Chas Freeman ─ Diplomacy as Strategy

Chas Freeman ─ Diplomacy as Strategy


[MUSIC PLAYING] Good afternoon. Welcome I’m Ed Steinfeld. I’m the director of the Watson
Institute for International and Public Affairs. It’s my pleasure–
truly my pleasure– to welcome back Watson
senior fellow and ambassador, Chas Freeman. Some of you have participated in
Chas’s earlier lecture series, some of you are new. For those of you who
have participated, you know you’re in for a really
great intellectual treat. And for those of
you who are new, you will find out
for yourselves. Chas is going to
deliver three lectures. Today is the first. The second will be on April
5, and the third on April 12. I’m sorry, April 17. The first lecture–
Diplomacy as Strategy– will be followed by a
second lecture on Diplomacy as Tactics, and a third lecture
in the series on Diplomacy as Risk Management. Let me very briefly
review Chas’s biography for those of you who are
not familiar with it. Chas has had a distinguished
career as a career– a distinguished career
as a career diplomat, serving across numerous
administrations, Republican and Democratic. Chas was Assistant
Secretary of Defense for International Security
Affairs from 1993 to 1994 in an extremely important
post-Cold War moment, when the entire European security
system was being reconstituted and reconfigured, as were
military relations with China. That happened during the
Clinton administration. Previous to that, Chas had
served as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Desert
Shield and Desert Storm. That was the George HW
Bush administration. Prior to that, Charles was
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
for African Affairs during the whole
period of US mediation of Namibian independence
from South Africa, and Cuban withdrawal
from Angola. That will be mentioned
in today’s discussion. And that happened during
the Reagan administration. Chas prior to that was DCM,
the Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in the
American embassies in Bangkok, and prior to that, in Beijing,
also during the Reagan administration, the first term. Almost there. Prior to that, Chas– and I’m only mentioning
just small pieces of an incredible career. Chas was director for Chinese
affairs at the State Department during the late Carter and
early Reagan administrations. And prior to that,
as many of you know, Chas had served as principal
American interpreter during President Nixon’s
famous 1972 trip to China, the great opening to China. In addition to, of course
his distinguished career, Chas has played a rather
extraordinary role since departing the
foreign service, a role– I don’t know exactly
how to describe it. Gadfly, public
provocateur, but mostly, just incredible
geopolitical thinker. We’ve been extremely fortunate
at the Watson Institute and Brown generally to be able
to be witness to this thinking, to participate in it,
and to have you here as really an instructor
and a faculty member. So Chas, let me
turn it over to you. I have to apologize,
because I’m going to have to leave
slightly early at 5:15. So if you’ll forgive
me, I’m going to hide in the back of the
room, and turn over everything to you, Chas. Thanks. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much, Ed. It is a pleasure to see
some familiar faces, and some new ones. I think I am probably far
from the only American who is deeply concerned
about the consequences of the ongoing gutting of
our diplomatic establishment. I anticipate that once we
Americans have destroyed the Department of State in the
United States Foreign Service as well, we will have
to reinvent them. And after all, they can be
essential tools of statecraft that guide and complement
our armed forces, make their use unnecessary,
or translate their victories into new and stable
relationships with the defeated. Reconstruction of
these institutions to meet the new
challenges before us will be a lengthy process,
but I believe we should not wait to prepare for it. We need to train– we will need to train
a whole new generation of American diplomats to
levels of professionalism comparable to those of our very
professional armed services. In the meantime, we should
learn by observing others, like the Chinese, who far
from abandoning diplomacy as their preferred
method of advancing their national
interests, have just doubled their budget for it. We cut ours by 30%. Elect a clown, expect a circus. But the damage we are now doing
to our alliances, our economic and other international
relationships and ourselves is
not my topic today. I will speak mainly in terms of
military aspects of strategy. But just about everything
I say can equally well apply to economic and
political strategy. I’m a retired
practitioner of diplomacy. I believe we can and should
distill operational doctrine from experience. Diplomacy is the regulation
of international relationships through the control
of perceptions. In this talk, I will cite
practical applications of diplomacy with strategy. Before I do this,
however, I need to prepare the terrain
by defining a few terms and describing
where each of them fits in the catalog
of statecraft. To formulate sound
diplomatic strategy, one must first assure
that the words one applies to foreign relations both
correspond to reality, and are relevant to analysis,
deliberation, and planning. I propose to discuss four
categories of relationship that include or imply obligations,
alliances, ententes, protectorates, and client
states, in this context. How do each of these
categories of relationship relate to strategy? Well, a strategy is a
plan of action designed to achieve a desired
objective through the lowest possible investment of
effort, resources, and time, and the fewest possible adverse
consequences for oneself. In chess, a strategy
that consists only of an opening move
consistently yields failure. Myopic moves in
foreign policy, moves that do not anticipate
the probable perceptions and counter moves of others
also guarantee defeat. The American invasions of
both Afghanistan and Iraq were just such
exuberant assaults with no planned follow-up,
definition of victory, or concept for war termination. And they haven’t ended. Calling a statement or a
collection of military campaign plans a strategy
does not make it one. Strategies cannot
be wishful thinking. They must match
resources to objectives, and focus on specific
obtainable objectives. Diplomacy is an essential part
of any international strategy. It involves molding the
decisions and actions of others to one’s advantage, as well
as making one’s own moves. It’s a protracted game that
is almost rule-free, far more complex than chess, and has
real world consequences. The US national security
strategy and its companion national defense strategy– released respectively in
December, 2017 and January, 2018– assign no specific resources
to feasible objectives, and specify no steps by which
the belligerent approach they outline can be implemented. They are unaffordable
military bravado attached to no strategy. They aggravate rather than
cure the US national strategy deficit. No one can play chess
without understanding the capabilities and potential
uses of the various pieces on the board, both
on one’s own side, and that of one’s opponent. Knights move differently
and do things that bishops and pawns
can’t, and vise versa. Each piece must be deployed
or countered differently. The same is true in foreign
affairs, with the added complications that the
contest has actions other than attack and defend,
that one sort of piece can at any moment
change into another, that there are often
multiple players maneuvering independently,
but simultaneously in the same space, and that
even when the king is cornered, the game doesn’t end, it
just enters a new phase. The atrophy of diplomatic
vocabulary during the Cold War has dimmed appreciation
of the relationships and the balances of capabilities
between relevant international actors, between them
and one’s own nation, and between them and
one’s competitors. Today, almost the
only words used to describe any sort
of remotely cooperative international ties– however ephemeral– is
ally, and/or alliance. These words have
been so stretched, shopworn, and blurred
in meaning that they’ve become semantic nulls. They dull both
vision and reason, contributing nothing
but confusion to analysis or planning. An ally is a partner that’s
accepted an obligation to offer broad support or
assistance to one’s nation, because it wishes to
receive reciprocal support for its own interests
and objectives. The usual purpose of alliances
is to add the power of others to one’s own. But the so-called
pactomania that followed American’s
post-World War II abandonment of George Washington’s
