Reviews For Pompeo’s WSJ Op-Ed: “God-Awful”, “Risible”, “Mendacious”, “Bananas”, and More #PAPressClips

Related item: Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF) | September, 2018 (Congressional Research Service).

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Ambassador Chas W. Freeman Jr: Diplomacy as Risk Management

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island, 17 April 2018

This is the third and last of three connected lectures on diplomatic doctrine.  The series was preceded by an introductory presentation.  This lecture deals with diplomacy as risk management.  The first lecture described diplomacy as strategy; the second as tactics. 

At its most basic level, diplomacy is the management of foreign relations to reduce risk to the nation while promoting its interests abroad.  In this task, diplomacy’s success is measured more by what it precludes than by what it achieves.  One can never prove that what didn’t happen would have happened if one had not done this or that.  But, for the most part in foreign affairs, the fewer the surprises and the less the stress, the better.

The ideal outcome of diplomacy is the assurance of a life for the nation that is as tranquil and boring as residence in the suburbs.  And, like suburban life, in its day-to-day manifestation, diplomacy involves harvesting flowers when they bloom and fruits and berries when they ripen, while laboring to keep the house presentable, the weeds down, the vermin under control, and the predators and vagrants off the property.  If one neglects these tasks, one is criticized by those closest, regarded as fair prey by those at greater remove, and not taken seriously by much of anyone.

Viewed this way, the fundamental purpose of U.S. foreign policy is the maintenance of a peaceful international environment that leaves Americans free to enjoy the prosperity, justice, and civil liberties that enable our pursuit of happiness.  This agenda motivated the multilateral systems of governance the United States created and relied upon after World War II – the Pax Americana.  Secretary of Defense Mattis has called this “the greatest gift of the greatest generation.”  Institutions like the United Nations. its specialized agencies, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization, and related organizations like the World Trade Organization sought to regulate specific aspects of international behavior, manage the global commons, provide frameworks for the resolution of international disputes, and organize collective responses to problems.

In the aggregate, these offspring of U.S. diplomacy established and sustained widely accepted norms of behavior for many decades.  International law drew on consensus to express these norms as rules.  To the extent they were accepted internationally, these rules constrained state actions that could damage the common interests of the society of nations the rules had brought into being.  Despite its uneven performance, the Pax Americana assured a relatively high degree of predictability in world affairs that facilitated peaceful international interactions.   It did so on the same philosophical basis as the rule of law in domestic affairs – a belief that rules matter and that process legitimizes outcomes rather than the other way around.

Today, that philosophy and its ethical foundations are under attack both at home and abroad.  For the time being, at least, Washington has set aside the rule-bound international order and the market-driven economic interactions it enabled.  The United States is discarding the multilateral strategic framework that it built to restrain the behavior of lesser states in the last half of the 20th century.  In its place, the Trump administration is experimenting with neo-mercantilist theories that seem to have been crowd-sourced to right-wing talk radio.  Washington seeks to maximize U.S. leverage over trading partners by dealing with them only on a bilateral basis.  Trade and investment are increasingly government-managed and hence politicized rather than freely contracted between private buyers and sellers.  So far, it must be said, bird-brained bilateralism is proving no substitute for the complex regulatory regimes it is replacing and the supply chains it is disrupting.

With the fading of previously agreed codes of conduct and the principle of PACTA SUNT SERVANDA [“agreements must be kept”], what could once be taken for granted in managing relations with other states must now be repetitiously renegotiated and affirmed bilaterally.  But Washington has demoted diplomacy as a tool of American statecraft in favor of primary reliance on military and economic coercion.  Escalating uncertainties are driving nations toward unrestrained unilateralism and disregard for international law.  As this century began, the United States popularized contemptible practices like the assassination and abduction for questioning under torture of foreign opponents.  A lengthening list of other countries –  China, north Korea, Russia, and Turkey, to name a few – have now brazenly followed this bad example.  More issues are being deferred as intractable, addressed ad hoc, or dealt with through the threat or use of force.

In this new world disorder, the need for diplomacy to tend fraying relationships is manifestly greater than ever.  The Congress and public, as well as the U.S. military, sense this.  They have resisted efforts by the Trump administration to slash budgets for peaceful international engagement by the U.S. Department of State and related agencies.  Still,  the American diplomatic imagination has not been so myopic and enervated since before World War II.  Nor have U.S.  investments in diplomacy, Americans’ expectations of their diplomats, or international trust of the United States been so low.

Diplomatic preparedness requires constant attention to other nations and their views.  Showing that one’s government is interested in and understands what others think encourages them to be more receptive to one’s own ideas.  Attentiveness to their needs, views, and doubts signals willingness to work together and cultivates willingness to cooperate in defending common interests.  The regular nurturing and reaffirmation of relationships is what makes it possible to call on a network of friends in times of need.  Responding politely and considerately – in the least offensive way one can – to others’ messages conveys respect as well as substance.  It invites their sympathetic study of the logic, intent, and interests behind one’s own messages.

Constant diplomatic intercourse promotes stability and predictability.  It inhibits inimical change, reducing the risk that amicable states will become adversaries or that adversaries will become enemies.  And it  provides situational awareness that reduces surprise and enables governments to respond intelligently and tactfully to trends and events.

