Above: Children of Laos illustrate their attack by the U.S. See section titled "Law and Rhetoric" below.
This is my chance to share what my thoughts are on the United States’ foreign policy. What rekindled this interest is despite the necessity of condemning Russia, it comes across as hypocritical in light of what we have done and continue to do. This is not a diatribe against us but rather is posing the question of whether or not our policies, i.e., military hegemony, are effective or necessary.
I don’t claim to have the answer if our foreign policy has kept us safe, has escalated the defenses of other nations, or both. Anyone that thinks they do, should take a look at the nuanced and complex debates within U.S. history. But as liberals we should care about the costs of our foreign policies because it claims a lot of lives in the name of “national security” often veiled as American idealism.
The victory [WWII] now gave the US the right to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit, and by such means as we see fit. Henry Luce 
In the past few decades, the U.S. has killed between 360,000 to 387,000 civilians due to its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan . Supposedly, this is the cost others need to bear for us to assure our national security and the promotion of democratic ideals. In going through America’s past wars and actions, there is an obvious trend of the U.S. doing whatever it wants, which is called American exceptionalism (i). A complaint that I hear is that this is a progressive or revisionist view of history. What they mean is that a revisionist’s account doesn’t equate American success with hegemony without considering how we achieved it.
Hegemony must respect international law and human rights; that is, it must be morally justified. And justification is not pretense. The excuses for our foreign policies and wars have hardly changed, and the real reasons remain the same, i.e., to secure our geopolitical position (hegemony) and to promote and protect our economic interests  (ii). A nationalistic account, on the other hand, is not particularly concerned about the welfare of others and appeals to our pride. If we are nationalists who always think that we must come first, then we may prefer sources like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, or textbooks found in elementary school.
Nature of Nations
Hegemony is about being a dominant economic and military force. The definition doesn’t stipulate if this is by prestige or force or if it is done with regard to others or ruthless. Let us detour and see what biology says about this. Human nature is both cooperative and competitive. We have evolved over time to compete and cooperate in a way where dominance and the threat of force are no longer the preferred routes. There are good reasons for this. Instead, we cooperate and compete based on mutual benefit and positive displays (iii). So instead of threatening others with force, we threaten one another with our status and competencies.
More succinctly, dominance, which uses the threat of force and makes us fearful, has been replaced with prestige, which uses the threat of eliciting positive attention from others and makes us feel insecure. The older system hasn’t gone away, but our culture reinforces the use of prestige by its social norms while safeguarding against dominance through our penal institutions. A natural question is why nations still relate to one another through dominance and the threat of force while individuals see this as a relic of the past? This is because nations are unaccountable entities that consist of individuals with dangerous nationalistic pride.
What about international law and the people holding nations responsible for their actions? International law has not been respected by U.S. officials. It is used when we want to hold other countries accountable, but not us. And the voice of the people is muted by the propaganda of right-winged media who pander to the interests of the state department while exploiting our tribal instincts. The state department’s philosophy has always preferred dominance and the threat of force as the means for national security over diplomacy. Although the strength that we project in national defense may deter most, it has the effect of antagonizing other groups.
Threats and Pretense
We should not be naive as there are genuine threats in the world. Knowing what happened, for example, in China, North Korea, North Vietnam, Cambodia and the Soviet Union, the U.S. had a legitimate concern with the spread of communism post WWII. Although the statism part of communism is necessary for dictators to exert their will, we cannot be sure that all forms of socialism lead to tyranny (iv). The U.S. used propaganda, however, to demonize all socialist movements, which created a mass hysteria over communism. This lead to the U.S. encircling socialist “threats” with hundreds of military bases around the globe and supporting rightest regimes. Although we provided a justification for our hegemonic presence, we were not bringing freedom and democracy (v).
While rhetorically committed to freedom and democracy, the U.S. supported a host of repressive and dictatorial governments, including at various times, regimes in Greece, South Korea, French-controlled Vietnam (1950-54), South Vietnam (1954-75), Indonesia, Iran, Zaire, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Chile, Pakistan, and the Philippines. The U.S. also covertly aided the overthrow of democratic governments, notably in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), and Chile (1973), each of which was replaced by a murderous rightist regime fully supported by the United States. 
…at least three million Asian deaths in Southeast Asia, the wounding of millions more, the destruction of much of the Korean countryside [and three million Koreans], and the utter devastation of Vietnam, on which more bombs were dropped than on all the belligerents combined in World War II…. Bloodbaths in Indonesia, the Congo (now Zaire), Angola, Iran, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina; the killing of thousands of peasants, students, trade unionists, priests, and nuns; the wiping out of entire villages by right-wing governments, police forces, militias, secretive death squads, many of them trained by and in the United States – these were the consequences of our cold war policy.
Law and Rhetoric
If the Nazi activities represented a kind of apex to an age of inhumanity, American atrocities in Laos are clearly of a different order,” Branfman wrote. “Not so much inhuman as a-human. The people of Na Nga and Nong Sa were not the object of anyone’s passion. They simply weren’t considered.” 
The U.S. were training the Hmong to fight in a proxy war against the pro-communist Path Lao in the 1960s. The people of Laos were also used as a means for the U.S. military to test their 2.1 million tons of explosives on. What was interesting and egregious was that the U.S. soldiers had no animosity towards the natives and rationalized their killings as “it’s easier to lose your Hmong people than to lose Americans.” So if we are irrelevant and insignificant, as the Hmong were, we are at risk for being manipulated and murdered by the U.S. Furthermore, many of these bombs never detonated and hence are still destroying the Hmong population today, claiming 50,000 lives. This shouldn’t, however, be surprising because other democratic empires, like Great Britain and Athens, were just as vicious. In fact, there is no correlation with how democratic a nation is and their outside treatment of others.
