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WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Otto von Bismarck said “God has a special providence for drunks, fools, and the United States of America.” So American foreign policy looks so ugly and yet over time, you know, we actually win most of the contests that we’re in.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, America’s new outlook on foreign policy. And the danger of nuclear weapons in Pakistan.
TERESITA SCHAFFER: My sympathies are with the vision of a nuclear-free South Asia. I don’t think anyone will take seriously a US continuing commitment to that vision until it includes a serious US commitment to the vision of a nuclear-free world.
KEITH PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. In recent years Americans found little to agree on in foreign policy. Experts and average citizens were divided over America’s enemies, what threats America faced, and how best to pursue America’s interests abroad.
PORTER: That changed on September 11. A new poll from the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pew Research Center says the terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan have created a new internationalist sentiment in the United States. Walter Russell Mead, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells us what that means.
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Well, I think there are a couple of things that are very interesting. One is the loss of interest in the so-called “luxury items” of foreign policy, which may not be a very accurate description, but I think support for making and addressing global warming a priority dropped precipitously; support for ending world poverty dropped precipitously; hunger, HIV/AIDS. And instead you see this much greater interest in higher military spending, national missile defense, and obviously, vigorously prosecuting the war on terrorism. So there’s been a real, a very substantial refocusing of the public mind. Now how long that’s going to last, I don’t know. But, but certainly there’s been an impact.
PORTER: There’s also this increased support at quite a significant level for multilateralism, for taking our allies’ points of view into consideration when forming policy.
MEAD: Well, I actually think that eager, hopeful liberals read too much into that. I, you know, I think if you ask almost anybody the question, “Should you take the interests of your allies into consideration?” it’s not surprising that a lot of people would say, “Yes.” It’s kind of a no-brainer. You know, should you look both ways before crossing the street. But then if you start asking, “Should you sacrifice your national objectives to, you know, fluff up French pride?” or to “soothe nervous German public opinion?” then I think you would get some very different ones. Or, “Should the US cooperate with a multilateral military force even if that meant endangering American lives?” I’d imagine you wouldn’t get a very high number there. And I think one problem that you often get in interpreting public opinion is that people who like the UN, who like multilateralism, who like human rights, who like all those good things, keep asking questions that elicit favorable answers from the public and then keep telling themselves, “Damn it, we’ve got 70 percent support for the United Nations.” Yet somehow the policy, somehow the votes never happen. And I think we need to be a little bit, we need to look a little bit more harshly at some of our own predispositions here.
PORTER: Do you think that the events of September 11, regardless of the poll, have made Americans pay more attention to the rest of the world? And care about what the rest of the world thinks?
MEAD: Not so much more about what the rest of the world thinks. They care more about what the rest of the world does: i.e., dropping airplanes out of the sky on us. And, yeah, I think there is a, a real strong sense now that foreign policy matters to the average family.
PORTER: For those of us who’ve been, who’ve believed that foreign policy matters for a lot longer than just since September 11, what can we do to foster this international sentiment, perhaps even capitalize on this internationalist sentiment in the US?
MEAD: Well, I, you know, I’ve been troubled by the sort of rising difference in the way that elites perceive foreign policy and ordinary people do-nonspecialists, working people, whatever. You know, more and more those of us who end up in the profession spend most of our formative years very far away from average Americans. You know, because American suburbs are segregated by, by income, you tend-public school doesn’t tend to be the same kind of great leveler it might once have been. We used to have conscription where boys anyway had to spend time in the military, you know, with people from all over the country and all different social classes. Now instead of the military, you’ve got graduate school. And so the people that are, that sort of are professionally charged with trying to think about American foreign policy don’t necessarily have a very good idea of the way ordinary Americans think.
