Small Wars Survey for 2012

  1. Great powers (and the US is certainly one) tend to privilege stability or order over justice or just relations.  To maintain order and stability the US has supported dictators and regimes that if we had privileged justice we would not have supported.  We know the argument that one does what is possible.  But justice deferred becomes a festering sore and source of instability eventually.  So rather than having to choose between inappropriately interfering in the life of another country or being isolationist and concentrating only on ourselves, how do we creatively engage the larger world so as to increase justice?
  2. What can the United States actually do to restore order to the world without having to engage in either global policing or nation-building?
  3. Are their gaps and disconnects between what the United States says and what it does, how it wants to be perceived, and how it is perceived?
  4. What should be the United States military role in foreign policy?
  5. Outside of the United States mlitary, what other institutions MUST be fixed in order for the United States foreign policy to be successful?
  6. What reforms are needed within the United States military?

This thread is active in both the Blog and Council

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I answered questions 1 and 3 on my own blog here, http://www.onviolence.com/?e=530.

In summary, there is a huge disconnect between our values and our perceived immediate self interests. The solutions are simple: accept more risk (albeit incredibly small risk in the form of terrorism attacks) and stop policies that violate our principles like torture, supporting dictatorships and extraordinary renditions.

1. By setting the example through the creation of a just, peerless society that always errs in favor of the other, whether individual or country,

2. By treating other nations the way we wish our adversaries to treat them.

3. Absolutely.

4. To identify which policies the military can support if politics fail.

5. All of them. We cannot have a war like Iraq of Afghanistan again without a whole of government approach.

6. a) Realistic assumptions; b) Less officers involved in tactical level processes; c) More robust red cells.

The Do No Harm Policy?

While not necessarily germane to this thread, I found today’s comments from Tom Barnett pretty interesting:

“We are being sold a vision of the world that the Pentagon needs - not one that exists.

In truth, we still face a vast world of messy small wars, insurgencies, terror networks, hacking and – yes – nations to be stabilized and built-up. And our biggest ally in all of this will be the Chinese, not by choice but by necessity on both sides. We don’t have the money and they don’t have the skills.”

http://battleland.blogs.time.com/2012/01/03/the-strategic-pivot-to-asia-...

Keep in mind China's military is focused on Active Defense not policing Asia

"Active Defense" against what? I suspect China better apreciates about her situation what the US cannot seem to apreciate about our own: No one wants to invade her.

Take the thorn of Taiwan out of the paw of US-China relationship suddenly everything looks far different. It is 20 years past time to pull that thorn. For the President to simply announce that Asia-Pacific region is our top priority without addressing Taiwan once and for all is very dangerous, as it will pump steroids into the arms race built around that one burning issue.

We cannot move forward in Asia until we are able to first resolve our historic baggage. China-Taiwan is a domestic Chinese issue. Standing in the middle of it made sense during the Cold War, but to do so now creates unnecessary dangers and drives horrible priorities for how we build, train, organize and equip the US military.

The Chinese have studied the US and learned many lessons that they apply very well. We would be wise to study and learn from them in a similar manner.

Mr. Jones:

You seem quite cavalier about throwing 23 million people who live in a relatively free country into the jaws of a police state. Tell me how you would break the news to them that the foremost free nation in the world has decided to toss them aside? What words would you use? Tell me also how you would assure the Australians and the Japanese that they won't be given up when their time came.

Also keep in mind he said nothing about the Chinese military. Successful Chinese "soft power" and "influence operations" efforts outside of Asia are well documented.

Yes, but dealing with the far enemy is different and cheaper than dealing with the near enemy

I'm not a DoD war college graduate so I have no idea what that even means… but the larger point is that DoD is painting an unrealistic picture of global threats just to ensure business is good for the next decade or so.

Here is another Barnett (I'm not normally a fan but give credit when due) quote from a recent article:

“Honestly, these strategic rationales all start looking rather comical once they escape the confines of the Pentagon and meet the fresh air of real-world global economics.”

http://battleland.blogs.time.com/2012/01/04/more-evidence-of-the-gloriou...

