RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., October 6, 2014 – In today’s increasingly dangerous world, we need leadership more than rhetoric when it comes to foreign policy. That means we need to constantly evaluate what is transpiring on a global basis, what different paths those situations might take, how those paths might impact our Nation, and how and when we should deploy them. One path is built upon coalition management while the other is executed independently.
(Part 2 of this series on foreign policy addresses some of the generic issues that surround implementing a cogent global strategy. It also speaks to the subject of building and managing coalitions.)
The current Administration has constructed a regressive, ad hoc theory of foreign policy as its “leading from behind” descriptor suggests. This is akin to driving down the street backward while looking in the rearview mirror. You can do it, but it is not the safest or most intelligent way to proceed.
For the same reason we drive down the street looking forward, we need to “lead from the front” when it comes to foreign policy. Otherwise, we will be resigned to sporadically claiming victory for our rare successes while being forced to spend the vast majority of our time searching for scapegoats to blame.
In FREEDOM: The need to form a rational Foreign Policy (Part 1), we explored a far more definitive foreign policy than “leading from behind.” It stated:
“The United States shall respect the sovereignty of every other recognized nation and honor the limited responsibilities and authority granted to it under the Constitution. It shall consider all reasonable requests from such nations and respond in a manner that is congruent with the Constitution of the United States. Correspondingly, it shall weigh the demonstrated actions of those nations towards the United States and its allies in the deliberation of such requests. Additionally, it shall reserve the right to respond to any threat issued or posed by any entity that places any citizen or property of the United States, either at home or abroad, in reasonable fear of an impending or imminent attack. In the event that such an attack is actually orchestrated, the United States further reserves the right to respond in its sole discretion and to the degree necessary to eliminate or severely mitigate the risk presented by such entity without any requirement to secure any other nation’s approval or the approval of a coalition of nations.”
A well-orchestrated strategy needs to be in place to support this foreign policy statement. It should anticipate a wide range of scenarios and have multiple alternatives available at any instant in time. The selection and deployment of such alternatives should be predicated upon a variety of factors including, but not limited to resource availability, timing, the probability of success, and the potential adverse consequences if the selected alternative fails to achieve its objective.
Correspondingly, when an alternative is selected, we have no obligation to publicly disclose its nature. This is particularly true with respect to its associated timetables, what resources may or may not be used, and what tactics will be taken. To do otherwise is to put opposing parties on notice, which potentially jeopardizes the best interests of the People.
At most, the mission needs to be defined clearly so the public may act as watchguards to prevent over-zealous politicians from allowing “mission creep” to modify and extend any related engagement for partisan reasons. Why action is being taken is of general relevance; the who, what, where, when, and how are not.
For example: While “no boots on the ground” may be a popular mantra to invoke during an election cycle, the phrase significantly limits our range of response to the current ISIS/Khorasan terrorist threat. It also reduces the alternatives for which these terrorist groups have to prepare.
Even if the Administration is sincere in its intent to limit our Nation’s actual “boots on the ground” to those belonging to the 300 military advisors it has sent to train Iraqi forces (plus 200 more sent to work in the US Joint Operations Centers (JOCs) in Baghdad and Irbil), it might benefit from revisiting the history of how the United States became involved in Vietnam (which started with about 700 military advisors and escalated to approximately 540,000 troops).
Solution: Do not disclose strategies and tactics to potential enemies, and do not deploy troops (even as advisors) without a clear mission objective.
Correspondingly, two things are fairly predictable relative to foreign policy deployment:
- We generally know which nations are geopolitically aggressive (e.g., Russia), which are traditionally hostile toward the United States (e.g., North Korea, several countries in the Middle East, etc.), and where terrorist organizations predominately are harbored (e.g., in parts of the Middle East and South Asia); and
- We know that regional coalitions can be important in controlling aggression, insurrection, and terrorism within such regions and that they take time to put in place.
Rather than waiting until a crisis has arisen, it makes eminently more sense to build coalitions in those regions proactively. NATO is a prime example of such an approach.
