The International Order and Nuclear Negotiations with Iran

The International Order and Nuclear Negotiations with Iran

The international order is not just an abstract concept, but rather is of concrete value to U.S. national security, as exemplified by America's policy toward Iran.

Now What? The American Citizen, World Order, and Building a New Foreign Policy Consensus

Now What? The American Citizen, World Order, and Building a New Foreign Policy Consensus

In order for the United States to adapt to current and future international challenges, it needs a foreign policy that can unite the American public and bring back bipartisan consensus on America’s role in the world.

World Order: Many-Headed Monster or Noble Pursuit?

World Order: Many-Headed Monster or Noble Pursuit?

The pursuit of world order has taken many forms in the last 100 years of Anglo-American statecraft, and its terms have been bitterly contested.

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                    [post_content] => When scholars discuss the contemporary international order, they tend to do so in abstract terms. Older forms of international order — the balance of power between great states and shifts in that balance — could be measured in concrete terms by counting men under arms, factories, artillery pieces, and so on. Today, however, the composition of the U.S.-led liberal international order is more difficult to articulate. Richard Fontaine has characterized today’s world order as a “web of norms, institutions, rules, and relationships”[1] that “range from maritime rules and trade regimes to norms against forcible conquest and in support of state sovereignty” and “institutions like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, as well as a variety of key alliances and arrangements.”[2] In a similar vein, Robin Niblett has defined the liberal international order in terms of principles — “open markets, democracy, and individual human rights” — undergirded by institutions such as those forged at Bretton Woods in 1944.[3]

Such descriptions make the liberal international order sound profoundly important, which is not surprising since they are generally provided as predicates for arguments that this order is fraying and in need of reinvigoration or repair.[4] Yet the descriptions of what, precisely, the international order is — and, for that matter, the laments over its uncertain state — are also undeniably amorphous. That vagueness has fueled accusations by newly resurgent nationalists that the liberal international order is at best a fanciful notion or, more sinister, a scheme perpetrated by a “globalist” elite to advance parochial interests at the expense of the national interest.[5] This charge has in turn been rebutted by scholars such as John Bew, who observes that notions of world order, far from a latter-day globalist innovation, have preoccupied policymakers from across the ideological spectrum for more than a century.[6]

Yet another objection to notions of international order could be posed: that however noble such ideas may be, they are of little practical use to the policymaker engaged in the daily business of international relations. Indeed, even some defenders of the international order characterize it as “a work of abstract art”[7] and note that “the link between the pursuit of world order and American security and prosperity has always been “hard to sustain when subjected to s[k]eptical questioning.”[8] A complete argument in defense of the liberal international order requires demonstrating that this order is not merely abstract or vaguely laudable but of concrete value to the national security of the United States and its allies.

This essay seeks to make that case by examining American policy toward Iran as an example of the international order in action. The essay draws upon my experience as director for Iran at the National Security Council from 2006 to 2007 and as the council’s senior director for the Middle East from 2007 to 2008. At its best, U.S. policy toward Iran melded the unilateral exercise of American power with utilization of the norms, institutions, and relationships that make up the international order to advance a vital national security interest — namely, preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Yet an examination of American policy toward Iran also sheds light on practical problems the international order faces and how those problems might be addressed. That Iran should provide a case study in how the international order works to advance American security is no doubt ironic given that it is a classic revisionist state, railing against and seeking to undermine that very order, skillfully and not without some success.

Iran Policy Under George W. Bush

Iran’s nuclear activities were a preoccupation of the George W. Bush administration nearly from its outset. This was most memorably illustrated by the 2002 State of the Union address, in which the president decried Iran’s support for terrorism, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and its domestic repression. He famously described Iran as part of an “axis of evil.”[9] Within the Bush administration, however, Iran’s nuclear program came to be seen as a subset of the broader array of threats posed by Tehran, which included terrorism and attempts to stymie American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration internally debated different approaches for dealing with these various dangers, from regime change to sanctions to diplomacy.[10] What ultimately became U.S. policy for addressing Iran’s nuclear program — leading directly, if distantly, to the conclusion of a nuclear agreement in 2015 — was less the product of U.S. initiative than a reaction to external developments. Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities were publicly exposed in 2002 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran and shortly thereafter acknowledged by Iran.[11] Threatened with referral to the U.N. Security Council over having violated its 1974 nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran had entered into negotiations with the “EU-3” — the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Those talks, likely reinforced by Iranian worries of U.S. military action in the wake of Washington’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, produced two successive agreements: the Tehran Statement in 2003 and the Paris Agreement of 2004. Neither deal stuck, however. The EU-3’s efforts to negotiate a long-term replacement foundered in August 2005 when, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president, Tehran rejected the EU-3’s latest proposal and removed U.N. seals from its uranium conversion equipment. The IAEA Board of Governors, in turn, condemned Iran’s violations of its safeguards agreement and referred it to the U.N. Security Council in February 2006. While by no means the starting point for the Bush administration’s Iran policy, this was a meaningful turning point. Events of 2005 and 2006 inaugurated a prolonged, steady escalation in Iran’s nuclear activities, and they marked the beginning of an American strategy of looking to the international order to address the threat posed by those activities. Institutions both formal and informal, political and economic, were at the heart of this effort. The first component of the new strategy consisted of an attempt to secure U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Iran and imposing international sanctions. From 2006 to 2008, five were adopted: Resolutions 1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, and 1835. All but two of these resolutions passed unanimously; Qatar cast the sole vote against Resolution 1696, and Indonesia abstained from voting on Resolution 1803.[12] [quote id="1"] The strategy’s second component consisted of a U.S.-led effort to isolate Iran’s financial system; this was later expanded to target other sectors of the Iranian economy. Unlike the first leg of the strategy, this one relied on international arrangements that had a lower profile than the U.N. Security Council and, in some cases, were outright ad hoc. Utilizing extraterritorial sanctions adopted by Congress and executive orders promulgated by President Bush, American officials were able to threaten overseas banks with exclusion from the U.S. financial system — and, later, the ability even to utilize U.S. dollars — should they continue their relationships with Iranian banks designated under American or U.N. sanctions. The resulting economic pressure on Iran was possible only because of American dominance of the international financial system — and the related preeminence of the U.S. dollar — and the degree to which that system had, over the course of decades, become integrated across national boundaries.[13] It would be tempting to see the latter effort’s success as evidence of the efficacy of the unilateral exercise of American power.[14] In reality, however, the two policy initiatives depended on each other for success. The U.N. sanctions, while impressive on paper, were unlikely on their own to have made a significant impact on Iran’s economy or that government’s decision-making. The ad hoc financial sanctions, in turn, would not have succeeded without the U.N. resolutions to undergird them. Those resolutions provided international legitimacy to what was otherwise the naked exercise of unilateral power by Washington, an important consideration in the wake of the ongoing war in Iraq. U.S. allies in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere could argue with American tactics (and did so vociferously) but not with the objective or even the broader strategy, both of which were tacitly endorsed by the Security Council. The resolutions also laid a foundation for likeminded states to impose their own sanctions on Iran, by providing both political cover and a legal basis for doing so — which was a necessity for some states. This strategy was not without costs and compromise. The decision to work around allied governments and directly warn their financial and commercial communities caused frictions that Iran sought to exploit. The need to secure Russian and Chinese agreement, along with that of various other reluctant states in the European Union and elsewhere, meant that U.N. resolutions were frequently delayed and diluted. It also required the United States to participate in the sort of nuclear diplomacy with Iran that Washington had previously resisted. The first U.N. resolution on Iran, Resolution 1696, was preceded by the first offer to Tehran by the “P5+1” (the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members, plus Germany), in the form of an “incentives package” delivered on the group’s behalf by the EU’s foreign policy chief — then Javier Solana — in June 2006. (This was subsequently revised and presented again in mid-2008.) Furthermore, what was primarily a multilateral strategy nevertheless depended on the threat or actual use of unilateral American power to succeed. For Iran, refusal to comply with the U.N. resolutions carried the risk of further sanctions or even a U.S.-led military attack, of which the Bush administration explicitly and repeatedly warned. This threat likely also explained, in part, Moscow and Beijing’s willingness to endorse U.N. sanctions, though both pointedly refused to accept American secondary sanctions, even as they quietly took steps to comply with them. While this sort of unilateral warning enjoyed no international endorsement, it was nevertheless employed in support of what was essentially a multilateral effort. That also probably dampened other states’ anger at the U.S. use of extraterritorial sanctions, which are often seen as violating state sovereignty, a key international norm.[15] The Bush administration’s success in bringing international pressure to bear against Iran’s nuclear program was largely the product of two major factors. The first was a perceived threat — shared by the United States and allies in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere — stemming from Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities. This view was sharpened by Iran’s behavior on the nuclear front — keeping its facilities secret and reportedly engaging in research related to nuclear weapons[16] — and beyond, such as its threats toward Israel.[17] The second factor was Washington’s ability to leverage the web of norms, institutions, and relationships that make up the international order. This also helps to explain why the United States has been far less successful in rallying international support to confront other issues emanating from Iran. U.S. allies in Europe and Asia simply do not share the American assessment of the gravity of the risks posed by Iran’s non-nuclear activities, and the international norms and institutions that deal with those matters are far less developed than those that exist to address proliferation. In the Middle East, where U.S. allies tend to strongly share Washington’s estimation of Iran, there was little in the way of a “regional order” — even an informal one — upon which to fall back in the absence of international action. By the time of the 2008 presidential election, U.S. strategy toward Iran had lost its momentum. Security Council Resolution 1835, adopted in September 2008 in response to IAEA reports of continued Iranian obstructionism, was the weakest of the U.N. resolutions regarding Iran adopted to that point; it imposed no new sanctions. This faltering in the pressure campaign is often attributed to the publication of a National Intelligence Estimate[18] in 2007 that asserted Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons programs in 2003 and had not restarted them as of 2007.[19] The document was widely interpreted as contradicting Bush administration assertions that Iran harbored ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons, even though the suspension it referred to related only to “weaponization” work, not to Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, which were ongoing. As Bush administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley later noted, the National Intelligence Estimate “was misinterpreted as an all-clear when it wasn’t that at all.”[20] [quote id="2"] While the estimate was undoubtedly a hindrance to U.S. diplomacy — and a political millstone around the necks of European leaders facing constituencies skeptical of sanctions against Iran — the document’s role has been exaggerated. Even if Iran had suspended its weaponization efforts, as the document asserted, that did not make the expansion of its nuclear infrastructure, nor its record of proliferation and of threatening neighbors, less concerning to the U.S. and allied governments, whatever the consequences for public messaging. What’s more, U.S. allies largely did not accept the NIE’s conclusions.[21] Instead, the loss of diplomatic momentum has two other roots. The first was that the strategy had simply failed to achieve its intended result. Iran continued to expand its nuclear activities despite the mounting sanctions. Second, and perhaps more important, the international context was especially inauspicious. The United States and Russia were in a tense standoff over Moscow’s military campaign in Georgia. Opposition to the Iraq War, then in its sixth year, was pronounced abroad and increasingly bitter in the United States itself amid the presidential campaign. The global financial crisis, meanwhile, dampened enthusiasm for further use of economic weapons against Iran, which was in turn buoyed by sky-high oil prices.

Iran Policy Under the Obama Administration

This was the context in which Barack Obama inherited the unresolved Iran nuclear file. Yet for all of the divisiveness of the 2008 presidential campaign on matters of foreign policy, the Obama administration largely kept in place the strategy pursued by the Bush administration. Engagement with Iran was a centerpiece of Obama’s campaign, but some of Obama’s efforts continued initiatives begun during the Bush administration. For example, the Bush administration dispatched Undersecretary of State Bill Burns to participate in a P5+1 meeting with Iran for the first time in August 2008.[22] There were also discontinuities: Obama and other U.S. officials engaged in repeated, direct outreach to Iranian officials.[23] Indeed, European officials worried in the summer of 2008 that Obama’s seeming readiness to engage directly with Iran without preconditions would undermine the P5+1’s approach on the nuclear issue.[24] In addition, the Obama administration is widely perceived to have deemphasized efforts to counter Iran’s non-nuclear activities in the Middle East. Obama was skeptical of U.S. military commitments in the region, emphasizing, for example, the need to withdraw combat forces from Iraq and shift resources to Afghanistan.[25] The precise impact of all of these changes is unclear. Obama and his aides often argued that American outreach to Iran was vital to securing support for subsequent sanctions.[26] Others have observed that these sanctions built incrementally on those adopted during the Bush presidency.[27] Likewise, Obama viewed his restraint in the Middle East as serving U.S. interests,[28] whereas critics saw his focus on the nuclear issue to the exclusion of Iran’s regional behavior as undermining American leverage.[29] Whatever one’s view of events, some external developments were consequential. One such development was the discovery in September 2009 that Iran was building yet another clandestine uranium enrichment facility, at Fordow. This news undermined the narrative that Iran had abandoned its nuclear ambitions and showed that it was not acting in good faith on its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as Tehran had consistently claimed. Another external development that proved critical came in February 2010, when Iran commenced production of more highly enriched uranium.[30] This followed the failure in October 2009 of the “fuel swap” proposal, under which Iran would have exported its low-enriched uranium to a third country to be further enriched and fabricated into fuel rods for its Tehran Research Reactor.[31] The unsuccessful fuel-swap proposal had not sought to enforce existing U.N. resolutions, as it did not require Iran to halt the enrichment of uranium, but neither did it contradict them, as it offered no sanctions relief. More nettlesome to international diplomacy was the Obama administration’s apparent encouragement of a last-ditch effort by Turkey and Brazil to revive the proposal, an ad hoc initiative that ran contrary to Washington’s parallel pursuit, via the P5+1, of a new U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran.[32] These events were the basis for passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, the last of the six resolutions the council adopted regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Meanwhile, the Obama administration, with increasingly vigorous prodding from Congress, continued to expand the campaign of ad hoc financial sanctions against Iran.[33] Once again, these sanctions leaned heavily on institutions of the international order, such as the U.S. dollar’s role in oil transactions, the relative concentration of the international shipping insurance industry, and the tight integration of global financial transaction networks, the latter of which were instrumental to the “SWIFT” sanctions.[34] The United States was joined in these efforts by the European Union, which in July 2010 adopted a wide-ranging package of sanctions against Iran.[35] In January 2012 an oil embargo followed.[36] Like the U.S. sanctions, these powerful EU measures capitalized on the integrated nature of the global economy. In 2012, however, the United States abruptly shifted its diplomatic strategy, pivoting from the multilateral process that had dominated from 2006 to 2011 to one that was, in essence, unilateral. The Obama administration had developed a channel to Iran via Oman that it used to secure the release of three American hikers detained by Iranian authorities.[37] It then utilized that channel to begin a bilateral nuclear negotiating track with Tehran without informing other members of the P5+1.[38] It was these negotiations, rather than the P5+1 talks that continued in parallel, that ultimately produced, in November 2013, what became known as the “Joint Plan of Action.” (JPOA)[39] This interim accord was the blueprint for the document — formally the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) — endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 2231 in July 2015.[40] Negotiating an accord bilaterally with Iran in this manner was expedient. Whether it was effective is debatable. The United States made major concessions in the bilateral talks, foremost among them dropping any insistence that Iran permanently suspend its enrichment and reprocessing-related activities. Had these concessions been offered in the P5+1 talks, it is not clear that the channel would have made a difference to Iran’s willingness to reach a deal. To the extent that the more restricted channel did have an effect on the talks, it was most likely in providing a level of secrecy that made the parties more comfortable discussing their negotiating positions without fear that they would be publicly exposed. Even this is debatable, however, as the talks that led from the JPOA to the JCPOA were conducted in the P5+1 format without significant leaks. What’s more, the shift in U.S. strategy carried costs. The revelation of the secret bilateral channel roiled the P5+1, creating friction between the United States and France and pushing Britain and Germany to “the sidelines,” according to then-French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.[41] The agreement reached between the United States and Iran did not comply with the six earlier U.N. resolutions, for which Washington had previously invested significant time and effort to secure Russian and Chinese backing. Instead, Washington unilaterally changed the terms offered to Iran by the international community. The shift in negotiating format, together with skillful Iranian diplomacy, affected the discussion itself; instead of grappling over what Iran had to do to meet its international obligations and be re-integrated into the global order, the talks became about what infringement of purported Iranian “rights” could be imposed by the United States and, in turn, what level of nuclear activity the United States could tolerate in Iran. [quote id="4"] Security Council Resolution 2231 not only departed significantly from the terms of previous U.N. resolutions on Iran but also represented a fait accompli in Washington. Congress was generally wary of Iran and had played a key role in pushing some of the most powerful sanctions against that country. It had adopted legislation requiring the Obama administration to submit any nuclear agreement for congressional review. By first securing Security Council endorsement of the JCPOA, however, the administration effectively rendered congressional review moot. The Obama administration’s argument — that because the agreement had already been codified by the Security Council, it could not be unilaterally changed by the United States — presented the broader U.S. government with a binary option to accept the deal as it was or reject altogether a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and consider other options, such as a military operation. The irony was that the agreement had, in broad strokes, not been the product of an international negotiation but of bilateral discussions between the United States and Iran, regarding which Congress had been kept in the dark. Ultimately, congressional opponents were unable to muster the votes needed to overturn the agreement, and it moved ahead.[42] At first blush, the JCPOA is a victory for multilateralism. Indeed, even Fabius praised the agreement as a “historic success” for all parties involved and said it demonstrated that “diplomatic action can yield spectacular results.”[43] But that perception of success obscures how the international order was damaged by the methods used to reach the agreement. First, the United States unilaterally put aside six U.N. resolutions on Iran, all measures it had negotiated, without first coordinating with its allies — just as those allies had worried Washington might do in 2008.[44] This arguably weakened the authority of the U.N. Security Council and risked lending credence to arguments that the Security Council is merely an instrument of American power. That no doubt pleased the Iranian government, which had long decried the resolutions as “illegal.”[45] Second, by using Security Council endorsement against domestic opponents, the Obama administration risked further delegitimizing the United Nations specifically and internationalism in general among already-skeptical American conservatives. Pew Research Center has found a growing partisan gap in U.S. perceptions of the United Nations in recent decades. In 1990, Pew polling found, 68 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats viewed the United Nations favorably. By 2016, Democratic support for the United Nations had climbed to 80 percent while Republican support had dropped to 43 percent.[46] The perception that the United Nations can be used to circumvent conservative political views at home further erodes internationalist sentiments among Republicans. And neglecting to build a domestic consensus, however expedient it may have been to reach agreement, meant that the nuclear deal was not placed on a footing that would weather political changes in the United States.

Iran Policy Under the Trump Administration

Few Republicans criticized the Iran deal — or internationalism, for that matter — as harshly as Donald Trump. As a candidate and in the early days of his presidency, Trump swore at times that he would “dismantle” the agreement.[47] At other times he adopted a milder line, arguing that it should be rigorously enforced despite its flaws.[48] Ultimately, the Iran policy that his administration announced after several months of review reflected a compromise between these positions. He asserted in October 2017 that he sought to nest the JCPOA in a strengthened, comprehensive Iran strategy. But he also said that he would walk away from the agreement if an understanding could not be reached with allies on addressing what he perceived as its shortcomings and if Congress did not adopt new legislation overseeing implementation.[49] Trump’s decision not to unilaterally withdraw was well-founded, whatever his concerns about the deal’s substance. American withdrawal, especially if followed by an effort to reimpose secondary sanctions punishing European and other international firms for business dealings with Iran, would have been galling to U.S. partners in Europe and Asia. Whatever their concerns about the agreement’s negotiation, those allies by and large support the deal and perceive it as serving not only their commercial interests but also their national security interests by forestalling Iran’s nuclear progress as well as potential military conflict. Precisely because of their concerns about the deal’s negotiation, they would find a U.S. effort to force their hands through punitive sanctions especially unfair — it would amount to Washington punishing its allies for adhering to an agreement that the United States and Iran had negotiated bilaterally. Nor should it be presumed, however, that U.S. allies are naïve. Congressional debate over the JCPOA in 2015 played out in public view; few predictions about U.S. foreign policy during the 2016 election campaign were surer bets than the presumption that a Republican administration would be unenthusiastic about the deal. Furthermore, the historical record does not support the notion that diplomatic agreements are sacrosanct. Indeed, they often face pressure or dissolve when circumstances or governments change. While abrupt swings are far from the norm in U.S. foreign policy, neither are they rare. After Obama took office, his administration quickly repudiated the Bush administration’s plans for missile defenses in Europe, angering Poland but pleasing Russia.[50] Obama also abandoned the Bush administration’s understandings[51] with the Israeli government regarding settlements.[52] U.S. officials denied that any “enforceable agreements” existed[53] and moved ahead with a new policy.[54] Reactions to these decisions appeared to be rooted more in whether a person agreed or disagreed with them than in principled beliefs that administrations should honor their predecessors’ commitments. American credibility is not, of course, irrelevant. But U.S. policymakers are unlikely to advocate adhering to policies they consider bad simply to sustain credibility. Preserving this sort of credibility internationally requires more concerted efforts to build domestic coalitions that will sustain policies beyond an administration’s term. Whatever one’s opinion of the JCPOA’s merits and flaws, there is good reason to think that U.S. withdrawal from the agreement would chiefly benefit Iran. Such a step would open a rift between the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia. If the agreement survived America’s pullout, enforcement would likely be weaker without U.S. oversight. Whatever pressure Washington managed to generate through renewed sanctions enforcement would be impaired by resistance from Iran and from European and Asian states, which would be its proximate targets. The U.S.-led campaign for secondary sanctions against Iran in the mid-2000s demonstrates that such measures can be effective despite allies’ objections if there is strategic convergence among allies and if the measures are undergirded, at least in theory, by U.N. action. But when there is strategic divergence and no effort at the United Nations, any economic effect of such measures is difficult to sustain and must be weighed against serious diplomatic costs; the Clinton administration’s experience seeking to enforce the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in the 1990s demonstrates this.[55] [quote id="3"] For all of these reasons, the Trump administration’s decision appears sound — namely, to leverage other states’ desire for the United States to remain within the JCPOA to win those states’ cooperation with strict enforcement and a broader effort to challenge Iran. Such bargaining is not incompatible with the ideas of internationalism and global order; that interests are shared does not imply that states will not seek to shift the burden of securing them on to the United States, and American policymakers are right to resist. What is vital, however, is that Washington’s diplomacy not only advances U.S. interests but also preserves and strengthens the international system, lest short-term gains be outweighed by long-term costs. To be successful, the United States must not only articulate a clear policy toward Iran but also explain how it serves U.S. and partners’ interests and rally allies in support. This strategy should be implemented across multiple policy tools — economic, diplomatic, and military — not in sequence but as a single, concerted campaign. The history of U.S. policy toward Iran suggests that this will require patience and compromise but may ultimately be rewarding. A united international front has the twin benefits of spreading a policy’s costs and amplifying its effectiveness.

