Sunday, June 10, 2007

US Foreign Policy after George W. Bush

As the presidential election is coming next year, Foreign Affairs publishes a special series of articles, entitled “America’s Next Foreign Policy”, in July/August issue. Republican candidate Mitt Romney and Democrat candidate Barack Obama contribute essays to this series. Despite the Iraq divide, both Republican and Democrat leaders believe that the United States assumes the special role for world peace and security. Let me review articles by both presidential candidates.

In the article, “Rising to a New Generation of Global Challenges”, Republican candidate Mitt Romney insists that Americans must overcome the Iraq divide, and the whole nation unite for bold action to make a strong America and a safer world. Also, Romney insists on revitalizing relations with US allies. He discusses the following points.

Regarding foreign policy divide in Washington, Romney says it is meaningless to label some groups idealistic “neoconservative” and others prudent “realist.” Neoconservatives understand necessity of reality grounded policymaking, while realists admit US soft power stemming from its values and ideals. He argues that the Unites States and its allies must shape global strategy based on common understandings to resolve new generation challenges, without biases of specific ideologies.

Today, the world faces new challenges, including terrorism, nuclear proliferation, authoritarian leaders, epidemics like AIDS, the rise of China, and so forth. Romney argues that the United States be actively involved with managing these challenges as leaders in World War Ⅱ and the post war era did. He mentions extensively on threats posed by Islamic radicals, and warns that failure in defeating them in Iraq and Afghanistan will invigorate terrorists. As to the Iraq debate, Romney says “we cannot let current polls and political dynamics drive us to repeat mistakes the United States has made at critical moments of doubt and uncertainty about our role in the world. Twice in the last several decades, following the end of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the United States became dangerously unprepared.” For new challenges, Romney maintains the following four points.

First, Romney insists on more spending on defense, at least 4 % of GDP. He criticizes massive military cut under the Clinton administration, by quoting Charles Krauthammer’s comment that we took a holiday from history. The United States must be well-prepared for extensive operations against terrorists and dangerous states throughout the world. In order to maintain strong military power, the United States should boost its economy through smaller government, better welfare system, more investment in R & D, and free trade promotion. Also, values and moral leadership are important, he insists.

Second, Romney insists on energy independence from oil producing states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Energy independence will require more efficiency in energy use and R & D for alternative energy source. Romney says this will be a great help for national defense, foreign policy, economy, and the environment.

Third, Romney argues that the United States improve its civilian capability to design and implement security policy beyond bureaucratic sectionalism. The Goldwater-Nicolas Act in the Reagan era enabled US military to act effectively under joint commands. Civilian sectors need the same level of reform.

Fourth, Romney insists on revitalizing the alliance to meet 21st century challenges. He understands why Americans are skeptic to multilateralism. For example, UN Human Rights Commission condemns democratic Israel, while keeps silent on repressive regimes in Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, and Sudan. But this sort of incapability to manage new generation challenges does not legitimate go it alone policy. Instead, Romney argues that the United States push reforms in such organizations. Also, he says, Americans need to work with Muslim friends to defeat Islamic radicalism.

In conclusion, Romney advocates that America keep involved with world peace and security, despite continual hardships in Iraq. As Simon Perez commented, the United States is a unique nation without taking land from Germany and Japan. No other nations can assume the leading role to manage challenges in this century.

On the other hand, in “Renewing American Leadership”, Democrat candidate Barack Obama insists that America explore common security for common humanity, and move beyond Iraq, in order to renew American leadership in the world. Just as Mitt Romney, Obama lauds American leaders during the wartime and the postwar era. However, he criticizes the Bush administration’s approach to post 9/11 world, because it responded to unconventional attack by terrorists with conventional thinking of state-centric military solutions. As a result, he argues that current administration wastes dollars and manpower in the War on Terror. Therefore, he insists on renewing American leadership in the world. For this purpose, Obama says that the United States must bring the Iraq War to a responsible end. As the United States cannot impose a military solution to religious and ethnic conflicts in Iraq, Obama insists that it should apply the pressure of phased withdrawal of troops to local stakeholders. Eventually, he says that only Iraqis can manage their own problem.

Also, the United States must make a broader security framework of the Middle East. Obama advocates US-Iranian talks while sponsoring Iranian civil societies and preventing nuclear proliferation. He insists on US initiatives for Israeli-Palestinian peace dialogues. Also, Obama argues that the United States need to pressure Syria to move toward moderate direction. To renew American leadership in the world, Obama sets the following agendas.

First, the United States must revitalize military power. US forces must be well prepared for various global operations. Simultaneously, Obama talks of smart use of military power, and he does not hesitate to send troops if necessary. Although he is ready to act beyond self-defense, he stresses the need for multinational action as Bush Senior did in the Gulf War. He criticizes current Iraq War from this point.

Second, the United States must lead to stop nuclear proliferation, which poses an immediate threat to the global community. Obama is concerned with terrorist attack with nuclear bombs. To prevent such a disaster, he insists on close partnership with Russia, though he believes in strong push for liberal democracy against Kremlin. Furthermore, he says global coalition against Iran and North Korea is necessary.

Third, in the combat against global terrorism, Obama emphasizes how important it is to refocus US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan where Al Qaeda activists lurk. He is willing to endorse Indo-Pakistani dialogues and extensive security framework from Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent. In addition to military measures, Obama insists on comprehensive terrorist strategies such as empowering citizens.

Fourth, Obama talks of rebuilding the alliance, and making it more effective partnership. The alliance should transform from a Cold War security structure into a partnership for peace. Also, Obama insists on effective partnership with emerging powers like Brazil, India, and South Africa.

Fifth, Obama advocates America’s commitment to building secure democratic societies, which is common goal of human-beings. Poor societies and failed states are breeding grounds for disease, terrorism, and conflicts, he says. Therefore, Obama regard it as America’s national security interest to curb poverty, promote welfare, and assist democracy in such societies.

Through these ways, Obama argues that America must restore trust from its allies and the global community.

Mostly, both candidates share common agendas and understandings on US foreign policy for the next term. There are some gaps in evaluating Iraq policies, but both Romney and Obama endorse American leadership in the world. More importantly, both candidates are on the track of the Bush legacy after 9/11. Right or wrong, George W. Bush has set the direction of US foreign policy in this century. America has come back from historical holidays under the Clinton administration. Whoever comes next, the President cannot escape from the Bush legacy. America must be involved with world affairs. America should not repeat the same mistake as it did after the Vietnam War. No more Jimmy Carter after the Iraq War.