All this may seem obvious.  But it takes a sustained commitment by national leaders, public servants, and well-trained diplomats as well as reliable funding to carry it off.  In the contemporary United States, none of these is now assured.  The safety net provided by routine diplomacy as I have just described is increasingly neglected.  The resulting disarray in American international relationships is shaking our alliances, eroding cooperation with our international partners, raising doubts about U.S. reliability, causing client states to seek new patrons, and diminishing deference to U.S. national interests by friends and foes alike.   Increases in military spending demonstrate eagerness to enhance warfighting capabilities.  But greater capacity to wreak havoc does nothing to rectify the doubts of foreign nations about American wisdom, reliability, and rapport in our conduct of relations with them.

U.S. military power is as yet without effective challenge except at the regional level.   But, on its own, it is proving consistently incapable of producing outcomes that favor our national security.  It is a truism that those who cannot live by their brawn or their wallets must live by their wits.  Neither war nor the threat of war can restore America’s lost political primacy.  Only an upgrade in American competence at formulating and implementing domestic and foreign policies, coupled with effective diplomacy in support of credible American leadership, can do that.

In recent years, Americans have become better known for our promiscuous use of force and our cynical disregard of international law than for our rectitude and aspirations for moral excellence.  U.S. foreign policy has featured unprovoked invasions and armed attacks on foreign countries, violations of their sovereignty through drone warfare and aid to insurgents, assassinations and kidnappings, interrogation through torture, the extrajudicial execution of citizens as well foreigners, universal electronic eavesdropping, Islamophobia, the suspension of aid to refugees, xenophobic immigration policies, and withdrawal from previously agreed frameworks for collective action on issues of global concern, like climate change.  This sociopathic record inspires only the enemies of the United States.  It is not a platform that wins friends, influences people in our favor, or encourages them to view us as reliable.

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How to fight work bullshit (and keep your job and your dignity)

By André Spicer | A professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School at City, University of London, he is author of Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimisation Movement (2017), co-written with Carl Cederström. His latest book is Business Bullshit (2018).

After getting lost in the conference hotel, I finally located the ‘creativity workshop’. Joining the others, I sat cross-legged on the floor. Soon, an ageing hippie was on his feet. ‘Just walk around the room and introduce yourself,’ he said. ‘But don’t use words.’ After a few minutes of people acting like demented mimes, the hippie stopped us. ‘Now grab a mandala,’ he said, pointing to a pile of what looked like pages from a mindfulness colouring-in book. ‘And use those to bring your mandala to life,’ he said pointing at a pile of magic markers. After 30 minutes of colouring, he told us to share our mandalas. A woman described how her red mandala represented her passionate nature. A man explained how his black mandala expressed the negative emotions haunting his life. A third person found words too constraining, so she danced about her mandala. Leaving the room after the session, a participant turned to me and quietly said: ‘What a load of bullshit.’

All over the world, organisations encourage kooky activities unrelated to employees’ work. I have attended workplace retreats where I learned beat-boxing and African drumming. I have heard about organisations that encourage employees to walk across hot coals, take military assault courses, and guide a raft down dangerous rapids. There are organisations that force their employees to stage a lingerie show, take part in a ‘bush-tucker trial’ by eating insects, and dress up in giant animal costumes to act out fairy tales.

My cynical fellow participant in the mandala-colouring workshop described it as ‘bullshit’. She had chosen her words wisely. The philosopher Harry Frankfurt at Princeton University defined bullshit as talk that has no relationship to the truth. Lying covers up the truth, while bullshit is empty, and bears no relationship to the truth.

The mandala workshop bore many of the tell-tale signs of bullshit. The session was empty of facts and full of abstractions. Participants skipped between buzzwords such as ‘authenticity’, ‘self-actualisation’ and ‘creativity’. I found it impossible to attribute meaning to this empty talk. The harder I tried, the less sense it made. So, during the event, I politely played along.

After spending more than a decade studying business and organisations, I can assure you that my unheroic response is the norm. Most people are likely to follow my bad example, and stick to the script. There are many reasons for this, but politeness is an important one. Bullshit greases the wheels of sociability. Questioning bullshit can be a sure way to lose friends and alienate people. Even when we smell bullshit, we are willing to ignore it so we can avoid conflict and maintain a polite atmosphere. Our desire to keep social interaction going smoothly prevails over our commitment to speak the truth.

In a short aside in his book On Bullshit (2005), Frankfurt describes an interaction between the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and Fania Pascal, Wittgenstein’s friend and Russian teacher. ‘I had my tonsils out and was in Evelyn Nursing Home feeling sorry for myself,’ Pascal wrote. ‘Wittgenstein called. I croaked: “I feel just like a dog that has been run over.”’ Wittgenstein, apparently, was disgusted: ‘You don’t know what a dog that has been run over feels like.’

Wittgenstein’s response seems not just odd, but rude. So why did the great philosopher do this? Frankfurt’s answer is that throughout his life ‘Wittgenstein devoted his philosophical energies largely to identifying and combatting what he regarded as insidiously disruptive forms of “non-sense”.’ Wittgenstein is ‘disgusted’ by Pascal’s remark because ‘it is not germane to the enterprise of describing reality’. She is ‘not even concerned whether her statement is correct’. If we were to react like Wittgenstein whenever we were faced with bullshit, our lives would probably become very difficult indeed.

