As it turns out, that was the appropriate tack, because my lackluster effort to process the speech matched the Obama administration's lackluster effort to incorporate foreign policy into the speech (FP's Josh Rogin has expertly parsed the little foreign policy content there was). As predicted, there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of international relations content in the SOTU, despite Heather Hurlburt's best efforts to argue otherwise.
Politico's Laura Rozen noted "the seeming downgrading of foreign policy emphasis in the speech," and The Spectator's Alex Massie observed "Foreign policy received very little, even perfunctory, attention." [UPDATE: oooh, Jeffrey Laurenti has data]:
[Obama] devoted just 14 percent of his speech to international concerns – a far cry from George Bush, who regularly devoted half his State of the Union addresses to foreign policy and national security themes (and fully 88 percent of the infamous “axis of evil” address in 2002, which laid out the road map for war in the Middle East).
What attention was paid to foreign economic policy was desultory when it wasn't firmly wedged in Fantasyland.
In fact, let's deconstruct that entire section of the speech -- it won't take that long:
[W]e need to export more of our goods. Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America. To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security.
We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we will continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia.
Now, let's see if there's anything of substance in there:
1) "We will double our exports over the next five years..." Well, the President said this would happen, so it must be so!! I would humbly request that the president also decree that the pull of gravity be cut in half. The government has an equal chance of making that happen.
2) "we will continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets..." The key word there is "shape." I have every confidence the administration will do this, because they make this pledge in every communique they ever issue. It's a tradition now, like playing "Hail to the Chief." Play the music, pledge to work on Doha, and then go about your business.
3) "we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia." You mean, by ratifying the threee trade agreements that have already been signed and negotiated? Oh, you don't mean that? Well, never mind, then.
State of the Union speeches are usually about domestic priorities, and it's not surprising that this one played to type. Still, I would have liked to have seen a more robust effort to link foreign policy priorities to domestic priorities -- because the two are more linked than is commonly acknowledged.
Comment away on what you expect/hope/fear from Barack Obama's first State of the Union address.
While you're waiting, check out this pre-SOTU bloggingheads diavlog with NSN's Heather Hurlburt, in which
she exposes every male foreign policy wonk's secret fantasy at about the 3:30 mark we discuss what could be on the agenda -- as well as Haiti, Google, and Sino-American relations:
I, for one, am glad that the foreign press is brave enough to cover what America's mainstream media is not -- the U.S. government's complicity in causing the Haitian earthquake. Never mind that the foreign media echo chamber aparentluy started with a false rumor -- with luck, our MSM will now start asking the tough questions.
Why, you might ask? What is America's motivations to trigger Haiti's earthquake and then intervene with massive aid in the hemisphere's poorest country? Well, there are different theories bandied about.
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez suggests that this was a practice "drill," designed to test the earthquake weapon before targeting Iran (though see the update below). Very clever!! It is unclear whether Chavez believes that this is a test of the "demonstration effect" variety or not. It is also unclear just how such an earthquake would actually destroy Iran's nuclear program -- the 2003 Bam earthquake certainly didn't.
This Canadian-based Centre for Research on Globalization's Ken Hildebrandt offers the following ingenious explanation:
You've likely guessed my suspicions about recent events. I'm not saying this is what occurred, though it's sure a possibility to be considered in my view.
This could hardly have happened at a more convenient time. The president's ratings are plummeting, and his bill to subsidize the insurance industry has essentially divided the nation in two.
What better way to lead the people into believing we're one big happy family than to reunite former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush along with Obama in a joint humanitarian effort?
This is so convenient... and brilliant!! It makes perfect sense that the Obama administation would try to kill upwards of 200,000 Haitians in order to bring the country together as one! Because, clearly, in recent years, natural disasters have bolstered the standing of U.S. presidents!! Certainly, a calamity in Haiti would work even better! If only Rush Limbaugh had played ball....
What I love about conspiracies like these is the careful balancing of smart and stupid that the key actors have to possess in order for the plan to work as described.
Question to readers: how far and how wide will this meme travel?
UPDATE: I just received the following from a atrategic communications advisor to the Venezuelan Embassy in the United states:
In response to your recent post on Foreign Policy’s website, I just wanted to clarify that President Hugo Chavez never associated himself with the theory that a
U.S.weapon had caused the earthquake in . Haiti
The claim was made by a blogger on the website of a state-run yet independent television station. At some point thereafter, someone jumped to the conclusion that President Chavez had agreed or repeated the claim, which is absolutely not true. President Chavez did argue against an increased
U.S.military presence in , but at no point did he question what had caused the earthquake or aligned himself with any conspiracy theories to that effect. Haiti
Picking up on a theme I discussed earlier this week, I see that both Fred Kaplan and Matthew Yglesias conclude that a politically chastened Obama will not find any salvation in foreign policy. They both give similar reasons -- anything of significance will require Congressional approval, and Congress ain't in the giving mood.
I don't really disagree with Kaplan and Yglesias, but I do think they're missing something important: with an economy shedding jobs, the last thing Obama wants to do is pump up his international profile. Even if he could claim successes, foreign policy achievements -- particularly of the non-military kind -- during an economic downturn are pretty much a dead-bang political loser. Why? Because even successes suggests that the president cares more about the rest of the world than his own countrymen.
Think about it. The last time a sitting president focused on foreign affairs in the middle of a recession was George H.W. Bush. That was great from a policy perspective, but a political disaster for Bush. I won't swear to this, but my impression is that Obama's standing has taken a hit whenever he's gone overseas in the past year.
On the other hand, during a recession presidents can tell the rest of the world to go f*** themselves and they won't lose much in the way of popularity.
Just a glance at the December 2009 Pew survey shows the extent to which Americans are looking inward. And who can blame them -- it's a pretty bad economy and there's double-digit unemployment. This tendency is exacerbated by something that Kaplan does point out:
In the post-Cold War world, with the fracturing of power and the decline of influence by any one country or bloc, the problems that he faces are simply harder—more impervious to military, economic, or diplomatic pressure—than they would have been 20 to 50 years ago.