Conclusion

The international order may be a web of norms, institutions, and relationships, but an understanding lies at its core. American leadership of the international order is largely embraced by allies, giving the United States tremendous global influence. But U.S. allies do not subordinate their interests any more than the United States does. Rather, this enduring dynamic reflects confidence that the United States will advance shared interests, even if it ultimately does so to serve its own. And it reflects a mutual agreement that the international order generates outcomes that serve shared interests better than purely transactional relationships could, and that these outcomes justify the compromises required to maintain that order. The recent history of U.S. policy toward Iran demonstrates how the international order works in action and how it can provide Washington with tremendous leverage to accomplish policy goals, especially when utilized in concert with other instruments of American power. That history also demonstrates the mutual dependence at the heart of the international order. After all, European powers made little headway against Iran in the early 2000s absent American involvement, just as the United States could not have imposed the pressure it brought to bear against Iran without the (sometimes reluctant) support of allies and the use of international institutions. Yet that history also illustrates a temptation for U.S. officials, confronted with a preeminent role and outsize influence, to use these resources not as assets to be assiduously preserved and nurtured but as mere tools of U.S. foreign policy — or domestic politics — like any others. As the American appetite for global leadership and internationalist spirit have waned in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the global financial crisis, this tendency seems to have grown. It was on display when the Obama administration pivoted from the P5+1 process to a bilateral one and used the U.N. Security Council as a domestic political cudgel. It was similarly exhibited by those who wish to use international sanctions to coerce allies absent any effort to bridge diverging aims and strategies with respect to Iran. Treating the international order in this manner risks eroding it. Every state acts out of self-interest. If a state perceives that its economic or political dependence on the United States is a liability rather than the price of an international order that ultimately advances its security and prosperity, that state will inevitably develop workarounds and hedging strategies. The international order is not fixed or predictable like a domestic legal system. Rather, it is dynamic and relies on the balance of self-interest among allies. Iran and its fellow revisionists take gratification from friction between the United States and its allies, and they share the overarching goal of diminishing U.S. influence in global affairs. Should the United States and allied policymakers fail to defend the international order, they will discover to their dismay that the loss is not at all abstract but has concrete consequences for their states’ prosperity and security.   Michael Singh is Managing Director and Lane-Swig Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and former senior director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Obama White House [post_title] => The International Order and Nuclear Negotiations with Iran [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => international-order-nuclear-negotiations-iran [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-22 13:04:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-22 17:04:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=414 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => The international order is not just an abstract concept, but rather is of concrete value to U.S. national security, as exemplified by America's policy toward Iran. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Issue 2 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => That Iran should provide a case study in how the international order works to advance American security is no doubt ironic. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => By the time of the 2008 presidential election, U.S. strategy toward Iran had lost its momentum. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Whatever one’s opinion of the JCPOA’s merits and flaws, there is good reason to think that U.S. withdrawal from the agreement would chiefly benefit Iran. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => At first blush, the JCPOA is a victory for multilateralism. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 534 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 100 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Richard Fontaine, “Salvaging Global Order,” National Interest online, March 10, 2015, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/salvaging-the-global-order-12390. [2] Richard Fontaine, “The U.S. Response to Today’s Global Order and Tomorrow’s Threats,” Journal of International Affairs online, March 15, 2017, https://jia.sipa.columbia.edu/us-response-global-order. [3] Robin Niblett, “Liberalism in Retreat,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/liberalism-retreat. [4] See, for example, Richard N. Haass, “World Order 2.0,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/world-order-20. [5] See Michael Anton, “America and the Liberal International Order,” American Affairs, no. 1 (Spring 2017), https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/02/america-liberal-international-order/. [6] John Bew, “World Order: Many-Headed Monster or Noble Pursuit?” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 1 (October 2017): 14–35. [7] Bew, “World Order.” [8] John A. Thompson as quoted by Bew in “World Order.” [9] George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, Washington DC, Jan. 29, 2002, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129-11.html. [10] For further detail, see David Crist, Twilight War (New York: Penguin Books, 2012), 442–460. [11] Paul Kerr, “IAEA to Visit Two ‘Secret’ Nuclear Sites in Iran,” Arms Control Today, Jan. 1, 2003, https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2003_01-02/irannuclear_janfeb03. [12] The texts and voting tallies for all of these resolutions can be accessed at http://www.un.org/en/sc/documents/. [13] See Juan Zarate, Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare (New York: PublicAffairs, 2013). [14] See, for example, Jana Winter and Dan De Luce, “Iran Nuclear Deal Critics Push Plan for ‘Global Economic Embargo,’” Foreign Policy, Sept. 14, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/09/14/iran-sanctions-memo/. [15] This view was enshrined in the European Union’s “blocking statute” of Nov. 22, 1996, adopted in response to the first U.S. extraterritorial sanctions on Iran. Text of the statute can be found at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31996R2271:EN:HTML. [16] For more information, see the annex to the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, November 18, 2011, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/gov2011-65.pdf. [17] Louis Charbonneau, “In New York, Defiant Ahmadinejad says Israel will be ‘Eliminated,’” Reuters, Sept. 24, 2012, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-assembly-ahmadinejad/in-new-york-defiant-ahmadinejad-says-israel-will-be-eliminated-idUSBRE88N0HF20120924. [18] “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” National Intelligence Estimate (Washington: National Intelligence Council, November 2007), https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Press Releases/2007 Press Releases/20071203_release.pdf. [19] George W. Bush, Decision Points (New York: Random House, 2010), 419. [20] Stephen Hadley as quoted in Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball, “Special Report: Intel Shows Iran Nuclear Threat Not Imminent,” Reuters, March 23, 2012, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-usa-nuclear/special-report-intel-shows-iran-nuclear-threat-not-imminent-idUSBRE82M0G020120323. [21] Condoleezza Rice, No Higher Honor (New York: Random House, 2011), 618. [22] “U.S. Reverses Course, Will Send Envoy to Talks with Iran,” CNN, July 16, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/16/us.iran/index.html. [23] Trita Parsi, Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy (Yale University Press: 2017). [24] Glenn Kessler, “Europe Fears Obama Might Undercut Progress With Iran,” Washington Post, June 22, 2008,  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/21/AR2008062101658.html. [25] Barack Obama, interview by Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times, Nov. 1, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/01/us/politics/02obama-transcript.html. [26] Remarks by the President at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony, West Point, NY, May 28, 2014, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/28/remarks-president-united-states-military-academy-commencement-ceremony. [27] Glenn Kessler, “Fact Checker: Obama’s Claim That His Administration ‘Built a Coalition That Imposed Sanctions on the Iranian Economy,” Washington Post, June 2, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/06/02/obamas-claim-that-his-administration-built-a-coalition-that-imposed-sanctions-on-the-iranian-economy/. [28] David Samuels, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru,” New York Times, May 5, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html. [29] Michael Doran, “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” Mosaic, Feb. 2, 2015, https://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2015/02/obamas-secret-iran-strategy/. [30] International Atomic Energy Agency Director General, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1835 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Feb. 18, 2010, http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/IAEA_Report_Iran_18Feb2010.pdf. [31] “Official Proposals on the Iranian Nuclear Issue, 2003-2013,” Arms Control Association, July 2015,  https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Iran_Nuclear_Proposals. [32] Laura Rozen, “W.H. Pushes Back on Letter Leak,” Politico, May 28, 2010, https://www.politico.com/story/2010/05/wh-pushes-back-on-letter-leak-037938. [33] Jay Solomon, The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East (New York: Random House, 2016), 142-67. [34] Solomon, Iran Wars, 202-04. [35] “Council Decision of 26 July 2010 Concerning Restrictive Measures Against Iran and Repealing Common Position 2007/140/CFSP,” Official Journal of the European Union 53 (July 27, 2010): 25, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2010.195.01.0025.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2010:195:TOC. [36] “Council Decision 2012/35/CFSP of 23 January 2012 Amending Decision 2010/413/CFSP Concerning Restrictive Measures Against Iran,” Official Journal of the European Union 55 (Jan. 24, 2012): 22, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2012.019.01.0022.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2012:019:TOC. [37] Parsi, Losing an Enemy, 217. [38] Laurent Fabius, “Inside the Iran Deal: A French Perspective,” Washington Quarterly 39, no. 3 (Fall 2016): 7-38, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2016.1232630. [39] “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Full Text,” CNN, Nov. 24, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/24/world/meast/iran-deal-text/index.html. [40] United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 2231 (2015),” S/Res/2231, July 20, 2015,  https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/unsc_resolution2231-2015.pdf. [41] Fabius, “Inside the Iran Deal.” [42] Jennifer Steinhauer, “Democrats Hand Victory to Obama on Iran Nuclear Deal,” New York Times, Sept. 10, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/11/us/politics/iran-nuclear-deal-senate.html. [43] Fabius, “Inside the Iran Deal.” [44] Glenn Kesssler, “Europe Fears Obama Might Undercut Progress with Iran,” Washington Post, June 22, 2008, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/21/AR2008062101658.html. [45] “Iran Calls New UNSC Resolution Illegal and Unfortunate,” Payvand News, Sept. 28, 2008, http://www.payvand.com/news/08/sep/1311.html. [46] “Favorable Views of the UN Prevail in Europe, Asia, and U.S.,” Pew Research Center, Sept. 20, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/20/favorable-views-of-the-un-prevail-in-europe-asia-and-u-s/. [47] Transcript of Donald Trump’s Speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Washington DC, March 22, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/donald-trumps-full-speech-to-aipac/. [48] Eric Cortellessa, “In Call With Riyadh, Trump Vows to ‘Rigorously Enforce’ Iran Deal,” Times of Israel, Jan. 30, 2017, https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-call-with-riyadh-trump-commits-to-rigorously-enforce-iran-deal/. [49] Remarks by President Trump on Iran Strategy, Washington DC, Oct. 13, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/10/13/remarks-president-trump-iran-strategy. [50] Peter Baker, “White House Scraps Bush’s Approach to Missile Shield,” New York Times, Sept. 17, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/world/europe/18shield.html. [51] Elliott Abrams, “Hillary Is Wrong About the Settlements,” Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2009, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB124588743827950599. [52] Letter From President Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, April 14, 2004, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040414-3.html. [53] Hillary Clinton, “Remarks With Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman,” State Department, June 17, 2009, https://2009-2017.state.gov/secretary/20092013clinton/rm/2009a/06/125044.htm. [54] Daniel Dombey, “Clinton Clashes With Israelis Over Settlers,” Financial Times, June 17, 2009, https://www.ft.com/content/614c98a4-5b98-11de-be3f-00144feabdc0. [55] Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America, (Random House, 2005), 286-89. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 280 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2017-10-25 07:11:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-25 11:11:54 [post_content] => Americans are mired in disagreements. They are politically divided, with many preferring to identify as independent and significant rifts clear even within the Democratic and Republican parties. But party polarization is only one measure of what separates them. Myriad considerations — age, gender, race, religion, region, class, and education — factor into the differences in how Americans view the world. Bipartisan consensus has often found its strongest roots in foreign policy and defense. The United States has a raucous history of democratic debate and disagreement on the use of military force and other national security questions. Since the end of World War II, however, most Americans have shared the belief that their prosperity and security are advanced by the United States pursuing a leading role in world affairs. This bipartisan consensus on the U.S. role in the world has grown brittle. Disagreements permeate U.S. foreign policy on issues as varied as the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and comprehensive immigration policy. Policy differences have existed throughout American history, but today’s challenge is more fundamental. The exercise of American leadership globally is growing more vulnerable to challenges overseas. Moreover, the deep U.S. political divisions are obfuscating genuine differences over policy, substituting partisan action-reaction cycles. Rejections of the status quo in 2016 galvanized the success of presidential candidates who positioned themselves outside the foreign policy mainstream. The election and foreign policy of Donald Trump have further frayed the consensus. The president’s preference for chaos, alternately wearing and shedding the mantle of global engagement in equal rhetorical measure, threatens the durability of a unified vision for America’s role in the world. The weakening of the U.S. foreign policy consensus reflects a failure to adjust effectively to changes at home and abroad, with resulting confusion and dismay about the nation’s direction and role. The fraying in turn weakens America’s ability to adapt to current and future challenges. An acknowledged consensus in favor of American engagement in the world provides the domestic foundation on which to advance U.S. interests out in the world. Such a renewed and necessarily broad consensus on the importance of a global leadership role will not resolve the disagreements or eliminate the challenges that have brought the United States to this point. But rejuvenating the consensus will aid U.S. credibility abroad, reassuring allies while deterring rivals, and strengthen the nation from within. To build an effective foreign policy that most Americans can support, one must first understand the variety of factors shaping Americans’ opinions (and U.S. government direction) on foreign policy. Some factors are tied to personal and community circumstances, others to a broader domestic political and policy context. Moreover, American views are increasingly shaped by the international arena where foreign policy is largely executed. These domestic and international factors are intertwined, at times mutually reinforcing points and other times in tension. Working from the outside in, this essay briefly explores foreign and domestic forces affecting Americans’ evolving views about foreign and security policy. It assesses the foundation for an engaged American foreign policy despite evidence of fracturing support. It then draws out three touchstones for devising foreign policy and concludes by offering three actionable priorities to secure American interests in this era.

The Global Context

Americans are inundated with troubling news from overseas, much of which they feel unable to control. Six challenges to U.S. interests in the international system are noteworthy for their current and potential effect on American foreign policy: Nation-State Adversaries More than 25 years after the Cold War ended, military opportunism and provocation from states seeking to challenge the United States are fully awakened. Four powers are particularly noteworthy as potential adversaries: China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. A U.S. military conflict with any of these countries would have profound consequences. China is poised to be the most significant long-term competitor to the United States. Beijing is investing substantial resources in its military, developing capabilities clearly designed to prevent others from opposing its will in East Asia and, increasingly, beyond the region. China is also challenging basic norms of international order by using its might to claim and build out land features in the South and East China Seas. Ample evidence of intellectual property theft and unfair trade practices, alongside its human rights record and increasing foreign investments, raise further concerns. Meanwhile, China is the world’s second-largest economy and a significant trading partner of the United States and most U.S. allies. The United States has a strong interest in seeing China evolve as an economically vibrant, non-hostile, and less autocratic nation that contributes to peace and stability. As a power in decline rather than on the rise, Russia does not have China’s long-term potential. But the Kremlin still commands a nation with a substantial nuclear arsenal, a sizable conventional military, and the skill and affinity to execute full-scale political warfare that challenges the traditional weaknesses of open societies. Russia is working to revise the international order to its advantage. Its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014 is a stand-out example, but there are others. Russia has postured aggressively against the West and expanded its military role in Syria. The Kremlin’s playbook has included energy and economic manipulation; corruption; conventional military harassments; nuclear saber-rattling; cyberattacks and information warfare, including using active measures to affect the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Playing for reputational points abroad but also largely to a domestic audience, President Vladimir Putin appears set on a course toward serving, at best, as a spoiler of Western interests and, at worst, as a direct military aggressor. [quote id="1"] For more than 60 years, war on the Korean Peninsula has been a concern for Washington. Under Kim Jong Un, this long-standing worry has become far graver. Korea’s rapid missile and nuclear development, coupled with its jingoistic propaganda and provocations and its apparent disinterest in nuclear negotiations, raise the specter of a conflict that could embroil not only South Korea and Japan but also the United States, China, and Russia. Kim might seek military conflict in desperation during a regime collapse or by foolishly attempting territorial or other gains. More likely is the possibility that North Korea and the United States or its allies will miscalculate the other side’s capability and resolve, with a subsequent inability or unwillingness to control crisis dynamics. Finally, Iran poses a substantial challenge to American interests. The United States and its regional partners possess far greater conventional military capabilities than Iran, but Tehran’s preferred tactics involve seeking to destabilize its enemies by employing proxy forces, providing substantial support to terrorist groups, harassing maritime traffic, using cyber and information warfare, and developing its missile arsenal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal — if adhered to would help forestall Iran’s development of nuclear capability. But economic sanctions were lifted as part of the deal, and U.S. vigilance will be needed to curb Iranian elements from seeking to invest newly available resources in military, paramilitary, or proxy forces. Weak, Unstable, and Collapsing States Although they often do not receive the same attention as nation-state threats, the failures of governments in Yemen, Afghanistan, Central America, and elsewhere manifest into security challenges that can hurt Americans at home. Security implications that can emanate from chronically weak states include, but are not limited to, terrorism, migration, transnational crime, weapons proliferation, piracy, and cross-border health threats. Syria’s population has sat tragically astride some of the world’s most complex geopolitical dynamics. The repressive Assad government’s brutal crackdowns on peaceful protestors have led to a chain reaction that leaves the country incapacitated. More than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced; 5 million others have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and into Europe.[1] Key nations are on opposing sides of Syria’s civil war, with Iran and Russia backing the Assad regime and the United States, Europe, and Gulf states seeking a negotiated peace settlement that could remove Assad from power. (Under the Trump administration, the U.S. government’s position on the ultimate disposition of the Assad regime is unclear.) The U.S.-led coalition fights the Islamic State inside Syria and Iraq. Russia, Iran, and the Syrian government claim to do the same while also striking at opposition forces supported by the coalition. The battle space in and around Syria is fraught with risk. Terrorism Terrorism tops many Americans’ list of national security concerns.[2] Terrorist movements can grow in repressive and supportive states alike, in places where local governance may be inadequate to address political and societal discord. The rise of the Islamic State in Syria, its rapid territorial gains there and in Iraq, and its transformation into a global movement has provided a focal point for these concerns in recent years. The U.S.-led coalition has steadily weakened the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. However, major ISIL cells are now operating out of Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen. Islamic State and related online propaganda aim to inspire terrorism around the world. Authorities have cited ISIL as an inspiration for several attempted attacks in the United States perpetrated by U.S. citizens.[3] Just as the Islamic State grew in the shadow of al-Qaeda, so too is the Islamic State likely to generate prominent follow-on movements. Terrorist movements motivated by other political causes include white nationalists, separatists, and anarchists. Regardless of their aims, these groups can have strategic effect at relatively low cost, aided by social media and the Internet as well as tactics such as mass shootings, using vehicles as weapons, planting car bombs, or employing more advanced capabilities. Enabling Information and Other Technology Terrorists are just one subset of actors enabled by the spread of information and development of critical technologies. Thanks to the growth of biotechnology, cheaper material and forms of manufacturing, such as 3-D printing, as well as the rapid proliferation of commercial and military drones, it is easier than ever for individuals, small groups, and less powerful states to achieve high-end capabilities. The increasing ease of arms sales further accelerates this trend. Whatever might be said about the U.S. approach to arms sales and technology transfer, it is guided by a body of law and established norms intended to mitigate advanced technology proliferation and end-use risks. The same cannot be said for Russia, which accounts for 23 percent of major arms exports, and China, the world’s fastest-growing arms exporter.[4] The implications of technology diffusion are perhaps most profound in the information domain. At the military-industrial level, the information revolution is enabling increased precision and actionable information and improving cyber and space capabilities. At the broader societal level, the information revolution has brought profound changes affecting the daily lives of people across the planet. In early 2017, the Pew Research Center estimated that 77 percent of Americans owned their own smartphone.[5] Americans (and Europeans) may be ahead in the information race, but they are far from alone. There are an estimated 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally.[6] By these estimates, mobile subscriptions have surpassed the number of active fixed-line subscriptions worldwide, and it is conceivable that the overall number of devices connected to the internet — the Internet of Things — will reach at least 20 billion by 2020.[7] Much of that connectivity growth is poised to occur in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This revolution in information accessibility drives gains in innovation and productivity. At its best, it has also promoted good governance, enabling the connectivity of people united in common peaceful causes. But this era will also be defined by the weaponization of this connectivity. Al-Qaeda, criminals, and white supremacists were among the most successful early adapters on the digital battlefield.[8] Nations have also leveraged the tools of modern connectivity to achieve security aims, both through internal control and external manipulation. Examples include North Korea’s hack of Sony Pictures, Iran’s cyber intrusions into Saudi Aramco, and Chinese theft of U.S. government employee data from the Office of Personnel Management.[9] Most recently, disagreements between Qatar and its Gulf Cooperation Council partners have played out in attempts to embarrass one another with leaked and falsified emails.[10] But no actor has as spectacularly advanced the potential to weaponize the current information domain for political ends as Russia, both in creating disinformation and in deploying that information in well-orchestrated campaigns enabled by artificial intelligence and humans. Resources, Climate Change, and Urbanization U.S. foreign policy will also confront important shifts in natural resources, demography, and climate. The United States has largely achieved its goal of being “energy independent” insofar as it is a net exporter of natural gas and the world’s largest exporter of refined petroleum products.[11] But the world market has become more “energy interdependent.” This is due in part to the increased number of important suppliers beyond OPEC, including the United States. It is also because energy politics are increasingly driven by issues associated with the effects of energy use, namely climate change.[12] Energy independence, as long thought of, is valuable for U.S. foreign policy, but acknowledging the world’s energy interdependence and acting upon it are equally important to American security. Climate change poses a variety of security-related challenges. Shipping lanes in the Arctic Ocean are expected to open by mid-century due to warming.[13] This will place a premium on patrol and search-and-rescue assets that can operate in the austere environment, and resource competition in the region could heighten tensions among vying nations. Rising sea levels are another major threat, particularly in the Pacific. The warming of oceans is also creating more and worse storms.[14] As the 2017 hurricanes affecting Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands demonstrated, the economic and human toll of major weather events is substantial. Already in the United States, more than 90 coastal communities face chronic flooding, which the Union of Concerned Scientists defines as “the kind of flooding that’s so unmanageable it prompts people to move away.”[15] The number is expected to reach 170 communities in the next 20 years.[16] Food and water crises sit at the intersection of resource and climate-change challenges. Drought, exacerbated by military conflicts, has intensified the plight of more than 20 million people enduring famines in Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen.[17] Underlying mismatches in projected population and food productivity portend continuing food scarcity. By 2050, the world population is projected to increase from 7.3 billion to 9.7 billion, with more than half of this growth in Africa. Over this same period, meat consumption is projected to rise nearly 73 percent and dairy consumption by 58 percent from 2010 levels. Yet while output of food, feed, fiber, and fuel will most likely continue to rise in coming decades, total food production is not on pace to meet this demand.[18] Projected shortages of clean water are also daunting.[19] Among demographic trends of note for U.S. shapers of foreign policy, one that stands out as underexplored is urbanization. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban environments, with about one-third — some 2 billion people — living in slum-like conditions.[20] All regions are expected to urbanize further over the coming decades, but Africa and Asia, home to the most rural regions remaining, are urbanizing faster than others. The combination of rapid expansion and poor living conditions creates governance challenges for cities’ ecosystems, including water, power, and green space. Slum-like conditions contribute to the rapid spread of diseases. Many such growing urban areas will be situated along waterways, making them especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and more severe natural disasters. Particularly in less developed areas, cities will likely be strained to meet the security needs of citizens as population density, inadequate governance, and poverty create conditions for criminal activity and civil unrest.[21] Threats to Democratic Norms Many of these trends are culminating in support for anti-democratic policies and governance models. The Syrian crisis is a leading cause of the largest forced population displacement since the aftermath of World War II, with reverberations throughout the Levant, Europe, and beyond.[22] These refugee flows have fueled concerns about sovereignty and terrorism in many parts of the world, a concern reinforced by recent terrorist incidents in Europe, Australia, and the United States. Together with weak economic performance in many Western-style democracies and the use of propaganda and disinformation, the stage has been set for rising nationalism and a renewal of autocracy around the world. The U.S.-based think tank Freedom House released a report this year showing that, while the gains from non-free states are small, 2016 marked the eleventh year in a row in which the share of free countries had declined and the share of “not free” countries grew.[23] This trend, alongside tested norms regarding state sovereignty, chemical weapons use, nuclear proliferation, and the Geneva Conventions, is a direct challenge to the postwar international order built by the United States and its allies.