Reagan-Bush State Department: the UN is “perfectly serviceable as an instrument of American unilateralism and indeed may be the primary mechanism through which that unilateralism will be exercised in the future.” 
The intervention in Laos was obviously against international law since it was done in secrecy as were others. The ones that we got caught for unlawful use of force include the invasion of Panama, Grenada, and Nicaragua. As much as conservatives have undermined the United Nations, such as it being a “foolish fantasy”, there is no other mechanism for restraining nations from the use of irrational force. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a clear case of America bullying and manipulating everyone. In fact, we drafted up our own resolution with ambiguous language, such as “serious consequences”, if Iraq failed to disarm. No one, however, on the security council interpreted that as going to war. But it did not matter if it passed or not because the US already made up their mind.
“The US-UK leaders “issued an ultimatum” to the United Nations Security Council: capitulate in twenty-four hours or we will invade Iraq and impose the regime of our choice without your meaningless seal of approval, and we will do so—crucially—whether or not Saddam Hussein and his family leave the country. Our invasion is legitimate, Bush declared, because “the United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security.”  (vi)
Donald Trump at one point called Howard Zinn, the revisionist historian, a propagandist which is not terribly insightful. Because all information must come from a point of view in the hopes of changing minds. In general, the left-winged view on national security places an emphasis on human rights and diplomacy while the right-winged view is on nationalism and the threat of force. The U.S., however, is a self-conscious nation which means that diplomacy must be one-hundred percent self-interested and apologies are for weak nations. When President Obama visited Laos for reparations, he failed to take responsibility for our wrongdoings, as it was just “part of war”, and neglected to to explain his intentions. The real reason for the visit was to secure our ““Asia pivot strategy,” whose centerpiece is an expanded military presence that threatens a new arms race with China and perhaps new proxy wars .”
i) We are unique since we have the most democratic institutions, promote individualism, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and have gained a level of economic prosperity unrivaled. But this idea of exceptionalism can go beyond pride and becomes hubris. In fact, we are so special that we justify all of our wars and interferences with American mythology—”such as leaders of the free world”—but we are too self-righteous afterwards to acknowledge the damage done. We are so special that reasonable and sound international legal principles don’t apply to us. And, no, saying that this is the cost of war is not acknowledgement. It is evasion.
ii) From a narrow perspective, everything the U.S. does towards national security contributes to its hegemony. This comes from revisionist historians having high standards towards morality which includes the belief that war is almost never justified. It is based on the principle of universality, which says that we must apply the same standards to ourselves as we do to our enemies. But other perspectives, such as orthodox, have come up with different conclusions which never implicate the U.S. as escalating and causing conflicts. For example, orthodox historians say that Russia was the cause of the Cold War and that the U.S. responded rationally.
The problem with a revisionist history, or any interpretive framework, is that it looks for some trends, say American hegemony, at the cost of other facts. For example, the historian Melvyn Leffler notes that the U.S. misinterpreted and overestimated the Soviet Union’s intentions and capabilities, yet the U.S.’s intentions were earnest since they genuinely felt threatened and wanted to defend the U.S. In other words, although there is evidence that the U.S. sought hegemony for its own sake, there is also evidence that they did this for perceived national security. There is even evidence at times that the U.S. restrained their power and acted prudent.
iii) Positive displays are the behaviors, personalities, and images that we project to elicit positive attention, value, and respect from others. We compete to bestow value upon others which is signaled as a success when others value, accept, or respect us.
iv) I am not against other nations engaging in socialism if it means collective ownership of the means of production and property under a democratic government. But any practical application of it has been statist; that is, the government owns the factors of production and property. This makes the system vulnerable to dictators that can implement dangerous propaganda and policies.
v) The evidence for this claim is based on two studies. One study looked at interventions from 1945 to 2004, and only one “full fledged, stable democracy” developed within ten years. Most experts agree that the process of democratization has to come from internal efforts and that imposing it usually results in “greater authoritarianism” or at best an autocracy. The other study looked at cases from 1973 to 2005, where 42% of interventions resulted in no change, 30% resulted in less democracy, and 28% resulted in more democracy [3,6,11]. But the definition for democratization appears to be loosely based on the ability to hold free elections.
vi) I do not know if I agree with Bush here. The security council must be more objective than Bush to determine if the use of force is for purposes of self-defense. I would not know where to begin to understand Bush’s true intentions for going to war although it appears to be something like misdirected vengeance. The war was worse than pre-emption as it is classified as preventive.
 Cheibub, Jose Antonio; Przeworski, Adam; Limongi Neto, Fernando Papaterra; Alvarez, Michael M. (1996). “What Makes Democracies Endure?”. Journal of Democracy. 7 (1): 39–55.
 Chomsky, Noam. Hegemony or Survival.
 Hermann, Margaret G.; Kegley, Charles (1998). “The U.S. Use of Military Intervention to Promote Democracy: Evaluating the Record”. International Interactions. 24 (2): 91–114
 Leffler, Melvyn P. Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism
 Shaprio, Ben. Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings. Time to Defund the United Nations.
 United States Foreign Policy: History and Resource Guide. Brutal Sideshows: Associated Wars in Laos and Cambodia
 United States Foreign Policy: History and Resource Guide. Cold War interventionism, 1945-1990
 Why Gun-Barrel Democracy Doesn’t Work”. Hoover Institution. Retrieved 2019-05-23.