I'd say "post-Great Recession world," but that's quibbling. If Americans are fed up with how long it takes for anything to get done in Congress, wait until they pay attention to foreign affairs. The Doha round is on year nine and counting. With important exceptions, the United States has military forces in practically every country it's intervened in since 1945. Who knows how long a global warming treaty -- or the reconstruction of Haiti -- will take.
Are there exceptions? Sure, but they're ephemeral. I suspect the follow-on to START-II would get through the Senate, because, really, is now the time to pick a fight with Russia? Osama bin Laden's head on a pike would probably warm the cockles of most Americans. But they wouldn't stay warm for long.
No, it's the economy, stupid. The healthier the economy, the more political capital for Obama, and the less likely he will be punished for taking an interest in foreign affairs. If Obama has any political self-preservation instincts at all, international relations will be done on the DL for a while.
It's unfair, and very problematic for foreign policy wonks, but no one said life is fair.
Everyone inside the Beltway is preparing their 500 words on what the results in the Massachusetts special Senate election will mean for Barack Obama's domestic policy agenda. It's worth speculating for a moment, however, about the implications of this election for Obama's foreign policy agenda. What would a Republican victory signal to the rest of the world? How would the rest of the world's policymakers react?
The first and simplest answer would be that there would be no effect. It's just a single Senate election. Furthermore, one could argue that, on foreign policy, GOP hopeful Scott Brown is actually closer to Barack Obama than Martha Coakley. Brown supports Obama's Afghanistan plan -- Coakley opposes it. This election hasn't really been about foreign policy. Surely, then, a GOP upset wouldn't have much impact on the realm of international relations.
Not so fast, however. The election will also be interpreted as a signal of Obama's domestic political strength. Unless the numbers are way off, the Republicans will do much better tonight than anyone expected even two weeks ago. Foreign leaders -- particularly those from countries not terribly well-schooled in electoral politics -- will undoubtedly interpret that as a sign of:
1) Obama's domestic weakness; and
2) The depths of populist outrage in the United States -- populist outrage that could bleed over into increased protectionism, isolationism, or "kill them all and let God sort them out" provocation on the foreign policy front.
Soooo..... how they respond to this information depends on many factors. If they prefer Obama and his foreign policies to the GOP (cough, Europe, cough), then they might prove to be more accommodating to U.S. positions. If they like the results from a United States foreign policy that is more hawkish (cough, Iran and Venezuela, cough), then they might amp up their belligerence to make Obama look weak and hamstrung.
The one sure effect of the election is that it will throw a monkey wrench into international negotiations that require legislative approval. Unless Obama can secure bipartisan support for, say, a replacement to Start II, other countries' negotiators are going to wonder why they should bother with the transaction costs of negotiation.
Am I missing anything?
I've been having some fun at economists' expense as of late, but it's mostly been a form of friendly teasing. The neoclassical economic framework provides some serious leverage to understanding how the world works. It remains an incomplete approach to political analysis, however.
Take, for example, Daron Acemoglu's Esquire essay on the importance of governance to economic development, which is abstracted from his latest project with Jim Robinson. Acemoglu is a top-flight political economist -- which is why I found the following passages so strange:
Andrew Sullivan has been blogging about Iran juuuust a wee bit the past 48 hours. Now he asks a question:
The Green Movement has strongly resisted all sanctions against Iran, and even more passionately opposes any military strikes. If Israel strikes, it will effectively kill the Iranian opposition movement, and set off a global wave of Jihadism which will kill many American soldiers and civilians. So how to respond to the Revolutionary Guards' continuing and mounting brutality?
He also links to some useful Spencer Ackerman posts, which contains the following two points of interest:
What to do? I think two big questions need to be asked. First, how are the sanctions supposed to work? Is the idea to squeeze the elite coalition ruling Iran just hard enough to get the current leadership to cut a deal? Or is the idea to cause enough discontent with the regime such that it collapses, and then a deal can be struck with the next regime?
The process by which sanctions are supposed to work matters. If the hope is to still do business with the current regime, then targeted or "smart" sanctions make more sense. They're less likely to impact the broader Iranian population -- though, like precision-guided munitions, there will always be collateral damage.
If the goal is regime change, well, then broad-based sanctions might make more sense. If these reports are any indication, then it appears that the Khamenei regime is alienating an ever-larger swath of the population. Obviously, the regime could try to use the prospect and implementation of broad-based sanctions as a way to rally around the flag. If the regime's popular support is badly eroding, however, and that erosion is partly explained by economic hardship, then you want sanctions to target a somewhat larger segment of the populace.
Of course, as I've said before, this is all sophistry unless you get Iran's major trading partners on board. And my hunch is they won't go for the "heavy" sanctions option. This is a shame, because at this point, I think it's the option that's somewhat more likely to work.
Let's not kid ourselves, however: we're talking about policy options that will change the probabilities by a few percentage points either way. There is no magic bullet -- or bomb, for that matter -- on this policy quiestion.
Am I missing anything?
My FP colleague Marc Lynch has dissected Alan Kuperman's New York Times op-ed on the wisdom of bombing Iran. Lynch takes great pains (more on that in a moment) to rip apart Kuperman's argument so I don't have to, but I can't resist pointing out the most tendentious point in the essay:
As for the risk of military strikes undermining Iran’s opposition, history suggests that the effect would be temporary. For example, NATO’s 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavia briefly bolstered support for President Slobodan Milosevic, but a democratic opposition ousted him the next year.
Now, this assertion contains facts, but is so radically incomplete as to be f***ing insane.
To add a bit of detail: maybe, just maybe, the reason Slobodan Milosevic was ousted had less to do with the bombing itself, but because the Serbian leader completely capitulated to NATO's demands on Kosovo after eight weeks of airstrikes. The bombing angered those already on the outs with Milosevic; the acquiescence after costly punishment angered Serbian nationalists and technocrats. So it wasn't just the bombing that affected Serbian politics -- it was Milosevic's decision to alter Serbian policy in a manner favorable to NATO.
