Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Foreign Policy Opinion

It's been a while...

I wanted to express an opinion on how the US conducts foreign policy, particularly with respect to aggressive would-be adversaries such as North Korea. For a recent example, see this; of course there are many others. I think the US response to such provocative statements is somewhat detrimental, and we should consider another posture... allow me to explain.

Currently, the US more or less ignores provocative rhetoric from hostile nation-states. The thinking, I guess, is that "talk is cheap", and the statements are more intended for the domestic audience for political purposes, and/or for keeping up appearances of a posture of strength and defiance. Moreover, we tend to maintain a philosophy of "proportional response", where presumably the proportional response to aggressive rhetoric is strongly worded statements at/with the UN, or such. That is, doing nothing.

I'd submit that there are some problems with this approach. First, it's somewhat disrespectful to the aggressing nation-state itself: by taking no substantive action in response, you're essentially indicating that you consider the threats meaningless, and by extension the nation-state impotent to carry through with the actions they are warning of. Second, you are inviting escalated action from the nation-state as an expression of their foreign policy interests; if they want to show that they are "serious" about something, they are forced to engage in more destructive and harmful actions which they otherwise would not resort to, just to emphasize points which would otherwise be dismissed. This invariably leads to avoidable escalations, undesirable pursuits (eg: nuclear weapons), and preventable loss of life.

Consider an alternative approach, wherein the US resolves to treat all threats of force from nation states as actual use of force, with [potential] proportional response. With that approach, threats of action would once-again mean something, and a nation-state would no longer need to pursue more direct aggression to provoke a response. Instead of ignoring North Korea, we would be war planning, and engaging to actively weaken both their defenses, and their offensive capability. Yes, it would mean more military action on our part, but it also might mean less tension in various parts of the world, and nation-states would be far less apt to make persistent threats without fear of reprisals. It would also provide a far more direct and expedient resolution for foreign policy differences, which would be better in the longer term for all countries involved.

Anyway, as always, just my opinion.