Web Exclusives: PawPlus

November 2, 2005:

The dean’s blog
Wilson School dean Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 on American diplomacy

Following are excerpts from a blog by Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, on Joshua Michah Marshall ’91’s group blog, www.tpmcafe.com. The excerpts include references to other bloggers, as well as to those responding to prior postings. Posted by permission of tpmcafe.com and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Oct. 9: Debates We Should Be Having

Apologies for a prolonged absence. I have been running, along with John Ikenberry, a major conference for the Princeton Project on National Security (more about that in my next post) and hosting Condoleezza Rice, Michael Chertoff, and David Petraeus for the launch of the HYPERLINK 75th Anniversary of the Woodrow Wilson School, a yearlong event that will feature speakers from both sides of the aisle and abroad, all of which will be available by webcast on our Website. I will post about an interesting difference in Rice’s and Chertoff’s speeches regarding multilateralism later in the week.

In the meantime my fellow bloggers have had lots of interesting things to say. Reading over their posts, three questions come to mind that I think we need to debate further: on torture, democratization, and public diplomacy.

1) Torture: Is it about them or about us? The comments to Juliette’s excellent post on the McCain-Graham bill focus on what kind of conduct suspected torturers merit. And Lee and I hosted a roundtable two years ago on “Old Rules, New Threats,” arguing that when facing new threats such as non-state sponsored terrorists, we need to update rules such as the Geneva Conventions developed in another era. Those are important issues. But I think we need to separate those questions from the debate about torture. For McCain and other members of our own military, the issue is much more about who we are and what we stand for as a nation. In his speech on the Senate floor McCain said:

“Our enemies didn’t adhere to the Geneva Conventions,” he said, referring to the international agreement on the treatment of prisoners of war. “Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them even unto death.

“But every one of us – every single one of us – knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or countenancing such mistreatment of them.”

Similarly, in their open letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee this past summer, 12 former generals and admirals urged the committee to question Alberto Gonzales on his decision as White House counsel to ignore the Geneva Conventions. They recognized the instrumental value of the Geneva Conventions in protecting captured U.S. soldiers, but argued that the U.S. adherence to the Conventions was also grounded in the “moral principles on which this country was founded and by which we continue to be guided.”

2) Democratization: Should we be pushing democracy or basic human rights? This is an old debate that flared fiercely in the 1980s; I think we need to revive it. After all, our own founding fathers fought fiercely against democracy, preferring a liberal republic to avoid the dangers of mob rule. I have no doubt that the longterm goals of U.S. foreign policy should be to promote democracy for all peoples, but as Bruce Jentleson suggests, the emphasis on democracy per se seems more and more counter-productive. This is an issue on which many of us have strong views, Jim and Ivo in particular. But I am beginning to wonder if we should not refocus on economic development and global social justice, to ensure that individuals around the world have sufficient material means and intellectual energy actually to participate in civic life and to find their own path toward self-government. I do not mean that we should give up on democracy – on funding NGOs and certainly on pressing governments on human rights abuses, particularly against political dissidents. But democracy in our own constitution is a means to the end of “securing the blessings of liberty”; perhaps we would do better focusing on how we can help others attain those blessings through means other than elections.

3) Public Diplomacy: Is it about ignorance or arrogance? The premise behind Karen Hughes’ trip and the White House’s public diplomacy more generally seems to be that if they knew us better, they would like us better. In fact, of course, many Middle Easterners (and others) know far more about us than we know about them, as is painfully apparent. Perhaps it is time that we recognize that the issue is not so much ignorance of who we are than dislike of our arrogance. If so, then we should be putting out a very different message, one of (gasp!) humility, of recognition of our own many failings as a nation over the course of our own efforts to achieve a genuine and fair democracy. That is the tone that Condi Rice has begun to strike when she travels. As I noted back in June, when she gave her speech at the University of Cairo, she defined the core of democracy as the protection of basic human rights, and continued:

“Securing these rights is the hope of every citizen, and the duty of every government. In my own country, the progress of democracy has been long and difficult. And given our history, the United States has no cause for false pride and we have every reason for humility.”

