It's now called the doctrine of restoration — diplomatic jargon for rebuilding America before China eats our lunch.
After blowing $1 trillion on the Iraq war over the last 10 years and establishing a 1,400-person strong U.S. Embassy in Baghdad only to see Iran emerge with more influence in Iraq than the United States, it is time for Looney Tunes' Bugs Bunny to burst on the national stage and ask, "What's up, Doc?"
We now discover the U.S. taxpayer is funding both sides in Afghanistan through U.S. contracted trucking firms. Contracting waste dug up by Congress totals $34 billion.
Before we blow another trillion on Afghanistan — it's already close to $500 billion since the U.S. invasion Oct. 7, 2001 — and encourage European allies to waste more treasure in Libya, it's time for a customized brain-fitness plan. We also need cognitive exercises tailored to our geopolitical goals and an estimate of our improvement potential.
A tall order — but not too tall for a former director of Policy Planning at the State Department and a good bet for future secretary of State. Either a Democrat or a Republican president will need a time-tested geopolitical brain who understands the need to downsize and then rebuild a lean and mean military.
Such a person may be Richard Haass, president of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations. Under the headline "Bringing Our Foreign Policy Home," Haass writes in Time magazine that "a doctrine of restoration can strengthen the U.S. position abroad by focusing on nation building — our own."
Brooklyn-born and short-fused, Haass doesn't suffer blowhards gladly. He earned a presidential medal for his work in articulating and developing U.S. policy during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and divided his government service with ranking positions at both State and the Pentagon. From 1989-93, he was special (foreign policy) assistant to President George H.W. Bush.
"The good news," says Haass, "is that there is a doctrine that fits the U.S.'s circumstances. It is one that judges the world to be relatively nonthreatening and makes the most of this situation . . . The goal would be to rebalance the resources devoted to domestic challenges, as opposed to international ones, in favor of the former.''
Stripped of Aesopian verbiage, this means, "Charity starts at home."
"Doing so," Haass continues, "would not only address critical domestic needs but also rebuild the foundation of this country's strength so it would be in a better position to stave off potential strategic challengers or be better prepared should they emerge all the same."
Haass' term for this doctrine is "restoration": A U.S. foreign policy based "on restoring this country's strength and replenishing its resources — economic, human, and physical."
Under a doctrine of restoration, there would be fewer wars of choice, Haass writes. If any!
America today is in urgent need of a multitrillion-dollar makeover — from collapsing schools and bridges to a deficient 21st-century air traffic control system.
"Restoration," writes Haass, "is not isolationism (which is) the willful turning away from the world even when a rigorous assessment of U.S. interests argues for acting. Isolationism makes no sense in a world in which the U.S. cannot wall itself off from terrorism, proliferation, protectionism, pandemic disease, climate change, or a loss of access to financial, energy, and mineral resources."
"An embrace of old-fashioned isolationism would accelerate the emergence of a more disorderly and dangerous and less prosperous and free world," Haass says lest anyone misconstrue the message.
The wars of choice he rejects are Vietnam, the second Iraq war and the current Libyan intervention. Wars of necessity would continue when vital interests are at stake and when there is no alternative to using force.
Afghanistan evolved into a costly war of choice when newly elected President Barack Obama decided to pursue Taliban and not just al-Qaida.
The restoration doctrine would quickly draw down U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Haass' figure: Less than 25,000 troops over the next year and reduce spending by $100 billion.
On Iran, Haass' doctrine is closer to Israel's when he writes "the U.S. would use or support the use of armed force if it is determined that a military strike could destroy much of Iran's relevant capacity, that doing so would not reduce the chances of meaningful political change inside Iran, that the costs of likely retaliation by Iran were sustainable, that a nuclear Iran could not be confidently deterred and that the proliferation aspirations of others could not be managed."
But Haass's caveats mean the U.S. would keep its powder dry lest Iran's formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities block the strait of Hormuz, send oil prices skyward to $500 a barrel and Western economies into a tailspin.
His language was also designed to appease Israel where three retiring heads of intelligence recently warned that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu favors the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities.
At home, restoring the fiscal foundation of American power is Haass's top priority; the current situation is unsustainable.
Major cuts in discretionary spending should be a top priority. Such expenditures must be restricted to investments in the United States' human and physical future and competitiveness. This includes "targeted spending on public education, including at the community-college and university levels; modernizing transportation and energy infrastructures; and increasing energy efficiency while decreasing dependence on Middle East oil. Spending cuts should focus on entitlements and defense."
Haass' goal is to reduce the budget deficit by $300 billion per year until the budget is balanced.
The United States can only lead the world, Haass concludes, if it puts its own house in order first.
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