[Hat tip to Contentions]
Max Boot at Contentions brings to my attention an article in Foreign Affairs detailing Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani’s foreign policy positions. I find much to agree with here but found the specifics lacking. For example how, precisely, are we to reform the State Department and Foreign service let alone encourage more international cooperation and “strengthen the international system”?
We are all members of the 9/11 generation.
The defining challenges of the twentieth century ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Full recognition of the first great challenge of the twenty-first century came with the attacks of September 11, 2001, even though Islamist terrorists had begun their assault on world order decades before. Confronted with an act of war on American soil, our old assumptions about conflict between nation-states fell away. Civilization itself, and the international system, had come under attack by a ruthless and radical Islamist enemy.
America and its allies have made progress since that terrible day. We have responded forcefully to the Terrorists’ War on Us, abandoning a decadelong — and counterproductive — strategy of defensive reaction in favor of a vigorous offense. And we have set in motion changes to the international system that promise a safer and better world for generations to come.
But this war will be long, and we are still in its early stages. Much like at the beginning of the Cold War, we are at the dawn of a new era in global affairs, when old ideas have to be rethought and new ideas have to be devised to meet new challenges.
The next U.S. president will face three key foreign policy challenges. First and foremost will be to set a course for victory in the terrorists’ war on global order. The second will be to strengthen the international system that the terrorists seek to destroy. The third will be to extend the benefits of the international system in an ever-widening arc of security and stability across the globe. The most effective means for achieving these goals are building a stronger defense, developing a determined diplomacy, and expanding our economic and cultural influence. Using all three, the next president can build the foundations of a lasting, realistic peace.
Achieving a realistic peace means balancing realism and idealism in our foreign policy. America is a nation that loves peace and hates war. At the core of all Americans is the belief that all human beings have certain inalienable rights that proceed from God but must be protected by the state. Americans believe that to the extent that nations recognize these rights within their own laws and customs, peace with them is achievable. To the extent that they do not, violence and disorder are much more likely. Preserving and extending American ideals must remain the goal of all U.S. policy, foreign and domestic. But unless we pursue our idealistic goals through realistic means, peace will not be achieved.
Idealism should define our ultimate goals; realism must help us recognize the road we must travel to achieve them. The world is a dangerous place. We cannot afford to indulge any illusions about the enemies we face. The Terrorists’ War on Us was encouraged by unrealistic and inconsistent actions taken in response to terrorist attacks in the past. A realistic peace can only be achieved through strength.
A realistic peace is not a peace to be achieved by embracing the “realist” school of foreign policy thought. That doctrine defines America’s interests too narrowly and avoids attempts to reform the international system according to our values. To rely solely on this type of realism would be to cede the advantage to our enemies in the complex war of ideas and ideals. It would also place too great a hope in the potential for diplomatic accommodation with hostile states. And it would exaggerate America’s weaknesses and downplay America’s strengths. Our economy is the strongest in the developed world. Our political system is far more stable than those of the world’s rising economic giants. And the United States is the world’s premier magnet for global talent and capital.
Still, the realist school offers some valuable insights, in particular its insistence on seeing the world as it is and on tempering our expectations of what American foreign policy can achieve. We cannot achieve peace by promising too much or indulging false hopes. This next decade can be a positive era for our country and the world so long as the next president realistically mobilizes the 9/11 generation for the momentous tasks ahead.
WINNING THE EARLY BATTLES OF THE LONG WAR
The first step toward a realistic peace is to be realistic about our enemies. They follow a violent ideology: radical Islamic fascism, which uses the mask of religion to further totalitarian goals and aims to destroy the existing international system. These enemies wear no uniform. They have no traditional military assets. They rule no states but can hide and operate in virtually any of them and are supported by some.
Above all, we must understand that our enemies are emboldened by signs of weakness. Radical Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, the Khobar Towers facility in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the U.S.S. Cole in 2000. In some instances, we responded inadequately. In others, we failed to respond at all. Our retreat from Lebanon in 1983 and from Somalia in 1993 convinced them that our will was weak.