Sunday, May 13, 2007

Do we need a new foreign policy? 

The preface to Ian Shapiro's new book Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror contains this assertion:

The United States stands in manifest need of a national security doctrine that can be appealing to the American electorate, defensible in the court of international pujblic opinion, and attractive to America's democratic allies.

True, or not true? If true, what would such a policy look like, and how would it sustain American national interest? If not true, why not?

Shapiro promises his own answer, which I will report later. Suffice it to say that the first paragraph sets us up:
I backed into writing this book in a curious way. In September of 2004 I was asked to give a lecture to the Yale Club of Tokyo. I supplied a list of possible topics, but my host, Jim Brooke, rejected them all, saying that his members wanted me to talk instead about what a Kerry administration's foreign policy would be. This prompted me to give a lecture on why there was not going to be a Kerry administration, out of which the book grew. My expectations about the Kerry campaign flowed from the conviction that in politics it is hard to beat something with nothing.

A lesson, I might add, that the Republicans need to relearn quickly. They, too, will need a foreign policy to propose in light of the perception of American failure in the last four years.


By Blogger allen, at Sun May 13, 06:49:00 PM:

Not since the Kennedy administration has the United States had a foreign policy able to meet the criteria.

More importantly, I believe, can any administration craft an agenda that will meet with the approval of the opposition party? Notice, I did not say "loyal opposition." That notion too seems to have ended with the Kennedy administration as well.

If American partisanship did end at the water's edge, then, the importance of either international opinion or allied opinion would be much less important.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun May 13, 07:33:00 PM:

Appealing to the American Electorate? Yes.

International Public Opinion, or "democratic allies?" No.

We need to spend a lot of time, money, and blood defending our nation from nuclear attack by jihad, the costs of not doing so successfully will be tremendous to ourselves (around 10 million dead and cities ruined) and will result in the elimination of nations held responsible. We simply cannot afford a successful policy.

International public opinion is about as valuable a bucket of warm pee, and as useful. We had "international public opinion" prior to 9/11 and it got us ... 9/11. We can have goodwill, and the hard boys right next to various dictators or whoever will have the most influence. Cause they kill who they want and they're right there. We are like the police, driving and waving.

America's Democratic Allies? What good are they? None of them have any militaries to speak of, they could not fight their way out of a paper bag, can't even be trusted not to cheat on nuclear proliferation or WMD (as Chirac did with Saddam in the 1990's when we had "respect" yadda yadda yadda.)

If you believe the way to national security is sweetness and light, hugs and kisses, hug-a-thug with bin Laden and groveling, well then the assumptions built into Shapiro's assertions are for you.

If you are actually realistic you'll understand that only FEAR and realistic, large FEAR of America unpredictability, freedom of action, and horrible consequences will keep terror plots from non-nuclear and non-WMD as currently those require state sponsorship. Neither the useless and stupid approbation of the UN and thugocracies nor the cowardly surrender monkeys of Europe (which Britain with it's Royal Surrender Navy would be one) have any usefullness in the matter.

A doctrine of "nuke em high" with an explicit promise of pre-emptive nuking if we think nations play footsie with Al Qaeda by allowing them nuclear access, and naming names: Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, and Saudi would make a difference.

Of course the threat MUST be believable, so an example would have to be made. Perhaps Iran would make a convenient nuclear target.

This is the ugly reality that defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan brings: our National Security rests ONLY on deterrence because of human nature.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 14, 05:56:00 AM:

My comments may be little to specific.

My worry here is that everyone including the drivelling dems seem to be putting most of their warlike eggs in the Afhganistan (the legitimate war)basket. Even NATO countries are putting troops onto Afghanistan.

What happens when Iraq, for whatever reason, is off the table. Does everyone really think that Afghanistan will not become the rallying point for all the ratbags. If you think supplying our troops in Iraq posed problems what about a more hostile envirnment in Afghanistan.

Iran is already hostile. The Pakistani border, if not the government, has always been hostile.

The only way the to resupply the troops is by air. Do really think those countries who would like to bring down, or at the very least humiliate, America would not get some more sophisticated anti aircraft weaponry into the hands of the ratbags.

What happens if we lose five supply aircraft in one day.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 14, 08:58:00 AM:

I sense a Kum-by-yah moment here....no, it's over now.

