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The following is an instant message dialogue between myself, a political science major, and a friend of mine, a civil engineering major. I have slightly edited it for clarity and de-lame-ification, and in the spirit of Socrates, have noded it up for your amusement and edification. Enjoy.

What are your plans for tonight?

No plans. I might study some more for my last exam, American foreign policy.

That should be a snap!

Nah, lots of reading and theory and crap. It should be a snap, but the professor makes it complicated. It'll ask stuff like "What's the Weinberger Doctrine?" or "In what ways does the public influence the policy process?" ... stuff like that.

What is the Weinberger doctrine?

It's this rule they made back in the eighties that outlines how and when the US is allowed to intervene in foreign countries.

Really? Well, if you don't mind... can you explain it a bit for me, please? Sounds interesting.

Well, lessee. OK, first rule is that there has to be a threat to America's national security.

Does that include business interests?

It could.

OK, go ahead.

OK, second rule is that troops have to be committed wholeheartedly with the clear intention of winning. Third rule is that there have to be clearly defined "objectives" of some kind. Fourth rule is that the objectives and strategies have to be continuously re-evaluated during the intervention. Fifth rule is that interventions have to have the support of the people and Congress, and the last rule is that war is always the last resort. That's the Weinberger doctrine... (pant pant)

OK... now, as far as American business interest is concerned, how would that provoke the U.S. government into getting involved?

Are you talking about the oil in the Middle East?

Not particularly, but in any instance. But yeah, what about the oil?

Well, that's the Carter doctrine. Jimmy Carter said that any attack on America's oil supply is equivalent to an attack on America, because we rely so much on it for our economy.

...how does he justify that?

If the oil supply was cut off, gas prices would skyrocket, people wouldn't be able to get to work, airplane and bus and train tickets would rise, electricity prices would rise... and the whole economy would break down, so they say.

True... so back to the Weinberger Doctrine, how does that affect the oil in the Middle East without incorporating the Carter Doctrine?

It wouldn't, unless you considered energy to be a component of national security. "National security" isn't really defined that well... there's a lot of leeway.

So how does the Weinberger doctrine justify Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti?

For Somalia, there was a fear that having a country with no government would make it a hotbed for terrorism and crime... sort of the same thing that happened with bin Laden in Afghanistan, only in Somalia, they were also looking for a way to give the military something to do that would look good to taxpayers... feeding hungry people. For Bosnia... the intervention came after there was a lot of public outcry over the ethnic cleansing there, so it was a situation where public opinion overrode national security. And Haiti was because of the Monroe Doctrine... an ancient rule that says America can't allow any destabilizing problems in the Western Hemisphere.

True, but does a revolution going on in a country... or, better yet, a government deposing another, count as destabilization? When does a country's right to self-determination come into play?

Good point... America only likes self-determination when it would be good for America. Back when Castro took over Cuba, we invaded the Bay of Pigs... and there were the Contras in Nicaragua, and a bunch of other situations like that. So we don't really go for self-determination in the Americas unless we know the new government will be on our side.

So as far as international relations goes, does the U.S. count itself part of the world community or...? What stand does it hold?

I suppose we sort of see "world community" as a bunch of countries that should listen to us.

...and as far as Iraq goes... what's the "underlying" issue behind us being so aggressive towards their disarmament... I guess it goes back to America's "self-interest" paradigm?

Pretty much... right now, we're saying that Iraq is a threat to our national security because they have missiles and bio-weapons they could use against us. But there's also an economic side to it... after the first Gulf War, a lot of American companies received contracts to rebuild Iraq and Kuwait's oil infrastructure, and they got a lot of money for it. So they might try to do the same thing again... to get out of the recession, maybe. And Bush is also trying to cover up our economic problems, of course, but that may not work in the long term, since his father did the same thing and ended up losing to Clinton. ... On the outside, it's all part of their war on terror... they believe that having any regimes out there opposed to America is a very bad thing, and they're afraid that Iraq might give al-Qaeda and groups like that a new base for operations. There are even some people who are saying that we're going to war with Islam... which might also be true.

But that part about them staging in Iraq is bull... they could pretty much set up operations anywhere in the Middle East, northern Asia, or Africa. I think this whole issue is just to give a purpose to the administration and it's just to create an air of productiviy. Human nature is a bitch!

Yup, I think you summed it up.

Homework your node, kids, homework your node.

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