What to do? Advice for the new President, part two.
Summary: Part one of this series described a scenario under which the new President might take office – a severe global recession — and the preparations he should initiate immediately after November 4. This is part 2, discussing what he should do first, to establish moral leadership.
The President’s authority is relatively small. Power in the United States is distributed among many types of structures– churches, businesses, non-profits, etc — in addition to the government. Governmental power is distributed among local, state, and national levels. And again divided among the three branches; even many of the Executive agencies are independent of Presidential control (e.g., the Fed and the many regulatory agencies).
On the other hand, this distributed network means that the President stands almost alone as a national leader — perhaps the only person able to speak for America. That gives his “bully pulpit” tremendous power, esp in a time of crisis when our national identity becomes somewhat malleable.
So let’s first consider what the President can do to lead America into the 21st century through moral suasion. 4GW theory suggests that this is the most powerful form of leadership, with the widest and most long-lasting effects. A later post will consider the specifics of policy so loved by government nerds.
- Change the relationship between the government and the people
- Change the relationship between America and the world
I. Change the relationship between the government and the people
A. Wean the government from its addiction to lies. Tell the truth whenever possible
Since WWII the US government has become a group of compulsive liars. After two generations of this its credibility is exhausted. As in “never believe a rumor about the government until the government denies it for the second time.” This cynicism makes effective leadership difficult or impossible.
As with alcoholism, confessing the problem is the first step to a cure. It is not as if any, here or abroad, does not know our government is addicted to lies. Confessing this would be good for the soul. Promise to try to do better.
Start by honesty about our economic situation. There is no reason for fear, so honesty need not create panic. The US economy has gone through storms before and will do so again. However painful, we will do what is necessary to mitigate our people’s suffering and prepare for a better future. Every downturn is an opportunity to learn about our mistakes and make reforms.
Another good start would be to reduce the number of officials able to classify things as secret.
B. Wean the government from its addiction to force
Domestic problem or international challenges, the government’s answer is force. Compulsion. Use of either police powers — increasingly paramilitary in nature — or the US military. Let’s rediscover the power of incentives, of diplomacy, of education.
A good first step would be to reduce the number of agencies who agents can carry guns. It’s become a prestige item, and sends the wrong message both to the agents and the American people.
II. Change the relationship between America and the world
Declare victory! Our post-WWII project has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The Red block has fallen. The third world has, with a few sad exceptions, joined the western world. Great states are popping up in every region, all professing allegiance (to some degree) to free markets and democracy.
After victory comes the next round of the game. In this case setting down our role as hegemon and taking our place at the table as one of many great powers. Success means the world has outgrown the need for America as the global parent.
Which is a good thing. To produce this almost miraculous outcome, without parallel in world history, meant exercising power without reward or remuneration. The cost has been high, and success means we need no longer pay it. This means we should act as partners with our allies. In cold terms, that means that our defense umbrella comes (like all things in life) with a price tag. No pay, we go home. That will help us see how necessary our allies find our bases.
This also means a major change in our military strategy, re-focusing it on defense of America — away from saving humanity from bad things. COIN will be needed only when nations request our help at nation-building, which I suspect will be very seldom.
I suspect these changes will be very popular both with Americans and the rest of the world. A minority of very powerful special interests will scream in pain, a sign that powerful medicine has been administered. This is the kind of bold action that establishes a political party as dominant for a generation or more.
If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below. You may find answers to your questions in these, such as the causes of the present crisis. I have been writing about these events for several years; since November 2007 on this site. As you will see explained in these posts, the magnitude of the events now happening is beyond what most Americans have — or can — imagine.
Please share your comments by posting below. Please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
For more information
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
- about the Financial crisis – what’s happening? how will this end?.
- about The End of the Post-WWII Geopolitical Regime.
- about America – how can we reform it?
A related question concerns grand strategy. Does America need a grand strategy? If so, what should it be? Answers to these questions illuminate many of the questions hotly debated about foreign policy and national security.
- The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
- America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
- Why We Lose at 4GW , 4 January 2007
- America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
- One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
- ABCDs for today: About Blitzkrieg, COIN, and Diplomacy , 21 February 2008
- America needs a Foreign Legion , 18 April 2008
- Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW , original September 2005; revised 30 May 2008
- 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
- Justifying the use of force, a key to success in 4GW , 8 July 2008 – chapter 5
- The world seen through the lens of 4GW (this gives a clearer picture) , (10 July 2008 — chapter 8
- Thoughts on fixing America’s national security apparatus , 11 August 2008