Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Proliferation Press Rewind: Joe McGraw’s Response to “Debunking the Sovereignty Solution”

Posted by K.E. White on March 28, 2007

Below is Joe McGraw’s March 12 response to an earlier Proliferation Press post.

The post reviewed “The Sovereignty Solution,” a new US Strategy written by Anna Simons, Don Redd, Duane Lauchengo, and Joe McGraw presented in The American Interest.

The co-author’s response:

Mr. White is indeed correct in his posted response from 3 March. We do consider our concept quite distant from strategies of Pax-Americana. And this point is paramount: The Sovereignty Solution is fundamentally different from other proposed strategies. It is not isolationism, nor Empire, nor ‘new’ containment (and certainly not multilateralism). The foreign policy that we advocate is predicated on collaborative bilateral relationships, and these relationships we define and describe in the article.

The article in The American Interest provides a glimpse at this foreign policy that we term ‘SSR’, but even the careful reader might miss the other two pillars of our proposed Grand Strategy: ‘Indivisible America’ or IA (a complimentary domestic policy), and the creation of an operational capability that we term ‘Ethnographic Intelligence’ or ‘EI’. Together, SSR, IA, and EI provide a complete and yes, simple framework for national strategy that is both direct and clear. We do strongly reject the ad-hoc strategies of ambiguity that have been the hallmark of American leadership since the end of Cold War Containment.

Good blogging-edicate demands that I not redress all of Mr. White’s points in one sitting, but I do appreciate the opportunity today to take up his bifurcated critique of the Sovereignty Solution. Mr. White, with the powers of Janus, takes issue with “Sovereignty” both through analogies to the past, and predictions of the future.

THE PAST. Historical analogies are always a tad tricky to pull off; aside from casual comparisons between eras and societies, they just aren’t very useful for analysis. The comparison of our concept to the Austrian policies of 1914 is one such stretch. Our concept relies on functioning Constitutional government, liberal democracy, and unchallenged military dominance in air, sea, and space. Things not to be found in Austria at the turn of the 20th Century. One could easily make a more profound historical analogy between our concept and the strategy of the 1979 Pittsburg Steelers (who at least did have dominance in the air, and stout domestic support).

To be fair, the comparison was drawn over the mechanism of ‘demands’. Demands are a critical component of our strategy. They fit into the bilateral relationship framework. If US sovereignty is attacked (if our citizens are slaughtered), we deliver demands to the state which owns the problem. If the owning state refuses, the state is part of the problem, and the SSR response is to destroy the state’s levers of power–the government. But not to occupy, not to re-build, not to recast better governance. Simply to punish and destroy it. And those are things that American power can do rapidly. Had Austria the power of 2 aircraft carrier groups and an airborne division, AND the strategic clarity to punish and destroy, AND the balance of Constitutional power to seek and approve a representative sanction for defensive war, the analogy would fit a degree better.

The comparison to the WWI balance of power is not lost. Surely, the alliance structure of Europe is the quintessential vision of Westphalia philosophy come to terrible fruition. “Sovereignty” does rest heavily on the philosophy of Westphalia; we do believe the state structure is the best way to put the non-state ‘genies’ of disorder back into their respective state-lamps. But we adopt the philosophy of Westphalia to 21st Century realities. The Peace of Augsburg was defined through the line “cuis regio, eius religio” (whose region, his religion). We adapt it to the realities and requirements of today: cuis regio, eius reus (whose region, his responsibility). Because, dear readers, it is all about responsibility. If you want to be treated as sovereign of your state, fine. You got it. But you get it with all the trappings: the respect of your sovereignty from the United States comes with the accountability for it. And the United States will now hold you accountable. Such simplicity does not equate to unrestrained US power, the decision on if and when to use military force depends upon the bilateral relationship following an attack on US sovereignty. So, our citizens have just been attacked and killed. And the perpetrators crawled out from within your borders. What has your relationship been with the US? What do you want it to be now?

THE FUTURE: Mr. White cautions that future US strategy will grow out of the eventual end to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. How terribly sad, and possibly prophetic, that assertion is. To say that it might be so is frightful commentary on American perception of strategy, to say that it will be so is to declare that such decisions are beyond the confines of national debate and reason. We, the light bulb installers, optimistically disagree.

The policy school that declared strategic planning was a thing of the past grew out of the late 1960s and exploded in the 1990s. The reasoning was that international events unfolded too fast to ever make a single, comprehensive strategy feasible. One might say this is simply laziness on the part of policy makers to establish an overarching doctrine of US security interests tied directly to sustainable ends, ways, and means. A cynic might add that this is nothing more than a way in which to conduct policy by the seat of one’s pants without holding firm to a position that political opponents might call to account. Either way, ad-hoc strategy has proven for the past 20 years to be a dangerous and costly proposition. One that the nation could certainly do without.

As we point out in the article, the reason that so many societies around the world can point to the United States and scream “hypocrite” is that, simply, we are. It stems from ad-hoc policy that is wielded largely for the best of intentions. And it doesn’t work. Democracy for Egypt…but not for Pakistan. Autocracy for Saudi Arabia…but not for Syria. Communism for China…but not for Venezuela. Reform for Gaza…no wait. This is realpolitik, global chess one might say, in action. This is what strategic ambiguity provides.

What we propose is containment of threats through cultural relativism and the power of state sovereignty. Furthermore, we underscore the primacy of bilateral relationships, and the rights, responsibilities, and accountability state sovereigns have over their respective populations. Read the article. Even if you disagree with one, some, or all of our concepts, we firmly promise that you will watch the news tonight through a different eyes: our concept has a 72 hour ‘flash to bang’ detonation process that will make you more a believer than you ever thought (or possibly wanted).

These opinions are my own. I, a single component of the ‘et al’, and but one of four light bulb installers. Mr. White, the floor is yours!

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