One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy?
Part X of a series about America’s new Long War
First, we would have to adopt a realistic strategic goal, one that might be attainable. The present strategic goal of turning Afghanistan into a modern, secular, capitalist state with “equal rights for women” and similar claptrap lies in the in realm of fantasy.
— William Lind, On War #237 , 15 October 2007
Can America Have “Realistic Strategic Goals”?
Lind’s analysis (brilliant as usual) raises an uncomfortable question: are his recommendations reasonable, or do they too lie in the realm of fantasy? After all, when did America last have a reasonable geo-political strategy? Is this an impossible thing to ask of our current ruling elites?
A great nation needs a clear and simple geopolitical strategy. They focus one’s strengthand limited resources, and allow allies to easily coordinate their actions with ours.
- The British Empire sought cheap raw materials, export markets for its goods, the channel ports in friendly hands, and to prevent one state from dominating Europe. Plus a few humanitarian goals, such as eliminating the sea-borne slave trade.
- The Czars sought to expand Russia’s borders to the Mediterranean and Pacific, while maintaining its vast multi-ethnic Empire.
- Nineteen century America had its Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine.
- Cold war America sought to contain communism and spread free trade under the US dollar-based Bretton Woods system, both implemented though a web of alliances.
And today America, the global hegemon, guides its policy by an assortment of stars.
- Human Rights
- Global hegemony
We support multiculturalism, respecting the values of other cultures. That’s just good sense, as there is no universal set of values above all others. We oppose ethnocentrism, one of the major sources of hatred and war.
“Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities.”
– President George W. Bush, Speech at West Point, 1 June 2002
2. Human Rights
We also support human rights — the exact opposite of multiculturalism — believing that the values derived from western religions and philosophy are the one true set that defines the minimum standards of legal and civil freedoms to which every human being is entitled. These are stated in the 30 articles of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30 articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (although, oddly, the 185 parties to the Convention do not include the USA).
Although many non-western educated people see the conflict between multiculturalism and human rights, most pretend to agree – knowing that these paper bullets of the mind have no force at home. But not all nations go along with the charade:
Already at the 36th session of the UN General Assembly in 1981, the representative of Iran had expressed the Iranian Government’s position, and this was reaffirmed on 7 Dec. 1984: “It recognizes no legal tradition apart from Islamic law (…) conventions, declarations and resolutions or decisions of international organizations, which were contrary to Islam, had no validity in the Islamic Republic of Iran (…) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represented a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian traditions, could not be implemented by Muslims and did not accord with the system of values recognized by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
— Report of the UN High Commissioner for human rights, item #3, 17 March, 2003
3. Global hegemony
We seek to prevent the rise of competitors who might challenge our role as global hegemon. A bold goal, that tends to put us in opposition to the strongest, most rapidly growing nations with whom we share the planet (reluctantly share, it seems).
In a fit of absent-mindedness or incompetence this was explicitly stated in a draft of the Defense Planning Guidance for the 1994-99 (18 February 1992) written by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz and his deputy Lewis “Scooter” Libby – and leaked to the New York Times. Note the following:
“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”
Revelation of the truth being incompatible with the operation of our government, they rewrote this in the final draft and omitted it from future documents (such as The National Security Strategy of the USA (20 September 2002). I doubt if this fooled China, towards whom our actions prove that the above goal remains effective (although officially invisible).
Something every America should read this Saturday morning
For an educational Saturday morning, read The National Security Strategyof the USA- 35 pages of delusional nonsense, all written in a soothingly bland reasonable tone. You will learn that we have many strategic goals.
- Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity
- Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work To Prevent Attacks Against Us and Our Friends
- Work with others to Defuse Regional Conflicts
- Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade
- Expand the Circle of Development by Opening Societies and Building the Infrastructure of Democracy
- Develop Agendas for Cooperative Action with the Other Main Centers of Global Power
- Transform America’s National Security Institutions to Meet the Challenges and Opportunities of the Twenty-First Century
After each of these follows many equally ambitious and bold sub-goals.
To summarize, we seek to radically change the cultures and political systems for much of the world, to halt foreign revolts and civil wars of which we do not approve, to bring global peace and prosperity, to make friends (even with those states whose rise we seek to restrain), and to “transform” our so far unreformable national security apparatus. Those who thought President Bush was kidding about these learned better in the months following our invasion of Iraq.
Number 5 is especially rich as a goal of the world’s greatest debtor. Only a massive and constant flow of foreign loans (6% of our GDP) prevents America from instant descent into a downturn unlike anything seen since the 1930′s. Apparently our foreign policy elites are ignorant of the golden rule, that creditors write the rules.
Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs magazines profit from our strategic confusion, as each month skilled diplomats and academics fruitlessly attempt to reconcile this irrational, contradictory mess – lacking priorities, judgments of benefits vs. available resources, or consideration of risks (risks inevitably accompany bold actions). It is a strategy written by a superpower with delusions of Godhood.
Implications of this for our new Long War
Perhaps the United States will get competent geo-political management. The current Presidential election features little meaningful debate about foreign policy – note the debate among the major candidates as to whether we should occupy Iraq for a long time or just indefinitely – so such a change seems unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Fortunately such follies are self-correcting over long periods of time. Delusional elites usually steer their people onto the rocks, after which they can leave the saving of the world to others – focusing hereafter on simpler things, like survival and national solvency.
We need not follow these mad fools to disaster. America can have good government if we will that it be so. The Founders gave us the tools; we need only use them.
Two pointers towards more on this topic, and one more closing thought First, for more of William Lind’s thinking about this topic see his “Strategic Defense Initiative” and the various commentaries in his On War series. Second, for more essays on this topic, see my four part series about a Grand Strategy for America in the Fabius Maximus archive:
“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeits of our own behavior) we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars: as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion.”
— William Shakespeare, King Lear (Act I, Scene Two)
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For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
Some posts about America’s grand strategy:
- The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
- America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
- America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
- One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I , 19 March 2007; revised 7 June 2008
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II , 14 June 2008
- America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past , 30 June 2008 – chapter 1 in a series of notes
- President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris , 1 July 2008 - chapter 2
- America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
- America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
- The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008