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The New Face of Foreign Policy (an Essay)


20 Feb 2003
In this thread, I intend to post a essay I recently wrote on how I believe foreign policy should operate in the current international system. Specifically I am attempting to give a prescriptive policy plan on how states should operate to ensure the stability of the system (ie Peace). It may be a fairly challenging piece for some people, but I hope people who do read it find it informative, engaging and useful at the same time. It does not include the footnotes or the bibliography that were included in the original, and I'm sure there are probably some horrendous grammer and typos within it. But I think many people will find this interesting enough to read. I wanted to put a piece of my work out there because, in my time at this board, I have never initate conversation on subjects. I wrote this essay to be a bit easier to read than my usualy theoretical and applied works so maybe people would get a to know who I am better. Maybe its like my photograph in the post your picture here page, a way for others to get to understand how I think (right now). Enjoy....(and bash away)


窶廾n the 12th of June, the forces of Western Europe crossed the frontier and war began, that is an event took place opposed to human reason and all human nature. Millions of men perpetrated against one another so great a mass crime-fraud, swindling, robbery, forgery, issue of counterfeit money, plunder, incendiarism, and murder- that the annals of all the criminal courts of the world could not muster such a sum of wickedness in whole centuries窶
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Although Tolstoy窶冱 epic took place in 1812, the conditions he vividly describes may be applied to any number of conflicts in the modern age. Tempered with the knowledge of the consequences of failure, international relations theorists have long sought prescriptive policy solutions to ensure stability, or a state of affairs where wars are unable to occur. During the cold war the search for stability took on a desperate pitch. The realities of the superpower conflict and nuclear war made the need for a stable international system of relations an essential prerequisite for the survival of mankind as a species. The theories espoused by academics were used to explain events and guide policy makers to the best method of ensuring stability. Balance of Power theories and its direct application in the form of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), was the most prominent example of such inquiries into this field.
But with the end of the cold war the old methods of ensuring stability have lost their effectiveness. Ethnic conflicts, globalized networks, and rogue states all threaten stability of the international system yet are nearly impervious to the traditional foreign policy instruments wielded during the cold war. Therefore this paper will attempt to formulate a normative solution to enhancing stability within the international system. It will argue that it is not that nations lack the policy instruments to create stability, but lack the conceptualization to use them properly. To prove this, the essay will follow three parts, first an identification of the threats that exist in the post cold war era, then a discourse on the tools that available to policy makers to deal with these threats, and finally a discussion on how to best deal with these threats with the tools available.


