From Thinking Outside The Boxe’s Sydney Correspondent: For far too long the U.S. concept of foreign policy has been inextricably tied to ‘military policy’ or ‘defense policy’ – another ridiculous and misleading euphemism for overseas military action. In this article I will argue that policy makers need to fundamentally recalibrate their foreign policy in an integrated way that benefits the security and economy of the nation.
Similarly when we look at the dysfunctional economy and hear complaints about how the Chinese are ‘stealing’ American jobs it should be a wake up call to the Government. Presidential candidates often speak of their business acumen as a reason to be elected. Obviously you cannot run the nation exactly like a corporation but there are some ways in which the analogy is possible. These will be discussed in the second part of this article.
A call for a recalibration of foreign policy should not necessarily be regarded as a call for ‘soft diplomacy’, outlined to in a CBS News article, or so – called ‘smart power’ (the use of capabilities of both the State Department and the Pentagon – diplomacy, military action when needed, as well as legal and cultural options). It is clearly not smart to fight some wars even if the Government does believe they are ‘just’. What is the point of killing an ant with a hammer then hiding a waste of resources behind the pretence of ‘nation – building’ (a euphemism for installing friendly democracies by force). When America acts overseas, either in a diplomatic or military sense, it needs to be in a way that demonstrably benefits the U.S.
The argument that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were ‘just’ is a fair one. In fact I am not convinced that America did enough in Iraq, and not necessarily in a military sense (but more on this later).It has been suggested in hindsight that the wars were knee jerk reactions to 9/11. However, 9/11 demonstrated the threat that al Qaeda posed to the U.S. So something needed to be done. But, as we have learned far too late the Taliban and al Qaeda are not one and the same. In fact, according to Professor Anatol Lieven, who has met with former Taliban leaders, the invasion of Afghanistan turned them into uneasy bedfellows with their common hatred of the U.S and allied western powers. And given Osama Bin Laden was found living in Pakistan perhaps more attention could have been paid to diplomacy here rather than trying to uncover Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. In the 80’s the Soviets discovered how difficult it was to fight a war in Afghanistan. The U.S and its allies should have realized it could not allow itself to get bogged down in the same way. Of course we can be rightly pleased about many changes that have occurred in Afghanistan, including an improvement in the rights of women. But I’m not convinced this will last once the allied forces leave.
If the Pentagon had understood that the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda was always one of convenience the focus may not have been on the nation of Afghanistan but more in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Therefore the primary goal of military action would have been the disruption and destruction of the major operational capabilities of al Qaeda, something that has thankfully been achieved. In the process of targeting insurgents many innocent civilians were killed and the fragile civil structure present in the nation broke down completely. As a result the invading western powers were forced into the extremely lengthy and expensive process of “nation building”.Hindsight is 20/20 but it is very sobering to consider that the final cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to be in the order of $4.4 trillion, as reported by Reuters in June 2011. In human terms between 224,000 and 258,000 have died directly from warfare and 7.8 million people (equivalent to the population of Connecticut and Kentucky) have been displaced. Iraq is hardly an example of stability, and who knows what the future holds for Afghanistan.
Earlier I briefly suggested that the U.S. Did not go far enough in Iraq. There are plenty of people who suggest the U.S acted in Iraq and not in other comparable countries simply because America, or more accurately American corporations, were keen to secure access to the huge reserves of oil. As the example of Libya has shown, the U.S does not need an economic reason when it comes to military action in the Middle East. It does however, choose its wars carefully. But what about the oil. According to Wikipedia Iraq holds the third largest confirmed oil reserves in the world, with approximately 143 billion barrels. Following the two wars in Iraq production remains low and billions of dollars worth of investment will be needed to unlock the full potential of this resource. Reuters reports that progress is being made with production in August 2012 reaching the highest level in three decades. The Reuters article also notes that a number of foreign multinationals operate the Iraqi oilfields. Much has been made of Haliburton’s involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq’s oilfields following the wars particularly because of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s connection to the company. BBC News reported in 2003 that the value of these USAID contracts could be as high as $900 million dollars. USAID is funded by the US Government and all five companies that received the contracts were American owned, which should provide some solace to the American taxpayer.
It could easily be argued that as the US (and others) invaded Iraq and therefore were indirectly response for damage to the infrastructure of the Iraqi oilfields the US was obligated to pay the $900 million referred to above. However, it can also be argued that the US Government has a right to seek a return on its investment. A deal should have been made with the Iraqi Government that the US Government would be paid a percentage of the royalties from future oil sales, or should receive a certain number of barrels of oil free every year at least until the $900 million dollar debt is paid. The latter option would be preferable to the Government because it reduce dependence on oil from other OPEC countries. It might also help the consumer by lowering the price of gas. This is the kind of economic foreign policy that the US Government could consider embracing more widely.
This article has discussed the fact that ‘just’ wars, as with any other military conflict need to be smart wars. As America’s military budget continues to rise it is interesting to note the observation in the CBS article that, “the Pentagon now has its fingers in just about every pie in the bakery.” Many of these pies are humanitarian ones, including a $150 million dollar development and health care pie in Africa. These ‘missions’ should have the most minor military input, in both human and financial terms. The opportunity that should have been seized in Iraq provides an example of the approach the U.S Government should be taking in terms of developing new economic approaches both at home and overseas. The second part of this article will discuss this in more detail.
This is a very interesting transcript of an interview with Professor Anatol Lieven broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio program PM.