How to Make Effective US Foreign Policy?
1. The General Problem With US Foreign Policy: Although the USA is nominally the world’s only superpower, it has been regularly unable to deter or reverse aggressive behaviors by near peer nations such as Russia, China and Iran. This is the case in spite of their nominal obligations under international law and/or bilateral agreements with the USA. The US also was unsuccessful in preventing North Korea and Pakistan from becoming nuclear powers. Current events such as the crises in Ukraine and the China Seas, and the failure to achieve real progress with Iran in re nuclear weapons, indicate that these nominally “weaker” states consistently are able to seize the policy initiative and achieve their goals. What can be done to make US policy goals more achievable in the face of such aggressive policies?
1.1 The Problem of Nationalist Rivals: At the present time frame, the US is facing a sophisticated and very deliberate form of “very low intensity conflict” which involves propaganda, economic, political and military dimensions. The options the US, NATO, Japan and other allies are willing to consider have been the subject of successful analysis by regimes intent on expanding territory, territorial seas or “spheres of influence.” As well, Iran is successfully stalling for the time it needs to develop the infrastructures it needs to deploy nuclear weapons (following the example set by Pakistan and North Korea). Predictable but extremely limited US, EU, Japanese and other allied responses have been unable to alter these policy choices. An interview given by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon last week on NPR re sanctions and Russia indicates this not fully understood: he appears to believe that Russia will disengage from Ukraine and divest itself of Crimea. The greatly expanded amount of trade in the post Cold War era renders really serious economic sanctions unattractive, so far weaker measures are taken in their place. The greatly reduced military capability of the US and its allies in the post Cold War era also renders really serious military sanctions unattractive as well. The headline of last week’s Economist indicates many US allies wonder “What Will the US Fight For? If US and allied policy remain as ineffective as they have been, there is a grave risk that deliberately aggressive states will adopt policies that could result in a miscalculation leading to regional or even global warfare. Note, however, at least the problem of nationalist rivals can be framed in terms of traditional concepts about international competition and conflict. It should be possible to define a policy to discourage continuing aggression if an analysis is done of the weaknesses of these aggressive states.
1.2 The Problem of Nominally Nationalist Terrorism: The US and its allies have been unable to completely defeat the terrorists who have repeatedly attacked them in a non-military sense. The somewhat misnamed “War on Terror” was formally declared by Al Qaida in 1992. This was virtually unnoticed at that time. Being unaware there was a problem, however, did not prevent the attacks on 911 nor numbers of other attacks, before and since, in the USA and in other countries. After 911 got universal attention, the US and NATO countries, joined by many others, initiated campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, nominally intending to take the war “to the enemy.” What should have been grand raids turned into protracted and expensive campaigns to replace regimes in place, with real but less than fatal impacts on Al Qaida and movements allied with it. This problem is more difficult to address with traditional ideas about international conflict, but at least there is far less risk of it degenerating into multi-national warfare. The somewhat effective counter-terror campaign probably can be improved.
2. The Concept of an Integrated Foreign Policy: Effective US and allied policy should be founded on an explicit and integrated set of political, economic, diplomatic, informational and military policies. The foundation of this policy should be a true “grand strategy” in the sense defined by historian Capt. Sir B. H. Liddell-Hart. [See his book Strategy]. But effective policy is more than an academic exercise taken to define a theoretical grand strategy which is then more or less ignored by all agencies when the time comes to define actual policy options, or to implement them. Instead, integrated policy requires that all the agencies of the government, in consultation with allied governments, with industrial, financial, political and even moral leaders, actively participate in a process that (a) produces a fully integrated grand strategy and (b) that all government agencies are then guided by that policy (in spite of what an agency might prefer if it were not for what is required by the grand strategy). This is far more easy to say than it is to do. A grand strategy needs to balance various interests and options. To be effective, it then must be implemented, regardless of the preferences of individual officials or even of institutions as a whole. The rewards for doing so are that we do not have to lose the benefits of a world system with secure borders, (almost) free trade and travel, and little risk of local or general war among the medium and major powers. There is a real danger any attempt to formulate such a policy will degenerate into a nice sounding set of phrases, used only by political leaders to say “see, we are trying to do the right thing!” but which otherwise are ignored in fact. That would return us to where we are now – unable to alter the policies of aggression. We can and should do better. Remember Edmond Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
An integrated policy offers the potential of vastly greater efficiency in terms of getting results for any given investment of effort. This is because it avoids different agencies (and different allied countries, and civil institutions) adopting contradictory and counter-productive policies and practices. It also makes possible better economic choices which will reduce costs and inefficiencies simply because we have thought our choices through to the point we realize how unwise they are? [A German defense analyst, in March 2014, pointed out that EU has three different first line fighter aircraft in production, in addition to purchasing a fourth type from the US. This is logistically inefficient and not an economic allocation of national resources. His position is that NATO needs to increase its capability by more efficiently managing the resources available to it. It may not be, as he believes, sufficient by itself. But it is a very helpful step in the right direction which would continue to pay dividends even if the crisis with Russia were favorably resolved.]
