December 23, 2004

Grand Strategy for the Second Term

In Foreign Affairs next month, John Lewis Gaddis looks at foreign policy in Bush's second term, and concludes that the president needs to "persuade[] the world that it [is] better off with the United States as its dominant power than with anyone else." It's not a bad idea, but it's the sort of crystal ball that seems heavily clouded by the war in Iraq. Over the next four years, in all likelihood, there simply won't be a lot of opportunities for the United States to flex its military strength in a way that could make our allies uncomfortable. As much as the Weekly Standard would like us to elbow our way into Syria, it won't happen—Iraq is going to bog the U.S. down for at least another year, maybe more if elections prove chaotic, and the public appears far more skeptical about U.S. military strength now than they have in a long while.

No, the real challenge over the next four years will be to persuade our allies that they should be concerned about the things we're concerned about. The President will inevitably need to convince Europe and Japan why they should worry about a nuclear Iran, and why the benefits of a real threat of sanctions against Tehran would outweigh any short-term trade benefits they enjoy right now. Ditto for democracy in the Middle East—in order for any real liberalization scheme to move forward, the EU will need to understand why they should value a stronger push towards political reform.

It's a much bigger problem. Notice that, in Europe at least, only France and Germany are really opposed of U.S. power per se. But nearly every country in Europe values a different set of foreign policy goals than the U.S. does.
-- Brad Plumer 4:23 PM || ||