U.S. Domestic Context

This brief synopsis of major challenges in the world misses much, but it underscores how activity beyond U.S. borders will shape America’s ability to advance its prosperity and security. The domestic context for U.S. foreign policy is equally important and far too often ignored by security analysts. There are, in fact, multiple domestic contexts: The United States is divided along a variety of dimensions that are creating challenges for envisioning and executing a coherent foreign policy. Some of the foreign policy divide may be explained by cultural differences; this includes variations in regional, national, racial, party, gender, military, and religious identity.[24] Economic factors may also explain some of it.[25] Although the United States has the world’s largest gross domestic product and is a leading source of innovation across multiple sectors, in 2015 it had the world’s third-largest income gap.[26] Divisions in the U.S. electorate on issues of trade and immigration illuminate how various cultural and economic factors, and doubtless other causes, are shaping the prospect of consensus on foreign policy. In April 2016, 49 percent of general public respondents to Pew polling indicated that they believed U.S. involvement in the world economy was a “bad thing” that lowered wages and cost jobs, while 44  percent of such respondents believed it was a “good thing.”[27] That poll marked the bottoming out of a downward slide in positive views of trade, a slide that began roughly at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s second term. By the time of the 2016 presidential election, trade proponents were chastened by the strong negative reaction to their arguments. Yet just a few months into 2017 support for U.S. trade in the same Pew poll had rebounded to 52 percent of respondents.[28] This should not be surprising, given that the United States is the world’s top exporter of foods and agricultural products (which account for more than 20 percent of U.S. agricultural production).[29] As consumers, Americans depend on a global supply chain from airplanes to smartphones to big-box retailers. Popular wisdom holds that the U.S. manufacturing sector opposes free trade, but consider this endorsement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) from the National Association of Manufacturers:
NAFTA went into effect in 1994, and since then, the United States has sold three times as much to Canada and Mexico. In 2016, the two countries alone purchased one-fifth of all manufactured goods made in the United States. This is a big deal for manufacturing workers and their families because those sales support jobs here at home—a lot of well-paying jobs. Sales of manufactured goods to Canada and Mexico, made possible through NAFTA, support the jobs of more than 2 million manufacturing workers.[30]
Not all trade is good, but many Americans do not believe that all trade is bad, and in numbers greater than many foreign policy elites have assumed.[31] Immigration has played an even more divisive role in U.S. politics. About 15 percent of the U.S. population is immigrant, the same share as in 1920 but higher than it was for much of the post-World War II period.[32] Roughly 75 percent of that immigrant population is estimated to be here legally.[33] Of those here illegally, most overstayed with expired temporary visas rather than illegally crossed borders.[34] About 45 percent of respondents told Pew shortly before the 2016 election that having more immigrants hurts American workers, while 42 percent said having more immigrants helps — the deepest division of opinion Pew captured on the issue over the last decade, caused by an increase in the number of respondents who react positively about immigration’s effects on American workers.[35] [quote id="2"] Although support for internationalism is evident even on issues as divisive as trade and immigration, the divisions among Americans should not be underestimated. They are likely to be further exacerbated by automation, which could put 38 percent of U.S. jobs at risk by the early 2030s, according to one recent estimate.[36] Urbanization, too, will create economic opportunities but exacerbate divides between the “global elite” and those who feel left behind. Income inequality and associated urban-rural divides are creating different American experiences. These and other divisions are reflected and reinforced in the U.S. political system. Consider Pew Research Center’s assessment of rising partisan antipathy. As Figure 1 illustrates, since 1994, the share of Republicans and Democrats who hold unfavorable or very unfavorable views of the other party has risen more than 20 points. Within this overall increase, the share holding very unfavorable views of the other party has climbed even higher, by about 30 percentage points in just over 20 years. Partisans are not just divided; increasingly, they do not like or respect each other. This poll was completed before the 2016 election, and the mutual antipathy it found — with implications for dividing American politics and society — almost certainly has deepened. Figure 1: [37] Rising partisan antipathy Political polarization is affected not only by true differences in Americans’ viewpoints but also by issues inside the U.S. political structure and process, including gerrymandering, campaign finance practices, and changes in congressional norms and processes.[38] The current period of polarization is also occurring against a backdrop of ubiquitous information, which many Americans cope with by creating increasingly fragmented and self-selected media environments. Polling from Pew Research Center suggests that six in 10 Americans get their news from social media.[39] As Figure 2 shows, Pew data also indicate that many Americans’ social media feeds are built around networks of family and friends who share a common perspective, narrowing the range of views to which they are exposed. This trend is particularly noteworthy at the far ends of the political spectrum, as is the perspective that such “one-sided” news is okay. Figure 2: [40] [amcharts id="chart-3"] [amcharts id="chart-4"] These divisions affect U.S. security by altering the way the United States, and particularly the stability and effectiveness of its political system, are viewed overseas and by driving changes in the way Americans perceive their role in the world. Foundations of an Effective American Foreign Policy It can be tempting for the U.S. foreign policy community to throw up its hands in frustration in the face of this set of circumstances, but these challenges are not unprecedented in their magnitude, either at home or abroad. Blindly holding to the past is no longer viable. Change is coming too quickly. The United States must adapt to secure its interests and in ways that build domestic support. Three factors are particularly important to helping the nation navigate effectively in the current environment. First, the United States must acknowledge that while it can probably remain the world’s sole superpower for at least the next 15 years, its ability to shape events beyond its borders is diminishing. The effectiveness of American foreign policy and how much power the nation chooses to wield will vary by region and type of issue. Non-state problems are particularly difficult to tackle with traditional American strengths such as state-to-state trade, massed military force, and government-to-government diplomacy. They also test the United States where it is weakest, trying Americans’ impatience, tendency toward unilateralism, and dislike and distrust of most government spending. These weaknesses inhibit the U.S. ability to undertake generational investments toward long-term solutions. Moreover, the best solutions to many security challenges require a combination of strengths, but the United States struggles to adapt and integrate across its instruments of national power and with partners overseas. Problems such as trade, terrorism, or climate issues are seldom solvable in only one sphere, or by acting alone. When facing an assertive military competitor — such as China, Russia, North Korea, or Iran, — traditional U.S. security strengths are more influential. Even in these cases, however, the United States has had difficulty deterring a range of provocations and coercive actions. A second factor that needs to ground the vision for future U.S. foreign policy is the thread of constancy in public support of international engagement. If one American grand strategy has persisted for the past 70 years, it is to advance U.S. interests by taking a leading role in the world. This may seem to run counter to the 2016 election results; Donald Trump won under an “America First” foreign policy banner that included pointed criticism of U.S. allies and overseas military operations and posture. Across the political spectrum, there are important limits to Americans’ willingness to lead on the world stage. But the share of Americans that are truly isolationist — preferring the United States have no role in world affairs — is around only 4 percent, while more than 70 percent believe the United States should have a major or leading role. Demonstrating the stability of an internationalist consensus, these figures from February 2017 are roughly the same as Gallup’s February 2001 polling.[41] [quote id="3"] This likely reflects broad recognition that the most important interests the United States seeks to secure in the world require American engagement and leadership. Republican and Democratic administrations have generally described America’s world interests in remarkably consistent ways since the end of World War II: ensuring the security of U.S. territory and citizens; upholding treaty commitments, to include the security of allies; ensuring a liberal economic order in which American enterprise can compete fairly; and upholding the rule of law in international affairs, including respect for human rights. Each administration has framed these interests somewhat differently, and pursued its own path to secure them, but the core tenets have not varied significantly. Predictability and stability of position are not hallmarks of this administration, but there has been enough overseas activity, spending, and rhetoric in this first year to assess that President Trump’s “America First” is not Charles Lindbergh’s. Although an isolationist sentiment will always exist in U.S. politics, it is unlikely to upend the basic consensus view that what happens elsewhere in the world can affect Americans at home. By no means is the American predilection for internationalism unchecked. Indeed, Americans have generally preferred to pursue a selective approach to engagement. Yes, a majority support international engagement, but the United States has never desired to act everywhere in the world, all the time, or with the same tools of power. Polling before the 2016 election showed that 70 percent of Americans wanted the next president to focus more on national than international problems, a trend that has only strengthened since the peak of military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2007.[42] Americans have always had to weigh the risks and opportunity costs of foreign activities and needed to prioritize investments. The projected budget environment only worsens the dilemmas. In the latest Congressional Budget Office outlook, total discretionary spending would fall to about 5.4 percent of gross domestic product by 2047 as social security, major medical programs, the deficit, and net interest on the deficit rise. All national security spending — defense, diplomacy, development, intelligence, and homeland security — and spending on everything from transportation and infrastructure to environmental protection and national parks would compete for fewer discretionary dollars.[43] Importantly, the track record for democracies, including the United States, is one of remarkable unpredictability when it comes to the use of force to secure interests. Policymakers need to understand this and not expect to count on an iron-clad template that governs when and where the nation’s political leaders will use force. Rather, they should work to frame choices on use of force using their best experience and help leaders reduce the risks of miscalculation that such unpredictability can pose.

Foreign Policy Priorities: The Now What

So, if American policymakers have the benefit of superpower status but are generally less able to wield it effectively; if Americans generally agree that leading or at least engaging abroad is important to protect U.S. interests; and if resource constraints, national character, and other factors limit us from seeking to aggressively or even consistently act overseas, especially with military forces, what imperatives should form the core of U.S. foreign and security policy? Three stand out. Of foremost importance is avoiding the hazards of domestic political polarization. It is unlikely in this deeply dysfunctional period of governance that even a united foreign policy community could catalyze a resolution to these issues on its own. Still, the community has an important role to play in consistently and vociferously warning about the national security dangers posed by domestic political dysfunction. America’s deep divisions are a major strategic weakness. There is no stable understanding of the resources available to secure America’s role in the world, which cripples the ability to plan and act strategically. A dysfunctional political system can make others doubt the reliability of U.S. commitments. Worse, polarizing opinions around the strength of U.S. commitments to allies creates greater agency for forces within the countries that seek opportunities to forge a path distinct from the United States and potentially antithetical to American security interests. If nations begin to routinely act independently from Washington’s preference, Americans will avoid some free riding, but they will also lose say over issues that affect their security and prosperity. Political dysfunction also hampers America’s core cultural appeal — the dream of the American political system as a “city on a hill.”[44] In such an environment, alternative models of economics and governance gain greater resonance, notably anti-capitalist and anti-democratic, undermining enduring U.S. interests. The slight rise in global authoritarianism noted by Freedom House may reflect this decline in perceived Western effectiveness. Finally, political dysfunction creates problems in civil-military relations. It feeds a sense of separateness in the can-do military culture, where senior members struggle to understand why the political caste cannot put aside politics to make important decisions. In fact, Americans and their elected leaders seem to be turning toward those in uniform to overcome perceived weaknesses in civilian governance. At the least, this is disheartening. More alarmingly, it is corrosive to good civilian control, a central tenet of the U.S. Constitution. A second imperative is to focus significant leadership energy and sufficient investment on problem prevention. The nation requires capable and agile non-military instruments, such as diplomacy and development. These sectors have had difficulty convincing political leaders and the public of the value they can provide. The State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and similar organizations are unlikely to ever exert the political power of the military-industrial complex. Nevertheless, they can get better at wielding diplomacy development assistance and promoting private, foreign government, and international efforts that align with U.S. policy goals. Importantly, they can also improve on their ability to measure and communicate their pennies-on-the-dollar value. These sectors can take credit for contributing to tremendous gains made in the U.S.-led international order since World War II, from a substantial decline in global poverty to improvements in global life expectancy.[45] The United States should build on these successes to advance its interests in climate change mitigation and adaptation, global health improvements, and conflict resolution. America’s extensive alliance and partner network is among its most important geostrategic advantages. Alliances can require a lot of work and money with little to show. (From its allies’ perspective, so too can the United States.) It is important to get the cost-benefit balance right. By and large, the United States has managed that well throughout the postwar period and needs to continue adapting its alliances to meet the demands of an evolving security environment. Policymakers should not let imprudent comments undermine the enterprise.[46] A third imperative is to improve U.S. tools for deterrence and response to provocations that fall short of war. The United States has an excellent record of deterring existential threats. But potential adversaries are attacking U.S. interests in ways that fall below the threshold of traditional state-based military power; see Chinese coercion in the South and East China Seas, Russian subversion in its “near abroad” and within the United States, and Iranian asymmetric tactics, especially through proxies. This phenomenon is as old as warfare itself. But it is an area of increasing risk, particularly with regard to the potential for miscalculation. In some cases, such as cyber and space operations, escalation ladders and legal frameworks are not yet well-established. In territorial coercion, those frameworks are being actively tested. This trend creates a heightened risk of conflict not so much from intent — although as events with North Korea have demonstrated, that is possible — but from an increased chance that potential adversaries will inadvertently misinterpret U.S. willingness and capability to respond to provocations even when the precipitation of war is unintended. In the current environment, policymakers must pay special attention to how they can best shape the considerations of states that wish to test America’s response to ambiguous challenges. This will mean clearly communicating U.S. interests and its willingness and capability to defend them. It also means carrying out threats when deterrence fails. Effective messaging is not nearly as straightforward as it may sound, especially in an era when multiple messages sometimes compete. For instance, deterring future chemical weapons challenges was likely at the heart of the advice President Trump received before he ordered Tomahawk strikes on Syria in April 2017. However, the U.S. signaling may have been murky, coming less than one week after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and other administration officials signaled acceptance of the Assad regime, after which the regime carried out chemical attacks. It did not take long to go from a green light to a red line on Syria but too late to prevent Assad’s undesirable action. Improving America’s toolkit for countering provocations will rely on many of the same multilateral and cross-functional integrative approaches on which effective problem prevention also rests. A fundamental rethink is required to improve the national security enterprise’s ability to move with agility ahead of the pace of world events, the information environment, and the expanding array of adversary tactics and other challenges.

