The Need for a New US Foreign Policy

Washington’s quest for supremacy conflicts with the U.N. Charter and a global system in which no single country dominates, writes Jeffrey Sachs.

An informal meeting in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco during the 1945 signing of the U.N. Charter. From left: U.K.’s Anthony Eden, U.S.’ E.R. Stettinius Jr., Soviet Union’s V.M. Molotov and China’s T. V. Soong. (U.N. Photo/Eastman)

By  Jeffrey D. Sachs 
New World Economy

U.S. foreign policy is based on an inherent contradiction and fatal flaw. The aim of U.S. foreign policy is a U.S.-dominated world, in which the U.S. writes the global trade and financial rules, controls advanced technologies, maintains militarily supremacy and dominates all potential competitors. Unless U.S. foreign policy is changed to recognize the need for a multipolar world, it will lead to more wars, and possibly World War III.

The inherent contradiction in U.S. foreign policy is that it conflicts with the U.N. Charter, which commits the U.S. (and all other U.N. member states) to a global system based on U.N. institutions in which no single country dominates. The fatal flaw is that the U.S. has just 4 percent of the world population, and lacks the economic, financial, military and technological capacities, much less the ethical and legal claims, to dominate the other 96 percent.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. was far ahead of the rest of the world in economic, technological and military power. This is no longer the case, as many countries have built their economies and technological capacities.   

Members of the foreign press and delegations visit the Cutter Laboratory in Berkeley, California, for a look at the molding process during meetings for the signing of the U.N. Charter between April 25 and June 26, 1945. (U.N. Photo/Rommel)

French President Emmanuel Macron recently spoke the truth when he said that the European Union, though an ally of the U.S., does not want to be a vassal of the U.S. He was widely attacked in the U.S. and Europe for uttering this statement because many mediocre politicians in Europe depend on U.S. political support to stay in power.

[Related:PATRICK LAWRENCE: Macron’s Europe]

In 2015, U.S. Ambassador Robert Blackwill, an important U.S. foreign policy strategist, described U.S. grand strategy with exceptional clarity. He wrote, “Since its founding, the United States has consistently pursued a grand strategy focused on acquiring and maintaining preeminent power over various rivals, first on the North American continent, then in the Western hemisphere, and finally globally,” and argued that “preserving U.S. primacy in the global system ought to remain the central objective of U.S. grand strategy in the twenty-first century.”

To sustain U.S. primacy vis-à-vis China, Blackwill laid out a game plan that President Joe Biden is following. Among other measures, Blackwill called on the U.S. to create “new preferential trading arrangements among U.S. friends and allies to increase their mutual gains through instruments that consciously exclude China,” “a technology-control regime” to block China’s strategic capabilities, a build-up of “power-political capacities of U.S. friends and allies on China’s periphery” and strengthened U.S. military forces along the Asian rimlands despite any Chinese opposition.

Most U.S. politicians and many in Britain, the EU, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand support the United States’ aggressive approach. I do not. I view the U.S. approach to China as contrary to the U.N. Charter and peace.

Members of China’s delegation at the signing of the U.N. Charter where Dr. V. Wellington Koo singed on behalf his government. Delegates of 50 nations met at San Francisco between April 25 and June 26, 1945. (U.N. Photo/Rommel)

China has the right to prosperity and national security, free from U.S. provocations around its borders. China’s remarkable economic accomplishments since the late 1970s are wonderful for both China and the world.

During the long century from 1839 to 1949, China was driven into extreme poverty in a period marked by European and Japanese invasions of China and Chinese civil wars. Britain invaded in 1839 to force China to buy Britain’s addictive opium. Other powers piled on during the following century. China has finally recovered from that disastrous period, and in the process, ended poverty of around 1 billion people!

China’s new prosperity can be both peaceful and productive for the world. China’s successful technologies — ranging from vital cures for malaria to low-cost solar power and efficient 5G networks — can be a boon for the world. China will only be a threat to the extent that the U.S. makes China into an enemy. U.S. hostility to China, which mixes the arrogant U.S. aim of dominance with long-standing anti-Chinese racism dating back to the 19th century, is creating that enemy.   
The dangers of U.S. foreign policy extend beyond China. The U.S. goal to expand NATO to Ukraine and Georgia, thereby surrounding Russia in the Black Sea, helped stoke the Ukraine War. Countless nations see the danger of this approach. Major nations from Brazil to India and beyond aim for a multipolar world. All U.N. member states should recommit to the U.N. Charter and oppose claims of dominance by any nation.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a university professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed The Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He is also president of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a commissioner of the U.N. Broadband Commission for Development. He has been adviser to three United Nations secretaries-general, and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Sachs is the author, most recently, of A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism (2020). Other books include: Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable (2017) and The Age of Sustainable Development, (2015) with Ban Ki-moon.

