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Four lessons about the role of America in the world
Material posted: Publication date: 24-03-2016
It is difficult to imagine another election season in modern history where questioning would be delivered a huge number of traditional attitudes and principles of American foreign policy. To some extent this is understandable. The United States does not live up to expectations in matters of foreign policy, and there is an impression that in our relations with all regions of the world is dominated by conflicts and threats, not opportunities.

However, recent statements coming from the mouths of presidential candidates, as well as from President Obama himself, suggests that the national debate shifted in a dangerous direction. There are a number of ideas that are most often heard in the national discourse, and should be viewed with appropriate perspective when making decisions about new and common American strategy.

1. We need to leave the Middle East

Forceful this view describes President Obama and his aides. According to CIA Director John Brennan, the Arab spring, convincing the President that "the middle East is tiring us." President Obama has concluded that sufficient justification for direct military intervention can be are just some of the threats — al-Qaeda, the existence of Israel and a nuclear Iran. Otherwise, he said, "we should not get involved in the management of the Middle East and North Africa... It is a serious and fundamental error." Excessive tension forces in the region, fears Obama may ultimately "hurt our economy, our capabilities, other issues, and most importantly, it can jeopardize the lives of American military personnel for reasons not directly linked to the national security interests of the United States."

But to such criticisms the President has the disadvantage that, in varying degrees, is present in presidential candidates. They don't realize is that because of the American retreat could occur even more serious problems. The United States protects the entrance to the Persian Gulf and counteract regional conflict that could cause a shock in oil prices. Premature withdrawal from Iraq in 2010, the strengthening of ISIL as a result of this care and the conflict in Syria will help you understand what will happen if the US will continue its retreat. Regional powers already with redoubled efforts to push its proxies in Iraq and Syria, where civil war, but Russian influence did these wars even more dangerous. Moscow came back and became a significant player in the geopolitics of the region, which has not happened since the cold war. Other great powers, such as China and Europe are also increasingly involved in middle Eastern Affairs, indicating the emergence of a chaotic multipolar trend, which is a consequence of the American retreat.

Faith in the ability of the U.S. to provide regional security has already subsided. Some States attempt to mitigate the risks, establishing friendly relations with U.S. adversaries, including China and Russia. However, it is unclear how the United States can refuse protection of the most important interests unrelated to those mentioned by Obama. If inter-confessional war will expand and will come in Shiite areas of Eastern Saudi Arabia, where every day produces 10 million barrels of oil, would we be able to stay away? Faced with the prospect of a strong recession at home because of turmoil in world energy markets and the further strengthening of the position of Iran in the geopolitical balance, Washington will be forced to undertake large-scale intervention in defense of Saudi Arabia, such as operation "desert Shield" and "desert Storm".

We'd better not refuse participation in middle Eastern Affairs, directing the course of events in a positive way and preventing the occurrence of serious crises that will force us to intervene, but in a more difficult and costly circumstances.

2. We need to destroy the terrorists from a distance, without interfering in the issues of state building

As Senator Ted Cruz, "the task of the American military is not part of state-building with the aim of turning foreign countries into a democratic utopia". Donald trump is also against national and state building abroad.

But actually, U.S. involvement in nation and state building has always been about something more practical and specific than the establishment of a "democratic utopias". Remember the story and think about it, why the United States decided to begin state-building in Afghanistan.

Working in 2002 in the White house, I shared the opinion of President Bush and his top advisers that the US military presence in Afghanistan should be small. Spending in this country for many months as the envoy of the President, I realized that it is impossible to prevent the revival of safe haven for terrorists without rebuilding the institutions of government.

Like other skeptics, I supported the idea of state-building not because of some frivolous idealism, but because we had no other way to protect our key counter-terrorism interests with less cost. We came to the conclusion that for reliable and lasting achievement of even the most basic counter-terrorism goals, we must enable Afghans to defend their territory and ensure the rule of law, preventing the infiltration of terrorist groups from Pakistan and their revival in the country. Otherwise, Afghans, and Americans would have to be on guard, preventing a repeat of Afghanistan will become a haven for terrorists.

With these conclusions has agreed a bipartisan majority in Congress, which could hardly wait for the approval to spend taxpayers ' money to Afghanistan. In 2004 Congress on 1.6 billion dollars in increased funding for reconstruction programmes in Afghanistan to build stronger Afghan institutions. He realized that creates a "virtuous cycle" that will contribute to the counter-terrorism interests of the United States.

