Tag Archives: US foreign policy

The Donald’s foreign policy

Donald Trump’s much ballyhooed foreign policy speech was a minor disaster.
Not only did Trump fail to set out a succinct foreign policy philosophy and agenda, but the speech itself [even with a teleprompter] was a failure in his effort to move to a more “presidential” persona. One can only suppose that the address was the product of several of his relatively undistinguished foreign policy advisers which were never quite molded into a whole. [Signicantly, none have so far taken credit] The speech meanders from the overview to specific foreign policy conundrums and then back again, repetitiously.
Far be it for us to be recommending what Mr. Trump should be espousing as his approach to the myriad problems of American policy overseas. But the outline of what those problems are — if not their solution – can be presented relatively concisely.
Paramount, of course, is the problem of an Islam which has gone berserk – again as so many times since Mohammed’s lifetime 1500 years ago – threatening the entire world, not the least the 1.3 billion Moslems, with terrorism. Its origin and nucleus lies in the Mideast and there is where it must be attacked and destroyed rather than an attempt to contain its tentacles around the world.
Secondly, nuclear proliferation with the ensuing threat from unstable regimes continues to be a high priority. That, of course, includes Pres. Barack Obama’s supposed pact with Tehran, as well as a relatively unstable nuclear-armed Pakistan. There is the possibility of new nuclear powers arising in the Persian Gulf now feeling abandoned by their U.S. ally to the threat of Iran’s growing regional hegemony.
The renewed threat of Moscow aggression, even though it now comes from a power much inferior to the old Soviet Union, is pressing. How to reinvigorate NATO in the face of renewed Russian aggression in Georgia, Ukraine, and threats in the Baltic, is part of this bundle. It obviously calls for the reinstitution of the anti-missile defense system, with its bases in Poland and Czechia, which was abandoned as one of the first steps in Obama’s withdrawal of the U.S. from world leadership.
While it may be more apparent than real, Washington must confront the growing military power and what appears to be the growing chauvinistic elements in the Beijing regime. The Chinese economy, miraculous as the last two decades have been, is fragile, and perhaps now poised for a major default. But an ambitious Chinese military is building a blue water navy that challenges the U.S. Navy in the Western Pacific where it has maintained the peace – with the major exceptions of the Korean and Vietnam Wars – for more than half a century. The challenged will have to be met and subtly.
There are a whole host of critical foreign economic issues that could be bundled as the fourth main preoccupation for any foreign policy agenda. Trump’s popularity is in part an expression of the resentment of the loss of American manufacturing and its jobs for the skilled and semi-skilled. Readjusting trade relations, particularly with China, which has aggressively taken advantage of American initiatives to include “a rising China” in the world economic system, has to be addressed. The growing failure of the effort to unite continental Europe politically – as well as Britain’s growing ambiguous relationship with the European Union — is impacting on the economic collaboration which was its origin and America’s huge trans-Atlantic commercial and economic interests.
There is the hardly acknowledged problem of the growing power and influence of the United Nations and its secretary-general, a role which was never defined in the early days of the organization and remains ambiguous today. That is true even though the secretary-general has become, willy-nilly, an important arbiter of world politics and the unanticipated crises that arise from it. While Washington has the official capacity to play a major role in defining UN policy at every level, it too often is left to bureaucratic maneuver rather considered as major policy.
And this, of course, leads into the whole growing need for a redefinition of how foreign policy is made in the U.S. government, Congressional critics of the amorphous but constantly growing National Security Council and its usurpation of the roles of not only the State Department but the Pentagon and its direction of American military forces is a constitutional issue at the heart of the Republic that must be solved.
It may be, as Mr Obama and his supporters have argued that it is a time for a complete overhaul of the American foreign strategy that has, for the most part, insured peace and stability for more than half a century. But to do so requires a more analytical survey of the world’s problems and the U.S. role that Obama and his advisers have given us.
Nor was not what Mr. Trump gave us in this speech.


Decisions, decisions, decisions!


—– Original Message —–
From: “Truman Reference” <Truman.Reference@nara.gov>
To: “Sol W. Sanders” <solsanders@cox.net>
Sent: Friday, January 08, 2010 11:55 AM
Subject: Re: media request

> Dear Mr. Sanders,
> Thank you for the e-mail message that you sent us yesterday.  I have
> not found a speech in which president Truman used the phrase “the buck
> stops here” in the context in which you refer.  In a speech he gave at
> the National War College on December 19, 1952, Truman said, “You know,
> it’s easy enough for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the
> coach should have done, after the game is over. But when the decision is
> up before you–and on my desk I have a motto which says “The buck stops
> here”–the decision has to be made. That decision may be right. It may
> be wrong. If it is wrong, and it has been shown that it is wrong, I have
> no desire to cover it up. I admit it, and try to make another decision
> that will meet the situation. And that is what any President of the
> United States has to do. Just bear that in mind.”  The full text of this
> speech is located on our website at
> http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=2094&st=&st1=.
> In his Farewell Address of January 15, 1953, Truman stated, “The
> greatest part of the President’s job is to make decisions–big ones and
> small ones, dozens of them almost every day. The papers may circulate
> around the Government for a while but they finally reach this desk. And
> then, there’s no place else for them to go. The President–whoever he
> is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do
> the deciding for him. That’s his job.”  The full text of this speech is
> located on our website at
> http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=2059&st=&st1=.
> On a third occasion, Mr. Truman used the phrase, “the buck stops here,”
> in the context of his use of the atomic bomb in 1945.  Text of that
> campaign speech is located on our website at
> I hope that this information is helpful.
> Sincerely,
> Sam Rushay
> Supervisory Archivist
> Harry S. Truman Library
> 500 West U.S. Highway 24
> Independence, MO 64050
> 816-268-8211
> Fax: 816-268-8295
> >>> “Sol W. Sanders” <solsanders@cox.net> 1/7/2010 8:06 PM >>>
> Could an archivist help me please?
> If memory serves [and it doesn’t often], the phrase “the buck stops
> here” was originally in a larger Truman quotation. I believe he said
> something along the lines of 1] the Constitution and history have made
> the American president a very strong exeecutive, 2] because of that, it
> sometimes is as important that he make a decision as to what the
> decision is, and therefore 3] the buck stops here.
> Was there such a statement by the President? Can I have the exact
> text?
> Yours sincerely
> Sol W. Sanders


