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Our geopolitical experts will destroy America, if we let them

27 October 2010

Summary:  Our foreign policy has been a shambles since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  But our mistakes have been made on the basis of expert advice.  Here are some examples, most ranging from ineffective to crazy.

The geopolitical experts at Foreign Policy magazine have some free advice:  “A Plan B for Obama“, 11 October 2010:

 “A stagnant economy. Declining American influence. Dictators on the march abroad. And a more Republican Congress coming soon. Barack Obama is in big trouble. But it’s never too late. Foreign Policy has a plan, 14 in fact, for how the president can find his mojo again.”

Most of these are innocuous and almost certainly ineffective.  Like #4:  “building the institutions of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.”  Many display the tin ear to popular sentiment that’s led the Democrats to possible disaster in November.  Like #8:  more energy taxes.  And #14:   More foreign aid, the least popular part of the Federal budget:  “This will require money, not just rhetoric. … For when America shows up in times of need — during this year’s Pakistan floods or in fighting AIDS in Africa — we not only reduce poverty, disease, and conflict, but also eliminate safe havens for terrorists.” 

My favorite is #7:  “Obama should call for a new Geneva Convention – the fifth — to provide a common legal framework for combating terrorism” — a logical follow-on to our use of torture and indefinite & arbitrary detention (which has nothing to do with a battlefield, except that we consider the world to be our battlefield).

 Others display the bellicose attitude that gets applause from journalists and appointments at think-tanks (almost all pro-war, any war).  There’s seldom a penalty in the geopolitical community for advocating wars, no matter how far-reaching in conception or disastrous in results.  Talking tough = career success.  Dovish words signals that you are not a serious player.  As seen in these two recommendations, sure to help Obama find his mojo but further alienate his political base:

(#5)  Establish advocates for more foreign wars, because we’re the global policeman

A powerful symbolic move, showing that the world is truly our battlefield:  “Make a South Asia Command“, Bruce Riedel (Brookings Institution):

South Asia is the epicenter of terrorism and the most dangerous place in the world today: Pakistan is a fragile state with what may be the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal; India is an emerging great power, but one with precarious internal rifts; and Afghanistan is just struggling to survive. Yet the U.S. government is alarmingly unprepared to engage with the region — even at the most basic organizational level.  … Obama was right to recognize that the Afghan war could not be effectively prosecuted without dealing with Pakistan. But it’s foolish to think that Pakistan can be effectively assisted without dealing with the issue that dominates its own strategic calculus: India.

(#13)  Invade another god-forsaken land where we have no national interest while there’s still a few $ on the national VISA card

Get tough on human rights“, Kenneth Roth (executive Director of Human Rights Watch):

{As} Barack Obama recognized in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “Force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans.” Obama needs to put this principle into practice, and there is no better case for the humanitarian use of force than the urgent need to arrest Joseph Kony, the ruthless leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and protect the civilians who are his prey. And far from requiring a non-consensual intervention, Kony’s apprehension would be welcomed by the governments concerned.

The LRA began as a rebel movement in northern Uganda, but it now terrorizes the civilian population of northern Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as southern Sudan and the Central African Republic. Its cadre often descends on a remote village, slaughters every adult in sight, and then kidnaps the children, some shockingly young — the boys to become soldiers slinging AK-47s, the girls to serve as “bush wives.” Over more than two decades, many thousands have fallen victim to these roving mass murderers.

Comment by Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired):

So what would be wrong with arresting Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has conducted a campaign of brutal terror in northern Uganda and adjacent areas of Africa for years?

Nothing — if it were done by the governments of Uganda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Sudan.  The problem is that those entities are states only in the sense that they have seats at the UN, and they are among the most corrupt in the world.  Sending in special operators to take out Kony will change that about as much as killing another narcotrafficking boss will return the rule of law to northern Mexico.

For more information:  posts about 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.

  1. The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
  2. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
  3. America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
  4. One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
  5. President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris , 1 July 2008 - chapter 2
  6. America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
  7. America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
  8. A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief” , 8 July 2008 — chapter 6
  9. Geopolitical analysis need not be war-mongering , 9 July 2008 — chapter 7
  10. The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
  11. “A shattering moment in America’s fall from power”, 19 November 2008
  12. Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009
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