So, yes, if the Iranian leadership does what Kuperman wants them to do after being bombed -- acquiesce on the nuclear program -- then yes, they'll be gone. Now, raise your hand if you think the current Iranian leadership will respond to a bombing campaign by shifting their position closer to the U.S. position.
So, yes, this is a pretty silly op-ed, and the New York Times wasted an awful lot of column inches on it. Go ahead, heap some calumny on them. *
The Obama administration almost certainly doesn't want to make such a wrong-headed move --- but, then, there are a lot of things which the Obama administration doesn't want to do but has been forced into by political realities (Gitmo, the public option, escalation in Afghanistan) and intentions aren't enough. Many people may have assumed that the legacy of Iraq would have raised the bar on such arguments for war, that someone making such all too familiar claims would simply be laughed out of the public square. The NYT today shows that they aren't. I suspect that one of the great foreign policy challenges of 2010 is going to be to push back on this mad campaign for another pointless, counter-productive war for the sake of war.
I would interpret things differently. Changing the policy status quo is really, really hard, and it's normally pretty easy to gin up significant political opposition to any proposed change. The status quo on Iran is that we're not bombing them , so I expect that to continue for a good long while.
Indeed, the reactions to this op-ed remind me of the panic among progressives in 2007 that the Bush administration was gearing up to bomb Iran. The truth was somewhat different.
By all means, critique Kuperman's argument. But let's not pretend that Dick Cheney is still vice president, or that Bill Kristol can start a war with a Weekly Standard column. The world really has changed a bit.
*UPDATE: The more I think about the massive flaws in this op-ed, the more I'm beginning to wonder if this wasn't a strategic move by the New York Times op-ed page editors to subtly undercut the neoconservative argument for war. Indeed, I would not describe the GOP links to the essay as terribly enthusiastic. I do love Tom Gross' characterization of it as, "dry and academic and long (it runs to two pages online)." Yes, because if you can't make the case for military action in under 400 words, there's just no point in bothering.
Nader Mousavizadeh, a special assistant to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan from 1997 to 2003, writes in The New Republic that the United States should prioritize democratization over de-nuclearization in Iran:
The fracturing of the Islamic Republic’s traditional elite, and the persistence and power of Iran’s democratic awakening six months later, make clear that a regime change is under way in Iran--one that is indigenous, sustainable, democratic in spirit, and peaceful in its means. It is the most promising development in the broader Middle East in the past quarter-century. Rather than being viewed as a sideshow, the uprising should be at the core of every policy decision regarding Iran. Western leaders should ask themselves just one question whenever faced with a new set of measures toward Iran: Will they help or hurt the Green Movement?
For all the concern about a fitful and still highly vulnerable nuclear program, a far greater prize is now in sight: a freer society and an accountable government under the rule of law. An opportunity now exists to encourage the evolution of a democratic Iran--through careful, calibrated, and principled policies that refuse to be baited by the crude and bellicose behavior of a usurper president.
Now, I'm sure Flynt Leverett and other purebred realists would vehemently disagree with this assessment. And I'm sure that William Kristol and other neoconservatives would vehemently agree with this sentiment.
For the rest of you, does this preference ordering make sense? To me, it seems that you need to take the following variables into account:
None of this is to say that a carrt-and-stick appoach on the nuclear issue is going to work either. If you're comfotable with risk, an approach that marginally boosts the likelihood of a Green Revolution taking place might be the best play.
I bring up these questions, however, because it's possible that a carrot-and-stick approach that prioritizes the nuclear issue over the regime change issue is the best of a really lousy set of policy options.
Ezra Klein makes an interesting point regarding the health care plan that will likely emerge from Congress: that it pretty much matches what Obama the candidate promised in his health care plan (hat tip: Sullivan).
I bring this up because when you think about Barack Obama's foreign policy, you come to a very similar conclusion. It's a useful exercise to re-read Obama's July 2007 Foreign Affairs essay, "Renewing American Leadership," and compare it to Obama's first year as foreign policymaker-in-chief. In the essay, he emphasized the following:
Not everything has been implemented -- his foreign aid pledges won't materialize, and the Middle East peace process remains an oxymoron. It's nevertheless quite striking how much Obama's first year of foreign policy outputs matches the blueprint he sketched out as a candidate. The only exception I can think of is homeland security.
By the by, it's also the case that the issues he didn't emphasize -- like trade, for example -- have pretty much gone nowhere.
Whether you think this is a good thing or not depends on your view of the policy content. Still, one would be hard-pressed to argue that on foreign policy, Obama the president has deviated from what he set out to do as a candidate.
I still think we should pay less attention to what he said and focus on what he and his advisors do. In his first year in office, President Obama has made two critical decisions involving matters of war, peace and justice. The first is his decision to abandon the admirable principles he set forth in his Cairo speech in June, to tacitly accept the continued expansion of Israel's West Bank settlements, and to collude in a well-orchestrated assault on the Goldstone Report on war crimes in Gaza. The result will be to perpetuate precisely the sort of injustice that gives rise to very violence he deplored in his speech. The second is his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan -- sending 17,000 troops last spring and 30,000 more last month -- despite the continued absence of a compelling rationale or coherent strategy for success.
From Day One, Obama has shown that he is a thoughtful and intelligent leader who takes his responsibilities seriously and weighs decisions carefully. But in the end, what matters is not how long or hard he thinks or how well he talks. What matters is whether he makes the right decisions. And by that criterion, he's 0 for 2.
No doubt, these are important policy actions. The most important, however? No, I don't think so -- not if you really buy the precepts of realism (Indeed, one of the things I love about purebred realists is how they emphasize the importance of power beyond all else, and then obsess about every aspect of American foreign policy except great power interactions).
No, what should matter most for realists is how the United States engages the other great powers of the world -- China, Russia, and maybe India and the European Union. By this metric, the four most important actions the Obama administration has taken to date are:
On the whole, in great power politics, I'd say Obama is doing reasonably well. Relations with Russia are unquestionably better than they were a year ago. Sino-American relations are fraught with more tension, as recent events in Copenhagen suggest. However, I'm with James Fallows in noting that Obama's China trip was more successful than most commentators noted in November.
