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Chas Freeman ─ Recovering Diplomatic Agility


Good afternoon, everybody. I’m Ed Steinfeld. I’m the director of
the Watson Institute. And again, I think many of
you are returning because of ambassador Chas Freeman’s
wonderful first two lectures in this series. But it’s my true pleasure to
reintroduce ambassador Chas Freeman to you all. As I did last
time, I will not go through Chas’
unbelievable biography. But I would urge you to take
a look at our website, where you could find the biography. And his website,
to see ambassador Freeman’s exceptional record of
public service and scholarship. I will do something
really quite rude though– I will, once again,
try to summarize a bit of Chas’ talk from last time. He probably will
have the same feeling I have when I give
my students exams and I get the exams back and
say, oh my gosh, I say that? So forgive me, Chas. So in the last discussion on
United States in the new world disorder, Chas
began by making what I thought was a very interesting
and acute observation. For each of the new powers
that’s emerged in the post Cold War era– global
ones like China, regional ones like
Turkey, American allies like Saudi Arabia, Israel. For each of these powers– even
some of our European allies– for each of these
powers our relationship, the US relationship,
seems to be worse now than it was several
years earlier. And sometimes
substantially worse. And the relations
between a number of those newly emergent,
there were some older powers, seem to be better
with each other than any of those relationships
are with the United States. And as I understood, the last
lecture ambassador Freeman then took us through an
amazing 230 year walk through American
and global history to understand what were the
series of actions and reactions globally and then in
the United States, that got us to the situation
that we’re in today. So we began with the
US in its infancy, emergent from a
great power conflict between England and France. And then the US grew extremely
rapidly and impressively through the 19th century
under the hegemonic order created by Great Britain
or Pax Britannica. And for whatever reason,
ambassador Freeman didn’t explain Great
Britain decided not to crush the United States
but to allow it to develop. The US remained apart from the
world until 1917, 136 years or so after France had
helped the United States. In its infancy the United States
returned the favor to its ally and to England as well,
the United Kingdom, by injecting US troops
into the fields of Flanders speeding the end of
the First World War. At that point, the US made
it’s arguably first major foray into global affairs,
and was involved in the Treaty of Versailles,
a Wilsonian democracy. And as ambassador
Freeman described, that resulted in the
ostracizing and antagonizing of two important powers–
Germany and the new Soviet Union. It resulted certainly in
the immiseration of one of those powers, and arguably
both, but certainly Germany. And it also, through
Wilsonian democracy, created a series of movements
and small new nation states that the United States was
neither able or prepared to defend over the long
run or the short run. And the US withdrew
again, but would soon drag back into the global order
by the outbreak of the Second World War. And in this case, as
ambassador Freeman pointed out, the response was
different and massive. The United States built a
vast foreign policy apparatus to do a number of things. It built– rebuilt–
Europe, and parts of Asia through direct infusions
of funding and advice. And certainly
contributed a series of rules, a global economic
order that, of course, served American interests. But also served the
interests of a number of players that were
rising in the free world, as ambassador Freeman described. Of course, part of that
story of institution building and economic aid
was also a story of the development of a
vast defense apparatus. An apparatus directed toward
containing the Soviet Union and Soviet ambitions globally. And that effort was significant. Again, huge, vast,
expensive, and successful. As ambassador Freeman described,
the Soviet Union miraculously quickly disappeared,
leaving a situation that was very complicated. As ambassador Freeman
discussed, a number of countries that had previously had
claims, that were suppressed during the Cold
War, they brought those claims back to the table. Some countries, such as
China, were newly empowered and grew extremely
rapidly in part, based on the
economic institutions that the United States created. Some national
movements emerged anew from places like Eastern Europe,
central Europe, that really hadn’t existed before
partly because they were contained in the Cold War. But I think the important
point of the last lecture was that the United
States in the face of all these new challenges–
rising powers, existing powers that had old
claims that were renewed, and new social movements
that were emerging– in the face of all this
change in the post Cold War era, the US didn’t
have a new repertoire. It had only it’s
old repertoire which involved containing, preventing
change, resisting change, using coercion when change
started to develop, using strategies
of ostracization again when challengers arose
to want to either contribute or challenge the global order. And I think the depressing
point– if I may say so and then I’ll shut up– the
depressing point of ambassador Freeman’s last lecture was that
in this resistance to change and this inability
to absorb or react to the new kinds of forces that
emerged in the post Cold War era, the United States doesn’t
seem really to have achieved global peace or prosperity. The US doesn’t seem to have
achieved very effectively, domestic peace and prosperity. The US doesn’t seem to really
be achieving the American dream as many of us understand it. But what was for me
particularly troubling, and ambassador Freeman didn’t
say this, but I felt it. It seemed to me
that the dream that was achieved– I’m sure,
unintentionally– the dream that was achieved to me
feels like the Marxist dream or the Maoist dream of
perpetual revolution. Perpetual conflict. Continuous revolution. Continuous struggle. I’m pretty sure that
wasn’t the intention. I’m pretty sure that’s
not the American dream, but it begs for some
kind of way out. The fact that ambassador
Freeman has titled this lecture, recovering diplomatic
agility, suggests both that– if I could say so– your
dream is not the Marxist dream of perpetual revolution. But more important, that you
do feel that there’s a way out. And on that Chas, I
turn it over to you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much, Ed. You get an A for
optimism and for summary. I’m going to speak
today about diplomacy, what it is, how it’s
practiced effectively, and what its prospects
are for our country. As I’ve been saying the
last several lectures, the Pax Americana is no more. In the second decade
of the 21st century world affairs are shaped by
economic trends and shifting coalitions, not
political affinities, and fixed alliances. The new world disorder calls
for strategic nimbleness, not the ideological constancy
and geopolitical steadfastness demanded of Americans
during the Cold War. To cope with the nearly unstable
international environment, American diplomacy must
become unprecedentedly agile. In the future,
presidents must be selected not just as
commanders in chief, but as diplomats in
chief, for our country and their qualifications,