And again, you’ll find the-you know, you talk to, sort of, promising young people and they’re all for going to Nepal for six months to understand that culture. But, you know, the idea of going to Kansas or the idea of simply trying to, you know, go anywhere in this country and get to know ordinary Americans and value their culture and their experience is not high on people’s list. So I think what you’ve got is increasingly a foreign policy establishment that’s caught up, some of it in kind of economic globalism-you know, “Boy, the WTO is going to save everything. Let’s do it quicker.” You know, quick and quick. Some people caught up in this Wilsonian “Let’s fight wars for human rights. Let’s design constitutions for Kosovo, bring democracy to Haiti,” you know, and in a sense using American troops as counters. You know, you put them there where there is no grave threat to the country, to the United States-grave, immediate threat. Ordinary people often don’t like that. And we’ve gotten too, sort of lazy and wrapped up in our own perceptions to want to take the time to understand how you could make a case for some of these policies that would appeal to people. Or else, maybe we should be changing our own priorities to reflect better what the country really does want and is prepared to sustain.
PORTER: While this new survey is a snapshot of American opinion on foreign policy at this particular moment, Walter Russell Mead has written a new book describing how these American views of the world have evolved over the last 225 years. The book is titled Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World. In it, Mead describes four schools of thought which drive US foreign policy. He calls them Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian, and Jacksonian.
MEAD: The Hamiltonians are these kind of economic globalists I was talking about. You know, “Let’s build a world order based on trade.” Free trade and free flows of capital.
And you’ve got the Jeffersonian tradition, which is, we’re seeing it take shape as part of the antiwar movement today of, you know, “Boy, it’s America’s fault. We’ve been supporting all these dictatorships. We’ve supported Israel against the Palestinians. Now we’re being so brutal in the war that we’re turning world opinion against us.” This kind of criticism of, of American foreign policy is not anti-American; it’s one of our deepest American traditions. This was sort of Lincoln and Thoreau during the Mexican War. It was Mark Twain in the, against the Philippines. It was obviously, we heard a lot of it in the Vietnam War. But it wasn’t just Vietnam. And the Jeffersonian tradition thinks that gearing up for war can undermine our civil liberties. The government, you’ve got bureaucrats who can classify anything they want as a secret so the voters can never know what their government is doing. And the government uses the excuse of a foreign threat to crack down on civil liberties here. So we’re seeing a classic Jeffersonian side to this.
And then there’s the Hamiltonian tradition, which is, I suppose you could say it’s a little bit like saying world politics is a game of Risk and America should try to play to win. You know, you, you want to be smart and clever. You, maybe you work with allies, but Wilsonians want to make working with allies, elevate that into a principle. For Hamiltonians it’s a tactic. You know, if it helps you, do it. If it gets in the way, don’t do it. But always keep your eye out for what you, what you really want. But in the Hamiltonian tradition, too-and this is kind of unique to the US and, and Britain, compared to other great powers-is that economics is seen as the, the sort of secret source of power in the world. That, that a world-building a world trade order that benefits your corporations gives you the revenue to support a large army and so on. So that you’ve got to, you need a strong state with a strong economy.
And then finally you’ve got a kind of a Jackson-what I call Jacksonians, after Andrew Jackson’s populist movement. People who-and this is, this is probably numerically the largest. It’s certainly not a majority. And that is this kind of “Don’t tread on me.” “Let’s not get into wars but if we do, unless somebody attacks us,” you know, “don’t go to Kosovo. But if somebody comes over here from the Middle East and bombs us, then make sure you get ‘em back.” This is “Remember Pearl Harbor,” “Remember the Alamo.” I think most Americans have-I mean, I think we all have a little streak of all of these schools in our makeup. And an event like September 11, you know, helped a lot of Americans get in touch with their inner Jacksonian.
PORTER: Let me throw out some names here in US foreign policy right now and you tell me where they fall in this, OK?
PORTER: Condoleezza Rice. Where is she?
MEAD: I think she’s a Hamiltonian with a little bit of Jacksonian fringe. But basically Hamiltonian. I’d say in general the Bush administration, we are now seeing is in its core Hamiltonian. In other words, very much like the George Bush, Sr. administration. But it’s kind of wrapped in a mantle of Jacksonian patriotism. And you’ll notice like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, I think, are Jacksonians. And in all the policy debates Colin Powell, who’s more Hamiltonian in some of his approaches, keeps winning a lot of the arguments. Which suggests that George Bush himself is probably more Hamiltonian than people realize.