3. The Goals of US Foreign Policy and the Object of US Grand Strategy: The post Cold War global political/economic system offers an international civil order of great benefit to all nations, large and small. US foreign policy should seek to enhance this system and to require that the norms of this global system be respected. It is precisely because this system also benefits Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and North Korea that there is a good prospect they will not want to be isolated from it. We need to make clear, at every stage, that they have the option to remain or even increase their participation in the international system. Also that they have the option of becoming partially or wholly isolated from it. The price is they need to respect the “rules.”
Several of the things said by US President Barak Obama, by US Secretary of State John Kerry and by other US officials in the crisis with Russia were well said. Or would be if US policy and practice made them credible. What needs to be added is a sense that the political will exists to increase sanctions to the point they matter both in the USA and among its allies. That can be done if we define our interests in such a way that it is clear to us how great a stake we have in the international system, and what it is worth to us to insist that those who participate respect its norms? Do we really want to live in a world where nations do not respect international boundaries? Where territorial seas are unilaterally defined, ignoring long historical patterns of use and claims by other nations? Where nuclear proliferation and potential nuclear arms races or even nuclear wars sparked by it, is unchecked? We need to focus on how much is at stake to properly appreciate what it is worth to us defend and what it will cost if we let it all fall apart?
It is a failure to think things through to their logical conclusions that permits EU leaders to say there are “no circumstances” under which they might cut the flow of gas in pipelines from Russia, or under which they might increase military spending. If that is really the case, an aggressive Russia, and eventually Iran, may be able to redraw the map of Europe on a unilateral basis. Note that Ukraine was, at independence, a nuclear power. It divested itself of nuclear weapons under an international treaty which guaranteed its then extant borders. If Russia cannot be trusted to respect such a treaty, to what extent can Russia be trusted to respect any treaty about borders or nuclear arms? In fact, apart from territorial aggression, Russia is not honoring all the terms of other nuclear arms treaties. Ignoring this will only encourage less respect for treaty law and other agreements. As well, Russia has annexed two territories in Georgia. These matters represent great opportunities if we are willing to make them issues of such import that nothing less than respecting the existing deals offers Russia the prospect of continued participation in the global civil order. Ultimately, it is better strategy to face problems directly: problems ignored tend to get worse. Giving in to a bully only encourages more aggressive behavior. Where will Russia stop, if allowed to force its way into ever more territory or territorial seas? Are we willing to see the occupation of the Baltic states (NATO members)? Of Poland? If this is the case, let us withdraw from all our treaty obligations, abandon all our allies, and let every nation fend for itself.
Are we willing to see China dominate the seas of East and SE Asia, and exploit all of their undersea resources? The South China Sea is the most heavily used sea line of communications in the world, with eight bordering nations and vital to the economic health of several others.
Membership in the United Nations comes with agreement to respect the existing borders of all nations and respecting the law of the sea and exploiting undersea resources. Any nation that violates these principles should be nominated for expulsion by the General Assembly. Changes are possible: it may be Crimea should be part of Russia under the principle of self-determination; China might be able to share development of much of the South China Sea. But changes must not be imposed by force, without the agreement of concerned nations, and in the context of open communications, without jamming broadcasts or arresting people who distribute election literature not sanctioned by Russia or China.
