G-7 summit exposes incoherence of US foreign policy

G-7 summit exposes incoherence of US foreign policy
© Getty Images

During a U.S. presidency, the stature of which has grown steadily in the estimate of historians, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s success flowed from two critically important insights. The first was that American military power and diplomatic influence was absolutely dependent on the might of the U.S. economy. The second was embodied in his often-quoted Farewell Address warning that an unconstrained “military-industrial complex” could threaten both our economic strength and our democratic liberties.

A generation later, Eisenhower’s wisdom was validated in a book by British historian Paul Kennedy, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000.”  In this wide-ranging study of five centuries of Western history, Kennedy demonstrated that economic disorder was the invariable prelude to military and political calamity. In examining the Soviet Union and the United States, he warned that both superpowers were showing symptoms of “imperial overstretch.”

Three years after the book’s publication, the Soviet Union collapsed, largely owing to the massive failure of its economy. Thirty years later it is the United States that is manifesting acute symptoms of “imperial overstretch” via a deeply troubled economy, laboring under the incompatible burdens of mountainous debt and runaway spending compounded by a failure to recognize the limits of its power or focus on a coherent set of foreign policy objectives.


The glaring deficiencies of U.S. foreign policy and growing fragility of America’s role as leader of the West were harshly spotlighted at the recently completed G-7 Summit in England, the subsequent NATO meeting in Brussels, and President BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE’s first personal encounter with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Kaseya denies paying hackers for decryption key after ransomware attack MORE in Geneva. 

It was the hope of the Biden administration that the president’s first trip abroad would be a celebration of their cherished theme of “America is Back” and an opportunity to rally the world’s leading democracies in a unified stand against a “threatening rise in authoritarianism” (i.e., Russia and China). Instead, these events became a showcase for the weakness and divisions among America’s allies and their collective unwillingness to stand up to China in a meaningful way. As described by Stuart Lau in Politico, “China is the elephant in the room at the G-7” —  the power of the Asian giant cast a long shadow over the discussions among Western leaders in this seminal week in world politics. 

Awkward photo ops and deceptive final communiques could not conceal the signs of division and lack of focus in and around the summit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronFrench parliament approves COVID-19 passes for restaurants, domestic travel WhatsApp chief: US allies' national security officials targeted with NSO malware US athletes chant 'Dr. Biden' as first lady cheers swimmers MORE continued sniping at each other over the relatively parochial issue of a “hard border” in Northern Ireland. When Biden urged the two to negotiate on their differences, Macron pointedly refused and continued to advocate for the European Union to pursue “strategic autonomy” from the United States. While President Biden was asserting his belief that G-7 economies “have potential to bounce back very strongly,” he was daily receiving ominous reports of growing labor shortages and surging inflation in the problematic U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, a wandering bipartisan band of U.S. senators visited Georgia and Ukraine — formerly parts of the Soviet Union — to offer vague but unwarranted encouragement regarding their military conflict with Russia. One of them, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBiden, Sinema meet as infrastructure talks hit rough patch Feehery: It's time for Senate Republicans to play hardball on infrastructure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today MORE (R-Ohio), published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal urging Biden to tell Putin that he had changed his mind and was reversing his tacit endorsement of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. This came not long after German Chancellor Angela Merkel bluntly told her allies that her country regards the pipeline issue as closed and not a subject of further discussion.

After their one-on-one meeting, mainly dealing with bogged down U.S.-U.K. trade talks, Biden and Johnson preferred to speak publicly of the more elevated topic of “shared values” and to invite comparisons with their illustrious predecessors, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who came together in the darkest days of World War II to issue the historic Atlantic Charter. Any comparison between then and now is historically impermissible — and it denies a stark reality.  

At its founding in 1975, the G-7 nations constituted 70 percent of the global economy; today, they make up just 40 percent. It is clear that the tectonic plates undergirding the world’s economic, military and political balance of power are shifting and the consequences — however painful for America and the West — are plain to see for anyone willing to look at them honestly.

William Moloney is a Fellow in Conservative Thought at Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute who studied at Oxford and the University of London and received his doctorate from Harvard University. He is a former Colorado Commissioner of Education.