in that regard, are very important. Today I want to talk a bit about
the prospects for the renewal of American diplomacy to meet
the challenges of the new world disorder. All diplomacy can be
divided into three cons. First, techniques to influence
the leaders of other states and peoples and persuade them
to do this, or not do that. Second, interactions
with states and peoples and negotiations
to set frameworks for relationships with them. And third, statecraft
to cause them to recalculate their
interests and make decisions that coincide
with one’s own interests. Diplomacy depends on
relationships with foreigners that enable the expression
of national strength through respectful discourse. A really good
diplomat is supposed to be able to tell
you to go to hell and make you want
to get there right away before the devil goes
off for his annual vacation. A diplomat should be able to
deliver a declaration of war politely– in such a way so
the other side is intimidated. But made to look forward to the
resumption of cordial relations once it has suffered the
well deserved defeat that is in store for it. Holding a snarling mutt
at bay while saying, nice doggy, until
you can find a rock, is also part of the skill set. Diplomacy is not
just a splendid seat on stage at the theater of
life, though it is that, but a political performing art. It’s a messy job at times. These days diplomats
are kept busy cleaning up after
presidential candidates who seem to confuse giving offense
to foreigners with defining workable foreign policies. For there part, of course,
diplomats would never insult anyone unintentionally. Skill at making friends
and influencing people is an essential part of
diplomatic professionalism. Diplomacy is first and foremost
a political contact sport. The level of trust other
players have in one is key to enlisting and
retaining their support. Hanging around the capital
and making occasional forays abroad, as courtiers
and securocrats do, demand skill and bureaucratic
politics, not diplomacy. Its success is measured in
brownie points back home, not changed behavior abroad. Diplomats must, of
course, carry out the thankless task of
explaining foreign realities to domestic politicians, as
well as domestic realities to foreign politicians. But diplomacy is directed at
influencing foreigners, not one’s own government. Interesting as they are,
the nitty gritty aspects of foreign relations and
the inevitable idiocies of diplomatic life, are
not my topics today. I want to talk about
the requirements for effective American diplomacy
of the second and third kinds. The management of relations
between independent states by civil discourse
and negotiation, and the indirect regulation
of other states and people’s policies by reshaping
their calculus of their own interests. There’s nothing starry
eyed about diplomats, even those operating under
the Star Spangled Banner. Whether diplomacy is reshaping
realities or adjusting foreign perceptions of
them, it’s starting point is always the logic of others’
interests as they see them. And diplomacy is an exercise
not just an empathy, but in the manipulation of
others’ perspectives on matters of common concern. Diplomats profess expertise in
advancing national interests through the peaceful resolution
of international problems, but they’re not pacifists. No diplomat considers
diplomacy to be a panacea or a
magical alternative to the use of force. Most would agree
with the late Al Capone, who observed
that you can get much farther with
a kind word and a gun than you can with
a kind word alone. Diplomacy is a great deal
less expensive, unpredictable, and bloody than warfare. And since others can do to one’s
country what it does to others diplomatic approaches to
problems are safer than war. But diplomacy must also
be invoked to clean up the messes the war makes. That’s why, when confronted
by an international problem, even a great military power
like the United States should give diplomacy a chance
and hold the air strikes an infantry in reserve. And it’s why diplomats are
necessary to consolidate the gains, or limit the losses
that war imposes by translating these into durable political
relationships and arrangements. As Americans really should
have learned by now, neither threats nor insults
nor coercive measures– like sanctions, punitive
raids, and invasions– solve problems on their own. They do so only when they
are adjunct to a process the can legitimize and
institutionalize change. The records compelling
on this point. Take sanctions first. A couple of dozen countries
and over 2,000 companies and individuals are currently
subjected to US sanctions. Faith in sections as an
instrument of behavior modification rests on a
fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of economic power. Like a string,
trade and investment attract, connect, and bind. You can use economic
power to pull, but you can’t use it to push. Economic relations
between states foster mutual assimilation. Their severance
causes estrangement and reduces the
willingness of each side to address the
concerns of the other. The threat to ostracize
a state or people is music to the ears of any
regime that wishes to distance itself from old relationships. It justifies rather
than weakens defiance. Sanctions punish their target
by impoverishing it or depriving it of benefits. Of course, they also
penalize the economy of those who enact them. They give birth to
market distortions that shift the cost
of foreign policy onto the private sector of
the state imposing them. And they soon generate
increasingly entrenched interests in their continuation. Sanctions can, however,
gain leverage for bargaining about adjustments and
behavior or relationships. And achieving such
adjustments at minimal cost in blood and treasure is
the object of diplomacy. When the threat of
sanctions, or a relief from the pain they cause,
is linked to negotiations– sanctions support diplomacy. When sanctions are not part
of a bargaining process, they harden attitudes, stiffen
backs, stimulate work arounds, and provoke countermeasures. Sometimes they overachieve
in this regard. As in the Japanese
Empire’s response to the American sanctions
of 1940 and ’41, which was to attack
Pearl Harbor. Ironically, given the frequency
with which the United States now resorts to sanctions, they
don’t achieve their objectives when they are threatened
or applied, but only when they are obviated or
removed pursuant to agreement. In other words, the
success of sanctions is not properly measured
by the pain they inflict, but by the concessions
the other side is ultimately willing
to make to gain really from them– in
return for compromise from those sanctioning it. If negotiators cannot credibly
promise that the restrictions on trade and investment they’re
talking about will be lifted in return for concessions,
sanctions bolster recalcitrants and provide no
leverage for change. Consider the recent example
of the Iranian nuclear deal. By themselves, years of
escalating sanctions coupled with the refusal on the
part of the United States to talk without preconditions,
caused Iran to double down on its enrichment program. It took the opening of
a bargaining process, and a commitment to remove
international sanctions, to curtail the program and bring
it under international control. Pressure that can’t be adjusted
invites reactive rigidity, not compromise. The political ostracism
that typically, and most unfortunately,
and foolishly, usually accompanies economic
sanctions– deprives the country adopting