4. The Logical and Moral Dimensions of US Policy and Strategy: Liddell-Hart reminds us that “the moral resources…to foster the people’s willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power.” One of the best foundations for policy is to begin with respecting the very agreements we believe others should respect. Putin himself made a valid point in a broadcast on the Ukraine crisis when he alleged that the US has not always been consistent in how it interprets international agreements. We need to be careful about what we do, and about how we do it, in order to remain credible. In fact, law only work when there exists substantial voluntary compliance: it is never feasible to enforce law on all parties all of the time. We should generally respect international agreements to which we are a party, or we should formally withdraw from them. Only in the context of such a policy is our insisting that agreements have meaning going to be either logical or persuasive.
To use an old example, in the 1990s when we were not at war with Afghanistan nor allied with Pakistan in that war, it was unlawful to overfly Pakistan, without permission, with cruise missiles aimed at targets in Afghanistan. It was a violation of both nations territorial integrity and, in each instance, a separate technical act of war. Similarly, it is unlawful to violate the territorial integrity of a nation to kidnap and/or murder people in it, using drones, bombers or airmobile troops. Whatever the merits a specific case may have, it is outside the norms of the international system. If we are going to insist that Russia respect international boundaries or that China respect territorial seas, we need to be consistent about respecting them ourselves. If we are not bound by the rules when, for whatever reason, it is inconvenient, why should they be?
Dealing with individuals and dealing with nations is similar: modeling the behaviors you want and acting as if you respect the behaviors you want are equally important as complaining or invoking sanctions when the behaviors you don’t want happen. Policy works best when its goals are clearly stated and consistently guide our conduct. Allowing our own inconsistent policy to make it unclear what we believe in? To the extent we state clear goals which actually are in everyone’s interest, and are consistent about respecting those goals, we will gain both domestic and international popular support. To the extent we act as if we do not believe in the rules sufficient to actually respect them, we undermine whatever potential exists to get them respected by other nations. This is anything but an academic argument: it is an entirely practical one. It is about what really works in the real world, as well as about what does not, and even in theory should not work. To paraphrase Roger Fisher (a famed negotiator: see his International Conflict for Beginners), it is generally either difficult or impossible to actually compel a foreign leader to do make a choice he or she does not want to make. It is generally far easier to persuade foreign leaders make choices you prefer by showing how it is in their interests to agree? Persuasion is far more likely when we can be trusted to respect the rules we claim to believe in. Failure to be persuasive means we have little chance of successfully advocating what we want. There can be negative dimensions to our arguments, but they must rest on a positive foundation of what we respect de facto in practice. It also does not work to ignore when a rule is being violated: we need to insist that the sovereign word of a nation matters. When it does not, we must ask if we can trust any or even every with that nation?
5. Political, Informational and Diplomatic Aspects of US Policy and Strategy: A fundamental truth of so-called “global politics” is that “all politics is local politics.” The primary motive for actions taken by national leaders is that it improves their standing in terms of local support. There is a wide variation of what makes sense in terms of local, national politics. It is vital this is understood if we hope to change the choices made by foreign politicians. Once we understand what makes sense in terms of improving, or losing, local political support, we are in a better position to reason with leaders who need or want that support. And reason with them we must ultimately do, unless we are able and willing to go to war. Even in that case, Liddell-Hart reminds us that, eventually, we need to end up back in a state of peace, which means negotiating with foreign leaders in that country. For that reason, it is wise never to act in a way that makes it harder to negotiate in the long run. We are going to negotiate at some point, and we are only going to be effective if we understand that what we want foreign leaders to do absolutely must make sense in terms of local political conditions.
Diplomacy is more or less the formal communications between states. Broadcast, print, web and social media, on the other hand, are the formal and informal communications between states and their people, as well as the people of foreign nations to a lesser degree. International political events are substantially framed by diplomatic and media communications related to near past as well as related to near future events. These communications strongly influence how events are understood and, to the extent they can be managed, to how events are managed? Politics is substantially the art of managing communications to optimize achievement of national (or even personal) political advantage, or at least to minimize national (or personal) political disadvantage. Public opinion matters, even in statist regimes. [It is possible public opinion matters more in an undemocratic regime. Otherwise what is the point of attempting to control information available to the public?] The path to making aggressive policy choices unattractive is, first of all, one of making the local political cost too high. This may be possible by an effective combination of formal diplomatic and informal media communications. Certainly Russia has demonstrated a very sophisticated policy of influencing local political support using media communications as well as by jamming foreign media communications. China and Iran also make serious efforts to influence local support by controlling media communications, if less effectively than the Russians at the present time. US policy and a civil international order can only benefit from fostering open communications, and by finding ways to defeat the closed and deceptive media needed to make policies of aggression acceptable locally inside aggressor countries.