long-respected warning against entangling alliances
did not conform to this model. The United States embarked on
a protective mission, directed at denying our newly-established
sphere of influence to our Soviet adversary and
its apparent Chinese auxiliary. Security guarantees
to others became part of a strategy of
containment and deterrence, not one focused on
power aggregation. There was little,
if any expectation that Europeans in NATO,
the West Asians in CENTO, the Southeast Asians in
SEATO, or Northeast Asians, like the rump Chinese
state on Taiwan occupied Japan or South
Korea would add much– if anything at all– to the military or
economic capabilities of the United States. These “US allies”– in quotes–
had been made poor and weak by history or by war. They had nothing
but their territory, strategic independence,
and past prestige to contribute to the
struggle with the Soviet Union and its satrapies. The United States
made them allies to bring them under its
protection for purposes of strategic denial. They were not national security
assets, but liabilities, insured by American power in a
game in which they were pawns. There were not so much
ramparts as tripwires, designed to change the risk
calculus of the Soviet enemy. In this context,
assessments of the balance of benefits and
risks of alliances were frankly, beside the point. The Cold War ended in 1989
or 1991, somewhere in there. But this peculiar
history continues to shape American thinking
about alliances and allies. The American people
view foreign policy largely as being about Americans
notably safeguarding US allies from their enemies,
who are by extension and adoption, our enemies too. Any nation not overtly
hostile to the United States and in some way
cooperative with it can be called a so-called ally,
worthy of American protection. But the impulse to
vindicate national honor by defending allies
co-exists with the suspicion that they may be playing
America for a sucker. Hence, the inherent
appeal of the populist demand that allies
reimburse the United States for protecting
them, especially now that they’ve returned
to wealth and power, while America declines in both. But if Americans aspire
to be something other than global mercenaries,
we must ask first, now that the collapse
of the Soviet enemy has made strategic denial to it
of these countries irrelevant, what’s in it for the United
States to protect them at all? Second, what responsibility
should so-called allies have to protect themselves? And third, what can
or should allies be asked to contribute
to US national security, in addition to their own? The answers to these questions– which Mr. Trump appeared to ask
during the election campaign, but seems to have forgotten– the answers to these
questions depend to a considerable extent on
assessments of what’s at stake. What benefits relationships
confer, what risks they entail, and what costs they impose. True alliances are rare. They are relationships
between nations that entail broad mutual
obligations of assistance for as long as the
alliance endures. An alliance may be
multilateral or bilateral. Since the major purpose of the
defense of defensive alliances is deterrence, they tend
to be publicly proclaimed. In the highest form– in its highest form, the
members of an alliance agreed to operate jointly, often
under unified military command. North Atlantic
Treaty Organization is the premier example of
a multilateral alliance. A fading, special relationship
between the United States and the United Kingdom
formed in World War II has been an exemplary
bilateral alliance. So is the US relationship
with Australia. The so-called alliance
between Britain, America, and the Soviet Union
in World War II met none of these criteria. It was not an alliance, but an
instance of limited partnership in entente, a
commitment to cooperate under particular circumstances,
for limited purposes, for as long as this
served common interest. Entente confines both– confines
both commitments and risks to agreed contingencies, rather
than leaving them open-ended. Unlike alliances,
limited partnerships pursuant to entente rely
on policy coordination and parallel actions, not joint
operations or unified commands. Like alliances, when they’re
public, ententes– hold on, we’ve got this thing here. I guess we’re about
to be assaulted by Apple, which is not unusual. Let’s see. There we are. So we will never know
what that would have done. Like alliances,
when they’re public, ententes deter challenges
to the interests of their participants. When they’re aggressive rather
than defensive, however, they are often kept
secret to maximize strategic ambiguity,
prospects for entrapment of foes or surprise. The common purposes
that ententes embrace are temporary or conditional,
not durable or broad. Both Brits and Russians
grasped the distinction between alliance and entente. Americans did not. This contributed to serious
American strategic misjudgments that left the United
States unprepared for post-war tensions. When these tensions could
no longer be ignored, a domestic Red Scare that
threatened American liberties ensued. Other examples of US
participation ententes date back to the
beginning of our republic. They include the Franco-American
Conditional and Defensive Alliance– [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]—-
of February 6, 1778, that ultimately enabled decisive
French support for American independence. Sino-American cooperation
in the containment of the Soviet Union
from 1972 to 1989 was another such
limited partnership. More recently, we’ve seen
entente find expression in the formation of parallel
international Islamic coalitions to liberate
Kuwait from Iraq in 1991, and cooperation between the
United States, China, France, Germany, and Russia to
produce the Iran Nuclear Accord in 2015. Anyone who mistook these
expedient arrangements for the durable
commitments to cooperation inherent in alliance was
destined to be disillusioned. Exchanges of concrete benefits– like base or transit rights– are also often called alliances. They are not. Nor are they ententes. They might more accurately
be called protectorates. These are symbiotic
relationships in which the
protected power seldom feels a sense of obligation
to its protector, but recognizes the need to
provide it with recompense for its support. Protection may be
solidly grounded in the interests of
the parties to it, but it does not involve
reciprocal undertakings. US commitment to Saudi
Arabia is an example of such a protectorate. It was briefly
elevated to an entente when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq
attempted to annex Kuwait, and the United States sought
its withdrawal in cooperation with the Saudis and
other Arab partners. These days, relations with the
kingdom involve Saudi purchases of weapons, as well as military
training and support services from the United States, Saudi
facilitation of US overflight of its strategically positioned
territory, and coordinated– but notably, not joint– intelligence and
anti-terrorist operations. In return, the United States
backs Saudi national security policies, even when it considers
them dubious, as in Yemen. Ironically, not so long
ago, it was the Saudis who found themselves supporting
US policies in which they didn’t believe, like the
2003 invasion of Iraq. Other prominent examples
of US protectorates misdescribed as alliances
are Japan and South Korea. Japan emerged from
defeat and occupation to become a great
economic power. It provides bases and
logistical support that are essential to US power
projection around the world. The Republic of Korea– or ROK– survived war
with other Koreans and their Chinese
protectors to become a wealthy and powerful state. Despite their affluence and
self-defense capabilities, both Japan and South
Korea rely on protection from the United States. They are consumers of
American security services with no reciprocal obligations
to the United States at all. As such, they are
strategic dependence, not direct providers of security
to a sometimes paternalistic America. Neither has any obligation
to help defend Americans in times of need. It’s significant that
Japanese-American relations now seem to be evolving away from
dependency and toward entente. In the future, as independent
Japanese strategic perspectives and capabilities
continue to emerge, Japan may assume a greater role
in supporting the United States in carefully defined
contingencies. If so, of course, Tokyo
will demand an equal voice in setting the agenda
for US-Japan cooperation. Neither Japan nor
the United States is yet prepared for that. By contrast with alliances,
ententes and protectorates, client state
relationships are based on a one-way flow of support
