In Foreign Policy, Nature May Love a Vacuum
by Russ Wellen
No, it's not U.S. reluctance to go all in against Syria that has created a vacuum in its foreign policy for Russia to fill.
Some think that President Obama's refusal to mount commit boots on the ground in Syria against the Islamic State (or the Assad regime, for that matter) has left a vacuum into which Russia (as well as Iran) have inserted themselves. As in "Nature abhors a vacuum." In an article at the National Interest, Paul Pillar writes about how dangerous cliched metaphors -- such as dominoes, or the current favorite that he cites, vacuum -- are when used in relation to foreign policy.
The vacuum imagery implicitly assumes that there are important attributes of the region that don’t really count unless they involve intervention by an external power, and especially by the United States. It is insufficient attention to the heat and pressure involving what already is in a particular country, and too much emphasis on what external intervention ought to be able to accomplish, that often has spelled trouble, for the external intervenor as well as for people inside the country.
The metaphor further assumes a sort of zero-sum quality to events in the region, comparable to how two bodies of gas cannot move into the same space.
The imagery takes no account, for example, of how external forces can work together and not just work to push each other out of the same space.
In fact &ellips;
… in Syria, external forces working together offer the only hope for de-escalating the civil war there.
"The metaphor," writes Pillar:
&ellips; suggests that the United States is not protecting its interests in a particular space if it is not injecting its military forces into that space. &ellips; the way the vacuum metaphor is being used carries the implication that filling a space, whether through military force or other means, is to be equated with advancing U.S. interests. But [trying] to fill a space may entail far more costs than benefits, which unfortunately has been true of some very costly space-filling efforts in recent U.S. history.
Pillar sums up:
… the military is only one of several instruments for implementing a foreign policy, and not necessarily the best one in any specific situation. Some instruments that have no physical analogue at all, such as behind-closed-doors diplomacy, may be more useful and effective.
Available at Amazon.com:
- The Dangers of Big Philanthropy
- The Pentagon's $125-Billion Cover-up
- Local Courts in the United States
- Americans Think Fake News Has an Impact
- The Year of 'Post-Truth'
- American Cities With the Highest Murder Rates
- Only 5 Countries Have A Bigger GDP Than California
- Where It's Legal To Smoke Marijuana
- Drugs Killing More Americans Than Road Crashes
- America's Craft Beer Capitals
- Calling Working People of All Colors
- Pacifism, Just War and Civil Liberties in a Multicultural Age
- Why Our Kids Are Coming in Last Place
- Black Youth and Elusive Freedom
- Hidden Victims of Terrorism: Muslim Women in America
- Fighting Racism Where White Workers Are Hurting, Too
- Americans' Support For Legalizing Marijuana Reaches All-Time High
- Walling Them Out, or Walling Us In?
- Where America is Most Racially Diverse
- Zika Virus in the United States
- Counties With the Highest Obesity Rate
- Most Expensive Metro Areas to Live In
- Cities Where Coffee Costs the Most
- Cost of the Emergency Room
- FBI Overwhelmed by Terror Suspects
- States Most Concerned With Mosquitoes
- Orlando and the Future of Terrorism
- The Only Sane Conclusion from Orlando
- Orlando Shooting Fuels Debate on Gun Control
- Counties That Have Suffered the Deadliest Floods
- Which States Have Banned Assault Weapons?
- Orlando: Plenty of Blame to Spread Around
- They're Killing Us. Help Us Stop Them
- Our Poverty Myth
- The Pentagon Plans for War on Many Fronts
- U.S. Immigration Policies Are Ridiculous
- Stanford Rape Case Stands Out From Most Sexual Assaults
- The Civil War Didn't End Slavery After All
- As if PTSD, CTE, and Moral Injury Weren't Enough
- Jihad an Equal Opportunity Employer
- What if the U.S. Dismantled China's Internet Firewall?
- States With the Safest Drivers
- States With the Most Dangerous Drivers
- Counties Where Medicare Spends the Most per Patient
- Locations with the Highest Gas Prices
- The Government Agencies that Employ the Most People
- Why are 29 Million People Still Uninsured?
- The Increasingly 'High' Prevalence of Marijuana
- The Cost of Child Care in Every State
- Cost of Car Insurance In Every State
- Fear, Anger and Attitudes Toward Immigration
- Wealthy Americans Don't Need Panama to Hide Their Wealth
- States with the Highest Unemployment Rates
- 26 Facts About Guantanamo Bay
- Highest Cost Per Prisoner States
- These States Have the Most Prison Deaths
- The Death Gap
- The Richest Banks
- American Cities Most at Risk of Zika Virus
- Cities With the Highest Rent
- Cities With the Greenest Commutes
- Most Racism Is Mundane
- Imprisoned by Debt
- Russia is Withdrawing from Syria and the U.S. Should Follow Suit
- Can We Not End Wars Anymore?
- It's Literally Impossible to Deport 11 Million Immigrants
- When Islam Polices Extremists
- The Most Successful Companies Founded Since 1944
- States with the Highest Number of Death Row Inmates
- Places with the Highest Cost of Living
- Dying in Prison
- Ohio Proves Rehabilitation Works
- The United States of Flint
- The Cost of Gas the Year You Were Born
- States With the Most Undocumented Immigrants
- United States: An Aerospace Nation
- Complexity, Psychology, and Modern War
- 10 Good Things About the Not-So-Great Year 2015
- Defense Intel Analysis & Big Data
- The Global Militarisation Index
- Religious Politics & Illiberal Religion
- In Foreign Policy, Nature May Love a Vacuum
- What Comes After Empire for the United States?
- How American Military Bases Undermine National Security
- The Star Trek Fallacy
- Has the United States Worn Out Its Welcome Mat?
- Canada's Progressives Bid Good Riddance to Harper
- Tightening Whose Belt?
- Three Felonies a Day
- Reviving the North Korea-Iran Axis?
- The Pentagon Makes War on Alaska's Pristine Wilderness
- There's Still Time to Prosecute the Torturers
- The American Way of War in the 21st Century
- After Baltimore, a Call to Reclaim Mother's Day
- Venture Capitalists Rule the World
- The Weakening Foundations of Western Power
- Cuba's Coming Out Party
- Authoritarian Symps
- Celebrating Wars & Destruction
- Boston Marathon Bombing Trial: Search for Justice and Closure
- Yes, Black America Fears the Police
Article: Republished with permission of Foreign Policy in Focus.
"In Foreign Policy, Nature May Love a Vacuum "