That “all politics is local politics” has another meaning germane here: unified US foreign policy requires a reform of domestic US political rhetoric and practice. The use of the names of major political parties, or the names of their leaders, as derogatory epithets needs to end. More than that, the thinking that such usage is appropriate needs to be changed. Ending “gridlock” in Congress and between Congress and the Executive branch will, perhaps, be the biggest challenge if we are to form a genuine national grand strategy and a foreign policy to implement it. The alternative is ineffective US foreign policy.
Formal diplomatic communication depends, for its maximum effect, on related informal, media communications creating a favorable political climate for the policy we prefer. It also depends on the credibility of what we say. It is not enough to sign a treaty which guarantees the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as did Russia, the US and EU: it was a condition of Ukraine becoming a non-nuclear power. We have to insist that the terms of the treaty are honored. In legal terms, because Ukraine did give up nuclear weapons, we have “a contract in execution” – so the rest of its terms must also be honored. The present crisis is only possible because what was formally said is not being respected by Russia: Putin does not believe even violating the formal, sovereign word of his country on a treaty only a few years old will result in any consequences unacceptable to him. One reason he does not is the wholesale downsizing of military forces by the USA and by the EU. Another reason is that the volume of trade between Russia and EU is very large, and because in particular Russia supplies large amounts of energy resources to the EU. He hired former West German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as an advisor about what options the West might have? Schroeder’s analysis likely gives Putin high confidence no serious economic or military sanctions will be even considered. A fundamental principle of international politics is what are the actual, practical options? What is possible depends on the real economic and military situation, and on the political will to pay the price it takes to change that situation, if necessary.
Current US policy on Ukraine is correct at its heart: a regime of increasing sanctions until the offending Russian actions are reversed. However, selecting a tiny number of individuals (and now companies) as targets is a profound mistake because it does not create anything like the loss of domestic support needed to make Putin reconsider his policy. Indeed, it makes him appear successful, in the peculiar nationalist politics of the Great Russia Party he leads. Crudely put, “we got away with it, and the cost was acceptable.”
The decision to annex Crimea to the Ukraine was taken in a different era, under conditions inside the USSR that are no longer germane. The problem with the present crisis is not that self determination could not be offered to Crimea: it is that it was not done lawfully, under the control of the legal government in place. The US and EU are correct not to recognize the high handed action which deployed military and para-military forces, expelled by force Ukranian officials and military units, repressed all forms of information distribution not favorable to Russia, and held an election without the lawful local authorities or international observers. It is wise, however, to point out that Russia COULD get what it wants – and even that it likely WOULD get what it wants – IF it proceeded legally. But note that this vastly understates the problem: Russia is after far more than just the Crimea, and it has adopted a process it can apply in many places, even where it would face majority opposition in a free and fair election. Which is why proceeding legally isn’t an attractive strategy for Putin. Russia already annexed two parts of Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia, i.e. 1/3 of Georgia) a few years ago and has not been required to return them. A similar process appears to be happening in Moldova, in Eastern Ukraine, and even in Southwestern Ukraine. Just as not insisting Russia withdraw from Georgia encouraged the present aggression re Crimea and Ukraine, so not insisting Russia reverse its policy in Crimea will encourage more such annexations. This is very like the policy which resulted in the Second World War in Europe. Munich did not “Make the World Safe for Democracy.”
