Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’
President Obama was photographed smiling and shaking hands with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela at the Summit of the America’s. The incident has drawn criticism for Obama, specifically that his behavior with Chavez endangers America’s prestige. The crux of the critique is that we can’t be seen as soft, while providing Chavez with political leverage back home.
Quite typical of elite propaganda, the issue has been debased into an ideological battle. In one corner, we have the noble, righteous, and benevolent United States. And in the opposing corner, we have the cruel, merciless, totalitarian regime in Venezuela. This is the simplistic foreign policy propaganda the American public is so often forced to digest, and after decades of feeding, we’ve become accustomed to view world matters in terms of good versus evil.
The United Nations released a report accounting for civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2008. The report indicates that the civilian death toll rose 40% from 2007, jumping from 1,523 to 2,118 for the past year. The total surpassing two thousand marks the highest number of civilian causalities in any calender year since the Taliban was ousted in 2001.
The UN report indicates that United States and Afghan proxy forces accounted for 828 deaths in 2008. The large majority were caused by Taliban forces. Regardless, a mounting civilian death toll poses a serious threat to American foreign policy success in Afghanistan.
American foreign policy since World War I, and more so following the conclusion of World War II, has maintained one critical element above all else – to secure and preserve American power. The definition of American power takes numerous forms. A short list includes exploiting foreign resources for the benefit of American private industry, eliminating any perceived threats to American global supremacy, and usurping the popular will of foreign populations through puppet governments. The history of American foreign policy is littered with examples, as to the propagation of US power, and doesn’t need to be elucidated here.
There is little indication that the new administration of Barack Obama will pursue a different course. It was put succinctly by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech she gave on her first day in the State Department.
And we will make clear, as we go forward, that diplomacy and development are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States.
The contexual success of a democracies foreign policy is directly related to the relationship between pressure and tolerance. Pressure defined as the degree of force with which the policy nation implements it’s foreign policy towards a target nation, and tolerance as the threshold at which the target nation can no longer bear the pressure of force applied by the policy nation. A successful foreign policy must discover the appropriate balance between both force and tolerance as the two act are reciprocating elements. An excess in force causes an equal reaction in tolerance and vice versa.
There are two distinct areas in which foreign policy is applied which proposes an inverse relationship between force and tolerance. The first area is force aggression(FA). The second is force detachment(FD). Specifically, the first domain encompasses all policy implementations that include the use of military force, where as the second precludes the use of military force and profits from the implementation of such techniques as diplomacy, economic sanctions, ect.
The relationship between force and tolerance reciprocates symetrically between FA and FD. Under FA, the amount of force applied by the target nation must exceed the tolerance of the target nation in order to be successful. Conversely, with FD foreign policy the level of force dedicated must not exceed the tolerance threshold of the target nation to succeed. To illustrate clearly the application of both FA and FD foreign policy it would be prudent to utilize real world examples.
The Iraq War would a clear and current example of FA foreign policy in action. It is appropriate to distinguish that the Iraq War contains both FA and FD policy apparatus’. Do not confuse the two areas. For the moment, only the military side of the equation is of interest. It is also of note that the Iraq War can be divided into two discrete FA forms.
At the outset, the United States was faced with the defeat of the Iraq Army. The level of force necessary in order to succeed was relatively tangible. When engaged against a foreign government, it is a calculable solution. The foreign policy maker can account for the opposing army, infrastructure, and government machine of the target nation. These can be assigned a relatively accurate numerical value, and can then be evaluated to determine the required force application for success. Military planners can diagnos how many troops will be needed, what primary infrastructure points are most vital, and target regional government installations.
It is the nature of conventional warfare that both sides possess a rigorous assessment of their enemy. The transparent nature of governments allow for this luxury. With this lucid vision, the United States applied an amount of force against the Iraq government and military that far exceeded their threshold for tolerance, and scored a decisive defeat of the Iraq military alongside the toppling of the Iraq government.
Following the success of the initial FA foreign policy, it shifted towards fighting a guerrilla enemy. An enemy hidden from concrete intelligence by the opaque cloud provided by disorganization. The United States government was unable to decode precise numbers, locations, and identities of the enemy they faced. Subsequently, it made it difficult to assess the needed amount of force to exceed the tolerance level the enemy. The war evolved into a best guess scenario for the US military and, ultimately, the pending result of the US foreign policy.
Troop levels fluctuated against the varying estimations of the enemy being engaged. A larger problem was the point of application in force levels. Determining where to strike with the available force posed a constant and permanent problem. Within the overall success of a foreign policy, lies these two elements of force application – quantity and location. How much force and where to apply said force become the two questions.
In light of fragmented intelligence and mounting frustration, the US military focused their efforts on increasing the quantity of force applied. This resulted in the infamous surge. If one force is unable to preempt the enemy tolerance level, then in order to succeed a disproportionate level of applied force is necessary. The underlying premise is quite simple – if you are unable to know which points to apply force levels in a given area, the solution is to raise your force levels to allow more points in the area to apply said force to.
An example of the inverse relationship between force and tolerance in FD foreign policy can be found in the approach the United States utilized against North Korea. In respect to force, the US has employed a combination of diplomatic cessation and economic sanctions. The foreign policy goal being the reduction and dismantling of the North Korean nuclear armament. At first, it would seem that the goal is to eventually break North Korea to submit to US demands, ergo the force of diplomacy and sanctions to exceed the North Koreans tolerance to those consequences.
However, the true purpose of the US policy, and any FD foreign policy, is to employ the target nation to assess the implications of the expected consequences, and to then grade the qualitative effects against their tolerance level. In other words, the US wants to put the North Koreans into a decision – are the losses predicted by the end to diplomatic relations and economic sanctions more or less then what the North Koreans are willing to tolerate?
An important correlative element in FD foreign policy demonstrates the intent to not exceed tolerance levels is the practice of incentive allusion. In the case of the North Koreans, the US offered up increased oil exports and the construction of nuclear power plants. In conjunction with the applied force, these foreign policy carrots act as self imposed force cap on the foreign policy maker. The US cannot afford to send North Korea spiralling into an economic blackhole i.e. to willing exceed their tolerance level. Rehibilitation is the end goal, and a policy nation does not willing choose to destroy another in FD foreign policy. As such, these incentives provide the target nation reasons to not exceed their tolerance levels and devolve into chaos.
There is a curious caveat to both FA and FD foreign policy, more so towards FA. That is that in order to be successful, both must not exceed the tolerance levels of the policy nations domestic populace. This is evident in wars. A populace that contains widespread dissent towards a war proportionally decreases the likehood that foreign policy will succeed. This is because with the growth in domestic disapproval, the ability for the policy nation to apply adequate force levels diminishes.
As an addedum, it can be said that in evaluating a foreign policy the employing nation must consider equally the tolerance level of its populace and the target nation in order to determine the proper amount of force to be applied. Force and tolerance are the two key integral components in any foreign policy, and will conclude as to it’s success or failure.