The book of the former US Secretary of Defense (2006-2011) Robert M. Gates, "Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War Period", dedicated to the successes and failures of American foreign policy, is preparing for release in recent decades. An excerpt from this book is published in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, in which the former minister criticizes the foreign policy methods of the American authorities and also offers alternative solutions.
R. Gates notes that the United States retains the status of the most powerful economically and militarily power. However, there are objective factors that can lead to the loss of world leadership. Such an outcome threatens both the United States and the whole world. In this regard, it is necessary to take measures to maintain the desired position.
The former minister believes that after the end of the Cold War, serious mistakes appeared in Washington’s foreign policy that impeded the achievement of its goals. The main one is the preference for military methods to solve problems to the detriment of others.
As the experience of recent decades shows, the use of military force instead of diplomacy, as well as improper planning of military operations can lead to the most serious consequences. First of all, to the fact that the tasks set remain unresolved, and new challenges complement them. Problems accumulate, and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.
R. Gates recalls several well-known recent stories in which the United States faced serious problems and were unable to complete the tasks. Similar examples cover the period from the end of the Cold War to our time.
In 1993, the Bill Clinton administration launched a humanitarian operation in Somalia to combat hunger. Then the operation grew into a peacekeeping operation with the parallel building of state structures. The situation was similar in Iraq - they started there by overthrowing Saddam Hussein, after which they had to seize the territory of the country, build a new state and fight the rebels. Finally, in 2011 in Libya, it all started with the protection of civilians, and then grew into a struggle with the regime of Muammar Gaddafi - and plunged the country into chaos.
The first mistake in these situations, according to R. Gates, was due to improper planning. Before starting such an operation, the command should assess the real threat to US interests, as well as set clear and understandable goals. It is also necessary to determine the necessary forces and means, possible consequences and losses. Only then can a decision be made on the use of the army.
It is noted that the allocated forces and means must meet the objectives. In addition, when changing the objectives of the operation, the selected grouping must also change. It is impossible to save or disperse forces, and the actions of the command should not be impulsive or insufficiently active - this is strategically unreasonable and immoral in relation to their own military.
R. Gates examines in detail the situation around Libya and shows why that operation led to the most terrible results. The reason for this was precisely the wrong planning. The former minister notes two major mistakes - the unjustified expansion of the humanitarian mission to a full-fledged military operation and the inability to establish the life of the country after its hostilities.
Initially, within the framework of NATO, it was planned to protect the population and opposition movements of Libya from government forces. The alliance was able to prevent clashes between the army and the rebels, but a decision was made to destroy the government in Tripoli. After the fall of the regime of M. Gaddafi, US assistance was limited and did not cover a number of key areas. Washington did not help with the construction of new state institutions, with the restoration of the army, etc.
As a result, a coalition of NATO and the Arab countries “bombed Libya and went home.” The civilian population, whose defense justified the invasion, was left without help. All this led to well-known consequences. The country is in ruins, and weapon its former army spread across Africa and the Middle East, which became a problem including and for the USA.
Not only the army
The former minister recalls that during the Cold War, the superpowers opposed militarily indirectly, through third countries - and diplomatic structures played a big role in foreign policy. In the newest stories the role of diplomats has declined, but the situation in the world is changing again and demands that this sphere be revived.
With the exception of a short period under President George W. Bush, Congress has allocated insufficient funds to the State Department for many years. The White House often puts the State Department in the background, which also does not contribute to its normal operation. The Foreign Ministry is rightly criticized for bureaucracy and low efficiency, but without it it is impossible to build and strengthen the foreign policy.
After World War II, a developed economy became an important tool for attracting allies for the United States. However, after the Cold War, everything changed, and Washington decided that the economy was needed not only for cooperation, but also for punishing the unwanted. The policy of sanctions does not contribute to the development of good relations with third countries and is able to alienate potential partners.
Until 1999, the US News Agency existed and operated. It created representative offices and libraries, distributed various printed materials and supported radio stations. However, it was closed, and the remaining structures were transferred to the State Department. This was a serious blow to "public diplomacy" and to the promotion of American interests in third countries. The Agency for International Development also fell under reductions. It still exists, but is forced to curtail programs due to reduced funding.
R. Gates offers several measures aimed at strengthening and optimizing foreign policy tools and methods while reducing negative consequences. The existing system, created by the National Security Act of 1947, is outdated and needs to be restructured. For example, departments responsible for foreign economic activity do not participate in it, but can be involved if necessary.
Military power remains an important component of the country's foreign policy capabilities. At the same time, it should be developed, incl. due to proper use and proper planning of operations. Together with the army, diplomacy and economics must be the most important tools. The State Department is proposed to make the main non-military means for interaction with other countries.
R. Gates notes excessive bureaucracy and undue attention to developed countries to the detriment of interaction with developing countries. A restructuring of this structure is necessary, as well as a change in the internal culture of the department. In the structure of the State Department it is necessary to revive a full-fledged Information Agency, dissolved in the past.
According to R. Gates, in order to maintain world leadership, all available methods and means are necessary - military, diplomatic and others. The army should retain its role, but it should be applied sparingly and for appropriate reasons. Non-military forces will undertake all other work in peacetime. All these funds need to be developed equally.
As the former minister notes, most Americans want to see not only the economic and military successes of their country. Another important desire is for everyone else to see the United States as a leading country and a freedom fighter. In the foreseeable future, a new multilateral confrontation is planned, and new methods are needed to obtain such results.
Thus, Robert Gates suggests restructuring foreign policy systems and processes, making them as flexible and able to respond to any challenges. But the current US administration is of a different opinion. She maintains the current state of affairs and prefers to solve problems as quickly and roughly as possible. However, sanctions and threats of the use of force do not always help both in solving urgent problems and in the long term. Whether listening to the opinion of Robert Gates is a big question. The same applies to maintaining global leadership in the future.