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Old 09-13-2015   #1
Bill Moore
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Default Where is the serious foreign policy debate?

Hit tip to SWJ news roundup for the link to a National Interest article on the need to restore our foreign policy debate at the strategic level, not the mindless debates over tactical missteps that little more than debates intended to embarrass the opposing political party. Strategy starts with policy, and based on the ongoing arguments on the blog over retrenchments and a new off set strategy it is probably worth starting a thread on foreign policy debate.

Restoring America’s Foreign-Policy Debate

http://www.nationalinterest.org/feat...y-debate-13830

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United States can move forward by answering three sets of questions.
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First, what should its foreign-policy priorities be [?]
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Second, what should its basic foreign-policy goals and objectives be?
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And third, what tools should the United States rely on when conducting its foreign policy?
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Too many U.S. leaders, warned Simes, often fail to talk about predictable consequences, particularly when dealing with distasteful opponents. “We are not asking the most basic question,” said Simes, “not where we are going to be after we make our move,” but “where we are going to be after the bad guys...respond. If we think that they’re bad guys,” stated Simes, “we should assume that they would be prepared to respond in ways which we will find disagreeable.”
Foreign Policy by Bumper Sticker

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/...3609?page=show

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With victory in the Cold War and absent a rival superpower to limit and shape U.S. choices, America’s new foreign-policy establishment has adopted a simplistic, moralistic and triumphalist mind-set: foreign policy by bumper sticker. This mind-set abandons traditional foreign-policy analysis, which emphasizes establishing a hierarchy of priorities, making difficult decisions over trade-offs and considering the unintended consequences of U.S. actions. It also ignores the fact that America’s political system has consistently failed to sustain costly international interventions when vital national interests are not at stake. Prominent voices dismiss those raising such concerns as cynical realists, isolationists or, more recently, unpatriotic Putin apologists. Many tacitly accept this form of intimidation by interventionists who substitute chest-thumping for coherent and serious, historically grounded arguments.
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Members of Congress generally ignore more fundamental questions, such as why the United States decided to overthrow a nasty tyrant like Muammar el-Qaddafi, who did not particularly threaten the United States, without even thinking about the likely aftermath of his ouster. Congress no longer seems to convene serious hearings on big issues in America’s relationship with Russia, the only country with the military capability to destroy the United States, or managing China’s rise as a global superpower, perhaps the central challenge confronting the United States in the twenty-first century. Hearings that do take place typically degenerate into partisan posturing over peripheral matters.
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And while fashionable as a measure of impact, Twitter is an inherently poor vehicle for any serious conversation. What truly important issue can be distilled into 140 characters or fewer? Or, for that matter, into a fifteen-second sound bite?
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IT IS disturbing that our ability to think and talk seriously about international affairs is deteriorating as the world is becoming more complex.
The article goes on to argue that our short sighted views on Russia may well push them into an undesired alliance with China and all that portends. Concur or non-concur with the authors' specific views, it is hard to deny we fail to look at the big picture and probable second order effects of our tactical actions. After 9/11 we lost our ability to think strategically as a nation, and labeled those who wanted to debate the wisdom of our choices as non-patriotic. We can do better than this.

Last edited by Bill Moore; 03-06-2016 at 01:54 AM. Reason: spelling error
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Old 09-13-2015   #2
Bill Moore
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Related to the posts above, and certainly a topic worthy of debate is President Obama's retrenchment

The Strategy of Retrenchment and Its Consequences

http://www.fpri.org/articles/2015/04...s-consequences

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Over the past decade or more, leading academic foreign policy realists have argued for US strategic retrenchment. Retrenchment is a strategy designed to reduce a country's international and military costs and commitments.[1] This can be done by cutting defense spending, withdrawing from certain alliance obligations, scaling back on deployments abroad, or reducing international expenditures. Retrenchment does not necessarily involve the avoidance of all strategic commitments. But the desired direction with retrenchment is one of lowered cost and reduced commitment.
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Allies depend upon believable, material indicators of American commitment, including a strong military presence together with a credible readiness to use it. Adversaries are deterred by the same. Some leading strategic statements issued by the administration, such as the new National Security Strategy, do not really spell out or concede any such trade-off between cost and risk. Instead, they simply take it for granted that the increased risk is manageable. In effect, current plans assume or perhaps hope that international adversaries will not take advantage of America's scaled-back ability to handle a range of possible challenges. US adversaries may not be so forgiving. They might also misperceive the true extent of American commitment and resolve, under the impression the US won't respond. Indeed this is how many of America's wars have begun in the past.
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Old 09-14-2015   #3
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"Strategy of retrenchment"!
"Can't abandon your allies"!
"Isolationist"!
"Appeasement"!

