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Foreign Policy, Inc.

Foreign Policy, Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest

LAWRENCE DAVIDSON
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcwf5
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    Foreign Policy, Inc.
    Book Description:

    Most Americans assume that U.S. foreign policy is determined by democratically elected leaders who define and protect the common good of the citizens and the nation they represent. Increasingly, this conventional wisdom falls short of explaining the real climate in Washington. Well organized private-interest groups are capitalizing on Americans' ignorance of world politics to advance their own agendas. Supported by vast economic resources and powerful lobbyists, these groups thwart the constitutional checks and balances designed to protect the U.S. political system, effectively bullying or buying our national leaders. Lawrence Davidson traces the history, evolution, and growing influence of these private organizations from the nation's founding to the present, and he illuminates their profoundly disturbing impact on the direction of U.S. foreign policy. Foreign Policy, Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest demonstrates how economic interest groups once drove America's westward expansion and designed the nation's overseas imperial policies. Using the contemporary Cuba and Israel lobbies as examples, Davidson then describes the emergence of political lobbies in the twentieth century and shows how diverse groups with competing ethnic and religious agendas began to organize and shape American priorities abroad. Despite the troubling influence of these specialized lobbies, many Americans remain indifferent to the hijacking of American foreign policy. Americans' focus on local events and their lack of interest in international affairs renders them susceptible to media manipulation and prevents them from holding elected officials accountable for their ties to lobbies. Such mass indifference magnifies the power of these wealthy special interest groups and permits them to create and implement American foreign policy. The result is that the global authority of the United States is weakened, its integrity as an international leader is compromised, and its citizens are endangered. Debilitated by two wars, a tarnished global reputation, and a plummeting economy, Americans, Davidson insists, can no longer afford to ignore the realities of world politics. On its current path, he predicts, America will cease to be a commonwealth of individuals but instead will become an amoral assembly of competing interest groups whose policies and priorities place the welfare of the nation and its citizens in peril.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7321-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This book seeks to answer a number of questions:

    1. Why do most contemporary Americans pay little attention to issues of foreign policy? Historically, has this always been the case?

    2. What are the consequences of this disinterest? For instance, if most Americans are disinterested in foreign affairs, it follows that foreign policy has no necessary connection to popular concerns or even preferences. If this is so, whose concerns and preferences does foreign policy reflect? In other words, where do our foreign policies come from?

    3. How do citizens learn what they need to know when suddenly faced with pressing problems of foreign...

  5. 1 The Popular Disregard for Foreign Policy
    (pp. 5-22)

    Most Americans do not pay attention to foreign policy issues except when they appear to impinge on their lives. This “out of sight, out of mind” attitude is a function of the fact that, under normal circumstances, a person’s consciousness is acculturated to a particular place and time. Localness is, if you will, a natural default position. It dominates consciousness, broadening out only when events originating elsewhere become local themselves. Such impingements from abroad are usually, but not always, seen as negative. Thus, it has most often been at times when foreign threats appear or actually become real—when the...

  6. 2 Formulating Foreign Policy in a Factocracy
    (pp. 23-52)

    The problem of public ignorance of and disinterest in the world abroad is compounded by the average citizen’s general political apathy. Just as many people are not interested in foreign affairs, many are not, beyond their regional sphere, seriously interested in domestic political affairs either. The further away people go from their home base, the more they feel an ultimate indifference toward political events. This observation is most relevant when times are settled and no collective problems transcending the local are evident. On the other hand, it is certainly true that some people like to discuss politics on a broader...

  7. 3 The Factocracy Diversifies
    (pp. 53-74)

    While economic factions predominated in the first 120 years of America’s history, the twentieth century saw the creation of ideologically and ethically based lobbies that demonstrated equal, if not greater, power over the foreign policy formulation process. Here, we must return to the notion of a national thought collective. The reality is that, in the absence of the kind of disaster that undermines collective assumptions, most of the nation’s population can be brought by government and media manipulation to see the world in certain ways. During the nineteenth century, the more successful interests aligned their demands with the prevailing ideology...

  8. 4 Privatizing National Interest—the Cuba Lobby
    (pp. 75-96)

    The characteristics of successful special interests involve excellent organization both in the nation’s capital and at the grassroots level, a steady source of revenue, and leadership that is thoroughly versed in the ins and outs of lobbying Congress, the executive branch, and the political parties. Paralleling these attributes, for the exceptionally successful, is a staying power that can last for decades and even generations. Such unique lobbies can truly subvert any notion of national interest so as to make it conform to their parochial interests. One excellent example of this phenomenon is the ongoing influence of the Cuba lobby.

    The...

  9. 5 Privatizing National Interest—the Israel Lobby
    (pp. 97-126)

    The ancestors of a majority of American Jews come from Europe. The European Jews are known as the Ashkenazim, and, of all the world’s Jews, they were the ones who suffered the most consistent and harshest anti-Semitism and persecution. Their history has included a long period of persecution in czarist Russia, pogroms in much of Eastern Europe, and the Dreyfus Affair in France and culminated in the Nazi Holocaust. This history has largely conditioned the outlook of American Jews and instilled in them a collective feeling of vulnerability that is more or less conscious depending on the conditions of the...

  10. 6 Is There a National Interest?
    (pp. 127-140)

    The evidence and examples given so far suggest that the notion of a national interest is at best problematic. Certainly, well-organized interest groups with strong feelings about how American foreign policy should operate in a particular part of the world can and often do shape government actions. In this way, they effectively privatize foreign policy relative to their areas of interest. Their parochial interest becomes the so-called national interest.

    Nonetheless, there is truly a vast American literature dealing with the topic of how Americans should conceive of and pursue their national interest. Authors ranging from Alexis de Tocqueville to Samuel...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 141-148)

    This work began by offering a theoretical grounding to the often-observed indifference to foreign affairs and policy of a majority of citizens. While I look at the phenomenon within an American context, the assertion that localism is a natural default position for individuals is a universal one. One can, of course, argue—with some justification—that the degree to which localism prevails is historically contingent. In other words, in places such as Europe where nations are relatively small and borders historically insecure, where wars have been frequent and massively disruptive, and where, in the last half of the twentieth century,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 149-162)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-174)
  14. Index
    (pp. 175-190)