April 25, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking IV

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part IV is below:

As a result, although the United States has never enjoyed greater power than it does today, it has rarely possessed so little influence. We can compel, but far too often we cannot persuade. Our most important global initiatives, from advancing reform in the Middle East to defeating terrorism, will likely fail, unless there is a change in approach -- or a change in leadership.

So, we compelled Libya to give up its WMD programs (what a trick that was), it's just coincidental that Saudi Arabia is talking about elections for local positions for the first time, and democratic protests in Syria have nothing at all to do with demonstrated US resolve.


The foreign policy debate in this year's presidential election is as much about means as it is about ends. Most Democrats agree with President Bush that the fight against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) must be top global priorities, that the war in Afghanistan was necessary and just, and that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed a threat that needed to be dealt with in one form or another. Over time, moreover, the Bush administration has, at least rhetorically, embraced the Democrats' argument that to win the war on terrorism the United States must do more than destroy something bad; it must also construct something good, supporting other peoples' aspirations to live in freedom and peace and to conquer poverty and disease.

But the manner in which the Bush administration has advanced these goals has been driven by a radical set of convictions about how the United States should act on the world stage. Key strategists inside the administration appear to believe that in a chaotic world, U.S. power -- particularly military power -- is the only real force for advancing U.S. interests, that as long as the United States is feared it does not matter much if we are admired. These same people believe it is best to recruit temporary "coalitions of the willing" to back our foreign actions, because permanent alliances require too many compromises. They believe the United States is perforce a benign power with good intentions and therefore does not need to seek legitimacy from the approval of others. And they believe that international institutions and international law are nothing more than a trap set by weaker nations to constrain us.

Actually both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair understand that the entire international system is based on some bedrock assumptions about national sovereignty. The World Bank, the IMF, the UN, the entire edifice of international institutions all assume that the national sovereignty principles first enunciated in the Peace of Westphalia still hold true today.

The problem is that the Islamists think so too. They have built their battle plan around the idea that they can walk the fault lines of Westphalia, that they can have their cake (be stateless and free from western warfare) and eat it too (attack the West with impunity and cause long term capitulation through a series of ever worsening accommodations).

It is not that these Westphalian institutions were built to restrain the US. They were built to restrain everybody and herd them into only acting at the nation/state level. Such restraints will cause us to lose the War on Terrorism.

This is a key point in US and UK strategy. If you miss this, you have no hope of understanding either Bush or Blair or crafting an opposition alternative that might improve on the present policy in either ends or means.

Posted by TMLutas at April 25, 2004 08:42 AM