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Samuel P. Huntington’s ‘The Erosion of American national interests’ Essay

Diasporas and what is behind thembased on”The erosion of American national interests”by Samuel P. HuntingtonRecently, a new phenomenon has risen in the United States: based on the Huntington article, it appears that most American people has ceased to support the policy of their government, and they are not willing to devote support and effort to purposes, which are not clearly defined or generally accepted.

Huntington says that with the loss of the common “enemy”, all institutions and capabilities of foreign policy either need to find a new enemy in order to justify their own existence, or they will inevitably become “suborned and redirected to serve …even non national purposes.” Huntington.

The basic contradiction in American foreign policy is that it should serve commercial goals – rather than being served by them. The above mentioned non national interests are referred to as ethnic interests, and these ethnic groups prove to be useful for other countries, people or nations than the United States. Add to that the consequent flows of immigration, the need of tolerance towards minority groups and their increasing financial stability and travelling opportunities which make it possible to keep in touch with their home countries – what emerges from it is a group of foreign people who do not identify themselves with the (more and more shallowing) interests of their host-country but start strongly representing the real or conceptional interests of their real home countries, and, doing so, they can even endanger the host country. This is the phenomenon in connection with the minority groups Huntington calls diasporas.

The greater extent a country is exposed to immigration, the greater the danger is to the self-formulation of diasporas. The clout of these diasporas to the foreign policy is far from being trifling, and shows an increasing tendency. They provide one (but not the only) reason why the American foreign policy has fragmented to become incoherent, which incoherency will slowly but surely lead to the fragmentation of the whole country.

In Canada, on the other hand, national interests have already been clearly set and seem to form a much stronger unity, which includes the interests of
minority groups. I have the impression that in Canada people feel much more concerned about the country that they accept as their “home”, than in the exaggeratedly individualist States, which seems to have become maybe too “permissive” in a sense.

In my opinion, this is part of the reasons why the above described phenomenon is very unlikely to hit Canada to the extent it hits the States. The other reason is the lack (or much smaller degree) of immigration to Canada. I can also imagine, that the “marketing” of the US as “the world of dreams” was another factor to contribute to its present state.

The decline of American foreign policy has caused another world-wide phenomenon: the US being thought of as a large, friendly dog: the country is accepted as a potentially dangerous one, but is regarded not so dangerous as to be influential enough. The losing on influence can also be considered as another sign of weakening. This is, at least, what other countries perceive from “the changing nature of the American power.”(Huntington) This change from the hard (military, financial, political) kind of power to the soft (business, food, technology) kind of power has created a change of directions, too: it rather attracts people, business and interests than drives them away. This is very clearly shown by the figures of 1963 and 1997 in the Huntington article.

The particularism of American foreign policy can be understood as one that is likely to become devoted to commercial and ethnic interests, although this is definitely something that will not be supported by wide range of the American society. In order to unite people under the umbrella of a “common interest”, it is necessary to have a common enemy, that is likely to be China according to Huntington.

The defence and/or the (re)creation of national interests will make a change in policy necessary and inevitable, which will involve the reduction of the number of immigrants to be accepted into the country – obviously risking, that the US will cease to be regarded as “Wonderland” by the rest of the world. Yet, if the US wants to keep her unity in the long run, she will have to replace the dangerous particularism with safer restraint, and, once people can believe the advantages of this reasonable solution, the US will get a chance to avoid the fate of all the previous hegemonies of history.


Samuel P. Huntington: The Erosion of American national interests.

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