The Sublimity of administration consists in knowing the proper degree of power that should be exerted on different occasions.
The cold and calculative assessment of national strategic objectives in regard to other nations is a monumental undertaking. Serious and mature foreign policy requires a concrete analysis of national interests. However, it must also understand the aspirations, histories, instincts, ideals and fears of other nations. Ambiguity of any type in conducting international affairs by any nation is a dangerous approach with deadly long-term consequences. A long-term approach in conducting foreign relations demands clarity and consistent national goals. Within this context, it could be said without a doubt that the serious and mature foreign policy must always be grounded along the strategic assessments of its goals and objectives and how to achieve those goals and objectives. Anything else is everything but the serious and mature foreign policy.
The national political discourse, including the political leadership, must be fully prepared and trained to dissect and assess every intended or unintended consequence of its actions internationally. Any international adventure specially which involves the military, taken without fully evaluating its impact, generates deadly consequences for many years to come. Hence, it is not just prudent, but a required duty of the state to seriously undertake an exercise, which counts at all facets of any international intrigue. This, without a doubt, is a very tall order to pursue with consistency. Foreign policy decisions and actions based on conventional wisdom of the established ideology erode the credibility of a nation within the global system. It, likewise, dilutes the power of a state to carry out the next military or foreign action internationally. This is how we must look at the failed interventions such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, this is how we should see and analyze the ongoing Ukrainian situation and the Western, particularly the US reaction to Russian advancement towards Ukraine.
On a wider scale, the current universal order is facing some grave and profound challenges. The forces of instability, both political and economic, from Jakarta to Jordan and from Santiago to Shanghai are testing the limits of the global political and economic order. The new era of global order has so far failed to tamper the rising ideological clashes within states (Egypt, Syria, Libya), renewed nationalistic resurgence outside the state border (Iran's support for the Shia majority in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia) and a territorial occupation by a larger country such as Russia (Crimea). The now - defunct Israeli-Palestine dialogue which this author has predicted last August, is part of this broken and tired international system, which is unable to keep a handle on either chronic or emerging challenges of the global community.
What has also compounded this wobbly global situation is the confused and misguided policy response from Washington to these challenges. This assessment can be applied to the entire Western policy making apparatus where there has been a clear lack of focus and strategic analysis regarding the changing of the times and how best to prepare to have an ability to continue to operate under the cardinal umbrella of the national interest. In a manner, the NATO expansion file has been handled is just a one grave example of this immature foreign policy making system. The strategic assessment of the world's oldest alliance should have been the priority after the fall the Berlin Wall, but it never occurred and only the expansion part was pursued with vigor and enthusiasm without taking into account the Russian sensitivities and geopolitics. The West did not have any clear policy regarding Russia, either. The Western confusion as to how to deal with the continues Russian involvement in Ukraine is a symptom of failed policy making structure, which never sought to create a Post-Soviet- National-Interest-Driven-Strategy.
When legendary US diplomat George Kennan penned his extraordinary assessment of the Soviet Power and how the West and especially the US could counter the Soviet ideology in 1947, he, in fact, laid out a systematic and strategic design for the Western world. Kennan's deep and thoughtful understanding of the Soviet State, paved the way for developing a multi-faceted strategy which combined the components of economic, military and political with a single view of the Soviet Containment. Yet, the actual excellence of Kennan's argument did not reside in his ability to develop a clear and focus plan for the West; the real beauty of his argument was that he understood the transformative nature of his time. He was profoundly aware of the fact that the post-World II global order is nothing like the pre-war global order. His appraisal was a bold vision which cleverly grasped the international order of that era and how the West and particularly the US must respond to post-WWII era. In other words, the Soviet Containment as an ideology became a national interest for the West and particularity, the US.
Our current era is also in a midst of a profound change. The rise of non-state actors and the threat of economic isolationism, including the cracks in the global economic system along with the availability of nuclear know-how, the current epoch oozes instability and chaos. Yet, the political and analysis cadre both in the US and the West in general is badly fitted to react to new emerging challenges with wisdom, grace and consistency. This approach has allowed the forces of instability such as religious fundamentalism, rampant nationalism and ideological oppression to reach new heights, where now these forces of instability are superior enough to challenge the legitimacy of global norms and standards.
Charging the US for this instability because of ill-conceived missions in Iraq and Afghanistan only tells half of the tale. The other half is the inability of the entire foreign policy making establishment in the US to focus on the pure national interest of the US and link that to the changing nature of the global order through long-term assessment and strategic analysis with the laser-like focus. The poor response by the West and the US to Russian advancement is a reflection of that chronic habit of preparing a policy on the go without giving a serious thought to any consequences. It is anyone's guess to truly anticipate the Russian sincerity and cooperation on issues such as Syria and Iran after the way the entire Ukrainian saga has been handled.
Moreover, putting the blame of not having a coherent national interest strategy on the Obama administration is an easy way out type of analysis. The previous administrations were also incapable of defining the true purpose and national interest of the US in a post-Soviet World. The entire Western political and policy thinking mind was drunk with the concept of peace dividend and did not attempt to really evaluate the shifting nature of the global challenges after the fall the Berlin Wall. Yes, everyone recited the Mantra of the New World Order. Yet, none could clearly and coherently describe it with systematic analysis.
The contemporary world has various similarities with the pre-World War 1 where strategic errors, geo-political miscalculations and changing nature of the global order brought the catastrophe of the First World War. The only but very big difference is that because of the intensity of the communication and military technology combined with the global economic interdependence, any miscalculation and strategic error specially the ones which deviate from the core national interest, can ignite a crisis in one corner of the world and before anyone can really assess the situation, the impact is already felt on the other side of the globe. This poses a unique challenge of policy making in a world which has shrunk on many levels, but the realities of the ethnic, religious and nationalism are still very much active and have the potential to cause an immense instability in a short span of time.
One must constantly be mindful of its own shortcomings in order to produce a lasting remedy. Yet, that could only happen when one is really dedicated to taking concrete steps to repair the past mistakes through self-realization and understanding invisible forces which shape one's environment. As the forces of change continue to modify the contemporary global order, it is crucial to have a focus and will to respond to these challenges through assessing the long-term interests and how those interests will impact the overall foreign relations strategy.
The legitimate pursuit of a national interest rests on the ground reality and not rhetoric. It avoids empty threats and lofty gestures. Rather, it contains iron will and historical understanding of epic proportions to be able to respond to emerging challenges with focus, precision and seriousness. It does rely on drones and covert operations. But it also has an ability to sketch out the overall framework in which the national interest of the nation is always at the forefront without always using the military option. In some instances, the pursuit of the national interest would need to cater all the help a nation can commit to a group or groups to fight a brutal dictator. Yet, it also maintains a sharp eye on historical lessons learned during another conflict where a one superpower provided all the help it could to defeat another super power and once the conflict was over; the true logic of national interest was not followed and those who received all the help from now a triumphant and sole superpower, turned on their previous masters. Afghanistan was never too far away from the US national psyche.
The legitimate pursuit of the national interest sets out clear goals and objectives when dealing with other nations. It leaves no room for confusion and ambiguity in its totality. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, it clearly understands and knows the difference between immediate needs and long-term requirements. That and that alone, is the crux of the serious and mature policy making in regards to achieving the national interest.