Although both parties continued to support reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, Obama in the years of his reign, gave more importance to the forces of special forces, drone attacks and operations involving troops. Saving the terrorist threat and the expansion of the mess in the middle East have demonstrated the limitations of these tools. The United States should pay more attention to the mobilization of local forces opposed to extremism and terrorism, and is able to create and implement positive and alternative concepts for the peoples of this region.

Petty criticism of state-building ultimately diverts attention from more serious questions that should be asked is: why is the U.S. government so poorly prepared for the tasks of post-conflict planning and the implementation of these plans? Whether we like it or not, but the increasing disorder in the world will force the United States to engage in state and nation-building in difficult circumstances. Actually, the question is how we can create stronger tools and mechanisms to succeed in this work.

In his book the Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World (Legate: My journey into the troubled peace from Kabul to the White house), I proposed a series of reforms at the state Department and USAID to increase the efficiency of work in the field of state and nation building. One of the most cost-effective measures that we can take is to create a new forwarding control center in the state Department with the support from civilian specialists. Thus, we will leave the temptation to use military force at later stages, when the need arises to engage in state and national construction.

3. The United States does not need to contain major powers such as Russia, China and Iran. Instead, we should focus on our friends to keep them in strictly defined spheres of influence

The concept of "spheres of influence" in relations with the major powers again. President Obama wants Saudi Arabia and Iran have divided spheres of influence in the middle East, and shrugs off the idea that "hard statements and certain military actions" in areas not directly related to American interests, "will affect the decisions of Russia and China". The President recognizes the fact that however hard we try, is not part of the NATO-Ukraine "will be subject to the military dominance of Russia". The Minister of defense ash Carter goes further, claiming that the unipolar world has come to an end, and that we are now all living in a multipolar world. Yes and Donald trump with his skeptical attitude to NATO and other multi-year Alliance of America endorses the strategy of spheres of influence in Europe and Asia.

Working in 1992 in planning structures of the Pentagon, my colleagues and I was seriously considering the idea of recognition of spheres of influence of great powers such as Russia and China. However, we believed that this will allow US to collect more "peace dividend", and then spend them for the solution of internal tasks.

But eventually we came to the conclusion that in the interests of the U.S. to prevent the emergence of a new bipolar world that existed during the cold war, or world with many great powers, as in the period between the two world wars. The multipolarity has led to two world wars and the long period of world dvuhosnom to combat the risk of nuclear annihilation. To avoid such circumstances the Minister of defence dick Cheney finally agreed that our aim should be to prevent any hostile power dominated the "critical region" because it will give her resources, industrial capacity and population to create global challenges. This idea directs the defense policy of the US throughout the era after the cold war.

If we gave the major powers a green light to the establishment of spheres of influence, this would lead to the emergence of a multipolar world, and to return during the wars between the leading States. Without a stabilizing U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf and in the absence of U.S. relations with Jordan and the Persian Gulf Iran could stop oil supplies to its imagined sphere of influence. Actually, this has happened before during the Iran-Iraq "tanker war" in 1987, which eventually resulted in a direct military confrontation between the US and Iran. Iran's nuclear program makes such scenarios even more dangerous.

The United States can restrain the rise and strengthening of the great powers such as China, Russia and Iran with acceptable cost, not yielding to them entire sphere of influence. The main thing here — to focus on the normalization of geopolitics in the middle East, in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region, and the United States can do this by strengthening its TRANS-Atlantic and TRANS-Pacific alliances, adapting them to new circumstances dangerous, is looming on the horizon. The United States should promote a balance of power in key regions and simultaneously to seek opportunities to reconcile differences between the leading actors.

The United States should increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region to counterbalance the growing Chinese power and influence China's behavior in partnership with allies. At the same time America needs to form a platform for confidence-building, highlighting it places all countries in the region, including China. This forum can be create in the image and likeness of the Organization for security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which managed to set the basic rules and processes for settlement of regional disputes. At the insistence of the U.S. Helsinki agreement can serve as a model for the Charter of the Organization for security and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. It will complement numerous regional organizations and groups that already exist and operate, giving a finished look to the security architecture of the region. Perhaps the best candidate for this role is East Asia summit. There is necessary and right for the membership, but to perform similar functions to the OSCE, the summit should be formalized with clear terms of reference and structure. It is also necessary to create in such a context, in which the U.S. and its allies develop joint approaches to issues of disputed Maritime territories in the East China and South China seas. That is, when required, the forum must hold the red line, but largely used diplomatic means to avoid the escalation of crises.

