Expertise, ideas and foreign policy development

Editor's Note: A version of this article is an introductory article in our sister publication " Texas National Security Review" Volume 3, Issue 2. Please check the full volume here.

World politics is complex, constantly changing and uncertain. In the final analysis, the basic goals of every actor in the international system — once empire and kingdom, and now mainly nation-states — are usually centered on making others do what they want, and preventing these actors from forcing you to do what you do n’t Things to do. This special issue explores and evaluates the tools available to leaders to achieve these goals, with a focus on mandatory strategies.

Hal Brands and Evan Braden Montgomery explored traditional strategic tools-military power-and asked whether the new defense strategy and its fight The importance of World War II did not make the United States vulnerable to a second concurrent conflict. I am proud to say that Erik Sand first appeared in my thesis in a class with Professor Jim Steinberg of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and presented a powerful case It proves that economic battles, especially blockades, are more risky and ultimately fail than we usually think of by pushing target countries to achieve more effective entry. Erik Lin-Greenberg studied the artificial intelligence, which may be the latest and most uncertain strategic tool, and asked how the technology would affect the behavior and interoperability of the alliance. Tami Davis Biddle conducted an interesting and in-depth study of the origin of the theory of coercion, with the aim of helping policy makers and military officials better understand and apply Thomas Schelling ’s experience.

This thoughtful question raises three questions. What are the best means and strategies to realize the national interests of the world? What are these benefits?

As Biddle proved, Schilling changed the way we deal with the first problem. Beginning in the mid-20th century, scholars from Bernard Brodie to Robert Jervis and other regions recognized that bombs made deliberate superpowers among thermonuclear superpowers War is ridiculous. However, these strategists are not unconcerned about conflict. The nature of nuclear weapons means that accidents, misunderstandings, or improper incentives (such as the strong logic of first attacking during a crisis) may trigger a war that no one wants. In 1961, Schelling and his co-author Mort Halperin attended a Harvard-MIT seminar in his classic book "Strategy and Arms Control" The knowledge source of modern arms control is expounded. The strategic stability and mutual vulnerability given by nuclear arms control negotiated between major powers will guarantee peace.

However, this new world of mutual fragility puts politicians in dilemma. If launching a fully mobilized war of great powers is no longer a meaningful strategic tool, and even threatening to deliberately launch such a war is not credible, then what tools does a country leave to the world to achieve its ambitions? Interestingly, Xie Lin gave the answer in another book written simultaneously with "Strategy and Arms Control" "Conflict Strategy" and in his 1966 The " Weapons" book expands and influences these ideas . Policymakers must adopt new strategies to achieve the world's political ambitions. In the nuclear environment, "military forces are not threatened, but instead have the bargaining power" or what he calls "violent diplomacy." The concepts of "threatening threats to opportunities", "promised skills" and "manipulating risks" provide policy makers with different ways of thinking about using threats and using force. The purpose of military power thus shifts from defeating the enemy's army and navy to conveying signals by exerting or suppressing pain.

These are not just theoretical considerations: At the same time, Schelling ’s ideas laid the foundation for strategic nuclear arms control between superpowers, and his other concepts helped shape the Johnson government ’s strategy for a forced battle against North Vietnam . Through the plans of Schelling ’s friend and disciple John McNaughton, the Johnson administration used his belief that a planned, methodical bombing of North Vietnam might force them to change their behavior-in this case, Ended their support for the Viet Cong rebellion. The goal is not to defeat the North Vietnamese army, but to send signals and change incentives. It should be noted that Schelling ’s illusions may eventually require such a coercion against a larger enemy, China, although it uses tactical and tactical nuclear weapons rather than conventional weapons used to convey information. At least it can be said that it is really creepy to go back and read these articles in Arming and Influence .

The best and brightest people, "blob" and restaurant school ]

This caused Daniel Bessner (Daniel Bessner) and Frederick Logwell (Fredrik) Logevall) timely and insightful historical papers. Their article caused huge Twitter controversy, which is common sense for most smart observers. It is a good idea to understand international relations since 1945 and how and why the most powerful players in world politics. The United States made its own decision-talking about the strange state of American academic history. But for me, this article raises a series of more important and powerful questions: Do we really know what the United States believes it is trying to achieve in the Southeast Asian War? Do we fully understand why the strategy chosen by the United States killed more than 50,000 people in the region and killed about 3 million people in the region? What explains a series of tragic policies that caused unimaginable physical damage, but caused economic depression, political and cultural polarization, and a loss of confidence in American internal governance?

