Foreign Policy Blogs

Vacation Reading

I will be on vacation for the majority of July, so I thought I would leave you with a few timely resources on foreign policy and the US Presidential campaign.

1)  Senator Chuck Hagel (R, NE), as part of his recent book tour, spoke at the Brookings Institution last week about “U.S. Foreign Policy and the Presidential Campaign.” Senator Hagel, a long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, examines the global challenges that the next president will inherit and the responsibilities of the presidential candidates to address these challenges.

2) Also from the Brookings Institution is a new article by foreign policy experts Peter Singer and Hady Amr titled 'to Win the “War on Terror,’ We Must First Win the ‘War of Ideas’: Here's How.” Originally published in the academic journal the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the analysis addresses the critical role that public diplomacy plays in improving the deteriorating image of the United States in the Muslim world. From the abstract:

“The authors argue that both public diplomacy and policies, including those on civil liberties, are vital to U.S. success in the war on terrorism and that the next U.S. president must designate this effort as a matter of highest national security importance. Many in the Muslim world believe that the war on terrorism is essentially a war on Islam; this view impedes the success of an effective foreign policy strategy. Previous efforts of public diplomacy have lacked funding, energy, focus, and an integrated strategy. The authors define six principles to improve America's security through winning the war of ideas, including addressing civil liberties concerns, and engaging diverse constituencies in the Muslim world. Finally, the authors describe ten public diplomacy initiatives to improve U.S.,Muslim world relations.”

3) Robert Dreyfuss writes in the Nation magazine about “Obama's Evolving Foreign Policy.” He argues:

“Perhaps nowhere else are expectations as high for what an Obama presidency will mean as in foreign policy, where many Americans–and most of the world–are holding their breath awaiting the end of George W. Bush's wrecking-ball approach to world affairs. In some important areas, Obama would alter or reverse course…

…But in many respects, Obama seems likely to preside over a restoration of the bipartisan consensus that governed foreign policy during the cold war and the 1990s, updated for a post-9/11 world. That conclusion arises from an in-depth examination of the Illinois senator's views as well as dozens of interviews with foreign policy experts, including lengthy exchanges with the core group of Obama's foreign policy team and other participants in his task forces on the military, Iraq and the Middle East. It's also based on a careful review of speeches and position papers, Obama's 2007 article in Foreign Affairs and a key chapter, “The World Beyond Our Borders,” in his book The Audacity of Hope.

All this suggests there is a gap between Obama's inspirational speeches and the actual policies he supports. “So far, what you’re seeing is rhetoric that we can make bold changes in our foreign policy,” says John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies. “But when he lays out specifics, it's not as transformational as the rhetoric.” Will Marshall, director of the right-leaning Progressive Policy Institute of the Democratic Leadership Council, agrees. “On most of the details, he's aligned with the general Democratic consensus,” Marshall says. Says Tom Hayden, the veteran activist and former California state senator, “At best, he will be a gradualist.”

4) An articleauthored by Derek Chollet and James Goldgeier published in the National Interest yesterday argues that although Senator John McCain “has assembled a diverse group of advisors for his campaign, should he win the presidency this fall, he will have to choose between two markedly different approaches to guiding America in the world.”

Their argument goes: “In the aftermath of the Bush administration, particularly the impact of the war in Iraq, conservative politicians and policy intellectuals are again debating the nature of the global order, the purpose and use of American power, and what, if anything, is required to legitimize the exercise of that power, particularly military force. What is striking is the extent to which the divide between the two broad groupings in the McCain campaign (the pragmatists or realists on one hand and the idealists or neoconservatives on the other) resembles the divisions that had emerged in the closing days of the George H. W. Bush administration…

McCain's proposal to create a League of Democracies is an interesting hybrid of the two perspectives, one that symbolizes his effort to be a "realistic idealist" (this proposal also has the support of many prominent liberal thinkers). It would rely on U.S. leadership of a multilateral organization based on a community of values. But even that idea demonstrates the likely limits of collaboration among the two groups. Realists see a world where the United States needs to reach out to major nondemocracies such as China and Russia for assistance in combating a number of pressing threats, especially terrorism.

The idealists, meanwhile, believe that the lack of democracy in China and Russia is itself a major problem and places real limits on America's ability to engage in any sort of meaningful cooperation with them. These are fundamental differences in approach. This is why Eagleburger, now an advisor to McCain, recently told the New York Times that "it may be too strong a term to say a fight is going on over John McCain's soul . . . [but] I am convinced there is at least going to be an attempt."

If McCain wins the presidency, then presumably we will hear more about how "realistic idealism" navigates these problems, but many observers predict a foreign policy of incoherence and division. The moment a President McCain starts going after leaders in Beijing and Moscow for their authoritarian ways, the realists will panic and look to the American business community to prevent a breakdown in relations. And if he goes easy on the Chinese, as some accused Bill Clinton of doing during his presidency, the neoconservatives will feel betrayed and start agitating, as they did in the 1990s, for conservatives to develop a "neo-Reaganite" foreign policy.

Ultimately, McCain will find that on issues such as climate change or Iran where he needs Russia and China, he will have to deal with them. He won't be able to kick Russia out of the G-8, as he has said the United States should consider doing. Standing up for values can (and should) remain an important part of foreign policy, but McCain will inevitably have to compromise if he wants to make progress to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions, for example….”

5) Finally, I recently reworked a post originally published on this blog into a longer analysis. It was published by the Foreign Policy Association's Great Decision Analysis series, as well as by AlterNet, Reuter's progressive news arm.

Have a great holiday weekend!



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.