That's not from any US War college. That's Chinese zenophobia and military reasoning. You might want to step in their shoes and see how they'll feel if we pull out of Asia.

I see. Perhaps it’s that “military” reasoning (as opposed to other forms of classic reasoning and critical thinking) that has created the Pentagon’s view of reality.

Jack, 1. I've never been to the Pentagon. 2. You might want to go into the rural areas of China and talk to villagers, the military professionals, and the other 99% of the the population before you accuse anyone of not having classical reasoning or critical thinking.

Mike,

1. I never accused you of working at the Pentagon – that comment was related to T.B.’s comments.

2. Conducting a survey of 99% of the “others” in China’s rural areas would be very time consuming – probably couldn’t get it done in my lifetime - congrats to you if you've done it (BTW, 10,000 new rural Chinese villagers were just born while reading that sentence)! If a US businessman, FSO, intelligence officer, academic, or other individual did what you described, would their conclusions be wrong because they are not applying “military” reasoning? Again, I didn’t accuse you of not having critical thinking skills – my comment was in response to your use of the term military reasoning as if it is somehow different from other reasoning. Surveys, observations, and interviews are data collection methods used outside the military as well – nothing you said is inherently military. If you said to do this under enemy fire, well that's another story....

All,

This is crowd sourcing. I generated the questions from my interpretation of US foreign policy over the last sixty years (both right and left leaning). I want to see how the group responds to the questions to see how different/similar small wars practitioners insight is to other groups. My personal opinions would be most closely tied to Ken White, Bill Moore, and Peter Munson in that order.

Jack,

Policy and strategy are largely based on our desired ends, not necessarily what we know, don't know, or can't know. Our plans to achieve the ends stated in the policies and strategies frequently are derailed by unforeseen factors due to either ignorance or the fact that sometimes the things that derail us are unseeable until they're already tangible problems. The fact that the world is and always has been to some degree unpredictable, and the fact that historical evidence informs us that grandiose objectives are always harder to achieve than originally envisioned is supporting fire for taking a chill pill on the way we pursue our foreign policy objectives. Sometimes the long slow road is better than sending in the military to force change through coercion with the assumption that it will be relatively easy to do. It rarely is. I think the point of the questions is to determine if we can do things smarter, not perfectly.

Bill,

Copy all.

The intent of my comment is to solicit thoughts on if we were even asking the right questions or are we starting out the 2012 Survey based on some faulty assumptions. Given the degree of global uncertainty, should our national focus be concerned with global justice or something more inwardly focused such as Restoration as Richard Haass describes or Mr. Y’s National Prosperity? As a nation are we more concerned with spreading democracy and improving human rights around the globe or are energy independence and economic recovery more important, for example?

Perhaps a question such as:

If you were writing the 2013 National Security (not defense) Strategy, what would be your top five objectives?

This type of question may help first define the ends (pursuing global justice or restoring world order may or may not be on the list) our foreign policy is attempting to support. From there you can then ask what the role of the military is in supporting that foreign policy and what institutions need to be overhauled or completely eliminated.

The questions Mike F posed were all based on the assumption that our current “ends” were correct and perhaps they are….

Mike:

1. What is justice? You and Madhu both asked that. Until you can answer that to the satisfaction of everybody, which I don't think anybody can, it is pointless to frame the question as you did. Maybe better to be a little more specific.

I suspect you may have an idea in mind about what justice is. If you do, what do you think it is?

I thought about this thread today after reading a Paul Pillar’s piece on the IC in FP. He closed with the following:

“…But no amount of moving around boxes on a flowchart can eliminate unpleasant surprises, and there will always be new challenges -- especially in an age of endlessly proliferating information.

Intelligence can help manage uncertainty, defining its scope and specifying what is known and what is likely to stay unknown. It can distinguish true uncertainty from simple ignorance by systematically assembling all available information, but it cannot eliminate uncertainty and it cannot prevent all surprises, including some big ones. Leaders must accept this reality; they must expect -- and prepare -- to be surprised.