6. Economic Aspects of US Policy and Strategy: Economics is the foundation of political power. Originally, in English, it was called “political arithmetic.” Economics matters to everyone: t o the USA, to its allies, and to the adversary powers considered here. Economics is the foundation from which taxes and other fees are drawn to finance governmental activities. Generally, the increase in trade since the end of the Cold War has benefitted all nations and almost all companies and individuals. A wholesale return to major isolation of Russia, China or Iran is not good for us or for them. But it must be possible for one or more of them to get “earn” a return to isolation if it refuses to abide by the terms of the international civil order. Not respecting the territory or the territorial seas of neighbors ought to risk a set of escalating economic and political sanctions which could eventually end up re-imposing such isolation. Precisely because economics matters to the health and wealth of a nation, economic sanctions can encourage changes in policy. They cut both ways, and are a cost to both sides. But they hurt less for the USA and its allies because we participate in the global economic system and, even if it shrinks somewhat, it will remain. It is less risky and expensive than going to war is. A combination of escalating political and economic sanctions is, in fact, what present US and EU strategy has implemented in the Ukraine crisis: it just has not been done effectively. This is correct because the standard for good relations with the US and its allies should be nothing less than civil behavior which respects all international norms in trade, travel, and sovereign territory. All we need to do is figure out how to make this policy effective in the near term?
Economics is more than a matter of potential leverage to be used relative to foreign leaders. Economic efficiency permits us to get more for any given amount of gunding. It also determines the popularity of our political leaders. A complete grand strategy will embrace efficiency as a primary goal in its own right. If we become more efficient, we get to keep the savings even if times improve. At a time like the present, when challenges to international order almost certainly require increasing funding of military and foreign aid budgets critical to our foreign policy, greater efficiency offers the possibility of doing so without actually increasing taxes, or at minimum of increasing them to a lesser degree. And the potential for improving efficiency is very large indeed. For example, there is a major institutional problem in DoD related to ship and aircraft design and procurement. A few years ago, Norman Polmar wrote in the USNI Proceedings “not a single Navy ship design is fundable by Congress in the numbers required.” In a different article, the Comptroller General of the Pentagon wrote that, if current trends continue, within a generation, funding a single ship or even a single combat aircraft will require more than the entire DOD budget, and a generation after that more than the entire projected GDP. This must change, crisis or not. Why not change it now, and benefit sooner? Taking the political initiative to change it now will help fund our response to the current multiple challenges we face.
On the basis of existing official analysis (by CBO for example), we can act in cases such as the Littoral Combat Ship. Because the Littoral Combat ship is neither mission-capable nor affordable, we should entirely scrap further construction and return building the more capable O. H. Perry class frigates, with revised SAM systems (as used by Australia for the same class). Existing vessels in reserve and mothballs can be returned to active service, or sold to allied nations. Such principles – mass production of existing designs and life extension of existing hulls – should be combined with a wholly reformed design process so it does not produce designs focused on exploiting existing technology rather than on not yet perfected future technology. In spite of no official requirement for it, the Ford class carriers were designed for an entirely new, electrical catapult launch system. This turned out to be both expensive and to impose significant delays on completing the first ship. It should be against standing regulations to propose systems for which no official requirement exists!
Similarly, it is time to admit the F-35 program is a funding as well as a technical disaster (a term used by Senator John McCain in remarks on the record). It was a very bad idea to attempt to build so many different things into one package. We now have had to redesign the entire VTOL variant with a lighter airframe, which means we have, in fact, it is no longer a single aircraft design! Also, it appears that it may never be able to operate in a marine environment, making it unsuitable for use on ships at sea. The decision to go to production before development was completed imposes huge upgrade costs on the entire fleet – the very anti-thesis of economic efficiency. Production should be suspended entirely until (and unless) development on results in fully mission capable aircraft (without restrictions on maneuvers or weapons use) whose systems are practical to maintain. [This is unlikely for the Navy and Marine variants] Funding for new aircraft should shift to F-18 variants, and upgrades to F-15s and other existing combat aircraft. It makes little sense to have just re-winged, and upgraded the electronics, of the A-10, just to retire the entire A-10 fleet! Instead, redeem the investment in the aircraft and its upgrade by retaining it in service. Consider revising internal DOD rules so that the US Army may field “air-ground teams” similar to the US Marines – and transfer the A-10 force to the Army (along with extant F-16s or older F-18s). Such operational combat units are more effective than traditional non-integrated Army and USAF air units which are not under the complete control of the unit commander for training and for operations. Numbers of similar options exist to “get more bang for the buck” from our defense funding if we reform the management of the DoD. [It might be necessary to ask former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to return to the colors unless a similar leader can be found.] Reforming the design and procurement processes and reorganizing how we use our combat systems, with a view to greater efficiency is, in fact, a vital aspect of improving economic efficiency.