“After all, America was founded by individuals who knew that all human beings – and the governments they create – are inherently imperfect. And the United States was born half free and half slave. And it was only in my lifetime that my government guaranteed the right to vote for all of its people.”

Perhaps Karen Hughes could take a leaf from her boss’s book. More generally, in the wake of Katrina, we might do better in the world admitting what we have not been able to do and what we still need to do, rather than asking countries to take us as a template. And for those readers who will immediately say that it is not “we” who are putting forth such an image of the United States, but the administration, obviously. Yet for those of us Democrats who emphasize democracy promotion as a pillar of our foreign policy, aren’t we also (tacitly) holding ourselves up as a template?

Sept. 5: Fury and Faith: Who Will Be the Voice of the Nation?

On August 28, 1963, almost exactly the anniversary of the day Katrina hit New Orleans, Martin Luther King stood at the Lincoln Memorial and looked out at a million people and told them and people across America and around the world that he had a dream. He spoke with the combination of fury and faith that we need today.

Fury, that 100 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,

the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

Faith, that

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

Forty-two years later, much of King’s dream has come true. To take only one example, in 1963 New Orleans would not, could not, have had a black mayor. Formal segregation is gone, replaced by an affirmative effort to help African-Americans advance. And African-Americans are represented in all strata of our society, in every profession and every place of distinction. But we have far to go, and if we had any doubt, the pictures from New Orleans showed us, and the rest of the world, in black and white. The face of poverty and despair and abandonment in America is black. The face of the federal government that did not come, day after day after day, is overwhelmingly white. The nation is outraged and ashamed.

Who can give us the words and the strength and the leadership to transform our shame and outrage into action? Who will capture our fury at what happened, our determination not only to repair and rebuild but to redeem ourselves as a society? Who will capture the faith that things can and will change, rekindle an idealism that seems so often nothing more than a hologram of spin? Who will dream a new dream, and lead us all to try to make it real?

Sen. Clinton is calling for a commission of inquiry and to restore cabinet status to FEMA. Not exactly blood-stirring. Sen. Edwards offered a powerful response on this blog, but I have not heard him on the airwaves. Sen. Biden? Gov. Warner? Rep. Feingold? Sen. Obama?

Martin Luther King also told his audience: “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now.” Americans of both parties and across the nation who no longer recognize their own country, abroad or at home, need a voice. Now.

Sept. 4: Cronyism Has Consequences, Too

Ivo may be right that the Dems share responsibility for wanting to downgrade FEMA, but anyone following this story must read Kevin Drum’s chronology of cronyism, incompetence, and disaster. On a different note, see David Brooks on New Orleans as a watershed in American politics – he’s got a lot right, but one point ridiculously and almost frighteningly wrong. He writes: “Maybe we are entering an age of hardheaded law and order.” In case he hasn't noticed, we’ve been in an age of hardheaded law and order. Maybe he missed the pictures of  3,000 prisoners sitting hand-cuffed on a highway overpass in New Orleans – awaiting transfer to another prison and getting far more attention than the people scavenging for food and wandering aimlessly around them. We have spent far more time and effort putting people into prison – remember, the U.S. has the highest prison population in the world, up there with countries like Russia and Kazakhstan – over the past decade than worrying about the neighborhoods where they come from, the same neighborhoods left full of people in the path of the hurricane and the flood. That sounds like old-style 60s liberalism, I know, the kind that is supposedly completely discredited. But “law and order” was Archie Bunker’s trope after the riots of 1968. 2005 should indeed usher in another sea-change in political culture, as Brooks argued, but surely it’s time to try solidarity over sanctimonious moralizing and inclusion over gated-community insulation.

Sept. 3: "Just Like Haiti!"