Conclusion

Discerning the shifting nature of the international system and designing an effective set of security tools within it are monumental but not unprecedented tasks. Those who shaped the post-World War II international system, whom Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas nicknamed “the wise men,”[47] faced the same task. Circumstances today are equally daunting, requiring a similar re-examination of U.S. strategies and capabilities. Success will depend on attributes not normally associated with the current U.S. administration or Washington’s broader political climate: political consensus on foreign policy; long-term, preventative, multidisciplinary, and multinational responses wherever possible; and improved deterrence of “gray area” challenges to prevent miscalculation or other reasons for escalation. Yet hope can be found in the nation’s foundational strengths, especially its indefatigable spirit of change and adaptation. The “now what” era of American foreign policy is upon us. President Trump is unlikely to provide the vision needed to rejuvenate U.S. foreign policy. It is time for a new generation of wise women and men to act.   Kathleen Hicks is senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and director of the International Security Program at CSIS. She is a frequent writer and lecturer on U.S. foreign policy; national security strategy, forces, and budget; and strategic futures. Dr. Hicks previously served in the Department of Defense as principal deputy under secretary for policy, a Senate-confirmed position with responsibility for assisting in the development and oversight of global and regional defense policy, strategy, and operations. She also served as deputy under secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and forces, leading the development of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and crafting guidance for future force capabilities, overseas military posture, and contingency and theater campaign plans. Dr. Hicks was a senior fellow at CSIS from 2006 to 2009, leading a variety of national security research projects. From 1993 to 2006, she was a career civil servant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, rising from Presidential Management Intern to the Senior Executive Service. Dr. Hicks received numerous recognitions for her service in the Department of Defense (DOD), including distinguished awards from three secretaries of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She also received the 2011 DOD Senior Professional Women’s Association Excellence in Leadership Award. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.P.A. from the University of Maryland, and an A.B. magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Mount Holyoke College. Dr. Hicks was a presidentially appointed commissioner for the National Commission on the Future of the Army. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the Boards of Advisors for the Truman National Security Project and SoldierStrong. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: U.S. Marines [post_title] => Now What? The American Citizen, World Order, and Building a New Foreign Policy Consensus [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => now-american-citizen-world-order-building-new-foreign-policy-consensus [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-22 13:06:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-22 17:06:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=280 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In order for the United States to adapt to current and future international challenges, it needs a foreign policy that can unite the American public and bring back bipartisan consensus on America’s role in the world. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Issue 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Americans are inundated with troubling news from overseas, much of which they feel unable to control. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The United States is divided along a variety of dimensions that are creating challenges for envisioning and executing a coherent foreign policy. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The United States must adapt to secure its interests and in ways that build domestic support. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 459 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 29 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] ECHO, “European Commission ECHO Factsheet,” European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, September 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/syria_en.pdf. [2] Dina Smeltz and Karl Friedhoff, “US Public Not Convinced That Trump’s Policies Will Make America Safer,” Chicago Council on Global Affairs, September 2017, https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/report_ccs2017-terrorism_170908.pdf. [3] For example, on the early and rapid rise in digital identity theft, see Identity Theft — Prevalence and Cost Appear to be Growing, GAO-02-363 (Washington, D.C.: Government Accountability Office, 2002), 51; on the early digital success of al Qaeda, see Angel Rabasa et al., Beyond al-Qaeda — Part 1 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2006), xxvii, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2006/RAND_MG429.pdf; on the white supremacists use of the Internet, see Jeff Daniels, Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009), 3. [4] Kate Blanchfield, Pieter D. Wezeman, and Siemon T. Wezeman, “The State of Major Arms Transfers in 8 Graphics,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, February 22, 2017, https://www.sipri.org/commentary/blog/2017/state-major-arms-transfers-8-graphics. [5] Aaron Smith, “Record Shares of Americans Now Own Smartphones, Have Home Broadband,” Pew Research Center, January 12, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/. [6] Rani Molla, “Mobile Broadband Subscriptions Are Projected to Double in Five Years,” Recode, June 18, 2017, https://www.recode.net/2017/6/18/15826036/smartphone-subscriptions-basic-phones-globally-ericsson. [7] Rob van der Meulen, “Gartner Says 8.4 Billion Connected ‘Things’ Will Be in Use in 2017, Up 31 Percent From 2016,” Gartner, February 7, 2017, http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3598917. [8] See, for example, Jonathan Dienst, David Paredes, and Joe Valiquette, “Three Men Charged With Plotting ISIS-Inspired Attack in New York,” NBC News, October 6, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/man-plotted-isis-inspired-attack-new-york-concerts-say-officials-n808321; James Comey, “Director Comey Remarks During May 11 ‘Pen and Pad’ Briefing with Reporters,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Press Conference, May 14, 2016, https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/director-comey-remarks-during-may-11-2018pen-and-pad2019-briefing-with-reporters; Paul Brinkmann, “Pulse gunman’s motive: Plenty of theories, but few answers,” Orlando Sentinel, June 4, 2017, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/pulse-orlando-nightclub-shooting/omar-mateen/os-pulse-omar-mateen-motive-20170512-story.html. [9] Andrea Peterson, “The Sony Pictures Hack, Explained,” The Washington Post, December 18, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/12/18/the-sony-pictures-hack-explained/; Nicole Perlroth, “In Cyberattack on Saudi Firm, U.S. Sees Iran Firing Back,” The New York Times, October 23, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/business/global/cyberattack-on-saudi-oil-firm-disquiets-us.html; David Sanger and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Hacking Linked to China Exposes Millions of U.S. Workers,” The New York Times, June 4, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/us/breach-in-a-federal-computer-system-exposes-personnel-data.html. [10] David Kirkpatrick and Sheera Frenkel, “Hacking in Qatar Highlights a Shift Toward Espionage-for-Hire,” The New York Times, June 8, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/08/world/middleeast/qatar-cyberattack-espionage-for-hire.html. [11] Sarah Ladislaw, Adam Sieminski, Frank Verrastro, and Andrew Stanley, U.S. Oil in the Global Economy: Markets, Policy, and Politics (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 2017), https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/170508_Ladislaw_OilGasWorkshop_Web.pdf. [12] Jason Bordoff, “America’s Energy Policy: From Independence to Interdependence,” Horizons Journal of International Relations and Sustainable Development, no. 8 (Autumn 2016), http://www.cirsd.org/files/000/000/002/43/dde28fd7d04cca8e84e00cc3467ae17fc5aa2188.pdf. [13] Jugal K. Patel and Henry Fountain, “As Arctic Ice Vanishes, New Shipping Routes Open,” The New York Times, May 3, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/03/science/earth/arctic-shipping.html. [14] “Climate Change Indicators: Weather and Climate,” Environmental Protection Agency, accessed September 2017, https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/weather-climate. [15] Erika Spanger-Siegfried, Kristina Dahl, Astrid Caldas, Shana Udvardy, Rachel Cleetus, Pamela Worth, and Nicole Hernandez Hammer, When Rising Seas Hit Home: Hard Choices Ahead for Hundreds of US Coastal Communities (Washington, D.C.: Union of Concerned Scientists, July 2017), http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2017/07/when-rising-seas-hit-home-full-report.pdf. [16] Ibid. [17] Jeffrey Gettleman, “Drought and War Heighten Threat of Not Just 1 Famine, but 4,” The New York Times, March 27, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/world/africa/famine-somalia-nigeria-south-sudan-yemen-water.html. [18] Margaret Zeigler and Ann Steensland, 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Sustainability in an Uncertain Season (Washington, D.C.: Global Harvest Initiative, October 2016), http://www.globalharvestinitiative.org/GAP/2016_GAP_Report.pdf. [19] “Sound Water Management, Investment in Security Vital to Sustain Adequate Supply, Access for All, Secretary-General Warns Security Council,” United Nations, June 6, 2017, https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/sc12856.doc.htm. [20] World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision (New York: United Nations, 2014), 1, https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/publications/files/wup2014-highlights.Pdf. [21] Kathleen Hicks, “New Security Challenges Posed by Megacities,” World Economic Forum, November 2014, http://reports.weforum.org/global-strategic-foresight/kathleen-hicks-csis-new-security-challenges-posed-by-megacities/. [22] Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015, (New York/Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, June 20, 2016), http://www.unhcr.org/576408cd7. [23] Arch Puddington and Tyler Roylance, Freedom in the World 2017: Populists and Autocrats: The Dual Threat to Global Democracy (Washington, D.C.: Freedom House, 2017), https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FH_FIW_2017_Report_Final.pdf. [24] For insightful examinations of two such dimensions, see Sam Tabory and Dina Smeltz, “The Urban-Suburban-Rural “Divide” in American Views on Foreign Policy,” The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, May 2017, https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/publication/urban-suburban-rural-divide-american-views-foreign-policy; and Douglas L. Kriner and Francis X. Shen, “Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?,” (June 2017), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2989040. [25] See, for example, Hal Brands, “Is American Internationalism Dead? Reading the National Mood in the Age of Trump,” War on the Rocks, May 16, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/05/is-american-internationalism-dead-reading-the-national-mood-in-the-age-of-trump/. [26] “The World’s Biggest Economies,” World Economic Forum, 2015, https://assets.weforum.org/editor/8T1VYR_rQ04Dqsi98YcbpvWBSsJCmdeNRxaItXbNf00.png. [27] Jacob Poushter, “American Public, Foreign Policy Experts Sharply Disagree Over Involvement in Global Economy,” Pew Research Center, Oct. 28, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/28/american-public-foreign-policy-experts-sharply-disagree-over-involvement-in-global-economy/. [28] Bradley Jones, “Support for Free Trade Agreements Rebounds Modestly, But Wide Partisan Differences Remain,” Pew Research Center, April 25, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/25/support-for-free-trade-agreements-rebounds-modestly-but-wide-partisan-differences-remain/. [29] “Infographic: Agricultural Trade Matters,” United States Department of Agriculture: Foreign Agricultural Service, May 17, 2017, https://www.fas.usda.gov/data/infographic-agricultural-trade-matters. [30] Jay Timmons, “NAFTA: A Win for Manufacturing Workers,” National Association of Manufacturers, August 16, 2017, http://www.shopfloor.org/2017/08/nafta-win-manufacturing-workers/. [31] Joshua Busby, Craig Kafura, Jonathan Monten, Dina Smeltz, and Jordan Tama, “How the Elite Misjudge the U.S. Electorate on International Engagement,” RealClear World, November 7, 2016, http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2016/11/07/how_the_elite_misjudge_the_us_electorate_on_international_engagement_112112.html. [32] “U.S. Immigrant Populations and Share Over Time, 1850-Present,” Migration Policy Institute, 2015, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/immigrant-population-over-time. [33] Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, Overall Number of U.S. Unauthorized Immigrants Holds Steady Since 2009 (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, September 2016), 47, http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2016/09/31170303/PH_2016.09.20_Unauthorized_FINAL.pdf. [34] Robert Warren and Donald Kerwin, “The 2,000 Mile Wall in Search of a Purpose: Since 2007 Visa Overstays Have Outnumbered Undocumented Border Crossers by a Half Million,” Journal on Migration and Human Security (2017), Center for Migration Studies, http://cmsny.org/publications/jmhs-visa-overstays-border-wall/. [35] Lee Rainie and Anna Brown, “Americans Less Concerned Than a Decade Ago Over Immigrants’ Impact on Workforce,” Pew Research Center, October 7, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/07/americans-less-concerned-than-a-decade-ago-over-immigrants-impact-on-workforce/. See also Busby et al. [36] Richard Berriman and John Hawksworth, “Will Robots Steal Our Jobs? The Potential Impact of Automation on the UK and Other Major Economies,” UK Economic Outlook, March 2017, https://www.pwc.co.uk/economic-services/ukeo/pwcukeo-section-4-automation-march-2017-v2.pdf. [37] “Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016,” Pew Research Center, June 22, 2016, http://www.people-press.org/2016/06/22/partisanship-and-political-animosity-in-2016/. [38] For an excellent overview of existing research on possible causes of polarization, see Michael Barber and Nolan McCarty, “Chapter 2: Causes and Consequences of Polarization,” in Negotiating Agreement in Politics, eds. Jane Mansbridge and Cathie Jo Martin (Washington, DC: American Political Science Association, 2013), 19-53, https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/dtingley/files/negotiating_agreement_in_politics.pdf. [39] “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016,” Pew Research Center, May 25, 2016, http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/pj_2016-05-26_social-media-and-news_0-01/. [40] “The Modern News Consumer,” Pew Research Center, July 6, 2016, http://www.journalism.org/2016/07/07/the-modern-news-consumer/pj_2016-07-07_modern-news-consumer_7-02/. [41] Gary J. Gates, “Americans Still Support Major Role for US in Global Affairs,” Gallup News, March 6, 2017, http://news.gallup.com/poll/205286/americans-support-major-role-global-affairs.aspx. [42] “America’s Global Role, U.S. Superpower Status,” Pew Research Center, May 5, 2016, http://www.people-press.org/2016/05/05/1-americas-global-role-u-s-superpower-status/. [43] Congressional Budget Office, The 2017 Long-Term Budget Outlook, March 2017, https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/reports/52480-ltbo.pdf. [44] Ronald Reagan, “A Vision for America,” The White House, November 3, 1980, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=85199. [45] On global poverty, see “Measuring Poverty,” The World Bank, accessed, September 27, 2017, http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/measuringpoverty. On increased life expectancy, see UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision (New York: United Nations, 2017), 7, https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/WPP2017_KeyFindings.pdf. [46] Kathleen H. Hicks, Michael J. Green, and Heather A. Conley, “Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand the Value of U.S. Bases Overseas,” Foreign Policy, April 7, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/07/donald-trump-doesnt-understand-the-value-of-u-s-bases-overseas/. [47] See Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986). ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 253 [post_author] => 52 [post_date] => 2017-10-24 09:05:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-24 13:05:49 [post_content] =>
There will be no day of days then when a new world order comes into being. Step by step and here and there it will arrive, and even as it comes into being it will develop fresh perspectives, discover unsuspected problems and go on to new adventures. No man, no group of men, will ever be singled out as its father or founder. For its maker will be not this man nor that man nor any man but Man, that being who is in some measure in every one of us. …The new order will be incessant; things will never stop happening, and so it defies any Utopian description.

H.G. Wells, The New World Order (1940)[1]

  H.G. Wells once said that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. His thought is applicable to hemispheric relations. With common dedication to the highest ideals of mankind, including shared assumptions for a world at peace, freedom and progress, there is no insurmountable impediment to fruitful cooperation, save only insufficiency in mutual understanding.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Report to the American People on the South American Trip, March 8, 1960[2]

  … The President read passages from H.G. Wells … [He] said nations must have great ideas or they cease to be great. They talked about what happened to England and France [in 1940] and that peoples’ greatness has to be extra-dimensional and move beyond themselves. The question is whether we do what we need to both abroad and in the ghettos. If we just go to the ghettos and let go abroad, apart from the destruction that might come from a war, we might destroy ourselves. [Theodore] Roosevelt talked about it as the white man’s burden. Both of these people [Wells and Roosevelt] were searching for that same feeling that people need.

Notes of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Henry Kissinger), Washington, November 5, 1969, 7pm[3]

  The pursuit of something called “world order” has been an almost ever-present feature of Western — more specifically, American and British — statecraft for at least 100 years. It is embedded in a discourse about international affairs that can be traced back to the late 19th century, when Britain became increasingly conscious of the fragility of its empire, and the United States began to recognize the full extent of its potential power. Notions of regional or international order date further back than that and have long had a central place in conceptions of European statecraft, since the Treaty of Westphalia at least. But, the pursuit of world order speaks to a higher objective than the pursuit of the national interest or the mere preservation of stability and security in one’s neighborhood. All versions of world order are, to some extent, aspirational and visionary. They express a wish to guide the international future towards a more desirable destination. This is obviously true of more idealized versions of world order, some of which have gone so far as to envisage a future utopia in which humanity is unified under one law, war is abolished, and reason prevails in the governance of man (seen in the work of H.G. Wells, for example). But, it also applies to more avowedly “realist” thinking on world order, which seeks “co-evolution” among nation states or great civilizational blocs as a better means to preserve international harmony, while eschewing “universalism” (in the alternative vision of Henry Kissinger).[4] Either way, the historical record suggests that one’s view of world order is inseparable from one’s worldview. It reveals the beholder’s hope for how the world should or could be, rather than simply how it is. The pursuit of world order has taken many forms in the last 100 years of Anglo-American statecraft, and its terms have been bitterly contested. It has been used as shorthand for a vast range of potential scenarios: from a unified “world state,” governed by a single supranational institution, to a balance of power in which the strongest prevail. Somewhere between these two poles sits the idea of “liberal international order” — the precise terms of which are much contested today. This essay does not seek to establish a typology between these various definitions, or to place them on an idealist-realist spectrum. The fluidity of the foreign policy debate, and the changing positions of those engaged in it, belies any such attempt. Instead, the essay seeks to identify a number of key inflection points in the evolution and metastization of different Anglo-American ideas of “world order” over the last century. The method adopted is that used by scholars of intellectual history, which has increasingly been applied to the study of international relations in recent years. In the first instance, this stresses the context-specific meaning of key political ideas (such as world order), while also opening up an inquiry into their genesis and lineage.[5] This inquiry begins with an analysis of a particular moment in November 1969, when the fundamental assumptions of American foreign policy were being re-examined, and it expands from there. Simply speaking, it demonstrates the enduring power of ideas. Specifically, the idea that a better world was achievable — through a combination of vision and human ingenuity — has provided a higher cause and unifying philosophy in Anglo-American statecraft. While conceptual purity has been elusive, the commitment to this endeavor has transcended different historical eras. When viewed over the longue durée, the yearning for equilibrium, structure, and order in international affairs provides an explanatory spine to the story of American and British foreign policy over the course of the last century. It also becomes clear that contending ideas of world order have been entwined with existential questions, such as the meaning of history, the survival of Western civilization, and the very future of mankind. [quote id="1"] The vagueness and ambiguity surrounding different definitions of world order are apt to infuriate practically-minded strategists, impatient with abstractions or images of an ideal future. The never-ending nature of the search for world order has played its part in foreign policy errors in the past. The current fashion for running down the idea of a “liberal international order” partly derives from the fact that it is regarded as a general good, rather than a clearly defined strategic goal. Yet, when ideas of world order are simply cast out as vapid utopianism, or “globalist” delusion, British and American foreign policy loses form, spirit, purpose, vision, and a sense of direction. A recognition of the historical force of such ideas is more important than ever at a time when the fundamental assumptions of Americans are being re-examined.

The Current “Crisis of World Order” and the Critique of Globalism

Within the last decade, a consensus has emerged in the West that there is a crisis of world order that must be addressed. The idea has proved particularly influential in the United States, as part of a broader debate about America’s status in international affairs. The reasons for this are well-known, from fears about the rising power of China and new concerns about Russia under President Vladimir Putin, to a series of costly engagements in the Middle East. For the outside observer, however, what is striking is just how widely shared this consensus is. Remarkably, it also seems to encompass four of the most distinctive influential foreign policy traditions of the United States — those who tend to classify themselves as “realists,” those often described as “liberal internationalists,” “conservative internationalists,” and those presumed to hold something more like a “neo-conservative” perspective on foreign policy. One of the most influential interjections in this debate was Henry Kissinger’s 2014 book, World Order, which examined competing visions of international order, from the peace of Westphalia to the 21st century. As the American-led order established in 1945 begins to come under strain under the force of global historical change, Kissinger wrote that the “reconstruction of the international system is the ultimate challenge of statesmanship in our time.”[6] But, different iterations of the same concern have emerged across the political spectrum. For example, when she was regarded as the most likely nominee to be the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton reviewed Kissinger’s book at length. She spoke of her own efforts, as secretary of state, in “reimagining and reinforcing the global order to meet the demands of an increasingly interdependent age.”[7] Notwithstanding the criticisms Kissinger made of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, she suggested that the two nonetheless shared a “belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.”[8] Of course, Kissinger’s thesis was critiqued by others on the liberal internationalist side of the American foreign policy spectrum, such as Anne-Marie Slaughter, who regarded it as a classic “realist” account, giving insufficient place to “moral considerations” in foreign policy. At the same time, however, Slaughter concurred on one fundamental point: the urgency of creating some sort of new “global order” for the 21st century, albeit one “acceptable not only to states but also to the vast majority of the world’s people.” In Slaughter’s view, the failure of the United States to do more to prevent bloodshed in the Syrian Civil War was a symptom of the crisis in world order, and the outcome of America eschewing pursuit of that higher ideal.[9] This chimed with a line of argument made by others such as Vali Nasr, who wrote in his book, The Dispensable Nation, that a retreat of American diplomatic leadership on the international stage deprived the existing world order of the very thing that held it together.[10] From different angles, then, a growing number of foreign policy commentators joined the chorus of concern about the so-called crisis of world order. Robert Kagan, generally thought of as a neo-conservative thinker, also joined the fray in 2014 with an essay in the New Republic entitled, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire.” [11] In it, Kagan also bemoaned what he saw as a loss of appetite for international leadership in the United States, feeding into increased global instability. “If a breakdown in the world order that America made is occurring, it is not because America’s power is declining,” he wrote. He posited that the country’s wealth, power, and potential influence remained adequate to meet the present challenges. Nor was it because the world had “become more complex and intractable.” Rather, he said, it was “an intellectual problem, a question of identity and purpose,” originating in the United States itself. Americans hoped for a “return to normalcy.” But, the power and pervasiveness of the United States meant that it could not simply bow out of the world order game and expect not to feel the ramifications.[12] [quote id="2"] By the spring of 2016, as the presidential election cycle was fully under way, the linkage between the apparent crisis of world order and this national “question of identity and purpose” became more pronounced. In a March 2016 essay for The American Interest, Daniel Deudney and John Ikenberry suggested that the foundations of the American-led international order had been a “centrist tradition of American world leadership,” marked by a “strong bipartisan internationalist tradition.” A radical conservative critique was challenging the “foundations of Pax Americana” at home, with potentially grave implications for the world beyond.[13] When the purveyors of that radical conservative critique coalesced around the figure of Donald Trump during the presidential primary season, it became clear that many mainstream Republicans were similarly uncomfortable with the potential implications for future foreign policy. The same month, March 2016, more than 100 Republican national security leaders signed an open letter in opposition to any future Trump presidency.[14] As Eliot Cohen, one of the most influential Republican critics of Trump, noted in his 2017 book, The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force, it was increasingly difficult to convince the U.S. electorate of the necessary costs involved with America retaining its position as “the guarantor of world order.”[15] Efforts to reinvigorate “conservative internationalism,” seen in the work of Paul D. Miller, for example, reflected the same concerns.[16] To the critics of the Washington foreign policy establishment, impugned in recent times as “the blob,”[17] these concerns about a crisis of world order and a decline in American leadership are but a familiar refrain. The criticism of mainstream American foreign policy traditions — and the idea that they rest on the same misguided premise about “world order” — has a heritage on both the left and right. Noam Chomsky’s 1994 book, World Orders Old and New, characterized the “guidelines of world order,” as also defined by Britain and America since World War II, as follows:
The rich men of the rich societies are to rule the world, competing among themselves for a greater share of the wealth and power and mercilessly suppressing those who stand in their way.[18]
In a more nuanced 2015 assessment, American Foreign Policy and its Thinkers, another New Left writer, Perry Anderson, also commented on the surprising degree of consensus across these different schools of U.S. foreign policy thinking on this fundamental goal: the desirability of preserving a U.S.-led international order.[19] In a subsequent 2017 work, Anderson noted how, since the end of the Cold War, a growing number of liberal internationalist thinkers — such as Jon Ikenberry, Joseph Nye, and Robert O. Keohane — had argued that the preservation of the liberal international order was the best means for America to exert “soft” power on the world stage. On the one hand, this was seen as an evolution away from outmoded Cold War thinking — which preferred to focus on the raw metrics of economic and military power. The exponents of this position called it a “milieu-based” grand strategy and suggested it was more sustainable than past superpower strategies because it did not aspire to dominance or empire. On the other hand, from the perspective of critics on the New Left, this was just the pursuit of “hegemony” by other means.[20] Most recently, this so-called Washington consensus has come under attack from some of those associated with the Trump campaign and presidency. Most obvious, of course, are the views of the president himself. With striking consistency over the previous decades, he has expressed a worldview that is directly hostile to the idea of a U.S.-led international order.[21] Many of these ideas have 19th century antecedents.[22] But, the emphasis on “America first” converged with new trends of nationalism in American political discourse to emerge on the right that, according to Iskander Rehman, contains elements of ethno-tribalism, millenarianism, decadentism and illiberalism. When confronted with a large and influential establishment — which is perceived to be particularly deeply entrenched on issues of foreign policy — the most influential apostles of this worldview, notably former White House advisor and strategist Steve Bannon, have expressed a firm desire “to bring everything crashing down.”[23]

Stripping the Altars: World Order as a “Globalist” Aberration

One of the more articulate criticisms of the shared assumptions of the foreign policy establishment has come from Michael Anton, now deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications on the National Security Council. At the time of writing, he is one of the few radical critics of the foreign policy establishment to remain in office (avoiding the fates of Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka who have all either been pushed aside or left).[24] In an article written before he joined the administration, Anton took aim at the consensus, firmly held on both sides of the aisle, that a Trump presidency would undermine the “liberal international order:”
Nearly all opponents of President Trump’s foreign policy, from conservatives and Republicans to liberals and Democrats, claim to speak up for the “liberal international order.” A word may have been different here or there (e.g., “world order”) but the basic charge was always the same. Whether voiced by Fareed Zakaria and Yascha Mounk on the left, Walter Russell Mead in the center, Eliot Cohen and Robert Zoellick on the right, or Robert Kagan on the once-right-now-left, the consensus was clear: Trump threatens the international liberal order.[25]
Anton went on to argue that the foreign policy establishment lining up behind the liberal international order was a kind of “priesthood.” The priesthood had a vested interest in protecting its status “by muddying the simple and clear, and pretending that the complex is clear and obvious — but only to themselves.” They dominated the language and discourse of foreign policy and were instinctively hostile to anything that challenged their worldview. There was even a hint of Chomsky in the argument that the liberal international order was better understood as the “liberal rich-country order.”[26] Whether it comes from Chomsky or Anton, one has to acknowledge elements of truth in this critique. There are indeed certain shared presuppositions within mainstream U.S. foreign policy traditions that have gone unchallenged and unexamined for many years. The same might be said in the British national security debate, which takes its cue from the United States, and which places similar emphasis on a “rules-based international order” as its starting point.[27] There is a distance between popular perceptions of the national interest and those prescribed by individuals within the foreign policy establishment. The benefits said to arise from an American-led international order are sometimes presumed rather than explained. Vagueness around the definition of the liberal international order has sometimes led to confusion about the core strategic purpose of American grand strategy, not to mention that of its allies. There are many who would agree with Anton that the attempt, after the end of the Cold War, to enlarge the mission in pursuit of a “new world order” was “a case of American eyes being much bigger than our stomachs (or teeth), a confusion of ideology and interests.” Anton himself suggests that he is not advocating the abandonment of the liberal international order, but simply a greater willingness to reform it.[28] [quote id="3"] Yet, the reality is that this assault on the so-called “priesthood” rests on unexamined assumptions of its own. The purported aim of bringing the Washington consensus “crashing down” has created an exaggerated disdain for the “intellectual architecture” of American grand strategy.[29] The desire to strip the altars or to rip up the sacred scripts is based on a jaundiced and limited reading of history. First, it presumes a fundamental “wrong turn” taken by the United States at some point in recent decades (and a concomitant need to press the reset button). Second, and more importantly, the radical conservative obsession with “globalism” has become the right’s equivalent of the left-wing obsession with “neo-liberalism” — that is, a vague and catch-all term, designed to signal disapproval, but offering limited utility.