In the last decade the international system has seen major changes. Since the end of the cold war, the types of threats that assail the international system have changed. The threat of a traditional great power conflict has diminished, but not completely disappeared. Although the political situation between Russia and the United States makes a nuclear conflict between the two highly unlikely, both sides still retain massive cold war era nuclear arsenals aimed at each other. China rising economic power and moves to assert itself more effectively regionally has led some commentators to compare it to Wilhelmine Germany as a growing revisionist power . Yet even if the Communist Party was able to maintain the current rate of growth, which is exceedingly optimistic, it will take several decades for China to seriously challenge the United States窶 role as a global hegemon. Therefore any survey of the threats to the International system can squarely focus on the current status of the international system.
The development of the European Union highlights a unique phenomenon in international relations. Increasingly European States have acceded their sovereignty to the European Union and have accepted an outside actor窶冱 legitimacy over its own in order to ensure its security. Robert Kagan attributes behavior to European States relative weakness. As they are not able to compete militarily with the United States, they have resorted to creating an 窶彿nternational order where international law and international institutions matter more than the power of individual nations. 窶 But Kagan窶冱 analysis neglects the overwhelming changes that European Union member states have undergone during integration. A more nuanced approach has been put forward by Robert Cooper who contends that European States have advanced beyond the traditional notion of the nation state and are emerging as 窶徘ostmodern states窶 . His analysis focuses on three types of nation state that have developed sequentially over human history; the pre-modern, modern, and postmodern state.
Leaving aside pre-modern states aside for the moment, as these are the most primitive state structures, the role that modern and post-modern states play in the international system is the current focus of threat analysis. Modern states exhibit traditional characteristics of the Nation State that have existed since the treaty of Westphalia in 1648. These states are characterized 窶彙y a recognition of state sovereignty and the consequent separation of domestic and foreign affairs, with a prohibition of on external interference in the former. They are willing to use force to defend their interests; expansionist tendencies, great confidence and nationalism are likely to be present. 窶 By using this basic taxonomy, most states fall under this classification. The United States, China, and Iran would be relevant examples. The nature of relations between modern states fit with the ideas of realist theory. But as mentioned above, the current state of global politics make a classical state vs. state conflict is unlikely to occur. Some states do reject the US global hegemony, like the Iran and North Korea, but they are limited in influence only to their regional surroundings. This is though is sufficient for the United States consider them threats, as the US must guarantee stability in the international system in order for it to remain as a global hegemon.
Coffey窶冱 analysis diverges from realist thought by offering a higher level of development that states may aspire to achieve. Post modernist states exhibit several characteristics, including the blurring of domestic and foreign policy boundaries, codification of rules of behavior including the rejection of military force as a policy instrument, irrelevance of borders, and 窶徭ecurity based on transparency, mutual openness interdependence and mutual vulnerability窶 . European states are the most advanced in these respects, because the rubric of integration has been subsumed by an independent organization, European Commission and the European Parliament.
Pre modern states therefore present the greatest threat to world system. They are typified as chaotic and the state as an institution is a fragile structure, 窶忤hich has no monopoly of the use of force窶? The populaces directly live off of the resources of the land and in absence of a modern society they are often the poorest states. The poverty puts immense stress on what state institutions exist and often they will collapse with terrifying results The Pre-modern state collapses make take on several forms, often materializing around ethnic, religious or cultural lines. Often groups contest each other over scarce natural resources and conflict ensues, with no civil order able to reestablish control. The resources contested in these civil conflicts can range from Sierra Leonean Diamonds to Cambodian Lumber . Conflict spillover and refugee migration both put enormous strain on surrounding countries. The spillover of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 had major consequences for the Great Lakes region, causing the collapse of the government of Democratic Republic of Congo and sending that nation to a major civil conflict. After the War in Kosovo, former elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army migrated across the border into Albania, nearly precipitating the collapse of that nation窶冱 government if not for the intervention of the timely intervention of NATO and the European Union .
Another worrying trend is the proliferation of non-state threats to the international system, such as the rise of transnational terrorist groups. These threats, like the difficulties confronting pre-modern states, are largely based upon poverty and poor governance. The rise of Al Qaeda has much to do with the increasing poverty and political culture that has pervaded many Islamic states. In the last 20 years the Middle East has seen a population explosion that has not been matched by a corresponding increase in economic prosperity. In 1980, the Middle East constituted 18% of the world窶冱 population, it will be near 30% . At the same time, no economic growth was recorded within the region between 1985 and 1995, while the rest of the world registered a 32% increase . The soaring poverty rate in these states combined with strong-armed authoritarian governments that have little legitimacy in the public窶冱 eyes enhances the appeal of radical religious groups that offer extravagant solutions. Furthermore Al Qaeda窶冱 influence and ability shape international events is undeniable. The group is effective enough to destabilize weak states and utilize them as bases for future operations, as in Somalia and Afghanistan. Terrorist groups also present a direct threat to developed nations. The possibility for groups to procure weapons of mass destruction combined with their ability to utilize western communication and transportation networks appreciates their ability to directly harm developed states.