political isolation as a policy of both presence
and influence in a region. We’ve seen many instances
of this in recent years. Take for example, the 2007
saffron revolution in Myanmar. Years of sanctions had severely
attenuated US influence in that country. This led to the ludicrous
spectacle of the United States trying to enlist China to
use its influence in support of American and democratization
agenda, with which China disagreed. Two years later, when
the green movement took to the streets of Iran
and the Islamic republic entered a moment of
inflection– United States was not on the scene. In a sense however,
in democracies like our own country,
sanctions always succeed. That’s because
their purpose isn’t really to influence the
foreigners on whom they’re imposed– which they seldom do
except counterproductively– but to strike a political pose. They fall under the heading of
declaratory diplomacy, which is at best a form of
feckless self-gratification, and at worst, a goad
to foreign hostility. They plant false teeth
in otherwise toothless denunciation. The advocates of
sanctions are trying to show how tough they
are, not how good they are at changing the
minds of behavior of foreign adversaries. So sanctions are almost always
good politics and bad policy, all shout for no clout. Sanctions that can only
be removed by legislation are especially
counterproductive. Fortunately, for
those in Congress who are addicted to them,
however, their success is invariably measured by
how much pain they inflict on their target,
not whether they alter its policies for the
better– which they almost never do. Attempts to force the
other side to back down by denouncing and
sanctioning it set up equal and opposite political
requirements for it to show that it can stand up
to bullying by foreigners. Such political confrontation
therefore promotes impasse, not compromise. In this regard,
authoritarian regimes with opaque policy processes
have an ironic advantage. Take China as an example. In recent years Beijing
has imposed restrictions on trade, investment, and
other forms of interaction in response to territorial
disputes with neighbors like Japan, the Philippines. The Chinese
government has neither announced these restrictions
nor confirmed their imposition, leaving their target nations to
infer them from their impact. China’s not specified
what must be done to lift the vague
unconfirmed measures it has taken. This approach maximizes Chinese
negotiating flexibility. China’s leaders can’t be
held accountable for failing to achieve objectives
they haven’t declared. Uncertainties about what
is actually going on can even cause the
targets of sanctions to start negotiating
with themselves as they speculate about what’s
happening, why it’s happening, and what they must
do to end their pain. Silence and artful
ambiguity can be more effective than
impassioned forthrightness. In today’s world,
not rubbing the noses of others in their
relative weaknesses and using sanctions
sparingly, and only in support of tactically
flexible negotiations, makes even greater
sense than before. The efficacy of
sanctions that are not approved and universally
observed at the global level is far less than it was
under the Pax Americana. In the globalized economy
of the 21st century, trade is made up
of supply chains. And productive capacity
of markets and technology are dispersed. What one country or economic
block will not supply or by other blocks or
countries can and will. As the monopoly roles in trade
and investment transactions of the dollar and the
institutions connected to it erode, ways to circumvent
financial sanctions are proliferating. The reflexive American habit
of sanctioning countries with which we disagree
is becoming a fast track to futility. A path not to influence
but to retaliation in foreign markets,
reduced US exports, and diplomatic irrelevance. But American
politicians will have to learn this the hard way. Sanctions won’t cease
to be the first resort of political posers
any time soon. That’s a problem, as
seen in the difficulties the United States has had in
responding to the gradual end of the Castro era in Cuba. US policies designed to deny
Cuba strategically to the USSR and to wall-up the destabilizing
effects of the Cuban revolution on the rest of Latin America,
no longer make sense. The United States should be
able to seize opportunities as they arise. In the case of Cuba, that
means engagement, facilitate both political change, and the
resolution of property claims, and other concrete
grievances that date back half a century or more. Whatever its merits in the
bygone era Cold War immobilism, locking in hostility between
states through sanctions can impose unacceptable
opportunity costs by precluding the timely
exploitation of change. The American experience with
Cuba, with North Korea, Iran, and in an earlier
era China, also aptly illustrates the inability
of punitive sanctions to induce state collapse,
or regime change. In the new world
disorder, regime removal through military assault
no longer in-tells much risk of wider war,
but it’s very likely to prove counterproductive. Americans are now threatened,
not by evil empires, but by backlash to
our own interventions and the breeding grounds
for terrorism they create. This brings me to the
subject of negotiation. Its purpose is not– as many
suppose– the achievement of agreement, it
is the advancement of the interesting
in one’s charge. Like sanctions,
negotiating processes can provide the
appearance that something is being done about a
situation, even when it is not. Playing for time by taking
part in protracted dialogue is a form of negotiation. So is refusing to negotiate. As Israel has shown in four
decades of a fraudulent peace process, negotiations
can be a potent form of distraction and
deception as shifts in the underlying
situation are engineered. A grand conciliatory gesture
like Nixon’s 1972 visit to Beijing, or Sadat’s
1977 travel to Jerusalem, also constitutes negotiation. Negotiations remain
the least costly way to obtain agreed adjustments
in one’s relations with other actors and
in their behavior. Such adjustments, of
course, reflect judgments by the parties about
the correlations of the present and future
power between them. This is clearest
when negotiations confirm the outcome of war. It’s always been true
that wars are not over until the defeated
explicitly accept both their defeat
and the adjustments in their behavior and
international relationships that defeat implies. The blindness of the American
national security establishment of this reality has twice
led to tragic failures to bring wars to an end in Iraq. There’s every reason
for the United States to refrain from the invasion and
occupation of other countries in the future, but if Americans
do again launch such wars we need first to consider
how we will terminate them. On what terms? With whom? And subject to what
means of verification? The 1990 to ’91 war
to liberate Kuwait resulted in a lopsided
military victory over Iraq. On February 28, 1991, the
United States and Saudi Arabia– both representing
coalitions– declared Kuwait liberated and announced
a unilateral ceasefire. Two days later at a
military technical meeting, Iraq agreed to the ceasefire. The victorious US and Saudi
led coalitions had not announced war aims beyond
the liberation of Kuwait. After a month of deliberation
among themselves, they secured resolution from
the UN Security Council, ex post facto,
imposing terms on Iraq. No attempt was made to consult