The American public should be outraged that we have to scramble to assemble a coalition in areas we should have reasonably anticipated potential problems. We lose valuable time and resources when we defer this exercise until the last minute. We also sacrifice whatever leverage we might have by allowing this to become a fire drill.
For example: In response to the current terrorist crisis in Iraq and Syria, Secretary of State Kerry seriously suggested that we may need to rely on Iran to provide the necessary resources to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. This is the same Iran with which we are attempting to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban; a negotiation that has already extended well past its 6-month limit even though the crippling economic sanctions, which had been in place, have been lifted.
Correspondingly, it is time to revisit the United Nations and its core missions and methods (as expressed in its Preamble):
- “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…
- “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…
- “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
“AND FOR THESE ENDS
- “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours…
“to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security…
- “to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
- “to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples…”
Given those parameters, the U.N. is supposed to reflect an ongoing coalition of nations focused on maintaining peace and promoting human rights and progress. It is to enforce those goals through diplomacy as permitted and through armed force when necessary and “in the common interest.”
Abominations of mankind and behavior akin to ethnic or religious cleansings should not be met with a simple condemnation by U.N. Resolution. It needs to be stopped by the coalition of nations that ostensibly adhere to that organization’s mission.
In that regard, its member nations should demand action in opposition to beheadings, the use or expansion of weapons of mass destruction, or the shooting down of commercial airliners. In such cases, written reprimands are insufficient; a tangibly aggressive response is in order.
The U.N. also needs to begin to take a different tack with respect to its non-peacekeeping actions for which sanctions and Resolutions may be sufficient. Its problem lies with credibility of which it has very little.
Without the infrastructure (and backbone) to back up its perfunctory verbal scoldings and written admonitions, it may huff and puff, but the little pigs of the world are just going to scoff at its attempts. For an organization that has become overwhelmingly cautious about externally appearing to be “politically correct,” its internal decisions in recent years have been astounding.
Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran serve on the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women while continuing to demonstrate to the world what a real “War on Women” looks like.
The U.N. compliments that folly by having China, Ethiopia, Namibia, and Pakistan serve prominent roles on its Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. These nations are not exactly recognized as role models in that area.
It is worth noting that Sudan is no longer a member of the Commission for Human Rights. Apparently, the U.N. “draws the line” at an active program of “ethnic cleansing” as the Sudan was performing in Darfur while serving on the Commission.
If the other member nations do not demand reform, the United States should. It provides the headquarters for the U.N. as well as approximately 22% of the U.N.’s general budget and 27% of its peacekeeping force budget. As a result, the U.N. has to listen; particularly if the alternative is the United States’ withdrawal from the organization, which would effectively neuter the U.N.
A strong United Nations and other proactively established coalitions would serve the United States well. Our Nation would no longer need to project itself as the watchdog of the world; a capacity for which it lacks any international or constitutional authority.
Syria’s use of chemical weapons and ISIS’s barbaric behavior in that country and Iraq should draw a response from the entire civilized world. These assaults on humanity should be addressed by the United Nations and a Middle East coalition that should already be in place. They should not fall predominantly upon the United States and some haphazard coalition it might otherwise stitch together on an ad hoc basis.
Similarly, NATO and the U.N. could more aggressively inhibit Russian aggression in Ukraine. The U.N. and an Asian-Pacific coalition could more effectively douse the embers of insolence that occasionally glow in North Korea and protect the innocence of protest we are witnessing in Hong Kong.
However, as long as the United States allows itself to be positioned as the world’s police force, other nations will happily stand back and allow our Nation to bear the weight and risk associated with such responsibility. It is time to wake up, push egos aside, and make sure every nation has some “skin in the game.” Until then, we will merely be reinforcing the definition of insanity.
(Part 3 of this series will address the impact of shifting responsibility to the United Nations and coalitions; the internal opportunities that such a shift would bring; the development of a standard operating procedure with respect to global issues that do not pose an immediate and impending threat to the United States; and other aspects of having a real foreign policy in place.)
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, A Civil Assessment, in the Communities Digital News (CDN).
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