By Wang Fan
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on June 2 this year that it had just thwarted a major attempt by terrorists to blow up the aviation fuel route at the JFK International Airport in New York and the four suspects were not members of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida terrorist organization as people suspected, but Latin Americans.
Though the suspects' families and friends claimed the US authorities exaggerated facts, the FBI insisted the conspiracy had been in the works for two or three years and its impact would have been greater than that of 9/11, had it gone through. It also indicates anti-American sentiment is persisting in the US backyard.
Before the latest round of the G8 summit began, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on June 3 that, if the US expands its missile defense system to Russia's front door in Eastern Europe, Russia might have to aim its ballistic missiles at "new targets" in Europe.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hinted soon afterwards that the US plan to deploy missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic would pose a threat to Russia. He believed the US move was designed to "surround Russia" militarily.
Since early this year, Putin has made a string of statements expressing his utmost dissatisfaction with the US. A kind of strong confrontational sentiment is floating between the US and Russia.
Though the claim that a new Cold War is breaking out between the two countries is a bit over the top, people have to see what the two sides have to say when Putin meets US President George W. Bush on Sunday.
We are also witnessing confrontation between the US and Iran, between the US and the Arab world, and confrontation between the US and some developing countries or "lost countries".
Even though we are witnessing some progress toward some resolution on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, confrontation still seems to be the rule of the game for the US.
It appears that its domestic and foreign affairs need such confrontations.
As the only superpower in the world, the US believes its global goal strategy must be aimed at a clear and present threat or it will be disoriented. When the Cold War ended, the US suddenly found itself without a strategic enemy after 40 years of rivalry. As if in a state of zero gravity, the US went so far as to lament "we will soon miss the Cold War", followed by a chorus of excited threats about China.
The 9/11 terrorist attack forced the US to shift its agenda from conventional security threats to localized unconventional security threats. But the apparent threat was hard to target and ultimately the shots had to hit specific countries - hence the war cries toward the "axis of evil" and other "lost countries".
Meanwhile, the US may still have to learn how to keep friendly relations with countries other than their traditional allies. The US and Russia once formed a strategic partnership after the Cold War. Putin was the first foreign leader to call Bush to express his condolences after 9/11. And the two men of the same age enjoy a rather close personal friendship between them.
Russia supported the US war on terror in Afghanistan, but the latter took the opportunity to take it a step further by expanding its political and military influence in Central Asia and Outer Caucasus in the name of fighting terrorism.
Beginning in 2005, the US instigated a series of "color revolutions" and thus drew several countries originally belonging in Russia's power sphere under America's protective umbrella. That made it really difficult for the two countries to maintain their partnership from then on.
In hindsight there are quite a few examples of the US deliberately making enemies. After the Cuban Revolution, Cuban leader Fidel Castro did not have upsetting the US in mind but wanted to develop bilateral relations with the northern neighbor on an equal footing.
Unfortunately his overture was flatly rejected by Washington, which swiftly made Cuba an enemy and carried out a series of operations designed to overthrow the Cuban administration, including the assassination of Fidel Castro, resulting in the lasting state of hostility between the two neighbors separated only by 150 km of water.
Moreover, the US not only made itself an enemy in Cuba but pushed it into the arms of its archrival the Soviet Union as well, further intensifying the already desperate Cold War.
Remember Saddam Hussein? Saddam Hussein received generous support from the US during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Moreover, America's old habit of drawing the line dies hard.
The stated criteria for drawing the line may change from time to time, but the core is always ideological. In her speech at the School of International Relations, Johns Hopkins University, on April 15, 2002, then presidential advisor for national security Condoleezza Rice suggested that countries all over the world could be categorized into four types: the democratic, the transforming, the rogue and the lost.
Following the 9/11 attack, the US called for an anti-terrorist alliance, saying any country opposed to terrorism was America's friend but soon slid back onto the old trail of drawing the line according to ideology.
The concept of a democratic alliance is one example. The US foreign strategy has gone full circle from the anti-terrorist alliance to that of freedom and democracy back to the traditional -military-political - alliance.
And one of the conditions for joining this traditional alliance is to identify with America's ideology.
The philosophy and strategy of such traditional alliances have helped the US form various gangs in the international community and produced deliberate divides and differences.
Though the cooperation between non-allies is growing in non-traditional security efforts, it is far from dominant in US foreign strategy.
The obsession with drawing the line goes a long way back in US academic circles. From The Coming Conflict with China to The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, demonstrate the notion that realist power politics and Cold-War mentality are deep-rooted in the minds of some Americans.
And all this stands starkly opposed to the reality of globalization and inter-dependency as well as such views of world integration.
Above all, the US finds it difficult to shake off its structural constraints.
As far as confrontations between the US and other countries since the end of the Cold War are concerned, it has always been the US that triggered the conflicts and identified friends and enemies. The fact that the US deliberately stirred up confrontations over certain affairs or its relations with certain countries clearly shows it doesn't give a damn about the consequences.
As former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski emphasizes in his book The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership, America's international status is constituted by two important realities of our time: the unrivaled American global hegemony and unprecedented inter-influence in the world community.
But, as the reality of US foreign policy indicates, the unrivaled US strength has been abused or over-used while global inter-influence has been misinterpreted as unilateral influence of the US over the rest of the world.
A country's outward expansion is usually influenced by two major factors: self-discipline and check and balance.
In the post-Cold War era, the US has not only overlooked but also despised self-discipline. And, while restricted by some kind of a strategic check and balance between major powers, the US, encouraged by its unrivaled strength, has been doggedly trying to break free of this constraint. Unrestrained and undisciplined, US foreign strategy can only be expansionist.
As a general trend this expansionist strategy may be temporarily reined in but will never lose its nature. Domestically speaking, various interest groups all have their own pursuits and would always gang up to seek stronger control over domestic resources by hyping outside threats, eventually pushing the country into unrestrained outward expansion.
In her speech titled Transformational Diplomacy on January 18, 2006, Secretary of State Rice asserts, "America needs equally bold diplomacy, a diplomacy that not only reports about the world as it is, but seeks to change the world itself".
She later defined the term as "transformational diplomacy is rooted in partnership; not in paternalism. In doing things with people, not for them". Apparently the emergence of transformational diplomacy represents a re-adjustment following the setback the US suffered in its bid for global domination by using its military might in recent years.
However, the structural strength and inertial thinking has deprived the runaway US of a break on its unilateralist tracks, leaving it in a limbo where it wanted to stop but couldn't more than once because of some major regional and even global issues.
It is worth calling to mind the teachings of its founding fathers such as Abraham Lincoln, who said the best way to eliminate an enemy is to turn it into a friend.
Some day the enlightened Americans will realize that only by making more friends instead of enemies can the US take hold of the opportunities emerging during the post-Cold War era as it sees it, and it will lose them and consequently its future if it fails to do so.
The author is a researcher with the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University.
(China Daily June 27, 2007)