Decadent America Must Give Up Imperial Ambitions
November 29, 2005
U.S. foreign policy is based on an unsustainable imperial model, explains New America Foundation senior fellow Anatol Lieven. In order to change course, U.S. policymakers must concede some power to regional players, including possibly China and Iran.
U.S. global power, as presently conceived by the overwhelming majority of the U.S. establishment, is unsustainable. To place American power on a firmer footing requires putting it on a more limited footing. Despite the lessons of Iraq, this is something that American policymakers -- Democrat and Republican, civilian and military -- still find extremely difficult to think about.
The basic reasons why the American empire is bust are familiar from other imperial histories. The empire can no longer raise enough taxes or soldiers, it is increasingly indebted and key vassal states are no longer reliable. In an equally classical fashion, central to what is happening is the greed and decadence of the imperial elites. Like so many of their predecessors, the US wealthy classes have gained a grip over the state that allows them to escape taxation. Mass acquiescence in this has to be bought with much smaller -- but fiscally equally damaging -- cuts to taxes on the middle classes.
The result is that the empire can no longer pay for enough of the professional troops it needs to fulfil its self-assumed imperial tasks. It cannot introduce conscription because of the general demilitarisation of society and also because elite youths are no longer prepared to set an example of leadership and sacrifice by serving themselves. The result is that the US is incapable of waging more wars of occupation, such as in Iraq. It can defeat other states in battle easily enough but it cannot turn them into loyal or stable allies. War therefore means simply creating more and more areas of anarchy and breeding grounds for terrorism.
It is important to note that this US weakness affects not only the ambitions of the Bush administration, but also geopolitical stances wholly shared by the Democrats. The Bush administration deserves to be savagely criticised for the timing and the conduct of the Iraq war. Future historians may, however, conclude that President Bill Clinton's strategy of the 1990s would also have made the conquest of Iraq unavoidable sooner or later; and that given the realities of Iraqi society and history, the results would not have been significantly less awful. For that matter, can present US strategy against Iran -- supported by both parties -- be sustained permanently without war? Indeed, given the nature of the Middle East, may it not be that any power wishing to exercise hegemony in the region would have to go to war at regular intervals in defence of its authority or its local clients?
Furthermore, the relative decline in US economic independence means that, unlike in 1917 or 1941, really serious war risks US economic disaster. Even a limited US-Chinese clash over Taiwan would be likely to produce catastrophic economic consequences for both sides.
In theory, the desirable US response to its imperial overstretch is simple and has been advocated by some leading independent US thinkers such as Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard. It is to fall back on "offshore balancing", intended to create regional coalitions against potential aggressors and, when possible, regional consensuses in support of order and stability. Not just a direct military presence, but direct military commitments and alliances should be avoided wherever possible.
When, however, one traces what this might mean in practice in various parts of the world, it becomes clear how utterly unacceptable much of this approach would be to the entire existing US political order. In the former Soviet Union, it could mean accepting a qualified form of Russian sphere of influence. In Asia, it could mean backing Japan and other countries against any Chinese aggression, but also defusing the threat of confrontation with China by encouraging the reintegration of Taiwan into the mainland. In the Middle East, it could involve separating US goals from Israeli ones and seeking detente with Iran.
Impossible today, some at least of these moves may, however, prove inescapable in a generation's time. For it is pointless to dream of long maintaining an American empire for which most Americans will neither pay nor fight. My fear though is that, rather than as a result of carefully planned and peaceful strategy, this process may occur through disastrous defeats, in the course of which American global power will not be qualified but destroyed altogether, with potentially awful consequences for the world.
Anatol Lieven is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. His latest book is America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism.
This article was originally published in the Financial Times, November 29, 2005, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.
From Washington Think Tanks, Few Fresh Thoughts
November 27, 2005
Charles Pena, senior fellow with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, looks into the marketplace of ideas. He finds, to his dismay, that the shelves are often empty.
This article was originally published in The Daily Star of Beirut on November 26, 2005, and can be read in its entirety here:
Charles V. Pena is a senior fellow with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, an adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project, and an analyst for MSNBC television. His book, Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism, will be published in May 2006 by Potomac Books.