World Order as a Recurring Vision in the Anglo-American Mind

The idea that the high premium placed upon the idea of world order is some sort of globalist or neo-liberal aberration, tacked on to more traditional foreign policy aims by a complacent and self-interested establishment, is not supported by the historical record. It should be said, as Or Rosenboim has pointed out, that the competing visions of world order that emerged in the mid-20th century did have a significant “globalist” dimension.[30] Such ideas were particularly influential when (according to Google’s Ngram tool) popular usage of the phrase “world order” peaked in 1945. But, the ideas of world order discussed in what follows have a longer heritage — one that predates and transcends the unique era of post-war planning from 1939-45. In fact, the pursuit of world order has provided an extra-dimension to Anglo-American thinking about world affairs for more than 100 years: providing a vision that went beyond the pursuit of narrow self-interest; easily traversing the divide between so-called idealists and realists; and acting as a bridging mechanism between the immediate considerations of the nation-state and a broader concern for the future of Western civilization. In using the hyphenated form, “Anglo-American,” the intention is not to play down the differences between British and American foreign policy. Over the course of the last 100 years, as Britain’s global power waned and America’s waxed, both nations continued to put their own interests before anything else. Nonetheless, in the most important great power transition of the 20th century, there is a striking degree of interchange about ideas of “world order.” This allowed for a commonality of purpose at a number of critical points in modern history. In some cases, such as the wake of World War I, a shared commitment to create a new international order was undermined by a failure to define the mission and unwillingness to pursue it to its end. In others, such as the wake of World War II, there was a coalescence of views on world order that had a profound impact on international affairs.[31] The shared pool of ideals provided a more solid foundation for Anglo-American relations than sentimental appeals to the “special relationship.” Moments of perfect symmetry were fleeting and rare. But, the intellectual synergies ran deep and were transmitted across different eras. Indeed, one reason why the pursuit of world order became so entrenched in Anglo-American thinking was that so many different tributaries flowed into it. It was not the preserve of one party or one intellectual tradition. It is this that explains unlikely connections, such as the fondness of at least three Republican presidents — Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Nixon — for the work of a British socialist writer like H.G. Wells. Given the broad period under discussion, and the amorphous nature of the concept of world order, the intention here is not to attempt a narrative sweep from the late 19th century through to the modern era. The evolution of American (and Anglo-American) ideas about international order over the last 100 years has been charted expertly by a number of scholars in recent years — notably Mark Mazower in Governing the World, David Milne in Worldmaking: The Art and Science of American Diplomacy and John Thompson in A Sense of Power: The Roots of America’s Global Role.[32] Similarly, it is not my aim to chart the competition between different versions of world order — from the “world state” to the “balance of power.” Instead, I argue that what matters is not so much how world order has been defined, but the sense in which Anglo-American statesmen have continued to regard it as a noble cause. To put it another way, the endpoint may remain vague and contested, but the almost ever-present desire to work towards it is tangible, discernible, and traceable — providing an organizing philosophy and therefore a real driving force in history. Despite the significant differences between them on foreign policy, both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson can be seen to have dedicated significant portions of their career to a vision of world order. Some of these threads were brought together by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in the period from 1940-1945. But, the fact that almost all of the post-World War II presidents and prime ministers have paid some sort of homage to an idealized version of world order is a testimony to the enduring influence of the idea. The challenge, then, is to test this idea on less fertile ground. For that reason, the rest of this essay takes an unorthodox approach by beginning with a freeze frame of American foreign policy thinking at a critical moment in the Cold War, in late 1969. The primary reason for starting with this episode — as opposed to one from the era of Wilson or the Roosevelts, for example — is that it sits far outside the usual idealistic lineage of American thinking about world order. Second, it took place in a period in which the fundamental presuppositions underlying American foreign policy were being re-examined, much as they are today. As Henry Kissinger wrote at the time, in a briefing note prepared for President Richard Nixon, it was a “period in which American foreign policy has to be put on a new foundation.” For the first two decades after World War II, America’s approach to the world had been
conducted with the maxims and the inspiration that guided the Marshall Plan, that is, the notion of a predominant United States, as the only stable country, the richest country, the country without whose leadership and physical contribution nothing was possible, and which had to make all the difference for defense and progress everywhere in the world. …Conditions have changed enormously. We are now in a world in which other parties are playing a greater role.[33]
Both Kissinger and Nixon were willing to countenance a “revolution” in U.S. foreign policy. But, in doing so, they fell back on some unlikely sources of inspiration. Tellingly, they returned to episodes of Anglo-American foreign policy that predated 1945, and they sought to reinvigorate old ideas about world order from this shared tradition. The canon Nixon referred to was a somewhat chaotic and unruly one, which darted back and forth across the Atlantic to Anglo-American statesman of different eras. Nonetheless, the variety of influences on his thinking tells a story in its own right. It says something revealing about how the search for world order was viewed — as the continuation of a historical mission, a search for meaning beyond national self-interest, a vehicle for the preservation of Western civilization, and an attempt to wrestle with the future rather than to let fate take its course. Seen in this way, the pursuit of world order — in the most general sense — appears as a surprisingly ecumenical credo with a long, if somewhat controversial, backstory.

Richard Nixon and H.G. Wells

On the evening of Nov. 5, 1969, a year to the day after his election as president, Richard Nixon was in a reflective mood. At 7 p.m., he picked up the telephone on his Oval Office desk, on which he kept a stack of recently read books, and called Henry Kissinger, his national security advisor.[34] Elected with a promise to end the Vietnam War, Nixon was conscious of the weight of historical responsibility on his shoulders. He had been reading a recently published book by the World War II veteran and University of California sinologist, Laurence Thompson, titled 1940: Year of Legend, Year of History. This book told of Winston Churchill becoming prime minister of Great Britain at its darkest hour, as the remnants of his nation’s army desperately fled the Nazi advance on the beaches of Dunkirk in May.[35] The book was on Nixon’s mind as he sought to advise his national security advisor on what to say in a forthcoming interview with Time magazine. While the British survived Dunkirk to fight another day, the months that followed evacuation provided little solace. By the end of 1941, the Nazi mission to dominate Europe looked almost complete. The Wehrmacht reached the suburbs of Moscow, and the Soviet Union seemed to be on the brink of defeat. In Asia, meanwhile, Japan was preparing to launch a full-scale assault on the weakening British Empire. As it turned out, Adolf Hitler’s decision to invade Russia that winter was to prove disastrous. Even more consequential was the decision by the Japanese to launch a pre-emptive attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, for fear that it would enter the war on the side of the British. In London, as Laurence Thompson has recounted, it was certainly not seen as inevitable that Washington would enter the war until the attack happened. So, Thompson described how, Churchill, on the night of Dec. 7, 1941,
went to bed saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful. That United States, like or not, had been goaded into taking the place left vacant on the world stage by a declining Britain.[36]
With this global leadership came grave responsibilities. Almost three decades later, Nixon took charge of a country that was locked in a seemingly intractable and energy-sapping conflict in Southeast Asia. The year 1968 had been the bleakest year yet, with the loss of almost 17,000 American servicemen, adding urgency to his campaign promises to end the war. Yet, the bleak news from Vietnam was partially alleviated by another event in Nixon’s first year in office. Just a few months prior, on July 20, 1969, two American astronauts had become the first human beings to walk on the surface of the moon. As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin disembarked Apollo II for their moonwalk, they had been greeted by the voice of the president, channelled through a crackling line into their earpieces. “Because of what you have done the heavens have become a part of man's world,” said Nixon, “and as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquillity, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquillity to earth.”[37] Three months later, Nixon considered how previous generations would have viewed these remarkable achievements. Back in 1901, it had been left to English science fiction writer H.G. Wells, in one of his most fantastical stories, to envisage such a mission in his novel, The First Men in the Moon, which had been made into a feature film in 1964.[38] Such achievements were enough to spur anyone into deeper reflection about the purpose of mankind and the advance of civilization. [quote id="4"] Reflecting on this modern day “crusade,” Nixon also quoted from Well’s famous 1920 work, The Outline of History, an ambitious attempt to tell the story of human civilization from the Neolithic era to the modern era. In the book, Wells noted a recurrent tension between the nomadic cultures that emerged in the north and the settled peoples who were more common in the south. In the tension between them, one could see, at the core of the human spirit, a desire to strive for “a new and better sort of civilization.” Wells described a series of civilizational missions over the course of history, such as the Christian crusades or nomadic conquerors — Alexander the Great, Muhammed, Napoleon, and Woodrow Wilson — which had attempted to unify humanity. Although they had failed, Wells believed that mankind would never forego the goal of unity, and that the march of science and technology made the prospect of success ever more likely.[39] By Nov. 5, 1969, as the sun was setting on first year of Nixon’s presidency, the United States faced a combination of challenges at home — manifested in a surge of student radicalism and inner-city riots throughout the summer — and overseas, where it was unclear how America could extricate itself without a humiliating defeat. The words of Wells weighed upon the president, as he considered the challenge ahead. “In terms of history, when we talk about the crusades that H.G. Wells talked about, for example the moon thing,” he said to Kissinger,
[They] had the effect of bringing to Western Europe not just the discovery in the East but the fact that Western Europe at that time devoted itself to a great cause beyond itself. It changed Western Europe. …The President said nations must have great ideas or they cease to be great.[40]
More than that, Nixon feared that if America focused solely on domestic problems, giving up on its leadership of the Western world, it would lose its sense of purpose:
The question is whether we do what we need to both abroad and in the ghettos. If we just go to the ghettos and let go abroad, apart from the destruction that might come from a war, we might destroy ourselves.[41]
In addition to this unlikely fondness for H.G. Wells, Nixon also sought inspiration from one of his predecessors in the White House, Theodore Roosevelt, who had been president from 1901-1908. “Roosevelt talked about it as the white man's burden,” explained Nixon as he ended the phone call. “Both of these people were searching for that same feeling that people need.” [42] Nixon’s presidency was to become one of the most controversial in American history. Yet, in its infancy, and despite his reputation for cold-hearted realpolitik, he was eager to associate himself with a cause that went beyond the narrow national interest and spoke to “great ideas” and a civilizational crusade. With the moon having been conquered already, this was to be pursued in the field of foreign affairs.

The Pursuit of World Order as a “Civilizational Mission”

For many, then and now, the notion of a “white man’s burden” represented the ultimate stain on the historical record of the West — the pretense to stand for a higher cause was but a thin veneer, masking racial prejudice and the grasping self-interest. There was, without question, a highly racialized component to some early Anglo-American thinking about world order.[43] So if Nixon had uttered these words in public in 1969, it would most likely have provoked an overwhelmingly negative response. In fact, the infamous phrase was not Roosevelt’s creation. It was coined by the English poet Rudyard Kipling and first used in the title of a poem written for the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, marking her 60 years on the throne. The Diamond Jubilee was to not only symbolize the pinnacle of British imperial power, but also the growing recognition of its fragility, and the loosening of the binds that held it together. As the 19th century drew to a close, Kipling understood that the enemies of the Empire were growing in power and number. As the 20th century loomed on the horizon, he also had come to the conclusion that the “white man’s burden” would be too much for Britain to bear alone for another century. It was thus, at the time of the Spanish-American War in 1898, that Kipling began to look to the United States to share in Britain’s burden, to preserve and spread “civilisation” in the world.[44] The American people were undecided as to the merits of assuming such a responsibility. When the United States took possession of the Philippine Islands from Spain — and assumed responsibility for its governance — it sparked a fierce national debate as to whether a country founded on rebellion against the British Empire should itself take part in the imperial game. Conscious of the way this debate was finely poised, in late November 1898, Kipling offered his verse to Roosevelt, who had just been elected Governor of New York and was a staunch supporter of expansionism. “Now, go in and put all the weight of your influence into hanging on, permanently, to the whole Philippines,” he begged Roosevelt in the letter that he sent to accompany the poem. “America has gone and stuck a pick-axe into the foundations of a rotten house, and she is morally bound to build the house over, again, from the foundations, or have it fall about her ears.” Forwarding Kipling’s poem to Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Roosevelt commented that it was “poor poetry,” but that it made “good sense from the expansion standpoint.”[45] By evoking Wells, Kipling, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Armstrong in the space of a short phone call, Nixon clearly sought historical justification for the change of direction in American foreign policy that he was considering. It would be easy to conclude that the president, who was not a natural intellectual, was confused by these conflicting ideas from across the political spectrum. Yet, he was not amiss in seeing the connections. For one, there was an unlikely connection between the thinking of Wells and the writing of Kipling. Even a socialist like Wells, who rejected Kipling’s imperialism in favor of his dream of a “world state” — a vision captured in his 1940 book, New World Order — acknowledged that the poet of Empire had influenced him in his early years.[46] As Wells wrote in The New Machiavelli, the “prevailing force” of his worldview as a young man was “Kiplingism … we were all, you must understand, very distinctly Imperialists also, and professed a vivid sense of the ‘White Man’s Burden.’” Kipling helped to broaden his “geographical sense,” he recalled, while inspiring in him a “desire for discipline and devotion” that seemed to be sorely missing in the chaotic affairs of men.[47] To be clear, as Wells moved away from the views of his youth, he distanced himself from Kipling and any whiff of sentimentality about the Empire. In fact, The First Men in the Moon can be partly interpreted as a critique of British imperialism, published against the backdrop of the Second Boer War.[48] At the onset of World War II, Wells’s vision of a “new world order” was one in which the empires would melt away. More specifically, he believed that the British Empire was the greatest obstacle to the unity of the English-speaking peoples in pursuit of that higher ideal. He wrote:
I dislike calling myself “British” and I like to think of myself as a member of a great English-speaking community, which spreads irrespective of race and colour round and about the world.
What he hoped for was “the realisation of a common purpose and a common cultural inheritance may spread throughout all the English-speaking communities.” Foreshadowing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s position, he suggested that only the dissolution of the British Empire “may inaugurate this great synthesis.”[49] Such was the predictive power of Wells that many came to regard him as something of a prophet of the future.[50] Yet, as Nixon’s reference to the “white man’s burden” confirmed, Kipling also cast a longer shadow over the 20th century than is often presumed. In the view of George Orwell, for example, Wells’s optimistic faith in the eventual triumph of science, rationalism, and reason left him ill-equipped to understand the atavistic forces that had come to define the 20th century. In his fear of a clash of civilizations, savagery, ethnic bloodlust, and the breakdown of order, Orwell even suggested that Kipling had been a better prophet for the modern era. Wells was “too sane to understand the modern world.” Kipling, by contrast, “was not deaf to the evil voices of power and military ‘glory.’” Had he lived to see the 1930s, suggested Orwell, Kipling would have better understood “the appeal of Hitler, or for that matter of Stalin, whatever his attitude towards them might be.”[51] Without stretching the point, one can see both these instincts — the Wellsian yearning for international order and the belief that it was attainable by human endeavor and Kipling’s fear of the fragility of Western civilization — in the minds of Nixon and Kissinger, as they contemplated a new course in American foreign policy. There is, perhaps, another clue here in Nixon’s admiration for Winston Churchill. The British statesman often testified to the influence that both Wells and Kipling had upon him. Some of Churchill’s most famous wartime phrases — including his appeals to the unity of the “English-speaking peoples” and “gathering storm” — could be traced back to Wells. Most important, in this respect, was the “broad sunlit uplands” that envisaged a better future world after war.[52] Nor was the link between Wells and Roosevelt that Nixon made at the end of his first year in office — referring to this “feeling that people need” — the product of a confused imagination. It is unclear whether Nixon knew the story or whether he had an intuitive sense of the intellectual connection between them. But the writer and the statesman had in fact met many years before, when Wells visited the White House in 1907. On that occasion, Roosevelt had revealed to Wells a fondness for one of his earlier novels, The Time Machine, first published in 1895.[53] Influenced by the work of Charles Darwin, Wells had envisioned a future in which civilization had not evolved uniformly, but had led to the creation of a two-tiered world. On the surface of the earth lived the Eloi, peaceful, childlike creatures who had lost their evolutionary edge. With no apparent threat to their existence, and having triumphed over nature, they were smaller, weaker, and less motivated by the quest for survival than the humans from whom they had evolved. Then, the time travelling narrator catches sight of something called a Morlock, a “queer little ape-like figure,” disappearing into a subterranean network of tunnels that was once the London underground. It dawns upon him
that Man had not remained one species, but had differentiated into two distinct animals: that my graceful children of the Upper World were not the sole descendants of our generation, but that this bleached, obscene, nocturnal Thing, which had flashed before me, was also heir to all the ages.[54]
At the end of The Time Machine, the time traveller rushes forward in time once more to escape the Morlocks who have captured him. In a final scene, he finds a world in which all remnants of mankind are extinct, only the simplest vegetation remains and monstrous crab-like creatures slowly scuttle across blood-red beaches in search of giant butterflies to eat.[55] For many readers of the book, this dystopian vision suggested a deep anxiety about the future of the world, a view verging on fatalistic despair. Yet, this was not the case for Roosevelt, who claimed to be inspired by it. As Wells recalled, the president “became gesticulatory,” when the discussion turned to The Time Machine, gripping the back of a garden chair with his left hand and stabbing the air with his right as if he was speaking on a platform, “his straining voice a note higher in denying the pessimism of that book…”[56]  Roosevelt, crouching down on the White House lawn that afternoon in 1907, as if over a battlefield, said, “Suppose, after all that you should be right, and it ends with your butterflies and Morlocks. That doesn’t matter now! The effort’s real. It’s worth going on with it — even then.”[57] The president joked, “Morlocks! Everywhere Morlocks!” as he looked out across the lawn and pretended to shoot the imaginary creatures, as if he were holding a rifle in his hand. The two men laughed. The novelist was flattered and agreed that he had not intended his book to be an expression of despair so much as a call to action.[58] The point here was not that Wells (nor Kipling, for that matter) had some sort of decisive influence on Roosevelt or the formation of his worldview. This would be to look at the formation of an Anglo-American worldview the wrong way around, as some sort of process of British influencing America as the latter reached superpower consciousness. The president was an enthusiastic Anglophile, but he had already made his own mind up about what was in America’s best interests. Kipling and Wells had different fears and hopes about the international future. What they shared, from vastly different perspectives, was the growing conviction that the United States was the best guarantor of salvation and civilization. Like many Englishmen after them, they were not manipulating the American consciousness so much as pinning their hopes upon American leadership. “Never did a President so reflect the quality of his time,” Wells wrote after the meeting with Roosevelt. He was “a very symbol of the creative will in man, in its limitations, its doubtful adequacy, its valiant persistence, amidst complexities and confusions.” At the outset of the 20th century, Wells was pleased to report that Roosevelt embodied a new political trend in the Anglo-American world that was “altogether away from the anarchistic individualism of the nineteenth century … towards some constructive scheme.”[59] At the domestic level, elements of this new approach could be seen in the policies of the Progressive era. The real “constructive scheme” that Wells had in mind, however, was the building of a new world order.

