25 Steps towards a Smarter U.S. Foreign Policy
Major events like September 11th, the US invasion of Iraq, and the global financial crisis disrupted the Western-driven globalization process and revitalized a state-centric political model of the world. Although the US chose an economic-centered globalization strategy and relied on international political institutions in the 1990s, national sovereignty became the new norm and the global system shifted from globalist rationale to geopolitical realism. Fear, war, the threat of war, provocation, territory, regional influence and military build-ups weakened international institutions as nation-states countered each other to reassume power.
There is now an unfettered international political instability crisis as a result of stalled engines of globalization all stemming from this neglect of the “political” dimension in the international system. The decline of liberal international foundations did not occur because people no longer desired them, but because of the lack of a strong ideological commitment from the world’s declining superpower and partners. The consequences of rising authoritarian states present crisis conditions for international liberalism and stability. They are also now in direct proportion to the decline of the Western political influence. Thus, as the West weakens, other challengers will present and push their perception of what they desire the global system to become.
Smaller states through international organizations are gaining influence in uniting the world against the economic and political models of Western liberalism. Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, and Pakistan are making increasingly threatening advances, from warning and rhetoric, to alliance building.
These states claim Western “aggression” is pouring into their regional spheres of influence.
Regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the G77, and the Union of South American Nations are moving past the resistance of collective movements toward promoting an alternative global system.
Other states like China and Russia are strictly engaging in increased bilateral diplomacy with smaller states to increase their influence, and these countries’ propaganda and public diplomacy initiatives are far more advanced than the US’s ability to counter it. In search of a new US grand strategy that fits the current international model, this article offers recommendations for fundamental redesign of US foreign policy.
Fail to Be the Hypocrite
The US and Europe must lead the fight against authoritarianism not from principle alone, but from full effort and example. They should halt all large overt military operations and provocations within global regions, and never support illiberal and illegitimate regimes for short temporal gains (e.g. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden during the Cold War). Rethinking foreign alignments carefully according to a liberal democratic political calculus will lessen criticism of hypocrisy.
“Defense” for the Defense Department
The US should transition Pentagon-centered foreign policy leadership to greater clandestine intelligence and special operations that follow the direction of the Department of State. It should continue Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) while enhancing technology, thinking and restructuring. Streamlining unnecessary large “standing” or “deployed” conventional forces, maintaining high levels of branch reserves, and even considering the possibility of a National Guard mandatory conscription and a permanent homeland defense force will support a more defensive role. The National Guard would be more fruitful if included in RMA process, as well as turning the other branches into deployable voluntary humanitarian expeditionary forces.
Rethink Foreign Security Assistance
The US should not openly partner with belligerents and autocratic regimes. It needs to move past strict geopolitical thinking, create stronger partnerships with successful democracies, and reward states that cooperate with international norms.
Abandon de facto Occupations and Territories
The greatest gesture of altering the US political image must sincerely revolve around its new mission. That means giving up Puerto Rico, Guam, The Marianas and other populated lands while establishing mutual military defense treaties and retreating from large-scale occupations.
Create a Nation-State Sanctuary
The US should assist in establishing a place of safety that sponsors aid for political refugees from wars, orphans, and the politically oppressed, and educates on liberal values. When ready, the refugees should be sent back to their own nations or regions, if they choose, to help their peoples later as “born again” global citizens.
Close Down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility
The US should relocate the most dangerous prisoners to a joint international prison run by Afghanistan coalition forces with US oversight. They should be put on an unpopulated island and have international human rights groups survey that they are treated well. Alternatively, the US could place them in Afghanistan as prison workers, rebuilding the state they oppressed, while using GPS sub-dermal trackers to ensure security. Either route ends the diplomatic scars and lowers negative focus on the US’s treatment of prisoners.
Be the Benign Patron of States
The world looks to the United States for all the wrong reasons: money, might and power. Convincing other states that the “pure” path of state success has been liberalism and restraint of using force, to best extent possible, will give some meaning to political reform in countries, which will lead to other advantages. America must take on the exemplary role again with a fresh new image as a wise guide among states.
Build and Lead Coalition
The US will have to become a better builder of political alliances. Their partners must be responsible and on the right track. The US may have to abandon some friends that either are not worth having, or are perilous to US interests.
Restore Charitable Legitimacy
The US should champion sincere generosity. Promote and provide special aid and programs conducive to these ends of government reform but let non-governmental American charities take the lead while the State Department and the US Agency for International Development takes the credit for sponsorship and partnerships.
Advocate Greater “Fair” Trading
True liberty cannot be purchased, it can only be realized. The US should penetrate the minds, not the markets. Opening or free markets must be the advantage to a state’s respective internal economy, but not at the expense of the people’s immediate freedom or wellbeing.
Strengthen Emergency Humanitarian Operations
US military power will be required in preventing human rights atrocities in the future. There must be a threshold against using any military force as an option. Consider the civilian privateers or the possibility of an American peace-keeping force as separate from a military defending the homeland. The government should use US military to provide security where American civilian humanitarian programs and emergency relief missions are involved, not as force.
Large Scale Reformation of State Department
The Department of State (DoS) must become the most powerful and influential foreign affairs organization on the planet. Increase priority, prestige, and presence to extraordinary levels. Triple the size, at least, to handle the diplomatic mission and make the Office of the Secretary of State the leader of the US foreign affairs strategy.
Empower Chief of Mission (COM) Oversight
Short of direct military command and issuing orders, the Chiefs of Mission should represent the person of the President of the United States in their overseas mission. They must have the total backing of the President. COMs should approve of all military activities in times of peace, but not interfere with the chain of command.