With due acknowledgment to Donald Rumsfeld, it also means expecting unknown unknowns. Not only will we not know all the right answers -- we will not even be asking all the right questions. “

I’m not sure what the intent of Mike F’s questions were – perhaps simply to stimulate discussion on security challenges facing the US in the upcoming year (since the questions were asked on 1 Jan)– but there may be additional questions the small wars/national security community should be examining as well. If so, what are they?

All the comments below have great merit. Some thoughts:

"1. ...how do we creatively engage the larger world so as to increase justice?"

That's a dangerous and leading question. How do we American xenophobes, insulated as we are, determine or even have the right to talk about increasing justice? Moot question. Our political system will provide answers (multiple) that not every one will like. Pragmatically, we should be very cautious about endorsing leaders elsewhere, supporting many governments here and there or not trying to foster 'justice' abroad (after we get it right here at home, of course -- more on that in a minute). Unfortunately, pragmatism doesn't rule -- consistently. US domestic political concerns rule and the players change constantly. That is by design and it generally works acceptably if not well for us. It almost never works well for the others in the world.

While some of the comments posit ideas with which I agree, my observation is that the US cannot and likely will not provide or assist in providing 'justice' for others in any remotely consistent fashion. There will be a collection of Congress persons who try to do such things and they will be opposed by many of their peers and perhaps the Administration. Conversely, an Administration may try to do that and ignite a raft of objections from the opposing party in Congress.

'Justice' elsewhere as envisioned by the question posed depends thus totally on US domestic politics and there will be no constantcy. All things considered, our mixed record on this score will continue and we will probably continue to do a bit more good than harm -- hopefully recalling that when we decide to do harm, we often get carried away. We just need to develop a bit of restraint...

"2. What can the United States actually do to restore order to the world without having to engage in either global policing or nation-building?"

Aside from the raw arrogance of the question, from the fact that it is NOT our job to 'restore' such order -- I question that it has ever existed... -- and from the naivete disclosed by the question, it serves as an exemplar of why the answer to question 1 and particularly to question 3 are resigned chuckles. Unfortunately, that naivete is shared by far too many in the domestic political arena and in the Foreign Policy establishment -- not to mention the Armed Forces. That naivete combined with overlarge egos and arrogance in those establishments are the factors that drive us to inconsistency in many things, to dumb interventions we did not need to undertake and fuel resistance to changes in the budgeting system which cause us to stay off balance much of the time.

Who defines "order?" What are the parameters; what happens if it is achieved to the satisfaction of 'A' then 'B' dies and the system tilts to unstable...

A better question is 'What can the United States actually do to adapt to and mesh with the world without engaging in either global policing or nation-building?'

ADDED: (The lost paragraph) We can best adapt to the world if we get ourselves squared away -- for a variety of reasons, we need some changes in a good many respects and areas of endeavor. We can improve our capabilities and our image if we do that. We are perceived as hypocritical because we advocate sweetness and light and yet launch assaults here and there. We can do better. we can stop trying -- and trying is appropriate -- we do not do nation building or global policing, we do selective things along those lines that suit us and those not well...

Original post resumes:

We are big, we are powerful and we are truly our own worst enemy.Those are two things we do not do at all well, do not need to do and with which we continue to play even though both are proven inimical to our interests almost always. Again, that naivete and the budget process are along with egos the culprits.

"3. Are their (sic) gaps and disconnects between what the United States says and what it does, how it wants to be perceived, and how it is perceived?"

That's so open ended it's unanswerable. Suffice to say that most answers will draw on the first two questions above and elict a 'Duh.' As Porky Pine in the old Pogo comic strip used to say "We have met the enemy and he is us."

That said, as noted in the comment on question 1, above, our political system is inimical to world norms today. I would not change it so I believe we have to accept we will always be perceived as reactionary, slow off the mark, prone to indecision and, as reality does not accord with the soaring rhetoric of our Politicians who tailor their speeches to the domestic audience and forget -- or ignore -- the potential misunderstanding of foreign audiences. I might add that I've had a number of foreign acquaintances over the years comment that our domestic media and entertainment industry are part of the problem. The portrayals and the media do not sit well with many and tend to make us look like a collection of clowns. There's a lot of misperception due to all those things and there's little we can do to fix it -- short of draconian political fixes and those are not going to happen.