This article is from New World Economy.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

20 comments for “The Need for a New US Foreign Policy

  1. robert e williamson jr
    April 21, 2023 at 16:02

    The comment I wrote here yesterday, in case I didn’t make it clear, is my description of what has caused the failure of our country’s foreign policies, both economic and politically. In my humble opinion.

    All the direct result of U.S. Gunboat Diplomacy and back-door corrupt banking practices. See the MICCIMAT, U.S. weapons complex and off shore corrupt banking. This cannot be denied, these corrupt practices have been proven in court only to have defendant after defendant pardoned by presidents who were a party to these policies. It seems difficult to find a single one who was not involved or adversely affected by the national intelligence agencies involved.

    See especially the deaths of JFK, RFK, MLK. Nixon was disposed of after challenging the intelligence services and Carter hornswoggled by the system, or as some east coast blue-blood college frat boys might say, “he was subjected to some serious “Rat Fucking”. Why, because he was an “Outsider” in D.C. and they could do it with impunity.

    Peel back the horrid veneer of blood and remains of the foreign civilian dead in the name of regime change, and we find the U.S. clandestine services being supported by private money, American Tax monies, and illegally obtained funds from drug and weapons dealing done by those clandestine services and the despots who support them.

    The war cry “kill them over there so we don’t have to kill them here”, was as out turns out all bullshit!

    Nothing pretty here to see but the utterly mind numbing horror of mass death. Now these same people seem to desire to bring a sickening sequel to our homeland.

    If we closely examine our immigrant problems on our borders we will find much of the chaos in their homelands are the results of interference from the United States. Actions hidden from view by our clandestine services.

    Bankrupting one country after another and instigating trouble by funding death squads to terrorize locals. The stories are there and confirmed and now it seems it may be “Pay back time”.

    I’m seeing comments here that still seem to ignore the true cause and effect created by U.S. , in many cases, illegal interventions.

    You might want to examine the U.S. / world court, U.S. UN behavior, both instances where the U.S. government puts itself above the rule of law.

    Kinda reminds me of the 1994 Blondie hit, “One Way Or Another”

    “One way or another , I’m gonna get ya, I’m gonna find ya, I’m gonna get ya , get ya, get ya.”

    That is all I got Kiddies, time to quit staring at bright shiny object and get real by peeling back the bloody gruesome veneer and taking a hard look at reality.

    Thanks CN

  2. Bill Todd
    April 21, 2023 at 14:03

    The U.S. population really owes the rest of the world an apology for our being such manipulable sheep that we’ve kept electing corrupt governments for decades (and at least off-and-on for centuries). We of course deserve these governments for having elected them but the rest of the world doesn’t. Of course, the EU population also owes much of the rest of the world an apology for having elected (in most cases) their own governments which cheerfully accepted our “Fuck the EU” attitude in 2014 (and arguably long before that) and supported us in our implacable global plundering.

    The entire world population owes Russia a resounding vote of thanks for having stepped up to the plate and said “Enough, no more!” to our despicable behavior when the U.N. failed to curb it according to its charter and it’s truly inspiring to see that happening to the degree that it already is, though the U.S. and vassal sheep don’t quite yet seem to have thrown off their puppet-masters’ induced coma.

    Until that happens, I’m all for a global “Fuck the U.S., its vassals, and NATO” attitude. We are many, they are few, and fortunately some of we the many have the clout not to allow the few to hold the rest of us hostage any longer.

  3. robert e williamson jr
    April 20, 2023 at 12:52

    The “Grand Experiment” or the experiment called the America.

    This is no time to split hairs defining the United States of America. The States are as divided currently as they have been since the Great Civil War. The nation also finds itself in the position of a declining empire, much the result of the corporate world bleeding it dry all for the sake of a healthy bottom line for each corporation, the country be damned.

    Damned the country is unless Americans rise to the occasion and fire both political parties. Herein lies the nut of the problem. Our Authoritarian Federal and increasingly Authoritarian State Governments, (see the PATRIOT ACT ) have been positioning themselves to prevent this at any cost. The corrupt SCOTUS and DOJ have no intention of loosening their grip on the behavior of the multitudes. One would have to blind to not see this reality.

    Much of this reality growing from the last seventy – seven years. Starting the rapid descent into the darkness just prior to and after WWII. An acceleration the began in earnest with the establishment of the National Security State 1946-1947.

    The CIA was hijacked by the evil doers backed by the wealthiest of Americans, and it turns out, international criminals, big money crooks, all who administratively engineered the CIA into a device to be used to control domestic and foreign policies.

    We now find ourselves wallowing, as citizens in an advanced state of general social and economic decline the direct result of the policies enforced by both major political parties who have deferred their elected responsibilities to paid lobbyist. Those who have bought our elected government leadership. Follow the money.