Instead of following Wittgenstein’s example, there are ways we can politely call bullshit. The first step is to calmly ask what the evidence says. This is likely to temper our interlocutors’ views, even if the results are inconclusive. The second step is to ask about how their idea would work. The psychologists Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil at Yale University found that when they asked subjects to tell them, on a scale of 1 to 7, how they would rate their knowledge about everyday objects such as toilets, most people would say about 4 or 5. But when asked to describe precisely how a toilet worked, they dropped the rating of their own toilet expertise to below 3. Asking over-confident bullshitters exactly how their idea might work is another way to slow them down. Finally, ask the bullshitter to clarify what he means. Often, bullshit artists rely on ‘zombie nouns’ such as ‘globalisation’, ‘facilitation’ and ‘optimisation’. Pushing beyond linguistic boondoggles helps everyone to see what is solid and what is clothed in ornamental talk.

Politely questioning a peer is one thing, but it is much trickier to call out the bullshit of junior colleagues. Decades of research has found that people listen to positive feedback and ignore negative feedback. But Frederik Anseel from King’s College, London has found that people are willing to listen when negatives are focused on the future. So instead of concentrating on the bullshit a junior might have created in the past, it is best to ask how it can be minimised in the future.

Calling out an underling’s piffle might be tough, but calling bullshit on the boss is usually impossible. Yet we also know that organisations that encourage people to speak up tend to retain their staff, learn more, and perform better. So how can you question your superiors’ bullshit without incurring their wrath? One study by Ethan Burris of the University of Texas at Austin provides some solutions. He found that it made a big difference how an employee went about posing the questions. ‘Challenging’ questions were met with punishment, while supportive questions received a fair hearing. So instead of bounding up to your boss and saying: ‘I can’t believe your bullshit,’ it would be a better idea to point out: ‘We might want to check what the evidence says, then tweak it a little to make it better.’

Next time you’re faced with a bullshit attack, it might be tempting to politely zone out. But that only gives the bullshit artist time and space. Or you might be tempted to follow the example of Wittgenstein, and fight back. Sadly, bullshitters are often impervious to full-frontal attack. The most effective tactic in the war on empty talk seems to be to outflank the bullshitter by posing your questions as constructive tweaks, rather than refutations. That way, you might be able to clean up the mess from within, rather than raging from the outside.Aeon counter – do not remove

André Spicer

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr: Diplomacy as Tactics

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island, 5 April 2018

This is the second of three lectures directed at laying a basis for the development of diplomatic doctrine.  It deals with diplomacy as the tactics of foreign relations.  The preface to this series and the first lecture in it set out some thoughts on diplomacy as strategy.  The third lecture will consider diplomacy as risk management.

In American foreign policy, perpetual warfare, arms races, economic bullying, and derogatory rhetoric seem for the time being to have supplanted diplomacy.  This is a profoundly destabilizing approach to foreign relations.  Once it has run its course, Americans will need to rediscover, reconstitute, and rebuild diplomatic capacity.

Our objective in doing so should be to train and field diplomats who are as skilled in the profession of persuasion as our military are in the profession of arms.  The extent to which we are able to draw on diplomatic doctrine – guidance for the application of judgment to trends, events, and opportunities – will determine the speed and effectiveness with which we can accomplish this.  We need to work now on developing such doctrine for application to our foreign policies and practices when that is possible.

Diplomacy is an instrument of statecraft that few Americans have been educated to understand and whose history – even in relation to our own country – most do not know. Diplomacy emphasizes peaceably arranged change, but it is not pacifist.  Diplomacy is how power persuades states and peoples to accommodate adjustments in relations they instinctively disfavor.  It uses words to portray capabilities and convey intentions in order to shape the calculus of foreign partners and opponents and cause them to make desired changes in their policies and behavior.

Diplomacy is the verbal tactics of foreign relations.  It is the alternative to the use of force as well as its prelude, facilitator, and finale.  It is both the implementer of policy by measures short of war and the translator of the results of war into durable outcomes.

Americans celebrate our independence on the day of its official declaration, July 4, 1776.  Most imagine  that we achieved our autonomy then or on October 19, 1781, when we (and the French) defeated the British at Yorktown.  But this ahistorical view disregards the essential role of diplomacy in such adjustments of relations.  U.S. separation from the British Empire was only secured when the British conceded it.  It took John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Thomas Jefferson nearly two years to persuade the British to accept that the necessary consequence of their military defeat was American independence.  This became a legal reality only on September 3, 1783, when Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris.

The failure of Americans to recognize the centrality of diplomacy to war termination, including in our own war of independence, is not inconsequential.  Recall the ludicrous triumphalism of President George W. Bush after the defeat of the Iraqi Army in 2003, when he stood on an aircraft carrier under a banner, reading “Mission Accomplished.”  Subsequent events in Iraq provided a costly reminder that no war is over until the defeated admit defeat and accept its consequences.  Such adjustments do not happen automatically.  They are achieved through diplomacy or not at all.

