Tag Archives: foreign policy

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan – By Vali Nasr | Foreign Policy

The Clinton/Holbrooke alliance was not enough to break through a risk averse White House according to Vali Nasr, dean of SAIS and a senior advisor on Afghanistan:

The White House, however, did not want to try anything as audacious as diplomacy. It was an art lost on Americas top decision-makers. They had no experience with it and were daunted by the idea of it.

While running for president, Obama had promised a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy: America would move away from Bushs militarized foreign policy and take engagement seriously. When it came down to brass tacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, Clinton was the lonely voice making the case for diplomacy….

But Clinton shared Holbrookes belief that the purpose of hard power is to facilitate diplomatic breakthroughs. During many meetings I attended with her, she would ask us to make the case for diplomacy and would then quiz us on our assumptions and plan of action. At the end of these drills she would ask us to put it all in writing for the benefit of the White House

Holbrooke and Clinton had a tight partnership. They were friends. Clinton trusted Holbrooke’s judgment and valued his counsel. They conferred often (not just on Afghanistan and Pakistan), and Clinton protected Holbrooke from an obdurate White House.

via The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan – By Vali Nasr | Foreign Policy.

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Santa Claus: An IR and Economic Analysis

Critical analysis on Santa from Ian Bremmer, Niall Fergusen, Donal Rumsfeld, Jennifer Rubin, and Anne-Marie Slaughter

Santa is the most damning piece of evidence yet that we live in a G-Zero world. This stateless actor commands a vast intelligence apparatus, an apparent slave army of little people, and is not above working animals long past their breaking point. By any stretch of the imagination, he’s a rogue actor. And yet, despite these flagrant violations of international norms, there isn’t even a nascent effort to combat, contain or regulate his activities. The G-20 continues to dither, revealing itself yet again as toothless and pointless. This would never have happened back when the U.S. was the hegemon!!

via When foreign policy pundits analyze Santa Claus | Daniel W. Drezner.

And NPR’s Planet Money uncovers through a detailed analysis of logistics, manufacturing and other organizational requirements that Santa Inc. would need 12 million employees–if it wasn’t for magic.

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Obama / Romney Key Foreign Policy Speeches Today

Big day in New York for two competing visions of US foreign affairs.  First, President Obama addressed the UN General Assembly:

Mr. Obama took on a number of issues at play between America and the Muslim world, vowing that the “United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” and warning that time to diplomatically resolve the Iranian nuclear issue “is not unlimited.”

But he refused to go further than what he has said in the past, that “a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” despite pleas from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to establish a new red line.

“America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe there is still time and space to do so,” Mr. Obama said. “We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace.”

via Obama’s Address to United Nations – NYTimes.com.


Meanwhile, uptown at the Clinton Global Initiative, U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney talked about giving aid–but with strings attatched:

Referring in his remarks to a hypothetical program he called “Prosperity Pacts,” Mr. Romney talked about his desire to use aid initiatives, like the ones President Clinton’s group supports, to encourage lasting change in the Middle East and other developing regions.

“Working with the private sector, the program will identify the barriers to investment and trade and entrepreneurialism in developing nations,” he said. “In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.”

He added: “The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise. Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America’s own economy — and that is that free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation.”

via Romney Urges Attaching Certain Strings to Foreign Aid


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As Iranian Hosts Watch, Egyptian and U.N. Leaders Rebuke Syria – NYTimes.com

To understand this story you need to first recognize that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a coalition, named during the Cold War when countries chose sides between the  West and the U.S.S.R..  This group continues to wield an outsized influence, particularly in General Assembly and ECOSOC committees–where majoritarian voting dominates–and so this alliance of countries has the numbers to call the shots.

And so, Egypt’s new president makes a trip to Tehran with an unexpected message that doesn’t make his hosts very happy:

Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s new Islamist president, whose decision to accept Iran’s invitation to attend the meeting was considered a major victory by the Iranians, likened the uprising in Syria to the revolutions that swept away longtime leaders in North Africa like Mr. Morsi’s own predecessor in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak.

“The Syrian people are fighting with courage, looking for freedom and human dignity,” Mr. Morsi said, suggesting that all parties at the gathering shared responsibility for the bloodshed. “We must all be fully aware that this will not stop unless we act.”

Mr. Morsi, pointedly, did not mention unrest in Bahrain, possibly to avoid offending Saudi Arabia, which has helped Bahrain’s monarchy suppress the uprising.

With the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sitting beside him, Mr. Morsi delivered a stinging rebuke of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom Mr. Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders have staunchly defended throughout the conflict.

via As Iranian Hosts Watch, Egyptian and U.N. Leaders Rebuke Syria – NYTimes.com.

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Perry Backs Full Israeli Control Over Jerusalem – NYTimes.com

If you wonder what “pro-Israel” means to the fullest extent possible–although some Jewish analysts blanch at such a position of a candidate who believes he’s on a mission from God:

UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: Gov. Rick Perry of Texas on Tuesday came down firmly on the side of the more conservative supporters of Israel, denouncing what he called an Obama administration policy of “appeasement” that had gravely weakened Israel and declaring unambiguously that Jerusalem should be fully under the control of the Israeli government.

Mr. Perry, who is leading in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination, strongly suggested that if he were elected president, he would move the American embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. He told a news conference in New York that “if you want to work for the State Department, you will be working in Jerusalem.”

He described Mr. Obama’s Middle East policy as “naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous,” and he asserted that White House efforts to extract concessions from Israel had weakened Israel’s negotiating clout and emboldened the Palestinian leadership into refusing to directly negotiate and instead take their bid for statehood directly to the United Nations. Mr. Perry also appeared to back the continued expansion of Israeli settlements.

via Perry Backs Full Israeli Control Over Jerusalem – NYTimes.com.

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