BANALITY AND DIPLOMACY: THE 'PHOENIX INITIATIVE' REVIEWED
"The next president of the United States must forge a new national security strategy in a world marked by enormous tumult and change and at a time when America’s international standing and strategic position are at an historic nadir. Many of our allies question our motives and methods; our enemies doubt American rhetoric and resolve. Now, more than at any time since the late 1940s, it is vital to chart a new direction for America’s global role. Our core goals today are the same ones envisaged by our founding fathers: the resolute pursuit of security, liberty, and prosperity both for our own people and as the basis for a just and stable international order. The challenge is to advance these goals in a new global landscape. The 21st century is an era of deep interconnectedness, creating unparalleled opportunities but also great dangers from which no nation can be immune. It is also an era of increasingly diffuse power, spreading to many different states and from states to non-state actors of many different kinds. America is well equipped by geography, demography, and national temperament and values to flourish in this environment.
But to do so will require a new kind of American leadership: strategic leadership. Strategic leadership requires making wise and deliberate choices about how, when, and with whom to lead. While America remains the single most powerful country in the world today, it cannot take global leadership for granted, nor can it revert to what worked in previous eras. Both the scope and the limits of American power must be taken into account. Moreover, leadership is not an entitlement; it has to be earned and sustained. Leadership that serves common goals is the best way to inspire the many different peoples of the world to make shared commitments. The United States must lead primarily when our interests most warrant it and when we are most able to achieve the objectives at hand. Despite the prevalent presumption that America must always be in charge, effective leadership is not always centered in Washington. At times, our interests are best served when others lead with us, or even take our place at the helm. Climate change could be an example of shared leadership; regional peacekeeping efforts will likely offer opportunities for other nations to lead. A doctrine of strategic leadership seeks effective action rather than American leadership for its own sake. It exercises judgment as much as resolve.
America’s longstanding allies will continue to be our most valued partners, along with key global and regional institutions. On many issues, however, the United States must be pragmatic and flexible enough to work with a wide variety of states on different issues. Whether they are old allies or new potential partners, we should engage with others, seeking to surface differences of opinion and new insights before views have hardened. And while being clear on its own red lines, Washington should be willing to adapt its positions to gain the consensus ultimately needed for constructive policy making and implementation. Operationally, strategic leadership has five principal requisites: exercising strong statecraft, ensuring 21st century military strength, enhancing prosperity and development, encouraging democracy and human rights, and energizing America at home. It also means setting priorities. Our founders believed that they were creating a nation that would secure life, liberty, and prosperity for all Americans. At the same time, our nation would also stand together with all other people against tyranny, inequality, and injustice. At its best, America has pursued its interests in ways that further those global human interests. It has sought partners and helped build institutions to strengthen the ability of all nations to tackle common problems. And it has been willing to strengthen other nations and help them regain their power and prosperity as members of a spreading zone of liberty and peace. America can and must do so again. Strategic leadership provides a framework for a national security strategy that meets the demands and needs of our current century. Such leadership recognizes that in an interconnected world the best way to secure our own interests is to understand and help secure the interests of others. It understands that in a world in which power has diffused, leadership can mean convening, listening and brokering agreements as well as seizing the initiative and expecting others to follow".
"Strategic Leadership: framework for a 21st century National Security Strategy," in www.cnas.org
The 'Phoenix Initiative' (sponsored by the "Center for New American Security") is the product, the latest product one should say of the Democratic Party / the'progressive' wing of elements of the American foreign policy elite. One should qualify that statement by saying the 'younger' elements. Those people who occupied middle-level positions in the Clinton Administration in the National Security Council staff, the State Department and (to a much lesser extent) the Department of Defence. And, who under the Bush regime, went into comfortable exile in various academic departments (invariably in either 'peace studies', or international affairs', 'International Security', et cetera), 'think tanks', and assorted places where out-of-work American apparatchiks go to for monetary sustenance. All one has to do is read off the some of the names associated with this thirty-seven page document: Ivo Daalder, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Michael McFaul with a preface to the report written by Susan Rice (now the junior Senator from Illinois's principal foreign policy advisor).
The substance of the report is more or less along the lines that there is not a cliche, a banality that our respected committee of junior foreign policy worthies did not encounter and fall in love with. And, as a result held up to display for the rest of us to look, read and reflect upon. The mere fact that almost everyone within the right side of lunacy, would not in actuality disagree with seventy-five to ninety percent of what they propose is it would seem beyond their purview. Why? One might very well ask. Without supposing that I can offer a full-proof reason, I can only say that one of the prime effects of the Bush regimes time in power in Washington, DC, has been to create a mindset more akin to that old childish cartoon: 'I say that it is spinach, and, I say to hell with it!' And, that is more or less the accumulated response of much of the American foreign policy elites (Democratic or Republican) to the not so splendid idiocy of the Bush years. That since what they represented is black, than what we are is white, and, vice-`a-versa. When in point of fact, that there is much in this report, once one strips away its cliches and dead rhetorical language about our 'founding father's' (where are they now pray tell?), that most, not all of course, but many in the Bush regime, would readily agree with. And, of course conversely there is much in the Bush agenda and policy, that our young Turks, notwithstanding any posturing to the contrary, will also, once they are safely installed in power, will readily take to heart. This I am afraid is part and parcel of any such change of regimes, and, in particular such exercises in note taking banalities, as the report of the Phoenix Project. As an exercise in posturing and positioning, the Phoenix Report is truly erste-klasse. As an exercise in trying to point the way towards new ways and means in American diplomacy and policy, well the less said the better. Such unfortunately is the way of all such documents: exercises in group narcissism.