Using the power of the People to fix a failed foreign policy

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., August 10, 2014 – We live in a strange and troubling world. There is a civil war in Syria and civil unrest in Ukraine. A 72-hour ceasefire is as close to peaceful coexistence as Israel and Hamas seem to be able to get. ISIL is orchestrating a caliphate against Christians and non-Muslims in Syria and Iraq, and “Green on Blue” attacks continue in Afghanistan.

How will the United States respond to each of these situations as they move forward? No one knows for sure.

How should the United States respond to each of these situations? Most people have an opinion, but very few have offered a cogent strategy.

Are you one of the few?

This is an election year, so your elected officials and Parties cannot be counted upon to offer much help. They are too afraid of making a political mistake to provide any real leadership.

Instead, you can expect the President to be reactive rather than proactive and to follow the most benign course possible. His Party’s members will define his decisions as “deliberative”… unless they are running for reelection. Then, they might try to distance themselves from his foreign policy just as Hillary Clinton is trying to do.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders will attack whatever choice the President makes. It will not matter whether they would have made the same decision themselves because the mid-term elections loom on the horizon and they are compelled to disagree.

You do not suffer from such a benighted approach. Your thinking is not constrained by partisan concerns… unless you allow it to be.

You have the luxury to structure a rational foreign policy rather than a political one. You can draw your own “Red Line in the sand”… or draw no line whatsoever. You can think beyond the election cycle and anticipate the long-term consequences of your policy and its associated strategies. Hopefully, you can even craft an approach upon which this Nation and other nations can depend.

Are you up to the task?

The Comment Section of this column is designed to create a forum in which opinions can be shared and vetted in a civil manner (see A Civil Assessment, July 9, 2013). All sides are welcome. There are only three rules:

  1. Frame your comments in a civil manner;
  2. Base your arguments on facts (rather than emotion); and
  3. Be respectful of the opinions of others with whom you may disagree.

No one has all the answers, and the collective wisdom of a group is almost always superior to that of an individual. However, you must be willing to listen to the opinions of others… even when they disagree with your position… and even when they are wrong. If you want your opinion to be respected, you have to respect the opinions of others.

Anyone can criticize a position. Anyone can recite mindless talking points provided by others with ulterior motives… and anyone can call someone names. It takes personal integrity to reserve your opinion until you have researched the issue and considered the relative merits of differing views. Only then are you in a position to forge a coherent solution. That is what real leadership demands.

In that regard, pretend you are President of the United States and have the full resources of the Nation at your beck and call. Your only limitation is the Oath of Office; the one in which you said:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Then, tackle the issue of foreign policy and the strategic decisions you would make with respect to one or more of the various international issues this week’s article has raised. See who agrees with your assessment as well as who disagrees with it and on what basis their arguments are made.

How do you believe the United States’ foreign policy should be framed? Think through a wide variety of scenarios and test how your policy would fare in both the near and long terms. Evaluate how your policy might impact other Nations and how they might respond to it.

Then, consider what strategies you would deploy with respect to:

  • Syria?
  • Ukraine?
  • Israel/Palestine?
  • ISIL/Iraq?
  • Afghanistan?

Would you support one side over the other in these conflicts? If so, which one and why?

How would you use diplomacy versus sanctions versus military intervention (either direct or indirect)? The choice is yours.

Past and future Presidents are welcome to join the discussion. In the event that neither description pertains to you, please recognize that your opinion is every bit as valid and important as theirs. Here’s hoping you will join the conversation, obey the rules, and encourage every other citizen you know, who truly cares about our Nation, to participate as well.

Together, we may begin to offer evidence that people of different persuasions can come together to form effective solutions. Maybe someone in Washington, D.C. will take note of what can be accomplished when rational thought trumps political posturing… when civic responsibility triumphs over partisan polarization… and when we come together to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”


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).