from the patron state nation to the client. Client states owe no allegiance
and benefits to their patrons. The misuse of the word
ally to describe them implies honor-bound mutual
obligations that do not exist. Client states add
no significant power of their own, political,
economic, military, or cultural to that of their
patrons, though they may add base and transit rights
or other facilities that improve the geopolitical
circumstances of those patrons. Sometimes they’re clients only
because their independence frustrates a strategic
rival, and is therefore desirable to guarantee it. Client states
typically have enemies, otherwise they wouldn’t be
seeking backing or protection by an external power. Sometimes their enemies are also
adversaries of their patron, sometimes not. In any event, client states
are hostage to regional forces that are often foreign to the
interests of their patrons. The very dependency and
vulnerability of client states gives them some degree of
leverage over their patrons. They have the freedom to
scheme, to get a patron into unwanted
battles with others, or to burden it
with requirements for diplomatic or
material support at the expense of its own
objectives and interests. Client states in the Middle
East– like Egypt, Israel, and Jordan– enjoy and have received
enormous strategic support from the United States. Egypt– which occupies a key
bottleneck in strategic lines of communication
between Asia in Europe– allows American
overflights as a courtesy, rather than as an obligation. Others– though
notably not Israel, given its lack of acceptance
and connections in the region– provide the United States
with logistical support for power projection. But none feel obliged
to do anything at all in return for
the United States in exchange for the American
backing that they receive. These are relationships
grounded in self-interest. They are not the product of
affection or loyalty, whatever their domestic US
supporters may assert. As Egypt showed its former
patron– the Soviet Union– in the early 1970s,
client states are quite capable of
switching allegiance when they believe doing
so might benefit them. Today, Egypt is once
again in the position– in the process of repositioning
itself between Russia and the United States. Israel has been at odds with the
United States on many policies, but Washington’s
unflinching support for it continues to enable it to
ignore American interests as it pursues its own. Israel too is now diluting
its dependence on America by developing closer ties
with other great powers, like Russia, China, and India. Meanwhile, Jordan
is taking on some of the characteristics
of a US protectorate, as it furnishes
basis and facilities to US forces and intelligence
agencies engaged in war– illegal war, I might add– in neighboring Syria. But Jordan too is pursuing
strategic ties to Russia. Some flourishing bilateral
relationships are of course, based on transactional
exchanges of benefits, free of any particular
implied obligation. As examples, Singapore
and India separately say it is in their interest
for the United States Navy to remain a nearby presence. To this end, Singapore
cooperates with the United States, allowing
American Naval vessels to use its port facilities on
an ongoing pay as you go basis. India has begun to buy
US weaponry, to exercise with the US Navy, and to couch
its rivalry with China in terms calculated to
appeal to Americans. Singapore is close and
attentive to Washington. Delhi keeps its distance,
despite its presumed ideological affinities
with the United States as a fellow democracy. But neither country has
compromised its independence, and neither should be described
as an ally, entente partner, protectorate, or client
state of the United States. From the dawn of the
American republic, the key task of
US foreign policy has been to foster an
international order conducive to continued
life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness at home. For its first 15 decades,
the United States aspired to advance
this objective through vigorous expansion
across the North American continent, hegemony in
the Western hemisphere, equal opportunity exploitation
of markets in Asia, and a combination
of example setting and lofty talk about
international trends and events. Americans accepted George
Washington’s insight that alliances were
entangling hazards to diplomatic navigation, as
well as IOUs that others might call at any time they chose. Until 1945, the United
States avoided any sort of relationship with
foreigners that entailed defined obligations. Then a new bipolar
world order set in. In the Cold War, nations
for the most part clung to their
respective positions in relation to the competing
United States and Soviet Union. There were of course,
notable exceptions. Cuba switched to an
American client state to Soviet protectorate. France withdrew from formal
participation in its alliance with the United
States through NATO, but retained a relationship
of entente with both. The United States downgraded
its relations with Taipei from entente to
protectorate in order to pursue co-operation with
the rival regime in Beijing. Egypt famously switched patrons. Iran turned on its
American protectorate. Despite the overall
strategic immobility and diplomatic trench
warfare that it exemplified, the Cold War was not entirely
without dramatic paradigm shifts. President Richard Nixon’s
1972 outreach to China and Egyptian President Anwar
Sadat’s 1977 embrace of Israel exemplified diplomatic
breakthroughs through grand gestures
aimed at building new strategic relationships. Such grand diplomacy
seeks to bypass fruitless bargaining
over insuperable, but arguably petty
differences with an adversary. Its purpose is to
enable the two sides to make a fresh start at
seeking common ground, to begin a process of
expanded strategic cooperation to mutual advantage, and to
defer apparently intractable problems until more
favorable conditions for resolving them can emerge. By traveling to the
enemy’s capital– while making no
specific demands of it– Nixon and Sadat–
each in his own way– followed Churchill’s
advice to appease the weak, but defy the strong. Each gave his longtime adversary
the crucial psychological satisfaction of being
treated with respect. Each implicitly
acknowledged the legitimacy of his opponent’s national
security concerns and the need eventually to address them. Grand diplomatic
gestures are gifts that call for grand
responses, not haggling. Nixon’s gesture enabled
the United States and China to end two decades of
fruitless bickering over various sore points
in Sino-American relations. China famously
takes the long view. China opened to the strategic
relationship Nixon sought. By contrast, Israel
is notoriously focused on immediate advantage
with little attention to long-term consequences
for relations with neighbors, all
of which it believes are implacably anti-Semitic. Menachem Begin responded to
Sadat’s unilateral gesture by attempting to
bargain over details. It took Jimmy Carter’s
intervention at Camp David to persuade Israel to accept
the normalized relations Egypt’s leader had offered. Though the immediate results of
their maneuvers were different, Nixon’s and Sadat’s
breakthrough diplomacy illustrates an important
canon of statecraft. When there appears to be no
effective answer to a question, one should consider whether the
question one has been asking is the wrong one. Elsewhere– and there’s a
link in the text of this if you’re interested– I have described the capacity
of diplomacy that changes– the capacity of diplomacy that
changes the operative questions to change the calculus of other
nations to conform to ours. I will not repeat that analysis. In the case of
China, if the issue was how to contain and retard
its development, a policy or strategic distraction through
support for Iran and Tibetan separatists,
diplomatic embargo, and economic and financial
sanctions, as well as military deterrents, made sense. But if the question
was how to use China to offset
Soviet power, or how to limit the menace of Mao’s
revolution to world order, acceptance of its
government’s legitimacy, diplomatic engagement,
and promotion of trade and investment
were appropriate. If the issue was how to
prevent the consolidation of a Western-backed
Jewish state on Arab land, Egyptian ostracism and
confrontation with Israel were logical policies. But if the question was how to
develop the Egyptian economy in partnership with
the United States and under conditions
of peace, engaging in establishing a modus vivendi
with Israel was essential. Today, the impasses between the
United States and North Korea, as well as Russia,
invite a change in the questions on which
American policies have been based. The same is true of China. What is it we want to