As demonstrated above the international system faces several challenges. Although classic great power conflicts are unlikely to emerge for some time, it is still a remote possibility. A more pressing threat is the disparity between states both in economic and political systems has become acute enough to pose a serious problem to international security. There is a wide range of instruments available to states to deal with these threats. Christopher Hill proposes that there are two basic categories of international instruments that any state may wield; Instruments that compel and instruments that sway . The ability for each state to apply these instruments is dependant upon the resources, both geographic and historical, that they are able to extract from their position. These may include territory, raw materials, population, expertise and industrialization . Within the two categories Hill outlines, lay several specialized instruments. The first to be examined are the two broad types in coercive instruments; the application of force and the threat of its use, also known as deterrence. Along with military coercion, states may also rely on punitive economic statecraft, or sanctions to alter another state窶冱 behavior.
The use of force is a powerful instrument to shape foreign policy; it is often the most expedient means of altering a situation but also the least exact and the most unpredictable policy tool. Both have legitimate usefulness for certain situations. During the cold war, deterrence was extremely useful in checking both superpower窶冱 actions, , thus stabilizing the world system. The usefulness of deterrence has carried over into the cold war period. John Mearshimer and Stephan Walt convincingly argued that Saddam Hussein was 窶彳minently deterrable窶 from attacking the United States or her allies due to the overwhelming advantage the US enjoyed in conventional and nuclear weapon capability as well possessing the necessary conviction to utilize them . Therefore the US active deterrence towards Iraq was successful in subduing Saddam. Deterrence does have its limits though. Kenneth Waltz wrote in 1981 an article entitled 窶弋he Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May be Better窶 . In the article proposed that spread of nuclear weapons might actually have a stabilizing effect on the international system, since he reasoned that the weapons would enhance the security of states that possess them by securing them from an adversary窶冱 attack . He also reasoned that nuclear states would also act rationally and conservatively towards other nuclear states because of the devastating consequences nuclear conflicts may entail.
Had Waltz possessed the gift of clairvoyance in 1981, he would be able to see that many of his assumptions about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their deterrent effect have been proven false by 2003. One only has to look at the current India-Pakistan crisis to understand how the acquisition of nuclear weapons has detrimentally affected the relationship between two states. Before 1998, Pakistan frantically sought to develop nuclear weapons to ensure that it could defend itself from nuclear attack. With a nuclear guarantee, Pakistan has felt more confident in launching cross border attacks into the contested provinces of Jammu and Kashmir as well as into India proper, which has adversely affected bilateral relations between both states . Both sides operate with bounded rationality, underestimating the opponent窶冱 capabilities and overestimating their own. In this tense climate, a miscalculation or accident could easily trigger a full blown nuclear conflict with horrific consequences. Given these sobering realities, it is clear to see how deterrence is a dangerous instrument, useful only in certain circumstances.
Unlike deterrence, coercive military interventions have very a limited applicability in the current international system. Rather than being a major agent of foreign policy, it is now seen a policy failure to utilize military power to achieve a foreign policy goal. Therefore any decision to utilize them must only be made in the direst circumstances where all other policy options have been exhausted. This does not mean that militaries do not have value as an offensive instrument, just that their applicability should be restricted. In many circumstances military intervention is the only tool available that can effectively solve a situation. In the run up to the 1991 gulf war it was increasingly obvious that diplomatic and coercive economic instruments would not be sufficient to reverse Saddam Hussein窶冱 decision to annex Kuwait. Military force was the only option left coalition to eject his forces from Kuwait, and it was correctly applied at the right time.
The second set of instruments that Hill identifies are intended to sway the actions of other nations by changing the environment surrounding them . Often described as 窶徭oft power窶 these tools may include diplomacy, economic inducements, cultural diplomacy and propaganda. These measures are intended to 窶徘rimarily change the target窶冱 environment窶 and entice foreign actors to follow certain policies or norms . Soft power has several advantages over hard power. The effects of soft power are far easier to predict. Since diplomacy or economic inducements have limited well-stated goals, targeted states are likely to align to those goals in an effort to secure more benefits. For example, European States careful construction of diplomatic and economic relations with Iran gave them far more diplomatic capital than the United States, who relied on coercive measures such as deterrence to influence the governing council窶冱 actions. This was abundantly clear in October 2003 when the foreign ministers of the EU窶冱 three most influential nations, Germany, France and the United Kingdom flew Tehran in an attempt to defuse a nuclear crisis . Such a meeting with the US secretary of state would almost be unthinkable given the present state of relations between the two nations. The limitation of soft power can also be divined from this episode. Unlike coercive instruments, which compel a target state to act, there is no prerogative for the same state respond when engaged by soft power instruments. The success or failure of a soft power imitative is entirely dependant on the decision making structure of the targeted government. If a unresponsive authoritarian government reigns, as Iraq under Saddam Hussein, soft power initiatives will probably meet little success.