The Elusiveness of Pax-Anglo-Saxonica

While it says something about the tangled roots of Anglo-American worldview, this vignette — an account of brief telephone conversation in 1969 — can only get us so far. It was clear that Nixon sought inspiration from this sense that he was resuming a long-term historical cause, but this did not provide him with a new blueprint for Cold War foreign policy. Meanwhile, it was one thing to see Roosevelt — as Wells did — as the harbinger of a “constructive scheme” in world affairs and a reversal of the trend towards anarchic individualism. It was quite another, as countless exponents of world order were to learn, to articulate how such a vague idea could ever be materialized. Indeed, the lack of clarity about concrete goals meant that the pursuit of world order nearly always ended in frustrated ambition. The failures of Anglo-American internationalism in the era preceding and following World War I can, to a great extent, be explained by this confusion. On the one hand, the idea that Britain and the United States might have had a shared interest in what might be (anachronistically) called a “liberal international order” had gathered some traction among elites by the turn of the 20th century. On the other hand, divergent national interests and significant cultural differences still held sway. First, British foreign policy in this era paid great homage to certain liberal international ideals while being primarily concerned with the preservation of Empire. Second, it soon became clear that — whatever the personal views of Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson after him — the U.S. Congress, and ergo the American people, was unwilling to assume the burden that the construction of a new international order demanded. [quote id="5"] For those who hoped that the “Americanization of the world” would lessen the load on the British Empire, there was much frustration at the course taken by the United States. Following Roosevelt, the presidency of William Howard Taft was regarded as particularly disappointing. In 1911, the British writer Sydney Brooks — whose pieces often appeared in Harper’s Magazine — complained that the United States did not understand the urgency of the civilizational threat to the West because of its relative security and its near-impenetrability from foreign invasion. It had become clear that Americans lived “in an atmosphere of extra-ordinary simplicity, spaciousness, and self-absorption,” he wrote. Foreign policy was never a priority in American politics and the implications of American expansionism had yet to be grasped. After expansion into Cuba and the Philippines in 1898, Americans had strewn the Pacific with stepping stones from Hawaii to Manila, just as the British had done in the Mediterranean. In effect, America had an empire, but Americans had “not yet become Imperial.” As Brooks complained in 1911, “The white man’s burden, so far as Americans are concerned, has become the white man’s boredom.”[60] For a fleeting moment, America’s entry into the Great War and Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points re-energized the idea that such a Western-led world order could be built.[61] While some of the supporters of the Anglo-American alliance in Britain were imperial survivalists, there were also genuine internationalists in the mould of Wells. The failure of the United States to join the League of Nations in 1920 was a bitter disappointment to the advocates of this new world order. At the same time, quite justifiably, some of the most forthright advocates of American internationalism believed that the project had been corrupted in inception by the failure of the European powers — Britain foremost among them — to abandon their imperial ambitions.[62] No sooner, then, had the concept of “world order” been transferred from theorists to statesmen that it became associated with failure. Tellingly, one of the earliest mentions of “world order” in the State Department archives appeared in the resignation letter of an idealistic young Wilsonian diplomat, William Bullitt, who felt that the post-war peace settlement was unduly harsh on Bolshevik Russia and that America should refuse to cooperate with Britain and France in pursuing their familiar imperialist great games. He told Wilson,
I was one of the millions who trusted confidently and implicitly in your leadership and believed that you would take nothing less than “a permanent peace” based upon “unselfish and unbiased justice.” But our Government has consented now to deliver the suffering peoples of the world to new oppressions, subjections and dismemberments — a new century of war. And I can convince myself no longer that effective labor for “a new world order” is possible as a servant of this Government.[63]
Ironically, outside the Anglo-American world, some observers took the view that the English-speaking peoples had missed an incredible opportunity to establish a dominant Anglo-American world order. Friedrich Meinecke, the foremost German theorist of “realpolitik,” addressed these questions in his classic text, Machiavellianism: The Doctrine of Raison D’État and Its Place in Modern History (1924). Meinecke refused to believe that a true League of Nations could ever be realized and had little time for Wilsonian idealism. Instead of the League, however, he believed that the shared strategic culture of America and Britain might eventually point to a different type of international order. While the moment had passed in 1920, he speculated four years later,
perhaps occur that the era of ... international conflict … may be brought to an end not by a genuine League of Nations, but by the world-hegemony of the Anglo-Saxon powers, in whose hands the strongest physical powers of the globe are already concentrated.
Meinecke did not welcome the prospect of such a “pax anglo-saxonica.” But, he did recognize that, through the lighter touch of liberal capitalism, it would “be more endurable for the individual life of ... [other] nations” than dominance by other great powers.[64] While there were those in the Anglo-American world who held on to such a vision in the 1920s, they grew increasingly forlorn. By November 1928, ten years after the Entente’s victory in World War I, an official at the British Foreign Office sat down to compose a stark assessment of the new global order that was taking shape. Russia, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, and China were all locked in spirals of revolution and repression while being crippled by successive financial crises. One country stood supreme above all the others. In the United States, the official wrote, Great Britain was faced
with a phenomenon for which there is no parallel in our modern history — a state twenty-five times as large, five times as wealthy, three times as populous, twice as ambitious, almost invulnerable, and at least our equal in prosperity, vital energy, technical equipment and industrial strength.
The problem, as it was to be for much of the next century, was that “in almost every field, the advantages to be derived from mutual co-operation are greater for us than for them.”[65] Against this backdrop, British imaginings of the future took on a darker form once again. It was in 1933 — the year that Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor — that H.G. Wells returned to his musings on the idea of world order, once again through the lens of futurology, with The Shape of Things to Come. A science fiction novel purporting to be a “history” of the future, it told the story of how humanity would develop from 1930 to the year 2106. The world that Wells depicted was one in which Franklin D. Roosevelt fails to implement the New Deal, causing a global economic crisis that lasts 30 years. This is punctuated by a “second world war” that, with eerie accuracy, Wells predicted would begin in January 1940, sparked by a clash between Germany and Poland over Danzig. There would be no clear victor. Instead, the leading powers would emerge exhausted. Worse would follow in 1956 with the outbreak of a plague — spread by a group of enraged baboons having escaped from the London Zoo — that wipes out much of the world population.[66] The saving of humanity would take drastic measures over many years. Wells envisaged the emergence of a benevolent “dictatorship of the air,” formed by the global elite at an international conference convened in Basra in 1965. Through their control of the world’s aircraft, they would begin by eradicating the world’s religions, dropping bombs on Mecca and waging a long war against Catholicism. Eventually, the dictatorship would melt away, making way for a peaceful humanitarian utopia in which the struggle for material existence has ended, meaning that “reason” could finally triumph. The last recorded event in the book takes place on New Year’s Day 2106, when there is a levelling of the last skyscrapers that once dominated the New York skyline.[67] Piece by piece, the theoretical fragments of this vague world order were assembled for use at some future date. The following year, in 1934, the English historian Arnold Toynbee published the first volume of his 12-volume work, A Study of History, which traced the rise and fall of 23 major civilizations.[68] It was, in part, a response to Oswald Spengler’s two-volume masterpiece, The Decline of the West, which was produced at the end of World War I and warned that Western civilization was approaching its twilight.[69] Spengler questioned what he saw as a Eurocentric view of history, which presumed a linear development towards modernity and progress. Toynbee rejected this fatalism about the decline of the West. At the same time, he stressed the urgent need to formulate a vision for how the different civilizations of the world could co-exist and share the globe among them. “The challenge of being called upon to create a political world-order … now confronts our Modern Western society,” he warned.[70]

Coming Back Together: Anglo-American Conceptions of World Order

It was one thing to build castles in the sky, in the manner of Toynbee and Wells, or to speak in such broad civilizational terms. But the interwar era proved just how difficult it was to translate such vague aspirations about world order into tangible goals of foreign policy. The meteor-like phenomenon of Wilsonian internationalism, blazing brightly before fading out, illustrated the challenge. The phrase “world order” had first made a debut in U.S. State Department archives in the period from 1917 to 1919, yet it had all but evaporated from American diplomatic parlance thereafter. It did not appear in State Department cables again for another 12 years, until 1931 and then only five times until 1935. The watershed moment, from which point “world order” began to be used with ever greater frequency, was the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in October 1935. For many contemporary observers, this was the final death blow to the authority of the League of Nations, which had already been steadily undermined since the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. In response, as shown by British and American diplomatic archives, the idea of “world order” was swiftly revived. In this case, however, it was shorn of some of the more ambitious connotations associated with the Wilson era. Instead, the restoration of world order was seen in more of a palliative than a visionary sense — the only possible antidote to the coming anarchy. In their shared diagnosis of the problem, there was, once again, the beginnings of a reconvergence between the American and British worldviews. Typical of this, in 1935, the American minister resident in Addis Ababa reported back on the growing sense, in conversations with the British, that the existing “world order” was under assault from the dictators or neo-imperialists in Italy, Germany, and Japan.[71] An obstacle remained in that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the architect of appeasement, had an almost undisguised contempt for the United States.[72] Meanwhile, it was in the second half of the 1930s that American strategists began to spend more time considering what sort of international order best served national goals. More importantly, these ideas developed a more solid form, in a way that could be translated into political and diplomatic action. That Franklin D. Roosevelt began to talk about the important “will for peace on the part of peace-loving nation” was of critical importance. It was “international lawlessness” that threatened “the very foundations of civilisation.”[73] Another crucial figure in this process was then Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles, who saw the challenge to world order in three ways: The first was in the unravelling of “norms” and existing laws governing international conduct. The second, arising out of the first, was the prospect of “anarchy.” The third was the dividing line that had opened up between “civilized” and “uncivilized” nations in the conduct of international affairs. As Welles put it in October 1937,
No one can today affirm that such a thing as international law exists or that there is any common agreement on the part of the so-called civilized nations of the world upon the fundamental standards which should and must govern the relations between nations if world order is to be restored.[74]
Having agreed on the remedy — the restoration of world order — so a greater sense of common purpose fed into U.S. and U.K. relations. Thus, a month later, in November 1937, Secretary of State Cordell Hull discussed the international crisis at length with the British ambassador in Washington, holding out improved Anglo-American relations — and constructive diplomatic engagement on issues such as trade — as “the basis upon which a restored world order could rest.”[75] Simultaneously, the United States began to impart these warnings about the dangers of anarchy to those who seemed to have veered into “uncivilized” conduct. In conversations with the Italian ambassador, Hull also expressed the hope — in reality, a thinly veiled warning — that
sooner or later nations undertaking to live by the sword, with non-observance of the principles of world order to large extent, will decide on a permanent policy of either the sword or a course of peace and order under law such as many of our countries are pursuing.[76]
Ultimately, of course, it was only in the heat of another world war that these threads of common analysis began to coalesce into a new vision of a future world order after the end of conflict. In 1940, for example, a young John F. Kennedy wrote that the United States “ought to take our part in setting up a world order that will prevent the rise of a militaristic dictatorship.”[77] Or, as Churchill put it in a speech at Harvard University in September 1943, in which he quoted Kipling, “It must be world order or anarchy.”[78] There are many reasons why the world order that emerged out of World War II proved far more enduring than that which followed the previous world war. One reason that is sometimes overlooked, however, is that it set tighter definitional bounds on the concept. More specifically, the architects of the post-1945 order sought to strike a judicious and stable balance between the utopian idea of the “world state” and a more prosaic attempt to build a structure around the existing “balance of power.” The aspirations of the advocates of the “world state” were knocked down, above all, by the lack of any enthusiasm for a global “police force” that would be required to give such a body legitimacy. “Whatever its theoretical merits,” noted a British Foreign Office memorandum shared with the Americans in July 1944, “this postulates a greater advance in international co-operation than States are yet prepared to make, as it implies the existence of a world State.”[79] At the founding United Nations Organization in conference in San Francisco the following year, senior American delegates were particularly allergic to anything that assumed this broader form. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, a Republican internationalist, indicated that he would resist any measure that allowed the new organization to be presented as an embryonic world state.[80] For the same reason, just as the proposal of a “world police” made no ground, the idea of pooling nuclear weapons technology under U.N. control was similarly abortive. As a 1946 memorandum by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded, the only scenario in which disarmament was possible was the “creation of a world state in which all nations surrender sufficient of their sovereignty to assure the rule of law and the prevention, if not of war itself, of illicit means of waging war.”[81] This, of course, had never been the intention of the wartime planners. As the State Department later elaborated, the United Nations was a “means to an end rather than an end in itself.” It was in America’s interest to preserve the means. But the “real end” was
progressive development toward a stable world order where law and orderly processes, rather than violence and anarchy, can govern the conduct of nations in their relations with each other.
As means must come before ends, the United Nations was to be understood as “an association of independent states … based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members, rather than as a single world state.” It was not designed to “terminate national sovereignty,” but rather to “facilitate the joint exercise of it by separate nations acting in friendly cooperation.”[82] On the one hand, then, the idea that a “world state” could eventually emerge out of World War II was consciously counteracted by British and American officials, who set clear bounds on the functioning of the United Nations, in order to smother any such expectations at birth. Yet, the need to invest the idea of world order with some higher sense of purpose, to make good on visionary war aims and to provide that “feeling that people need” also was understood. The case of Gladwyn Jebb (later, Lord Gladwyn), the senior British diplomat who served as the first acting secretary general of the United Nations, is particularly instructive here. Jebb, who became friends with Henry Kissinger in the mid-1960s, was known within the British foreign office establishment as the advocate of a world order based on a balance of power. In the mid-1930s, Jebb had come to the conclusion that the League of Nations had been fatally weakened by the desire to see it as a staging post towards a possible world state. “The Dictators are right in one thing at least: perpetual peace is a dream, and what is more a bad and essentially unprofitable dream,” he wrote. “For it is based on the fallacy that the Kingdom of Heaven is realisable in this world, instead of in the next — or possibly 'within oneself.’”[83] Nothing that Jebb saw in the maneuvers of the great powers during the course of the war disabused him of this belief in the paramountcy of the balance of power. As he told an audience in Oxford in February 1944, the balance of power lay “at the root of any settlement designed to provide for a long period of peace.”[84] It should be said that Jebb was prepared to believe that a world state was a possibility in some distant future. “It may ultimately come about, and indeed I think it probably will,” he said. It could be argued,
with some force, that the whole tendency of modern science and modern inventions lies in the direction of world unity. Radio communications, broadcasting, civil aviation and so on are linking up the various communities and disseminating ideas to an extent never achieved before; and certainly this process will develop and continue.
For the moment, however, he did not believe that any of the great powers would agree to any version of world order that “effectively limits their own ability to look after what they regard, rightly or wrongly, as their ‘vital interests.’”[85] Having arrived back in Britain from San Francisco after the foundation of the United Nations, Jebb became concerned with what he saw as a worrying apathy among his fellow Briton about the new organization. Some of this, he felt, could be explained by the fact that the British government had not been trumpeting its own role in setting up the organization. He felt that the United Kingdom had “played a very great, perhaps even a preponderating part” in what had been agreed at San Francisco. The essential features of the original British papers circulated before Dumbarton Oaks had all been incorporated in the final Charter of the United Nations. The very basis of the scheme, continued cooperation between the Big Three, “had its origin in this country and was imparted by devious means to our two great Allies.” For this reason, he understood why British diplomats did wish to “emphasise our achievements in public, but rather to allow the Americans to claim the principal credit for the production of the Charter as a whole.” It was far better, in the long-run, “to regard the World Organisation as their special interest in order that they should play their full part in its operation.”[86] Crucially, however, Jebb felt that undue cynicism about what had been achieved was in danger of undermining the very purpose of the endeavour. Given his previous views, he was not shy to admit that there was “a great deal of truth” that the United Nations might turn out to be a new great power alliance. But he also felt this approach was
negative rather than positive and ignores the hopeful features of the Charter and notably the very fact that a machine will now be constituted whereby the Great Powers can attempt to settle their own difficulties as well as those of other people.
Jebb still saw the building of world organization in instrumental terms — as a “machine” for the management of international relations. And yet, he also felt the aspiration and hope that it held out was a force in its own right, providing that linear sense of direction and higher purpose to foreign policy, in a way that had been absent before 1938. Thus, this arch advocate of the balance of power, quoted the Biblical Proverb: “Where there is no vision the people perish.”[87]