We'll just have to keep plugging along and try to more good than harm -- most in the world will grudgingly admit we do that...

"4. What should be the United States military role in foreign policy?"

To advise the NCA and DoS (and it incumbent upon those folks to listen to that advice. As an aside, they might be more prone to do so if we'd slow down our rotation of key personnel a bit).

Get the CoComs out of the arena. They are overly involved in foreign policy because Goldwater-Nichols gave them the ability to do that and our totally dysfunctional budgeting system so beloved of Congress to buy votes force feeds them more money than they need and it is to their advantage to enhance that flow. There's a bit of hyperbole in that but just a tiny bit.

"5. Outside of the United States mlitary, what other institutions MUST be fixed in order for the United States foreign policy to be successful?

The US electorate.

6. What reforms are needed within the United States military?

That they can control: More selectivity in accessions for fewer but better quality people; Improve initial entry training, Officer and Enlisted, all services; work with Congress to improve the personnel system, reduce grade creep, refine pay, stop allowances, vest retirement earlier, encourage active and reserve crossover service, slow the rotation cycles; reduce the stifling bureaucracy; relearn how to trust and delegate -- we seem to have forgotten how to do those things...

The Armed Forces of the US basically know everything I just wrote. The question should be why aren't they doing something to correct the wrongs of which they are generally aware...

Since our Revolution, Americans have preferred freedom over security. After each conflict we draw down. I would recommend to anyone that they read: "World On Fire, How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability," by Amy Chua. At page 260..."The last thing most Americans want is a true world democracy, in which our economic and political fate is determined by a majority of the world's countries or citizens. The idea....of the UN General Assembly controlling US foreign investments would probably not be appealing to most Americans. Like other market-dominant minorities, we don't trust the relatively poor, frustrated, resentful majorities surrounding us unnecessarily to act in our best interests." At page 262.."in 1992 Saudi Arabia's King Fahd publicly stated that the democratic system prevailing in the world does not suit us in the region...Islam is our social and political law. It is a complete constitution of social and economic laws and a system of government and justice."

Increase justice, whose justice?

At question one the emphasis was on increasing justice and it appeared stability and order were inferior to justice. Now we are to restore order without policing or nation building. I believe there is a social scientist at work here rather than a warrior. In my review of COIN FM I criticized it as not being written for the warrior. I feel I am being "troop led" down a path that makes no warrior sense. You are asking how we should engage to increase justice and restore order in the world without starting a fight? There will be a fight.

Is it a path leading to a Narrative (story) like that written by Mr. Y? I actually like those priorities: Invest in intellectual capital, ensure the nation's sustainable security, and develop a plan for the sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need for our continued well-being, prosperity and economic growth in the world market place (paraphrase).

I would like to see a strategic narrative that acknowledges we are a super power operating in our own self interest, a narrative that outlines control of our borders, sea, and air; a narrative that achieves energy independence, and a narrative that does not apologize for our culture and its values. Actual priorities are: our people, our security, and access to natural resources. We act in our own self interests, deal from a position of strength, and do not back away from punishing bad behavior.

Should we get rid of the UN, NATO, and overseas bases?

1. I agree with your larger point about stability but I'm not sure I can follow you the entire way. Who is to decide what is just and what is an injustice? And who is to enforce this universally agreed upon justice? What if those attempts are perceived as hypocritical, because I assure you, any such attempts will be perceived as being hypocritical by someone, somewhere, somehow, sometime. Wading into the justice issue is a potential quagmire of its own, I think. I say this because I am part of a diasporan ethnic community that has been skeptical of Western institutional attempts at promoting justice in the past, especially within the context of "South Asia."

I guess what I am saying is that I don't trust the ability to execute well even if the idea may be a good one on paper. But I also think you are right in a way. Hmmm, I don't know where I am going with this....

2. Is the world so disordered comparatively speaking, or is it just adjusting itself to new patterns? I mean that as a serious question.

