Friday, April 20, 2012

Towards a New Foreign Policy (Part II)

I would remind the next administration that they learn a valuable lesson from the current misadministration. Power is important. Speak softly and carry a big stick, the biggest, baddest stick in the whole town. 


Power is like gold coins: spend sparingly. 


Don't have the Secretary of State making idle, non-credible threats--a real specialty of the current one. SecState Clinton seems always "warning" somebody that something really, really bad will happen if they don't stop doing something or another. Note the repeated warnings to North Korea, to Syria, to Iran; they are classic examples of the sort of foolishness that has marked this misadministration. As things now stand, even Haiti pays no attention to what we say. 


It is no surprise that the recent Summit of the Americas turned into a total bust for the Obamaistas. There is no credibility to their positions. The sucking up to the Argentines on the Falklands was idiotic. First it seems that our Harvard-educated President did not know the difference between the Falklands and the Maldives, and second he tried to use the Argentine name for the islands. Why? The people of the Falklands want to remain British. The Falklands are British, period. The Argentines have no difficulty criticizing us on Puerto Rico, embarrassing us on Cuba at the Summit, and working against us on a host of issues at the UN and the OAS. Why be solicitous of their extravagant claims? 


Another important lesson is that our power should be used in pursuit of core national interests. Democratic administrations have a habit of marching off to war in places where we have little or no core interests at stake: Vietnam, Laos, Libya, Serbia come quickly to mind; ongoing demands that we intervene in Sudan are part of that mindset. American liberals seem to find it noble for us to use military power in places where "nobody can accuse us of having tangible interests" (Note: an actual quote during a debate some years ago in State on whether we should intervene in the Zaire civil war.)  In places where we do have real and important interests, e.g., Cuba, Venezuela, Central America, Korea, the liberals do not want to employ American power. 


We must fight the urge to be the world's cop. Intervene where it matters to our interests, regardless of the views of the UN or the EU, and stay out of where it does not matter, regardless of the views of the UN and the EU. We must make sure we have defined victory; go for victory; take our victory, and get out. 


Our Army is the American, not the Salvation Army.  No more nation building. That has proven our undoing in Afghanistan. There are places in the world where we will have to go, e.g., Afghanistan, that are nasty pieces of work. They have religions, cultures and political traditions hostile to freedom, equality, PETA, and gay rights. There is little effective we can do about that. We need to pursue our core interests; in the Afghan case, killing the al Qaeda thugs and their supporters, and move on. Bribe some warlords to kill folks who need killing, forget about trying to build democracy and farm-to-market roads, or empowering feminist NGOs. I am always reminded of the scene in the 1974 Luis Bu├▒uel film, The Phantom of Liberty, in which Napoleon's soldiers are gunning down Spanish peasants while shouting "Long live liberty!" and the Spaniards are dying shouting "Down with liberty! Long live the chains!" Freedom might not be for everybody on the time table we would wish. 


Rethink foreign aid. Frankly, many conservatives do not understand how our aid programs really work. We, in fact, give very little money to the foreign countries that are ostensibly the recipients of our largesse--Israel is an exception, we have a very effective aid program there, to wit, we cut them a check. In the vast majority of cases, the money is consumed by a welter of consultants, NGOs, and bureaucrats. Modern USAID projects are, quite frankly, pathetic. They do nothing but appease some domestic constituency that wants the US promoting, for example, the empowering of women. Domestic groups form alliances with favored groups in "recipient" countries, and cook up lame projects that involve a lot of travel, conferences, and setting up offices with nice logos, fax machines, cellphones, and websites. Get rid of USAID. Our foreign assistance should be a slush fund--with appropriate controls--to be used to get what we want, or to reward those who do what we want.  


Cut the foreign policy bureaucracy drastically. The NSC is obscenely overstaffed, as is CIA headquarters. State could easily be cut in half and prove a much better organization. Get rid of extraneous offices, programs, and priorities. Focus, focus, focus. The same could be said about the Pentagon; it is awash with offices, programs, and personnel having little or nothing to do with defense. 


Let me make a modest proposal that is of a symbolic nature, but one which might drive home a new way of thinking. The State Department should be renamed the Defense Department, and the current Defense Department should go back to its old, and more evocative name, the War Department. That might make it clearer to people working there what should be the true nature of their jobs and priorities. 


This is getting a bit long, and I still have a lot more to say, so let me stop here, and we will continue in part III with a focus on "synergy." I love to write that word.

5 comments:

  1. Sounds like you are on to something with State and the Pentagon. The best politicians in DC are not only in Congress, but are in the upper ranks of the Pentagon as well.

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  2. I point out to the younger engineers in our company that you used to have an invisible security umbrella when working outside the US. Like a Roman Citizen, you were protected by American Power. Of course this implied a responsibility on your part, but harming an American Citizen carried risks. Today it is perceptible that we have squandered that valuable perception.

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  5. Hi Diplomad! Glad you're back! Have you sent this column to Mitt Romney's campaign team? Might be a good idea to do so. I can't think of a better foreign policy hookup than Diplomad and John Bolton as Secretary of State. Maybe then we would have a sense of reality about what we should be doing in the world. Lord knows we haven't had much of that since the 2008 elections!

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