Ed. Note: Bob Jones' article
A Populace-Centric Foreign Policy, published at World Politics Review in Feb
2009, will be available in front of their paywall until Feb 13, courtesy of WPR. Thanks to Judah,
Hampton, and all. And thanks, Bob.
Guest post by Robert C. Jones:
The Department of State focuses on governments. The Department of Defense
focuses on Threats. With two such powerful governmental organizations at work,
it is only natural that U.S. foreign policy would also so be focused on
relationships with allied governments to work together to contain, deter, and if
necessary, defeat any array of threats. Lost in this equation are the people.
In an age of rapid and widespread information and transportation technology the
people are connected and empowered in ways that were unimaginable even a few
short years ago.
As events continue to unfold across North Africa and the Middle East, U.S.
foreign policy is finding itself faced with a growing dilemma. Three broad
categories of parties are all in play. First there are the long-term allies of
the U.S. in the form of governments. Many Arab allies are under growing
pressure to resign or reform, and in the midst of these sits Israel with its own
unique concerns and challenges. Then there are the populaces of these nations.
Each of these Arab nations rank among the least free on the planet, with
populaces trapped in conditions of economic poverty, few civil liberties, and
even fewer legal means to break free from either of those conditions. Lastly
there are the threats. Shia Iran is a natural opponent of the primarily Sunni
states that ally with the U.S., of Israel, and since our falling out over the
Shah, with the U.S. as well. Non-state actors are an even greater concern; as
these threats are nowhere and everywhere at the same time, growing in power and
influence while enjoying a sanctuary of status that renders them effectively
immune from the majority of the tools of statecraft.
Should the U.S. stand by governments regardless of how far their domestic
policies are from those espoused by the U.S.? Should the U.S. rationalize
overlooking civil rights abuses in the name of national security?
A Populace-Centric Foreign Policy two years ago as I looked at
this growing problem. The editors at World Politics Review had seen a
piece that I had published here on the Small Wars Journal and asked if I would
craft a similar product for a policy oriented audience. Current events prompted
me to seek permission to pull that second article back up to share with the
Small Wars community. World
Politics Review concurred, and was good enough to make the article publicly
available until February 13th so you can access it. The article
offers the simple proposition that the relative
balance of power is shifting. States are becoming less powerful while non-state
organizations grow in power. Perhaps it is time to become less State-centric in
our foreign policy approaches, less threat-centric in our foreign policy
approaches, and become instead a bit more Populace-centric. This is not
to be confused with the tactical approach to COIN being practiced in
Afghanistan, but rather is a shifting of priority at the strategic/policy
level. States and threats will always be with us, but how we balance
relationships with governments, approaches to threats, and relationships with
populaces is due for a major overhaul.