Conclusion

Unlikely as it might seem, there were indeed common threads that linked together figures as diverse as Kipling, Wells, both Roosevelts, Orwell, Churchill, Jebb, Nixon, and Kissinger and shaped their collective worldviews. The first was a yearning for some form of order, equilibrium and stability in international affairs — or at the very least, the prevention of “anarchy.” The second was a consciousness about the fragility of Western civilization, caught between so-called revanchists or savages who would upset the “natural order” and an uncertain future in which the West’s privileged position would no longer be guaranteed. Within the vague and unbounded aspiration to build international order were oscillations between utopian prophesying and doom-laden visions of barbarism and anarchy. Even after 1945, similar themes of civilizational angst and a desire to derive meaning from the march of history were never far below the surface when the question of world order was discussed. This essay began with a discussion of Henry Kissinger’s 2014 book, World Order. As a prelude to any of his work on foreign policy, however, Kissinger’s Harvard undergraduate thesis of 1951 wrestled with “The Meaning of History,” a study of Toynbee, Spengler and Kant. He wrote:
Even though our contemplation of history may yield as its deepest meaning a feeling of limits as the basis of the ultimate moral personality of man we are still faced with the fact that no civilization has yet been permanent, no longing completely fulfilled, no answer ever gone unchallenged.
On the one hand, the work revealed the suspicion of “universalism” that shaped Kissinger’s later statecraft. On the other, he could not deny the irreducible human feeling that there was always “a task to be achieved” as “an expression of the soul.”[88] The relative success of the world order built out of 1945 was that it accepted, as its premise, the limits of perfectibility. But the human urge for perfection could never be wished away. The quest for world order could never be truly complete. In June 1965, both Lord Gladwyn and Henry Kissinger were at the Serbellino Conference on Conditions of World Order, organized by the French political scientist, journalist, and philosopher, Raymond Aron. The meeting brought together a select group of theorists and former practitioners, and the proceedings were recorded by Stanley Hoffman, one of Kissinger’s colleagues at Harvard. Hoffman’s record of the event underscores one of the arguments of this essay — that world order could be the vaguest of aspirations, but that the pursuit of world order was an almost irresistible urge, because it spoke to the most fundamental philosophical and existential questions, from the future of humanity to the purpose of politics. [quote id="6"] It was clear from the earliest proceedings that “world order” meant something different to almost every participant. Some definitions were “purely descriptive”— that is, a diagnosis of the existing state of international affairs and an assessment of the relationship among the different parts. Some participants defined world order in more expansive terms, as “minimum conditions for existence … [or] coexistence.” Others defined it in normative, or visionary terms, “as the conditions for the good life.” As Hoffman described, Aron struggled to control the discussion or keep it within bounds, urging the speakers to avoid “platitudes” or simply resort to “an acrimonious reproduction of the conflicts of values that exist in the world.” He ventured his own definition of world order as the conditions that would help mankind “not merely … avoid destruction, but to live together relatively well in one planet.” For the most part, however, the conference attendees could not get past these first principles to move to the actual foreign policy challenges facing of the era. In the end, Hoffman observed a fatal split between the “builders and the critics.” The builders were those whose minds were “primarily devoted to the creation of a system or the advocacy of a method or the proselytizing of an idea.” The critics were those who were mostly concerned with “the analysis of reality, with the dissection (or vivisection) of systems, utopias and theories.”[89] Yet, to return to the fundamental point of this essay, the definition of world order matters much less than the sense in which it has been held out as the ultimate goal of Western statecraft. A month before the 1968 presidential election, which brought Nixon into office, the Policy Planning Council noted that attempts to define world order had proved extremely challenging in previous years. It remained crucial, however, that the “sense of direction” in foreign policy was still maintained:
“World order” is not a goal that can be defined with any precision. The time is clearly not ripe for detailed blueprints. But that is not what is needed. People are surfeited with oratory and have come to distrust grand designs. What they basically want is a sense of direction with which they can identify, and a clearer understanding of the kind of international relationships toward which we can reasonably hope to progress in the next decade.[90]
As H.G. Wells wrote in 1940, what was really important was not the identity of the people who pursued world order, the timeline on which it was to be achieved or the nature of the utopia they envisaged. He explained:
No man, no group of men, will ever be singled out as its father or founder. For its maker will be not this man nor that man nor any man but Man, that being who is in some measure in every one of us.
Instead, world order would be like most great civilizational achievements, “a social product” and “collective achievement” of many lives. What really mattered was that people in a century scourged by human destruction were now engaged in this collective effort:
A growing miscellany of people are saying — it is getting about — that "World Pax is possible," a World Pax in which men will be both united and free and creative. It is of no importance at all that nearly every man of fifty and over receives the idea with a pitying smile. Its chief dangers are the dogmatist and the would-be “leader” who will try to suppress every collateral line of work which does not minister to his supremacy. This movement must be, and it must remain, many-headed. ... The new order will be incessant; things will never stop happening. …[91]
The pursuit of world order may indeed be a many-headed monster or the vaguest of aspirations. It is a work of abstract art never complete. It has been associated with some false dawns, great disappointments, and no few misadventures. As John Thompson has written, the link between the pursuit of world order and American security and prosperity has always been “hard to sustain when subjected to sceptical questioning.”[92] The lack of concrete definition is at the heart of repeated failures of conception and strategy in the history of Anglo-American statecraft. But it has also provided a sense of continuity, direction, and mission and acted as an antidote to excessive cynicism, fatalism, and short-termism in the making of Anglo-American foreign policy. It is right to question the assumptions behind ideas of world order, test their philosophical foundations and internal logic, as well as the policy recommendations that arise out of them. But it would be ahistorical and self-immolating to mistake incoherence for purposelessness and abandon the venture entirely. Stripping the altars will not do.   *The author would like to acknowledge the support of the Leverhulme Trust (as the 2015 winner of the Philip Leverhulme Prize), which allowed him time to research and write this article.   John Bew is Professor of History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King’s College London, and leads Britain in the World project at the think tank Policy Exchange. In 2015, he was awarded the annual Philip Leverhulme Prize for International Studies. In 2013-14, he held the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. Professor Bew is the author of five books, including Citizen Clem: A Life of Attlee (2016), which won three awards: the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography and Best Book in the U.K. Parliamentary Book Awards. It was also named as a book of the year in The TimesThe Sunday Times, New Statesman, and Evening Standard and as one of the top 15 political biographies of all time in The Observer. Bew’s previous book, Realpolitik: A History (2016) was named a book of the year in The Times. His 2011 book, Castlereagh: From Enlightenment to Tyranny (2011) was named a book of the year in the Sunday Telegraph and The Wall Street Journal. Bew is a contributing writer for the New Statesman, contributing editor for War on the Rocks and writes for a variety of other outlets. He has appeared before both the U.K. Defence and Foreign Affairs Select Committees. At King’s College London, where he has been based since 2010, Bew is the founding director of the Centre for Grand Strategy. Bew is also a member of the editorial board of the Texas National Security Review. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Pexels [post_title] => World Order: Many-Headed Monster or Noble Pursuit? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => world-order-many-headed-monster-noble-pursuit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-22 13:08:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-22 17:08:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=253 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => The pursuit of world order has taken many forms in the last 100 years of Anglo-American statecraft, and its terms have been bitterly contested. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Issue 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => [W]hen ideas of world order are simply cast out as vapid utopianism, or “globalist” delusion, British and American foreign policy loses form, spirit, purpose, vision, and a sense of direction ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => From different angles, then, a growing number of foreign policy commentators joined the chorus of concern about the so-called crisis of world order. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => There are indeed certain shared presuppositions within mainstream U.S. foreign policy traditions that have gone unchallenged and unexamined for many years. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Nixon feared that if America focused solely on domestic problems, giving up on its leadership of the Western world, it would lose its sense of purpose. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => For a fleeting moment, America’s entry into the Great War and Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points re-energized the idea that such a Western-led world order could be built. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The relative success of the world order built out of 1945 was that it accepted, as its premise, the limits of perfectibility. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 455 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 52 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] H. G. Wells, The New World Order: Whether It Is Attainable, How It Can Be Attained, and What Sort of World a World at Peace Will Have to Be (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1940). [2] Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960-1 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office), 88. [3] “Notes of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and His Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Louis J. Smith and David H. Herschler, ed., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Vol. 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972 (November 5, 1969): 142-3. Available at https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v01/d43. [4] This is a central theme of Henry Kissinger’s On China (New York: Penguin, 2011). [5] Some important examples include: Paul Schroeder, “Historical Reality vs. Neo-Realist Theory,” International Security 19, no. 1 (Summer 1994): 108-148; Jonathan Haslam, No Virtue like Necessity: Realist Thought in International Relations Since Machiavelli (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); Lucian M. Ashworth, “Did the Realist-Idealist Great Debate Really Happen? A Revisionist History of International Relations,” International Relations 16, no. 33 (2002): 33-51; Duncan Bell, ed., Political Thought and International Relations: Variations on a Realist Theme (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Mark Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea, 1815 to the Present (New York: Penguin, 2012); David Milne, Worldmaking: The Art and Science of American Diplomacy (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2015); John Thompson, A Sense of Power: The Roots of America’s Global Role (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2015); Or Rosenboim, The Emergence of Globalism: Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950 (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2017). [6] Henry Kissinger, World Order (New York and London; Penguin, 2014), 371. [7] Hillary Clinton, “Hillary Clinton reviews Henry Kissinger’s ‘World Order,’” The Washington Post, September 4, 2014. [8] Ibid. [9] Anne-Marie Slaughter, “How to Fix America's Foreign Policy: What Obama should learn from Kissinger's new book,” New Republic, November 18, 2014. [10] Vali Nasr, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat (Doubleday: New York, 2013). [11] Robert Kagan, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” New Republic, May 26, 2014. [12] Ibid. [13] Daniel Deudney and John Ikenberry, “Unraveling America the Great,” American Interest 11, no. 5 (March 2016). [14] “Open Letter to Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders,” War on the Rocks, March 2, 2016, available at https://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders. [15] Eliot Cohen, The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force (Basic Books: New York, 2017). [16] Paul D. Miller, American Power and Liberal Order: A Conservative Internationalist Grand Strategy (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2016). [17] The phrase is attributed to President Obama’s advisor Ben Rhodes. David Samuels, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru,” New York Times Magazine, May 5, 2016. [18] Noam Chomsky, World Orders: Old and New (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 5. [19] Perry Anderson, American Foreign Policy and its Thinkers (London: Verso, 2015). [20] Perry Anderson, The H-Word: The Peripeteia of Hegemony (London: Verso, 2017) [21] Charlie Laderman and Brendan Simms, Trump: The Making of a Worldview (London: I.B. Tauris, 2017). [22] Thomas Wright, “Trump’s 19th Century Foreign Policy,” Politico, January 20, 2016, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-foreign-policy-213546. [23] Iskander Rehman, “Bring Everything Crashing Down: Bannon’s Reactionary Guard and U.S. National Security,” War on the Rocks, February 27, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/02/bring-everything-crashing-down-bannons-reactionary-guard-and-u-s-national-security. [24] James Mann, “The Adults in the Room,” New York Review of Books, October 26, 2017. [25] Michael Anton, “America and the Liberal International Order,” American Affairs 1, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 113-25. [26] Ibid., 114. [27] See, for example, National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom (London: HM Govt., 2015). [28] Anton, “America and the Liberal International Order,” passim. [29] The phrase “intellectual architecture” is Hal Brands’s in What Good is Grand Strategy? Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2014). [30] Rosenboim, The Emergence of Globalism. [31] For that power transition, and the importance of shared intellectual traditions, see: Kori Shaki, Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2017); Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World (New York: Vintage, 2008). [32] Mazower, Governing the World; Milne, Worldmaking; Thompson, A Sense of Power. [33] “White House Background Press Briefing by the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Louis J. Smith and David H. Herschler, ed., Foreign Relations of The United States, 1969–1976, Vol. 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972 (December 18, 1969). Available at https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v01/d47. [34] “Notes of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and His Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Foreign Relations of The United States, 1969–1976, Vol. 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972 (November 5, 1969): 142-3. [35] Laurence Thompson, 1940: Year of Legend, Year of History (London: Collins: 1966), 12. [36] Ibid. [37] “Telephone Conversation with the Apollo 11 Astronauts on the Moon,” July 20, 1969, available at https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/forkids/speechesforkids/moonlanding/moonlandingcall.pdf. [38] H.G. Wells, The First Men in the Moon (London: Penguin, 2005), xxiii. [39] H.G. Wells, The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man (London: George Newnes, 1920). [40] “Notes of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and His Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” November 5, 1969. [41] Ibid. [42] Ibid. [43] Duncan Bell, “The Project for a New Anglo Century: Race, Space and Global Order,” Peter Katzenstein, ed., Anglo-America and Its Discontents: Civilizational Identities Beyond West and East (London: Routledge, 2012): 33-56. [44] Gretchen Murphy, Shadowing the White Man’s Burden: U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line (New York: NYU Press, 2010), 36. [45] Patrick Brantlinger, “Kipling's ‘The White Man's Burden’ and Its Afterlives,” English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 50, no. 2 (2007): 172-191. [46] H. G. Wells, The New World Order. [47] George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling,” New English Weekly (January 23, 1936). Available at http://theorwellprize.co.uk/george-orwell/by-orwell/essays-and-other-works/rudyard-kipling. [48] H.G. Wells, The First Men in the Moon (London: Penguin, 2005), xxiii. [49] Wells, The New World Order. [50] See Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History (London: Penguin, 2017). [51] George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling,” Horizon, February 1942, available at https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-prize/orwell/essays-and-other-works/rudyard-kipling-1936. [52] Richard Toye, “H.G. Wells and Winston Churchill: a reassessment,” S. McClean, ed., H.G. Wells: Interdisciplinary Essays, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008). [53] Patrick Parrinder, Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction, and Prophecy (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995), 70. [54] Wells, The Time Machine. [55] Ibid. [56] H.G. Wells, Experiment in Autobiography (New York: Macmillan, 1934), 648-9. [57] Norman Ian MacKenzie and ‎Jeanne MacKenzie, H.G. Wells: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), 202-3. [58] Ibid. [59] Parrinder, Shadows of the Future, 70. [60] Sydney Brooks, “American Foreign Policy,” The English Review (November 1911): 682-95. [61] Mazower, Governing the World, 116-153. [62] John Bew, Realpolitik: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 123-134. [63] “Mr. William C. Bullitt to the Secretary General of the Commission to Negotiate Peace (Grew) [Paris,],” May 17, 1919, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, Vol. XI, Paris Peace Conf, 184.1. [64] Friedrich Meinecke, Machiavellianism: The Doctrine of Raison d'État and Its Place in Modern History, Werner Stark, ed., Douglas Scott, trans. (New Haven: Yale University Press: 1957), 424-33. [65] Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (New York: Viking, 2014), 463-4. [66] H.G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come (London, 1933). [67] Ibid. [68] Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol I: Introduction: The Geneses of Civilizations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934), 397. [69] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, edited by Arthur Helps and Helmut Werner, Charles F. Atkinson, trans. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). [70] Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol III: The Growths of Civilizations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934), 364. [71] “The Minister Resident in Ethiopia (Engert) to the Secretary of State, Addis Ababa Telegram,” June 27, 1936, Foreign Relations of The United States Diplomatic Papers, The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, 765.84/4737. [72] Robin Renwick, Fighting with Allies: America and Britain in Peace and War (London: Biteback, 2016), 21. [73] John Thompson, A Sense of Power: The Roots of America’s Global Role (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press: 2015), 146, 280. [74] “Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles),” October 6, 1937, Pres. Speech Oct. 5, 1937/3½, Foreign Relations of The United States Diplomatic Papers, 1937, General I, 711.00. Available at https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1937v01/d685. [75] “Memorandum by the Secretary of State,” November 29, 1937, Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1937, The Far East III, 693.002/407. [76] “Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State,” July 26, 1938, Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1938, The British Commonwealth, Europe, Near East, and Africa II, 865.4016/36. [77] J. Kennedy, Why England Slept (London: Hutchinson and Co., 1940), 232-233. [78] Renwick, Fighting with Allies, 67-8. [79] “Tentative Proposals by the United Kingdom for a General International Organization,” July 22, 1944, D.O./Conv.A/Doc. 2, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1944, General, Vol. I, Lot 60–D 224, Box 57. [80] “Minutes of the Fourteenth Meeting of the United States Delegation, Held at San Francisco, Tuesday, April 24, 1945, 9:30 a.m., San Francisco,” April 24, 1945, U.S. Cr. Min. 14, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1945, General: The United Nations, Vol. I, April 24, 1945, Lot 60–D 224, Box 96. [81] “Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee,” January 23, 1946, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, General; The United Nations, Vol. I, 811.2423/2–146. [82]“Department of State Policy Statement Regarding the United Nations, Washington DC,” September 18, 1950, Executive Secretariat Files, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The United Nations; The Western Hemisphere, Vol. II, Lot 57 D 649. [83] Gladwyn Jebb, “Defence of the West,” April 25, 1936, UK National Archives, FCO 73/257, Def/38/1/A. [84] Ibid. [85] Gladwyn Jebb, “Balance of Power lecture, Canning Club, Oxford,” February 21, 1944, FCO 73/263, Mis/44/1, UK National Archives. [86] Gladwyn Jebb, “Reflections on San Francisco,” July 25, 1945 U 5998/12/70, Documents on British Policy Overseas, Series 1, Vol. 1: The Conference at Potsdam July – August 1945, Item 407, 893-897. [87] Ibid. [88] Henry Kissinger, The Meaning of History (Reflections on Toynbee, Spengler and Kant) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University undergraduate honors thesis, 1951), 21-22; 24-26. [89] Stanley Hoffman, “Report of the Conference on Conditions of World Order: June 12-19, 1965, Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Italy,” Daedalus 95, no. 2 (Spring 1966): 455-478. [90] “U.S. Foreign Policy: Current Issues in a Longer-Term Perspective”, Policy Planning Council, December 1968, Papers of Lyndon Baines Johnson, LBJ Archive, University of Texas, National Security File, Box 50. [91] Wells, The New World Order. [92] Thompson, A Sense of Power, 281-2. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [post_count] => 3 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 414 [post_author] => 100 [post_date] => 2018-01-31 04:00:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-31 09:00:19 [post_content] => When scholars discuss the contemporary international order, they tend to do so in abstract terms. Older forms of international order — the balance of power between great states and shifts in that balance — could be measured in concrete terms by counting men under arms, factories, artillery pieces, and so on. Today, however, the composition of the U.S.-led liberal international order is more difficult to articulate. Richard Fontaine has characterized today’s world order as a “web of norms, institutions, rules, and relationships”[1] that “range from maritime rules and trade regimes to norms against forcible conquest and in support of state sovereignty” and “institutions like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, as well as a variety of key alliances and arrangements.”[2] In a similar vein, Robin Niblett has defined the liberal international order in terms of principles — “open markets, democracy, and individual human rights” — undergirded by institutions such as those forged at Bretton Woods in 1944.[3] Such descriptions make the liberal international order sound profoundly important, which is not surprising since they are generally provided as predicates for arguments that this order is fraying and in need of reinvigoration or repair.[4] Yet the descriptions of what, precisely, the international order is — and, for that matter, the laments over its uncertain state — are also undeniably amorphous. That vagueness has fueled accusations by newly resurgent nationalists that the liberal international order is at best a fanciful notion or, more sinister, a scheme perpetrated by a “globalist” elite to advance parochial interests at the expense of the national interest.[5] This charge has in turn been rebutted by scholars such as John Bew, who observes that notions of world order, far from a latter-day globalist innovation, have preoccupied policymakers from across the ideological spectrum for more than a century.[6] Yet another objection to notions of international order could be posed: that however noble such ideas may be, they are of little practical use to the policymaker engaged in the daily business of international relations. Indeed, even some defenders of the international order characterize it as “a work of abstract art”[7] and note that “the link between the pursuit of world order and American security and prosperity has always been “hard to sustain when subjected to s[k]eptical questioning.”[8] A complete argument in defense of the liberal international order requires demonstrating that this order is not merely abstract or vaguely laudable but of concrete value to the national security of the United States and its allies. This essay seeks to make that case by examining American policy toward Iran as an example of the international order in action. The essay draws upon my experience as director for Iran at the National Security Council from 2006 to 2007 and as the council’s senior director for the Middle East from 2007 to 2008. At its best, U.S. policy toward Iran melded the unilateral exercise of American power with utilization of the norms, institutions, and relationships that make up the international order to advance a vital national security interest — namely, preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Yet an examination of American policy toward Iran also sheds light on practical problems the international order faces and how those problems might be addressed. That Iran should provide a case study in how the international order works to advance American security is no doubt ironic given that it is a classic revisionist state, railing against and seeking to undermine that very order, skillfully and not without some success.

Iran Policy Under George W. Bush

Iran’s nuclear activities were a preoccupation of the George W. Bush administration nearly from its outset. This was most memorably illustrated by the 2002 State of the Union address, in which the president decried Iran’s support for terrorism, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and its domestic repression. He famously described Iran as part of an “axis of evil.”[9] Within the Bush administration, however, Iran’s nuclear program came to be seen as a subset of the broader array of threats posed by Tehran, which included terrorism and attempts to stymie American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration internally debated different approaches for dealing with these various dangers, from regime change to sanctions to diplomacy.[10] What ultimately became U.S. policy for addressing Iran’s nuclear program — leading directly, if distantly, to the conclusion of a nuclear agreement in 2015 — was less the product of U.S. initiative than a reaction to external developments. Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities were publicly exposed in 2002 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran and shortly thereafter acknowledged by Iran.[11] Threatened with referral to the U.N. Security Council over having violated its 1974 nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran had entered into negotiations with the “EU-3” — the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Those talks, likely reinforced by Iranian worries of U.S. military action in the wake of Washington’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, produced two successive agreements: the Tehran Statement in 2003 and the Paris Agreement of 2004. Neither deal stuck, however. The EU-3’s efforts to negotiate a long-term replacement foundered in August 2005 when, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president, Tehran rejected the EU-3’s latest proposal and removed U.N. seals from its uranium conversion equipment. The IAEA Board of Governors, in turn, condemned Iran’s violations of its safeguards agreement and referred it to the U.N. Security Council in February 2006. While by no means the starting point for the Bush administration’s Iran policy, this was a meaningful turning point. Events of 2005 and 2006 inaugurated a prolonged, steady escalation in Iran’s nuclear activities, and they marked the beginning of an American strategy of looking to the international order to address the threat posed by those activities. Institutions both formal and informal, political and economic, were at the heart of this effort. The first component of the new strategy consisted of an attempt to secure U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Iran and imposing international sanctions. From 2006 to 2008, five were adopted: Resolutions 1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, and 1835. All but two of these resolutions passed unanimously; Qatar cast the sole vote against Resolution 1696, and Indonesia abstained from voting on Resolution 1803.[12] [quote id="1"] The strategy’s second component consisted of a U.S.-led effort to isolate Iran’s financial system; this was later expanded to target other sectors of the Iranian economy. Unlike the first leg of the strategy, this one relied on international arrangements that had a lower profile than the U.N. Security Council and, in some cases, were outright ad hoc. Utilizing extraterritorial sanctions adopted by Congress and executive orders promulgated by President Bush, American officials were able to threaten overseas banks with exclusion from the U.S. financial system — and, later, the ability even to utilize U.S. dollars — should they continue their relationships with Iranian banks designated under American or U.N. sanctions. The resulting economic pressure on Iran was possible only because of American dominance of the international financial system — and the related preeminence of the U.S. dollar — and the degree to which that system had, over the course of decades, become integrated across national boundaries.[13] It would be tempting to see the latter effort’s success as evidence of the efficacy of the unilateral exercise of American power.[14] In reality, however, the two policy initiatives depended on each other for success. The U.N. sanctions, while impressive on paper, were unlikely on their own to have made a significant impact on Iran’s economy or that government’s decision-making. The ad hoc financial sanctions, in turn, would not have succeeded without the U.N. resolutions to undergird them. Those resolutions provided international legitimacy to what was otherwise the naked exercise of unilateral power by Washington, an important consideration in the wake of the ongoing war in Iraq. U.S. allies in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere could argue with American tactics (and did so vociferously) but not with the objective or even the broader strategy, both of which were tacitly endorsed by the Security Council. The resolutions also laid a foundation for likeminded states to impose their own sanctions on Iran, by providing both political cover and a legal basis for doing so — which was a necessity for some states. This strategy was not without costs and compromise. The decision to work around allied governments and directly warn their financial and commercial communities caused frictions that Iran sought to exploit. The need to secure Russian and Chinese agreement, along with that of various other reluctant states in the European Union and elsewhere, meant that U.N. resolutions were frequently delayed and diluted. It also required the United States to participate in the sort of nuclear diplomacy with Iran that Washington had previously resisted. The first U.N. resolution on Iran, Resolution 1696, was preceded by the first offer to Tehran by the “P5+1” (the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members, plus Germany), in the form of an “incentives package” delivered on the group’s behalf by the EU’s foreign policy chief — then Javier Solana — in June 2006. (This was subsequently revised and presented again in mid-2008.) Furthermore, what was primarily a multilateral strategy nevertheless depended on the threat or actual use of unilateral American power to succeed. For Iran, refusal to comply with the U.N. resolutions carried the risk of further sanctions or even a U.S.-led military attack, of which the Bush administration explicitly and repeatedly warned. This threat likely also explained, in part, Moscow and Beijing’s willingness to endorse U.N. sanctions, though both pointedly refused to accept American secondary sanctions, even as they quietly took steps to comply with them. While this sort of unilateral warning enjoyed no international endorsement, it was nevertheless employed in support of what was essentially a multilateral effort. That also probably dampened other states’ anger at the U.S. use of extraterritorial sanctions, which are often seen as violating state sovereignty, a key international norm.[15] The Bush administration’s success in bringing international pressure to bear against Iran’s nuclear program was largely the product of two major factors. The first was a perceived threat — shared by the United States and allies in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere — stemming from Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities. This view was sharpened by Iran’s behavior on the nuclear front — keeping its facilities secret and reportedly engaging in research related to nuclear weapons[16] — and beyond, such as its threats toward Israel.[17] The second factor was Washington’s ability to leverage the web of norms, institutions, and relationships that make up the international order. This also helps to explain why the United States has been far less successful in rallying international support to confront other issues emanating from Iran. U.S. allies in Europe and Asia simply do not share the American assessment of the gravity of the risks posed by Iran’s non-nuclear activities, and the international norms and institutions that deal with those matters are far less developed than those that exist to address proliferation. In the Middle East, where U.S. allies tend to strongly share Washington’s estimation of Iran, there was little in the way of a “regional order” — even an informal one — upon which to fall back in the absence of international action. By the time of the 2008 presidential election, U.S. strategy toward Iran had lost its momentum. Security Council Resolution 1835, adopted in September 2008 in response to IAEA reports of continued Iranian obstructionism, was the weakest of the U.N. resolutions regarding Iran adopted to that point; it imposed no new sanctions. This faltering in the pressure campaign is often attributed to the publication of a National Intelligence Estimate[18] in 2007 that asserted Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons programs in 2003 and had not restarted them as of 2007.[19] The document was widely interpreted as contradicting Bush administration assertions that Iran harbored ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons, even though the suspension it referred to related only to “weaponization” work, not to Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, which were ongoing. As Bush administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley later noted, the National Intelligence Estimate “was misinterpreted as an all-clear when it wasn’t that at all.”[20] [quote id="2"] While the estimate was undoubtedly a hindrance to U.S. diplomacy — and a political millstone around the necks of European leaders facing constituencies skeptical of sanctions against Iran — the document’s role has been exaggerated. Even if Iran had suspended its weaponization efforts, as the document asserted, that did not make the expansion of its nuclear infrastructure, nor its record of proliferation and of threatening neighbors, less concerning to the U.S. and allied governments, whatever the consequences for public messaging. What’s more, U.S. allies largely did not accept the NIE’s conclusions.[21] Instead, the loss of diplomatic momentum has two other roots. The first was that the strategy had simply failed to achieve its intended result. Iran continued to expand its nuclear activities despite the mounting sanctions. Second, and perhaps more important, the international context was especially inauspicious. The United States and Russia were in a tense standoff over Moscow’s military campaign in Georgia. Opposition to the Iraq War, then in its sixth year, was pronounced abroad and increasingly bitter in the United States itself amid the presidential campaign. The global financial crisis, meanwhile, dampened enthusiasm for further use of economic weapons against Iran, which was in turn buoyed by sky-high oil prices.