The tragic American experience in Iraq was also a reminder that to achieve peace, there must be a leader among the defeated populace with the authority to commit them to it.  This is why the United States left the Japanese emperor on his throne after World War II.  The failure to consider, let alone address, the question of who might be able to commit Iraqis to cooperation with their foreign occupiers – and what would be required to persuade Iraqis to do so – accounted in no small measure for the anarchy that followed the removal of the Saddam regime in Baghdad.

Diplomatic tactics for war termination are an essential element of any war strategy.  But the translation of military triumph into political victory is a task that the American way of war all too often omits.  This reflects a history of pursuing the annihilation of enemies, their unconditional surrender, and their political reconstruction through occupation.  Disdain for diplomacy that negotiates postwar adjustments in relations, together with “mission creep,” is a major reason that so many American wars spin on without end or abate, only to resume in altered form.

 

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Diplomacy: A Rusting Tool of American Statecraft

by Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, Washington, DC and Cambridge, Massachusetts, February, 2018 

Diplomacy: A Rusting Tool of American Statecraft
A Lecture to programs on Statecraft at American University, Harvard, and MIT [Republished with permission. The original text is available here]

I am here to talk about diplomacy.  This may seem an odd moment to broach the subject.  Our president has told us that it doesn’t matter that his administration is not staffed to do it, because “I’m the only one who matters.”  In other words, “l’état c’est moi.”

Now that it’s got that straight, the United States Department of State has set about dismantling itself.  Meanwhile, the Foreign Service of the United States is dejectedly withering away.  Our ever-flatulent media seem unconvinced that Americans will miss either institution.

I suspect they’re wrong about that.  Diplomacy is an instrument of statecraft that Americans have not been educated to understand and whose history they do not know.  It is not about “making nice.”  Nor is it just a delaying tactic before we send in the Marines.

Diplomacy is a political performing art that informs and determines the decisions of other states and peoples.  It shapes their perceptions and calculations so that they do what we want them to do because they come to see doing so as in their own best interest.  Diplomacy influences the policies and behavior of states and peoples through measures short of war, though it does not shrink from war as a diversion or last resort.  It is normally but not always overtly non-coercive.  It succeeds best when it embraces humility and respects and preserves the dignity of those to whom it is applied.  As the Chinese philosopher, Laozi put it:  “A leader is best when people barely know he exists.  When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, we did it ourselves.”

Napoleon called diplomacy, “the police in grand costume” but it is usually not much to look at.  It seldom involves blowing things up, most of its action is unseen, and it is relatively inexpensive.  Diplomacy’s greatest triumphs tend to be preventing things from happening.  But it’s hard to prove they wouldn’t have occurred, absent diplomacy.  So diplomats are more often blamed for what did happen than credited for what didn’t.  Diplomats are even worse than sailors at marching.  Diplomacy stages no parades in which ambassadors and their political masters can strut among baton-twirling majorettes or wave to adoring crowds.   Nor, for the most part, does it justify expensive programs that generate the pork and patronage that nourish politics

All this makes diplomacy both obscure and of little or no direct interest to the central institutions in contemporary Washington’s foreign policy.  As any foreign embassy will tell you, the U.S. Department of Defense and other elements of the military-industrial-congressional complex now dominate the policy process.  Both are heavily invested in theories of coercive interaction between states.  Both favor strategic and tactical doctrines that justify expensive weapons systems and well-paid people to use them.  Activities that cost little and lack drama do not intrigue them.  They see diplomats as the clean-up squad to be deployed after they have demolished other societies, not as peers who can help impose our will without fighting.

U.S. foreign policy is heavily militarized in theory, practice, and staffing.  No one has bankrolled the development of professional diplomatic doctrine, meaning a body of interrelated operational concepts describing how to influence the behavior of other states and people by mostly non-violent means.  So there is no diplomatic equivalent of military doctrine, the pretensions of some scholars of international relations (IR) theory notwithstanding.  This is a very big gap in American statecraft that the growing literature on conflict management has yet to fill.  The absence of diplomatic doctrine to complement military science eliminates most options short of the raw pressure of sanctions or the use of force.  It thereby increases the probability of armed conflict, with all its unpredictable human and financial consequences.

Working out a diplomatic doctrine with which to train professional diplomats could have major advantages.  Diplomatic performance might then continually improve, as military performance does, as experience emended doctrine.   But developing diplomatic doctrine would require acceptance that our country has a need for someone other than dilettantes and amateurs to conduct its foreign relations.  Our politicians, who love the spoils system, seem firmly convinced that, between them, wealthy donors and campaign gerbils can meet most of our needs in foreign affairs, with the military meeting the rest.  The Department of State, which would be the logical government agency to fund an effort at the development of tradecraft and doctrine, is usually led by diplomatic novices.  It is also the perennial runt at the federal budgetary teat.

Leadership of foreign policy by untrained neophytes was to a great extent  the American norm even during the Cold War, when the United States led the world outside the Soviet camp and  deployed unmatched political attractiveness and economic clout.  Now retired and active duty military officers have been added to the diplomatic management mix.  They are experts in the application of violence, not peaceable statecraft, to foreign societies.  How is this likely to work out in the new world disorder?  As the late Deng Xiaoping said, “practice is the sole criterion of truth.”  So we’ll see.  But while we wait for the outcome, there is still time to consider the potential of diplomacy as an instrument of statecraft.