That was the banner headline of the Mexico City newspaper Ovaciones, over pictures of a New Orleans marked by “starvation, refugees . . . and helicopters under fire.” See a must-read piece in the LA Times by Hector Tobar describing reactions around the world to Katrina and its aftermath. In many other countries, audiences are seeing or hearing the reactions of their compatriots who are still trapped in various places and begging for help.

There has been an extraordinary outpouring of offers of assistance from countries all over the world, including Sri Lanka, which Condoleezza Rice has had the sense to accept gratefully, unlike her boss, who suggested that we could take care of ourselves. But Karen Hughes’ job just got harder. For now in addition to the horrific images of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, of Fallujah and the streets of Baghdad, of dead families killed by stray American bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be added the images of poor black people whom no one thought to help evacuate in advance and who weren’t even getting food and water more than four days after the hurricane passed.

There will be a huge amount of domestic finger-pointing and introspection about where our relentless tax-cutting and focus on only the most privileged in our society has led us, as well as the implications of an extremely expensive foreign policy when our domestic health, education, and physical infrastructure is crumbling. But all of this takes place in a global fishbowl, where the watching world is likely to see these images – worth more than all our words put together – as yet one more example of how far short we fall of the ideals we preach to others.

Aug. 22: Getting It Done Is Getting It Right

I never thought I would take this position, particularly given what could be at stake for the women of Iraq, but I’m going to come down on the getting it done side. Let’s just remember, the compromises that our founding fathers made to get to a constitution – mediating between slave states and free states – included one that left slavery intact and defined each slave as worth only 3/5 of a person. Fred Kaplan has pointed to the many differences between the 18th-century U.S. process and the 21st-century Iraqi process, but a stark similarity remains: by agreeing on a set of principles as the ground rules for a national political process, you give everyone involved a stake in trying to advance their interests through that process rather than through violence or secession. That is precisely what ordinary Iraqis, of any religion or tribe, have not had. And the sudden claim of the insurgents that the “jihad of word” is akin to “jihad by sword” and thus that their supporters should vote in the October referendum means that they are beginning to recognize that there is another field to play on that they cannot afford ignore.

I don’t want to be pollyannish here; there is plenty to be deeply worried about in Iraq, as Juliette points out. But let’s just remember how often we have had to amend our Constitution to provide for freedoms that Americans typically assume are our birthright – including the actual Bill of Rights. If well organized enough, it is quite possible that Iraqi women can secure the same rights in a Muslim state recognizing Islam as a source of legislation that it took American women over a century to achieve – and remember, American feminists were unsuccessful in securing an Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and 1980s – an effort opposed by none other than Bush’s current Supreme Court nominee. The Iraqi provinces and the central government can start the tug of war of federalism – through legislation and litigation – that our states and federal government engage in continually. The point is to create a framework for politics actually to work, for democracy actually to deliver what the people need. If this constitution can do that, in a way that actually changes conditions for Iraqis on the ground, then there will be time to amend its principles.

July 30: From GWOT to GSAVE to Gee Whiz

In the very first America Abroad post Ivo argued that the Global War on Terror (GWOT, in military jargon) had disappeared, that the Administration had decided it had been won. I responded that in fact it had been subsumed under the War Against Tyranny. Now it appears it has become the Global Struggle against Violent Extremism, or GSAVE. Fred Kaplan has a marvelous piece on this change in Slate, in which he quotes NSC Adviser Stephen Hadley saying: “We need to dispute both the gloomy  vision and present a positive alternative.” We may be losing the war of ideas, which is the real war we have to be fighting – see Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek column this week – but we have the war of slogans covered.

July 28: The Dulling of Outrage

Cry, the Beloved Country. That of course is the title of Alan Paton’s great novel about the crime and the moral degradation of apartheid in South Africa, a work first published in 1948 and republished in 1976, when I was in college. He came to Princeton then, to speak to a standing-room-only crowd of Princeton students who were pressing the Princeton administration to divest any university investments in South Africa. His shame at the stain that blotted his country was palpable, as was his conviction that he and all right-minded South Africans had to do everything possible to end it.