Iraq or obtain it’s consent to these terms. Resolution 687 treated Iraq as
though it had unconditionally surrendered rather than
agreed to a ceasefire and been defeated
on the battlefield. Iraq was compelled officially
to acknowledge the resolution. Saddam responded to its terms
with passive aggression. Neither he, nor his
government, were ever made to feel honor bound
in relation to those terms. Had Saddam Hussein been
required personally to agree explicitly to
the terms resolution 687 they sought to impose on him. This humiliation
would almost certainly have led to his immediate
overthrow by those around him. In the event, like
Gamal Abdel Nasser, after the 1956 Suez
war, Saddam was able to portray survival in
power as a political victory. Ironically, sanctions then
gave him patronage power that any politician
anywhere would envy. As president, Saddam decided
who in Iraq could have access to imported food and medicine. Shortages caused many deaths
including half a million children. Iraqis attributed
their privations to foreign malevolence
and rallied behind Saddam. Resolution 687 and related
writs were a misguided attempt at war termination by Fiat. This reflected the
unique American history of total war followed by
the unconditional surrender of the losing sides in the Civil
War, World War I, World War Ii, and the Cold War. But the war to liberate
Kuwait was a limited war. Like the War of 1812,
the Mexican American War, and the Spanish American
War, bringing it to a close required the agreement
of both sides. The unilateral attempt to end
the 1990- ’91 war with Iraq without negotiating
terms with it, failed. Baghdad began a
pattern of resistance to foreign dictation
that came to be known as cheat and retreat. The war resumed as low intensity
conflict as the United States resumed a combination
of sanctions and intermittent bombing
campaigns in Iraq. No security
architecture was devised to restore the balance between
Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf Arabs. Instead the United States
found itself required to garrison the Persian Gulf. The purpose of war is to
produce a better peace. The war to liberate
Kuwait failed this test on multiple levels. It was a military triumph
but a failure of statecraft. In the 2003 American
re-invasion of Iraq, Washington once again
imagined that military triumph could in itself assure
desirable political results. US forces removed the
government in Baghdad without taking its surrender. There was no
indigenous authority left to persuade Iraqis to
accept defeat and stand down from resistance to occupation. As the Japanese emperor
had done with his subjects at the end of World War II. Once again, the
United States failed to device a war
termination strategy. Diplomacy was not invoke to
translate military victory into a new status quo accepted
by those subjected to it. And the Iraqis
did not accept it. Resistance to the
American occupation soon evolved into sectarian
warfare and strife from which Iraq
has yet to recover. The mission in Iraq–
whatever it was– was not accomplished,
but botched. In the nuclear age, if our
species is not to perish, wars cannot pursue open
ended objectives then invite escalation to the nuclear level. If wars must be
fought at all, they must be limited in ambition,
amplitude, and duration. And this was not done in
America’s most recent wars, diplomacy must
translate their outcomes into arrangements that
obviate their recognition. Carl Von Clausewitz
famously described war as the continuation of
policy by other means, or is vindicated by whether
it achieves the policy objectives for
which it was fought, not by how much
destruction it reeks. This requires the translation
of military outcomes into durable political
results, and it never happens automatically. It requires negotiation between
the victor and the vanquished to define adjustments
in relations, territory, or behavior between them, and
to reconcile those defeated on the battlefield to
the concessions they must make to avoid further losses. Americans once knew this. We have forgotten this
central task of diplomacy. We must now remaster it. For the most part,
of course, diplomacy is not involved in exploiting
the sort of coercive measures, including the use of force
that I’ve just discussed. It is instead devoted
to the sustenance of mutually
beneficial interaction between one country and others. Diplomats are the official
voice, eyes, ears, and hands of their
government and foreign lands. Their mission is this
peaceful promotion of their nation’s interest
through the discovery and exploitation
of common interests that enable the
management of differences in the expansion of areas
of agreement and cooperation with other states and peoples. That’s a task that
depends on well honed skill in cross
cultural communication and foreign languages. Diplomats must persuade others
that it’s in their interest to do things our way,
rather than the way that comes naturally to them. This demands empathy
that falls short of sympathy, and objectivity
that understands but does not embrace passion. Foreign policy by
tantrum– which we’ve seen a fair amount
of– seldom succeeds. Diplomacy is sober work
for affable professionals. The United States is now the
only great power– and indeed, almost the only country–
the staffs its foreign policy and diplomatic positions
through the hit or miss human resources
policies of the spoils system. The end of the Cold War
enlarged the US margin for error in foreign policy. Since then, an ever
increasing percentage of jobs in the foreign
affairs agencies have gone to campaign donors,
political strap hangers and camp followers,
dilettantes, ideologues, and single issue advocates
for powerful domestic interest groups. And I might say the errors
have multiplied in proportion to the numbers of these people. A century of halfhearted
efforts to create a professional American
diplomatic service has crested and begun to ebb. US national security and
foreign policy apparatus is now ever more politicized,
deprofessionalized, and indifferent to the chronic
concerns of foreigners. The US foreign service
is increasingly hard pressed to put forward
qualified candidates for top diplomatic jobs. This is part of the
general dumbing down and dysfunction of politics
in American society. We Americans have come to
expect little of government, and we’ve been busy evolving
bureaucracies incompetent enough to meet our expectations. The late senator Roman
Hruska, anticipated the current American
diplomatic lineup when he argued that
quote, the mediocre are entitled to a little
representation aren’t they? And a little chance. The balances of
prestige and power are shifting against
the United States. And it’s up against some
tough, tough diplomatic rivals. Perceived adversaries
and longstanding allies alike are happy to take
Americans for all they can. In an era when Washington
no longer commands automatic deference abroad,
international competition is intensifying and the US
margin for error is narrowing. America can ill
afford to cultivate diplomatic incompetence. It is dangerous to
send envoys abroad who don’t know whether the
country in which they will represent the United States,
is a republic or a monarchy, don’t speak its language,
have never visited it, know nothing of its
history, geography, culture, or politics, and have never
met a professional diplomat, still let’s practice diplomacy. But that’s what we do. And as long as we
do it, we can expect to lose ground internationally. That’s what happens