The basis of diplomacy is empathy for the views of others.  It is most effective when grounded in a sophisticated understanding of another’s language, culture, feelings, and intellectual habits. Empathy inhibits killing.  It is not a character trait we expect or desire our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to have.

Language and area training plus practical experience are what enable diplomats to imagine the viewpoint of foreign leaders, to see the world as they do, to analyze trends and events as they would, and to evaluate the pros and cons of actions as they might.  A competent diplomat can use such insights to make arguments that foreign leaders find persuasive.  A diplomat schooled in strategy can determine what circumstances are required to persuade foreign leaders that doing what the diplomat wants them to do is not yielding to superior power but deciding on their own to do what is in their nation’s best interest.

Empathy does not, of course, imply alignment or agreement with the viewpoints of others, just understanding of them.  It is not the same as sympathy, which identifies with others’ perspectives.  Sometimes the aim of diplomacy is to persuade a foreign country to continue to adhere to established policies, because they are beneficial.  But more commonly, it is to change the policies, behavior, and practices of other countries or individuals, not to affirm or endorse them.  To succeed, diplomats must cleave to their own side’s interests, convictions, and policy positions even as they grasp the motivations and reasoning processes of those whose positions they seek to change.  But they must also be able to see their country and its actions as others see them and accept these views as an operational reality to be acknowledged and dealt with rather than denounced as irrational or duplicitous.

To help policy-makers formulate policies and actions that have a real chance of influencing a particular foreign country’s decisions, diplomats habitually find themselves called upon to explain how and why that country’s history and circumstances make it see things and act the way it does.  In the United States, most men and women in senior foreign policy positions did not work their way up the ranks.  They are much more familiar with domestic interest groups and their views than with foreign societies and how they work.  Explanation of foreign positions is easily mistaken for advocacy of them, especially by people inclined to dismiss outlandish views that contradict their prejudices as inherently irrational or malicious.

It’s good domestic politics to pound the policy table in support of popular narratives and nationalist postures and to reject foreign positions on issues as irrational, disingenuous, or malevolent.  But diplomats can’t do that if they are to remain true to their calling.  In a policy process driven more by how things will look to potential domestic critics than by a determination actually to change the behavior of foreigners, diplomats are easily marginalized.  But when they are backed by strong-minded leaders who want results abroad, they can accomplish a great deal that military intervention cannot.

Let me give a couple of examples of how U.S. diplomacy has rearranged other states’ and people’s appraisals of their strategic circumstances and caused them to decide to adopt courses of action favored by the United States.  These examples show both the complexities with which diplomacy must deal and its limitations in terms of its ability to secure assured outcomes.

 

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Ambassador Anthony Quainton: “there are more and more hammers in the policy toolbox…”

Posted: 4:04 am ET

 

From Militarization and Marginalization of American Diplomacy and Foreign Policy via American Diplomacy
Ambassador Anthony C. E. Quainton 
Former U.S. Ambassador to CAR, Nicaragua, Kuwait, Peru
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, DGHR, and CT Coordinator

“[W]e are not facing a militarization of American foreign policy but the marginalization of diplomacy as the effective alternative to military force. The denigration and dismissal of soft power, even when it is renamed smart power, has led to a perception of diplomatic weakness and the concomitant rise of military influence on the policy process. It is a sad reality that there are more and more hammers in the policy toolbox and fewer alternative weapons. The result may be that a president anxious to make America great again and to demonstrate the effectiveness of American leadership and power may look for a place of his choosing to demonstrate American power. President Trump does not seem temperamentally interested in the prolonged and protracted process of diplomacy. His recent tweet questioning the utility of Secretary Tillerson’s efforts to engage the North Koreans in dialogue is an example of this skepticism. In these circumstances we should not be surprised if the United States were to decides to choose a target of opportunity in Iran or North Korea or Syria to show off its military might. This will not reflect the institutional militarization of American foreign policy but rather the emotional need of many Americans, frustrated by our loss of global standing to demonstrate that America can indeed be great again. Neither a resourced military nor an marginalized diplomacy should want that to happen.”

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More than just sanctuary, migrants need social citizenship #seventhperson

By Nancy Berlinger:  a research scholar at The Hastings Center in New York. Her most recent book is Are Workarounds Ethical? Managing Moral Problems in Health Care Systems (2016). She co-directs the Undocumented Patients project. | Via Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives

 

In 1975, the English author John Berger wrote about the political implications of immigration, at a time when one in seven workers in the factories of Germany and Britain was a male migrant – what Berger called the ‘seventh man’. Today, every seventh person in the world is a migrant.

Migrants are likely to settle in cities. In the United States, 20 cities (accounting for 36 per cent of the total US population in 2014) were home to 65 per cent of the nation’s authorised immigrants and 61 per cent of unauthorised immigrants. In Singapore, migrant workers account for 20 per cent of the city-state’s population. (Migrants continue to be a significant rural population. In the US, three-quarters of farm workers are foreign-born.)

Scholarship on migration tends to focus normative arguments on the national level, where policy concerning borders and immigration is made. Some prominent political philosophers – including David Miller at Nuffield College, Oxford, and Joseph Carens at the University of Toronto – also outline an account of ‘social membership’ in receiving societies. This process unfolds over five to 10 years of work, everyday life and the development of attachments. As Carens writes in ‘Who Should Get In?’ (2003), after a period of years, any migrant crosses a ‘threshold’ and is no longer a stranger. This human experience of socialisation holds true for low-wage and unauthorised migrants, so a receiving society should acknowledge that migrants themselves, not only their economic contributions, are part of that society.