With the cataloguing of instruments available to states complete, it is now possible to focus on the normative issue of insuring stability in the international system.
As mentioned in Coffey窶冱 analysis, the transition of European states into post-modernist stage has brought peace and stability to the continent. But European integration is a unique process and has not been replicated elsewhere. One reason for this is the relative affluence and advance political structures that exist within the member states of the European Union. One must only look at the difficulty prospective members of the EU face before gaining accession. Accession states must alter their laws to bring them within EU standards and restructure their economies to ensure that they are able to function as members of the Union. If, in the near term, accession to the ranks of postmodern states remains an unreachable goal for most states, then other policy options are required. As we have seen throughout this essay, poverty and competition for resources is the root cause for many if not most international conflicts. Western states must take it upon themselves to ensure that the disparity between the poorest and the richest countries does not widen or they court further instability. There are several methods to achieve development among states, such as trade liberalization or closed economic models, but a discussion of these are outside the scope of this essay. However development can be best achieved in these states should be the policy of all states involved. This does mean that upper tier states must leave lower tier ones to their own devices, rather they must ensure that they aid and direct the transition of pre-modern or lower tier modern states to higher levels of development as best they can. Coffey refers to this process as postmodern imperialism. Postmodern and upper tier modern states may utilize the whole range of instruments, from softest edge of diplomatic and cultural norms to the hardest edge of military intervention in order to prevent or rescue less developed states from instability.
Therefore, it is now possible to discuss the overall scheme for how the states should ensure stability in the post cold war era; the foreign policies of responsible actors must be attuned to the situation they are confronted with. It is absolutely vital that they chose the appropriate instruments to effectively deal with a situation or they will mismatch solutions with problems with possibly catastrophic results. Developed states must not continue to push policies that are wholly inadequate to the problems confronting it due to domestic considerations. Ten years of sanctions during the 1990s did nothing to change the political situation in Iraq and but it did help to deteriorate the humanitarian condition of the Iraqi people. A new course of action was needed to deal with the problem, yet many European States difficulties with harder coercive measures prevented constructive discussion on the situation. But attenuation instruments must work both ways as well. States should not automatically revert to coercive measures to ensure stability. The US efforts to antagonize the North Koreans instead of bargaining with them constructively in good faith only forced the North to further push its nuclear weapon development program. The instabilities faced by developed states today are unlike any previously encountered and require clear rational thought on the issues involved and how to best go about solving them.


In retrospect, this essay does not propose any radical new instrument to achieve stability in the current international system. The instruments states possess today are wholly adequate for the task required of them. What this essay proposes is that a conceptual shift occur in the application of these instruments. Nations must cast away traditional conceptions of international relations and embrace a new way of thinking suited to the threats that pervade the world today. Unless this shift occurs rapidly the instabilities in the international system will become increasingly entrenched. With the stakes so high, it is utter foolishness to ignore the problems; the true extent of the danger may only be realized once it is too late.
HMMMM, quite impressive :)

So...in such circumstances, how does Japanese foreign policy react to the threat from other countries,like P.R China and Russia?
First I don't consider Russia a threat. Russia is utterly dependant on foreign capital to ensure its survival, and psychologically, the idea of a power struggle between Russia and the world is dead except for the most diehard russian nationalists. Although in the last few days we have seen Russia inch closer towards being authoritarian, that by no means indicates that Russia is becoming more nationalistic. Putin is committed to making Russia more pro western, but in a different way. Japan's policy towards Russia should (and is now) growing more on a economic calculus rather than on the old security concerns. Furthermore relations have been significantly facilitated by Moscow's compete change of heart towards NATO, which places it firmly on the side of the US and by extention Japan. Although problems still exist on the bilateral level, namely the Kuril Islands, these are increasingly being overlooked to facilitate economic links. Siberia remains the last unexplored region on this earth, and is ripe for economic investment. One only has to look at how investment in the canadian artic has fueled a economic boom in northern communities. Japan need natural resources and russia needs foreign capital. I think we can all do the math. I think that Russia and Japan will have excellent relations in the future, rather than being strategic compeditors.

