U.S. Foreign Policy: Dangerous - Destructive? Hubertus Hoffmann speech at Trinity College Dublin
The world's oldest debating society, the University Philosophical Society at the famous Trinity College in Dublin (Ireland) founded in 1684 (Honorary Patrons: Desmond Tutu, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Al Pacino) has invited Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann*, President and Founder of the World Security Network, to discuss the question “The last six years have shown American Foreign Policy to be a dangerous and destructive force in the world” --Yes or No? .
Here is his speech:
N o , the last six years have, in my opinion and experience, n o t shown that “American Foreign Policy is a dangerous and destructive force in the world”.
But as a friend of the United States of America who wants to strengthen the most important democracy on earth and the leader of the Free World, I feel we must analyse what has gone wrong with U.S. foreign policy in recent years and how a U.S. President can improve the effectiveness of the American foreign and security policy in the future.
- The Bush administration has successfully prevented another 9/11 in the United States for six years. The main reasons are the severe damage to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, preventive strikes on possible terrorists, and the ending of the chaos in internal U.S. intelligence organizations like CIA, FBI, NSA or DIA. Decision-making is now clearer, learning from the many mistakes pre 9/11 when neither terrorism prevention organizations nor their actions were adequate to counter the threat. America is a giant who has woken up. (see 7 Bullet Point Plan to defend our Free World; 9/11 could have been avoided, but only very soon starting 1998)
- 9/11 was the turning point for the Bush administration. Never before in the history of American foreign affairs had the United States of America reached such a peak of internal and international solidarity, sympathy and support. The Senate voted 98-0, and the House of Representatives 420-1, to give George Bush maximum authority to act against terrorism. NATO declared for the first time in history, according to its Article 5, that 9/11 was considered an attack against all members states and started to invade Afghanistan side by side with Washington. But now, six years later, the extremely strong position Washington enjoyed has melted away like snow in the sun. Never before in American history has a President lost so much trust and influence in the world. What went wrong?
- The foreign policy of the Bush Administration was, in hot spots of foreign affairs, not cleverly and deeply politically planned and handled. It was mainly power-centric, mismanaged, and dominated by U.S.-centric provincialism.
- This approach to U.S. foreign policy has been more counterproductive to U.S. national interests and extremely unsuccessful in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has harmed many of the old friends and allies of the United States, and the image of the leader of the free world: 85 percent of people have a less favourable view of U.S. foreign policy than they had five years ago, according to the 2006 Pew Global Attitudes poll.
- The Bush Administration is still missing effective Grand Strategies for today’s key foreign affairs problems. A power ideology of “we Americans have to be strong and show maximum strength” is dominating thinking, wording, actions. This dominating Anglo-Saxon pragmatism is not a strategy. It bypasses fundamental analysis, denies the use of all means in world politics and is not a smart approach. The administration has forgotten the main lessons of great strategists like Carl von Clausewitz who wrote in his famous work “On War” in 1832 that war is “a continuation of politics by other means”, a new kind a language of politics which can never be separated from politics. This fundamentally political approach has been turned upside down by a pure security focus supporting maximum security measures without dominating global and local political objectives as the driving force. Ultimately, war in Afghanistan and Iraq and anti-terror activities became aims in themselves intellectual separated from a political analysis - and a pure technical and non-political approach to world politics. In this anti-Clausewitzian style lies the seed of U.S. problems in three important wars.
- The United States needs an U–turn in how they analyze, plan, implement and explain their foreign policy
- The traditional way of designing and deciding foreign policy in The White House has been overridden for too many years by the power circle of a too-influential Vice President, cooperating directly with a too-strong Secretary of Defence, over the head of a too-weak National Security Advisor and almost-impeached Secretary of State. The filters that a National Security Council would ideally provide, the input of State Department know how, and important inter-agency working groups have been out of order.
This has been combined with a poor performing top team.
- Had Vice President Dick Cheney been misfocused? Was he very good at applying military strength, while forgetting to embed this into a wiser overall strategy? He made America lose credibility and ultimately left America weaker by opening Pandora’s Box and implementing all kinds of over-reactive security measures. I would like to mention one German saying: “Meant good is the opposite of done good”
- Condolezza Rice was disappointing. Has her desire to prove herself as a strong and accepted coloured woman in a Republican Administration made her weak and hesitating to balance the poor policies of the Vice President and Donald Rumsfeld? I have not heard one impressive new proposal from her in several years. Her agreements on the Israel withdrawal from the Gaza strip including destroying all houses there; missing the option of reconciliation with the Palestinians; the green light for Israel to destroy too much infrastructure in Lebanon; the mishandling of the days after victory in Iraq or in Afghanistan: all were her mistakes as National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State. She is a good professor but an underperforming politician at the top and in power struggles. She lacked strong leadership and the inner musicality needed by good politicians.