Regional rivalries, sectarian conflicts and failing States it's the most difficult and urgent problems in the middle East. I believe that the fundamental solution is the establishment of a regional balance of power, strengthening of the moderate and progressive States, as well as solution together with other countries, difficult problems of internal political settlement in Syria and Iraq. Governance and economic development in countries actively opposing extremism, it is perhaps our most effective lever to set the balance of power in the region. The United States also must build new diplomatic forum for dialogue in the image and likeness of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Recalling how religious wars in Europe eventually formed the stimuli for the emergence of rules-based Westphalian system, we need to think about how the talks to end the Syrian impasse can lay the foundations for a new Westphalian agreements within the region. We must start with the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the mutual recognition and about some rules of cooperation and collaboration in the region. After this agreement it will be possible to create a wider forum for dialogue that will develop a programme to promote confidence-building measures and cooperation.

Although Putin's actions in Europe creates difficulties, its aggressive ambitions still can be contained, while collaborating in areas of mutual interest. Putin's Russia has many internal problems, low oil prices create large budget deficits, and demographic trends indicate population decline. Placing a small contingent of NATO in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as adopting a programme of arming the Ukrainian army, we can not only increase the cost of aggression, but also to strengthen the deterrent in the Baltics and other frontline States. At the same time, we should establish contacts with Putin and to continue cooperation in space research, in combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and Islamic extremism. Such cooperation in the short term should not be unconditional, however, a positive trend can eventually push Russia closer to its extension.

4. The United States can afford a more serious reduction of the military budget

This argument might seem convincing, if it is not used in relation to irresponsible schemes type of sequestration or a significant increase in domestic expenditure, which will significantly weaken the US abroad. In addition, proponents of this perspective often do not understand and do not recognize one simple fact. While U.S. armed forces still have technical excellence, there has been a recession compared with other States. As a result the American army even at the current level of expenditure loses its ability to intimidate and deter threat actors, beating them the desire to achieve parity with the United States.

Nevertheless, reform at the Pentagon was long overdue. We must ensure that our defence budget was spent better. Special attention should be paid to developing tools for early and proactive conflict prevention or sending them in the right direction, before they turn into costly military confrontation. The most obvious way to achieve this situation is to right the imbalance between our diplomatic and military means. And when we deploy troops, we need to improve interaction between civil and military, particularly in the appointment of ambassadors and commanders. The next administration together with Congress must conduct a serious inventory in these matters, as it did in the 1980s, the Board of Goldwater-Nichols and the creation of a joint civil-military command for expeditionary operations.

To strengthen our diplomatic means will require several steps. First, we simply increase funding for the state Department and other civilian agencies. To respond quickly to changing circumstances, civilian agencies and the military need flexible operational financing. The state Department also needs to develop a powerful system for the preparation and implementation of regional strategies. One of the possible variants, which you should think, is the development by the Department of state diplomatic equivalent of regional commands, leaders who will not be tied to the interagency process and will receive the necessary authority and resources for policy making across the region.

5. The United States should reduce its participation in democracy promotion

Speaking in 2004 with a speech during the inauguration, President Bush called for "ending tyranny in our world". Today, the remaining candidates from the Grand old party are more interested in ending American efforts to promote democracy. Trump repeatedly says that cooperation with Moscow, not paying attention to its repression of journalists, and nostalgic for the days of Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. Cruz promises that you will not treat democracy promotion as "absolute command", and instead will treat it as a "cherished ideal".

Criticism of American mistakes in promoting democracy certainly reasonable, especially in light of the disasters in Iraq and Libya. But to turn this critique in guiding doctrine and fundamentally oppose democracy promotion would be wrong. Of course, U.S. policy is off course not because of the strategic rationale for democracy promotion — the dissemination of human rights and democracy remains the most promising way to strengthen tolerance, human dignity and peace among the great powers. Rather, the failure of the US due to the fact that the last administration did not always follow up their words about democracy practical things that local leaders provide help and assistance in building democratic institutions.

In my opinion, our main drawback is that the efforts of civil society do not translate into party policy that ultimately allows the liberals to effectively compete in elections. As an Ambassador in Afghanistan and Iraq, I learned the hard way that the forces opposed to liberalism, is much more effective to use the benefits election. Weaker just, we support the consolidation phase of democratic transition, when new leaders must comply with the new institutions, strengthening the security services and the rule of law.