3. Yes. (See my last series of posts in the Council section.)

4. Primarily defensive in nature. And yes, I know the devil is in the details so that is essentially a useless answer.

5. All of them need reforming? Another essentially useless answer. On the subject of more aid to the State Department - just allocating more money won't necessarily make an institution effective. Here I refer you to the book, "We Meant Well" (or any book on iternational institutions like the IMF, etc.):

A State Department insider reveals what he believes to be costly and misguided efforts by American forces to reconstruct Iraq, arguing that taxpayer money was used for numerous initiatives designed to provide employment and morale to Iraqi citizens, but ultimately failed to acknowledge cultural and wartime truths.

http://www.npr.org/books/titles/140711623/we-meant-well-how-i-helped-los...

But I don't know enough to suggest intelligent reforms or if the "insider" is correct. More transparency? A ban on people moving between State Department appointments and private contractors for some years? Or is that going too far because it demonizes good people? Honestly, I don't know. I hope no one takes the comment as being overly critical.

6. I am not qualified to answer this being a civilian and a layperson (I mean, not that being a civilian disqualifies me necessarily, but that I am not particularly well read on the subject).

This is an excellent series of questions and an interesting thread. Thank you.

1. Justice: Justice is not our objective. Transforming outlier states and societies -- such that these might come to cause the so-called "modern world" (the more-Western-like world) fewer problems and offer said "modern world" greater utility/usefulness instead -- this is what we seek. Accordingly, "justice" -- for those who might adamantly oppose the state and societal transformations that we require -- this may be impossible.

2. Order. The United States does not seek order for the world; except such specific order as -- we feel -- best provides for and supports the wants, needs and desires of the more-modern/more-Western-like world. In this regard, much as we are prepared to deny "justice" to those who oppose us, likewise are we prepared to sacrifice a certain degree of "order"/deny alternative forms of "order;" especially if such conflicts with our goals, objectives and interests noted above.

3. Gaps and Disconnects in Our Message: Of late, the United States would seem to be acting consistently, and in all continuity and conformity, with the ideas, goals, objectives and rationale expressed at items "1" and "2" above.

4. U.S. Military Role in Our Foreign Policy: Consistent with our objectives noted above, America's military forces must be organized, ordered, oriented and configured such that they will be able to -- in concert with the other instruments of United States power -- create, operate, maintain and defend a world that is to be made (via transformation and incorporation) more-open and more-accessible to our exports, to our ideas and to our other interests. This will require (a) expeditionary/offensive forces that will be needed to help break down the state and societal borders, barriers, etc., that get in our way and (b) defensive forces (both at home and abroad) that will be needed to defend against those who would resist/fight back against our advances.

5. Other Institutions That Must be Fixed: Department of State and all other institutions that have the responsibility of influencing outlier state and societal behavior -- and toward causing these outlier states and societies to find that "modernization/Westernization" is more attractive than (a) the status quo and/or (b) all alternative arrangements (to include: armed intervention by the United States).

6. Military Reforms: The military must be configured so that it will be able to do its work more via the "hard hand."

These answers are far too short to convey any nuance, but I don't have time to write an essay on each.

1. The idea of increasing justice, etc, falls along the positivist/universalist, end of history ideals that have driven liberal interventionism in the postwar years. Countries increasingly abrogate sovereignty in order to pursue perceived universal values that not all see as universal. What is more, as you note, US policies that seek stability often contravene our professed principles, making it all seem to be a cynical and untruthful charade to outsiders. The combination of universal ideals and the abrogation of sovereignty in the name of such higher ideals takes us back, in a way, to a pre-Westphalian conception of policy, which is making the world extremely unstable. The best way the US can deal with these issues is to pursue a more confident, less insecure foreign policy. Stop polarizing the world into black and white. Act as exemplar rather than crusader. Realize that our greatest threats are our own profligacy and insecurity. Our manipulations of the world increase insecurity and spend our power. I am not calling for an isolationist policy, but rather a decisive end to an interventionist policy. We need to take a step back and act as a more normal power, rather than a hyperactive hyperpower, dripping with its own insecurity.