Cry, the beloved country. Those words kept echoing in my brain as I read Jane Mayer’s New Yorker piece "The Experiment,” a reference to a quote from one of her interviewees describing all of Guantanamo as “one giant human experiment” (if anyone out there can find a link to the full piece, please send it in; this is a link to an interview with her). How on earth is it possible that we are reading about American doctors and psychologists advising members of our military and intelligence branches on how to inflict pain or degradation or humiliation on individuals being held captive by us – without charge, without lawyers, without trial before an independent judge?

July 24: Terrorist Recruitment 101

In the ongoing debate about whether potential terrorist recruits are motivated more by opposition to specific terrorist policies or by a more general alienation born of being on the wrong side of globalization, read Olivier Roy’s op-ed in the International Herald Tribune. Fighting terrorism may have as much to do with the state of the European economy and the ability of European societies to integrate Muslim immigrants successfully as it does with creating security and participatory government in Iraq and moving toward a Palestinian state.

July 17: Will the Security Council Be Reformed?

With the level of violence rising virtually everywhere we look, it may seem quaint to remember that the United Nations was founded in 1945 to “save the world from the scourge of war.” It hasn't succeeded; no institution, by itself, could. But the UN has made the world a better and safer place in many ways. If it is going to continue playing an important role in world politics, however, it has to be reformed. Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for sweeping reforms; a High Level Panel of distinguished folks from around the world has proposed 101 specific reforms; leaders from around the world will gather in New York in September to see what can be done.

But first up is Security Council reform. Old hands around the UN shake theirs heads when this subject comes up and say it will never happen. On the other hand, most observers agree that a UN in 2020 that does not have India, Brazil, or any African permanent membership will be a UN that is simply irrelevant to the world it exists in. But as they say in Maine, it appears “you can’t get there from here.”

The G-4 – Germany, Japan, Brazil, and India – have mounted one of the most intense diplomatic lobbying efforts of all time to get their fellow UN members to endorse a scheme that would add them all as permanent members without a veto, as well as two permanent African members and a cast of rotating members, for a full Council of 25. They have put forward a draft resolution, but it looks like they will pull it or it will fail – watch the news this week. Meantime, the U.S. wants 21 members with possibly Japan and India as new permanent members. Other plans include new rotating members.

Not clear what’ going to happen, but worth watching the issue. The fate of UN reform may hang in the balance.

July 13: London and Baghdad

50 people killed by bombs in London last Thursday. 54 killed by bombs in Baghdad, Mosul, and Kirkuk over the weekend. Why do we react so differently? Because the attack in London was the worst attack in since WWII, whereas in Iraq 1,500 people have been killed in various kinds of terrorist attacks – meaning random attacks on civilians designed to sow terror and signal opposition to something – since April? But that response makes the question sharper still. Why do we react so differently? Why don’t we react even more strongly to the deaths in Baghdad?

July 7: "Ordinary" Terrorism?

The pictures from London, many of them taken by people walking through tube tunnels to safety or standing by the carcass of a shattered bus, bring back horrible memories: the dust and shock, the numb bewilderment on so many faces, the frantic cell phone calls to try to locate loved ones, the business of an ordinary day blown up in smoke. Our hearts go out to all Londoners. Even so, as a British journalist friend just emailed me, “The astounding thing is that 6 bombs have caused relatively few deaths (35ish) and serious injuries, when the great fear was that even one might cause appalling death.”

