Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ideas and Diplomacy

This week is the week that my ideas about international relations and problem-solving (example here) seem to be gaining a higher profile and even some currency. Not that I wrote any of the articles or can even claim the ideas as original thought. I can claim a longstanding belief in the underlying ideals and have articulated them in a variety of ways over four decades. So I am pleased to see that others are presenting these ideas to a larger audience.

The Institute for Policy Studies just released a report called "Just Security" in which the US would act "as a global partner, not a global boss".
Among other features, "Just Security" calls for reducing US military spending by a third, or some US$213 billion; carrying out a "rapid" withdrawal of US forces from Iraq; and seeking sharp cuts in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals as a first step toward realizing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's goal of banning nuclear weapons.

The new approach, laid out in a 69-page report released in Washington on Tuesday by the Institute for Policy Studies' Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) program, also calls for sustained and generous US engagement in multilateral institutions, particularly those aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and enhance the abilities of poor countries to curb the spread of deadly diseases.
(emphasis added)

The Nation has a good article on liberal internationalism and notes that America's longstanding commitment to international accord and action is threatened not by neo-conservatives but liberal internationalists who still cling to the idea of great power influence (neo-cnservative lite). The article presents a good definition of international relations worthy of America:
[Genuine liberal internationalism]...is neither a naïve idealism that ignores the realities of power nor a crude realism that ignores the power of ideals. While universal liberalism and universal democracy are its ultimate goals, the practical and immediate goal has been global peace. Enduring international peace is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition for liberal democracy. Why? In a world of recurring great-power conflicts or widespread anarchy, concerns about security may force even liberal democracies to sacrifice their freedoms to the imperatives of self-defense. This is what Woodrow Wilson meant when he said that the United States and its allies must make the world "safe for democracy." A world safe for democracy need not be a democratic world. It need only be a world in which democracies like the United States are not forced by recurrent world wars to turn themselves into armed camps.

Two articles in a week presenting ideas that I support is pretty good. Today I came across The First Resort of Kings: American Cultural Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century by Richard Arndt. The book discusses many of the above ideas in historical context as diplomacy that uses knowledge and understanding of culture and ideas in relating to other nations. Not surprisingly, this approach has contributed to international cooperation and accord. The reviewer concludes:
In concluding his thorough review of the 20th century, Arndt addresses the 21st: "Why do Americans, having discovered the appalling damage to America's image, and, beneath that thin crust, to US credibility and trust, overlook our rich history of cultural diplomacy?" Indeed, the history is rich enough and the lessons learned are universal enough that a translation of this book could serve as a handbook for the foreign service of any country that has the foresight to look beyond its immediate problems, as well as the courage to view security without wearing the blinders of panic and mistrust.

Foresight and courage. That would be good. Maybe it will even get us through that hard rain that Mimus warned us about.