I have been reading the Robert Wright series of columns in Slate this week. I think these 9 columns (8 are written at the time of OP) serve as a nice starting point for a debate on US foreign policy.
I think the series is pretty good – it is quite comprehensive, it is quite forward-thinking, it is simply written, readable, and attempts to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together to form a cohesive world view. It then draws policy recommendations from this. It may be reductionist, but hey, anything of this broad of a scope must be reductionist in 9 columns of Slate.
So far, he attempts to address root causes and past US action to explain terrorism. He also addresses future sources and methods of terrorism. His policy recommendations can basically be boiled down to “compassionate globalization,” multilateralism, and heavy-duty foreign policy reform. Basically, the US has to become more humble (one of Bush’s campaign promises), because now, as he states, foreign opinion of America is a critical national security indicator.
Bush has some of the pieces right – Iraq is a rogue state, we need to fight a war on terrorism, we need to use military action as a stick in a carrot and stick approach. IMHO, there are other pieces which have been criminally overlooked. He is dead set against international treaties, except when they serve the US directly. His administration (except Powell) avoids multilateralism. Root causes are for liberal wussies.
A number of points to debate:
- Do you agree with Robert Wright (or the points that I have summarized)? I think that he is attempting and mostly succeeding to chart a course for a visionary redefinition of US foreign (and domestic) policy.
I think that for the past year, we have been conducting old-guard responses to very new issues. The Marshall and mini-Marshall plans redefined US foreign policy after World War II, and built us as the strongest and most compassionate nation in the world. We have squandered that in the comfortable years since then. It is time to shake off the status quo of convenient foreign aid and pseudo-isolationism and get our hands dirty in working to help the developing world to develop. Not even so much the countries develop, but help out the people. Governments become more irrelevant as technology allows the individual to cause a greater loss of life (echoing Robert Wright). Basically, now is the time for a visionary change in foreign policy.
Which leads to the next point. Does anyone wholeheartedly back Bush and believe that what he is doing will seriously make us safer in the long term? Are we safer now than a year ago? On this course, will we be safer for the next twenty years? If we stay the course, perhaps take out Saddam (by ourselves if need be), will we really end up any better off? Obviously by my tone, I firmly believe that we won’t. I think that dropping bombs on Iraq or Afghanistan will not do anything to stymie current terroristss or discourage future terrorists.
And if terrorism is truly a threat to all modern civilization, why is the rest of the bandwagon of modern civilization so reluctant to join us in the fight? I truly believe that it is a symptom of American arrogance – we have squandered most of whatever political, moral, and emotional capitol we had after last September in a series of poor policy decisions and actions.
As Wright says, as long as we are the rich kid on the block, we have to work hard to make sure that we are the generous rich kid that everybody likes and not the rich bully that everyone resents.