Today marks the anniversary in which President Nixon announced that he would visit communist China. It was a landmark event in the history of US foreign policy and it embodied a foreign policy worldview, first coined by Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State at the time), as "realpolitik".
Realpolitik basically says (definition courtesy of The History Channel), that this is a policy of "politics that favored dealing with other powerful nations in a practical manner rather than on the basis of political doctrine or ethics". Take a minute to digest that.
This opened the way for the US to enter into economic relations with China and change the free-market as we know it, flooding it with a myriad of cheaper manufactured goods - despite the human rights' atrocities that occur daily (Tibet, or the most recent Uighur protests and violence). It also currently allows us to turn a blind eye on human rights' atrocities occurring in Russia (check out this article and remember the situation with Georgia last summer). Other examples of realpolitik? How about turning a blind eye on Rwanda (not a powerful enough nation to warrant our attention), or not mentioning anything when former General Musharraf gained power by virtue of a coup (and then becoming our "ally" when we invaded Afghanistan in 2002?). How about continuing to support Israel, even as it demolishes Palestinian neighborhoods and builds a literal wall around the West Bank? How about supporting Saudi Arabia as it promotes radical, fundamental Wahhabi Islam, denigrates its female population, and employs migrant Indian workers (who are no better than indentured servants) while the entire population lives off royalties from oil?
Realpolitik allows the US to turn a blind eye on many things, allowing practicality and logic to dictate foreign policy. But the question has got to be, is this a good thing?
I truly don't know. I don't know when a state on the scale of the United States should step into conflicts and try to help the situation. Do you try to help a failed state like Somalia and risk another Black Hawk Down occurring? Do you go against the political power and money of the Jewish lobby and say that no, we will not support Israel's tactics against Palestine? Do you try to stop genocide occurring in Sudan? Do you confront an economic and military powerhouse like China about it's human rights violations that it flaunts in front of us? Do you rescue North Koreans from an insane dictator that is hellbent on starving his people before he launches a nuclear missile? What dictates a state's foreign policy? Economics? Or ethics? Sell your soul or be guided by principles? Can it be both? Or should it be neither?
What do you think? What should the role of a state like the US be in the realm of world politics? Isolate itself so that we do not "meddle" in the affairs of other states and do nothing; help ethnic minorities throw off the restrictions of a dictatorship so that they might have a chance at the basic human right of freedom; rescue those suffering from gross human rights' injustices; or follow a combination of economic-ethical policies that allow us to turn a blind eye on some things, but not others?
It's not an easy answer.