The Drudge Report is reporting that a record number of American students were studying abroad last semester. (As of this writing, the story is still developing so no hyperlink.) A quick Google search indicates that at some colleges, upwards of 80% of students study overseas.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
P. Edward Haley
Saturday, November 15, 2008
With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an international economic system crumbling, President-elect Barack Obama knows he doesn't have the luxury of his predecessors to pretend that it might be possible to ignore the rest of the world while the United States puts its own house in order.
On the contrary, Professor, part of the problem has been that we have been a little bit too concerned with the world and not enough with our own justiafiable security concerns. Why, for instance, have we allowed N. Korea to send ballistic missiles to Iran, a country that has been killing our troops in the field in Iraq? Might it be that we cared more about international opinion than the well being of our soldiers and interests? Why else have a State Department?
If presidents try to put the rest of world on hold and deal with other pressing issues, foreign policy comes looking for them at the least opportune time, as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush found out: the Lebanon disaster and Iran-Contra for Reagan; mass murder in Bosnia and Rwanda and terrorism for Clinton; and 9/11, stalled wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and global economic collapse for George Bush.
Again, on the contrary, Clinton was right to avoid intervening in Rwanda as no U.S. interests were at risk, just as he was right to avoid a continuing U.S. presence in Somalia. He should avoided his campaign to punish Serbia, a campaign that the Russians seize upon as evidence of an American imperial policy. On the point about Reagan, I would hardly call the toppling of the Soviet Union and the rollback of communism in Latin America to be putting "the rest of the world on hold."
The question, of course, is how to begin. What should be the top foreign policy priorities of Obama once he takes office?
Above all, Mr. Obama, you must understand the nature of the country you have been elected to lead: The United States is a country of immigrants. Its people are here for a better life, and they continue to come here by the tens of millions for exactly that reason. They do not choose to be Americans in order to lead a global crusade for democracy. Nor will they ever become willing imperialists, seeking to rule others for their selfish benefit.
The U.S. is not a country of immigrants, but of settlers. (See Samuel Huntington's Who Are We, for more details, especially pages 38-41). While Americans may not choose to lead a "global crusade for democracy," it goes without saying that Americans have had major wars nearly every generation since our founding. More often than not, these wars haven't been "imperial" at all in that they have been concerned more with the good of mankind, (the liberation of Europe, anyone?) than with their own naked "selfish benefit."
They are prepared to sacrifice the lives of their children and pay what it costs to help you achieve the conditions in the world needed to assure their well-being. However, they are practical and will hold you to a tight schedule, demanding clear objectives and tangible results in a relatively short time.
Here I think that Professor Haley mistakes the views of modern progressives for Americans of old. One wonders whatever happened to the spirit that said, "We will pay any burden or bear any price."
Every successful president has known this and adjusted his plans accordingly. When in doubt, look to the examples of Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. If you forget these truths, the American people will reject your leadership, however messy and dangerous their rejection might be.
Why might he look to F.D.R. or Dwight Eisenhower?
Second, Mr. President-elect, policies come from orderly processes that tap the best expert knowledge. There is simply no substitute for expertise and thoughtful deliberation. Abraham Lincoln led Americans through disunion and a terrible war to victory in large part because of the knowledge that he had taught himself through a lifetime of reading and thinking. He possessed enormous courage, but he would never have confused personal bravery with the knowledge and clear thinking he needed to develop successful policies.
The casual and constant disregard of expert opinion by Presidents Clinton and Bush has shredded the foreign policy processes of the U.S. government and demoralized its military, political and economic specialists. Without the help of their combined lifetimes of learning and understanding, and lacking sensible ways of combining all the elements of policy - economic, military, political - before taking drastic action, the Bush and Clinton administrations were reduced to playing catch-up in circumstances and on terms dictated by ruthless enemies.
Hold on just a moment! Just what exactly is meant by "expert opinion"? Does that mean a Ph.D.? Isn't it conceivable that experts are wrong, or at least start from a flawed vision of what is and is not achievable because they lack the military intelligence necessary? Maybe the "experts" would prefer accomodationalist approaches as they did to the Soviets and the Nazis.
For a model of foreign policy developed in an orderly way drawing on superb expertise, look to the deliberations of President Harry Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson, as they put together some of the most successful initiatives in the history of the country, such as the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty.
But Professor, while I agree with you about the leadership of President Truman, I've left wondering what a modern-day Marshall Plan would look like and curious as to whether or not it was effective in the first place. Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard thinks its critics have trumpeted its successes a bit much.
Finally, Mr. President-elect, you will not be able to promote the well-being of this nation without the help of its allies around the world. Even immediately after the Soviet Union collapsed, it was never true that the United States had become so powerful that it could dictate to the rest of the world. The idea of U.S. hegemony was tragically wrong. At most, the United States was superior to other countries, but it was never capable of forcing the world to obey.
What America possessed in 1990 was an advantage over other nations, chiefly in its ability to defeat other governments in a war like World War II, which emphasized heavy tanks and warplanes.
Saddam Hussein was the only leader in the world foolish enough to engage the United States in this kind of war, and he did it not once, but twice. The second land war was over in a few weeks, but guerrilla fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq has continued for the past five years and is far from finished. As painful as it has been, the experience of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has at least taught most Americans the importance of adding their country's might to the power and influence of others.
It would seem that Professor Haley has been ignoring the very real and tangible successes of the War for Iraq. He mistates the view that American hegemony was ever really thought to be in existence. Why go to the United Nations and create a Coalition of the Willing, if we really believed we were top dog?
Professor Haley seems to believe that we need certain countries on our side to achieve our policy objectives. I would merely remind him that sometimes the just action and prudent action is for the United States to do what it is in her self interest to do, to hell with other countries. Numbers of allies does not make one anymore virtuous, nor does adherrence to the mandates of the feckless and fanciful United Nations.
P. Edward Haley is the W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of International Strategic Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College. His most recent book is "Strategies of Dominance: The Misdirection of U.S. Foreign Policy" (Johns Hopkins University and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2006).