Wednesday, June 22, 2005

This is the third and final installment of the Demarche Challenge debate on History and Spreading Democracy between myself and Cheryl " CKR" Rofer of Whirledview. For those starting their reading of the debate for the first time, here is a quick reference:

CKR Original Post vs. Zenpundit Original Post Part I. & Part II.

CKR First Rebuttal vs. Zenpundit First Rebuttal

CKR Second Rebuttal vs. Zenpundit Second Rebuttal

CKR Third Rebuttal

I should begin by stating that this debate has been for me a very productive dialogue with Cheryl where ideas moreso than partisan positions were central to the discussion. Cheryl's commentary on the different nature and ramifications of the European Enlightenment compared to our Anglo-American understanding of that legacy, is a subject that would merit further examination in its own right.

I believe a meeting of the minds was reached in terms of the value and method of " applied History" to forming current policy by getting historians to shift gears toward using their vast wealth of information for purposes of synthesis. In her second rebuttal, Cheryl noted a very important point:

"Strategic thinking states assumptions and the paths or scenarios that result from these scenarios. It seems that this might be a method that would allow academic historians to test syntheses and apply them to policy"

The great error in most American political debates over foreign policy is to confuse strategy with tactics or even methods of executing policy. The temptation becomes overwhelming to seize on a supposed " inconsistency" in an opposing administration's diplomacy and triumphally declare them to be souless cynics and hypocrites. Or more harmfully, for purist zealots to demand- and worst of all, legislate - a zero tolerance rigidity in the execution of a strategy by an administration of their own side. We like to call important foreign policy consensus concepts " Doctrines" but dogma is something best left to the theologians, not diplomats.

( One example of the latter phenomenon is America's Cuba policy. I'm proud to say I was an anticommunist hardliner from my earliest days of political awareness. However, it takes a certain amount of stupidity not to realize that the maniacal rigidity and self-defeating execution of the embargo has helped keep that bearded bastard in power for 46 years )

Strategy is about defining and accomplishing goals within a dynamic system which requires recognizing the variables and being honest with oneself what will move them. Tactics are the how and when you move the variables. A statesman needs cognitive facility with both elements of policy planning. Lacking tactical skill, a briliantly conceived grand strategy gets mired in unanticipated conflicts, distractions and lost opportunities. Without a strategy, you may be solving the wrong problem with your good tactics while your opponent is clearing the board. Nixon and Kissinger were one of the most effective foreign policy teams in American history because they paired a visionary geopolitical strategist (Nixon) with a brilliant tactician ( Kissinger) to pull off a string of diplomatic achievements that neither man could have managed alone.

Promoting global Democracy and economic liberalization is a good American strategy for eventually achieving a better, freer, more prosperous, world. If it is approached as a goal to which policy makers have maximum flexibility to prioritize the resources and timing of our tactical moves over decades then it George W. Bush will probably stand alongside Truman, FDR, Lincoln, Marshall and Kennan in history's eye someday. If global democracy becomes a prescription to simultaneously treat all countries exactly alike with preemption being a hammer and all problems looking like nails then it won't make it as a policy until 2008.

America has varied, intersecting, interests around the world and as the preeminent power, it has another level of interest - the function of the global system and the Rule-Set by which it operates. Bush critics like John Mearsheimer and those further left fault the Bush administration for " breaking the rules" by not going along with Kyoto, withdrawing from the ABM treaty, subverting the ICC via bilateral treaties, not granting al Qaida terrorists POW status etc. The specifics of the criticism vary and they are all related to particular policies but they share one commonality - an unwillingness to admit that the old pre-Globalization, Postwar, Cold War Rule-Set needs to be replaced with a Rule-Set anchored in 2005, not 1945.

Democracy is not part of the old Rule-Set which is centered on the Equality of Sovereign States where Sudan and North Korea are legally the equivalent of Sweden and Canada. But democracy can and should become the cornerstone of the new international order where genocidal regimes find their writ of sovereignty has expired and consent of the governed is he yardstick of legitimacy. It will take time measured in decades rather than years but it is possible within most of our lifetimes for the bulk of humanity to move much closer to liberty.

Societies and not just states must be able to step forward to accept democratic governance, something that America realistically will be able to bring to only very few places with the Marine Corps. Ben Franklin's warning that the Convention had given the American people " A Republic - if you can keep it" holds just as true to day for the rest of the world. There will have to be a cognitive movement from passivity to action and from being a subject to a citizen for Democracy to take root in arid terrain.

But we should begin by planting the seeds.
Hmmm, this means you must be forgiving me for my active support of the Cuban economy and seducing US diplos into the same.

I feel better (I do like the turn of phrase by the way, However, it takes a certain amount of stupidity not to realize that the maniacal rigidity and self-defeating execution of the embargo has helped keep that bearded bastard in power for 46 years; I might have written that myself if with a bit more oomph as it were.).
"I might have written that myself if with a bit more oomph as it were"

I take that as a compliment Col. Even though it took me many years to tamp down my innate tendency to engage in sarcastic outbursts, in the interest of being more persuasive, it feels good to let it out once in a while.

And re: the embargo - it has become weird fetishistic totem unrelated to the objective for which it was originally put into place.

We're so far past the point of diminishing returns that we're on to pointlessly irritating parties three steps removed from the problem into becoming Castro supporters just to spite us.
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