- CIA Director George Tenet was also disappointing. He worked too much ‘to rule’ and to please the President. He fed the President with wrong information about potential Iraqi WMD and he was not aggressive enough in eliminating Al Qaeda pre 9/11.
- Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld was extremely influential but showed astonishing mismanagement. His background suggested to me that he would be a near-perfect administrator – but he proved to be both ignorant and arrogant. He failed to plan for post-invasion Iraq; indeed, he did not use enough troops in the first place. He failed to glue the Iraqi army to the new pro-American government, and he did not focus on regional peacemaking.
Should we blame U.S. President George Bush for all this?
This is very popular everywhere but much too simple for me.
Even after reading the many books about Iraq and Bush’s foreign policy, I still do not know if he is the force behind the disaster, or the victim of his own mismanaging team.
George W. Bush was certainly affected by the extreme emotional circumstances of being U.S. President during and after 9/11. As a softer emotional man, this shook him to his core and he allowed Cheney and Rummy carte blanche to become pushy “pro-war American Patriots” ready to use their old plan to impeach Saddam Hussein instead of advising as cool-headed political strategists.
Is American Foreign Policy a dangerous and destructive force in the world?
My answer: “For sure not”.
But America, and whoever wins the White House in 2008, must learn from the severe management mistakes of the last six years.
Let me summarize some of the lessons learned:
Brilliant Grand Strategies: No more U.S. military action abroad without a clear and deep analysis of all options, morning-after scenarios, regional forces, and allies. Act only with an intelligent grand strategy combining power, diplomacy, and reconciliation. We need such balanced analysis for Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan, Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, China, and Russia. So far we only see pure pragmatism and a strategic vacuum. (see Afghanistan & NATO’s Mission Impossible: A Radical New Grand Design Needed or Defeat is Guaranteed; Afghanistan: A new Grand Strategy for NATO, EU and the U.S.; Israel-Palestine: Hubertus Hoffmann on a New Peace Strategy combining Hawk & Dove, Uzi & Olive Branch; The Christian Message of Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance; The New Art of Peacemaking: Let's Make Friends First — Use Arms only as an Ultima Ratio Regis; The West needs Holistic Formulas for Peace on the basis of Diplomacy plus Power plus Reconciliation; Iraq: Hubertus Hoffmann on Plan B for the U.S. and stabilizing the region; Iraq: U.S. Senate supports Sen. Joe Biden Plan for a Federal System)
- Imagination and Creativity: Learn from Albert Einstein, who often said “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” He also said “imagination is more important than knowledge.” We need a creative, flexible, and forward looking foreign policy. A security-focused approach is not enough to rule the world. U.S. foreign policy must look into the politico-psychology of the observed nations, the past history, into the mental makeup; it must have a real soul, and touch the heats and minds of the people in the countries of interest. (see Einstein’s Lessons for Today’s Foreign Policy: “Imagination Is More Important than Knowledge.” Therefore We Need a New Creative Strategy for More Freedom in the World; The Globalization of Foreign Policy)
- Need of Excellence and best solutions: We need more fresh air in the administration: accept more independent thinkers and new ideas in foreign and security affairs not only “Yes-men and -women” or bland opportunism in the Pentagon, State, or CIA. Too much is not debated but said simply to please bosses and promote personal careers and personal gains. We need man and women of excellence instead of mediocrities as leaders. We still need the intellectual input of the neocons – indeed, I think their basic concept of promoting a free world and a strong America is still correct – but we also need creative liberal ideas and pragmatic thinkers. We need creative pluralism in foreign affairs to find the best solutions in Washington DC; America and the world need the best solutions, not ideology being left or right or naïve neocon or naïve peace-loving only. We need a new smart creative foreign policy design in Washington DC. (see Progressive Patriotism or "I Love My Country!"; Moral Relativism; Fritz Kraemer on Excellence - Missionary, Mentor and Pentagon Strategist)
- The U.S. is not a superpower: Do not believe the U.S. is the only superpower on earth: this is wrong. The U.S. lacks enough soldiers to wage two wars simultaneously; yet such strength was the core requirement in the Pentagon for decades. America is only superior in navy, air force, and in space. Military power alone can not produce the security needed today. The President and his administration must therefore act with the needed support of as many strong allies as possible and moral strength and credibility to win.