    Mr. Sachs, with all due respect is in a position the demands he assume a posture of civility. The result is he repeats the obvious to the educated reader here. Unfortunately the mildness of his civility hides a very serious problem I’m sure he is aware of. The result is his approach does little to alleviate U.S. problems. He needs us. drop him a line or two.

    We are in big trouble here, look around, take a big deep breath and look around.

    Congress, the white house and all the elected members and those appointed by them need to hear an ominous message.

    “Enough, we have had damned well enough if their bullshit lies. Wake the hell up or be jailed as the result of not doing your jobs and allowing the super wealthy elitists to sell the country down the river. ”

    Sure if our elected reps stand up for whats right they may be blackmailed or otherwise treated harshly, they volunteered for the job, same as all those troops they lamely claim to support.

    Sachs might have the right idea but he is short on power, power some one third of republicans are using by being rabble- rouser’s to hold US citizens and their government hostage just because they can. The democrats simply sigh and reflect on the opposition as being out of control, doing nothing to put a stop tho this bullshit.

    I see not much in the future other than lots of troubles, at the same time, for the first time in my 73 years as I write this I wonder what evil doers are watching as I write this. Screw them.

    It is what it is, it stinks, putrid as it were and it sure as hell isn’t the smell freedom or much of anything these days.

    Thanks CN

  4. April 19, 2023 at 21:58

    Robert Heinlein: “A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.”
    June 26, 1900: NATO’s USA, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, with Japan and Austria, fighting the Chinese boxers, and establish a strong military presence in the center of the Chinese Empire.

  5. CaseyG
    April 19, 2023 at 20:27

    Both Washington and Jefferson were known for telling others, ” to beware of entangling alliances.”
    Nobody listened, it seems.

    Well, that was long ago—so I suppose that having military might has become America’s favorite position.
    Maybe the Congress and the military should be forced to read the poem ,” Ozymandias.”

    “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, look on my works you mighty— and despair.’

    DESPAIR seems to be where we are headed. : (

  6. Carl Zaisser
    April 19, 2023 at 14:06

    Zbigniew Brzezinski said the same thing about US primacy in his book 25 years ago, “The Grand Chessboard….”. BUT, at several points in the book he made it clear, in his opinion, that the US would never be able to maintain its position of global primacy without making constructive accommodations with BOTH Russia and China. As I just read the book recently, I was amazed to see how US policy planners have completely ignored his perspective.

  7. durablewill
    April 19, 2023 at 13:53

    A multi polar world is a fait accompli, although not yet mature in a political sense. Cooperation, not conflict, will be necessary to solve the existential problems that lie before us. My greatest fear is the possible petulance and recklessness of my country as it realizes, finally, that it cannot dominate the planet. If we lash out at the world because we have lost hegemony and take a destructive passive aggressive–or just aggressive–stance to the inevitable reordering of power relations then it could get very ugly. The national “ego” is massive and no one remembers when the U.S. was not absolute “king of the mountain.” Patriotic appeals have been and will be used to justify our militarism and the unthinkable can always happen. We will need to keep our self styled “leaders” under the severest surveillance and simply ignore the sycophantic corporate media except to condemn it.

    • 2BEAK
      April 20, 2023 at 15:50

      FDR wins.

  8. Vera Gottlieb
    April 19, 2023 at 10:19

    The US only adheres to that which suits it. Yet never misses an opportunity to lecture others. It should practice what it preaches. I think the world has had enough of this hypocrisy.

  9. April 19, 2023 at 07:46

    The US empire continues to make one blunder after another, which does not bode well for its continued dominance. By attacking friend and foe alike, the US has squandered any remaining good will it may have had, and in the end, even our “friends” will turn away from us. Them more cruel and capricious that empires act toward their allies, the more quickly they will fall. The way the US is treating Europe now, and their reactions to our callousness, makes me think that the unraveling has already begun.

    • bobzz
      April 19, 2023 at 10:37

      I agree, John, “The way the US is treating Europe now, and their reactions to our callousness, makes me think that the unraveling has already begun.”
      I would also add “the way the US is treating its own people.”

  10. MirrorGazers
    April 19, 2023 at 06:42

    “The Need for a New US Foreign Policy”

    It appears that in a lateral world, as was the case when you were a visitor to Russia during the early 1990’s, your evangelism remains immersed in linear logic where some factors can be changed whilst other factors remain the same – the hopes of those believing that “reform” remains a sustainable option including Mr. Gorbachov and his associates, which has also been the hope of “The United States of America” since at least 1620 before its juridical inception of 1776, facilitating the self-misrepresented ongoing geo-political construct “The United States of America”.

    It appears you still have not considered a rigorous analysis of – What are “The United States of America” and how are they facilitated ?

    and consequently why components, including but not limited to “foreign policies” are deemed to be necessary by/for the entities designing and practicising them.

