Monday, November 5, 2007
Less Is More
I haven't seen that much discussion of Barry Rosen's proposal to re-imagine America's foreign policy grand strategy, which is a shame. Because it's one of the more original, thought-provoking proposals I've seen recently, counter-intuitive in its willingness to go so far against the grain of what's been driving American strategic engagement, not just since 9/11, but since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Rosen argues that while the relative increase of America's power has increased our ability to pursue an activist role in world affairs, global trends -- including the diffusion of assymetric military capacity, globalization and the rise of identity-based conflicts -- have greatly increased the costs of such activism. That, combined with the empirical evidence of the failure of an interventionist approach, leads him to argue "The Case For Restraint", as the piece is titled:
...A U.S. strategy of restraint must include a coherent, integrated and patient effort to encourage its long-time wards to look after themselves. If others do more, this will not only save U.S. resources, it will increase the political salience of other countries in the often bitter discourse over globalization. If other consequential powers benefit as much from globalization as does the United States, they should share ownership of its political costs. If others need to pay more for their security, they will think harder about their choices.
It's similar to what I was suggesting in a few previous posts, namely that instead of concentrating responsibility for costly interventions in our own hands, we should be distributing them to everyone who stands to gain from the solutions. Rosen goes a step (or three) further and calls for a wholesale, top-to-bottom makeover of American regional alliances, most notably with Europe, Japan and Israel.
His argument -- that by subsidizing these countries' national security we're giving them a pass on responsible ownership of regional and global outcomes -- is compelling in the abstract, perhaps even convincing, even if it's probably less feasible from a practical perspective. But in his willingness to tackle the broader assumptions of policy, Rosen is provoking the kind of discussion we need to be having. Like I said, too bad it hasn't attracted that much attention.