Saturday, September 30, 2006

An Alternative Way Forward for the US

By Jim Lobe
The Asian Times

Friday 29 September 2006

Washington - After two years of consultations with more than 400 members of the US foreign-policy elite, a project headed by two leading international-relations academics is calling for the adoption of a new grand strategy designed to address multiple threats and strengthen Washington's commitment to a reformed and reinvigorated multilateral order.

In a wide-ranging report released in Washington on Wednesday, the Princeton Project on National Security suggested that the policies pursued by President George W Bush since September 11, 2001, had been simplistic - even counter-productive - for the challenges facing the United States in the 21st century.

To be effective, according to the report, US policy needed to rely less on military power and more on other tools of diplomacy; less on its own strength exercised unilaterally and more on cooperation with other democratic states; and less on rapid democratization based on popular elections and more on building what it called "popular, accountable, rights-regarding [PAR] governments".

The report also calls for performing "radical surgery" on the international institutions created in the aftermath of World War II, including significantly increasing membership in the United Nations Security Council and developing a "Concert of Democracies" that would provide an alternative forum for collective action, including the use of force.

On more specific issues, it calls for Washington to "take the lead in doing everything possible" to achieve a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; to offer Iran security assurances in exchange for its agreement not to develop a nuclear-weapons capacity; and to neither "block or contain" China, but rather to "help it achieve its legitimate ambitions within the current international order".

The project and its 90-page report, "Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: US National Security in the 21st Century", was co-directed by the head of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and John Ikenberry, a prominent international-relations scholar at the school.

Of greater significance, however, is the high-level and bipartisan cast of its participants. Honorary co-chairs of the project included George Shultz, who served as secretary of state under the late president Ronald Reagan and is considered particularly influential with the current secretary, Condoleezza Rice, and Anthony Lake, national security adviser under president Bill Clinton.

The project's 13 steering committee members and seven task forces that addressed different aspects of national security were also drawn from experts from or identified with both major political parties, while institutional co-sponsors included the major centrist think-tanks, ranging from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Brookings Institution on the left to the Hoover Institution on the right.

In that respect, the report appeared to be an effort to forge a consensus framework for the mainly Republican "realist" and mainly Democratic "liberal internationalist" schools that dominated US foreign-policy-making in the post-World War II era until the September 11 attacks when nationalist and neo-conservative hawks in the Bush administration launched their "global war on terror".

Thus, at the report's official Capitol Hill launch, sponsored by the "radical centrist" New America Foundation, the two keynote speakers were high-level political symbols of both schools - Republican realist Senator Chuck Hagel and Democratic internationalist Senator Joseph Biden - both sharp critics of the administration's conduct of the "war on terror".

Indeed, conspicuously missing among the institutional sponsors of the project were two key think-tanks - the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute and the right-wing Heritage Foundation - that have been most closely associated with the Bush administration's more radical policies, including its 2002 National Security Strategy, as well as the invasion of Iraq.

A few prominent neo-conservatives and aggressive nationalists, such as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, were among the individuals who participated in the project's consultations.

While Slaughter stressed that the final report and recommendations did not represent a formal consensus of all participants or even necessarily of the two honorary co-chairs, she said, "There was agreement across the political spectrum on a comprehensive approach." Most participants, she said, would agree with most of the analysis and recommendations.

Three specific aims - securing the homeland against hostile attacks or fatal epidemics, building a healthy global economy, and promoting a "benign international environment, grounded in security cooperation among nations and the spread of liberal democracy" - should constitute Washington's basic objectives, according to the report.

To achieve those objectives, the report offers a number of general and specific recommendations, many of which contain implicit criticisms of the Bush administration. It calls, for example, for "fusing hard power - the power to coerce - and soft power - the power to attract"; and for "building frameworks of cooperation centered on common interests with other nations rather than insisting that they accept our prioritization of common threats".

While it applauds Bush's advocacy of democratization in principle, the report calls for greater efforts to bring non-democratic governments "up to PAR" - that is, "a much more sophisticated strategy of creating the deeper conditions for successful liberal democracy - preconditions that extend far beyond the simple holding of elections".

Similarly, with respect to military power and the use of force, "Instead of insisting on a doctrine of primacy, the United States should aim to sustain the military predominance of liberal democracies and encourage the development of military capabilities of like-minded democracies in a way that is consistent with their security interests."

While endorsing Bush's position that "preventive strikes represent a necessary tool in fighting terror networks ... they should be proportionate and based on intelligence that adheres to strict standards". Similarly, the preventive use of force against states "should be very rare, employed only as a last resort and authorized by a multilateral institution - preferably a reformed Security Council".

In addition to calling for greater US effort and balance in promoting an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement and for offering security guarantees to Iran, the report urges Washington to reduce its ambitions in Iraq from full democratization to PAR, to redeploy US troops in ways that would encourage Iraqis to take more responsibility, and, in the event of civil war, to contain its regional impact. At the same time, Washington should promote the construction of regional institutions modeled on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The report also assails administration efforts at "framing the struggle against terrorism as a war similar to World War II or the Cold War" because "it lends legitimacy and respect to an enemy that deserves neither; the result is to strengthen, not degrade our adversary". Instead of a "global war on terror", Washington should employ a "global counterinsurgency" strategy that focuses on global law enforcement, intelligence and special operations.

To combat radicalization in the Islamic world, Washington should also make clear that it is willing to work with "Islamic governments and Islamic/Islamist movements, including fundamentalists, as long as they disavow terrorism".

"It is time to unite our country and our allies, while dividing our enemies - rather than the other way around," said Ikenberry.

On energy, the project called for going much further than the administration has proposed to reduce US reliance on Middle East oil by adopting a tax on gasoline that would begin at 50 cents per gallon (about 13 cents a liter) and increase by 20 cents per year for each of the next years. It also called for stricter automobile fuel-efficiency standards and for US leadership in devising new ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

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