The Diplomacy of George H.W. Bush

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Many of the titles that the 41st U.S. President held prior to serving in that office were notable in the way they prepared him to be nation’s top diplomat and leader: member of Congress, CIA director, envoy to China and UN ambassador. What can we take away from President Geroge Herbert Walker Bush’s diplomatic legacy beyond the titles? He should be remembered in the same way we think about other notable president diplomats such as Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams–and among important statesmen like Benjamin Franklin, as “a very different kind of Republican” in “a very different poltical moment” as Jacob Weisberg says in a the CFR Lessons from History Series.

  1. Fixing Foreign Policy In-House

The Clinton/Gore team ran on “reinventing government” but Ivo Daalder and I.M. Destler assert that it really was George H. W. Bush’s reinvention of the foreign policy process resulted in a new way to create and implement U.S. foreign policy. They call it nothing short of “genius”– an innovation that “has stood the test of time.” Consequently, Bush was called by Michael Cohen one of the five “Best Foreign Policy Presidents of the Past Century.”

He assembled a true body of wise men–whose influence in power and afterword continue to offer foreign policy direction–even if largely unheeded by Republicans today: Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Colin Powell, and others such as Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Richard Haas, Robert Gates, and even Dick Cheney–mastered the processes needed to make foreign policy work and offered a steady hand when in office. They all demosntrated the impact (and importance) of effective governance.

2. Exemplifying Diplomacy as a Dealmaker

Bush was the example of what a truly tough negoiator looked like facing down China at the UN. Even so, he was tested in ways that make his one term the stuff of modern legends–confronting more crises and major global issues that most Presidents face in two.

In the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Bush dispatched his top diplomat to build a coaltion that would be the 20th century gold standard for collective security, in line with the United Nations Charter:

The U.S. effort to put together an international coalition against Iraq in 1990 was stunning. Secretary of State James Baker met with every head of state or foreign minister whose country held a seat on the U.N. Security Council. That meant not just meeting with those countries that had permanent seats like the Soviet Union and China, but also those holding rotating seats such as Ivory Coast, Romania and even Cuba.

via PBS, James Goldgeiger, The Conversation

He also recognized the truth that realists should be expressing more loudly: “limited objectives in the Middle East” are essential to the maintance of U.S. power and national interests. (This reality is driven by the nature of colaitions, as well.) The U.S. may see itself as “indespensable” but it cannot manage a world in chaos without recognizing the strategic necessity to temper its foreign policy goals and contstrain any possible expansive tendencies.

3. Demonstrating How Tone Matters

His tone as a leader, deeply influeced by diplomatic norms and his personal life experiece, contrasts in a major way with the current Pennsylvania Avenue resident: measured, steady, and prudent. Not exciting terms or ones that would marshall voters in a primary–but essential ones for an effective statecraft in the time when the U.S. was seen as the unequivocal winner of the Cold War and the last superpower standing.

As Philip Seib of USC writes, Bush’s legacy

is not that he failed to win reelection, but that he succeeded in making the world safer and in reinforcing American world leadership. He acknowledged the responsibilities that accompanied this role: “We cannot retreat into isolation. We will only succeed in this interconnected world by continuing to lead.”

Oddly enough, part of President Bush’s diplomatic legacy may have morphed directy into the Democrats as embodied in Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as other luminaries such as HIllary Clinton, as Derek Chollet notes in FP.

 

 

Key Speeches | Former President George W. Bush

This was a week for important speeches by U.S political voices. And a former conservative Republican President speaks out against discourse turning into “casual cruelty” and a swipe at Trumpism in a speech that will be remembered for a while:

We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.

“Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other. And free trade helped make America into a global economic power.

“For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism.

“We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.

“This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world.

“That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change.

“Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual.

“These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence. Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union.

“America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

“There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness.

We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.

“We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.

“In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.

“This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper.

“The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats.

“America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.

“The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets.

“Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement: In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed.

“We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions. And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country.

“A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young.

“Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

“This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

(Applause.)

“And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

“We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

“Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust. For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression.

“In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation.

“Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence.

“Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections.

“Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal.

“Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, ‘We shall manage,’ or ‘We shall make the best of it.’ It says, ‘We shall overcome.’ And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another.

“Thank you.

Via NPR

Corrupting Foreign Policy?

Do special interests shape foreign policy? Simona Maria Ross of Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics says yes–and that the general public are the ones most left out of the game.