There might come a time in the future when the United States must balance against these countries, but that day is a long way off. For now, however, one could argue the Obama administration's emphasis on developing a more robust economic foundation for American power necessitates relatively peaceful relations with the other great powers.
What do you think?
Oh, professors of introductory international relations classes everywhere are thanking their maker for Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (well, except those in Steve Walt's classes). It's a gift to anyone who needs to come up with a final exam question at this stage of the semester. Pick a paradigm, and you can find a sliver of the speech dedicated to its theoretical propositions.
I'm sure, for example, that the realists in the crowd will like this section:
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago -- "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of nonviolence. I know there is nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naive -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
Side note: for those who complain that Barack Obama does not speak uncomfortable truths, read over that section again and realize that he's saying this directly to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
So, a contest for readers: pore over the speech and look for evidence suggesting Obama favors the following approaches:
It's easy... and fun!!
[Doesn't this imply that the speech was logically contradictory?--ed. No, it implies that the world is a hell of a lot more complex than any of these theoretical approaches. Alas, knowing when to apply each of these worldviews is more art than science.]
So, Pew has a new survey of elite and mass attitudes about foreign policy, and it's chock-full of interesting results. Turns out Americans sound pretty realist right now:
In the midst of two wars abroad and a sour economy at home, there has been a sharp rise in isolationist sentiment among the public. For the first time in more than 40 years of polling, a plurality (49%) says the United States should "mind its own business internationally" and let other countries get along the best they can on their own....
The public sees China's emerging power as more worrisome than do the foreign policy opinion leaders. There has been virtually no change since 2005 in the percentage of the public saying that China represents a major threat to the United States (53% today, 52% then). Moreover, while Iran is mentioned most often as the country that poses the greatest danger to the United States, China continues to rank among the countries frequently named by the public as dangers to the U.S....
At the same time, there has been a rise in unilateralist sentiment. Fully 44% say that because the United States "is the most powerful nation in the world, we should go our own way in international matters, not worrying about whether other countries agree with us or not." That is by far the highest percentage agreeing since the question was first asked by Gallup in 1964.
Hmmm... this sounds familiar.
Now, you might think supporters of these policy positions would be overjoyed at this news, or at least extoling the sage wisdom of the common folk of America.
The thing is, there are other results in this survey suggesting the public is kinda, sorta stupid*:
In a reversal of opinion from the beginning of last year, 44% of the public now says China is the world's leading economic power, while just 27% name the United States. In February 2008, 41% said the U.S. was the top economic power while 30% said China.
Now I understand that China's relative power has grown vis-a-vis the United States in the past
year two years decade. Maybe in a decade or so, China will be the more powerful and robust economy. Maybe. Right now, however, there is simply no way you can describe China right now as "the world's leading economic power."
If you were to take a snapshot of the distribution of economic capabilities in the world, then the United States remains the most powerful country in the world, and it's not close. The U.S. share of the global economy has hovered around 25% for the past decade. This is twice the size of China or Japan, and far larger than that of any other individual nation-state. Any measure of science and technology outputs generally has the United States coming out on top. Historically, the U.S. is not only the current hegemon - the country controls a far greater share of the world's resources than most great powers of the past. [But, but, but, China has the largest amount of official currency reserves in the world!!--ed. Yes, and a fat lot of good that does Beijing.]
Is China more economically powerful than it was in 2008? Absolutely. Is it more powerful than the United States? No f***ing way.
There's a lot more to dig through here -- I'll be bashing the inconsitencies of foreign policy elites sometime this weekend. But I highlight these results to suggest that anyone talking about this stuff as an example of the "wisdom of crowds" does not know what they are talking about. These are very interesting results, but they're based on a pretty high degree of ignorance about world politics.
*Yes, the more accurate word to use would be "uninformed," but I'm trying to provoke here.
Analogical reasoning can be very dangerous in foreign affairs. The human impulse to see patterns everywhere can lead to the use of inexact analogies -- "X is another Vietnam" or "Y is another Minuch." This in turn leads to bad foreign policy decisions, as anyone with a passing familiarity with this book can tell you.
So one of the things I liked about Obama's speech last night was his willingness to confront some analogical reasoning head-on. Consider this section, for example:
[T]here are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we're better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.
One could quibble a bit with some elements of that paragraph -- the U.S. really did have allies contribute troops in Vietnam -- but that's a decent analysis as far as it goes.
The thing that nags at me, however, is the implicit analogy in last night's speech, and in the policy discourse that will surround this decision: Afghanistan in late 2009 parallels Iraq in late 2006, and therefore a surge strategy now will have similar effects.
Glenn Greenwald has already catalogued the parallels in rhetorical tropes between the two instances (and Steven Metz chronicles the actual policy parallels). Greenwald believes this will expose the hollowness at the core of Obama's strategy, but I don't think he gets the politics of this at all. My hunch is that the surge is perceived to have worked pretty well -- Iraq in 2009 is in better straits than Iraq in 2006. If policymakers are unconsciously adopting this parallel, then the strategy will sell.
The thing is, Afghanistan is very, very different from Iraq. As tough a nut as state-building is in Iraq, it's a country with fewer ethnic and linguistic divisions, better infrastructure, a better educated citizenry, more natural endowments, and a longer history of relative "stability" than Afghanistan. Whatever you think about the surge strategy, the odds of success in Afghanistan are lower than in Iraq.
This doesn't mean that Obama's other policy options are better -- but I'd like to know the extent to which the administration recognizes the flaws in the surge analogy.
Comment away on Obama's Afghanistan speech here. My quick hits:
[I]t's possible to defend Belichick's call on fourth down as the rational, utility-maximizing decision, but conclude that he committed a series of small blunders that got the Patriots to the point where they had to convert a high-risk, high-reward play. In other words, sometimes the criticized decision might be the right one to make, but the decisions that structured the controversial choice might not have been.
... Looking at the Obama administration's foreign policy, which move echoes Belichick's play-calling?
I think I have my answer now.