accomplish with these countries? Our interactions with each are
now as barren and dispiriting as those with China
before the Nixon opening, or between Egypt and Israel
before the Sadat initiative. What if we have the
strategic questions wrong? In the case of North
Korea, diplomacy has been complicated
by Washington’s failure to appreciate the deterioration
of Pyongyang’s relationship with Beijing or
its implications. The relationship between the two
has devolved from protectorate, to client state, to
noncommittal and strained. But despite its now purely
transactional relations with Pyongyang, Beijing
has the continuing interest in avoiding both
North Korean enmity, and in precluding the
presence of a potential enemy like the United States
in the northern half of the Korean peninsula. The primary purpose of North
Korea’s nuclear weapons program has been to develop a
deterrent to possible American, rather than Chinese attack. Given these realities,
American attempts to outsource our problems
with North Korea to China have always represented
wishful thinking, rather than coherent strategy. Perhaps the right
question was never how to force Pyongyang to
abandon its nuclear program, but how to convince
it that it was secure enough from the
possibility of American instigated regime change to have
no need for a nuclear program. And maybe the right
question with Russia was not how to wall
it off from Europe, but how to give it a stake
in peaceful coexistence with the European Union,
how to nurture a mutually advantageous interdependence
between the EU and Russia, and how to incorporate Russia
into a new European security architecture by interposing
buffer states between it and NATO. How might NATO and
the EU best promote shared prosperity and
security for all Europeans, including Russians? If the redivision of Europe
by military confrontation in low intensity conflict
in its borderlands does not serve American,
European, or Russian interests, what are the alternatives? Maybe the issue
with Ukraine is not how to deny Russia an
influential relationship with it, but how to give
Moscow a stake in the emergence of a viable, prosperous,
independent, and neutral Ukrainian state that can serve
as both a buffer and a bridge between Russia and NATO. Perhaps the issues
with China are not how to prevent it from
overshadowing the United States in the Indo-Pacific,
how to confront it militarily, how to deny it influence
in neighboring countries, and how to minimize its
role in global governance. Maybe the challenges are
how to leverage rising Chinese prosperity
and scientific prowess to our own benefit, how to
institutionalize relationships between China,
the United States, and other Asian countries
that reinforce regional peace and stability, and
how to work with China to address global issues and
manage the global commons. If the questions are changed,
the policy answers to them change too. In the Cold War– Nixon’s and Sadat’s exceptional
statecraft not withstanding– diplomacy for the most part
resembled trench warfare, with confrontations along
well-established fronts that seldom moved. The purpose of diplomacy in
that era was to hold the line and prevent intrusions
by each superpower into the other’s
sphere of influence. Each side sought to exploit
local strife, as in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia,
Angola, Mozambique, and Afghanistan
to its advantage. But neither was
willing to provoke war with the other that might
escalate to the nuclear level. Struggles between them took
the form of proxy wars. Within their respective
spheres of influence, diplomacy was a form of
imperial administration, holding subordinate states
and politicians in line, and trying to mitigate the
disunity their quarrels brought to their bloc. We’re now in a new and far
more fluid, and arguably, much more dangerous era. Spheres of influence are
more porous than ever before. Transactionalism is spreading. Alliances are eroding, and
with them, the predictability they provide. The limited and temporary
partnerships characteristic of entente are multiplying. Protectorates are
losing credibility. Client states are increasingly
unconstrained and dismissive of their patrons. Doubt and hedging had begun to
replace trust and commitment in international relations
before Donald Trump was elected president of the United States
16 months ago on a platform of ungracious nationalism. Since then, doubt and hedging
have become omnipresent. The uncertainties agitating
other great and middle ranked powers are now acute. By suggesting that the American
commitment to NATO members and other allies was
contingent on their reimbursing the cost of the United States
of deterring attacks on them, President Trump signaled
an apparent willingness to downgrade these allies
to protectorates, or even client states. That was of course,
before the blob contrived to have the
president’s agenda swallowed by the swamp. Mr. Trump’s subsequent
partial assimilation by the military industrial
congressional complex does not erase Europe’s
newly aroused anxieties about dependence on
America for its defense. Japan and others in Asia
have similar concerns, though for the
most part, they are too polite or cautious
to voice them. The norms of rule-bound
behavior so carefully crafted into the United Nation’s
charter, the Geneva Conventions, and other
multilateral agreements, like the treaty on
nonproliferation of nuclear weapons,
are being set aside. International law no longer
constrains powerful nations from invading or dismembering
others, overtly or covertly intervening to change
their governments, assassinating their citizens,
or unilaterally disrupting their commerce. Today, expediency
overrides principle. The ends justify the means, and
might substitutes for right. Meanwhile, the
United States remains caught in Afghanistan-Iraq,
and a steadily expanding list of other strategic sinkholes and
pitfalls, its original reasons for invading these places
long satisfied or forgotten. The blowback continues to
mount from these misadventures as radicalized aggrieved
Muslims seek reprisal. We are caught in a vicious
cycle of reciprocally escalating hatred and violence. As a consequence,
we Americans are cutting constitutional
corners and debasing the due process that is the
heart of our Bill of Rights. This imperils our domestic
tranquility and freedom, even as it lowers our
moral standing abroad. We have now declared
our intention to focus our defense planning
on fighting militant Islamism, Russia, and China,
but we have developed no political or
economic strategy for dealing with
these challenges by measures short of war. We Americans are sinking
deeper into debt with ever less to show for it. We need a period of peace, a
time out from perpetual warfare to address a widening
range of problems at home. It’s time to ask what
strategy might best foster an international
environment in which Americans can confidently expect to
enjoy the civil liberties that our most precious
heritage, as well as prosperity, domestic tranquility,
and personal security. The sole remaining purpose of
our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria appears to be
avoiding having to admit defeat. These wars are costly
in blood and treasure. They raise, rather
than reduce the danger of terrorist attacks on
Americans at home and abroad. No one can explain what
they are now about. Still less how, after 17
years of US engagement in Afghanistan, 15 in Iraq,
and nearly seven in Syria, they will end,
and on what terms. Our continuing
participation in them is convincing evidence of
American obstinacy, not our strategic acumen. Does nothing, nothing to
enhance the credibility of either our leadership,
or our military power. The reinforcement of
failure is always a mistake, unless it is a tactical move
linked to a strategic advance toward a broader goal. No one has made the case that
serious American strategic interests are now at stake
in any of these wars. No strategy depends
on their outcome. No alliance stands
or falls on it. These wars are all
in need of achievable objectives, that
once accomplished, could justify ending
the US role in them. America is caught and a
sunk cost trap, our generals and their admirers
are determined to carry on with failed
interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, because
of that time, money, and blood Americans have poured
into these misadventures, not because they have any
expectation at all of success. By this logic, the more we fail,
the more blood and treasure we must commit. This is not just financially
ruinous, it is madness. Afghans are handsome,
charming people, and redoubtable warriors. But the United States
has never had anything to gain from alliance,