Reporter David Halberstam thinks he has the answer. In his 1972 classic " Best and Smartest" he pointed out that in addition to domestic political expediency and an obsession with credibility, the arrogance and lack of responsibility of American policymakers and their advisers They blinded their eyes. Your own mistakes and the limitations of American power. The best and the smartest became a classic, adding other explanations of the Vietnam War, refuting the notion that the United States is the world ’s power for the benefit of mankind, or that its decision makers can overcome their myopia 19659003] Halberstam ’s argument has made a comeback, as analysts have tried to understand the grand strategy of the United States in recent years, only now that the “best and brightest” have been replaced by “a mess”. Since the end of the Cold War, weird alliances of left and right political parties, including liberals, paleoconservatives, Bernie Bross, and defensive realists, have collectively provided support for US global policy. This group has different names-they often call themselves offshore balancers, while their critics call them new isolationists. I call them "restaurant schools". why? A few years ago, when my friend Barry Posen kindly wrote me his latest book Autographed copy of Restraint, My family member misread the title and asked : "Why did Barry write a book about restaurants? Has he become a food critic?" It is commendable that when I mentioned this to Barry, he replied: "Okay, this Blob member must be enjoying fineness Food and intermediaries. "Touch. I continue to use the term "restaurant school" just to reduce the temperature of discussions that seem to often become very heated and excessive personal debates about American grand strategies. Similar to the diagnosis made by Halberstam nearly 50 years ago, this restaurant school discovered a circle of arrogant, arrogant officials and intellectuals who relied too much on military tools and they mistakenly believed that the United States was deeply involved in The United States or the United States has misled their behavior. Country or world.

How far can these arguments go? As Richard Hofstadter pointed out brilliantly in his seminal article "The Paranoid Style in American Politics", he accused a group of internationalists, irresponsible elites-they suffered The impact of overseas events is too great-because the plight of the United States is the bane of populism and can be traced back to the founding of the country. Debates about American foreign policy usually transform the world with extreme revolutionary evangelical enthusiasm, and the same strong desire to get rid of its corrupt influence. The historical origins of both impulses are closer than each other, and not believers from either camp are willing to admit it. The blame for the unfortunate incidents of the United States around the world is as old as the Republic, as the intense debate between the United States and Britain on the 1795 Treaty of Jay clearly shows.

How should we think about the role of professional knowledge and influence in the formulation of US foreign policy? Consider again Xie Lin, the best, the smartest, or the so-called spots, if any. There is a significant but rarely commented tension between Strategy and Arms Control and Xie Lin ’s other two works, the latter trying to minimize nuclear warfare by embodying mutual vulnerability and arms control danger. Uncertainty, risk control and the use of targeted progressive violence to express a reliable commitment to achieve specific political goals. The first set of ideas-strategic stability and arms control of superpowers-laid the foundation for the "Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty" and a series of "Strategic Weapons Restriction Treaties," which may have prevented thermonuclear wars, and if there were no other restrictions, they may have restricted The arms race has also promoted more stable and predictable international politics. The second set of ideas provided inspiration for North Vietnam ’s “strategic” bombing, one of the worst and tragic strategies in American history. If Xie Lin has never published his ideas, or if government officials are not open to his innovative insights on strategy, will the world get better? Frankly-if this does not mean that there is no anti-missile treaty and SALT treaty, will you have a world without Rolling Thunder?

