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March 11, 2010

Where Have All the Strategic Thinkers Gone?
Posted by Michael Cohen

There was a pretty interesting article in the Washington Post today about Hillary Clinton's tenure at State Department and it pretty much confirmed my suspicions about our Secretary of State - she's a great public diplomat and administrator, but not much of a strategic thinker.

As Stewart Patrick noted, she struggles with priorities and questioned whether she has a "grand strategic vision." This was basically part of the deal when Obama picked her; Hillary would serve as a great "face" for America to the world; she would invest time and energy in public diplomacy, something that was critically important after the tumult of the Bush years.  But at the same time it was hard to expect much from her from a strategic standpoint. After all, she doesn't have an IR or even foreign policy background and doesn't appear to have spent a lot of time thinking about the future of American foreign policy.

It was very striking, for example, that the article recounted the experience of a young State Department FSO who was pushing the idea of engaging with "non-governmental power centers in Pakistan" while Clinton expressed skepticism. The story has a happy ending as the FSO was promoted, but the fact that the Sec State didn't agree about the importance of this issue is surprising. At a time when non-state actors are rising in importance - and Pakistan's non-governmental sector has been at the forefront of pushing for democratic change and adherence to the rule of law - it's hard to understand Clinton's skepticism. If this anecdote is any indication, she seems to be quite the foreign policy realist (although granted it's hard to draw too much of a conclusion from just one anecdote)

It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to ask the Secretary of State to focus on public diplomacy if President Obama had placed strategic thinkers in other areas of the national security bureaucracy, but he hasn't. Jim Jones and Bob Gates are obviously smart men, but one doesn't get the sense (particularly from the former) that they are focused on recalibrating US strategy. Indeed, one could fairly ask where are all the Obama campaign aides that were pushing the idea of a new mindset for American foreign policy - because they don't appear to be in the higher reaches of Obama's foreign policy team.

If you look at Obama's foreign policy to date, this has clearly been a problem. You have John Brennan saying back in August that we need to get away from the jihadist terror fixation that defined the Bush years . . . and yet then you have Obama sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and spending the lion's share of his foreign aid request in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.  We're now 14 months in to the Obama presidency and we still haven't seen a national security strategy, or the results of the QDDR process - just a QDR that continues the US reliance on military power and the overly broad definition of US global interests.

I realize that it's a lot to expect for things to change overnight and clearly the process of changing the mindset of American foreign policy is the work of generations. But I do worry that Obama has failed to put the pieces in place to realize this goal and that he seems intent, at least for now, to nibble around the edges of American foreign policy. But at a time when a new orientation for the way America's interacts with the world is desperately needed indefinitely delaying more systemic change is a recipe for continued strategic drift. Obama has surrounded himself with smart, competent individuals in his key foreign policy positions - but smart and competent is not what America needs today.

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But as I tried to point out earlier, there is no long-term strategic planning processa line western wedding dresses in this Administration. I can't help but think that part of the reason for this is that Obama's foreign policy apparatus is manned by people who don't necessarily see what the QDR is suggesting as a bad thing. (And for what it's worth,Gucci leather Duchessa Medium Boston Bag my understanding is that there are at least some folks at the highest levels of the NSC who recognize that this is a serious problem in need of immediate rectification).

And I have to say while Spencer is correct that Adminal Mullen has laid out "the early phase of the first vision for the responsible use of military force from a Joint Chiefs Chairman since Colin Powell" - that vision is, inLouis Vuitton PM Patch Agenda Cover my humble opinion, completely wrong. Look at what Mullen had to say:

We must not look upon the use of military forces only as a last resort, but as potentially the best, first option when combined with other instruments of national and international power.

We must not try to use force only in an overwhelming capacity, but in the proper capacity, and in a precise and principled manner. And we must not rolex air kingshrink from the tug of war -- no pun intended -- that inevitably plays out between policymaking and strategy execution. Such interplay is healthy for the republic and essential for ultimate success.

I'm sorry, but to me this is pretty close to the mindset that got America involved in Iraq in the first place; the last thing America needs after the disaster of Iraq is a further loosening of the constraints on thebuys montblanc pens use of military force. If Mullen's view are reflective of the president's than I'm lot more depressed about the direction Obama is going to be taking American foreign policy.

And look Spencer may well be correct that "broad strategic constructs are taking form" but I just don't see it. I see a lot of discordant pieces and words that are being contradicted by actions. What I do see is an escalation in Afghanistan that only perpetuates the stranglehold that terrorism has over our foreign policy debates and a direct contradiction of the great speech that John Brennan gave last year in which he called for "the fight against terrorists and violent extremists" to be "returned to its right and proper place: no longer defining—indeed,tiffany gold accessoriesdistorting—our entire national security and foreign policy, but rather serving as a vital part of those larger policies." What I see is nibbling around the edges on defense spending; increased resources for civilian agencies and a rhetorical focus on development but none of the sort of big picture, systemic thinking that the country needs.

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As Stewart Patrick noted, she struggles with priorities and questioned whether she has a "grand strategic vision." This was basically part of the deal when Obama picked her; Hillary would serve as a great "face" for America to the world; she would invest time and energy in public diplomacy, something that was critically important after the tumult of the Bush years. But at the same time it was hard to expect much from her from a strategic standpoint. After all, she doesn't have an IR or even foreign policy background and doesn't appear to have spent a lot of time thinking about the future of American foreign policy

But as I tried to point out earlier, there is no long-term strategic planning processa line western wedding dresses in this Administration. I can't help but think that part of the reason for this is that Obama's foreign policy apparatus is manned by people who don't necessarily see what the QDR is suggesting as a bad thing. (And for what it's worth,Gucci leather Duchessa Medium Boston Bag my understanding is that there are at least some folks at the highest levels of the NSC who recognize that this is a serious problem in need of immediate rectification).

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This was basically part of the deal when Obama picked her; Hillary would serve as a great "face" for America to the world; she would invest time and energy in public diplomacy, something that was critically important after the tumult of the Bush years. But at the same time it was hard to expect much from her from a strategic standpoint. After all, she doesn't have facial acne, an IR or even foreign policy background and doesn't appear to have spent a lot of time thinking about the future of American foreign policy.

It was very striking, for example, that the article recounted the experience of a young State Department FSO who was pushing the idea of engaging with "non-governmental power centers in Pakistan" while Clinton expressed skepticism. The story has a happy ending as the FSO was promoted, but the fact that the Sec State didn't agree about the importance of this issue is surprising. At a time when non-state actors are rising in importance - and Pakistan's non-governmental sector has been at the forefront of pushing for democratic change and adherence to the rule of law - it's hard to understand Clinton's skepticism. If this anecdote is any indication, she seems to be quite the foreign policy realist (although granted it's hard to draw too much of a conclusion from just one anecdote)

It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to ask the Secretary of State to focus on swiss recipes public diplomacy if President Obama had placed strategic thinkers in other areas of the national security bureaucracy, but he hasn't.

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