Carens and Miller apply this argument to the moral claims of settled migrants at risk of deportation because they are unauthorised or because the terms of their presence are tightly limited by work contracts. In the US, for example, most of the estimated 11.3 million people who crossed a border without authorisation or are living outside the terms of their original visas have constituted a settled population for the past decade, with families that include an estimated 4 million children who are US citizens by birthright. In The Ethics of Immigration (2013), Carens writes that the prospect of deporting young immigrants from the place where they had lived most of their lives was especially troubling: it is ‘morally wrong to force someone to leave the place where she was raised, where she received her social formation, and where she has her most important human connections’. Miller and Carens concur with the Princeton political theorist Michael Walzer’s view of open-ended guest-worker programmes as ethically problematic. The fiction that such work is temporary and such workers remain foreign obscures the reality that these migrants are also part of the societies in which they live and work, often for many years, and where they deserve protection and opportunities for advancement.

Not all migrants will have access to a process leading to national citizenship or permanent legal residence status, whether this is because they are unauthorised, or their immigration status is unclear, or they are living in a nation that limits or discourages immigration while allowing foreign workers on renewable work permits. If we agree that migration is part of the identity of a society in which low-wage migrants live and work, whether or not this is acknowledged by non-migrants or by higher-status migrants, what would it mean to build on the idea of social membership and consider migrants as social citizens of the place in which they have settled? And what realistic work can the idea of social citizenship do in terms of improving conditions for migrants and supporting policy development?

Social citizenship is both a feeling of belonging and a definable set of commitments and obligations associated with living in a place; it is not second-class national citizenship. The place where one’s life is lived might have been chosen in a way that the nation of one’s birth was not; for a Londoner or a New Yorker, local citizenship can be a stronger identity than national citizenship. Migrants live in cities with a history of welcoming immigrants, in cities that lack this history, and also in cities where national policy discourages immigration. Considering how to ensure that social citizenship extends to migrants so that they get to belong, to contribute, and to be protected is a way to frame ethical and practical questions facing urban policymakers.

Considering migrants as social citizens of the cities in which they settle is related to but not the same as the idea of the city as a ‘sanctuary’ for migrants. Throughout the US, local officials have designated ‘sanctuary cities’ for undocumented immigrants subject to deportation under policies announced by the federal government in February 2017. This contemporary interpretation of an ancient concept refers to a policy of limited local cooperation with federal immigration officials, often associated with other policies supporting a city’s migrant population. Canadian officials use the term ‘sanctuary city’ similarly, to refer to local protections and potentially also to limited cooperation with border-control authorities. In Europe, the term ‘city of sanctuary’ tends to refer to efforts supporting local refugees and coordinated advocacy for refugee admission and rights. These local actions protecting migrants are consistent with a practical concept of social citizenship in which civic history and values, and interests such as being a welcoming, diverse or growing city, correspond to the interests of migrants. However, the idea of ‘sanctuary’ suggests crisis: an urgent need for a safe place to hide. To become social citizens, migrants need more from cities than sanctuary.

Local policies that frame social citizenship in terms that apply to settled migrants should go beyond affirming migrants’ legal rights and helping them to use these rights, although this is certainly part of a practical framework. Social citizenship, as a concept that should apply to migrants and non-migrants alike, on the basis of being settled into a society, can build on international human rights law, but can be useful in jurisdictions where human rights is not the usual reference point for considering how migrants belong to, contribute to, and are protected by a society.

What can a city expect or demand of migrants as social citizens? Mindful that the process of social integration usually takes more than one generation, it would not be fair to expect or demand that migrants integrate into a new society on an unrealistic timetable. Most migrants are adults, and opportunities to belong, to contribute, and to be protected should be available to them, as well as to the next generation. Migrants cannot be expected to take actions that could imperil them or their families. For example, while constitutionally protected civil rights in the US extend to undocumented immigrants, using these rights (by identifying themselves publicly, for example) can bring immigrants to the attention of federal authorities, a reality or fear that might constrain their ability to participate in civic life.

In his novel Exit West (2017), Mohsin Hamid offers a near-future fictional version of a political philosopher’s ‘earned amnesty’ proposal. Under the ‘time tax’, newer migrants to London pay a decreasing ‘portion of income and toil’ toward social welfare programmes for longstanding residents, and have sweat-equity opportunities to achieve home ownership by working on infrastructure construction projects (the ‘London Halo’). Today, the nonfictional citizens of Berlin are debating how to curb escalating rents so that the city remains open to lower-wage residents, including internal and transnational migrants. A robust concept of social citizenship that includes migrants who have begun the process of belonging to a city, and those who should be acknowledged as already belonging, will provide a necessary framework for understanding contemporary urban life in destination cities.Aeon counter – do not remove

Nancy Berlinger

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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American exceptionalism, from Stalin with love

By Ian Tyrrell | He is emeritus professor of history at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. His latest book is Crisis of the Wasteful Nation: Empire and Conservation in Theodore Roosevelt’s America (2015). Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives. Via Aeon

 

Every time a public figure uses the term ‘American exceptionalism’, ordinary Americans turn to my website. It’s number one for a quick answer to the question: ‘What is American exceptionalism?’ My latest benefactor was Hillary Clinton, who used the term in a speech on 31 August. My website hits spiked. Until about 2010, few Americans had heard the term. Since then, its use has expanded exponentially. It is strange that such an inelegant term should be adopted by two major political parties when so many people had not a clue what it meant. Of course, one doesn’t have to use the term to believe in the underlying concept. But the phrase has a history that helps us to understand the current hyperbolic use.

