Monday, September 23, 2002

# Posted 5:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UPDATE/CORRECTION: The following post appeared yesterday in three parts because of bandwidth problems. This version contains all of the content of the previous posts, which have been taken down to save space. (PS Be sure to read Josh's response).

Grand Strategy is a term which foreign policy analysts use to describe a strategy which integrates military, diplomatic and economic efforts to achieve one's objectives. If you read one book about grand strategy, it should be John L. Gaddis' Strategies of Containment. While the words 'grand strategy' don't often make it onto the front page of the NY Times or WashPost, it is pretty much standard for incoming national security advisers and secretaries of state to write an article in Foreign Affairs taking apart their predecessors' strategy. In January 2000, Condi attacked the Clinton administration for having no strategy whatsoever, a criticism which wasn't all that far off the mark. While most such attacks are usually little more than campaign rhetoric that gets discarded once the election is over, one might have had some hope that Condi would actually listen to her own advice. After all, her essay talked about the importance of realism, a Kissingerian school of thought which has long emphasized the importance of grand strategy.

While the essence of grand strategy is common sense, taking a common sense approach to something as complex as US foreign policy and the war on terrorism is never easy. One of the most basic common sense clich├ęs of the grand strategist is that you have to think long-term. At the moment, that means thinking seriously about what Afghanistan and Iraq should look like five or ten years from now. There is no reason to think that the Bush administration is doing this, however. As the WashPost pointed out this morning, Powell and Rumsfeld's inability to offer anything more than vague comments about the future of Iraq suggests that they will treat it the way they are Afghanistan: by talking about the importance of democracy and then doing nothing about it.

While the administration has talked a good line about how promoting democracy helps create governments fwho are both friendly to the United States and against terrorism, there is little indication that they are serious about it. As Mike McFaul points out in an op-ed in the Post, the adminstration has been neglected the cause of democracy in the former Soviet Bloc as much as it has in the Middle East. This is exactly the kind of mistake a grand strategy is designed to avoid: neglecting a critical issue just because it isn't in the headlines. By clearly laying out one's objectives, a grand strategy prevents policymakers from being caught up in the headlines -- exactly the mistake which Rice accused Clinton of in her article in Foreign Affairs.

Another important aspect of grand strategy is its ability to help integrate different aspects of one's foreign policy. For example, how should the United States' (official) commitment to promoting democracy in the Middle East relate to its attitude toward the UN? Regardless of what one thinks in principle of unilateralism or multilateralism, the Bush administration should recognize that both the UN and our European allies will almost inevitably play a critical role in building democracy in any nation that the US liberates from dictatorship. Remember, it isn't the US who is keeping the peace in Afghanistan. And it won't be our troops who stay behind in Iraq, either. If building democracy is so critical to US national security -- which I believe it is -- then perhaps we shouldn't be so eager to antagonize the UN before we even get rid of Saddam Hussein.

Here is one common sense way the Bush administration might reconcile its skepticism of the UN with its critical role in postwar reconstruction: Yesterday, the Iraqi government announced that it would reject any new UN resolution on inspections. That is unilateralism. Thus, it is something that the US can use to get the UN on its side instead of Iraq's. If Saddam is going to reject a new inspections program anyway, then the US can secure UN and European support for war with Iraq without even risking the possibility of having to go the inspections route. All we have to do is pass a resolution, have Saddam reject it, and invade with UN support. While I have argued that coercive inspections can work, this suggestion makes sense even if you think otherwise, as the Bush adminstration clearly does.

Can the US get back on track and fight the war on terrorism in accordance with a well-planned strategy? I'm not optimistic. If you can't get your secretary of state and secretary of defense to agree on the basics of foreign policy, having a strategy is all but impossible. And the only way to get cabinet members to work together is to have a strong president who can force them to get in line. Yet as Bush repeated so often during his campaign, the success of his foreign policy will depend on the expertise of his cabinet. During the campaign, Bush avoided the question of how he would resolve controversies within the cabinet if he himself lacks either extensive knowledge or a firm stance on US foreign policy. The apparent answer is that he can't.

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