when you put people who’ve never played a game up
against professional players. Natural talent is no match
for seasoned competence and cunning. Diplomacy continuity
is important. One is never just
negotiating a transaction, but always adding or
subtracting from a relationship in ways that will tell for or
against cooperation in future. Most diplomatic assignments
are already too short. Transients are easily
dismissed as unworthy of consideration or trust. As a Ghanaian
diplomat– commenting on how technology shrinks
the world– put it, radio enables people
to hear all evil, television enables
them to see it, and the jet plane enables them
to go out and do all evil. This makes it possible
for home based officials to engage in ephemeral
do it yourself diplomacy abroad
rather than supporting the patient cultivation of
influence for their country by forward deployed diplomats. But it doesn’t make
diplomacy, by rival statement, a sound approach to managing
relationships or solving international problems. The greatest diplomats of
recent times in Washington, legendary ambassadors like
Saudi Arabia’s prince Bandar bin Sultan , or Russia’s
Anatoly Dobrynin, built influence and reputations
for effectiveness among their American hosts through
many years on station. Riyadh and Moscow
were better served by reliance on these
resident envoys than by frequent flyer
diplomacy through jet propelled drop byes. Part of diplomatic
effectiveness, of course, is also the use of
international organizations, the fashioning of agreed
rules and procedures, and the building of
coalitions to aggregate political, economic,
and military power. And bring it to bear on
issues of common concern. United Nations and
many of the agreements that constitute
international law are monuments to the successes
that this kind of order setting by American
diplomacy in the past. By contrast, the 2015
conference on climate change exemplifies the impairment
of the American capacity to set the rules today. The United States– which
did of course refused to ratify the Kyoto
protocol on climate change– insisted that the conference
commitments not be binding, because if they were
that would require the Senate to approve them. In the current dysfunctional
state of US politics there’s no prospect that the
Senate will ratify any treaty though that is one
of its main functions under the Constitution. There are great ironies
produced by America’s political paralysis
and inability to play the role of a
responsible stakeholder internationally. The United States– which has
not ratified the UN Convention on the law of the
sea– now finds itself disputing interpretations
of the convention with China and other countries
that have ratified it. America can not
resort to the dispute resolution mechanisms of the
convention, because the United States has signed
but not ratified and is not a party to it. A sampling of other
international treaties that the United States has
signed but not ratified, includes conventions on
the rights of the child, on the elimination of
discrimination against women, on the rights of persons
with disabilities, on the protection of persons
from enforced disappearance, on defining economic,
social, and cultural rights, banning nuclear tests, and
establishing the International Criminal Court. It’s really hard to
lead if you refuse to subject yourself
to the rules you insist everyone else follow. The United States
then can and must do better if we are to prosper
in security and future. But upping the American
game demands curing domestic political dysfunction. That dysfunction is the major
source of our national strategy deficit. The very definition of
strategy is an approach that unifies political,
economic, and military action in the efficient pursuit
of agreed objectives. The present Americans
can neither agree upon national objectives,
nor articulate them. This severely hampers the use
of diplomacy of the third kind, deep diplomacy. The creation of
circumstances that cause other states to conclude
that they would benefit by doing things
that they originally were disinclined to do but
that served US interests. American power once
spoke for itself and then incentivized
others to court the approval of
the United States by conforming to American
preferences internationally. There’s not so much
of that these days. The fact that American
power is a wasting asset should encourage the
United States to act now– while its power
is greater than it will be– to shape a world that
will suit the future relatively weaker America. In this regard,
Britain’s strategy for dealing with the
rise of the United States to great power status,
in the 19th century, is a classic example of
the successful management of such a challenge. As the century neared
its end, the British came to the conclusion
that they would lose a land war should they
get into one in North America. And there was a
danger of such a war. They also assessed that
American ambitions were limited in relation to
their own interests and the United States had no
desire to go to war with them. Increasingly concerned about
shifting balances of power in Europe, they chose
to minimize problems with the United States and
to maximize the possibility of future cooperation with it. To this end, in January 1896
following an Anglo American confrontation over
Venezuela, Britain adopted an explicit policy
of appeasement of the United States to ameliorate
American hostility and replace it with a stable
cooperative Anglo American relationship. In short order,
Britain agreed to scrap a Treaty of 1850 by which
the United States had agreed not to seek sole control
of a future canal across the Central American
isthmus, or Panama. In a new treaty
concluded in 1901, Britain conceded the
right of the United States to just such a monopoly. In 1903 to the same end,
the British representative and the tribunal established
to fix the disputed border between Alaska and Canada
supported the American rather than the Canadian claims. These and other
modest concessions paid off big time
in reduced frictions in Anglo American relations
the facilitated US solidarity with Britain in World
War I. The partnership that this led to dominated
the 20th century. United States also has a
history of the skillful use of its power to frame
strategic choices for others. Consider the Marshall Plan
which used US economic strength to shape both Europe and
transatlantic relations to an American design. Or the Helsinki
accords of 1975 which legitimized advocacy of human
rights in the Soviet sphere and helped set off the
ferment that brought it down. Or Ronald Reagan’s
1982 to reduce arm sells to Taiwan, which
led Taipei ineluctably to the conclusion that
it was in its interest to abandon a purely
military approach to cross straight relations. And to open a political
dialogue with Beijing. Or Chet Crocker’s diplomacy
of linkage in southern Africa in the 1980s, which
enabled Cuba to withdraw from Angola with honor. And South Africa to release
Namibia from colonial captivity while helping to catalyze
the end of a party by demonstrating the
potential for mutually productive relationships
between white South Africans and their
black African neighbors. All this is to say
that diplomacy– in the sense of order
and norm setting in the shaping of the
international environment to channel the decisions
of actors within it– can make a difference that is
just as decisive and much less costly than war. But the prerequisite
for such deep diplomacy is intellectual and
political coherence that can formulate