PORTER: So in a, in, when we’re facing the war that we’re in now, if you can put together a Hamiltonian-Jacksonian sort of coalition, do you have a majority then?
MEAD: For a short war. To make it go longer you’ll have to bring in the Wilsonians. You know, it’s, the Wilsonians have got to believe that we’re fighting for something bigger than simply, you know, great power interests. Now self defense helps some. But you’re already hearing Bush talk about a war for civilization. And I, by the way, agree. That, you know, that trying to stamp this kind of terrorism is really a fight for civilization. And so he’s gonna-we’re gonna have to develop and expand that kind of aspect of the war if it’s going to be a long, ugly, dirty war.
PORTER: How about the former Clinton administration and in particular Secretary of State Albright.
MEAD: I’d say Clinton administration was Hamiltonian-Wilsonian. Where Bush is Hamiltonian-Jacksonian. And you, you know, Secretary Albright, you know, was very fond of humanitarian interventions. And saw, you know, are we willing to go in and prevent a genocide as a key test of American leadership. Whereas for the Bush administration that kind of thing is sort of, they would see it as a distraction from the real purposes of American leadership. Which are to defend ourselves from bad people.
And I think you’re actually going to find that, that historians looking back at the Clinton administration are gonna say that they spent too much time and effort and political capital on, sort of humanitarian interventions. And obviously spent a good deal too little time on, on homeland defense and, you know, they knew, they knew Osama bin Laden was trouble but they didn’t really-they clearly didn’t do very much about dealing with the rise of this terror network.
PORTER: Who represents the Jeffersonian strain today?
MEAD: Well, Ralph Nader is a Jeffersonian; Noam Chomsky; Gore Vidal. But interestingly, on the right you have folks like the Cato Institute, who’s instinct is that big government is bad in foreign policy as well as domestic. And so they, they want to cut back on American troop commitments abroad.
PORTER: Do you have an opinion on which one of these four is the best, or which one should have the most influences? You know, you look out over the long term of US foreign policy?
MEAD: Well, I would say that definitely one conclusion that I reached writing the book was that we’re better off with all four of them than we-we don’t want to lose any one of them. And we also don’t want any one of them to become permanently entrenched. ‘Cause I think each, each left to itself, you know, goes too far in a certain direction. And to, you know, you, you want idealism in your foreign policy, but you don’t sort of want cockamamie crusades for world federalism that, you know, you end up making troop commitments that the people don’t support and on and on and on. On the other hand, you know, you need this Jacksonian patriotism, so, you know, people will fight when the country is endangered. But you know, it’s a very, it’s a good servant, but a bad master. And that may be true of all the schools.
I guess that that approach, what I’m saying there is, probably would be considered a Jeffersonian sentiment. That what you really want to do is look at the national interests of the country, look at what people want-not what you think they want, but what they actually want-and then try to figure out how do you get as much of that as you can with the least danger and risk. And that, that’s the task that foreign policy intellectuals should be working on.
PORTER: One last question for you. You called the book Special Providence. Where does the title come from?
MEAD: Well, this is a saying attributed to Otto von Bismarck, who said “God has a special providence for drunks, fools, and the United States of America.” So, you know, American foreign policy looks so ugly and yet over time, you know, we actually win most of the contests that we’re in. We usually get our way. So, in some ways the central mystery of the book is why is something that looks as awful as the American foreign policy process is so often successful. So it’s an investigation of Bismarck’s special providence.
PORTER: That is Walter Russell Mead, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World.
MCHUGH: Dealing with nuclear weapons in India and Pakistan, next on Common Ground.
DAVID ALBRIGHT: In the short term, I think a lot of effort does have to go into ensuring that particularly strategic nuclear assets in Pakistan are under control.
MCHUGH: In 1998, India and Pakistan each tested nuclear weapons. This caused a grave concern around the world that a dangerous nuclear arms race was being launched in South Asia. To protest these actions the United States imposed economic sanctions on India and Pakistan.
