MEMO TO: General Colin Powell
FROM: Jude Wanniski
RE: Dole’s Foreign Policy
If you intend to address issues of foreign policy and national security at the GOP convention in San Diego (and I hope you do), you should realize that there is a frightening strand of thinking running through the GOP foreign policy establishment. There are only a few of us who still believe that the United States should lead by example, that America should be that “shining city on the hill,” as Ronald Reagan put it. We note with concern that the far more predominant thinking is that America should lead by compelling fear. Three old friends -- William Buckley, Steve Forbes and Bill Kristol -- have written columns arguing along these lines, practically recommending that the U.S. commit random acts of terror against sovereign states which (we suspect) are guilty of harboring terrorists. I pray that you can bring a note of sanity to this discussion. Having recently re-read your Foreign Affairs essay of Winter 1992-1993, “U.S. Forces: Challenges Abroad,” I am convinced you may be the only person who can do this. As you put it in that essay, “We should always be skeptical when so-called experts suggest that all a particular crisis calls for is a little surgical bombing or a limited attack. When the ‘surgery’ is over and the desired result is not obtained, a new set of experts then comes forward with talk of just a little escalation -- more bombs, more men and women, more force. History has not been kind to this approach to war-making.”
For something to chew on, I append an analysis by my associate Peter Signorelli of William Kristol’s recent foreign policy advice to Bob Dole and the GOP, “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy,” which appeared in the July-August issue of Foreign Affairs.
Date: July 31, 1996
To: Jude Wanniski
From: Peter Signorelli
Re: “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy” by William Kristol & Robert Kagan/Foreign Affairs/July-August 1996.
William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and Robert Kagan, a contributing editor at the same publication, have penned a provocative strategic perspective for the New World Order as the lead essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. The arguments are not particularly new or novel, but echo views that have been advanced steadily by old Cold Warriors who continue to regard China and Russia as major threats to U.S. national interests. If there is a worst case scenario to be made for U.S. foreign policy in a Dole administration, this may be it. The USSR is no more, nor is there a communist threat anywhere, and the world is not divided into two hostile armed camps engaged in an escalating nuclear arms race. Moreover, the crisis of global economy faced by President Reagan when he began his first term -- accelerating rates of inflation combined with ever-increasingly onerous rates of taxation -- also does not prevail today. The authors acknowledge that post-Cold War America is now the global giant, enjoying the dominant strategic and ideological position. Yet they warn that America’s superpower advantage is precarious because it “is the product of foreign policies and defense strategies that are no longer being pursued.” The American public consequently displays a dangerous “tepid consensus” for a reduction of U.S. commitments abroad. These are exactly the concerns raised by Cold Warrior strategists such as Albert Wohlstetter and Richard Perle, who have been prominent Dole advisors in recent years. In that sense, Kristol and Kagan feed back to Dole what he has been getting from others.
They dismiss as a quaint attachment the vision of America as the “shining city on the hill” leading by example. They also eschew any role for America as a Good Shepherd and instead propose that it seek to be world hegemon -- a benevolent one, of course, but a hegemon nonetheless that wields its power and authority unabashedly on the world scene: “the main threat the United States faces now and in the future is its own weakness. American hegemony is the only reliable defense against a breakdown of peace and international order. The appropriate goal of American foreign policy, therefore, is to preserve that hegemony as far into the future as possible. To achieve this goal, the United States needs a neo-Reaganite foreign policy of military supremacy and moral confidence.” Note they cloak themselves in the Reagan mantle, as if he would still be leading the hardliners in the post-Cold War peacetime era.
There are three urgent imperatives of this policy. Americans, “indifferent,” if not down-right soft when it comes to commitments abroad, they advise, must be told that there is no peace dividend.
In fact, about $60 to $80 billion more in defense spending a year is required. And America must advance its principles abroad, which can only be accomplished by continuing the exertion of its influence.
The authors fault the Democrats as being incapable of carrying out such a foreign policy, criticizing President Clinton for having engaged in strenuous and prolonged efforts to avoid intervention in Haiti and Bosnia, for example. They brush aside the arguments of George Kennan in a recent issue of the same magazine that America should not be prowling the world looking for “monsters to destroy.” They insist this is exactly what we should be doing -- appealing to conservatives in the GOP to establish a foreign policy of “going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Nothing less than an continually interventionist policy will do: “Because America has the capacity to contain or destroy many of the world’s monsters...and because the responsibility for the peace and security of the international order rests so heavily on America’s shoulders, a policy of sitting atop a hill and leading by example becomes in practice a policy of cowardice and dishonor,” they charge.
In response to the recent concerns by Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin to post-Cold War hegemonism, Kristol and Kagan advise that the U.S. take those complaints as compliments and guides to action. Of course, any potential shift in the relationship of forces that might challenge American hegemonism would have to be vigorously contained or destroyed. From this perspective, as the Cold Warriors have argued, a weak and dissolving Russia is in the U.S. national interest, and China’s economic development, for example, ought to be hampered if not outrightly assaulted. China is repeatedly singled out in the essay as a prime threat, the authors even suggesting that the U.S. needs to spend $10 billion a year for a missile defense system which it might need to shield “Los Angeles from nuclear intimidation by the Chinese during the next crisis in the Taiwan Strait.” At a time when it appears that the Clinton Administration is re-orienting toward an engagement policy with China, Beijing can view only with alarm the championing of this overt strategy for “containing” China which explicitly seeks to replace its regime. As the U.S. moves closer to presidential election, intense debate over foreign policy can be expected. Kristol and Kagan’s essay is important because it unabashedly reveals the strategic perspective of the “America-as-world-supercop” forces.
Will Dole the candidate pick up on it? Even if he splits the difference, the Kristol/Kagan line is so hard in warning against the “city on a hill” approach that it would simply add to the ominous sense of foreboding that Dole cannot seem to help but project.