entente protection, or the establishment of a
client state relationship with Afghanistan. The sole American interest
there has been strategic denial, first to the Soviet Union,
and then to Arab terrorists with global reach. Some Americans may well
have strong opinions about how Afghans should
govern themselves. But these convictions
do not justify a war. The United States has nothing
to gain from involving ourselves in the contention between
India and Pakistan that fuels Afghan instability. Americans need to
remember why we got into Afghanistan
in the first place if we’re ever going
to get out of it. The basic mission
of US intervention to overthrow the
Taliban regime in 2001 was to convince Afghans
that they could not afford to host al-Qaeda,
or another similar Islamist terrorist group. After losing about 150,000
dead over the 17 years of the American invasion
and attempted pacification of their country,
Afghans have been left in no doubt about this. With our original
mission accomplished, it’s time for the United States
to roll back mission creep and leave Afghanistan on
terms that will make it clear that we will be
prepared to resume military action against
anti-American terrorists there or in Pakistan if we
deem that necessary in future. Deterrents can and should
replace American boots on the ground in
southwestern Asia. The US war on Islamist
militants in Afghanistan was the precursor to overt
and covert interventions, drone campaigns, and other forms
of warfare in Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and
70 other countries. Far from reducing the
threat of jihadi terrorism, these campaigns in
the Muslim world have become the major
stimulus for terrorism and the major justification for
it, both at home and abroad. The thesis that quote, “we
must fight them over there, or fight them whoever
they are here,” is demonstrably nonsense. It is precisely because
we are over there that they are over here. This feedback loop must
be broken for Americans to enjoy affordable security. The grievances that drive
anti-American terrorism cannot be cured by military means. They are political, and
require political solutions. Intensifying schisms
within Islam– especially Sunni Islam–
are part of the problem. The United States is
singularly ill equipped to deal with these. That must be done through
entente with Muslim partners. Saudi Arabia’s new emphasis
on religious tolerance and combating extremist ideology
and its leadership of the 41 member Islamic military
coalition to combat terrorism makes it a logical candidate
for this role in partnership with Europeans, as
well as Americans. Meanwhile, a rebalance
in US relations with NATO allies Japan and
South Korea is long overdue. These countries– prostrate at
the outset of the Cold War– have long since recovered
their wealth and power. It’s time for them to assume
greater responsibility for their own defense
against external adversaries, and internal terrorists. They will not do so if the
United States continues to configure and
deploy its forces so as to be able to fight their
battles without them. The Trump
administration has just designated Russia and China
as strategic adversaries. Both have noticed this,
and are responding. Russia is a regional
great power that remains traumatized by the
Nazi invasion, the collapse of the Soviet Union
and its empire, the indifference with which
the United States greeted its effort to embrace the
liberal international order, and the humiliation of
ongoing Western denigration of its power and influence. It fears American efforts
to develop the capability to decapitate its leadership
with a nuclear first strike, engineer regime
change in Moscow, and establish a hostile
military presence on its central and
southern borders, in addition to its
Northwestern Baltic borders, where
NATO is of course, currently entrenching itself. Moscow’s principal defense
against American hostility– which is something we
should think about– is the deterrent value of its
enormous nuclear arsenal, which could destroy the United
States, and with it, much, maybe all of the world. Short of Armageddon,
Russia seeks to change US policies
that menace it, and to ensure that it’s
protected from the United States and its European
allies by friendly buffers states in Belarus and Ukraine. The United States
and much of Europe view this in mirror image
terms as assertively aggressive Russian behavior. This image is buttressed
by Russian agitprop and disinformation
campaigns targeted at the electoral choices
of voters in the West. It builds on
reactions to Russia’s opportunistic
responses to backlash by Russian speakers in
Ukraine against Ukrainian ethnolinguistic chauvinism. Russia is not the originator
of the digital, video, social media, and other
hallucinogenic information technologies that have
ushered in an age of unreason in the West. But as the Russian state has
joined advertising companies– Cambridge Analytica, I guess– and political spin
doctors, and learning how to exploit Western
neuroses and psychoses through these technologies. The celebrity politics and
the rot and civil literacy, civility,
reality-based analysis, and policy dialogue now
affecting democratic societies have greatly enhanced
the marginal utility of Russian agitprop. American vulnerability to this
cannot be remedied by defense budget plus ups, bluster and
shows of force, sanctions, arms transfers, or
denunciatory diplomacy. The only effective answer is
to strengthen civil society, buttress the rule of law, and
reinforce democratic norms here at home. But we must also understand
and abate the factors stimulating Russian
rancor and pugnacity. Russia’s aim is not to
discredit democracy, per se. Nor is China’s. Each is defending its interests
as it sees them against threats it perceives, not making
an ideological point. Both countries entered
post-ideological phases a quarter century ago. But based on recent experience,
neither sees Western democracy as likely to best
the performance of its own form of autocracy. China in particular
is content to let Western systems of government
discredit themselves while it gets on with
its own development. The appeal of our political
systems will fall, and theirs will rise to the
extent that we in the West failed to address the mounting
anxiety of our citizens over stagnant wages,
increasingly unjust income distribution, entrenched
inequality of opportunity, declining domestic tranquility
and personal safety, wrenching changes in social
norms and institutions, and the like. Better performance
on our part is key. But we should also
examine our policies to reduce the
extent to which they feed Russian fears and
Chinese apprehensions. The misapprehensions of
American military capabilities and intentions, stoked
by our recent statements of our national
security posture, do not serve our interests. China is fully integrated
into the global and regional economies. It cannot be contained. America is being
eclipsed economically in an increasingly
Sino-centric Asia. China is too big and
potentially too powerful to be balanced by its neighbors,
individually or collectively. American military primacy
along China’s borders is as unsustainable as European
primacy along America’s borders proved to be as the
20th century began. The United States will
either coexist with China in the Western Pacific,
or be pushed back by it. The United States has
the political, economic, and military heft to help
China’s neighbors accommodate its power on terms
that make them full participants in the
management of the Indo-Pacific region’s economy,
security, and politics, and avoid Chinese domination. If China’s neighbors–
especially Japan– assume much greater
responsibility for their own defense,
build regional coalitions, and enlist American
support for a more independent and self-reliant
stance than in the past, US dominance of the
region’s affairs need not be followed
by Chinese hegemony. China is of course, not
just an Indo-Pacific power, but a rising presence on
the entire Eurasian landmass and in adjacent areas. It’s belt and road
initiative is a bold move to connect all of Eurasia,
from the Azores to the Bering Strait, from
Arkhangelsk to Colombo in a single new
geoeconomic zone. There is no feasible
American military retort to this grand strategy. The perilous state
of American finances precludes an economic
response to it. You can’t beat
something with nothing. China’s connectivity initiative
requires a geopolitical answer. The example of
American participation in European affairs
seems relevant. The US presence in Europe helps
to offset the otherwise natural dominance of Germany to
allay the concerns of smaller countries about
German ascendancy, and to facilitate
Pan-European cooperation. Similarly, American
