Policy Planning in Today's World

Remarks at the Kennan Institute 2003 Annual Dinner by Richard N. Haass, Director of Policy Planning, Department of State

May 22, 2003

Thank you Jim (Langdon). I am pleased and honored to be here tonight, speaking at a dinner that aims to support work being carried out in an institution so closely associated with George Kennan -- actually, two George Kennans. The Kennan Institute is a model of a modern think tank. As might be expected, it produces top quality work that reflects deep thought. But it also shows real creativity in finding ways to link the worlds of thought and action by convening academics, policy-makers, business people, and private groups from both the United States and the former Soviet Union. As someone who has divided his career inside and outside government, I know how hard it is to produce timely, useful advice. I applaud your ability to do this. I also want to applaud the leadership and contributions of both Blair Ruble and Lee Hamilton. You are in very good hands.

I know that many of you are experts on Russia, and I will have some things to say about Russia and U.S.-Russia relations. But since my link to George Kennan -- the ambassador, not the explorer -- involves his contributions to policy planning, I will devote the lion’s share of my remarks to the broader planning and conduct of American foreign policy. And as you might expect, my interest is not purely historical. To the contrary, I believe we are at a juncture when Americans need to think bigger and more long term about this country’s role in the world than is often the case.

Policy Planning

The policy planning staff dates back 56 years this month, to May 1947. The staff was the creation of Secretary of State George Marshall -- not the last former Army General to hold down the job, I might add. It was a time of turmoil and ferment, as we brought the world war to closure and embarked on what became known as the Cold War. Marshall’s instructions to Kennan on setting up the new planning shop were typically straightforward: “Avoid trivia.” Trust me when I say this is more easily advised than done.

A more expansive description of what Marshall had in mind when he created a policy planning staff came from his successor, Dean Acheson. “The General conceived the function of this group as being to look ahead, not into the distant future, but beyond the vision of the operating officers caught in the smoke and crises of current battle; far enough ahead to see the emerging form of things to come and outline what should be done to meet or anticipate them. In doing this the staff should also do something else -- constantly reappraise what was being done.”

Acheson goes on to say that “these two tasks are extremely difficult to perform.” Indeed, all planners face what another observer calls “the planner’s dilemma,” i.e., the need to focus on what lies ahead without becoming irrelevant to what is of pressing concern to policy-makers.

I find it noteworthy that George Kennan himself came to the conclusion that success as a planner had eluded him. In his memoirs, Kennan writes, “Pondering today the frustration of the past week, it occurred to me that it is time I recognized that my Planning Staff, started nearly three years ago, has simply been a failure, like all previous attempts to bring order and foresight into the designing of foreign policy by special institutional arrangements within the department.”

The intellectually honest Kennan was being a bit too tough on himself. Kennan’s tenure is widely and justifiably viewed as the golden era of policy planning. It surely was a golden era of U.S. foreign policy. What distinguishes the years after World War II is not so much that the United States held a preponderance of power, but that it used its advantages wisely. We formed lasting alliances, built effective institutions, reformed and ultimately reconciled with former adversaries. Acheson’s title for his memoirs, “Present at the Creation,” may have suffered from immodesty but not inaccuracy.

Today, too, the United States enjoys overwhelming primacy. We do not face a single rival with global reach, but we do face numerous challenges all over the globe. Like the postwar generation, we have emerged from epic events, including 9/11 and the campaign to liberate Iraq, and are involved in an open-ended “twilight struggle,” namely, the war against terrorism and rogue regimes developing weapons of mass destruction. The challenge for us, as it was for Kennan, Marshall, Acheson, and Truman, is to use our power so that it safeguards our interests and promotes our values for years and even decades to come.

In the balance of my time this evening, I will review some of our objectives for U.S. foreign policy at this historic juncture -- inside Iraq, in the wider region, and elsewhere in the world, including Russia. And I will close by offering a few maxims for U.S. foreign policy at this pivotal juncture.

Inside Iraq

We owe a great debt to the brave men and women of the American and coalition militaries who laid their lives on the line to free the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and his gang of thugs. But as President Bush said when he addressed the sailors on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, “We have difficult work to do in Iraq….The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort.”

What we accomplish in Iraq -- or more accurately what the Iraqi people accomplish in their own country with our help -- will determine the future of one of the key countries in the Middle East. But it will also help determine the future of the wider region. An open, market-oriented, peaceful Iraq could advance growth and reform in the entire Middle East; an Iraq that resembles Saddam Hussein’s, at war with its own citizens and its neighbors, would set back prospects for peace, prosperity and freedom in the region.

What needs to be done in Iraq? The challenge there has four components: humanitarian, security, economic and political. The humanitarian challenge has been less than anticipated, thanks to advanced planning by the United States and the world community and to the rapid, focused, and discriminate way the war was fought by coalition forces. Some pockets of humanitarian need remain, but the massive, anticipated crisis thankfully never materialized. Refugees and internally displaced persons are relatively few; supplies of food, water and medicine are mostly adequate or at least improving. The U.S. Government has provided some $600 million through UN agencies and NGOs to meet immediate humanitarian needs.