9. Military Aspects of US Foreign Policy: The US Marines teach sailors (Navy and Marine) in military police training that “words are your first, fifth and fifteenth line of defense.” Similarly, in international affairs, communications should be our primary means of interacting. Unfortunately, to be effective, our communications depends upon the existence of other options besides mere logic and example. It is very likely that a combination of political and economic sanctions can reverse the most aggressive policies of Russia, China and Iran. But the ability to resist aggression on the ground, or at sea, as well as the will to use our forces if aggression cannot be stopped any other way, is a vital element of effective policy and grand strategy. The sustained draw down in US military forces, combined with substantially wearing out entire fleets of aircraft (see the P-3 Orion for example) and vehicles, has reached the point aggressor nations calculate we no longer have the means to prevail in a fight. For that reason it appears they believe we lack the will to even consider resisting any move they may elect to make. Part of the sanctions process needed to change their policy is to actually increase our military forces in fact, and to clearly indicate that continued aggression will cause us to increase them further. Increasing forces increases the uncertainty in aggressor nations risk assessments related to future aggressive acts. George Washington, whose administration supported a very small military force, is famous for saying “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” [He was probably paraphrasing “Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.”] It is more than a trite saying: it is a fundamental truth.
In the immediate post-war period, the US experimented with “atomic diplomacy.” This policy was founded on a wholesale military demobilization, the largest in the history of the world. By the summer of 1950 there was not a single US Army battalion fit to fight, and the only immediately available USMC battalion was the Mediterranean Ready Battalion. South Korea faced with an earlier crisis of aggression by North Korea (a crisis planned by the Soviet General Staff and eventually supported by Chinese combat units). The Russians miscalculated because of the lack of US, Japanese and South Korean military power in East Asia made it appear there were no options for the USA and its allies but to bow to aggression. The US was forced to deploy that one Marine battalion as the first element of a re-constituted First Marine Division. US Navy ships were stripped of Marine detachments and WWII Marine combat veterans were recalled to the colors to round out the Division. The National Guard was mobilized, while the Marines held the Port of Pusan in the last bit of free territory in South Korea so the US Army and allied armies could enter the country. Clearly the policy of depending entirely on using atomic bombs as our only means of deterring aggression had failed.
Curiously, given that it failed when we used it, for some time Russia has been experimenting with a new form of “atomic diplomacy.” They formally substitute threats of nuclear weapons use for a lack of effective conventional military forces. As well, today China is considering more than its traditional minimum deterrence policy, in the hope that nuclear threats will intimidate its neighbors from resisting its maritime (and possibly more traditional landward) expansion. Iran is a much more complex and unclear case. While it may also seek nuclear weapons to deter nuclear threats and for status (as does China) and/or as a regime preservation strategy (as do Pakistan and North Korea), there is little indication it has a body of academic or military thought devoted to nuclear deterrence in the senses found in other countries. US and allied concerns about an Iranian nuclear weapons capability are probably valid. And if Iran does deploy nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia is almost certain to follow suit rapidly, in a classic case of proliferation. There is also the problem that most nuclear proliferation is supported by a network of countries, including China and North Korea as a sources of both nuclear and of missile technology. This network also included non-nuclear nations such as Malaya to facilitate movement of nominally forbidden materials among the nations in the network. Finally, there is the very real possibility (probability?) that Pakistan will lose control of nuclear weapons to an Al Qaida affiliate, or that Iran, North Korea or Pakistan might supply them deliberately. US nuclear policy issues face a complex of challenges far more complex than virtually every military and academic analysis ever has considered. The problem of Syrian use of chemical weapons also indicates that US policy – that their use is effectively deterred by US nuclear weapons – probably means that present US policy relative to other forms so called “weapons of mass destruction” (e.g. biological weapons, chemical weapons and radiological weapons) is inadequate. Pretending their use is effectively deterred by US nuclear weapons is probably unrealistic. The sheer variety of issues related to wmd requires a reanalysis of US strategy, doctrine and planning – lest we find events have overtaken us (as when Syria began to use chemical weapons) and that our ideas about deterrence were ineffective.