The COM should be kept informed and consulted but not interfere in active military or intelligence operations. The COM and Unified Combatant Commanders should address strategic priorities of the President to better coordinate civil-military cooperation and future operations. All other agencies should be further subordinated as well.
Keep Americans Safe Abroad
Increasing security and listening to COM requests will keep the embassies, consulates and citizens safe. With DoS at three times the capacity, it would be able to engage in 24 hour consular operations service for American civilians, organizations and businesses overseas, and act as a safe-zone for Americans in danger and connivance for global exchanges overseas. The needed funds should be allocated to securing the embassies and consulates, and holding states accountable for their interference or lack of security assistance.
Stronger Hiring Practices and Better Officers Training
The testing criteria for the Foreign Service Exam should be lowered while the entrance requirements for the Foreign Service Officer (FSO) should be hired. Train officers based on the approach of the military’s Officer’s Candidate School—including longer basic and specialty training. There should be more senior and mid-level education as well as intra-agency posting requirements and opportunities. FSOs need more authority over in-country operations and must regain an earned equal respect from the public as military officers. Just as military officers gain respect for winning wars, FSOs must gain respect for keeping the peace during tenuous times.
Large-Scale VIP Public Diplomacy Initiatives
The State Department should take in highly experienced, influential, outsiders and director level government retirees, and ask them to be “roving diplomats” as “direct commission” FSO appointees. These experts can represent critical needs or special positions in a given field, and set up foundational political networks, partnerships and programs of Americanism abroad, working with influential foreign leaders in all sectors. As overt intelligence operators, they will be responsible for sharing political knowledge, exchange, understanding, and negotiating the American interest (i.e. political assimilation, not cultural, or economic manipulation).
American Diplomatic Officers Reserves
Similar to the military, those who pass the entrance test should be slotted for the reserves. They keep current jobs in the US and receive continual training and current employment, and when called up on assignment, they mobilize and help direct foreign assistance, humanitarian and relief operations. The reserves should consist primarily of graduate students, teachers and junior professionals. Celebrity goodwill ambassadors could also be sponsored directly or indirectly. Recognized social media elites could be solicited for service.
Unlimited Scholarships and Internships
State Department internships for American students should never again become closed. In return for graduate and professional scholarships, one must serve as an “active” FSO for four years, like in the military. This will ensure candidates from diverse fields are represented at DoS.
Human Capital Program
Unemployed junior professionals should be able to sign up to work overseas and to help fill the rising gap in human capital flight of another state. This also acts as a relief valve to rising unemployment in the US, as the DoS would pay nothing but initial training and discounted transportation. This way, young US citizens get job experience and language ability, as well as help fill a nation’s critical labor needs (i.e. doctors, lawyers, engineers). They can be paid the local wage overseas while advancing American political objectives, and come back to the US better equipped as they do not interfere with the foreign country’s human capital.
Redouble “Intelligent” Information Programs
The DoS must learn to market the USA through innovation. This can be done by enhancing honest media programming, larger and modernized internet presence; more private participation with radio stations, channels, publishers, musicians, artists, social media; and updated program platforms like Voice of America.
Micro-political villages should be transplanted overseas with innovative facilities to foreign national publics, where permissible. These pseudo-towns could emerge within US migrant populations and residents as cross-cultural and educational centers. The now antiquated embassy design was intended to be “the” place to conduct socio-political exchanges, but has long since bred isolationism. Keep the embassies separate and secure and open diplomatic villages run by senior FSOs on the Public Diplomacy track with retired US city planners.
Promote a Virtual International World
In order to increase interaction and cooperation, the US government should create a virtual world that mimics international diplomacy and allows crowd-sourcing, gaming, simulations, and constant interaction between diplomats from different states and organizations. The nation’s leaders would do better to play harmless games of diplomacy together, switching roles and perspectives, than ignoring each other’s best attributes or going to war.
Become Less Visible
US power should be felt and not seen. It must learn to manipulate a hostile country from within it.
Indirect Methods of Public Diplomacy
Redirect the intelligence community to Americanization and the usage of massive [black] propaganda (i.e. information operations deniable to American sponsorship). Wage massive long-term covert strategic, regional and key state ideological warfare appropriate for each situation.
Increase Clandestine Smart Power
Intelligence agencies should conduct subversive operations when the DoS is blocked from access to a country’s leadership, or people through normal diplomatic channels; especially when the states are run by highly established brutal regimes. In most situations, creating front organizations, political action, and grassroots recruitment efforts will be sufficient enough for covert public intelligence operations. This takes tremendous time, planning and resources, including consistent full backing of D.C. and a unified foreign policy objective. In emergency situations with widespread atrocities, inciting a large political resistance movement or a revolution might be authorized. The latter being the exception, not the rule.
The US and Europe have chosen the quick operational and tactical gains over the long war—the battle for the world. They have been ignoring or fighting the wrong enemies and they have neglected the power of diplomacy and intelligence operations. There is nothing more important for liberal democracies than empowering the people of the world and securing their political legacy unless through preaching their case through word and deed rather than sword and shield.
The Western model is challenged because of the unwillingness to reform its diplomatic infrastructure and mission. A ground-breaking effort reforming foreign policy as utilizing the power of information, diplomacy and intelligence is required for the US and the Western world in order to establish a long-term international stability that rests on political ideological consensus and liberalism. Through implementing any of the above recommendations, the US may be one step closer to succeeding in a new grand strategy.