2. Stop unthinking democracy promotion (i.e. that elections are a silver bullet) and the encouragement of profligate defense spending in partner nations. Pursue policies that support more basic socio-economic development to underpin capitalism and liberal politics, rather than going for elections first. Take a step back, leaving states to develop at their own pace. Be willing to accept messy, slow, and sometimes unsavory developments rather than supporting an unnatural stasis.

3. Yes. See 1 above. Our ideals often go against our policies in support of status quo leadership. We are perceived as an insecure bully.

4. Due to resources available, the US military has a far greater role in diplomacy than any other arm of the government. This is a major problem that needs to be redressed by attenuating the role of the military in globe-trotting engagements and transferring resources, responsibilities, and some structure to State to take up a more prominent role. The U.S. military profile around the world should be significantly reduced.

5. State needs more resources and a significant increase in the budget, carved from a DoD with less of a crusading role. Our national security decision-making apparatus needs an interagency reform initiative somewhat like Goldwater-Nichols. Additional legislation to restrict the power of the executive in getting us into wars should be introduced. If it is really in our interest, then Congress and the people should be consulted.

6. Personnel system must be overhauled, then the retirement system. System must do a better job of talent management and be less of a jobs program. Multiple tracks for management, experts, and staff planners. Longer horizon for retirement. Shift to more of a 401(K) type of a retirement. Massive overhaul of our bloated bureaucracy and inefficient spending practices. Etc, etc, etc.
What reforms are needed within the United States military?

I was going to respond, but I agree with all of these- just ditto these for me, Mike. Well said, Peter.

- Grant

Grant/Peter,

Prior to the end of the Cold War, USIA (Info department) was separate from State in order to allow them to have freedom of maneuver in messaging without the constraints of the in country team. With the USIA falling under State in the 1990's, they lost that freedom. Should we separate the two and revamp USIA for the information age or is strategic messaging irrelevant in the information age?

I agree with what Peter said. Whenever we "message" it seems to me to be received in one of two ways: 1) it bounces off the worldview of whatever the audience is- and in the ME it mainly bounces off a conspiracy mindset that is pretty much stuck for them (surely some in the world believe it, but not because it is effective- but because their worldview matches it); 2) it is totally ignored as messaging.

I'd seriously consider putting it under the CIA or SOCOM and giving them more of a freehand to subvert other messaging and add to conspiracy theories that suit our purposes. This truth stuff- although good officially- isn't doing us much good in our operating environment.

Mike,
I don't know. Between the information age and the fact that we are so polarized and politicized in government, I just don't know if strategic messaging can be very productive. Our efforts often seem so tone deaf and are so quickly criticized as tripe by all sides. I'd have to do some more reading on that one some day...

As a non-US participant, trust I can make a respectful contribution here:

1. Whether it is the US or another medium power like Australia being committed to dialogue at almost every level: diplomatic engagement, education exchange, business and commercial relationships, social media and any other form of communication that can permeate the ever increasing porous borders of nations continuing to impose constraints of justice on its people, must continue if a sense of justice is to be realised by the oppressed. The key, unlike how we got carried away mid-way through Afghanistan, is to resist presenting government in a box with all the Western tools of justice. It may not be our flavour of justice. Fundamentally, I believe people know what is right and wrong. I believe a deontological theory of justice and in the end they will make the right decision, if the environment is permissible.

2. This area is underpinned by a three-pronged strategy of diplomacy, development & defence within an era of extremely tight US fiscal & Budget constraints. Making better judgements about when and how to intervene and use other aspects of your great nation to influence others - commerce, trade, education can be very powerful. The US should think more carefully about using its strategic alliances to work and influence the world.

3. Of course there are gaps between what the US says and does. Just like it is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t intervene or become involved in global or regional issues. The key is to be better at communicating to the world what the US represents rather than reacting to mistakes it might make. No one said freedom was perfect. Many commentators outside the US also continue to only see the US as a nation rather the amalgamation of 50 other states with great diversity. This brings its own challenges and without the imposition of arcane, draconian and anti-liberty laws by the State. In the end it is what continues to make the US the best imperfect role model.