US Grand Strategy should return nuclear non-proliferation to a high enough priority to justify effective action. Such a policy should seek to persuade China that nuclear proliferation is in fact not in its national interests. Note that Russia once engaged in proliferation (to China), and may have lost control of numbers of small, portable “atomic demolition munitions” – but that it has become an effective partner in anti-proliferation policy. The reasons this was possibly should apply equally well to China. When Libya disarmed of all its wmd related activities, it turned over implosion bomb plans written in Chinese. It appears that Pakistani and North Korean implosion bomb designs are essentially Chinese in origin. This should be as unacceptable as territorial (or territorial seas) aggression is for US policy. As the number of members of the “nuclear club” increases, and the size and stability of the members declines, the chances of nuclear weapons use increase exponentially. Failure to adopt effective policy in the near term is virtually certain to result in a “nuclear Bopol incident ” in a matter of years. Nuclear deterrence theory was never well applied to what are termed “non-deterables” – small nations with leaders like former President Rafsanjani who said Iran would win a nuclear war with Israel and should start one – or non-national organizations such as Al Qaida, entirely dominated by ideology.
11. The Implications for US Policy of the War With Al Qaida: In many ways, the USA and its traditional and its new (Moslem) allies have been remarkably successful at preventing attacks, at capturing or killing enemy leaders, and at disrupting the capacity of Al Qaida and allied organizations to function. Also, the Al Qaida and its allies have made several important strategic errors which have increased opposition to it in countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. But it is a mistake to conclude that because of the lack of frequent high profile attacks, and its loss of ground and failure to prevent elections in country that Al Qaida and its allies do not represent a grave strategic threat to US interests, or to the global political/economic system. They do, and US grand strategy and foreign policy ought to include dealing with this war as a priority.
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton writes: “we tried the criminal-law paradigm against terrorism’s metastasizing threat in the 1990s, and it failed horribly, costing America dearly on Sept. 11, 2001. It is failing today as Benghazi, the Boston Marathon bombing, and cold-blooded murders in London and Paris show. Nonetheless, resurrecting the law-enforcement approach is the flip side of [the US] failure to comprehend the essence of the terrorist threat itself. [US] policy therefore both fails to recognize the dangers we face, and marshals the wrong (and utterly inadequate) resources to deal with it.”
Another indication of current US policy may be well indicated by an interview with Afghan President Karzai, who said: “Last year, during my visit to Washington, in a very important briefing a day before I met U.S. President [Barack Obama], his national security adviser Tom Donilon, and senior White House officials, generals, and intelligence officials, the national security adviser met with me. He told me: “The Taliban are not our enemies and we don’t want to fight them.” In spite of this official US attitude, the Taliban wrote in its latest official magazine issue that the war continues, and the US and indeed all nations remain targets for what we usually classify as terrorist attacks. If there has been remarkable success in terms of Afghans turning out in numbers to vote in the face of explicit Taliban threats and bombings, as well as the somewhat surprising alliance of Iraqi tribal leaders decided with the US and its allies to drive out Islamists, this non-traditional “war” is not over. Admitting we are at war does not commit us to any particular offensive campaign or strategy. Rather it permits us to assess our options and allocate appropriate resources as indicated by such an assessment.
12. Conclusion: US policy is made, in part, by several institutions, most of them with a particular focus (e.g. diplomacy, finance, military defense, etc.). US policy should benefit from a more integrated approach, doing a comprehensive analysis of the broad range of threats and problems we face. From that analysis we should devise a prioritized grand strategy which would then be used to guide all departments. Once we determine what our most important priorities are, we can then attempt to advocate for them using an integrated approach: advocating what we want, implementing escalating sanctions against what we do not want, and generating domestic and international support by using media to highlight the truth about events and about their historical context. The global system offers so many advantages to member states that it should be possible in most cases to use access to it as a major incentive for civilized policies:, provided we are willing to isolate those who break the rules. We also can to empower our negotiators by increasing their options in terms of aid and our force capabilities.