PORTER: But those sanctions were lifted in order to build a global coalition in the war on terrorism. The United States needed Pakistan, in particular, as a partner against the Taliban. But when the war is over those nuclear weapons will still be a problem. I sat down with three experts to ask if India and Pakistan have now been grandfathered into the world’s official nuclear club. We first hear from David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and National Security.
DAVID ALBRIGHT: No, I don’t think so. There is an urgent need to take away those sanctions. And I think that, and that’s really the justification, would have widespread support. I don’t think people have given up at all about trying to control the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan and trying to resolve that problem and reduce the risk of nuclear war.
PORTER: All right. We’re also joined by Teresita Schaffer, who is Director of the South Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Teresita, do you think we’ve grandfathered those countries into the nuclear club?
TERESITA SCHAFFER: No, I don’t. But I think we’re recognizing the reality that they both have nuclear weapons. We have to deal with that reality. The trouble with sanctions policy is that it works, when it works, only before you actually use the sanctions. Once you have used the sanctions the continuing impact of your sanctions policy is not so much on the country that’s on the receiving end as it is on potential third countries. And so what you have to do is to weigh how important it is to you to influence the behavior of, in this case India and Pakistan, and how much payoff you get on third countries from the continuing impact of sanctions on India and Pakistan even if you can’t influence their behavior very much because you no longer have the tools to do that.
PORTER: We’re also joined by Lewis Dunn, Senior Vice President of the Science Applications International Corporation. Mr. Dunn, do you think we’ve grandfathered these countries in?
LEWIS DUNN: No, I, I agree with my colleagues here. I think the key point now is to step back in what is a changed environment after September 11 and to decide where we move next, both in terms of our regional security interests, our cooperation with these two countries, and in terms of our various nonproliferation interests.
PORTER: David Albright: if we cannot use sanctions, how do we show our ongoing disapproval for the nuclear weapons in India and Pakistan?
ALBRIGHT: I don’t think we need to show our disapproval. I mean, we, I think we can use incentives to try to sculpt their behavior in more positive ways that fit in with our goals of them moving away from depending on nuclear weapons. The first goal I think is to try to find a way to cap their nuclear programs, make sure they don’t deploy. And I think that in a way what’s happening in South Asia is a transformation that already has occurred in North Asia, and particularly with North Korea. And so we’re not giving up our goals, in essence for a region free of nuclear weapons. It’s just we’re gonna try to get to that goal in a different way.
PORTER: And Dr. Schaffer?
SCHAFFER: I’d like to partly disagree with you. I think that from the US point of view it would still be most desirable if one could make the South Asia region free of nuclear weapons. I don’t think we have a prayer of getting to that goal, not in any time frame that’s relevant. So the real objective at this point, I think, has shifted or perhaps become more tightly focused. The most important thing is to ensure that the nuclear weapons aren’t used-by accident, by miscalculation, in anger, or in any other way. The other really important objective is to ensure that the nuclear know-how and the nuclear materials and equipment don’t move anywhere else from South Asia. And this is where you want to focus our efforts to influence their behavior.
PORTER: Lewis Dunn?
DUNN: I would just add that as we try to think about the ways in which we can encourage restraint within the region, I think there’s been a significant change in both of these countries since the May 1998 tests. I think the May 1998 tests in both countries were seen as a major step forward. But I think in the last two years plus, both countries have come to recognize that nuclear weapons are dangerous weapons. They’re not going to give them up. I think Ambassador Schaffer is absolutely right. But at the same time they both recognize that they have more of a problem on their hands than they thought that they were going to have. And so there’s an opportunity to encourage both countries to exercise restraint. There’s an opportunity I think to encourage both countries to take actions which will lessen the risk of a nuclear confrontation between them.
ALBRIGHT: If the US government gives up a vision of South Asia free of nuclear weapons they’re setting themselves up for a series of mistakes that will perhaps lead to a more dangerous situation between India and Pakistan. If you’re not guided by some vision of where you’re going you could end up on a slippery slope of, toward nuclear deployments. And in a sense an incremental approach that doesn’t really have an endpoint, that isn’t consistent with US policy. And so I think it has to, the US government has to be very clear that what’s expected in the end-it may be 20, 30, 40 years from now, whatever-is that there will be no more nuclear weapons in South Asia. And after all, the US government has accepted nuclear disarmament in the context of the Nonproliferation Treaty. And will say internationally that that is the goal. And without that as background a lot of these other strategies become almost counterproductive because they can allow for nuclear weapons to be around forever. And what happens is you institutionalize nuclear weapons in a country and, and in, particularly in the India and Pakistan context, the militaries, the scientists, will become dominant. And they’re gonna push for deployment, more effective weapons. And, and it will be very hard for the US to withstand that pressure.