China on the other hand is a completely different problem. Japan is still the top dog in the Asia pacific. I personally don't believe that China can sustain its growth for much longer. Although it is undergoing tremendous modernization, how far can it go is a better question. In the last decade Japan has stagnated, but I think part of it will be for the better. The decline of traditional industrial sectors has pushed the Japanese society to embrace a knowledge based model. China is not even close as a major researcher in the world, and is reliant on foreign capital to acheive its growth. Although the China is becoming a huge market for goods, it is not Chinese companies that are reaping the benefits, but western ones. I think that China is setting itself up for a huge fall one day, like a Asian financial crisis in 1997, but even worse. Pegging the Yuan and manipulating financial controls can work, but its playing with fire, and the Thais figured that out the hard way with the Bhat in 997. Again thats just my opinion.

As a strategic compeditor, I think Japan has played its role well and should continue to stay the path as it has. It must continue to ally itself with the western nations like the United States but there are others such as Australia, the EU, Canada. Furthermore there should be added interests in investments into Russia and India. These nations offer major opportunities for increased trade and enhanced relations. Militarily Japan should continue to rely on the US military umbrella, though contraversial. #1 US military forces are far more welcome than Japanese military forces in the region. Sure there are incidents with the US like the EP-3 incident two years ago but the alternative is far less attractive. Japan's asian neighbours fear a resurgence of Japanese militarism, and would react negatively towards a greater Japanese military presence in the region. The US on the other hand is accepted by most governments and has done well in maintaining a stable region that economic relations can flourish.
#2 For Japan to fully reequip its forces to take over the US's role in its security architechture, would be frightfully expensive, and would drain the Japanese resouces immensly. American Security involvement is a free subsidy for the Japanese security. And I would argue that Japan's sucess in the last three decades has more to do with its economic focus of international relations rather than any security aspect. This does not mean that Japan should completely abandon a foreign relations, not at all, but It should retain its economic focus of its foreign policy as #1. I think that the moves that Junichiro Koziumi has done are prefectly suited for the new security enviroment that we live in, and he has approached the subject with a pragmatic mindset. Japan has worked constructively in the region to further its own interests and that of others. Look at its constructive engagement with N. Korea. I''d say that the economic links that Japan forged with that regime has given it far more leverage than a decade of sanctions and tough talk with the United States.

I hope that answers your questions
... Sigh.

I thought I could get more people interested in the article, or get some discussion going. I guess it is true that people like easy explainations to things and avoid detailed studies of issues.
Originally posted by noyhauser
... Sigh.

I thought I could get more people interested in the article, or get some discussion going. I guess it is true that people like easy explainations to things and avoid detailed studies of issues.

Come on, buddddddy.
Your post is very good.

Maybe... not everyone is interested in politics...

Don't be frustrated.
Actually with such a tsunami of posts I hadn't seen this topic and if it wasn't for the Forum Japan is Dead topic, I might had passed it.

Nowadays, politics depresses me. I miss the spirit of the late XIXth and early XXth century. But how can I miss something I only read about? It's easy, because socialism, fascism, anarquism and democracy brewed all over the world and it was the times of experimentation. In the Spanish civil war you had Democrats, Comunists and Anarquists fighting side by side against Fascism, which looking backk it's a bit ironic seeing a common cause that would unite them 5 years later in a World War. Politics make for strange bedfellows, and nowadays, European government are centrists who occasionally lean left or right. But I am ranting... because though those were exciting times, the upheaval I could dispense with.

I think you are underestimating China, because it is a key military power in the region and its civil, space and navy projects (Three Gorges dam, first Chinese in space, the aquisition of carriers) makes me believe that they want to step up their power projection.
Every nation is vulnerable to economical and social upheavals, and in economy I know that we are subject to cyclic events and pole shifts. But China, even at his lowest point, which I would guess in the XIXth century (Opium wars, Boxer Rebellion, Sino-Japanese war, armed rebellions ), was always a major power because of it's huge human and natural resources pool. It still is.
It was its centuries old policy of isolation that almost destroyed her as a nation, but unlike Japan facing the wrong end of Commodore Perry's naval guns, her government didn't hold together and the appearance of power soon desappeared between corruption, foreign interference, civil war and a world war. The XXth century, and specially its second half, was an age of consolidation and experimentation that resulted (to the bliss and anger of many) in a strong nation.
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