RE: Power and Weakness

Writing in Policy Review, Robert Kagan argues that we must stop pretending America and Europe have a common worldview. In fact, we have quite divergent views. Europe is seeking a world ruled by international law, negotiation and cooperation, as Kagan notes, a “realization of Kant’s ‘Perpetual Peace.'” Meanwhile, the United States still has a Hobbesian view the world where security and liberal values are guaranteed through military strength. Kagan is absolutely correct and since the invasion of Afghanistan, the differences between the two continents (with the UK literally and figuratively somewhere in the middle) have been magnified. Excerpt:
t is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power ”” the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power ”” American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory ”” the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure. When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.

It is easier to see the contrast as an American living in Europe. Europeans are more conscious of the growing differences, perhaps because they fear them more. European intellectuals are nearly unanimous in the conviction that Americans and Europeans no longer share a common “strategic culture.” The European caricature at its most extreme depicts an America dominated by a “culture of death,” its warlike temperament the natural product of a violent society where every man has a gun and the death penalty reigns. But even those who do not make this crude link agree there are profound differences in the way the United States and Europe conduct foreign policy.

The United States, they argue, resorts to force more quickly and, compared with Europe, is less patient with diplomacy. Americans generally see the world divided between good and evil, between friends and enemies, while Europeans see a more complex picture. When confronting real or potential adversaries, Americans generally favor policies of coercion rather than persuasion, emphasizing punitive sanctions over inducements to better behavior, the stick over the carrot. Americans tend to seek finality in international affairs: They want problems solved, threats eliminated. And, of course, Americans increasingly tend toward unilateralism in international affairs. They are less inclined to act through international institutions such as the United Nations, less inclined to work cooperatively with other nations to pursue common goals, more skeptical about international law, and more willing to operate outside its strictures when they deem it necessary, or even merely useful.1

Europeans insist they approach problems with greater nuance and sophistication. They try to influence others through subtlety and indirection. They are more tolerant of failure, more patient when solutions don’t come quickly. They generally favor peaceful responses to problems, preferring negotiation, diplomacy, and persuasion to coercion. They are quicker to appeal to international law, international conventions, and international opinion to adjudicate disputes. They try to use commercial and economic ties to bind nations together. They often emphasize process over result, believing that ultimately process can become substance.

This European dual portrait is a caricature, of course, with its share of exaggerations and oversimplifications. One cannot generalize about Europeans: Britons may have a more “American” view of power than many of their fellow Europeans on the continent. And there are differing perspectives within nations on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., Democrats often seem more “European” than Republicans; Secretary of State Colin Powell may appear more “European” than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Many Americans, especially among the intellectual elite, are as uncomfortable with the “hard” quality of American foreign policy as any European; and some Europeans value power as much as any American.

Nevertheless, the caricatures do capture an essential truth: The United States and Europe are fundamentally different today. Powell and Rumsfeld have more in common than do Powell and Hubert Védrine or even Jack Straw. When it comes to the use of force, mainstream American Democrats have more in common with Republicans than they do with most European Socialists and Social Democrats. During the 1990s even American liberals were more willing to resort to force and were more Manichean in their perception of the world than most of their European counterparts. The Clinton administration bombed Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and Sudan. European governments, it is safe to say, would not have done so. Whether they would have bombed even Belgrade in 1999, had the U.S. not forced their hand, is an interesting question.

What is striking is how these two divergent worldviews relate to our presidential race. Certainly, I think we could all agree George Bush wholeheartedly subscribes to the American world view as described by Kagan. The division between in US over Iraq and other foreign policy matters during the Bush Administration can be explained by the divergent view of the world explained by Kagan. George Bush has decided that whenever possible the United States will attempt to conduct US policy in a fashion pursuant to Europe’s wishes by formally engaging NATO and the United Nations and using diplomacy and non-military means to confront enemies. However, when it clear the US and Europe do not agree on a course of action the United States is willing to “go it alone” and do what is believes is in its (and the world’s) best interest.

The question is what is John Kerry’s worldview? My gut tells me Kerry, if he acted according to his conscious and not political expedience, subscribes to a European worldview. But that is a difficult question to answer because of various, if not contradictory, stances over the course of his career. Kerry sided with many Europeans and was against Reagan’s deployment of Pershing missiles into Western Europe. He voted against the first Gulf War in favor of economic sanctions but now supports it. He supported action in Kosovo and Bosnia. He claims to against our invasion of Iraq because the President didn’t build a coalition and allow inspections to continue, but voted for an open-ended resolution to authorize the use of force anyway. Toss in the mix an eleventh-hour adoption of hawkish military spending and national security rhetoric and Kerry’s nebulous view of the world.

No matter how Kerry actually views the world, his campaign rhetoric suggests four years of failure if he should win in November. The centerpiece of his foreign policy is he would re-engage our allies and no longer act “unilaterally” in the world. If Kerry subscribes to the European view of the world simply wants to re-engage our allies in order have America pursue a more ‘European’ foreign policy. This policy would spell doom for America and the world. After all, generally speaking, international law, transnational negotiation and cooperation are not effective means in combating Islamofascism and the rogue states that support it. Certainly, we are not in a position to invade Syria, North Korea or Iran and at this point negotiations seem our only possibility in North Korea. But other military options might be possible, even necessary, in Iran and Syria but unacceptable to Europe. If Kerry adopts a policy of only using economic sanctions and multilateral negotiations there will be no end in site to the threat of Islamic terrorism. Syria and Iran will continue to sponsor terrorism and al Qaeda, Hezbollah, etc will continue to threaten the world.