Iran Policy Under the Obama Administration

This was the context in which Barack Obama inherited the unresolved Iran nuclear file. Yet for all of the divisiveness of the 2008 presidential campaign on matters of foreign policy, the Obama administration largely kept in place the strategy pursued by the Bush administration. Engagement with Iran was a centerpiece of Obama’s campaign, but some of Obama’s efforts continued initiatives begun during the Bush administration. For example, the Bush administration dispatched Undersecretary of State Bill Burns to participate in a P5+1 meeting with Iran for the first time in August 2008.[22] There were also discontinuities: Obama and other U.S. officials engaged in repeated, direct outreach to Iranian officials.[23] Indeed, European officials worried in the summer of 2008 that Obama’s seeming readiness to engage directly with Iran without preconditions would undermine the P5+1’s approach on the nuclear issue.[24] In addition, the Obama administration is widely perceived to have deemphasized efforts to counter Iran’s non-nuclear activities in the Middle East. Obama was skeptical of U.S. military commitments in the region, emphasizing, for example, the need to withdraw combat forces from Iraq and shift resources to Afghanistan.[25] The precise impact of all of these changes is unclear. Obama and his aides often argued that American outreach to Iran was vital to securing support for subsequent sanctions.[26] Others have observed that these sanctions built incrementally on those adopted during the Bush presidency.[27] Likewise, Obama viewed his restraint in the Middle East as serving U.S. interests,[28] whereas critics saw his focus on the nuclear issue to the exclusion of Iran’s regional behavior as undermining American leverage.[29] Whatever one’s view of events, some external developments were consequential. One such development was the discovery in September 2009 that Iran was building yet another clandestine uranium enrichment facility, at Fordow. This news undermined the narrative that Iran had abandoned its nuclear ambitions and showed that it was not acting in good faith on its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as Tehran had consistently claimed. Another external development that proved critical came in February 2010, when Iran commenced production of more highly enriched uranium.[30] This followed the failure in October 2009 of the “fuel swap” proposal, under which Iran would have exported its low-enriched uranium to a third country to be further enriched and fabricated into fuel rods for its Tehran Research Reactor.[31] The unsuccessful fuel-swap proposal had not sought to enforce existing U.N. resolutions, as it did not require Iran to halt the enrichment of uranium, but neither did it contradict them, as it offered no sanctions relief. More nettlesome to international diplomacy was the Obama administration’s apparent encouragement of a last-ditch effort by Turkey and Brazil to revive the proposal, an ad hoc initiative that ran contrary to Washington’s parallel pursuit, via the P5+1, of a new U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran.[32] These events were the basis for passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, the last of the six resolutions the council adopted regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Meanwhile, the Obama administration, with increasingly vigorous prodding from Congress, continued to expand the campaign of ad hoc financial sanctions against Iran.[33] Once again, these sanctions leaned heavily on institutions of the international order, such as the U.S. dollar’s role in oil transactions, the relative concentration of the international shipping insurance industry, and the tight integration of global financial transaction networks, the latter of which were instrumental to the “SWIFT” sanctions.[34] The United States was joined in these efforts by the European Union, which in July 2010 adopted a wide-ranging package of sanctions against Iran.[35] In January 2012 an oil embargo followed.[36] Like the U.S. sanctions, these powerful EU measures capitalized on the integrated nature of the global economy. In 2012, however, the United States abruptly shifted its diplomatic strategy, pivoting from the multilateral process that had dominated from 2006 to 2011 to one that was, in essence, unilateral. The Obama administration had developed a channel to Iran via Oman that it used to secure the release of three American hikers detained by Iranian authorities.[37] It then utilized that channel to begin a bilateral nuclear negotiating track with Tehran without informing other members of the P5+1.[38] It was these negotiations, rather than the P5+1 talks that continued in parallel, that ultimately produced, in November 2013, what became known as the “Joint Plan of Action.” (JPOA)[39] This interim accord was the blueprint for the document — formally the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) — endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 2231 in July 2015.[40] Negotiating an accord bilaterally with Iran in this manner was expedient. Whether it was effective is debatable. The United States made major concessions in the bilateral talks, foremost among them dropping any insistence that Iran permanently suspend its enrichment and reprocessing-related activities. Had these concessions been offered in the P5+1 talks, it is not clear that the channel would have made a difference to Iran’s willingness to reach a deal. To the extent that the more restricted channel did have an effect on the talks, it was most likely in providing a level of secrecy that made the parties more comfortable discussing their negotiating positions without fear that they would be publicly exposed. Even this is debatable, however, as the talks that led from the JPOA to the JCPOA were conducted in the P5+1 format without significant leaks. What’s more, the shift in U.S. strategy carried costs. The revelation of the secret bilateral channel roiled the P5+1, creating friction between the United States and France and pushing Britain and Germany to “the sidelines,” according to then-French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.[41] The agreement reached between the United States and Iran did not comply with the six earlier U.N. resolutions, for which Washington had previously invested significant time and effort to secure Russian and Chinese backing. Instead, Washington unilaterally changed the terms offered to Iran by the international community. The shift in negotiating format, together with skillful Iranian diplomacy, affected the discussion itself; instead of grappling over what Iran had to do to meet its international obligations and be re-integrated into the global order, the talks became about what infringement of purported Iranian “rights” could be imposed by the United States and, in turn, what level of nuclear activity the United States could tolerate in Iran. [quote id="4"] Security Council Resolution 2231 not only departed significantly from the terms of previous U.N. resolutions on Iran but also represented a fait accompli in Washington. Congress was generally wary of Iran and had played a key role in pushing some of the most powerful sanctions against that country. It had adopted legislation requiring the Obama administration to submit any nuclear agreement for congressional review. By first securing Security Council endorsement of the JCPOA, however, the administration effectively rendered congressional review moot. The Obama administration’s argument — that because the agreement had already been codified by the Security Council, it could not be unilaterally changed by the United States — presented the broader U.S. government with a binary option to accept the deal as it was or reject altogether a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and consider other options, such as a military operation. The irony was that the agreement had, in broad strokes, not been the product of an international negotiation but of bilateral discussions between the United States and Iran, regarding which Congress had been kept in the dark. Ultimately, congressional opponents were unable to muster the votes needed to overturn the agreement, and it moved ahead.[42] At first blush, the JCPOA is a victory for multilateralism. Indeed, even Fabius praised the agreement as a “historic success” for all parties involved and said it demonstrated that “diplomatic action can yield spectacular results.”[43] But that perception of success obscures how the international order was damaged by the methods used to reach the agreement. First, the United States unilaterally put aside six U.N. resolutions on Iran, all measures it had negotiated, without first coordinating with its allies — just as those allies had worried Washington might do in 2008.[44] This arguably weakened the authority of the U.N. Security Council and risked lending credence to arguments that the Security Council is merely an instrument of American power. That no doubt pleased the Iranian government, which had long decried the resolutions as “illegal.”[45] Second, by using Security Council endorsement against domestic opponents, the Obama administration risked further delegitimizing the United Nations specifically and internationalism in general among already-skeptical American conservatives. Pew Research Center has found a growing partisan gap in U.S. perceptions of the United Nations in recent decades. In 1990, Pew polling found, 68 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats viewed the United Nations favorably. By 2016, Democratic support for the United Nations had climbed to 80 percent while Republican support had dropped to 43 percent.[46] The perception that the United Nations can be used to circumvent conservative political views at home further erodes internationalist sentiments among Republicans. And neglecting to build a domestic consensus, however expedient it may have been to reach agreement, meant that the nuclear deal was not placed on a footing that would weather political changes in the United States.

Iran Policy Under the Trump Administration

Few Republicans criticized the Iran deal — or internationalism, for that matter — as harshly as Donald Trump. As a candidate and in the early days of his presidency, Trump swore at times that he would “dismantle” the agreement.[47] At other times he adopted a milder line, arguing that it should be rigorously enforced despite its flaws.[48] Ultimately, the Iran policy that his administration announced after several months of review reflected a compromise between these positions. He asserted in October 2017 that he sought to nest the JCPOA in a strengthened, comprehensive Iran strategy. But he also said that he would walk away from the agreement if an understanding could not be reached with allies on addressing what he perceived as its shortcomings and if Congress did not adopt new legislation overseeing implementation.[49] Trump’s decision not to unilaterally withdraw was well-founded, whatever his concerns about the deal’s substance. American withdrawal, especially if followed by an effort to reimpose secondary sanctions punishing European and other international firms for business dealings with Iran, would have been galling to U.S. partners in Europe and Asia. Whatever their concerns about the agreement’s negotiation, those allies by and large support the deal and perceive it as serving not only their commercial interests but also their national security interests by forestalling Iran’s nuclear progress as well as potential military conflict. Precisely because of their concerns about the deal’s negotiation, they would find a U.S. effort to force their hands through punitive sanctions especially unfair — it would amount to Washington punishing its allies for adhering to an agreement that the United States and Iran had negotiated bilaterally. Nor should it be presumed, however, that U.S. allies are naïve. Congressional debate over the JCPOA in 2015 played out in public view; few predictions about U.S. foreign policy during the 2016 election campaign were surer bets than the presumption that a Republican administration would be unenthusiastic about the deal. Furthermore, the historical record does not support the notion that diplomatic agreements are sacrosanct. Indeed, they often face pressure or dissolve when circumstances or governments change. While abrupt swings are far from the norm in U.S. foreign policy, neither are they rare. After Obama took office, his administration quickly repudiated the Bush administration’s plans for missile defenses in Europe, angering Poland but pleasing Russia.[50] Obama also abandoned the Bush administration’s understandings[51] with the Israeli government regarding settlements.[52] U.S. officials denied that any “enforceable agreements” existed[53] and moved ahead with a new policy.[54] Reactions to these decisions appeared to be rooted more in whether a person agreed or disagreed with them than in principled beliefs that administrations should honor their predecessors’ commitments. American credibility is not, of course, irrelevant. But U.S. policymakers are unlikely to advocate adhering to policies they consider bad simply to sustain credibility. Preserving this sort of credibility internationally requires more concerted efforts to build domestic coalitions that will sustain policies beyond an administration’s term. Whatever one’s opinion of the JCPOA’s merits and flaws, there is good reason to think that U.S. withdrawal from the agreement would chiefly benefit Iran. Such a step would open a rift between the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia. If the agreement survived America’s pullout, enforcement would likely be weaker without U.S. oversight. Whatever pressure Washington managed to generate through renewed sanctions enforcement would be impaired by resistance from Iran and from European and Asian states, which would be its proximate targets. The U.S.-led campaign for secondary sanctions against Iran in the mid-2000s demonstrates that such measures can be effective despite allies’ objections if there is strategic convergence among allies and if the measures are undergirded, at least in theory, by U.N. action. But when there is strategic divergence and no effort at the United Nations, any economic effect of such measures is difficult to sustain and must be weighed against serious diplomatic costs; the Clinton administration’s experience seeking to enforce the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in the 1990s demonstrates this.[55] [quote id="3"] For all of these reasons, the Trump administration’s decision appears sound — namely, to leverage other states’ desire for the United States to remain within the JCPOA to win those states’ cooperation with strict enforcement and a broader effort to challenge Iran. Such bargaining is not incompatible with the ideas of internationalism and global order; that interests are shared does not imply that states will not seek to shift the burden of securing them on to the United States, and American policymakers are right to resist. What is vital, however, is that Washington’s diplomacy not only advances U.S. interests but also preserves and strengthens the international system, lest short-term gains be outweighed by long-term costs. To be successful, the United States must not only articulate a clear policy toward Iran but also explain how it serves U.S. and partners’ interests and rally allies in support. This strategy should be implemented across multiple policy tools — economic, diplomatic, and military — not in sequence but as a single, concerted campaign. The history of U.S. policy toward Iran suggests that this will require patience and compromise but may ultimately be rewarding. A united international front has the twin benefits of spreading a policy’s costs and amplifying its effectiveness.

Conclusion

The international order may be a web of norms, institutions, and relationships, but an understanding lies at its core. American leadership of the international order is largely embraced by allies, giving the United States tremendous global influence. But U.S. allies do not subordinate their interests any more than the United States does. Rather, this enduring dynamic reflects confidence that the United States will advance shared interests, even if it ultimately does so to serve its own. And it reflects a mutual agreement that the international order generates outcomes that serve shared interests better than purely transactional relationships could, and that these outcomes justify the compromises required to maintain that order. The recent history of U.S. policy toward Iran demonstrates how the international order works in action and how it can provide Washington with tremendous leverage to accomplish policy goals, especially when utilized in concert with other instruments of American power. That history also demonstrates the mutual dependence at the heart of the international order. After all, European powers made little headway against Iran in the early 2000s absent American involvement, just as the United States could not have imposed the pressure it brought to bear against Iran without the (sometimes reluctant) support of allies and the use of international institutions. Yet that history also illustrates a temptation for U.S. officials, confronted with a preeminent role and outsize influence, to use these resources not as assets to be assiduously preserved and nurtured but as mere tools of U.S. foreign policy — or domestic politics — like any others. As the American appetite for global leadership and internationalist spirit have waned in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the global financial crisis, this tendency seems to have grown. It was on display when the Obama administration pivoted from the P5+1 process to a bilateral one and used the U.N. Security Council as a domestic political cudgel. It was similarly exhibited by those who wish to use international sanctions to coerce allies absent any effort to bridge diverging aims and strategies with respect to Iran. Treating the international order in this manner risks eroding it. Every state acts out of self-interest. If a state perceives that its economic or political dependence on the United States is a liability rather than the price of an international order that ultimately advances its security and prosperity, that state will inevitably develop workarounds and hedging strategies. The international order is not fixed or predictable like a domestic legal system. Rather, it is dynamic and relies on the balance of self-interest among allies. Iran and its fellow revisionists take gratification from friction between the United States and its allies, and they share the overarching goal of diminishing U.S. influence in global affairs. Should the United States and allied policymakers fail to defend the international order, they will discover to their dismay that the loss is not at all abstract but has concrete consequences for their states’ prosperity and security.   Michael Singh is Managing Director and Lane-Swig Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and former senior director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Obama White House [post_title] => The International Order and Nuclear Negotiations with Iran [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => international-order-nuclear-negotiations-iran [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-22 13:04:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-22 17:04:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=414 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => The international order is not just an abstract concept, but rather is of concrete value to U.S. national security, as exemplified by America's policy toward Iran. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Issue 2 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => That Iran should provide a case study in how the international order works to advance American security is no doubt ironic. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => By the time of the 2008 presidential election, U.S. strategy toward Iran had lost its momentum. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Whatever one’s opinion of the JCPOA’s merits and flaws, there is good reason to think that U.S. withdrawal from the agreement would chiefly benefit Iran. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => At first blush, the JCPOA is a victory for multilateralism. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 534 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 100 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Richard Fontaine, “Salvaging Global Order,” National Interest online, March 10, 2015, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/salvaging-the-global-order-12390. [2] Richard Fontaine, “The U.S. Response to Today’s Global Order and Tomorrow’s Threats,” Journal of International Affairs online, March 15, 2017, https://jia.sipa.columbia.edu/us-response-global-order. [3] Robin Niblett, “Liberalism in Retreat,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/liberalism-retreat. [4] See, for example, Richard N. Haass, “World Order 2.0,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/world-order-20. [5] See Michael Anton, “America and the Liberal International Order,” American Affairs, no. 1 (Spring 2017), https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2017/02/america-liberal-international-order/. [6] John Bew, “World Order: Many-Headed Monster or Noble Pursuit?” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 1 (October 2017): 14–35. [7] Bew, “World Order.” [8] John A. Thompson as quoted by Bew in “World Order.” [9] George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, Washington DC, Jan. 29, 2002, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129-11.html. [10] For further detail, see David Crist, Twilight War (New York: Penguin Books, 2012), 442–460. [11] Paul Kerr, “IAEA to Visit Two ‘Secret’ Nuclear Sites in Iran,” Arms Control Today, Jan. 1, 2003, https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2003_01-02/irannuclear_janfeb03. [12] The texts and voting tallies for all of these resolutions can be accessed at http://www.un.org/en/sc/documents/. [13] See Juan Zarate, Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare (New York: PublicAffairs, 2013). [14] See, for example, Jana Winter and Dan De Luce, “Iran Nuclear Deal Critics Push Plan for ‘Global Economic Embargo,’” Foreign Policy, Sept. 14, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/09/14/iran-sanctions-memo/. [15] This view was enshrined in the European Union’s “blocking statute” of Nov. 22, 1996, adopted in response to the first U.S. extraterritorial sanctions on Iran. Text of the statute can be found at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31996R2271:EN:HTML. [16] For more information, see the annex to the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, November 18, 2011, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/gov2011-65.pdf. [17] Louis Charbonneau, “In New York, Defiant Ahmadinejad says Israel will be ‘Eliminated,’” Reuters, Sept. 24, 2012, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-assembly-ahmadinejad/in-new-york-defiant-ahmadinejad-says-israel-will-be-eliminated-idUSBRE88N0HF20120924. [18] “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” National Intelligence Estimate (Washington: National Intelligence Council, November 2007), https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Press Releases/2007 Press Releases/20071203_release.pdf. [19] George W. Bush, Decision Points (New York: Random House, 2010), 419. [20] Stephen Hadley as quoted in Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball, “Special Report: Intel Shows Iran Nuclear Threat Not Imminent,” Reuters, March 23, 2012, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-usa-nuclear/special-report-intel-shows-iran-nuclear-threat-not-imminent-idUSBRE82M0G020120323. [21] Condoleezza Rice, No Higher Honor (New York: Random House, 2011), 618. [22] “U.S. Reverses Course, Will Send Envoy to Talks with Iran,” CNN, July 16, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/16/us.iran/index.html. [23] Trita Parsi, Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy (Yale University Press: 2017). [24] Glenn Kessler, “Europe Fears Obama Might Undercut Progress With Iran,” Washington Post, June 22, 2008,  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/21/AR2008062101658.html. [25] Barack Obama, interview by Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times, Nov. 1, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/01/us/politics/02obama-transcript.html. [26] Remarks by the President at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony, West Point, NY, May 28, 2014, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/28/remarks-president-united-states-military-academy-commencement-ceremony. [27] Glenn Kessler, “Fact Checker: Obama’s Claim That His Administration ‘Built a Coalition That Imposed Sanctions on the Iranian Economy,” Washington Post, June 2, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/06/02/obamas-claim-that-his-administration-built-a-coalition-that-imposed-sanctions-on-the-iranian-economy/. [28] David Samuels, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru,” New York Times, May 5, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html. [29] Michael Doran, “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” Mosaic, Feb. 2, 2015, https://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2015/02/obamas-secret-iran-strategy/. [30] International Atomic Energy Agency Director General, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1835 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, Feb. 18, 2010, http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/IAEA_Report_Iran_18Feb2010.pdf. [31] “Official Proposals on the Iranian Nuclear Issue, 2003-2013,” Arms Control Association, July 2015,  https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Iran_Nuclear_Proposals. [32] Laura Rozen, “W.H. Pushes Back on Letter Leak,” Politico, May 28, 2010, https://www.politico.com/story/2010/05/wh-pushes-back-on-letter-leak-037938. [33] Jay Solomon, The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East (New York: Random House, 2016), 142-67. [34] Solomon, Iran Wars, 202-04. [35] “Council Decision of 26 July 2010 Concerning Restrictive Measures Against Iran and Repealing Common Position 2007/140/CFSP,” Official Journal of the European Union 53 (July 27, 2010): 25, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2010.195.01.0025.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2010:195:TOC. [36] “Council Decision 2012/35/CFSP of 23 January 2012 Amending Decision 2010/413/CFSP Concerning Restrictive Measures Against Iran,” Official Journal of the European Union 55 (Jan. 24, 2012): 22, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2012.019.01.0022.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2012:019:TOC. [37] Parsi, Losing an Enemy, 217. 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