We love to use words like pointy sticks, to poke meaningless holes in the worthy positions of those we disagree with.

One might characterize the opposite of retrenchment as a "strategy of provocation," for example.

One thing is certain, the approaches that managed to carry us through the Cold War are clearly out of step with what is necessary for the world that exists here on the other side. The past 15 years have been an odd mix of working to make old policies work, and experimenting with a wide range of theories and approaches to that end; and experimenting with new policies, but largely supported by the that same hodgepodge of approaches.

We are at a very similar point to the one our founders found themselves at when a few instigators decided to convert a call to update the Articles of Confederation into a comprehensive effort to replace them altogether with the Constitution that still serves us well to this day.

Who and where are the modern equivalents? They seem sadly missing.
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Old 09-14-2015   #4
Steve Blair
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Actually quite a bit of this looks very similar to pre-Cold War foreign policy discussions (when they took place). There was, after all, history before the Cold War. The US had a tendency to drift between isolation of some sort and what might be called "benevolent imperialism."
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Old 09-15-2015   #5
Bill Moore
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
"Strategy of retrenchment"!
"Can't abandon your allies"!
"Isolationist"!
"Appeasement"!

We love to use words like pointy sticks, to poke meaningless holes in the worthy positions of those we disagree with.

One might characterize the opposite of retrenchment as a "strategy of provocation," for example.

One thing is certain, the approaches that managed to carry us through the Cold War are clearly out of step with what is necessary for the world that exists here on the other side. The past 15 years have been an odd mix of working to make old policies work, and experimenting with a wide range of theories and approaches to that end; and experimenting with new policies, but largely supported by the that same hodgepodge of approaches.

We are at a very similar point to the one our founders found themselves at when a few instigators decided to convert a call to update the Articles of Confederation into a comprehensive effort to replace them altogether with the Constitution that still serves us well to this day.

Who and where are the modern equivalents? They seem sadly missing.
Bob,

Agree with your argument, but I don't see retrenchment as a pointy stick word. It is actually a viable option, and as explained above it doesn't mean retreating from the world stage, but it does mean controlling our appetite. Your point about trying to make old policies work is spot on. Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and we're still trying to put him back together instead of deciding who should sit on the wall next, or if we even need a wall.
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Old 09-15-2015   #6
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Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
Actually quite a bit of this looks very similar to pre-Cold War foreign policy discussions (when they took place). There was, after all, history before the Cold War. The US had a tendency to drift between isolation of some sort and what might be called "benevolent imperialism."
Steve,

Any recommended reads that addresses pre-Cold War foreign policy? I find it sadly humorous that many think we need to return to a containment strategy, because it is the only seemingly coherent strategy they're familiar with. We obviously had a foreign policy and strategy prior to the Cold War, and I bet there are lessons from that period germane to today.
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Old 09-15-2015   #7
Windows97
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This is a pretty good book and IMO a neglected gem that I think is germane to the discussion...

The Captain America Complex
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Old 09-15-2015   #8
Steve Blair
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Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
Steve,

Any recommended reads that addresses pre-Cold War foreign policy? I find it sadly humorous that many think we need to return to a containment strategy, because it is the only seemingly coherent strategy they're familiar with. We obviously had a foreign policy and strategy prior to the Cold War, and I bet there are lessons from that period germane to today.
Some of the stuff relating to Teddy Roosevelt's presidency is interesting, simply because he was projecting the US into what was at the time fairly uncharted territory - foreign policy considerations that didn't tie directly to US continental interests (the old "Manifest Destiny" thing). James Holmes' Theodore Roosevelt and World Order is interesting because he looks at Roosevelt's concepts of the use of force in international affairs. William Tilchin has also done a couple of interesting studies about Roosevelt and foreign policy.

Our pre-Cold War foreign policy has alternated between being reactive to overtly aggressive (Polk and Mexico springs immediately to mind). Quite a bit of it was centered on keeping "foreign interests" out of our self-defined sphere of influence (usually Central America) or preserving our trade access to specific areas (China being the biggest example). There's a fair body of literature springing up about the Mexican-American War, and quite a bit of it is good. In my view it was really Wilson who thrust us on the world stage as the "great savior."
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Old 06-13-2016   #9
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Default U.S. Policy and the Geopolitical Dynamics of the Middle East

A "lurker" alerted me to this ex-US diplomat's latest and long article. I've never heard of Chas Freeman. Some of it makes sense, both blunders and what next. In places I thought "he'd lost the plot" with a reliance on the Saudis!
Link:http://chasfreeman.net/u-s-policy-an...e-middle-east/
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