national strategy. And to have that,
America must either undergo a revolution or return
to constitutional government. Disrespect for both the
constitutional separation of powers and the
need for compromise across partisan
lines is well along in delegitimizing
government in American and dis-empowering the
United States abroad. The Congress shirks its duty
to pass budgets, authorize uses of force internationally,
consider and ratify treaties, and advise and consent to
the appointment of officials and judges. The president fills
the government’s vacuum with executive
orders and actions based on assertions of
authority that vastly exceed those granted to him in
the US Constitution, which was after all
drawn to limit, not expand the power of government. The Congress responds
with intrusions into the president’s
constitutional power to conduct foreign policy, including the
enactment of country specific sanctions, pledges of allegiance
to the interests of foreign countries, partisan invitations
to foreign politicians to join in opposing the policies
of the president, and even writing letters to
foreign leaders declaring that the president cannot speak
for the United States. This is no way to run a
country or a foreign policy in a world in which
others are on the rise, and American power is
in relative decline. The public clearly agrees. The front running candidates
for the presidency in both major parties at
present are radical populists. From opposite sides of
the political spectrum both are calling for revolution. Returning to
constitutional government is, I submit, a preferable
alternative to this. But something must be done. Simply regaining lost
ground for the United States internationally
will not be easy. Recent American foreign policy
has ignored international law and institutions, despite the
fact they both were largely made in the USA. This has gravely
damaged the prospects for the continued prevalence of
values of Western civilization like the rule of law. If the law is no protection
the alternative is the gun. If the United Nations
charter and other provisions of international law do
not restrain the use force by great powers like
the United States, why should others rely on
them for their defense? It matters too, that
the estrangement of mainstream America from
the fourth or more of humanity that is Muslim is
now well advanced. Having poked the hornet’s nest,
Americans must live for awhile with hornets. It will take help
from Muslim allies, broad cooperation from the
international community as a whole, and
partnership with nations that are adversaries
on other issues, to restore security from attack
by the fanatics the United States has agitated. More generally, America
would be wise to recall the cynical advice
of Confucius who said, with an eye on the
principle of reciprocity, that one should not seek
to impose on others what one does not wish for oneself. Or as rabbi Hillel
the elder put it more idealistically
about 500 years later, what is hateful to thee,
do not unto thy fellow man. This is the whole law the
rest is but commentary. The law is the first defense
of the weak against the strong. United States is strong now, it
will be relatively less strong later. Americans have at stake in
bolstering the protections of international law. Defending a rule bound order
in other Western values internationally requires
transatlantic solidarity. The United States
needs rapprochement with Europe for this. It also needs a focus on
building political influence, rather than on shoring up
global military supremacy. The erosion of excellence
in American education and the deterioration
of US infrastructure undermined US competitiveness. To revitalize authority,
the United States must rebuild America and
husband its strength. Issuing demands that
have no prospect of being met by other
countries devalues power. Idle threats and empty
shows of force do not deter, they erode rather than
buttress credibility. Speak softly and carry a big
stick remains sound advice. United States needs
to amplify its power by using it
ergonomically– that is, with concentrated efficiency. Washington must
professionalize its diplomacy. It should cease to be
a promiscuous provider of security services
to the world responding to every country
that seeks refuge beneath the American
eagle’s wings by spreading its
wings to welcome them. Americans must choose those we
will protect as carefully as we choose our enemies. To maximize its leverage
internationally, the United States should
really play hard to get. America must cease to do
for others what they should do for themselves and demand
that allies, partners, and friends carry the
primary burden of defending their own interests. The United States
can no longer afford to enable self-destructive
behavior by client states. Giving them blank checks
and unconditional security guarantees creates moral hazard. This serves neither their
interest nor Americans. Whatever happens,
the United States will remain a major
force in shaping the world of the 21st century. It will best serve its
interests and the interests of those who place
their hopes in it abroad, if it
focuses on restoring constitutional democracy,
economic competitiveness, and social justice home
while exercising restraint beyond its borders. To prosper in liberty
with security, Americans really
should re-adhere to the sound council of one
of our greatest secretaries of State John Quincy Adams. In 1821, Adams laid out the
principles of a self interested foreign policy for the
United States quote, America respects the
independence of other nations while asserting and
maintaining her own. She abstains from interference
in the concerns of others, even when conflict is for
principles to which she claims. She goes not abroad in search
of monsters to destroy. She is the well wisher to
the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and
vindicator only of her home. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] So, shall I take a seat? Would you be willing to
take a question or two? I will. Or a comment. Thank you so much, Chas. We have a little bit of time for
questions, if anybody has any. Questions? comments? Alternative views? Yes? I know you are looking
forward rather than backward, and at the end you did quote
a former Secretary of State. But I’m wondering
if there was anybody you could identify in
that position, since say the end of World War II, who
actually partially succeeded in the kind of
diplomacy that you would like to see us engage in. Because the Secretary sets the
tone for the diplomatic corps. Yeah. Well, we’ve had a series
of Secretaries of State obviously over that lengthy–
70 years roughly– period. None of whom has embodied
all the virtuous one would hope for. And some have combined great
virtue with great vises. I would say that
in that category falls Henry Kissinger
who had the vision to assist Nixon– himself a very
flawed personality– to reshape the contours of
global geopolitics. But who also lost the trust of
virtually everyone with whom he dealt do to double
dealing and dishonesty. And whose foreign
policies in some respects did not deserve the support
of the American people and did not get it. So nobody’s perfect. But Kissinger had a vision and
flexibility that are probably more like what we need now. Than maybe even
more now appropriate than they were
during the Cold War when as I said the other
day, the purpose of diplomacy was to hold the line rather
than to solve problems to ensure that there was no change. I don’t want to go through
