Throughout the previous decade, strategists and statesmen asserted that we were about to enter the “Pacific Century.” Global power and wealth would shift to East Asia. American interests, power, and investments would follow. The Atlantic would become a dead sea strategically, its littoral states and their continents declining to marginal status. Economic opportunities, crucial alliances, and the gravest threats would rise in the east, as surely as the morning sun.
An alternative view of the evidence suggests that the experts were wrong. Although the United States will remain engaged in the Far East—as well as in the Middle East, Europe, and nearly everywhere else—the great unexplored opportunities for human advancement, fruitful alliances, strategic cooperation, and creating an innovative, just, and mutually beneficial international order still lie on the shores of the Atlantic. The difference is that the potential for future development lies not across the North Atlantic in “Old Europe,” but on both sides of the South Atlantic, in Africa and Latin America.
Especially since 9/11, the deteriorating civilization of the Middle East has demanded our attention. But we must avoid a self-defeating strategic fixation on the Arab Muslim world and self-destructive states nearby. Any signs of progress in the Middle East will be welcome, but the region overall is fated to remain an inexhaustible source of disappointments. While Africa suffers from an undeserved reputation for hopelessness (often a matter of racism couched in diplomatic language) and Latin America is dismissed as a backwater, the aggressive realms of failure in the Middle East always get the benefit of the doubt. When the United States places a higher priority on relations with Egypt than on those with Mexico or Brazil, and when Jordan attracts more of our attention than does South Africa, our foreign policy lacks common sense as much as it does foresight.
Interesting Premise. Obviously getting out of the cycle of death in the Middle East would be a good thing. Europe and China have varying amounts of hostility toward us and are unlikely to reconsider any time soon. Developing the Americas likely would relieve some pressure on our Southern border. Leaving Africa as a train wreck is likely to have negative long range consequences. Also Latin America has much better near term prospects of building responsive democratic governments that will protect human rights than China.