Astounding indeed. After all the predictions of apocalyptic terrorism, the assurances that we are in a new era in which al Qaeda’s chief goal must be to top its last attack in drama and number of deaths (hence the overriding likelihood that it will try to acquire and use a weapon of mass destruction), we seem to be back to fairly ordinary – albeit horrible – bombings of transport systems. Islamic terrorists alone have carried out scores of these kinds of attacks in Europe and elsewhere over the last three decades (the Algerian bombings of the Paris metro in the mid-1990s is just one example), with varying death tolls; not to mention similar attacks by the IRA, and in the 1970s, the Red Brigades (remember the bombing of the Bologna train station?)

Moreover, the British emergency services and hospitals have performed superbly, showing what an investment in planning, coordination, and public health can yield. The financial gurus are already predicting that the impact on the markets will be slight; Londoners themselves are famous for their resilience under fire; and Tony Blair and his fellow G-8 leaders have already made getting on with their prepared agenda a mark of victory over terrorism. Indeed, it is likely they will do a little more than they might have otherwise, just to prove that they can be neither distracted nor deterred.

None of this is in any way meant to minimize the loss, the grief, and the emotional impact of any terrorist attack. But what are we to make of this for the war on terror?

First, Ivo is right. Fighting terrorism does not necessarily require sending in the soldiers. Great work has been done through remarkable transgovernmental cooperation among criminal justice officials of all kinds, financial regulators, and homeland security officials (see the statement by the EU. It’s much less dramatic, of course, but infinitely more cost-effective. The danger of state sponsorship of non-state terrorist groups is real – it would have been much harder for al Qaeda to plan and execute 9/11 if it had not had the free run of Afghanistan. But once again, as in Iraq, the Administration’s obsession with all things military has led it to neglect countless ways to make America stronger.

Second, though, however much Democrats are likely to agree that Bush might be fighting terrorism the wrong way, they are still likely to agree that he should be fighting terrorism as a top American security priority. For many Europeans, however, the lesson of London will be to prove what they have been saying ever since 9/11: that all Americans overreacted to the 9/11 attacks and have forced fighting terrorism to the top of the global agenda as a result, when in fact, 9/11 was just another version of the kinds of attacks Europeans have been living with for decades – bad, but not worth “a war on terror” however prosecuted. For this group, the G-8 agenda of fighting poverty, disease, and climate change is the real global security agenda. I don’t think Americans of either party are prepared to go quite that far.

Finally, the terrorists’ determination to attack during the G-8 summit is likely to backfire in at least one respect. Their intent is to drive a wedge between those countries who support the war in Iraq (the Crusaders, in the al Qaeda statement – which interestingly, I was able to link to directly from the IHT website an hour ago but now can no longer find on any of the major news Web sites) and others. In fact, however, the experience of being physically together during a terrorist attack in a major global capital is likely to remind the world’s leaders – from Blair to Chirac to Putin to Bush – of their common responsibilities to protect their people and of the values they share.

July 3: A Political Strategy for Iraq

I’m with Jim on this one. The Democrats need a strategy for winning in Iraq, not just a platform for partisan polemics. As some of the responses to my previous posts amply demonstrate, there are folks out there who would rather see the resistance win in Iraq than ever admit the Bush administration did anything right. I am not standing up for their decision to get into this war (although I am still willing to say that given what we thought we knew at the time, the decision was much more plausible than it looks in retrospect, as unpopular as that position has become, and I was and remain strongly opposed to the way they chose to do it, in virtually every respect), but the question has to be: what do we do now?

Our strategy has to be to agree with the goal of as free and prosperous an Iraq as possible (Sen. Biden recently spoke of a "participatory republic”) and then to hold the administration’s feet to the fire at every turn for incompetence and empty rhetoric. Why should we care? Because of the death of the young Knight-Ridder journalist that Ivo passed on – for him and his family and thousands if not millions of Iraqis like him who see an actual chance for a decent life. Those people have put their trust in us, regardless of how we got into Iraq, and they and the world are watching to see what we do now.