the litany of the rosters of Secretaries of State. We’ve had some
who will certainly be seen in retrospect as
being quite incompetent. But I will refrain from
naming those people. Sue? Chas, thank you very much for
that incredible tour de force. I really very much enjoyed
it and appreciated it. And agree with much of what you
said with regard to sanctions. And in fact, I think some of the
empirical work that we’ve done would very much
support your– I guess we should say– your
skepticism about the utility and effectiveness of sanctions. But one area in which it has
been, I think, more effective, is not on coercion but
in fact, constraint. That at times in the
proliferation sanctions are an example of that
in which we really very specifically talk about
types of technology, finance, et cetera that we
want to go after. But those are UN
multilateral sanctions too. So I look forward to
continuing the discussion on that particular point. I was really interested
in your characterization the Chinese use of
course of measures in which there was a lack
of clarity, if you will, some ambiguity. And that created
options– more options. In fact, one of the arguments
that people making over time is that we need to be
more explicit about what our demands are. Because it’s like moving
the goalposts each time we reach one. We sort of say, well, that’s
not really the purpose. And the enduring problem
about the ending of sanctions. So I’m curious as to
what you think of that. And then the second
thing is really, who are the most
effective, which countries have the most effective
diplomats now? Who do you characterize as
some of the best diplomats now? And what do you do in cases
like the most recent examples of Lavrov, a seasoned diplomat
who in fact has really been largely marginalized by
his own government in terms of its current foreign
policy initiatives? Three very– actually
three very interesting questions or comments
on the use of sanctions to impede the transfer of
technology essentially, which is how they’re used in the
nonproliferation arena. I’m very skeptical about
the efficacy of that over any sustained period. Let me give you two examples. One from ancient history and
one from my own experience of the Defense Department. The ancient history is this. The Chinese ancient
Chinese in around 400 BC, invented the crank crossbow. They had export controls on
that and the silk technology, and paper technology,
and other things. Which basically prevented
the crank crossbow– which fires a bolt
of great force, and can be used by relatively
unskilled marksman– from getting to Europe until
sometime in the 11th century. These sanctions were
effective for 1,500 years, which isn’t bad. But when they arrived
in Europe they were immediately perceived as a
gross problem in human rights. Why? Well the pope
actually, at that time there were two popes,
beginning of the 12th century, one in Avignon and one in Rome. The one in Avignon convened
an international conference, I think there were 53
polities represented there, negotiation ensued to
outlaw the crank crossbow. That is production, sale,
research, and development of the crank crossbow. Why? Because unlike other
bows and arrows which couldn’t go
through heavy armor and therefore only
killed ordinary people, these killed the nobility
with their heavy armor and therefore were a
human rights violation. So they solemnly agreed, they
signed a treaty around 1110 I think, and condemned
the crossbow and course rest is history. It pretty quickly diffused and
then was replaced by the gun. Experience number two,
my own experience, an Allied country which
shall remain nameless was discovered soon after I
arrived as assistant secretary of defense. To have been
eavesdropping shall we say with a very heavily
electronically equipped van on US rocket tests at
the [INAUDIBLE] rocket range in Maryland. So I had to call
in the ambassador from this country and
his defense attache and read them the riot act. And partly in
retaliation for this we denied a license to that
country of a phased array radar system that they were
eager to procure. So they went out now
knowing that phased array radar was possible they built a
better one than the one we had. So I think the
diffusion of technology is a very complex problem. And it’s not well dealt with by
the export control mechanisms. Should sanctions
be more explicit? I don’t think so. We have no choice in our system
which is based on rule of law. But to make sanctions explicit. So we can do what the
Chinese do I think with considerable success. But it’s not making
the sanctions more– or the demands connected to
them more explicit– that helps. Because when you
hold a gun on someone and ask for a
specific action, you challenge that person to
be resistant or devious or something else. It’s not a good way to
persuade people to do things. So the issue really
that you raise is not moving the goalposts. And I’ll give you a
very concrete example of that in today’s context. If I were a patriotic
North Korean living under this dangerous teenage
type that runs the country. And did not want that fellow,
Kim Jong Un, to remain in power and decided that I would
like to overthrow him. I know precisely what
will happen if I fail. I will die painfully,
my family will die. Maybe my village will be erased. So I know what the downside is. If I succeed, I don’t have any
reason to know what I will get. Will the United
States drop sanctions? Will the US make peace
with North Korea? Will it protect my regime? Will it continue to
seek to overthrow it? Will it add further demands? The record is pretty
bad in this regard. A similar situation occurred
with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Madeline Albright was
asked whether if Saddam were overthrown we would
normalized with Iraq? And she said, of course not. Not until they democratize
and respect human rights. So we just moved the goalposts. So I think that’s a
terribly important point. Consistency of purpose is
important in many contexts. And finally, competent
diplomatic services these days– there are many. I think the Russian service
is actually very competent. As you suggested, Lavrov is a
very experienced and capable diplomat. It’s not always the
case that governments allow their diplomats to
do what they might do. And perhaps he does suffer
from working under Mr. Putin. The British are excellent. The Singaporeans are
spectacular for the small number of people they have. The Ghanaians are excellent. One can go through–
each of these countries has its own style of national
security, decision making, and operations. None is perfect. But the fact that they are all
professional, well trained, experienced, mentored. And in most cases backed up by
their governments, not always, makes a big difference. Just because we’re
here in Rhode Island, I can’t resist reminding people,
Senator Claiborne Pell– who was our Senator for many years,
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations commitee– every
year had his proposal to take away political influence
in the context of diplomacy. To only have like many other
services like the Brits do, which the top diplomats changes. But the career diplomats
stay in the system. But that unfortunately in
US never went anywhere. I think it’s very important
to keep the government open to talent from outside. And I think that’s particularly
important in the policy making area. I’m not convinced that it’s wise
to entrust an aircraft carrier battle group to someone
whose main distinction is his campaign