participation in Eurasian rulemaking and
implementation in cooperation with Europe, Japan, and
others, as well as China, could temper and offset
Chinese influence, relieve the concerns of smaller
countries about Chinese power, and facilitate confident
transnational cooperation among the nations of
the super continent. We are clearly entering
a new phase of history. But the key challenge
of US foreign policy remains how to foster
an international order conducive to the
continued life, liberty– could someone turn that back on? And the pursuit of
happiness at home. These purposes are best served
by a peaceful international environment. Nurturing such an environment
requires a diplomatic strategy of relationship and
coalition building that is more than
purely military. This is especially
the case when– as now– the power of others
military as well as economic is growing relative to
that of the United States. Americans have a
strategic interest in sustaining international
law as a reassurance to other countries that
they need not arm themselves with nuclear or other
weapons of mass destruction to defend themselves against
us, or other stronger nations. The United States
has a vital interest in addressing the causes
of potential conflicts, not just deterring
their outbreak and allowing them to
worsen unintended. Americans need to
prevent adversaries from becoming enemies, and
to preclude the formation of coalitions against us. To enjoy affordable
formidable security, we must rebuild and develop
America’s competence at diplomacy, as
well as warfighting. This effort must
begin with efforts– I believe– to restore precision
to our diplomatic terminology and reasoning
processes, to sharpen our analysis of
international realities, and to rediscover
diplomacy as a strategy. To this end, we should
focus on the development of diplomatic doctrine,
a teachable body of interrelated
operational concepts that enable us to use
all elements of our power to influence the behavior
of other states and peoples by measures short of war. We can do this if we
rediscover diplomatic history and develop case studies
that make its lessons accessible to practitioners. We have a military
establishment– as I said– of unprecedented
professionalism and competence. But many, if not most of
the challenges we face are not military, or amenable
to military solutions. Excellence in
diplomacy is at least as essential to the
future of our country as is excellence in the
conduct of military operations. The leveling of
legacy institutions like the United States
Department of State and the Foreign Service by
the Trump administration promises to offer an
opportunity to begin anew. We must begin to prepare
the way to enable a future administration
to seize that opportunity. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] I think I’m going to
sit down, if I may. So I’d be glad to entertain
comments or questions. Yes sir? Do you think Mike Pompeo
is going to get confirmed, and if he is confirmed, if
there’s even a chance in hell that he is going to address any
the issues that you summarized at the very end of your talk? Yes and no. He will be confirmed. And no, he is not the person
to address these issues. There is a fundamental
problem with the process of professionalization
that I was outlining. Somebody’s too quick
on the draw, I think. And it is the spoils system. Mr. Pompeo is a very
bright man, no doubt. First in his class,
mechanical engineering degree at West Point, one of the
editors of the Harvard Law Review when he
was in law school. Very articulate. He also has views which are
quite different from anybody internationally. And he has what is
described as good chemistry with the president, which
means he never disagrees with. the president, which is not
what a Secretary of State is supposed to do. But he inherits a department
which has been broken. 12% of the Foreign
Service has already left. A large group is on the way out. The senior ranks
have been depleted. The intake is restricted. People are not
being replenished. The people who are
leaving are people with decades worth of language
and cultural communication experience, experience
in diplomacy, which is the art of persuading
other people to do things our way. And to the extent
they replaced at all, they replaced with
people no experience, no foreign language, no nothing. I think the figure of 130 key
positions in the foreign policy establishment is
the right figure. 65 don’t even have a
nominee in process. The number of vacancies
is vastly larger. Those whom Tillerson managed to
put in– very few by the way– will be leaving. It appears that Mr. Pompeo
may as one of his first acts undo the appointment of Susan
Thornton as Assistant Secretary for East Asia Pacific. She is a career officer. A very fine one. Can you imagine taking command
of a military operation, and your first act is to
fire the most distinguished professionals in the group? What that does to morale,
if there is any morale? When I worked at the
Department of State– and I’m sure others here
had a similar experience– if you walked the corridors
at 6:30 in the morning or at 7:30 or 8:00 at
night, people were working. People are leaving at
4:00 in the afternoon now. This is an organization that
has basically been broken. There’s a difference between
pessimists and optimists. Pessimist think things can’t
possibly get any worse. Optimists think, sure,
they can get worse. And I’m an optimist
in this context. But I think we will hit
bottom at some point, and we need to be thinking
about how we make up for what we’re doing. How do we train
people to do the jobs that the experienced
people who are leaving once knew how to do, how to train
them to do those jobs better. Let’s take this
as an opportunity. But I’m sorry to say at
an academic institution that international relations
theory is interesting, but largely irrelevant to
the practice of diplomacy. Conflict studies,
conflict resolution and management
studies come closer, but they don’t
address the question of when you encounter this
situation, what are the options that you should consider? How should you
consider this question? This is what you do for the
first year of law school. This is what they teach you,
how to think like a lawyer. And of course, you’re then
forever damned [INAUDIBLE].. But we need to be thinking about
the pedagogy of the profession. Chas, can you speak
into the microphone? It’s a little hard to hear. Oh, I’m sorry. That? Yes. Should there be a
United States Academy of International Affairs? Something similar to
the military academies? You know, it’s very interesting
in the legislative session in 1796, I believe,
a bill was introduced to establish a diplomatic
equivalent of West Point. That bill was reintroduced
with every Congress up until some time, I
don’t remember the date, but ’60s or ’70s. When it passed and it created
not a diplomatic training institution, but
a government think tank called the United States
Institute of Peace, which is a fine institution, it
has a beautiful building overlooking the Potomac, and
doesn’t answer the problem. So 32% proposed cut
in the foreign affairs budget at the same time that the
Defense Department budget is– and related budgets were
plus stockpiling more than the total amount
of the foreign affairs budget, the existing one. That’s why I mentioned
other people are not doing this like the Chinese. They literally– literally
doubled their budget just now for foreign affairs. They’ve set up an aid
agency, which they never had. We’re going out of business in
the foreign assistance area, they’re getting into it. That tells you something
about the direction of events. Well, I have just a
quick question just to follow up with that. Because we know
we’re historically, if not aggressively,
competitive so why don’t we use that as motivation for us? The Chinese are passing
us in diplomacy. Well, look, we’re living
in a country that has just doubled down on paying for
daily government operations by increasing the
credit rollovers. We have a long-term
financial plan which consists of rolling
over debt at higher and higher levels forever. That is why the
debt is going up. We just passed a
tax program des– misdescribed as tax
reform which, basically, increased deficit spending. Instead of raising the
national savings rate to be able to invest in
competition, research, research and development, infrastructure
that improves efficiency within the economy, human
infrastructure, retraining workers, looking at the
labor management system to see whether it
can be corrected so that corporate
management does not respond to competition by firing
workers and outsourcing, but responds as they
do in Germany to– by looking at automation
and retraining the existing workforce. Lots of things we could do. What we have is Brownian
