Sample text for Statecraft : and how to restore America's standing in the world / Dennis Ross.
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I planned, after writing my book The Missing Peace, to write another book exploring the practice of negotiations. The more I thought about negotiations and how to do them, the more I realized that such a discussion would serve as an effective way to say something more generally about American foreign policy. This was early in the second term of George W. Bush, and I was motivated in no small part by my disquiet over the superficial way the debate on American foreign policy was being conducted.
I had no problem with questions about American priorities. Should the White House and the Pentagon have shifted from a war of necessity in Afghanistan to one of choice in Iraq? Was the war on terrorism being enhanced or diminished by our efforts to oust Saddam Hussein? If the “axis of evil” was such a threat, why were we so focused on Iraq, which posed the least immediate danger with regard to weapons of mass destruction, and doing so little about North Korea and Iran, which posed the greatest?
These were all legitimate questions that needed to be thrashed out. But at the same time, the increasingly shrill debate tended less toward answering those questions and more toward becoming riveted on the issue of multilateralism versus unilateralism. As such, it seemed to miss the essential point about the Bush administration and its conduct of foreign policy.
I am a multilateralist, and in my view there is no doubt that in an era of globalization and transnational challenges ranging from terrorism and weapons proliferation to pandemics such as AIDS, the United States’ capabilities will always have limits, and we have no real choice but to work with other states. But the calls for multilateralism—and the criticisms of the Bush foreign policy—too often have seemed to treat collaborative diplomatic efforts as an end in themselves. The president’s fiercest multilateralist opponents seem to think that if only we had consulted our allies and followed all the diplomatic protocols, we wouldn’t have any problems in Iraq, South Asia, or the Middle East—and that just isn’t true.
Multilateralism is important, even essential, but as a means, not an end. When we speak of multilateralism or unilateralism, we are speaking of the means or the tools we as a state need to employ to achieve our interests in the world. We are speaking of how we define our purposes, make assessments about what we can and must do, and then go about implementing our choices. And yet the debate seemed to miss all that.
In a word, what is missing from the discussion of American foreign policy today is an understanding of statecraft. What is statecraft? It is the use of the assets or the resources and tools (economic, military, intelligence, media) that a state has to pursue its interests and to affect the behavior of others, whether friendly or hostile. It involves making sound assessments and understanding where and on what issues the state is being challenged and can counter a threat or create a potential opportunity or take advantage of one. Statecraft requires good judgment in the definition of one’s interests and a recognition of how to exercise hard military or soft economic power to provide security and promote the well-being of one’s citizens. It is as old as conflict between communities and the desire to avoid or prevent it. Plato wrote about statecraft. Machiavelli theorized about it. And Bismarck practiced it, never losing sight of his objectives, and recognizing that his objectives should never exceed his capabilities.
Statecraft is more difficult than ever in a world of rapid change, and with fewer national boundaries; more actors (states, and non-state actors such as religious groups and terrorist organizations); more diffuse power (at least economically); the smoldering resentments of have-nots and failed states; continuing ethnic or intercommunal conflicts; and interested parties or groups in one state who are determined to try to affect the political and power realities in another. Gordon Craig and Alexander George, two of the more thoughtful observers of diplomatic history, have suggested that “adaptation to accelerated change has become the major problem of modern statecraft, testing the ingenuity and the fortitude of those charged with the responsibility both for devising means and controlling international violence and for maintaining the security of their own countries.”1
In this situation, the practice of statecraft in U.S. foreign policy comes down to appreciating our power while also respecting its limits; to assessing more completely how the international landscape is changing and what new challenges we now face; and to understanding how to use all the tools in our toolkit of power and influence to maximize what we can achieve at manageable costs.
While it may be more taxing than in earlier epochs, statecraft has never been more important. And if one wants to know both what has been missing in our foreign policy in the last years and what is necessary to fix it in the coming years, the answer is statecraft.
Why has statecraft been missing (or certainly downgraded) lately? To answer this question, it is important to look at the George W. Bush administration and its approach to foreign policy—the first Bush term in particular. Where did it fit the pattern of past administrations and where did it depart from that pattern? What guided it ideologically, and why did that ideological basis tend to disregard the basic tools of the trade? (Or, in its second term, when the administration has been more ideologically willing to embrace at least the symbols of statecraft, why has it conducted it so ineffectively?) I will use a discussion of these questions and their answers as a basis on which to turn to a more serious examination of statecraft and why restoring its centrality and effectiveness is so important to shaping a more successful American foreign policy in the years ahead.
The starting point for such a discussion—indeed, for understanding American statecraft—must begin with a serious consideration of our ideological point of departure for foreign policy. How should we see our role (and our power) in the world? What vision both fits our national self-image and is likely to be sustainable? What challenges internationally should dominate our concerns, and how are they changing from what concerned us in the past? How do our means square with what we would like to see take shape internationally? And, therefore, how can we more effectively employ our means to protect ourselves and achieve our goals?
These questions are the basis for sound statecraft, but at the present they rarely get posed, much less answered. No one book is going to provide satisfactory answers to all of them. And I make no claims that this one will. But I will try to get at the nature of America’s role in the world and the fundamental differences between those—neoconservatives versus neoliberals—who believe that the United States must play a leading role internationally.
The book begins with a look at the Bush administration’s foreign policy and how it has been weakened by the absence of statecraft. It goes on to offer an overview of what statecraft is, why we especially need it today, and how it worked in the past. It proceeds to delve more deeply into two essential tools of statecraft (negotiations and mediation) in order to explain what they are and how to conduct them. Every aspect of statecraft depends on negotiation in some form. Negotiations are necessary to persuade or dissuade, and statecraft is ultimately the art of using the means of influence leaders have to affect the behavior of others. And because no discussion of statecraft can be purely historical or abstract, the book also applies a statecraft approach prospectively to four challenges in our foreign policy—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, our global struggle with radical Islam, and the rise of China.
To conclude, I offer a guide to what a neoliberal American foreign policy—one that employs statecraft as its inspiration—ought to be. I hope to provide insight into why we have to adjust our sights in foreign policy and refocus and retool our approach. But if the book helps to trigger debate about America’s role in the world and how to enhance it, I will have more than met the purpose I had in mind when I decided to write it.
Excerpted from Statecraft: And How to Restore America’s Standing in the World by Dennis Ross. Copyright © 2007 by Dennis Ross. Published in June 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
United States -- Foreign relations -- 2001-
International relations -- Case studies.