This is a 51-49 decision, and I'm far from confident that he's doing the right thing. If that Eisenhower quote is any indication, however, I'm pretty sure that the decision-making process was solid.
James Fallows blogs about how George W. Bush has acted like all ex-presidents by refusing to criticize their successors in their first year of office -- as opposed to ex-VP Dick Cheney. To Fallows, this is an unforgivable sin:
I am not aware of a case of a former president or vice president behaving as despicably as Cheney has done in the ten months since leaving power, most recently but not exclusively with his comments to Politico about Obama's decisions on Afghanistan. (Aaron Burr might win the title, for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, but Burr was a sitting vice president at the time.) Cheney has acted as if utterly unconcerned with the welfare of his country, its armed forces, or the people now trying to make difficult decisions. He has put narrow score-settling interest far, far above national interest.
I confess that I've been on the fence about Cheney's outspokenness to date. On the one hand, I think Fallows is correct in pointing out the breach of protocol. On the other hand, I think Cheney genuinely believes that he has an obligation to speak out on foreign policy matters. In his mind, the stakes are huge enough, and the policies Obama is pursuing are wrong enough, to warrant his criticisms.
So I'm inclined to cut Cheney some slack for his decision to speak out. On the other hand, when we read the Politico interview, Cheney's actual sins come out:
Cheney rejected any suggestion that Obama had to decide on a new strategy for Afghanistan because the one employed by the previous administration failed.
Cheney was asked if he thinks the Bush administration bears any responsibility for the disintegration of Afghanistan because of the attention and resources that were diverted to Iraq. “I basically don’t,” he replied without elaborating (emphasis added).
Seriously? Seriously? I dare any Cheney supporter to make the argument that Afghanistan was hunky-dory until January 20, 2009, at which point things went to hell in a handbasket.
For the rest of us on the Planet Earth, there's no way to read that passage and not come to one of two possible conclusions:
I don't mind that Cheney speaks up for what he thinks is right -- I mind that he's a liar.
Or, to paraphrase Garry Trudeau, "That's LIAR! LIAR!! LIAR!! LIAR!!"
As Peter Feaver observed over at Shadow Government, there's an ever-increasing number of leaks coming from the Obama administration on foreign policy.
Beyond the drip-drip-drip on the Afghan strategic review, the foreign policy community is now agog at Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf's story in Time on the rise and fall of Greg Craig, Obama's first White House Counsel. Former colleague Laura Rozen labels it as, "one of the most devastating accounts to have emerged of the Obama White House."
Calabresi and Weisskopf's story contains astonishing revelations, like the following:
Well, blow me down.
I don't mean to belittle those who either ardently support or ardently oppose the initial efforts to eliminate the legacies of Guantanamo and the like. But stories that reveal politicians to be acting, er, politically don't really cause my jaw to drop.
The only interesting thing I found in this piece was the part Rozen excerpted:
Obama arrived at Emanuel's office a few minutes later, took off his windbreaker and sat down at a table lined with about a dozen national-security and political advisers. He asked each to state a position and then convened an impromptu debate, selecting Craig and McDonough to argue opposing sides. Craig deployed one of Obama's own moral arguments: that releasing the memos "was consistent with taking a high road" and was "sensitive to our values and our traditions as well as the rule of law." Obama paused, then decided in favor of Craig, dictating a detailed statement explaining his position that would be released the next day.
But for Craig, it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. Four days later, former Vice President Dick Cheney attacked Obama on Fox News Channel for dismantling the policies he and Bush had put in place to keep the country safe. More significant was the reaction within Obama's camp. Democratic pollsters charted a disturbing trend: a drop in Obama's support among independents, driven in part by national-security issues. Emanuel quietly delegated his aides to get more deeply involved in the process. Damaged by the episode, Craig was about to suffer his first big setback.
In other words, the median American voters are comfortable with using illiberal means to protect the national interest (hmmm... that sounds familiar). And, shock upon shock, politicians respond to public attitudes.
I'm late to this party, but two quick thoughts on Obama's Tokyo speech:
1. Last week a sharp foreign policy observer -- and a former campaign advisor for Obama -- made an interesing lexicographical observation to me about the Obama administration's foreign policy rhetoric to date. They use the word "partnership" a hell of a lot more often than they use the word "alliance." That's not terribly surprising, given their emphasis on talking with adversaries, forming great power concerts, etc. Still, there are times when it's important to reach out more to one's allies than one's rivals.
The Tokyo speech was one of those occasions, and I'm happy to report that Obama used "alliance" 12 times and "partnership" only 9 times. Perhaps this says more about the lay of the land in the Pacific Rim than anything else, but it does suggest that the adminstration is sensitive to regional nuances.
2. That said, I was underwhelmed with the trade outreach of the speech. Some reports suggest that Obama announced that the U.S. would join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an APEC trade forum comprising, at the moment, of Brunei, Singapore, Chile and New Zealand (with Vietnam and Australia thinking about joining).
What Obama actually said, however, was:
The United States will also be engaging with the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries with the goal of shaping a regional agreement that will have broad-based membership and the high standards worthy of a 21st century trade agreement.
So what exactly does that mean? Helene Cooper points out the ambiguities of that language in the New York Times:
Although Mr. Obama did open the door during his speech in Tokyo on Asia policy, he did not explicitly say that the United States would join the pact. A formal announcement that the United States is beginning negotiations would undoubtedly kick off criticism from free-trade opponents in the United States and pushback from Congress.
Mr. Obama spoke, instead, of “engaging the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries with the goal of shaping a regional agreement that will have broad-based membership and the high standards worthy of a 21st century trade agreement.”
That line left many trade envoys already in Singapore scratching their heads: did Mr. Obama mean that the United States would begin formal talks to join the regional trade pact, which presently includes Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand, and could later include Vietnam — an addition that could lead to more Congressional pressure at home?
Many regional officials have been waiting for the United States to join the initiative as a demonstration that Washington will play a more active role in the region. But the Obama administration has yet to establish a firm trade policy, as it is still reviewing its options.
