Thursday, November 09, 2006

New U.S. foreign policy: Bipartisan at home and multilateral abroad?

One clear result of the mid-term elections this week is that the monopoly on this nation’s foreign policy, held by a small clique of ideologues, is now over. As of last Tuesday night U.S. foreign policy is now owned by all the American people.

All of that sounds great but the devil is in the details. President Bush made the appropriate first step yesterday by dumping Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Presumably, the nominee for the position, Robert Gates, will work with Congress. But that is only a single step. There is much more to do.

Timothy Garton Ash argues the U.S. needs a bipartisan approach similar to what Democrats and Republicans worked out to confront the Cold War following the conclusion of WW II. He says such an outline for cooperation exists in a report published by Princeton University that is in sharp contrast to current policy in the Middle East while taking a pretty centrist policy line overall.

Timothy Garton Ash in today’s Guardian:

Tuesday November 7 2006 marks the beginning of an end and the end of a beginning. A Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and a Senate too close to call, means the beginning of the end of the Bush administration and its unilateral, polarising style in foreign policy - exemplified by the now departing Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. More importantly, it marks the end of the beginning of a long struggle for which we do not yet have a generally accepted name. From now on, given the result of these mid-term elections, the mess that the United States faces in the Middle East, the scale of global challenges such as climate change and the rise of other great powers, American foreign policy will have to be more bipartisan at home and more multilateral abroad.

Five years after 1945, following a period of trial and error, the government of the United States produced a seminal national security memorandum, NSC-68, which set the course for a generally bipartisan American strategy in what we came to call the cold war. Five years after September 11 2001, the US does not yet have such a consensus - but its possible outlines may be found in the final paper of a programmatically bipartisan project on US national security based at the Woodrow Wilson school at Princeton University.

With an idealism of which Wilson would have approved, the paper is entitled "Forging a World of Liberty under Law" - and its emphasis on the importance of law, both inside states and between them, presents a sharp contrast to the Bush administration's war on terror à la Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. The international liberal order that this bipartisan group advocates would be founded on what the second president of the United States, John Adams, memorably called the "government of laws not of men". Attempting to combine Wilsonian idealism with Kissingerite realism, it takes on board many of the criticisms that have been made by lower-case democrats outside the United States and upper-case Democrats inside the US over the past five years.

Yet it is distinctly harder-edged than the position of many leftwing Democrats and democrats. The results of these elections suggest that is where many American voters want their government to be. The Democrats only did so well by fielding many centrist candidates talking tough on national security. Their outspokenly anti-war Senate candidate for Connecticut, Ned Lamont, was defeated by Joe Lieberman, who notoriously got kissed by President Bush for supporting the Iraq war.

As it happens, the two years of divided government in Washington, leading up to the next presidential election, will also be years of leadership change in other major democracies, with notable leaders such Manmohan Singh of India and Angela Merkel of Germany still relatively fresh in office, Gordon Brown about to move from No 11 to No 10 Downing Street, and a new French president due next May. To secure liberty under law, the United States needs to change not just its own strategy but the way it arrives at that strategy. The world's second largest democracy has spoken, but a Concert of Democracies can only be made by a concert of democracies.

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