Still consider the study of Johnson government officials who formulated the disastrous military policy of the United States in 1964 and 1965 proposed in Logevall's book Select War . While reviewing Vietnam, many of these officials also face the consequences of detonating nuclear devices in China. Intelligence analysts predict that if no action is taken, a dangerous world with dozens of nuclear-weapon states will emerge in the near future. The same government, and even many officials who have committed the Vietnam War, have formulated nuclear non-proliferation policies with great success. Their policies, including the negotiation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, have largely contributed to the fact that the number of nuclear-weapon states is in single digits, the total number of nuclear weapons is much lower than in 1965, and the danger of nuclear war has reached 1965 . Withdraw to a background that no one in the Johnson administration can expect or imagine. When discussing the issue of Vietnam, are these members the so-called best, smartest, self-respecting, irresponsible, shortsighted about the power and purpose of the United States, and only become enlightened when deliberated into nuclear proliferation after a few hours? And visionary?

One can imagine similar considerations recently. For example, how can the Bush administration strike a balance between the catastrophic policies of the Greater Middle East and the President ’s emergency aid plan that saved millions of lives? Both are driven by experienced experts. They are not limited to narrow interest national interests, but also believe that the deep participation of the United States is beneficial to the country and the world. Obviously, in an ideal world, the United States will only do those good things, and avoid doing bad things. This kind of wish, no matter how well-meaning, is naive. While making the necessary criticisms of American errors, it should also be realized that it is much easier to analyze the results that have been shown than to provide guidance about the unknown future. In addition, we need to imagine and evaluate a counterfactual world. After the Cold War, the United States accepted the idea of ​​a catering school. If the United States returned home in 1989-91, what would Europe or East Asia look like today? The fact is that foreign policy is formulated in a world full of great danger and complexity. In this world, the future is unknown. Restraint is a high price, and often a price that people cannot recognize, even the best. , The most well-intentioned effort can also end in tragedy.

Similar to the Xie Lin era, the debate about how the United States should interact with the world in what manner and for what purpose is not only of academic significance. The writing of this introduction is COVID-19, with the consequence of destroying the entire United States and the entire world. This crisis also makes people deeply worried about the future of US foreign policy and international relations. On the one hand, the restaurant crowd's view that old-fashioned military intervention is not applicable to emerging global challenges is clear. On the other hand, this does not seem to be a time to ignore the deep knowledge and expertise of public policy officials, nor is it a wise move to continue to withdraw the United States from the world. Perhaps a Trump administration equipped with more staff, actively participating in and advocating for the interests of the United States in the world, may produce a more coherent and coordinated global response, thereby saving countless lives.

This leads to the final argument. In this issue of the magazine, Beatrice Heuser pays tribute to her mentor, the great military historian Michael Sir Howard, she He died at the end of last year. Howard participated in the Second World War and learned about the tragedy of the conflict. When a student asked what his favorite war was, he replied: "Why, I hate everyone!" However, after growing up in the 1930s, he understood that pacifism cannot simply withdraw from the international system.

In many ways, Howard and Schelling have opposite temperaments, focusing on humility and learning difficulties. Understand, not to mention shape, a complex world. For Howard, theory is at best "heuristic" and "never predictive." They should always be regarded as "the assumption that they should be rigorously reviewed when new data is obtained." There are no lessons in history, only models. However, like Schelling, Howard believes that intellectuals have a moral obligation to their society, that is, to provide the best ideas to help policymakers solve the difficult problems of making policies in a chaotic and dangerous world. His gentle style is inconsistent with the sharp barbs and is common in the age of social media. Heuser wrote: "Convincing rather than hostile confrontation is his main goal." Howard's "wisdom is that whether in closed-door debates or in public, any field issues should have a broader perspective on history. Understanding can clarify a theme from different angles. "How is an urgent task before us to get the most from the smartest people? As we weather the current national and global crises and face huge uncertainties in the future, let us draw inspiration from Howard ’s legacy, humility, curiosity, and keen insight into helping decision makers, keen insight Combine. It is more and more needed today.

Francis J. Gavin is the chairman of the editorial board of the Texas National Security Review . He is a Distinguished Professor of Giovanni Agnelli and the first director of SAIS-Johns Hopkins University Henry Kissinger Center for Global Affairs. His writings include "Gold, US Dollars and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations", 1958-1971 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004) and General Plan for Nuclear State Administration : History and Strategy of the American Atomic Age (Cornell University Press, 2012). His latest book is Nuclear Weapons and American Grand Strategy (Brookings Institution Press, 2020).

Image: Wikicommons (Ministry of Defense)


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