The Future of American Military Strategy 12.5.05
November 22, 2005
On Monday, December 5, 2005, the Foreign Policy Research Institute hosted a day-long conference on "The Future of American Military Strategy."
Coalition Senior Fellow Charles V. Pena discussed the defense budget and the War on Terror. Fellow Coalition member Eugene Gholz of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin commented.
Another Coalition member, James Kurth, the Claude Smith Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, moderated the two afternoon sessions.
The day-long event was held at the Union League of Philadelphia,
140 S. Broad Street.
For more information, visit: http://www.fpri.org/events/
An Iran Trap?
The Cato Institute's Stanley Kober wonders why Iran does not appear to be intimidated by U.S. military actions in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.
The article can be read in its entirety here.
November 21, 2005
Jonathan Clarke reviews Stephen Walt's book, Taming American Power in the Washington Monthly.
The article appears in the magazine's December 2005 issue, and is available in its entirety online:
Jonathan Clarke is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He is the co-author with Stefan Halper of America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order. Their next book due out next year from Basic Books examines the pernicious effects of Big Ideas like unipolarity and freedom on the march.
The Weekly Standard's War
Scott McConnell, founder and editor of The American Conservative, renders a devastating critique of the magazine, and the people, who brought us the Iraq War.
The article was originally published in the November 21, 2005, issue of The American Conservative, and can read in its entirety here.
Scott McConnell is the editor of The American Conservative. He is a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and is as a member of the Coalition's executive committee.
U.S. Should Call It a Wrap after Iraq Elections
November 18, 2005
Coalition Executive Director Christopher Preble points to the parliamentary elections to be held next month as the last best milestone for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.
The article was originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times on November 15, 2005, and is available online.
Christopher Preble is director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. In the spring of 2004, he chaired the task force that prepared the report Exiting Iraq: Why the U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against Al Qaeda (2004).
Navigating America's China Challenge
November 17, 2005
Coalition founding member Steve Clemons, Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Project at the New America Foundation, offers his thoughts on the U.S.-China relationship.
The article, originally published in the Ripon Forum (November/December 2005), can be read in its entirety here:
Steve Clemons is a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy and Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Project at the New America Foundation. He is the author of the popular political blog The Washington Note.
Bad For You Too?
November 14, 2005
Leon Hadar, research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, explains why the Iraq War has not been helpful for Israel.
The article, which originally appeared in the November 7, 2005 issue of The American Conservative, can be read in its entirety here:
The War on Terror: Implications for Domestic Security and Civil Liberties 11.17 - 11.18.05
November 11, 2005
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation and The Independent Institute hosted a conference exploring the War on Terror and its effect on domestic liberty and security.
November 17th & November 18th, 2005
The Willard Hotel
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
The War on Terror has now entered its fifth year. To fight that war, governments have expanded in size and scope. Governments have been reorganized and new bureaucratic entities have been created. Public expenditure--both security and non-security spending--has increased. Domestic security agencies have garnered more power to constrict civil liberties. All of this activity seems to demonstrate that governments are doing more to protect their people, but do bigger and more powerful governments actually increase security or merely enhance state control over citizens?
The conference will explore government growth after 9/11, whether a larger government is equipped to fight small, agile terrorist groups, and whether innovative approaches might provide better domestic security and lessen the need to restrict civil liberties.
Thursday, November 17
6:30 p.m. Reception
Location: Buchanan Room
7:00 p.m. Opening Dinner
Claus Gramckow, Acting Representative, Friedrich Naumann Foundation
Ivan Eland, Independent Institute
Keynote Address by Representative Ron Paul (R/TX)
Location: Pierce Room
Friday, November 18
9:00 a.m. Fighting the War on Terror by Expanding the State: An Effective Strategy?