White House officials were not much clearer on what Mr. Obama meant when they were pressed on this after the speech. Michael Froman, an economics expert on the National Security Council, said that what Mr. Obama meant was that he would engage with the initiative “to see if this is something that could prove to be an important platform going further.”
Wow, that's some real enthusiasm coming from the G-20 sherpa.... not.
For an administration that likes to pride itself as savvy in the ways of foreign policy subtleties, I still don't think they grasp the fact that trade policy is now embedded into foreign policy in the Asia/Pacific Region.
A year after Barack Obama's election, I'm seeing a lot of post-mortems on his administration's first year in foreign policy. Ben Smith's Politico story is a nice template for them:
Foreign policy never goes according to campaign plan, but for President Barack Obama, who promised a hardheaded new engagement with the world, the last week and the weeks he sees looming ahead must be discouraging.
Across a region spanning Pakistan to the Mediterranean, foreign leaders seem to be challenging the very premise of his policy: that foreign countries can reasonably be persuaded to move in the direction of common interests, and that a better-loved America can get more done.
In Afghanistan, an all-out effort to promote a legitimate election turned into a scramble to prevent a civil war and ease the defrauded challenger off the stage. Iran persuaded the White House to drop its late-September deadline for action and then appears to have rejected a deal on nuclear fuel. Great powers such as Russia and China show no appetite for crucial concessions, while the U.S. Congress continues to block major action on a pillar of Obama’s policy goals — international action on climate change.
To which I say: meh. First, Smith's premise about Obama's foreign policy isn't quite right. Sure, I think Obama and his foreign policy team would love it if "foreign countries can reasonably be persuaded to move in the direction of common interests, and that a better-loved America can get more done." But c'mon, these are not stupid people, and I'm pretty sure that they know the limits of diplomatic goodwill and reasoned discourse.
Second, you always need to grade on a curve -- i.e., how has Obama's first ten months stacked up to prior administratons? Most incoming administrations screw up plenty in their first year in office. With Clinton, there was flip-flopping over Haiti, dithering over Bosnia, screw-ups over Japan, etc. With Bush 43, there was a lack of consultation with allies over treaty withdrawals, a dramatic policy shift on North Korea that badly embarrassed South Korea's leadership and eventually had to be walked back, and that whole failure-to-prevent 9/11 problem. Even with George H.W. Bush, the first six months primarily consisted of a strategic review of the Soviet Union that was overtaken by events the moment it was finished.
Will Obama have to walk back or reverse course on foreign policy? He's done so on Israel, to be sure, and might do so on Afghanistan. He has had successes in Honduras, Russia and the Somali pirates, however. So far, I'd say Obama is shooting par for the course.
I haven't been a huge fan of certain aspects of Obama's foreign policy -- like Philip Levy, I'm not thrilled with his trade policy. Mostly, however, I'd characterize his foreign policy actions as reasonable -- and pretty much what I'd expected a year ago today.
What about you, dear readers -- how do you grade Obama's foreign policy?
Bryan Bender had a long story in yesterday's Boston Globe about the Obama administration's aspirations for treaty ratification:
Marking a major reversal from the Bush administration, which considered most treaties to be too restrictive of US sovereignty, the Obama administration says it will seek ratification of three major pacts aimed at reducing nuclear weapons. It also will seek approval of a set of regulations to manage use of the oceans and, by the end of the president’s first term, a new treaty to combat global climate change....
International treaties are signed by the president, but under the Constitution must be ratified by the Senate to become law. They need at least 67 votes to pass, not a simple majority of 51, typically requiring strong support from the president’s own party and a significant number of votes from the opposing party. Democrats now control 60 seats in the Senate, counting two independents who usually vote with the party.
Obtaining 67 votes has proved difficult under the best of circumstances and helps explain why fewer than 20 major security treaties have been ratified since the end of World War II, according to David Auerswald, a professor of strategy and policy at the National War College in Washington.
“The foreign policy consensus in this country has disappeared on many issues,’’ said Auerswald, a leading specialist on treaties. “Given that the Democrats only have 60 of the 67 votes necessary to approve a treaty, they have to hold their ranks and pick off seven Republicans. Yet moderate Republicans are a dying breed in the Senate, making the Democrats’ task that much harder.’’
At first glance, I'd share Auerswald's skepticism. The Bush administration, for example, wanted the Senate to pass the Law of the Sea Treaty. Despite Bush's support and the ardent backing of the U.S. Navy, ratification went nowhere -- there were a suficient number of "new sovereigntists" to kill the chances for a floor vote.
Of course, that was a whole election cycle ago. Looking at the U.S. Senate, let's do some arithmetic. Assuming Obama has the backing of all 60 Democrat-ish Senators, who might offer support on the GOP side for, say, the Law of the Sea Treaty? My tentative list:
So it's possible... hmmm.... well, maybe not McCain. It's a little unclear, actually.
I suspect this is going to boil down to whether John McCain wants to be the Arthur Vandenberg of his era.
Either way, however, I suspect the Obama administration would encounter difficulties getting these same seven senators to vote yea on a raft of international treaties. Unless there are more GOP Senators available for the picking, I suspect Obama will have to pick only his favorites to push.
In light of Hamid Karzai's agreement to go forward on a run-off election in Afghanistan, I was curious about special envoy Richard Holbrooke's role in this denouement. Jon Western links to this Nukes & Spooks McClatchy blog post chock-full of some inside dirt:
Three administration officials, who asked not to be identified by agency, told us that, while Holbrooke is laboring away hard behind the scenes, he's received direct orders from the White House to cool it publicly while Washington desperately tries to unscramble the Afghan electoral mess between President Hamid Karzai and his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.
"This process is so sensitive. He'd love to deal with this. The White House thinks ... it's not the time for him" to be out front, one of the officials said of Holbrooke...
To be fair -- and we do try to be fair here at N&S, we're told that the White House orders are not directed at Holbrooke alone. Everyone involved in Af/Pak policy has been told to keep a lid on it while President Obama deals with the difficult decision of how to keep the situation there from dropping into the abyss and whether to send more American servicemen and women to Afghanistan.
