Peter Feaver is a Professor of political science and public policy at Duke University. He co-moderates the shadow government blog at foreignpolicy.com.
I agree with the view offered by my wingman, Will Inboden, after an election where foreign policy barely registered on the public zeitgeist, we are about to enter a season when our political leaders will have to make very consequential foreign policy decisions. Moreover, foreign policy always figures more prominently in a presidential election than in a midterm, and so those who are vying for the honor of challenging President Obama in 2012 will have to offer a more systematic and coherent vision for how to respond to the challenges and opportunities America faces in the world than was on offer this year.
I, too, hope that they will mosey over to Shadow Government and join the conversation. Our contributors share some important common values, but disagree on tactics and, occasionally, on strategy and objectives. However, even when I disagree with an argument advanced by my colleagues, I usually learn something. Here are five of my favorites:
- Sometimes bickering allies can pose as thorny a challenge as obstreperous adversaries. Michael Singh explains how this is so in a very compelling analysis of the dispute between Israel and Turkey. Dov Zakheim was more optimistic in June but I fear Turkey may be drifting away and if the trend continues, the long-term consequences for U.S. strategy in the broader Middle East are profound.
- America’s strategic interest in the advancement of freedom outlasts President Bush and it is high time that we forged a sustainable post-Bush “freedom agenda.” So says Will Inboden, and he is absolutely correct. He goes one step further: he identifies bona fide opportunities for progress.
- China has been free-riding on U.S. security policy in northeast Asia and we cannot let this continue indefinitely. This advice was timely when Will Tobey offered it several months ago, but it looks especially prophetic given Chinese regional adventurism in the intervening period. Policymakers have understandably focused on Chinese international economic policy, which has produced the most friction in the relationship this year. But with the North Korean power transfer still very much up for grabs, it is worth remembering that we have a longstanding and profound national security concern at stake, too.
- President Obama’s vision for Middle East peace keeps foundering on bad tactics. So argues Dov Zakheim. To borrow a campaign metaphor, the car is stuck in the ditch and the Obama Administration keeps gunning the wheels and digging itself a deeper rut. It is in the U.S. interest to offer a compelling, bipartisan vision of long-term peace in the region. Political leaders should commit energy and resources in pursuit of that vision. But pursuing it will require deft diplomacy and perhaps another reset button.
- We are still waiting for an international response commensurate with the international economic crisis. That is my conclusion, after rereading an exceptionally thoughtful series of posts by Phil Zelikow, a once and perhaps future Shadow Gov contributor. In six pithy posts, here, here, here, here, here, and here, he sketches an action plan that is remarkably timely, even thought it was written 18 months ago.
Of course, success in foreign policy depends on American power which in turn depends on the strength of the American domestic economy. In any Administration, it is commonplace for the foreign policy team to worry about mistakes the domestic policy team is making and vice-versa. So doubtless, there will be much for the Shadow Government folks to learn from ConservativeHome.