This morning I took part in a panel discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Foreign Policy and the Next U.S. Administration The other panelists were Nikolas Gvosdev, editor of The National Interest, and Dan Twining, a youngish analyst with the present State Department’s Bureau of Policy Planning who previously worked for a while as a foreign-policy aide to Sen. John McCain. The session was ably chaired by Abi Williams, Vice President for Conflict Prevention at USIP.
It was an interesting and rich discussion. As I had expected, Gvosdev and I agreed about a lot of things. He is a very intelligent Realist. My view is that pacifism is the new realism. (Not sure if I managed to persuade him of that; but hey, he might become convinced of it some day!) Twining made a number of observations that I found really interesting, too, though we disagreed much more.
Wow. USIP’s a/v and web-editing staff have done a great job and have gotten an MP3 version of the discussion up onto their website already. Easy to find my main presentation: I was on first.
If you don’t want to listen to the audio, here’s a rough outline of what I said:
I started by describing three momentous consequences of the globalization the world system has seen in recent decades:
- 1. Foreign wars have become nearly unwinnable. This for two reasons: (a) compared with, say, the situation in the 19th century, the global information environment has become much more transparent; and (b) the norm of human equality has become much more widely (and deeply?) acknowledged, even if still not by any means always respected.
2. The US is no longer the Uberpower it seemed to be back in the 1990s, but we are now really in what Richard Haass has called the “non-polar world.”. This was a quick reprise of some of the analysis from Ch.6 of my Re-engage! book.
3. Climate change has emerged as an issue of core importance in world politics.
I went on to say how these three big developments structure the global environment in which the new president will be operating, and made a few other points… I concluded by noting that we need to develop a new, much more people-centered definition of “the national interest”, and laying out my list of the three top things the next president should do within his first 100 days in office.
- 1. Announce a date certain for the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq, and invite the UN to convene the negotiation(s) which will allow that to happen in an orderly way.
2. Close Guantanamo; and
3. Announce that he is committed to participating in good faith in the post-Kyoto global negotiations on climate change.
Those of you who’ve read my Re-engage! book will probably recognize how this presentation built on some of the book’s key themes.
More on the increasing unwinnability of foreign wars, and on the “Top 3 Things for the new president”– later. Right now, I’m pretty tired.