motion in Washington. Nobody has a strategy. Nobody’s willing to put
any money behind anything. We have an infrastructure
program grandly announced with no money. So, yes, that’s what
we should be doing. Americans should be
motivated by a leader who instead of whining about
everybody taking advantage of us, says, we
have to do better. You don’t win games by whining. So, yes, you asked exactly
the right question. Sorry, you– Do you have any advice
for kind of preparation, like, do you talk
about like a new State Department [INAUDIBLE],,
for young people who want to go into politics,
international affairs. Do you have any advice
for how kind of we can prepare ourselves? I don’t think the preparation
for public service is really any different, that
it’s going to be any different in the
future than it has been. This is a bad time
for public service. The exodus from the
federal workforce I think is up 17% or 18% this
year over normal years. We’re losing an awful lot of
people we shouldn’t be losing. And you will see
this in the form of less efficient
government services, more bureaucracy, and so forth. Not less. How should you prepare yourself? If you’re going to– if you’re
thinking about the foreign service or allied professions– CIA, for example–
then the preparation consists of getting a very good
liberal education, including becoming familiar with history. Not just our own, but
history of others. It includes testing
your language ability to see whether you
can learn languages. And it includes developing
communication skills, which you can do, you know, probably
not so much in a university, but if you speak at the Rotary
Club or something like that. So those characteristics
won’t change. But there was a time when people
joined the federal workforce, the foreign service,
because they thought it would be a lark. It would– you know, they’d
get to go Interesting places and do interesting
things for a few years, and then they’d drop out
and go work on Wall Street. And I’m sorry to tell
you that that’s not going to cut it in the future. You’re going to have to
have a real dedication to public service. You’re going to have
to be a Patriot. You’re going to have to be
willing to sacrifice, and try to help rebuild the country. Because the country is– the country is being
disassembled in many respects. So patriotism, public service,
selflessness, the desire to do something for others
rather than just for yourself. I suspect there
are many people who have all those characteristics. Some of them join the military. Yeah. In your opinion, which
countries would you say have the best
foreign policy benefits their respective country? Pound for pound, Singapore. No question. Why do they have such
a good government? They take government seriously. They pay their government
employees very well. They don’t have any
corruption as a result. There’s no excuse for
corruption in Singapore. And by the way, if you
are corrupt in Singapore, you don’t last long. So Singapore, as you know,
is a very small country between very large ones
in a dangerous region, and it’s managed. And as I said, it has not
compromised its independence despite efforts by everybody
to try to enlist it in one way or another. Others have excellent foreign
services, very intelligent foreign policies. I would say at the moment the
Russians are very impressive. You know, if you
think about it, they think about their performance
in Syria and the Middle East. With minimal
military investment, they’ve made themselves the go
to country in the Middle East. They’ve made themselves–
they put themselves at the center of
all sorts of things. Everybody understands now. You can’t deal
with refugee issues without the
cooperation of Moscow. You can’t try to make peace
in Syria without Moscow. The UN can’t persuade
combatants to stand down even for a few
hours, but Moscow can. You have– and I
should say they also showed off their
weaponry in a way that’s increased their arms market. They demonstrated
its capability. And didn’t cost them very much. At the height, they had
5,000 personnel in Syria. So this is their operation
there, I would say, I hate to say it,
but it was a model of political,
military coordination. I don’t want to go on. There are plenty
of countries that take foreign affairs
seriously, and do them– do them well. I’m not a lawyer
by trade, but one of the hypothetical
question was that you got a call from
Washington to participate in the diplomatic solution
what’s going on in North Korea. Do you have any caveats
that you might like to use? I think North Korea
represents– there are a lot of lessons to be
learned from the current state of the North Korean issue. The first is we had 65
years from the Armistice in 1953 in which we pledged
that we would try to replace the armistice with a peace. But we never made
any effort to do so. So we dealt with
the North Koreans entirely through ostracism,
confrontation, shows of force, and deterrence to, you
know, wall them up. And we never tried to solve
the problem in Korea and Korea. What’s the problem? Well, everybody’s got a
different definition of it. But the North
Korean definition is vulnerability to external
attack and regime change. And by the way, if we pull the
plug on the Iran nuclear deal, forget any deal
with North Korea. Because who will
want to deal with us if we are so inconstant. What would I do– well,
let’s say the president, apparently, impetuously,
with no staff support, prior discussion, or study,
agreed to go meet Kim Jong-un. That’s good. Frankly, I think not talking
to the North Koreans, which is what we’ve mostly done, meant
that even if we could come up with an idea to resolve the
issue, there was no path to it. Perhaps, the art of the deal
will prevail in this meeting. On the other hand, in order
to make a deal, in order to have a summit,
usually, you have to have some preconditions. You have to know what you want. The other side has to
regard that as acceptable. There has to be preparation
so that you are, if anything, you’re either
ratifying work that’s been done by your
subordinates, or you’re pushing it one last
inch into an agreement. Now, we have a president
who doesn’t read, who seemed shocked
when Xi Jinping told him something about Korean
history at Mar-a-Lago. We have a government in which
the senior Korean specialists have all resigned and left. I’m told that the plan
is to use CIA channels. The CIA, apparently,
has some sort of relationship with the North
Korean reconnaissance bureau, which is their equivalent. There’s no evidence
that that’s happening. General McMaster just
met in San Francisco with his Japanese and Korean
and South Korean counterparts to discuss the summit. General McMaster– General
McMaster is genuine– generally regarded as a
proponent of a military assault on North Korea, which
is precisely what motivates the North Koreans
to want a nuclear deterrent. So this looks to me like a
goat rope, to put it politely. I could use other words. And I– I think
it’s quite a gamble. Whether it actually happens
or not is another question. We’ve seen this
president change his mind on all sorts of things. Yes. Given your current
opinion, what is your nonoptimistic
estimation the amount of time it’ll probably take for us to
get back to where we should be or where you
believe we should be assuming there’s no Trump
2 to kick the boulder back down the hill? Well, let us– let us remind
ourselves that removing regimes does not replace them. If– you know, we
did that in Baghdad. If Mr. Trump is
removed from office by impeachment or
by elections, we don’t know who’s
going to succeed him. Well, we do if he’s
impeached, it’s Mike Pence. You can think about that. At least the women in the
audience will be safe. The– so let me address
your question on two levels. One is I don’t think it’s
that hard with a change at the top in an election 20/20,
and the right person coming in. By the way, where
are the candidates? Where’s the– where is
the positive program that is the antidote to the problems
that we all know exist? I don’t see it. So we get a change of
personnel at the top, I think the country will
be very ready for a rethink of a lot of issues and to
move in a different direction. And I don’t think– I think the problem
with the last election was that it was a contest
between more of the same. And, you know, BS, basically. Very effective BS. So on that level, change
could come easily. The institutions that
have been destroyed– State Department,
Foreign Service, EPA, education department–
you can just go down the list. You’re going to take
20 years to re– reestablish it. The army will tell
you, I don’t know, whether Peter Mirasol
[INAUDIBLE] who’s in the Navy, will agree with
this, but the army will tell you that it