Since the mid-twentieth century, the United States has emerged as a global superpower wielding influence on the lives of millions around the world. The foreign policy decisions of U.S. lawmakers have a global reach and should not be shaped by special interests. This paper analyzes the dynamics of campaign finance and lobbying in U.S. foreign policy through the lens of institutional corruption. The central argument is that the business community possesses the resources necessary to influence foreign policy leaders and frame global affairs in ways that fit its interests. Ethnic groups and foreign governments have also been shown to be highly influential when they hire K Street lobbying firms to persuade lawmakers. And while think tanks are known for their role as a source of expertise on global affairs that guide the foreign policy debate, evidence suggests that their research is also influenced by corporate agendas. One of the most surprising and unfortunate findings is that the public is the least influential group among actors aiming to shape U.S. foreign policy. [SSRN]

Also, don’t count out foreign governments in the circle of influence. As reported by the WaPo, countries with weaker diplomatic ties to the US are the ones spending more money lobbying to influence US foreign policy.

Who leads in that list? UAE, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Germany, with Mexico in the next tier, followed by Bosnia, Morocco, South Korea, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

Booklist | Henry Kissinger, ‘World Order

Kissinger inveighs on statesmanship, ‘the craft of “attending” to [global] problems’ in his forthcoming book.  He has been attacked by liberals such as Christopher Hitchens, Gary J. Bass and Seymour Hersh as well as from conservatives. Even as it sounds a lot like my class lecture last week–I’m still looking forward to the massive tome:

The premise is that we live in a world of disorder: “While ‘the international community’ is invoked perhaps more insistently now than in any other era, it presents no clear or agreed set of goals, methods or limits. . . . Chaos threatens side by side with unprecedented interdependence.” Hence the need to build an order — one able to balance the competing desires of nations, both the established Western powers that wrote the existing international “rules” (principally the United States), and the emerging ones that do not accept them, principally China, but also Russia and the Islamic world.

This will be hard because there never has been a true world order. Instead, different civilizations have come up with their own versions. The Islamic and Chinese ones were almost entirely self-­centered: If you were not within the umma of believers or blessed with the emperor’s masterly rule, you were an infidel or a barbarian. Balance did not come into it. America’s version, though more recent and more nuanced, is also somewhat self-centered — a moral order where everything will be fine once the world comes to its senses and thinks like America (which annoyingly it never quite does). So the best starting point remains Europe’s “Westphalian” balance of power.

via Henry Kissinger’s ‘World Order’ – NYTimes.com.

What is realpolitik, really?

What do we mean when we say realpolitik, a term whose brand is ripe for a historical reinvention through careful understanding.  A number of things can be leaned in an enlightening essay by John Bew, namely that it doesn’t come from Machiavelli but rather via a German thinker in 1853.

According to the now newly remembered father of realpolitik:

Realpolitik was about the art of politics in the post-Enlightenment world. He wrote in an age of mass ideological awakening, economic transformation, social upheaval and international rivalry. The job of statesmen was not to remain studiously aloof from these forces but rather to manage and mediate them. For Rochau, too, patriotism and nationalism were not delusions and distractions from raison d’état but one of its most effective tools. A shared sense of national purpose was a “natural conciliatory force” between conflicting parties within a state. This was why “human judgement has been very firm regarding the view that it is the utmost sacrilege to question the national spirit (Nationalgeist), the last and most valuable guarantee of the natural order of society.” Any policies designed to break this spirit, or ignore it, “thereby descend to the lowest ranks of despicability.”

The implications for us today are everywhere, as the term is used synonymously with realism or power politics:

As periodically happens when the world becomes a more challenging place, a slew of new books on Niccolò Machiavelli have appeared on both sides of the Atlantic, including offerings by Jonathan Powell (Tony Blair’s former chief of staff) and Philip Bobbitt. Last December, in a review of four recent books on the Florentine statesman in the Atlantic, Michael Ignatieff announced the coming of the latest “Machiavellian moment” (a phrase introduced by the historian J. G. A. Pocock in 1975). By that he meant “an instance when public necessity requires actions that private ethics and religious values might condemn as unjust and immoral.” Other familiar heroes of realpolitik—such as Lord Castlereagh and Count Metternich (the focus of Henry Kissinger’s A World Restored) and Otto von Bismarck and George F. Kennan—are also enjoying a return to prestige.