The case for messy multilateralism

By Richard Haass

Published: January 5 2010 20:42 | Last updated: January 5 2010 20:42

Every era of history is defined by its signature challenge. For the first half of the 20th century, it was what to do about German and Japanese militarism; for the second half, it was the struggle against the Soviet Union.

But today and for the foreseeable future, the principal threat to world order is not from some aggressive great power. Instead, we must contend with a host of global phenomena: the spread of nuclear materials and weapons, terrorism, pandemic disease, climate change and economic protectionism.

No country, not even the US, can face these challenges alone. The world is simply too large and too complex to control. By their nature, these challenges are best met by collective effort. Decisions to opt out of global arrangements (or an inability to opt in, as we see in the case of governments too weak to combat terrorists who set up shop on their territory) can have repercussions far beyond a country’s borders.

But to acknowledge that we are all multilateralists now (or at least need to be) is only to start the conversation. Multilateralism is not one thing but many. The issue takes on a new urgency in the aftermath of the recent Copenhagen conference, which brought together representatives of 193 governments in an unsuccessful effort to reach a formal, binding and comprehensive accord. Whatever its consequences for climate change, Copenhagen is but the most recent reminder that classic multilateralism is increasingly difficult to achieve.

This same reality also helps to account for the world’s inability to agree to a new global trade accord. Launched in Qatar nearly a decade ago, the Doha round of negotiations has stalled. There are simply too many participants, too many contentious issues and too many domestic political concerns to discuss.

This problem also explains the near-total irrelevance of the United Nations General Assembly. “One man, one vote” may provide a sound basis for domestic politics, but on a global scale democracy (or, more precisely, democratic multilateralism) is a prescription for doing nothing. It is not simply the large number of participants but the fact that it makes little sense to give countries with minuscule populations and economies equal standing with, say, China or the US.

The UN’s founders predicted as much when they created the Security Council. The idea was to establish an elite body to tackle the world’s most important issues. The problem is that the composition of the Security Council reflects what the world looked like after the second world war. That world is now more than 60 years old. Missing from the ranks of permanent members are India, Japan, Germany, Brazil and representatives of a more integrated Europe.

It was this weakness (along with the inability to agree on the make-up of a reformed Security Council) that in part led to the creation of the Group of Seven and the trilateral process in the 1970s. Japan and the European Commission gained a seat at this important table. Yet over the decades, the G7 also proved inadequate, as it left out such critical countries as China and India. Hence the emergence of the Group of 20 in the midst of the global financial crisis and the Major Economies Forum as concerns over climate change mounted.

It is too soon to judge the impact of these latest versions of elite multilateralism. In the meantime, we are seeing the emergence of multiple innovations. One is regionalism. The proliferation of bilateral and regional trade pacts (most recently in Asia) is in part a reaction to the failure to conclude a global trade accord. Such arrangements are inferior – they do not, for example, normally deal with subsidies, much less cover all products and services. They can also have the perverse effect of retarding trade by discriminating against non-members. But some trade expansion is preferable to none.

A second alternative is functional multilateralism – coalitions of the willing and relevant. A global accord on climate will prove elusive for some time to come. But that need not translate into international inaction. A useful step would be to conclude a global pact to discourage the cutting down and burning of forests, something that accounts for a fifth of the world’s carbon output. Copenhagen made some limited progress here, but more needs to be done to assist such countries as Brazil and Indonesia.

Yet another alternative might be described as informal multilateralism. In many cases it will prove impossible to negotiate international accords that will be approved by national parliaments. Instead, governments would sign up to implementing, as best they can, a series of measures consistent with agreed-upon international norms. We are most likely to see this in the financial realm, where setting standards for the capital requirements of banks, accounting systems and credit ratings would facilitate global economic growth.

None of this – not elitism or regionalism or functionalism or informalism – is a panacea. Such collective action is invariably less inclusive, less comprehensive and less predictable than formal global accords. It can suffer from a lack of legitimacy. But it is doable and desirable, and can lead to or complement classic multilateralism. Multilateralism in the 21st century is, like the century itself, likely to be more fluid and, at times, messy than what we are used to.

The writer is president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of ‘War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars’

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010

Ye Olde Crabb sez:

Always wrong for the right reasons, the CFR spokesman expresses the case for messy decision-making.