PORTER: Ambassador Schaffer?
SCHAFFER: I think actually that you’re fighting the last war, David. My sympathies are with the vision of a nuclear-free South Asia. I don’t think anyone will take seriously a US continuing commitment to that vision until it includes a serious US commitment to the vision of a nuclear-free world. And in spite of the US adherence to a nuclear-to a nonproliferation treaty that includes that, I don’t think anyone believes that this US administration or any recent one seriously felt that there was a commitment towards complete nuclear disarmament by the United States. That’s why I focus much more on the near-term issues. I’m afraid that deployment in some fashion is already happening. The focus has been on less dangerous forms of deployment: non-mated deployment is the term that’s used in South Asia. But I do focus most as a result on nonuse and nontransfer.
DUNN: At the same time I think there’s a question of how we phrase and how we talk about what we’re going to do. And in that sense I think that as we engage now with both the Indians and the Pakistanis and try to work the issues related to their support for the campaign for al Qaeda, as we try to work the issues of nuclear restraint, nuclear security in the region, I think we need to in effect, agree to disagree with the Indians and the Pakistanis. In effect make the case which I think there’s some people probably now in India believe that they made the wrong decision back in 1998 when they tested a nuclear weapon. Maybe the wrong decision back in 1974 when they first tested a nuclear device because they find themselves in a less secure position. And so, I think, we don’t want to find ourselves in a position where we send the message to a whole group of other countries that we think it’s just fine that the Indians and the Pakistanis have nuclear weapons. Although I agree with you completely that we’re not going to roll them back for the foreseeable future, which, to my mind, is a long, long time.
PORTER: We’re saying that the nuclear weapons are a permanent part of the security situation in this region?
SCHAFFER: We’re saying that the nuclear weapons are certainly a long-term part of the security situation in the region. Never say never.
PORTER: Where do we go from here?
DUNN: I think one of the top priorities as we sit here today is to try to work with both the Indians and the Pakistanis to encourage them to exercise as much restraint in the nuclear area as we can. I think we also need though to be focusing upon the security of the nuclear weapons, the nuclear materials, that exist within the region, which are a potentially enticing target to a terrorist group like al Qaeda.
PORTER: David Albright?
ALBRIGHT: In the short term, I think a lot of effort does have to go into ensuring that particularly strategic nuclear assets in Pakistan are under control. And I think some of that is just sending a signal to Pakistan that this is an extremely important issue. I think many segments of their military understand that. But they may be, as in many programs, naïve and insulated from the experiences that other countries have gone through. And so they also may need US assistance to try to secure those assets better.
PORTER: Ambassador Schaffer, I’ll give you the final word on this. Should we really be worried? How at risk are these weapons in Pakistan?
SCHAFFER: I think the weapons in Pakistan are as secure or as insecure as the Pakistani army, which has always been a hierarchical and disciplined organization, but it’s in a country that’s subjected to a lot of stresses. Let me close though with another thought. I think that if you’re worried about nonuse, nontransfer, and maintaining some kind of integrity to our nonproliferation policy, you need ultimately to persuade India and Pakistan to focus on a peace process including risk reduction, improved export controls. And then for the integrity of the nuclear nonproliferation regime there will probably be some areas of relations with the US, commerce with the US, that are gonna be off-limits. And these will have to be quarantined in some sense from the rest of the relationship, but that’s how we show that we are keeping faith with a system that the US did an awful lot to create.
PORTER: That is Teresita Schaffer, South Asia Director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. We also heard from Lewis Dunn, Senior Vice President of Science Applications International Corporation, and David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and National Security. For Common Ground, I’m Keith Porter.
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
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