donation capability. And I don’t think we should do
that for our embassies either. I would like to
question you so that you can say more about the
fundamental reasons why the United States
appears, from the outside and the inside, as an
inherently inconsistent actor. One can point, well, there
are some people who go crazy and some people do this. And your answer seemed
to be, at the end, if we only go back to
constitutional government, than this will solve itself. But that seems very
doubtful to me. [LAUGHTER] There are really
fundamental reasons in the structure of the
country among other things, the restructuring
of the party system so that the South has become
as reactionary as it always was under a new name, a party name. And that is the same party
that makes the Midwest a little problematic. So there have been big changes
in the structure of politics, but also in the structure
of country that seems to me to stand behind
this inability to act. And if you have an
inability to act, if you are unable to say
at the end of the ocean, at the beginning of
the ocean is the end of partisan disagreement. If you can’t regain
that to some extent, it doesn’t have to
get better diplomats. If I implied that
simply returning to respect for the arrangements
that the Constitution stipulated– not
just in terms of who is supposed to authorize
the use of force and who is supposed to
lead foreign policy– but on a variety
of other issues, including the Bill of Rights. If I implied, or if
you heard me to imply that that would
solve everything, then I certainly didn’t
intend to say that. But I do think that is a
prerequisite for the next step, which is trying to
filter interests through that
structure and restore some sense of the national
interest at the center. The problems that we have
acquired in that regard are not just the restructuring
of politics as you say, but some serious organizational
issues in Washington. Of course, there’s a question
of the American national character. We are remarkably
ignorant people in terms of our understanding
of foreign geography because we don’t
teach it anymore. And we don’t know much about
foreign history either. And we don’t speak languages by
and large other than English. All of there are
disabilities that it’s up to improvements in the
educational system to address. And they should be addressed. But perhaps our greatest
failing in that regard is that I think perhaps our
most endearing characteristic as a people is our amnesia. Every day is a new one. We don’t seem to
recall very much about what happened
to get us where we are and the mistakes we may
have made in the past. So all of this requires
being addressed. But I want to just
respond in detail on one issue that is a very
Washington issue perhaps. But is important. And that is the structure–
the bureaucratic structure– by which foreign policy
decisions are made. President Eisenhower, who
was of course a military man, famously remarked that,
plans are worthless but planning is everything. And in the White House
he had something called, I think, the long
range or long term planning board which attempted
to look over the horizon, anticipate future problems,
and craft policies to either forestall
or deal with them. And when Kennedy
came in, he thought this was far too passive. And he wished to replace it
with an actively engaged hands on approach to foreign
policy from the White House. So he created the national
security council staff. It had not had a staff
other than one person. And he brought in
six people, names are famous– Bundy, Rostow et
cetera– who together basically manipulated the bureaucracy
which was supposed to escalation in Vietnam
and to the misadventures that we had in Southeast Asia. Anyway, not to blame them
for anything in particular. It was six of them at the start. By the end of the
Nixon administration this number had grown to 50. It was held somewhat in
check by Brent Scowcroft when he became the National
Security Adviser in the Reagan administration. But by the end of the George
W. Bush administration, it was 370 permanent
positions and another 230 temporary assignments. 600 people. So what had been a personal
staff for the president became an agency and a
bureaucracy in its own right. And it acquired
critical mass much as radioactive substance does. It no longer had to communicate
outside its own event horizon, because there were
enough people there duplicating all of the functions
of the government at large. An expert on Syria to deal
with Syria and so forth. Very detailed
things, somebody who probably does something
about cyber security that is very specialized. So there are all these
people there, 600 or so. And this creates
several problems. One, they have the
delusion that they know everything they need to know. And that they can move the world
by email and other instruments of influence. And so I liken them– the
National Security Council staff today– to the machine at
the center of a planetarium. You know, the universe is
projected on this inverse dome inside. The machine moves, the
universe appears to move. But outside it’s snowing. So there is an illusion of
power that is quite deluded. That’s the first thing. The second is to
borrow a phrase, or a metaphor from Chinese,
the problem of the frog and the well. If you’re a frog sitting on the
bottom of a well, you look up. There’s this little
circle of light way up there which you
imagine as the universe. And so the frog in the well has
a very, very narrow perspective on reality, most incomplete. Well now you have 600
frogs in 600 wells. Somebody is supposed
to synthesize all this and create a coherent vision. And I’m sure Susan
Rice is very able, but I’ve not seen much
evidence that she can do that. So we have a problem of bloat,
over specialization, arrogance, and the lack of calling on the
expertise of the government, which really is
quite considerable. And this is a system
which fits very nicely with the national bad
habit of the moment, which is to view the world
through narratives rather than evidence
drawn from facts. So, I agree. There are many problems
that would not be solved by restoring the Constitution. But I would note that
the NSA staff is not subject to
congressional oversight, does not have to
testify or defend its actions to the
Congress, and is therefore an instrument of the imperial
presidency which is itself a violation of the
limited government concept on which our country was
built. So anyway, I’m sorry to give you
such a long answer, but think of frogs and wells
tonight when you have dinner. Thank you, Chas. I’m not sure why I’m
smiling, because you dashed my optimism on the rocks. But I’ll just say
this in conclusion. In academia, though not
necessarily here of course, we have our own frogs
and wells problem. And some of us tend
to be rather narrow. So that does get to
maybe the main reason why I asked you not just
to give one lecture, but punish you with
three lectures. The quality of your
mind and your ability to synthesize across vast
amounts of information and make sense for us of what
is a very disordered world, is rare indeed. And certainly rare in academia. So I want to thank
you for giving us the privilege of
sharing your mind and informing us with
this true tour de force. Well, thank you for having me. [APPLAUSE]

One Comment

  1. Acidicwither
    Acidicwither May 10, 2017

    this frog thinks thats a great roadmap speech-statecraft and diplomacy a cultured approach to humanity and harmony-

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