Courtesy Reuters

Ethnic Groups and Foreign Policy

It is doubtful that there has ever been a democratic society-from Periclean Athens to modern America-that lived untroubled by conflict between the preferences and aspirations of groups within the society and the requirements of the general good. If the problem has been more constant and intense in the United States than in other democracies, it is because of the nature of American society-diverse and heterogeneous, a nation of nations, a melting pot in which the constituent groups never fully melted-and because of the American constitutional system with its separated power and numerous points of access thereto.

Whether ethnic diversity and its attendant foreign attachments have been, on the whole, a good or bad thing for the nation has been debated since the birth of the Republic. An obscure Frenchman who came to live in the new nation in the eighteenth century perceived among the "western pilgrims" who had come to America from all over Europe "one of the finest systems of population which has ever appeared." "Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men," he wrote, "whose labors and posterity will one day cause great change in the world."1 But a more famous Frenchman of the nineteenth century wrote in his classic study of American democracy that, although democratic liberties applied to the internal affairs of a nation as diverse as the United States bring "blessings greater than the ills," this was assuredly not the case in the conduct of foreign relations. "Almost all the nations that have exercised a powerful influence on the world's destiny by conceiving, following up and carrying to completion great designs," Tocqueville wrote, "from the Romans down to the English, were controlled by an aristocracy. . . ."2

The case for ethnic political activities-or for the play of "factions," in the terminology of earlier times-is usually made in terms of the evils of suppressing free expression rather than any positive benefits accruing from the influence of the special interests. Lobbying, it is pointed out,

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