American exceptionalism is not the same as saying the United States is ‘different’ from other countries. It doesn’t just mean that the US is ‘unique’. Countries, like people, are all different and unique, even if many share some underlying characteristics. Exceptionalism requires something far more: a belief that the US follows a path of history different from the laws or norms that govern other countries. That’s the essence of American exceptionalism: the US is not just a bigger and more powerful country – but an exception. It is the bearer of freedom and liberty, and morally superior to something called ‘Europe’. Never mind the differences within Europe, or the fact that ‘the world’ is bigger than the US and Europe. The ‘Europe’ versus ‘America’ dichotomy is the crucible in which American exceptionalist thinking formed.

Some presume that the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville invented the term in the 1830s, but only once did de Tocqueville actually call American society ‘exceptional’. He argued that Americans lacked culture and science, but could rely on the Anglo-Saxons in Britain to supply the higher forms of civilisation. This is not what Americans mean by ‘exceptionalism’ today.

American exceptionalism is an ideology. The ‘ism’ is the giveaway. De Tocqueville examined US institutions and moral behaviours as structural tendencies of democratic societies. He did not see US democracy as an ideology. To him, the US was the harbinger of a future that involved the possible democratisation of Europe, not an unrepeatable outlier of civilisation. He studied the US as a model of democratic society, whose workings needed to be understood, because the idea was spreading.

Some think that Werner Sombart, the German socialist of the early 1900s, invented the term, but he did not. Sombart claimed only that US capitalism, and its abundance, made the country temporarily unfavourable terrain for the development of socialism. It was actually Joseph Stalin, or his minions, who, in 1929, gave the idea its name. It is surely one of the ironies of modern history that both major US political parties now compete to endorse a Stalinist term.

Orthodox communists used the term to condemn the heretical views of the American communist Jay Lovestone. In the late 1920s, Lovestone argued that the capitalist economy of the US did not promote the revolutionary moment for which all communists waited. The Communist Party expelled Lovestone, but his followers and ex-Trotskyites in the US embraced the exceptionalist epithet and, eventually, the idea that the US would permanently avoid the socialist stage of development.

After the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, as well as later during the Cold War, many of these US Marxists jettisoned their old political allegiances but retained the mindset that the economic success of the US buried class struggle in their nation – permanently. As the leader of the free world, the chief victor in the Second World War over ‘totalitarian’ Germany, and by far the world’s most prosperous economy, the US seemed in all these ways an exceptional nation. Seymour Martin Lipset, the eminent Stanford political sociologist, made a career investigating the many factors that led to this American exceptionalism. Until his death in 2006, Lipset continued to hold that the US was not subject to the historical norms of all other nations.

No one did more than Ronald Reagan to amplify and popularise the US as exceptional. Refusing to accept the doldrums of the Jimmy Carter presidency or the transgressions of Richard Nixon as the best that Americans could do, Reagan promoted the image of the US as a shining ‘city upon a hill’. This reference is to a 1630 sermon by John Winthrop, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop was calling on the new Pilgrim settlers heading for Massachusetts to stick to the narrow path of Puritanism.

Reagan and his followers wrongly attributed American exceptionalism to this Puritan injunction, and added ‘shining’ to the original, which gave the phrase a distinctly different connotation. Nor was Winthrop referring to any nation, but rather a discrete community of English Protestant believers. Notably, Winthrop’s sermon had been neglected for centuries. It was resurrected only in the 1940s by a few Harvard academics who were engaged in an intellectual rehabilitation of Puritan thought. In a 1961 speech, John F Kennedy, who had been a Harvard student and was influenced by that university’s Americanists, used the ‘city upon a hill’ phrase. The idea of the US as a ‘city upon a hill’, however, really gained purchase in political rhetoric in the 1970s and ’80s, as Reagan sought to reinvent the country.

Without question, Reagan saw the US as an exceptional nation. The language of exceptionalism, however, derived from Marxism, not God. The idea of a morally superior and unique civilisation destined to guide the world did not come under the banner of an orthodox ‘ism’ until very recently, until the 21st century. In the wake of 9/11, the speeches of George W Bush and his supporters asserted the radical distinctiveness of the US with a new belligerence. We have all heard it: it is ‘our freedoms’ that Islamic terrorists hated; they wished to kill Americans because they envied this exceptional inheritance.

The global financial crisis of 2007-10 added to the geopolitical turmoil that followed 9/11. Though the US economy expanded in the 1990s and early 2000s, economic inequality that began to grow in the Reagan era also became worse. In the post-1945 age, when academics first posed American exceptionalism as a coherent doctrine, the idea also became linked to global US military and political hegemony. In the past two generations, since the Reagan era, Americans have not prospered to the same extent, and American exceptionalism has been increasingly linked only to military hegemony.