- No carte blanche to security forces: get away from the blanket ideology of “be a good patriot” or “America is strong” or “show strength now.” Carl von Clausewitz demanded moral greatness as one of the main elements of war which have to be blended with physical strength (On War, Third Book, Part III.) American foreign policy always has to combine power, diplomacy, and reconciliation. American policy is not about strength or weakness, but about sharp or blunt. I prefer the Asian style martial arts to Western boxing or cowboy shoot-outs. The first always seeks maximum effect from minimum power; Washington has spent six years achieving just the opposite. We need a new vision of patriotism in the U.S.. The patriot should not be who shoots most, but – like an Asian martial art master I recently met in Kyoto - who shoots best. This means someone strong and relaxed, who does not only scare enemies away but finds new friends for America with a patriotic vision of a “loving mind and a thinking heart.” Charm, kindness, greatness, principles of human rights and law and openness have underlain all American victories and are important elements of a successful foreign policy.
- Back to the roots of the U.S. constitution: back to Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Steuben, Lafayette, back to the Statue of Liberty, back to the heart of America and the soul of American foreign policy. As a great power, the U.S. will never have only friends. Yet she need not produce more enemies than necessary. The U.S. must be the Flag of Liberty and Democracy in the world and the Fire of Human Progress as the Founding Fathers demanded. Public diplomacy is essential for American foreign policy, as well as a clean, ethical image. America must believe and fight for “absolute values” and it is important for the soldiers to follow a code of honor (Fritz Kraemer). The U.S. needs a Holy Fire. The overreaction of her security bureaucrats – Guantanamo Bay, CIA renditions in Europe, suspects held without trial for years, and torture – must end now. Such actions are counterproductive and harm U.S. national interests. They may look strong and patriotic but they infect and paralyse the armed forces and CIA, fuel the PR-flames of Al Qaeda, and scare away both friends of America and potentially important sources within Muslim communities. The next potential 9/11 will probably be prevented by a young Moslem; one who hears something from fundamentalist al-Qaeda connections in their mosque and must decide to inform U.S. authorities or simply stay quiet. For example, crucial information about the German terrorist bombing attempts against the U.S. Air Force Base in Ramstein months ago came to the security forces from Muslims in Germany.
New focus in U.S. foreign affairs on the young elite in the 194 countries of the world: on the next generation. U.S. foreign policy will only be successful if it wins the hearts and minds of these new global movers and shakers. In our new era of globalization, this holds true for the Moslem world as much as for the Christian-centric West.
- The world needs a strong United States of America, not a paper tiger: It needs U.S. power, as there can be no diplomacy without the threat of power behind it. Nothing works without power, as long time Pentagon strategist Fritz Kraemer said. The world needs as well the U.S. will to use power if necessary. There are still many unstable authoritarian regimes and terrorists out there that must be contained with power, not paper. Washington must strengthen the understaffed U.S. Army and invest in new equipment and security.
- Washington also needs a balanced double strategy of power and diplomacy: something applied successfully with the 1967 NATO Harmel Report (Deterrence and Détente) against the Warsaw Pact, or the 1979 NATO Two Track Decisions (Pershing/Cruise Missiles and Zero Option to dismantle the Russian SS-20 missiles). (see A New NATO Double-Track Decision Against Terror - Only a new combination of containment and dialog can defeat terrorism)
- The U.S. must avoid “provocative weakness” (Fritz Kraemer) by being morally or militarily too weak. The United States has to be strong in both pillars of foreign affairs: being neither simply dangerous and destructive, but a flame of peace and freedom in a dangerous world.
This new foreign policy combining power and moral credibility based on international strength is very important for the future of our global village in an ongoing struggle between the traditional legitimate order and the new revolutionary order and against terrorism.
We are in a world of fragmenting state order, where almost 60 failing states contain 2 bn inhabitants.
There is an upcoming grand competition of the best vision for mankind, between a strong new block of capitalist non-democratic states like Russia or China vs. capitalistic and open democratic societies like the U.S., EU or India.
Without such a fresh new more credible and effective and clever U.S. foreign policy implementing the pillars discribed above, the U.S. will loose those important historic battles -like in Iraq- and the negative forces in the world will prevail. This is something neither the American people nor the Free World can afford.