This time around, realpolitik also has some new friends and unlikely advocates. The most liberal president to inhabit the White House in many years has been as realist as any of his predecessors in the conduct of foreign affairs, with a zero-sum security policy in which “interests” are paramount. Last May, the German weekly Der Spiegel ran an article declaring that President Obama was the heir to “Kissinger’s realpolitik,” quoting National Interest editor Jacob Heilbrunn to the effect that he “may even start speaking about foreign affairs with a German accent.” “Everybody always breaks it down between idealist and realist,” said Obama’s then chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in April 2010. “If you had to put him in a category, he’s probably more realpolitik, like Bush 41 . . . you’ve got to be cold-blooded about the self-interests of your nation.”

via The Real Origins of Realpolitik | The National Interest.

Is ‘Triplomacy’ the New Diplomacy?

Do we need to think about a new mode of global dealmaking? Roger Cohen wrote in the NYT last January that global changes in the nature and structure of conflict–for example, non-state actors as terrorists, internal civil strive in Syria and Egypt–as well as a myopic American electorate where foreign policy issues are viewed as political footballs rather than ends in themselves–have created a new dynamic.

Is diplomacy outdated? The Fletcher School’s Deborah Winslow Nutter explains:

But a number of factors these days make it difficult to undertake old-fashioned diplomacy. My colleague, Daniel Drezner, says the opening up of internal politics throughout the world has made doing diplomacy today more complex. You can add to this the rise of non-state actors in international security issues, the effect current American domestic politics has on the ability of the United States to punch its weight internationally, and the multiplication and amplification of voices outside governments. All this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult to solve global issues state-to-state.

After all, it is not just diplomats that now engage in diplomacy; business and non-profit leaders are getting in on the act as well. And the diplomacy required of these sectors influences the diplomacy that can be done by governments. Even within governments, there are an increasing number of actors whose interests come to bear upon the choices diplomats face and the outcomes they can achieve. Traditional diplomats are joined by, among others, representatives of security, intelligence, development, human rights, environmental, and regulatory agencies.

So, is diplomacy dead? No, but perhaps it could do with a name change – think triplomacy. Governments today can no longer rely solely on “diplomats” in the traditional sense. They need to harness the participation of multiple government agencies, private industries, NGOs and international institutions – specialists from various fields of expertise who as a group view issues through a triplomatic lens and who can collaborate in cross-cutting alliances.

via Why ‘triplomacy’ is the new diplomacy – Global Public Square – CNN.com Blogs.

Austerity v. Growth – Who is Correct?

In this must-read report from Brussels we see the clash of two big economic ideas, both in response to a time of global crisis.  The U.S., represented by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew pushes spending, while Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council urges austerity.  Who is right?

Read this carefully.  Austerity Wars are underway, the U.S. vs Europe, and the stakes are very high.  Economic growth or fiscal frugality?

The question that Mr. Lew came to Europe to raise is how to strengthen the European economy — for the Continent’s sake, as well as for the global economy’s. The United States has an investment in Europe’s growth, American officials have said repeatedly, because of the deep financial and trade ties between the countries.

“We have an immense stake in Europe’s health and stability,” Mr. Lew said. “I was particularly interested in our European partners’ plans to strengthen sources of demand at a time of rising unemployment.”

The Obama administration has urged countries with stronger economies, like Germany, to slow their pace of fiscal retrenchment and ease off on demands for tougher cutbacks in hard-hit countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal. In the last few years, such advice has often fallen on deaf ears, given the political constraints in Europe and many officials’ belief in budget balance as a prerequisite to growth.

Mr. Van Rompuy mentioned the “vivid debate” over “fiscal policy and the pace of fiscal consolidation” in his remarks.

via In Effort to ‘Rebalance,’ Europe Appears Committed to Austerity Plan – NYTimes.com.

The new book by political economist Mark Blythe explores the history of the “myth”–or so he calls austerity.

 

From another vantage point, could another economic crisis of the past hold a useful lesson?

Tweak a few of the details and Mexico in the 1980s looks a lot like most Southern European countries today. In Mexico’s case, runaway government spending in the 1970s, fueled by high oil prices and greased by foreign debt, threatened to bankrupt the country after the Fed sharply raised interest rates to curb rampant inflation in the United States, increasing Mexico’s interest payments even as oil prices crashed to earth.

Similarly, money poured into Spain and Greece when investors persuaded themselves that the bonds of all members of the euro zone should be as safe as Germany’s, the region’s most creditworthy country. In Greece, this allowed a government spending binge. In Spain it ignited a housing bubble. Both countries were left with an unbearable burden when the world economy hit a wall, creditors took flight and the money stopped.

via Mexico’s 1980s Austerity Experience Holds Lesson for Europe – NYTimes.com.