4. Implementation of a long term approach to preventing bush fires by engaging in regular burn-offs. Being better at using a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer. US foreign policy is also made up of interests that combine:
• Denying safe havens for trans-national terrorists
• Geo-political stability
• Access to Resources / Commodities
• Multi-lateral security treaty obligations

5. The UN must reform. It is one of the most moribound global institutions. GLobal it projects a weak and image and at the local level where many of us have seen them operate it is a poor operator. When you think about it - if the UN was stronger then it would relieve the pressure on the US to get involved unilaterally.

6. I think Fmr Defence Sec Robert Gates said it best: “The overarching goal will be to preserve a US military capable of meeting crucial national security priorities, even if fiscal pressure requires reductions in the force’s size.” (Fmr U.S Defence Secretary Robert Gates 18 May 2011)

Jason,

Can you be more specific for 4,5,6

Fair call Mike. I should have provided more detail:

4. If we take a look at the International Crisis Group report published in Foreign Policy by Louis Arbour on 27 December 2011. There are a range of nations, some of which the US are directly involved, where US foreign policy could be more focused on a long range game plan with more precision at directly influence events or opinion. Even Afghanistan – I’m sure there are plenty of pundits who thought we would have completed our mission in that arena much sooner. Yet any realist could have predicted it could take a generation. The recent agreement between Australia and the US to have a permanent USMC deployment in the Northern part of Australia is an example of smarter strategic use of an already strong partnership. It also sends an important message to regional powerhouses such as China. Yet, the US has been too slow to make progress in places like Africa where, instead China has stolen the ground on access to commodities and implementation of development programs.

One of the important points to remember is that good foreign policy does not mean other nations or peoples all love the US, it means that they dont hate us so much that they want to kill us or disrupt vital economic interests.

5. OK take the UN de-armament program in South Sudan of the young warriors. There was no thought put into what the fighting aged men would do once they gave up their weapons at a time when, stability is minimal, criminals and thieve raiding cattle is rife and not prospect of an alternative – such as turning these guys to agricultural production. UN World Food Program is one of the biggest contributors to poor agricultural production and a degradation of self-sufficiency. Time after time I would ask fit men why they weren’t turning their attention to agriculture now the fighting has stopped the “answer why bother when we have the WFP handouts”. The de-mining program which I had a bit to do with is another example. No thought put into engaging with the local community to turn the land into production. These are micro-level examples but ones I can provide from first-hand experience. Yet I suspect they are symptomatic.
On a macro-level with Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. This has global implications and therefore the UN must be standing up to defend and maintain this vital oil route.

6. i) US military must raise the level of its capacity to project awesome power and presence in what I could cheekily call a Gian Gentile approach.
ii) becoming far much better at implementing asymmetric warfare rather than focusing most of US military resources into defending against asymmetric tactics. This can be for engagements abroad or to protect national security interests at home.

1. Justice for whom? How is this justice achieved? This implies we must interfere with the internal affairs of others, which runs against the ideas of our founding fathers. If our system is worth mimicking then the best way to creatively engage is demonstrate the merits of our system by first focusing on the home front, and second by facilitating the sharing of ideas with student exchanges, opening U.S. businesses in places like Iran, Cuba, etc. It is the power of ideas that promote sustained change, we can’t force this change by occupying nations and imposing our system on them. I’m not opposed to supporting those seeking their freedom, but they must seek their freedom first and then demonstrate they have enough support for their ideas to hold once the tyrant is removed. If that is the case, we provide can provide financial, information, and limited military assistance if required (Special Forces advisors) to facilitate the revolution. However, as I hope we learned this is a dangerous course to pursue, because we have limited power to control the outcome.
2. When has there ever been order in the world? What makes you think the world is more disordered now than it has been in the past? We can’t restore order, constant change will remain a constant in the future of society, and with change comes disorder as societies readjust.
3. There are huge gaps between what the U.S. government says and what it does, and what it says may change every four years. Outsiders understand us better than we do in this regard. The American people need to become better informed about our foreign affairs and keep the government in check. The American people should be the most visible representatives of our nation, not the government bureaucrats.
4. The military’s role in foreign and domestic policy is quite clear. We protect the Constitution of the U.S. from all enemies foreign and domestic.
5. We probably all have different opinions about our foreign policy and what needs to be improved, but foremost we need a functional National Security Staff that can direct the elements of national power (DIMEFIL) to support the said policy, instead of simply asking them and then failing to synchronize the efforts of the various agencies.
6. The reforms needed in the military are a separate topic, but one example that is line with the general jest of our questions is the need to fuse intelligence, operations and diplomacy under an organization that loosely resembles the old OSS to enable us to respond more intelligently to irregular warfare challenges. A longer explanation is required, but I know many who visit this site understand where I’m going with this.