However, if John Kerry subscribes to an American view and does not recognize a rift with Europe there could be other trouble ahead for Kerry and the US. In order for this to be the case Kerry must assume the Bush team’s ineffectiveness is due to the style in which the Bush Administration has engaged our allies or that there was no attempt at all. What will Kerry do once he is elected only to discover our allies view the world differently than the United States and has no desire to help out in places like Iraq, Iran, Syria and the Sudan? American policy is likely to go in two directions. Kerry could maintain the Bush Administration’s of seeking the cooperation of as many allies (UK, Australia and Eastern Europe) as possible and managing cool relations with the rest of Europe. This will open Kerry up to domestic criticism, and deservedly so, for failing to fulfill a key campaign promise. Or Kerry could decide that cooperation with our Allies is more important and adjust American foreign policy to one more in line with what Europeans envision. In that case, the disaster envisioned above will occur.

We truly won’t know if John Kerry has an American or European view of the world until (God forbid) he is elected President. Hopefully, Kerry has a more American Hobbesian view of the world.

Two quotes from the Kerry campaign suggest that Kerry would assume a more European view of the world. The first, from The Washington Post, in which Kerry’s foreign policy advisor (and friend of Richard Clarke) Rand Beers takes issue with this being a “war”:
Beers, former counterterrorism director in the Bush White House, said the administration has overemphasized military action at the expense of economic, diplomatic, political and other efforts in going after jihadists.

“That’s why I chose to use the word ‘struggle’ instead of ‘war’ to actually define how I personally view this particular problem,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt just reported a telling quote from John Kerry’s acceptance speech tonight:
“I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.”

Is Kerry suggesting he will only use military force in response to an attack? Just the sort of post-9/11 leadership America needs. Wait for the Sears Tower or Golden Gate Bridge to be in ruins before we get serious about Iran and Syria. What a recipe for disaster. Again, I do not advocate or envision an invasion of Iran, Syria and North Korea is option but limited preemptive strikes must be on the table.

At TNR Lawrence F. Kaplan writes that, while the Bush Administration’s Iran policy has been incoherent to date (something that must be corrected), Kerry’s policy is ‘delusional’ (excerpt):
The administration’s Iran policy is hard to discern. Before they walk into a bind of their own devising, however, Kerry’s advisers would do well to take a closer look at their own candidate’s stance toward Iran. It is not hard to discern. But it is hard to defend.

At times, Kerry seems to be taking his cues from Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential run, sounding as though he’s blasting his opponent from the right while he quietly offers up solutions from the left. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of Iran, where, when you strip away Kerry’s hard-boiled rhetoric about preventing the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon, what the candidate offers is a facsimile of the Clinton-era policy of “engagement.” Likening the Islamic Republic to a much less dangerous threat from long ago, Kerry seeks to “explore areas of mutual interest with Iran, just as I was prepared to normalize relations with Vietnam.” Hence, Kerry says he “would support talking with all elements of the government,” or, as his principal foreign policy adviser Rand Beers has elaborated, the United States must engage Iran’s “hard-line element”–this, while the candidate tells The Washington Post he will downplay democracy promotion in the region. In fact, as part of this normalization process, Kerry has recommended hammering out a deal with Teheran a la the Clinton administration’s doomed bargain with North Korea, whereby the United States would aid the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for safeguards that would presumably keep the program peaceful. To sweeten the deal, he has offered to throw in members of the People’s Mujahedeen, the Iranian opposition group being held under lock and key by U.S. forces in Iraq.

Nor will you hear any of Kerry’s foreign policy advisers calling for regime change in Iran, at least any time soon. Beers has long insisted on engaging the Islamic Republic, as have Kerry advisers Richard Holbrooke and Madeline Albright. So, too, have several big name contributors to the Kerry campaign from the Iranian-American community. Indeed, in 2002 Kerry delivered an address to an event sponsored by the controversial American Iranian Council, an organization funded by corporations seeking to do business in Iran and dedicated to promoting dialogue with the theocracy. In his eagerness to engage in this dialogue, of course, Kerry is hardly alone. The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a report calling for “systematic and pragmatic engagement” with Iran’s mullahs, and the Atlantic Council is expected to release a report next month recommending the same.

Like these, Kerry’s calls for a rapprochement with Teheran come at a rather inopportune moment. The very regime that Kerry demands we engage, after all, has just been certified as an Al Qaeda sanctuary–and by the very commission in which the Kerry campaign has invested so much hope. The report’s finding, moreover, counts as only one of Teheran’s sins. Lately its theocrats have been wreaking havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan, aiding America’s foes along Iran’s borders in the hopes of expanding their influence in both countries, even as they continue to fund Palestinian terror groups. Then, too, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has amassed a mountain of evidence pointing to Iranian violations of the Nonproliferation Treaty. With two nuclear power plants slated to go online in Iran, and IAEA inspectors stumbling across designs for sophisticated centrifuges, even the Europeans and the United Nations have nearly exhausted their efforts to engage the Islamic Republic.

So why hasn’t anyone told John Kerry? To begin with, it’s not so clear the Bush team has abandoned engagement, either. Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Blackwill refuses to surrender hopes for a nuclear deal, as does Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who lauds Iran as a “democracy.” To be sure, the president vows Washington will side with Iran’s pro-democracy movement and that the “development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable.” But long gone from the administration’s rhetoric is any talk of regime change. As with so much else, when it comes to Iran, the administration finds itself divided between hawks at the Defense Department and Undersecretary of State John Bolton, on the one hand, and America’s diplomatic corps and National Security Council staffers, on the other.

Put another way, the administration has two Iran policies, and the result has been a mix of good and bad. Kerry, by contrast, boasts a single, coherent, and–to judge by the description of Teheran’s activities in yesterday’s report–utterly delusional Iran policy. Now, if only the Bush team could sort out its own, it might have an opportunity to draw a meaningful distinction.
[Via The Beacon]