We have to have an affirmative strategy not for winning the war in Iraq, but for building a durable peace. And here again, the administration is all hat and no cattle. Look again at the president’s speech. He announced: “Our strategy going forward has both a military track and a political track.” Then he spent eight paragraphs talking about the military track. When he finally turned to the political track, he said: “The other critical element of our strategy is to help ensure that the hopes Iraqis expressed at the polls in January are translated into a secure democracy.” And what specifically are we doing to secure those hopes? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, other than cheering on what the Iraqis are trying to do themselves in “building the institutions of a free society.”

What about spending the billions allocated for Iraq in ways that directly help the Iraqis themselves in countless small projects rather than a few big ones? What about creating networks of non-governmental institutions to work with Iraqi NGOs? What about creating networks of government officials, from justice to education to health to the economy, extending from the region to the EU and across the Atlantic to provide aid, technical assistance, moral support, and public visibility to Iraqi efforts on the civil side? What about shaming the Arab League into offering tangible support? In short, what about a concrete plan for delivering tangible economic and social benefits to Iraqis so that life is getting better even in the teeth of the violence?

Our response is security, security, security. But giving ordinary citizens a stake in something to secure can only help. Further, the larger point is that the administration only knows how to measure and use military power. That is the sum total of what power means in their world. In fact, we live in a world in which military power is still vitally important, but it’s only a part of the equation – something the administration just can’t seem to get. We need to build up our civilian power and work with as many other nations and regional and international organizations as possible to increase it and use it as widely as possible.

The answer to the rising death toll in Iraq is not to pull our troops out. Nor is it to put more in, even if we had more to put. It is to match our military effort with a political and economic effort, to ensure that it not just our soldiers who are on the line. But all the president’s talk of a “political strategy” is just that.

June 27: Humility at Last

Condi Rice’s speech in Cairo last week marks a historic turn. Not just because she spoke truth to Arab power (I think she deserves credit for that too, but that’s for another post), but because of her recognition that “the progress of [American] democracy has been long and difficult. And given our history, the United States has no cause for false pride and we have every reason for humility.” Perhaps she was channeling Barack Obama, who argued in his Knox College commencement address, “The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time.”

George Bush talked the talk of humility during his campaign, but has strutted triumphantly on the world stage ever since. Condi Rice and Barack Obama, on the other hand, have had a different experience of American history handed down to them, a story of fighting for liberty, democracy, and equality for two centuries after 1776. They know first-hand that American rhetoric is full of promises, but that those promises are not always kept. This is a far better message to preach to the world, one that recognizes not only that we have not always been an ideal role model but that, amazingly enough, we might actually have something to learn from other peoples as well as to teach.

This brings me back to American exceptionalism. A couple of weeks ago, when we were debating the Truman Project, many readers rejected even the idea of American exceptionalism; others argued about what precisely made us exceptional; still others pointed out that exceptionalism is all too often advanced as an excuse to duck rules that apply to everyone else – what John Ruggie has identified as exemptionalism rather than exceptionalism in a new book called American Exceptionalism and Human Rights edited by Michael Ignatieff (full disclosure; I have a piece in the book challenging the idea that American judges are refusing to cite judges in other countries as yet another example of the bad variety of American exceptionalism).

In my view, Realish got it right when s/he pointed out the difference between believing that we as a people are exceptional and believing that our principles are exceptional. Our founders believed that we were no better than any other people as people; they put their faith in institutions to check and balance power and to secure us the best chance of advancing a set of principles they believed to be universal. 

We believe that our country stands out in the world less because of specifically American qualities than because we stand for principles applicable to men and women of every country – that we speak for those who dare not or cannot speak for themselves. That is in fact exceptional, although not unique (France prides itself on a universal message as well – the Declaration of the Rights of Man versus the Declaration of Independence). But it is an exceptionalism that should breed respect for the countless and difficult national paths to realizing these values, just as Obama describes the ongoing process of America itself. It is an exceptionalism that should generate a very different posture on the world stage: “speak softly, listen carefully, and never think that strength is measured only by the size of our stick.”