But even in the darkest days of my work as an Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, I refused to support their efforts to promote democracy abroad. Yes, I'm worried about the global weakening of democracy and the deterioration of the situation with human rights, however, pessimism about the prospects of democracy inevitably refuted by the results of public opinion surveys around the world. They show consistently high support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Perhaps the political class and loses faith in our ability to promote democracy, but authoritarian regimes remain fearful of our actions and accuse us of inciting the so-called "color revolutions" that ushered in democratic change worldwide.

Experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to a certain extent, added to my optimism about the U.S. role in promoting democracy. Doing practical work, I realized that thanks to the small efforts and reforms it is possible to pass the distance from defeat to victory on the democratic front. The recent strengthening of autocracy I pretty much explain the sad, but hardly inevitable shortcomings of new democracies in solving practical problems of public administration.

For the future I as a priority propose the following changes in our actions to promote democracy:

  • We need to provide financial and operational support to the liberal democratic parties so that they could in the elections to compete with illiberal forces. This means that ambassadors and intelligence officials have at their discretion to support the liberal party in an important election, as it was in Europe after the Second world war.
  • We need a more organized and systematic form of democratic counter-elites, teaching people from developing countries work on democracy promotion and action, forcing the institutions to deliver on their promises after the democratic transition.
  • We need to establish organizations similar to "Congress for freedom of culture", which operated during the cold war, creating infrastructure for publications and intellectual debate, aims at promoting democratic values. Today, these organizations need to be taught how to establish the rule of law, how to ensure economic growth with inclusiveness as the need to reform the educational institution that discourages critical thinking, reasoned disputes and innovations. All of this in the future would help to strengthen moderate political forces in China, Russia and the Muslim world.

I hope that the pre-election discourse about foreign policy is just a reflection of today's bout of pessimism in the country, and that he will not destroy the unanimity of both parties who defend US global leadership. However, these disputes have an impact on the public political system, which is extremely attractive and popular all over the world, being shaped by the various actors and in turn influencing them.

The greatest achievement of American foreign policy was to ensure unprecedented period of peace between the great powers. Until the United States assumed global leadership, the world wars and brutal power rivalries were the norm. After the Second world war, the U.S. deployed its forces in Eurasia and began to play a Central role in the normalization of the geopolitics of Europe and East Asia. During the cold war the Alliance under the leadership of the United States deterred Soviet aggression, but also supported the "zone of peace" that facilitated the emergence of a liberal international order. All this was not absolute given. To achieve this, it took tremendous effort and skill.

To maintain and increase these gains, the U.S. should pursue a policy of "balancing and reconciliation" in three key regions — Europe, East Asia and the middle East. These regions are the centers of geopolitical rivalry. If events there spiral out of control, the consequences of the framework in these regions is not limited. They will affect the world, and the geographical isolation of the USA will not save us in the context of globalization.

The strategy of "balancing and reconciliation" requires the United States to maintain a forward military presence, reassuring friends and frightening enemies. It also means that the US must strengthen allies and friends, frontline, assisting them in matters of security and, if necessary and economic assistance. At the same time, the United States should engage Russia, China and Iran to seek ways to minimize conflicts, to the creation of multilateral forums for reconciliation and elimination of enmity, and to facilitate reaching agreements that help to stabilize these critical regions.

Maintaining the geopolitical balance of forces, the U.S. should seek to expand "zones of peace", covering the alliances and relationships between established and developing democracies. Each country should find its way to democratic reforms, but the United States should assist those who aspire to a political order where democracy is respected, human rights and laws. Wherever possible we should seek to broaden the ranks of liberal democracies.

Recent history teaches us four lessons about the role of America in the world:

  • We are critical to world order. A dangerous vacuum exists when the U.S. are moving in the retreat. US global leadership is extremely important to address the risks associated with the movement towards multipolarity.
  • The partnership and the distribution of the load with allies and friends is the surest way to achieve our goals without overstretching.
  • Our determination, vitality and confidence in their abilities should balance the humility and the acknowledgement of the limits of power and influence.
  • Instruments foreign and security policy in need of reform.

In this period of great turmoil for our country, the question arises, will we be able to assimilate the experience without falling into despair and disbelief in themselves.

Zalmay Khalilzad

The author from 2007 to 2009, he was the U.S. representative to the UN. This is an excerpt from the 26th Chapter of his new book "The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House".



Tags: USA , geopolitics

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