In 2005 we saw the 101st anniversary of the birth, and the death, of George Kennan, widely acknowledged as the principal architect of containment, the doctrine that guided U.S. foreign policy for roughly forty years of the Cold War. Containment--in Kennan's formulation, "a commitment to countering the Soviet Union wherever it encroached upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world"--implicitly and correctly rejected two dangerous alternatives: appeasement of the Soviet and communist threat on the one hand (that would have led to a global diminution of security, freedom and prosperity) and direct confrontation on the other (all too dangerous in a nuclear era). Containment not only largely frustrated Soviet and communist expansion, it contributed to creating a context in which communism ceased to constitute either a geopolitical or ideological challenge to America. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989; the Soviet Union itself imploded two years later.
Containment could not, however, survive its own success. What is needed now is a foreign policy doctrine for the post-11/9 (November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down) and the post-9/11 world.
A guiding principle--an intellectual framework--furnishes policymakers with a compass to define strategies and determine priorities, which in turn helps shape decisions affecting long-term investments in military forces, assistance programs and intelligence and diplomatic assets. A doctrine also helps prepare the public for what commitments and sacrifices may be required--and sends signals to other governments, groups and individuals (friend and foe alike) about what the country is striving to seek or prevent in the world.
Promulgating a viable doctrine is easier said than done, however. None of the three post-Cold War presidencies has successfully articulated a comprehensive foreign policy or national security doctrine. The first attempt came from President George H. W. Bush in the aftermath of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. "Out of these troubled times . . . a new world order can emerge: a new era--freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. . . . A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice." Largely left unsaid was how such an order would materialize and be sustained.
The Clinton Administration flirted with various themes, most notably diplomatic engagement and democratic enlargement. These did not, however, constitute a doctrine. Engagement is one of those words that provide little in the way of meaningful policy guidance. Democratic enlargement was one element of the Clinton foreign policy, most notably in the case of NATO. But democracy promotion was not a central or consistent priority of the administration that in any event saw a considerable portion of its energies devoted to a series of largely humanitarian crises (Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo) as well as to the Middle East peace process.
The current administration has gone through two principal phases. The first began with 9/11 and took up most of Bush's first term. Attempts to ascribe a "Bush Doctrine" to the initial four years of George W. Bush's presidency come up short, however, as there was less a coherent policy than a mix of counter-terrorism, pre-emption, unilateralism and democracy promotion.1 But counter-terrorism does not constitute an adequate foreign policy ambition for the United States. It is too narrow in scope and provides no guidance for dealing with a majority of the opportunities and challenges posed by globalization and international relations. Pre-emption (or prevention, to be more precise) is relevant to an even narrower set of circumstances and in any event is unlikely to be a regular feature of policy, given the uncertainty, risks and controversy surrounding it. Unilateralism is not viable in that most of today's pressing problems cannot be met by the United States alone, given the nature of the problems themselves and the realistic limits to American power. No single country, no matter how powerful, can contend successfully on its own with these transnational challenges. Democracy promotion is a more serious proposition, but it received at best intermittent emphasis in the initial four years of the Bush Administration.
The second term began with a more consistent foreign policy approach, one informed by intensified support for democracy. "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one", the president proclaimed in his second Inaugural Address. He continued,
"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. . . . We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies."
The case for democracy promotion begins with the principle that individual freedom is inherently desirable, but quickly goes beyond it. There is the notion of democratic peace, the argument that democracies are unlikely to go to war with one another and so make for better international citizens more generally. And there is the proposition that it is the absence of democracy in selected societies (notably throughout the Arab world and parts of the Muslim world) that is largely responsible for the alienation of so many young men and women who then turn to radicalism and terrorism.
Both of these notions open themselves to at least some dispute. Democratic peace may be borne out by mature democracies, but it decidedly is not by immature or modernizing democracies, which are easily captured by nationalist and populist passions. Second, the tie between democracy and terrorism is not quite as direct as tends to be asserted. A democratic Middle East would not be terrorism free. The sort of messianic, "right the wrongs of history" agenda that motivates Al-Qaeda will not be satisfied by democratic participation.
But whatever the promise of democracy, it is neither desirable nor practical to make its promotion the foreign policy doctrine of the United States. Too many pressing threats in which the lives of millions hang in the balance--from dealing with today's terrorists and managing Iranian and North Korean nuclear capabilities to coping with trade protectionism and genocide--will not be solved by the emergence of democracy. Promoting democracy is and should be one American foreign policy goal, but it cannot be the only or dominant objective. When it comes to relations with Russia or China, Saudi Arabia or Egypt, other national security interests must normally take precedence over (or at least coexist with) concerns about how they choose to govern themselves. The fact that promoting democracy can be difficult and expensive also reduces its attraction as a foreign policy compass.
What, then, is the appropriate doctrine for the United States at this moment in history? I would argue strongly for "integration."
An American foreign policy based upon a doctrine of integration would have three dimensions. First, it would aim to create a cooperative relationship among the world's major powers, built on a common commitment to promoting certain principles and outcomes. Second, it would seek to translate this commitment into effective arrangements and actions. Third, it would work to bring in other countries, organizations and peoples so that they come to enjoy the benefits of physical security, economic opportunity and political freedom. The goal would be to create a more integrated world, both in the sense of integrating (involving) as many governments and organizations and societies as possible and in the sense of bringing about a more integrated (cooperative) international community so that the challenges central to the modern era could better be met.
Integration is thus the natural successor to containment, which was the necessary and correct policy construct for the Cold War. A doctrine relevant to this era, however, must find a way to bring others in, not keep them out. In addition, integration offers the most coherent response to globalization and to the transnational threats that constitute the defining challenges of our time. It reflects the reality that the principal threat to U.S. security and prosperity today comes not from a great power rival--the gap in capabilities is too large, the chance of conflict too remote--but from what can best be described as the dark dimension of globalization: terrorism, nuclear proliferation, infectious disease, trade protectionism and global climate change. The choice of integration reflects the reality that the United States requires partners to meet these threats. As a result, integration, in stark contrast to the alternatives, meets the necessary criteria of a foreign policy doctrine. It reflects existing international realities, addresses the principal national security challenges confronting the United States, sets forth ambitious but achievable objectives, provides "first order" guidance to policymakers that can be applied on a consistent basis, and is supportable at home.
In the process, integration incorporates elements of several of the alternatives put forward. The surest way to address the threat of terrorism is through integration. Only by integrating other countries into the struggle against existing terrorists (through intelligence sharing, law enforcement cooperation, homeland security coordination and so on) can the United States succeed. Integrating have-nots, be they individuals or societies, can deny terrorists fertile ground for recruiting or staging operations. Integration also subsumes democracy promotion, in that one dimension of integration is to extend democratic ideas to individuals and societies who have experienced little in the way of freedom.Essay Types: Essay