Decline is, in fact, the midwife to the ideology of American exceptionalism. The less exceptional that circumstances in the US appear, the louder defenders of exceptionalism insist on orthodoxy. When the nation was indisputably powerful and its people prosperous, Americans did not collectively require an ‘ism’ to serve as a guiding light. In these more polarised times, when the fates of Americans become based more on their class and less on their shared nationality, the ideological orthodoxy of American exceptionalism has emerged on a political level. A previously obscure academic term became a rallying cry for a political agenda.

When Hillary Clinton joins the exceptionalist bandwagon, it reflects a political consensus that Donald Trump denies. In wanting to make America great again, Trump implicitly accepts that it is not currently ‘great’, and never was exceptional. No longer is the Republican Party the chief cheerleader of American exceptionalism. But the Democrats have picked up the mantle, and the language of exceptionalism continues to rally a party and a country.Aeon counter – do not remove

Ian Tyrrell

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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The Middle East in the New World Disorder

By Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)

Not so long ago, Americans thought we understood the Middle East, that region where the African, Asian, and European worlds collide.  When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated in World War I, the area  became a European sphere of influence with imperial British, French, and Italian subdivisions.  The Cold War split it into American and Soviet client states.  Americans categorized countries as with us or against us, democratic or authoritarian, and endowed with oil and gas or not.  We acted accordingly.

In 1991, the Soviet Union defaulted on the Cold War and left the United States the only superpower still standing.  With the disappearance of Soviet power, the Middle East became an exclusively American sphere of influence.  But a series of U.S. policy blunders and regional reactions to them have since helped thrust the region into chaos, while progressively erasing American dominance

In the new world disorder, there are many regional sub-orders.  The Middle East is one of them.  It is entering the final stages of a process of post-imperial, national self-determination that began with Kemal Atatürk’s formation of modern Turkey from the rubble of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.  This process is entrenching the originally Western concept of the nation state in the region.  It led to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s repudiation of British overlordship and overthrow of the monarchy in Egypt in 1952, Ayatollah Khomeini’s rejection of American tutelage and replacement of the Shah with the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, and the misnamed “Arab Spring” in 2011.  Its latest iteration is unfolding in Saudi Arabia.

In the Middle East, as elsewhere, regional rather than global politics now drives events.  The world is reentering a diplomatic environment that would have been familiar to Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, who served nineteenth century Britain as secretary of war, foreign affairs, and prime minister.  In his time, the core skill of statecraft was manipulation of regional balances of power to protect national interests and exercise influence through measures short of war.

Palmerston famously observed that in international relations, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.  In the new world disorder, with its narcissistic nationalism, shifting alignments, and wobbling partnerships, this sounds right, even if national interests are also visibly evolving to reflect fundamental shifts in their international context.  Palmerston’s aphorism is a reminder that the flexibility and agility implicit in the hedged obligations of entente – limited commitments for limited contingencies – impart advantages that the inertia of alliance – broad obligations of mutual aid – does not.  One way or another, it is in our interest to aggregate the power of others to our own while minimizing the risks to us of doing so.

To cope with the world after the Pax Americana and to put “America first,” we Americans are going to have relearn the classic vocabulary of diplomacy or some new, equally reality-based version of it.  If we do, we will discover that, in the classic sense of the word, we now have no “allies” in the Middle East.  The only country with which we had a de jure alliance based on mutual obligations, Turkey, has de facto departed it.

Today, Ankara and Washington are seriously estranged.  Turkey is no longer aligned with the United States on any of our major diplomatic objectives in the region, which have been: securing Israel, excluding Russian influence; opposing Iran; and sustaining strategic partnerships with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.  Americans can no longer count on Turkey to support or acquiesce in our policies toward the Israel-Palestine issue; Syria; Iraq; Iran; Russia; the Caucasus; the Balkans; Greece; Cyprus; Egypt, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries; the members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; NATO; or the EU.

Having been rebuffed by Europe, Turkey has abandoned its two-century-long drive to redefine its identify as European.  It is pursuing an independent, if erratic, course in the former Ottoman space and with Russia and China.  The deterioration in EU and US-Turkish relations represents a very significant weakening of Western influence in the Middle East and adjacent regions.  As the list of countries Turkey affects suggests, this has potentially far-reaching consequences.

Meanwhile, U.S. relations with Iran remain antagonistic.  American policy blunders like the destabilization of Iraq and Syria have facilitated Iran’s establishment of a sphere of influence in the Fertile Crescent.  Our lack of a working relationship with Tehran leaves the United States unable to bring our influence to bear in the region by measures short of war.  U.S. policy is thus all military, all the time.  The White House echoes decisions made in Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi.  It no longer sets its own objectives and marshals others behind them.

For our own reasons, which differ from country to country, Americans have unilaterally taken under our wing a variety of client states, some of which are each other’s historic antagonists.  Our commitments have not changed despite the fact that the regional context of our relationships with our client states and their orientations and activities are all in rapid evolution.  Other than Turkey, the United States has never had a Middle Eastern partner that has seen itself as obliged to come to our aid or, indeed, to do anything at all for us except what might serve  its own immediate, selfish interests.  The obligations all run the other way – from us to them.

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