Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy

Over 850 scholars in the field of international relations have signed an "Open Letter to the American People" that "call[s] urgently for a change of course in American foreign and national security policy." The statement continues:

We judge that the current American policy centered around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period, one which harms the cause of the struggle against extreme Islamist terrorists. One result has been a great distortion in the terms of public debate on foreign and national security policy--an emphasis on speculation instead of facts, on mythology instead of calculation, and on misplaced moralizing over considerations of national interest.

In a statement that is appended to the open letter, Robert Keohane of Duke University lists seven lessons that the United States should learn based on its recent experiences.

1. Base policy on analysis, not fixed beliefs.

2. Always have a Plan B. The State Department prepared a much more realistic assessment of the problems that would face the United States in the aftermath. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld not only rejected the plan; he sought to prevent anyone associated with it from being involved in postwar planning for Iraq.

3. Remember that military power is not sufficient to achieve most political objectives. It does not assure that we will win the peace. To achieve political objectives, it is essential to be able to persuade people that our values and interests are consistent with theirs.

4. The first principle of foreign policy is to match goals with resources. The key goal of American foreign policy--to fight terrorism--has been undermined by the attack on Iraq.

5. Occupations almost always generate mobilized opposition.

6. War is dangerous for democracy. This administration has claimed virtually unlimited authority to arrest and prosecute, without normal guarantees of due process, anyone it accuses of involvement with terrorism, inside or outside the United States. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," and is especially needed in wartime.

7. Dismissing international law is detrimental to our capacity to lead.

Read the letter, check to see if your favorite IR professors have signed, and leave a comment.