failed negotiation? One hasn’t. One should. John Bolton
John Bolton writes in Commentary on the "Coming War on Sovereignty".
Bolton proves his sagacity once again – Obama's announcement of notorious transnationalist Harold Koh as his nominee for State Department legal adviser had not yet happened, but Obama's contempt for American hegemony is no secret. Koh is just the tip of the iceberg; he believes U.S. law should be based on foreign precedent, and even Shariah law could find a home here. (More on Koh here.)
Barack Obama’s nascent presidency has brought forth the customary flood of
policy proposals from the great and good, all hoping to influence his
administration. One noteworthy offering is a short report with a distinguished
provenance entitled A Plan for Action,1 which features a revealingly immodest subtitle: A
New Era of International Cooperation for a Changed World: 2009, 2010, and
In presentation and tone, A Plan for Action is determinedly
uncontroversial; indeed, it looks and reads more like a corporate brochure than
a foreign-policy paper. The text is the work of three academics—Bruce Jones of
NYU, Carlos Pascual of the Brookings Institution, and Stephen John Stedman of
Stanford. Its findings and recommendations, they claim, rose from a series of
meetings with foreign-policy eminences here and abroad, including former
Secretaries of State of both parties as well as defense officials from the
Clinton and first Bush administrations. The participation of these notables is
what gives A Plan for Action its bona fides, though one should doubt
how much the document actually reflects their ideas. There is no question,
however, that the ideas advanced in A Plan for Action have become
mainstays in the liberal vision of the future of American foreign policy.
That is what makes A Plan for Action especially interesting, and
especially worrisome. If it is what it appears to be—a blueprint for the Obama
administration’s effort to construct a foreign policy different from George W.
Bush’s—then the nation’s governing elite is in the process of taking a sharp,
indeed radical, turn away from the principles and practices of representative
self-government that have been at the core of the American experiment since the
nation’s founding. The pivot point is a shifting understanding of American
To this end, the authors provide a brief for what they call “responsible
sovereignty.” They define it as “the notion that sovereignty entails obligations
and duties toward other states as well as to one’s own citizens,” and they
believe that its application can form the basis for a “cooperative international
order.” At first glance, the phrase “responsible sovereignty” may seem
unremarkable, given the paucity of advocates for “irresponsible sovereignty.”
But despite the Plan’s mainstream provenance, the conception is a
dramatic overhaul of sovereignty itself.
“Global leaders,” the Plan insists, “increasingly recognize that
alone they are unable to protect their interests and their citizens—national
security has become interdependent with global security.” The United States must
therefore commit to “a rule-based international system that rejects
unilateralism and looks beyond military might,” or else “resign [our]selves to
an ad-hoc international system.” Mere “traditional sovereignty” is insufficient
in the new era we have entered, an era in which we must contend with “the
realities of a now transnational world.” This “rule-based international system”
will create the conditions for “global governance.”
The Plan suggests that the transition to this new system must begin
immediately because of the terrible damage done by the Bush administration.
Diplomacy is a tool, not a policy. It is a technique, not an end in itself.
Urging, however earnestly, that we “engage” with our enemies tells us nothing
about what happens after concluding the initial pleasantries at the negotiating
table. Just opening the conversation is often significant, especially for those
who are legitimized merely by being present. But without more, the meaning and
potency of the photo op will quickly fade.
That is why effective diplomacy must be one aspect of a larger strategic
spectrum that includes ugly and public confrontations. Without the threat of
painful sanctions, harsh condemnations, and even the use of force, diplomacy
risks becoming a sucker’s game, in which one side will sit forever in naïve hope
of reaching a settlement while the other side acts at will.
Diplomacy is an end in itself in A Plan for Action. So, too, is
multilateralism. The multilateralism the Plan celebrates and advocates
is, of course, set in sharp contrast to the portrait it draws of a Bush
administration flush with unilateralist cowboys intent on overturning existing
international treaties and institutions just for the sport of it. Defining
unilateralism is straightforward: the word refers to a state acting on its own
in international affairs.2 It is a critical conceptual mistake, however, to pose
“multilateralism” simply as its opposite.
Read it all. Very bad.
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