Michael Sheuer, former CIA official
Angela Freimuth, FDP State Legislator, State of North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Veronique de Rugy, American Enterprise Institute
Charles Pena, Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy
Followed by Question & Answer
10:30 a.m. Coffee Break
10:45 a.m. Innovative Approaches to Homeland Security for the U.S. and Europe
Greg Nojeim, American Civil Liberties Union
Robert Klemmensen, University of Southern Denmark
Ivan Eland, Independent Institute
Winslow Wheeler, Center for Defense Information
Followed by Question & Answer
Location: Pierce Room
12:30 p.m. Luncheon
Location: Holmes Room
For more information about this conference, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org by November 13th, 2005.
Should a Free Society Draft Its Citizens? 11.17.05
November 10, 2005
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) and the John Glenn Institute at Ohio State University hosted a debate at OSU on the subject of the military draft.
The debate “Is a Military Draft Necessary in a Free Society?” featured Lt. General Josiah Bunting, President of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, who argued in the affirmative, and Doug Bandow, senior fellow with the CATO Institute, who argued in the negative.
The event was held Thursday, November 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Faculty Club Main Dining Room at OSU (181 South Oval Drive, Columbus, OH).
During the last fifty years the United States has been in engaged in just about every style of international warfare. From world wars to covert operations aimed at over throwing whole regimes the American military apparatus is consistently forced to rethink the notion of a volunteer force. With increasing uneasiness over foreign entanglements, many have questioned the “all–volunteer” theory in favor of a modified draft or some form of standardized national service.
About the speakers:
Lt. General Josiah Bunting, III is President of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and is Superintendent Emeritus of Virginia Military Institute. He previously served as President of Hampden-Sydney College and Headmaster of the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. In addition to a successful career in the Army that included Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, General Bunting is a former Rhodes Scholar and the author of several books.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow with the CATO Institute. He has worked as special assistant to President Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry. Bandow writes a weekly nationally syndicated column and speaks frequently at academic conferences, on college campuses, and to business groups. He holds a J.D. from Stanford University.
To find out more information about this debate, contact Douglas Schneider at (800) 526-7022 x164 or email@example.com.
The Realist Persuasion
November 07, 2005
Andrew Bacevich puts a new spin on realism, a long-maligned theory of international relations that is experiencing a recent revival. Given the pitfalls of liberal intervention in the 1990s, and the neo-conservative variant under George W. Bush, realism deserves a second look.
The article originally appeared in the Boston Globe (November 6, 2005) and is available online in its entirety.
UPDATE: Listen to Bacevich discussing U.S. foreign policy today on the radio program On Point. The program is available via pod cast from the On Point web site.
Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of international relations at Boston University and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy. He is the author of several books, including most recently The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford, 2005).
Fanning the Flames in the Balkans
November 06, 2005
Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president of defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, explains that a truly lasting solution to the problems in the Balkans must come through partition.
The article was originally published in The Baltimore Sun on November 6, 2005, and is available in its entirety here:
A New Approach to US Foreign Policy
November 04, 2005
Christopher Preble, a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, explains the philosophical origins of libertarian realism, and shows how this fits with other approaches to U.S. foreign policy.
The article was originally published in the print edition of The Free Liberal (Fall 2005) and is available in its entirety from the Free Liberal website.
Christopher Preble is a founding member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He chaired a special Cato task force that prepared the report Exiting Iraq: Why the U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against Al Qaeda, published in June 2004.
Stay What Course?
November 03, 2005
With the U.S. death toll in Iraq topping 2,000, and with no end in sight, Gene Healy and Justin Logan of the Cato Institute explain why muddling through is no longer an option.
The article originally appeared at Reason.com, and is available in its entirety online.
Gene Healy is senior editor and Justin Logan a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute. Logan is also a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.
A Capitalist Peace?
November 02, 2005
Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, examines democratic peace theory in an essay for reason.com. Markets, more than democracy, Bandow shows, may be the key to preventing war.
The article was originally published on October 26, 2005 in Reason.com and is available in its entirety here.
War Powers in the Age of Terror
November 01, 2005
Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich recommends that presidential war-making powers should be limited, as the Constitution clearly stipulates.
The article originally appeared in the New York Times, October 31, 2005. (May be available only to subscribers.)
Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University, and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy is the author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.