Bill M,

Concur with all, and let me take a stab at answer your first. What is justice and when should we intervene? One example is Hitler and the Third Reich. We must set a threshold for intervention.

Also, Can you expand on 6 for our new viewers who may be unfamiliar with what you are saying.

MikeF,
Why so distant?
Just say civil war does break out in Iraq ( I''ve heard rumours) and owing to massive support from the Wahabbis the Sunnis get on a roll and the Iraqi Shia beg the Iranian Army to save them. Prior to D-Day the Iranians successfully test a nuke or maybe they almost do.
Cheering crowds welcome the triumphant Shia Army as it halts at the Kuwait border - hopefully.
To a man the Shia Army are considered heroic and just.
The US effort in Iraq will do little to stop the Israelis selling tactical nukes to everyone - in the name of this new fangled Justice of course.

Churchill probably said it best when, after viewing the destruction of Coventry by the Luftwaffe, an aid attempted to lift the gloom by assuring him that it was "right" Churchill didn't warn the city's inhabitants so as to protect the Ultra code-breakers fore- telling him the raid was coming. He thought about it for a while and is alleged to have replied " A thousand innocent people are dead and we were right."
Best Wishes
RC

Justice. Far more important than "rule of law" (or rule by law); a primary causal driver of insurgency; and not a reason we should employ to justify a military intervention of any nation.

The perception that matters most, the "who's justice" that must be applied, is that of the populace affected by the laws in question. This is not a lens we've demonstrated any skill in looking through clearly; nor frankly one that we've shown much concern for even looking through at all. We focus on our own perceptions, and they simply do not matter. Our perceptions are based on our values, our culture and our society. They apply to us and no others.

Justice is a great topic for diplomatic engagement. Stand down the "rule of law" sections, like currently exists in the US Embassy Kabul, and remission it as a "justice" section. Then it can shift its focus from how GIRoA more effectively gets out and enforces the rule of law to one of how the people of Aghanistan feel about the rule of law as it is applied (or not applied) toward them. Shift the focus to one of how the people feel from one of how the government performs. Don't try to fix it, just try to understand it so that the Ambassador can have informed discussions with government officials within GIRoA and back at home.

We need to better understand the role of justice. We need to better monitor and track perceptions of justice among populaces at home and abroad. But we have no duty to define what laws should exist beyond our borders, or how those laws should be enforced, and certainly no right or duty to militarily intervene when we perceive that justice is not meeting our perceptions. To do so is perhaps the greatest injustice of all, and creates a powerful vector along which intent and phyisical actions of transnational terrorism travel along. When we over-reach we make ourselves a target. When we violate the sovereignty of others in the pursuit of our own sovereignty we make ourselves a target. We have gotten so used to doing so it seems natural to us. It isn't. We need to dial back considerably.

George Washington was not an isolationist, he was, however, a man who knew how it felt to have some government far away impose inappropriate influence over his life and those of his countrymen. He was a man who appreciated where his nation's business ended. Even then we had global interests and relied heavily on foreign markets, but he did not translate that into a need to attempt to control or shape foreign governance. We all need to read his farewell address every year or so. Currently we too often act injustly in the name of justice and the rule of law. We need to stop doing that.