The November issue of the Washington Monthly features this article from retired-Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who is trying to posture himself as an alternative to the current foreign policy being pursued by the Bush White House. The article is essentially an excerpt from Clark's new book, and it offers some insight into the foreign policy that Clark would adopt if he moved into 1600 Penn. Ave.
We need to see ourselves and the world around us in sharp relief--and use that vision to inform better our policies. Simply put, the United States needs a new strategy for the 21st century--a broader, more comprehensive, and less unilateralist approach abroad, coupled with greater attention to a sound economy at home, and sensible long-range policies. The Bush administration's strategy of preemption, published in the 2002 National Security Strategy, was focused against Iraq. At home, the formula of the supply-siders--tax cuts for the wealthy to feed trickle-down economics--has about run its course. It is time for America to return to the basic concepts that ensured its unprecedented prosperity and security and to adapt from these a new strategy that can better serve our needs today.Good words; hard to implement. I like Wes Clark's view of the world, and his view of where America should fit into the world. I think that we ought to enlist other nations and international organizations in the fight against Al Qaeda and other terror networks, because the only way to defeat a terror network is to build a stronger network of our own. However, I also recognize that saying these things and doing them are two different things. It will be exceedingly hard for President Clark to implement his vision -- harder even that it would be if he were General Clark again. A lot of fence mending must be done before we can start down this multilateralist road. If Wes Clark wants to make this vision seem realistic, I think he has to articulate the "how" instead of just the "what" for his view of the world and America's place in it.
The first of these basic principles should be inclusiveness. The United States represents evolutionary values of human dignity and the worth of the individual-ideals that have steadily swept across Europe and into much of the rest of the world. We have been proselytizers, advocating our values, assisting states abroad, encouraging emerging young leaders to study and visit the United States. During the Cold War we were careful to reach across the Iron Curtain. And when the Cold War ended, we worked hard to encourage the enlargement of democracy around the world. We should be seeking allies and friends around the world.
Second, we should be working to strengthen and use international institutions, beginning with the United Nations and NATO. Such institutions can provide vital support to American diplomacy, bringing in others to share the burdens and risks that we would otherwise have to carry alone. The United Nations especially can contribute legitimacy to U.S. purposes and actions. International law is of little significance to most Americans, but it carries heavy weight abroad. Both the United Nations and NATO need refinement, particularly the United Nations--but these refinements can be made only through American constructive leadership, for we are the lone superpower, with the resources and incentives to do so.
And finally, we must place in proper perspective the role of the armed forces in our overall strategy. We should ensure that they retain the edge over any potential adversary and continue to modernize them to deal with foreseeable contingencies, including the possible need to preempt any threat to the United States. We always have the right of self-defense, including inherently the right to strike preemptively. But force must be used only as a last resort--and then multilaterally if possible.
Operating on these three principles, we should repair our trans-Atlantic relationships. When the United States and Europe stand together, they represent roughly half the world's gross domestic product and three of the five permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. These are the countries that are most politically and culturally aligned with the United States. We are the major investors in each other's economies. We should turn upside down nineteenth-century Britain's view that Britain had no permanent friends, only permanent interests. In the West, we must have permanent friends and allies and then work to ensure that our interests converge.
Using this trans-Atlantic alliance as our base, we should then work to resolve our security challenges--the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs, the continuing threat from al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. We should be working with allies to help settle disputes between India and Pakistan and within the Middle East that could explode into deadly conflict. And we should be pressing through the United Nations and offering assistance to ease the ongoing conflicts in Africa.