, the extension of China’s diplomatic ethics has been further extended to the global level, and the logic of “domestic ethics is the basis of diplomatic ethics” has become clearer. Today, when China’s external behavior has become increasingly proactive and proactive, the outside world is eager to understand China’s policy propositions for the future international order and global system reform and make adjustments accordingly. The means of goals and the results formed in China’s state form and the well-being of the Chinese people are used to judge and prepare for China’s global role and diplomatic attributes in the future.
Diplomacy is not just profit-seeking, morality is of course important. Humanity is entering an era of shared power, and the world may no longer have hegemony in the future. The United States needs to realize that some of its traditional concepts such as “liberal international order” and “peace under the rule of the United States” can no longer adapt to the profound changes in today’s world, so as to resist the win-win thinking and the temptation of power in international politics with a clearer will. It is immoral to base the success of one country on the failure of another country, and it is equally immoral to tear apart the global system in a vicious competition and force the rest of the international community to take sides. The international political phenomenon that our world needs the most in the next few decades should be that two global powers whose relations with each other can determine the future basic shape of the international society compete in a moral way.