I'm beginning to wonder if Hoobrooke is simply the exemplar of the bad cop in foreign affairs. For his sake, I hope so. Otherwise, he's stuck being an envoy to a region in which the Indians won't talk to him, the Afghans won't talk to hi, and the Pakistanis that will talk to him are feckless.
According to one Western diplomat, the Afghan president was more comfortable dealing with Sen. Kerry than with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry or the administration's special representative to the region, Richard Holbrooke. Mr. Holbrooke angered Mr. Karzai when he suggested shortly after the Aug. 20 election that a runoff might be needed.
My latest bloggingheads diavlog is with the New America Foundation's Flynt Leverett, who co-authored an op-ed last week that didn't sit too well with me. We discuss the Leveretts' proposal for a grand bargain with Iran and all of its implications.
I come away from the diavlog even more skeptical of the Leverett proposal -- the more I listened, the more I thought that:
Opinions will vary, however -- give it a listen and let me know what you think in the comments.
The Century Foundation's Jeffrey Laurenti earlier this week on the sharp differences between the Obama administration and its predecessor:
Barack Obama is reaping treble returns for America this week as he makes his first appearance as president at the United Nations. Never has an American president been greeted on the U.N.'s unique global stage with such giddy anticipation, or undertaken so extensive and substantive a schedule there....
[I]t is Obama's dramatic realignment of U.S. policy away from American conservatives' unique fetishes, and to the mainstream goals and values that most of the American people share with the rest of the world, that explains the new opportunity for renewed American leadership.
From Helene Cooper's write-up of Obama's United Nations speech today in the New York Times:
But even as Mr. Obama sought to signal a changed tone in America’s dealings with the world, much of his speech centered on old and intractable issues, including Iran’s nuclear ambitions and a Middle East peace process. And while his choice of words was different and more conciliatory, the backbone of American policy he expressed remained similar to the Bush administration’s in many areas.
Well, that clarifies matters, then.
Matt Yglesias linked to this months-old Emily Stokes profile of Rory Stewart in the Financial Times. Yglesias highlights one of the funnier metaphors I've seen about the trouble with advising policymakers:
“It’s like they’re coming in and saying to you, ‘I’m going to drive my car off a cliff. Should I or should I not wear a seatbelt?’ And you say, ‘I don’t think you should drive your car off the cliff.’ And they say, ‘No, no, that bit’s already been decided – the question is whether to wear a seatbelt.’ And you say, ‘Well, you might as well wear a seatbelt.’ And then they say, ‘We’ve consulted with policy expert Rory Stewart and he says ...’"
OK, that's really funny, and I think it's true a fair amount of the time.
On the other hand, I'm not sure that metaphor holds up all of the time. Consider another possibility. From the policymaker's perspective, getting outside advice is like trying to figure out which railroad track to take if you're driving a train. There are three options ahead, and for myriad reasons each of the possibilities carries some risk. So you go place an emergency phone call to the head of Harvard's Department of Railroad Studies to get a recommendation. His advice? "Why don't you go off-track?"
To revisit a recurring theme on this blog, sometimes the outside advisor is right to make policymakers question core assumptions. At the same time, however, sometimes a policymaker has neither the time nor the political capital to go back to first principles. Sometimes they just need to know what is the least bad policy option. And I guarantee you that having an academic tell them, "they're all bad policy options" is of no use whatsoever in that moment.
I suspect that knowing which metaphor applies is more art than science, but I'm curious to hear from commenters on both sides of the policymaking divide.
My latest TNI online essay is now available for viewing on the interwebs. It looks at recent U.S. foreign policy actions through the ever-useful lens of the good cop/bad cop routine. Can a gambit that always worked on NYPD Blue work on the global stage? I have my doubts:
On the whole, the good cop-bad cop routine is of limited utility in world politics. Iran appears to be unbowed in the face of a hawkish Israeli government (though, to be fair, they have been preoccupied with other matters recently). A protectionist Congress has not made it any easier to complete the Doha round. Bill Clinton’s good cop was able to secure the release of the hostages, but at the price of a photo op that looked bad no matter how necessary it might have been. And while no one doubts that Biden occasionally goes rogue, it remains unclear just what policy benefits that strategy yields.
In theory, the best kind of bad cop is the one that seems genuinely unconstrained and ready to strike. An independent but allied government plays this part much better than a subordinate member of the executive branch. In other words, if you want to successfully execute the good cop-bad cop routine in world politics, the odds are long to begin with. To pull it off, however, under no circumstances should you let Joe Biden be Joe Biden.
[Would a threat to display more of Dennis Franz's posterior work as a compellent threat?--ed. Hmmm... let me check the Biological Weapons Convention to see if it's a legit move and I'll get back to you.]
In a legen -- wait for it -- dary blog post, Belle Waring mentioned the pony problem in public policy. Namely, "an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony!"
I bring this up because of David Sanger's New York Times story about the prospects of imposing a gasoline embargo on Iran:
The Obama administration is talking with allies and Congress about the possibility of imposing an extreme economic sanction against Iran if it fails to respond to President Obama's offer to negotiate on its nuclear program: cutting off the country’s imports of gasoline and other refined oil products....
But enforcing what would amount to a gasoline embargo has long been considered risky and extremely difficult; it would require the participation of Russia and China, among others that profit from trade with Iran. Iran has threatened to respond by cutting off oil exports and closing shipping traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, at a moment that the world economy is highly vulnerable.
The rest of the story is kind of irrelevant -- because without China and Russia, this is just a theoretical exercise. In fact, here's a good time-saver: if you read any story about a gasoline embargo o Iran, just scan quickly and get to the part where the reporter explains how and why Russia and China would go along. If it's not mentioned, the story is inconsequential.
If you want China and Russia to agree to sanctions, should you wish for the free pony as well? Here the growth of dissent in Iran complicates an already complicated picture. I'm betting that Moscow and Beijing have observed the "Death to Russia!" and "Death to China!" chants among the protestors. This is likely going to make them even more reluctant to do anything that undermines the current regime (even if this hurts their long-term interests). Which a gasoline embargo would most certainly do.