I think in the comments above responding to the blurb from the gentleman's book, the first aspect of any foreign policy is, it has to be effective in addressing it's primary goal, which is 'WHAT?'. The rest of the stuff is 'nice', and may help implementation down the road, but what is the FUNCTION, PURPOSE and GOAL of our foreign policy?
'A Republic, if you can keep it'- Benjamin Franklin.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon May 14, 10:18:00 AM:

"Not since the Kennedy administration has the United States had a foreign policy able to meet the criteria."

Odd, how that is. Kennedy is widely viewed in political science to have been middling to bad in foreign policy, (Kruschev stomped all over him in personal meetings, for example) while Nixon (a Democratic boogeyman) is considered to have been quite good.

Foreign policy shouldn't have anything to do with pleasing the opposition and everything to do with securing national interests.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Mon May 14, 10:39:00 AM:

With all due respect to Ian Shapiro, his first point is a bit warped, and his second and third points can be merged into one. First of all our national security doctrine needs to be simple enough to explain to the American public, blatantly obvious that it is the course to be followed, and consistent enough to be adopted by both major political parties over the long-term.

The second and third points he made need a bit of restating. There is no “court of international public opinion”, it is just a fictional mental image. There are international agreements, treaties, trade and alliances that if taken as a whole and kind of squinted at can more or less look like a court, but the last thing I would want is for the US to stand trial with certain countries holding the gavel. And making our national security doctrine attractive to America’s democratic allies is both redundant and badly phrased. We relate to basically three types of countries: Democratic allies (like Great Britian), non-democratic but still peaceful and cooperative kind of allies (like Saudi Arabia), and totalitarian dictatorships who kind-of work with us despite a lack of democracy (fill in names of several African and South American countries here). Even the US’s non-democratic allies support us on limited issues when they think their own skin could be on the line. (See Saudi Arabia, Gulf War)

My opinion is more along the lines of Anonymous above, only instead of Fear he should have used Respect. Other democracies do not work with us out of fear, most dictatorships do not fear us, they are quite confident that the US will not drop in on them in the middle of the night with bombs and troops, unless they do something really, really awful like kidnap a bus full of nuns with government soldiers. Gangs use fear. Police use respect. Present and future US foreign policy will always look much more like a police force than a gang. And for getting respect? We will always be like Kipling’s Tommy.

Can I mash all that together into one sentence like Shapiro? Heck, if I could do that, I would write my own book. Or go work for the State Department. But I’ll give it a shot.

“The US needs a clear and unequivocal foreign policy supported by both major political parties that stands for Freedom for all people, a consistent rule of law between nations, support for our allies, and opposition to terrorism in all forms.”  

By Blogger allen, at Mon May 14, 11:30:00 AM:


re: Kennedy

The era, not the man. Vietnam became an issue shortly after his death. Unity of American foreign policy has been in short supply since.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue May 15, 11:09:00 AM:


Kennedy started Vietnam. One of the persistent myths about his death is that he was planning on scaling back his military intervention there, so if he hadn't been killed then 'Vietnam never would have happened.' The opposite is more likely, because of domestic considerations of appearing too soft on the Commies.

His early diplomatic fumbles and perceived weakness as a young man without steel in his spine (and an at least somewhat debilitating addiction) contributed to the Soviet moves that became the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Then there's the Bay of Pigs fiasco before that, and he holds a chunk of responsibility for that. (he refused to authorize air support that the planners of the mission were promised)

Like I said, that's his reputation in political science as an academic discipline, not just mine. And it's telling that you immediately mentioned Vietnam, though. There's more to 60s foreign policy than just that.  

By Blogger allen, at Tue May 15, 12:09:00 PM:


re: more to foreign policy than Vietnam

Yes, there is. I refer you to my orginial post on this thread for elaboration.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed May 16, 11:22:00 AM:

"Not since the Kennedy administration has the United States had a foreign policy able to meet the criteria."

Was your original comment, with the 'criteria' being that everyone (domestic and international) likes it. (presumably because it's effective and non-controversial.

I was endeavoring to demonstrate that the Kennedy administrations did *not* meet those criteria.  

By Blogger allen, at Wed May 16, 02:59:00 PM:


re: 'criteria' being that everyone (domestic and international) likes it.


Consider: NATO, SEATO, and CENTO.  

By Blogger Minter, at Sun Jun 10, 05:02:00 AM:

Just attended (last week) what was likely the same lecture, different setting (at Yale Reunions). The one area of his speech that really resonated with me was the need to win the hearts and minds of the people in countries such as Iran, Iraq and even Lebanon. Now, the question is how could we inscribe that into policy!  

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