Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Realistic Foreign Policy

There are two posts by bloggers that are well worth reading. The first is by Kevin Drum, writing the "Political Animal" blog for The Washington Monthly, where he presents a short, clear distinction between rogue states, such as Iran or North Korea, and failed states, such as Afghanistan.

Rogue States vs. Failed States

The second post is by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, his own blog. In this post, he quotes an Atlantic Monthly article on the ways in which terrorism flourishes in failed states, and *why* Bush foreign policy is completely inadequate to addressing this problem:

Talking Points Memo - Policy Differences

The link between these two articles, and the key to understanding why Bush foreign policy has failed, is how the Bushies cannot see the reality in front of their noses - chaotic conditions are where extra-state actors with large amounts of cash and global communications can flourish. A rogue state is characterized by a controlling and hostile regime who stamps out dissent internally. That such states are also fragile and when they can no longer maintain themselves (whether due to internal or external pressures) shatter in spectacular ways, such as Iraq, should also be noted - a rogue state may collapse abruptly into a failed state. Thus, a terrorist organization within a rogue state may be paid or directed by that state (such as Hezbollah & Iran), but is (if equipped with an extra-state funding source), can easily survive the downfall of that state and may even flourish after its demise (think just about everyone and Iraq).

This is why defeating the Taliban did nothing to stop al-Qaeda, and why defeating Saddam Hussein actually opened up opportunities for terror. Osama bin Laden does not need a state sponsor. He just needs a place to hang out and can handle his own fund-raising, thank you.

Marshall's post points out that the US has faced the problem of failed states before and has succeeded - in the Balkans. The success there, and the birth of a new, modern, and effective US foreign policy, was the recognition that state building is not something to be avoided, but embraced. Successful states create stability which deprives terrorists and organized crime of a place in which to operate. Successful states are not easy to build and cannot be done simply through "the free market" (i.e., rapacious contractors) forces and application of gunfire. They take negotiation, economic incentives, application of force, and most particularly, engagement of the local population. They have to live there, after all.

Thus, the "Hellfire and Hallibuton" approach was doomed to fail when addressing the problem of failed states, and it appears only to be able to make failed states out of rogue states.

It is not a mistake that Kerry has, as his two top foreign policy advisors, William Holbrooke and Wes Clark, architects of the Balkan plan. They will be the foundation of a very agile and intelligent foreign policy team for President Kerry.


Keery/Edwards 2004 - For a realistic foreign policy

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