Do I think a gasoline embargo is a good idea? Absolutely. Do I think it will happen? No, I don't.
Denis McDonough is the director of strategic communications for the National Security Council. I mention this because whatever McDonough has done in the first six months at the NSC, getting Michael Crowley to write this glowing essay about Obama and the NSC in The New Republic was the cherry on top.
Here are the key paragraphs:
Whether he is shaping the White House's message on Iran, or personally cajoling Asian leaders to crack down on North Korea, or brokering power deals among NATO allies, Obama has, in effect, been his own national security advisor and secretary of state. Unlike Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, who had world events thrust upon them, Obama seems to be more in the mold of Richard Nixon or George H.W. Bush--a president involved in foreign policy because of, not in spite of, his priorities and personal interest. "He's very engaged, very hands-on," says his longtime foreign policy adviser, Mark Lippert, now chief of staff at the National Security Council (NSC)....
To this administration, process is not simply the poor cousin of strategy. Process is what allows harmony and progress amid multiple challenges and viewpoints. Senior Obama aides call it "regular order"--a system that gives the president a diversity of views with minimal infighting and back-channel maneuvering, little leaking to the press, and no public airing of dirty laundry. "Regular order is your friend," says Denis McDonough, director of strategic communications for the NSC. "The system only works if you have adult behavior."
Thus far, the system has confounded skeptics who predicted melees among big-name advisers and conservatives who warned that Obama lacked the experience to govern in such dangerous times. "The level of harmony is just striking," says James Goldgeier, a national security aide in the Clinton White House and a political scientist at George Washington University. There are signs, however, that the administration's approach to foreign policy, however well-intentioned and well-executed, is vulnerable to unexpected challenges--the very kind that are likely to multiply the longer the president is in office.
Read the whole thing. My take is that, while based in reality, Crowley's essay has the whiff of someone who talked to a lot of White House officials (including the NSC staff) but not a lot of other foreign policy figures. Goldgeier's quote is the only outside evaluation.* No one outside the White House is quoted by name. The evidence for foreign policy harmony and NSC control over the policy process comes from... NSC officials.
Just to be clear, I don't think Crowley is telling tall tales. The occasional gaffe aside, Obama's first six months on the foreign policy job have been pretty decent --- especially compared to the first six months of George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. But it is odd that in an essay on Obama's foreign policy process, there's very little about Hillary Clinton, Bob Gates, or Timothy Geithner in this essay. There's no discussion of reports about Clinton chafing -- and trust me, there are reports about this stuff. There's very little about their reaction to Obama's decision-making process.
On the whole, I hope that Crowley is correct. The best way to ensure a high quality of American foreign policy is to have a president actively engaged in the process, and this piece suggests that to be the case. Still, the only thing I was sure about after reading this essay is that Denis McDonough is very, very, very good at his job.
Well, there's one other thing I'm sure about -- I would have loved to have listened in on this phone conversation:
[I]n at least one instance earlier this year, Holbrooke received an angry phone call from White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel after the diplomat was perceived to have stepped on Obama's public message about the war effort.
Sounds like a job for the Undersecretary of Go F**K Yourself.
*Oh, and given that Goldgeier was a foreign policy advisor to Obama during the 2008 campaign, I'm not sure I'd call him impartial, either.
The reality is the Russians are where they are. They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.
If Biden was just shooting the breeze off the record, I'd be hard-pressed to disagree with anything in the quotes. I'm pretty sure, however, that part of "smart power" is not being gratuitously insulting to fellow members of the nuclear club. Maybe, just maybe, they'll take this kind of dumbass statement personally.
Don't take my word for it, though -- take Joe Biden's:
It is never smart to embarrass an individual or a country when they're dealing with significant loss of face. My dad used to put it another way: Never put another man in a corner where the only way out is over you. It just is not smart.
The word "stupid" has been thrown around a lot this week, but I think it applies pretty well to Biden's language.
The Pew Global Attitudes project has released their 2009 report, which means we finally have some hard numbers to see whether the election of Barack Obama has altered global perceptions of the United States.
And it turns out the answer is yes in most places:
The image of the United States has improved markedly in most parts of the world, reflecting global confidence in Barack Obama. In many countries opinions of the United States are now about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade before George W. Bush took office. Improvements in the U.S. image have been most pronounced in Western Europe, where favorable ratings for both the nation and the American people have soared. But opinions of America have also become more positive in key countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well.
Here are the numbers:
Most of the results are not surprising. The Obama effect is pretty substantial in Western Europe and Latin America, and nonexistent or negative in the Middle East and Russia. A small positive effect in sub-Saharan Africa, though this is in pat due to the fact that U.S. favorables were already pretty high in that region.
The surprising results are in Eastern Europe, Pacific Rim and South Asia. Obama does poorly in Poland -- perhaps because he's been perceived as more accomodating towards Russia.
In the Pacific Rim and India, however, favorability ratings increased by a fair amount. I'm particularly surprised by the bump in India, given the occasionally prickly tone between the policymakers of the two countries.
Question to readers: Obama said a few weeks ago that he thought a soft power bump would help advance U.S. interests. Given the data, do you agree?
UPDATE: Wow. Kevin Drum digs through the report and finds an even better measure of the increase in U.S. standing -- asking respondents whether they think "America will do the right thing in world affairs." The numbers here are pretty stunning:
Wow. I mean, wow. In a lot of ways this is the more interesting result, because it suggests that other countries think the United States is now more competent.
The implicit message in Steve Walt's ten commandments for foreign policy wonks is that if you dare to violate any of these commandments,
the Council on Foreign Relations Henry Kissinger God will strike you down with a mark and brand you for life as unworthy of wonkdom.
Some of Walt's commandments hold, and some of them don't (who's getting pilloried on Cuba nowadays?), but there's an important corollary to these commandments that needs to be highlighted:
If thou hast deviated from the consensus of the foreign policy community, thou shalt go to the tallest mountain, and rend one's clothing, and scream from the top of thine lungs like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes/Soylent Green, and declare that the mark of transgression itself is proof that thou must be right.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.