    “Washington’s quest for supremacy conflicts with the U.N. Charter and a global system in which no single country dominates, writes Jeffrey Sachs. “

    That was partly why “The United Nations” was created in co-operation with “The World Bank” , “The International Monetary Fund” and various other tools in facilitation of “The United States of America.”

    Good luck with attempts at “reform”.

  11. peter mcloughlin
    April 19, 2023 at 05:52

    “…Possibly WW III.” I wouldn’t be as optimistic as that. All the evidence – and the pattern of history – points to another world war. Paradoxically, the only of stopping it is to state clearly it is going to happen.

  12. Thot
    April 19, 2023 at 04:38

    Bonjour “Il a été largement attaqué aux États-Unis et en Europe pour avoir prononcé cette déclaration parce que de nombreux politiciens médiocres en Europe dépendent du soutien politique américain pour rester au pouvoir. ”
    Macron est un young leader, le plus visible pion américain de l’ue !!! lol
    Macron dit blanc le lundi et noir le lundi après-midi !! il n’a jamais été crédible et il n’a absolument aucune envergure politique, il n’a aucun succès,, il a échoué à tous niveaux, jamais la France n’ eu un président si insignifiant et si inculte ! misère
    Il n’y a qu’à regarder le pays, il est en feu à cause du sadisme de macron qui obéit aux USA !!! l’ue étant le volet économique de l’OTAN, rien de plus, rien de moins

    • Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
      April 21, 2023 at 05:19

      Being flippant, by the way, is not a unique Macron trait. Viewing historically, it has been a French characteristic all along. This is why major powers well versed in history often take french moves, unlike french kisses, with a pinch of salt !

  13. April 19, 2023 at 01:03

    “Unfortunately for the United States, a long-term status quo in international relations is a contradiction in terms.


    Those relations cannot be understood without realizing that since 1945, the United States has waged not one, but three types of Cold Wars. The first (1945-56) involved the United States and Russia. The second (1945-early 1970s) was waged by many nations. […] The third (the post-1973 years) has been marked by a relative decline in United States power to deal with a fragmented world, and particularly with the peoples of the southern hemisphere.”

    Walter LaFeber, “The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. n13

  14. James White
    April 18, 2023 at 20:42

    Professor Jeffrey Sachs speaks the truth and has been vilified by many of his academic counterparts for doing so. Each of us can expect the same kind of treatment when we examine and offer truth to others. Even close friends and family may desert us. The truth has a life of it’s own and cannot be suppressed for long. I have no illusions about China. It is mercenary and will cheat when given the chance. But it is the U.S. that operates military bases around the world to control others, not China or Russia. It is the U.S. who sends spies to destabilize other countries governments and meddles in their democratic process as was done in Ukraine. It is the U.S. who use their vassal states and media stooges to perpetrate massive lies and psychological operations. The U.S has even turned on its’ own citizens. All to punish anyone who opposes the efforts of those in power to dominate the world. It is a kind of sickness. The rest of the world has had more than enough of it. As have many of us in the U.S. as well. The evil Biden Regime must go and the U.S. must undergo meaningful and lasting change or it will devour itself before long.

  15. mgr
    April 18, 2023 at 20:34

    Excellent. “The inherent contradiction in U.S. foreign policy is that it conflicts with the U.N. Charter…”

    It also conflicts with the natural laws that include psychology and human nature. The US government itself rests upon the key principle of checks and balances with three independent branches of government to help maintain it. This structure recognizes the truth of human nature that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The last 30+ years of the US led uni-polar world has simply confirmed that this natural truth of human nature operates at the level of nations as well.

    Wealth concentration, war and conflict and environmental destruction are built into the US hegemony. Note that the US has only become more vinous since the illegal and catastrophic invasion of Iraq, not less. There is no learning, simply raw egoism and desire. Much like an addict becoming more addicted. Not less. Why would that change?

    Going forward, a uni-polar world, or even worse, a US led uni-polar world, is simply a dead-end for our species on this planet. This is all the more true in the face of a looming world-wide climate crisis. The US hegemony’s world-wide priorities are on full display, and people are not it.

    “Most U.S. politicians and many in Britain, the EU, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand support the United States’ aggressive approach. I do not. I view the U.S. approach to China as contrary to the U.N. Charter and peace.” Spot on.

    “All U.N. member states should recommit to the U.N. Charter and oppose claims of dominance by any nation.” I would add, “for the sake of their own and everyone’s survival.”

  16. Anon
    April 18, 2023 at 20:08

    Takes no economic guru to understand financial attack… (through sanctions) impossible as nearly half top ten World banks are located…………………THERE!

  17. Jeff Harrison
    April 18, 2023 at 18:22

    Very well said, Mr. Sachs.

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