Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Obviously Correct Grand Strategy of the United States of America

Blake Hounshell on the obviously correct grand strategy of the United States:

American Prospect Online - The Old New World Order: A revival of pragmatic liberal internationalism is what the world, and America, need now. By Blake Hounshell: Shadi Hamid and Spencer Ackerman debated what should serve as the lodestar of a progressive foreign policy vision. Hamid argued that the United States should make the promotion of democracy the centerpiece of its foreign policy, while Ackerman advocated that human rights take that role.... But neither Hamid nor Ackerman offered the correct answer. As the small example of Vietnam helps to illustrate, the United States ought to be redirecting its energies toward renewing its strength and expanding the postwar liberal world order. Do that, and the rest -- democracy, human rights, liberal reforms -- will eventually follow.

Ronald Beisner's new biography of Dean Acheson, this philosophy's most able practitioner, tells the familiar story of this world's creation from the perspective of its key founder. Although Secretary of State Acheson was a lawyer, not an economist, and his president Harry Truman a haberdasher rather than an international trade expert, their instincts were sound. Together with visionary European statesmen such as Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, they led the creation of a postwar order that has brought the world to unparalleled levels of peace and prosperity. Acheson's main concern was to create a liberal system on what he later called the "half a world" that the United States had come to dominate, facing off against the Soviet bloc. Economic openness, and ever-closer economic integration in Europe, were the primary drivers of this new system....

Acheson was first and foremost a pragmatist, constantly evaluating policy in light of the evidence. When the facts changed, so did his views. The best example, which Beisner elucidates in meticulous detail, is how Acheson rapidly transformed from a cautious advocate of sharing nuclear technology with the Soviets to a stalwart Cold Warrior who sought to use "situations of strength" to compel better behavior from them....

The key to any viable doctrine is that it offer comprehensive guidance on the whole range of foreign policy problems. The Bush Doctrine has failed spectacularly (though this may not yet be clear to all just yet). Hamid and Ackerman's alternatives fall short: how does promoting democracy and/or human rights help us deal with the diverse challenges listed above? Acheson's approach to the world offers a way forward: a pragmatic liberal internationalism underpinned by renewed American strength.

In practice, this means extricating ourselves as honorably as possible from Iraq, creating new security structures in the Middle East and Asia to deal with the threats of the Iraqi civil war, Iran, and North Korea, and incorporating the counterinsurgency lesson so painfully learned in Iraq into military doctrine and practice in Afghanistan. Equally importantly, it means reinvigorating American leadership on global economic issues such as the Doha Round, and working with Europe to devise a more realistic, multilateral approach to Middle East reform. These and other vital priorities are hardly likely to be addressed properly under the Bush presidency, so they will be up to the Democrats in Congress and in a future administration to tackle.

And who knows? Some day, we may see Iraq join the WTO.

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