takes about 20 years to form a division to the point
where people work effectively together. And it’s in my
experience, that’s the same with
government departments. You know, the Defense
Department created in 1947 did not become effective
until around 1962. And Homeland Security created
in when, 2003, still is not working together. So the institutions will
require a lengthy period of reconstruction, which
is why, I think, we need to think about how to
train the people to run them while we’re in this
period of confusion. I don’t know whether that’s
optimistic or pessimistic. Well, aside from
current situation, historically, for
example, Hillary Clinton was quoted about, I
don’t know, a Baker, Bush, Regan, were all
promising not to expand NATO, her famous quote was,
well, it wasn’t in writing. She’s a trained lawyer. So I’m not sure if training in
law schools is for the best– You know, there’s– –form of diplomacy. I’m sure you know the story of
the guy who dies and ends up in heaven and he’s interviewed
by God, and God says, well, who are you and what do you do? And, he says, I’m an engineer. And God says, well,
you’re going to hell. I’m going to assign you there. So he goes down to hell
and after a few years, hell has got flush toilets
and hot and cold running water in the showers,
and air conditioning, and everything is looking up. And God and the devil
have a conversation, and the devil says,
you know, that’s a hell of an engineer you sent me. And God says, well, engineer,
I sent an engineer to you? That was a mistake. I want him– I want him back. The devil says, sue me. God says, I will. And the devil says, where are
you going to find a lawyer? Anyway, so I’m sorry
I interrupted you. A highly visible
Americans, basically, say, well, if you don’t have
the [INAUDIBLE] in writing. And the diplomatic history
is filled with core– verbal corollaries that
undergirded written treaties. Yeah. Actually, the National Archives
project at George Washington University two days ago– two days ago,
released the documents that record the discussions
between the George H.W. Bush administration and
Gorbachev and the Russians. And it’s very clear
what was said. So whether it was,
quote, in writing or not, makes no difference. That is the sort of
quibble that gives lawyers a really bad name. [INAUDIBLE] for 20
years of that, you know. Not easily, you know. I think one of the
lessons that you learn in the course
of a diplomatic career is that once trust is forfeited,
it’s almost impossible to restore it. And I don’t want to give
earthy examples of this, but if there is a problem in a
marriage that destroys trust, how soon does it come back? So, I think, it’s
a real problem. And, you know, you
can’t go around saying, well, Obama did it, you know. That’s irrelevant. The question is what are
you going to do and are you trustworthy? Mr. Trump, internationally,
has a reputation for being totally untrustworthy. So it’s clearly not going
to happen on his watch. Yes, he’s worked at it. So, yes. I have a question about Xi– Xi and China having power
now for like perhaps– Right. –what are your thoughts? Well, there is–
the justification for this is the
usual one, namely, that there is an agenda that
needs to be pushed through, and that if people are focused
on a change of leadership five years from now, the
agenda will be derailed. It will not be possible
to get it through, because people
will be maneuvering politically for advantage. That’s the usu– you know,
so here’s the reality. There is an agenda that
needs to be pushed through. Major economic reform
steps on a lot of toes and vested interests in China. That’s true. What we don’t know is
whether the explanation of the removal of term
limits is, in fact, that those toes will now
get stepped on by somebody who feels confident
that he doesn’t face a deadline for stepping
down, or whether that’s just a rationalization. So I always remember having
served in lots of places with presidents for life,
and that sort of thing. The comment of George
III, who was not a great admirer of American
independence, when he was told that George Washington
was going to retire to the farm at the end of his
second term, and he said, if he does
that, he will be the greatest man in the world. Knowing when to leave is the
key to greatness in history very often. And we have two minutes
before I have to leave. I wonder if the
occurrences following that question, the
occurrences that are happening in China and
seemingly in Russia, as well as other states
indicate to some extent that democracy is losing out
to hypocrisy on a global basis. And what that means, and what
do you think the significance is of that. I don’t care what
anybody else thinks. I’m more interested
in what you think. The problem is autocracy
is outperforming democracy. So– and democracy is ill. It’s ill. It’s sick. We are not producing intelligent
decisions, or any decisions very often, in a timely basis. Our system is gridlocked. It is also widely seen as
very venal and corrupt. People buy votes. No nation– no one asserts
a national interest. Everybody asserts a
particular interest. Sometimes out of belief but,
frankly, more often than not, because that’s key to
campaign contributions. So we have a system that
doesn’t integrate decisions in a healthy manner. We have a president who is
not admired internationally. We have a Congress that is
not admired domestically. We have a Supreme Court that
some people describe as off its meds. Off its meds. And so if you don’t
set an example of effective governance,
what do you expect? You know, so I– you know, I happen to believe
that citizen participation in decision-making, which
is the essence of democracy, is essential for
many reasons, and it solves lots of problems
in political systems. But It’s very hard
to make a case now that it’s producing
better decisions than are being
made by autocrats. So what’s the answer? It’s the same answer
that I gave earlier. You have to– we have
to pull our socks up and get our act
together, and compete. We have to recognize
that blaming other people for our problems
is not going to solve them. Those problems are here. They’re made by us. So that’s what I think. I think we should be defending
democracy by making it work. [INAUDIBLE] concepts that
have been put up here, including more and democracies. Since the concepts are good. But the practice has
been allowed to slide. When we look law, we see
we don’t get justice, we get [INAUDIBLE] a
obsessive adversity, which was crisis is supposedly
right of justice [INAUDIBLE] like this business
[INAUDIBLE] and business is just has turned into a bottom
line– yet another obsession. So that there [INAUDIBLE]
international notorious wealth and [INAUDIBLE] I think we have a problem
that we need to review. The basis of our system is a
belief in process, due process. Process legitimizes outcomes. That is how this
country is organized. A deliberative process
in the Congress for legislation, a judicial
process of dispute resolution in the courts. But most people
now seem to want– seem to believe that
outcomes justify and legitimize decisions,
not the process. And that is anti-democratic
because elections are meant to be the process by
which we select our leaders, and it is ultimately
de-legitimizing for the courts and everyone else. And it doesn’t– it doesn’t– you know, if we get the wrong
outcomes, which we increasingly seem to, that
exacerbates the problem. Internationally, as I
said, international law is on the skids. Who put it there? We had a lot to do with it. The invasion of Iraq
was totally illegal. The separation of Kosovo
from Serbia, from Yugoslavia was totally illegal. We said it didn’t
set a precedent, but Mr. Putin
thought it did, and– and used that
precedent in Crimea. By what right is the
United States now stationing troops in Syria? We even asked the Saudis,
apparently, for $4 billion to develop parts of
Syria that are not under the control
of the government. We didn’t– these
are Kurdish areas. We didn’t consult with
the Turks, either. But where is the issue–
where has the principle of sovereignty gone? Where has the principle of
collective authorization of international action through
the Security Council gone? We build a lot of
legal institutions, we’re basically not using
them, we’re trashing them, and the consequences will
afflict our posterity. Fortunately, I will– I plan to check out before
all of this gets too bad. And I think we should
bring this to a close. Thank you.

One thought on “Chas Freeman ─ Diplomacy as Strategy

  1. how can there be no comments. Chas one of the best duty bound like jack Matlock. Charles Freeman decent man's ambassador, a America at it' best.

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