Sunday, March 09, 2014

Tips on international relations

The Obama administration has made some classic blunders in foreign policy. 

i) A president should be clear in his own mind on what allies or foreign assets represent America's "vital interests." 

ii) Apropos (i), what are we prepared to fight for? Wage war to protect?

iii) Never issue an empty threat. If a hostile regime calls your bluff, and you fold, then your administration will never again be feared or taken seriously. 

Never issue a threat unless that's a credible threat. Unless you are prepared to back it up with requisite force. 

iv) Tell your allies in private what you are not prepared to do in their defense. If they are essentially on their own, let them know that ahead of time. 

It's still possible to render military assistance to an ally by arming them (e.g. selling military technology).

vi) Conversely, keep hostile regimes off-balance. If you're not prepared to protect an overseas asset, don't announce that publicly. Leave an element of uncertainty to keep hostile regimes wary of pushing the envelop. Leave them in doubt about your true intentions. 

Fear is a major deterrent in foreign policy. And an element of uncertainty can have deterrent value. Is it worth the risk for the hostile regime to find out the hard way not to cross that line?

At the same time, you don't lose credibility through inaction, for you never publicly identified that asset as a vital national interest. 

vi) In the age of cyberwarfare, it's possible to inflict massive damage short of military action. But that's a last resort.

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