We also need to restore basic order in Iraq. As we have learned in other places, security is the absolute precondition for sustainable recovery from conflict; without it, people cannot rebuild their country or return to school or work. The removal of Saddam’s regime sparked a wave of looting, lawlessness, and score-settling. The immediate priority is to put an end to this violence. Beyond that objective, international forces face multiple challenges: to secure and eliminate all weapons of mass destruction; to prevent ethnic and religious tensions from erupting into violence; to make sure that none of Iraq’s neighbors exacerbate an already difficult situation; and, over time, to help Iraqis rebuild their police and military forces so that they can look after their own safety and security in a way that threatens no one.

Economic reconstruction is more accurately thought of as economic renewal, given the better than expected state of physical capital and the deep reservoir of human capital that is modern Iraq. Unlike many recent post-conflict situations, there is lots of raw material to work with. The United States is making available more than $2 billion to support early reconstruction efforts. Oil is beginning to come on line in meaningful quantities. Longer run challenges include not just increasing oil output but tackling the problem posed by huge amounts of outstanding debt. Today’s vote by the UN Security council to remove sanctions is a welcome step.

If establishing conditions of security and stability is of supreme urgency, assisting Iraq’s political regeneration may be the most difficult. It will be necessary to overcome the many religious, ethnic, geographic and political divisions that characterize Iraqi society. Still, the cynics and skeptics are wrong. Our goal -- an Iraq that is intact, possesses a representative government, and adopts the rule of law -- is no pipedream. It is a realistic vision, particularly in view of the country’s educated population and sizeable middle class. It is a goal that the international community can realize if it is prepared to stay the course and work with Iraqis until the fundamentals of a democratic society take hold. There is tremendous political ferment going on in Iraq today. Our mission is to help responsible Iraqi leaders channel it in a constructive direction.

The Larger Region

Let me now turn to the larger region. Secretary of State Powell has recently returned from his second trip to the Middle East in a month. The issues he tackled -- relations between Israelis and Palestinians, challenges posed by Syria and Iran, and enduring obstacles to working democracies and open markets -- are familiar. This familiarity is another way of saying that these problems have resisted solution for too long.

It is difficult to think of another foreign policy issue that has preoccupied and polarized world opinion as much as the Palestinian question. It was nearly one year ago that President Bush declared his goal of bringing about a democratic Palestinian state, one prepared to live in peace beside Israel. In order to make this vision a reality, the United States, working in tandem with Russia, the UN and the EU, developed a roadmap designed to take us in stages toward this goal. The emergence of a new Palestinian Prime Minister and government constitutes an important opening. The task now is to persuade Palestinians and Israelis to begin the process, to start doing things to improve the situation on the ground so that they can tackle more far-reaching matters at the negotiating table. Terrorists cannot be allowed to forever frustrate the search for peace.

The challenges posed by Iran are clear-cut: a country developing weapons of mass destruction and with a history of supporting terror. Such behavior flouts the norms and rules of the international community and isolates Iran and its people. And it will have consequences if it continues. In contrast, if Iran turns away from terror and its pursuit of catastrophic weapons, it will find a United States prepared to revise its policy and recast the relationship. The United States is similarly prepared to respond if Syria demonstrates far-reaching changes in its behavior.

A third issue is the relative lack of openness in the political systems and economies of the region. For too long, the United States tolerated what has been called a “democratic exception” within the Muslim Middle East. The implication was that as long as governments were friendly and backed regional stability, there was no need for outsiders to encourage representative government. We have learned the hard way that closed political systems breed resentment and extremism that are not in America’s -- or the world’s -- interests. That is why we are supporting democracy and political reform through the Middle East Partnership Initiative launched by Secretary of State Powell in December 2002.

Closed economic systems also pose a danger. As last year’s Arab Human Development Report made clear, the Arab Middle East has lagged far behind other regions in key measures, including individual freedom, women’s empowerment, and economic and social development. For too long, these countries have watched by the side of the tracks as the freight train of economic prosperity rushes past. President Bush is determined to help Arabs get on board so that they can share the benefits of economic liberty. This explains why earlier this month he proposed the establishment of a U.S.-Middle East free trade area within a decade.

The Rest of the World

There are any number of challenges in the wider world worth noting, from helping Colombia’s democratically-elected government defeat terrorists fueled by drug money to helping India and Pakistan normalize their troubled relationship. Let me note a few, if only to suggest the range of problems.
Today the most dangerous place in the world may be the Korean peninsula. We are working closely with our allies and friends in the region -- South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and others -- to make certain that North Korea understands that its future relations with the world hinge on abandoning any nuclear weapons ambitions. It must terminate these programs -- promptly, verifiably, and irreversibly. Last month my colleague, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, held multilateral talks in Beijing with North Korea and China. We made plain then -- as we continue to do now -- that participation by South Korea and Japan in future discussions will be essential to reaching and guaranteeing an agreement. As Secretary Powell has said, it is their neighborhood, and they have a manifest stake in the outcome.

Make no mistake: We have always stood ready to transform our relations with North Korea and to work with it to end its self-isolation and the abject conditions in which its people suffer. And we remain prepared to do so today. But we cannot do so unless North Korea first makes a fateful choice: it can seek nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, or it can redefine its place in the world by dismantling these programs and broadening its diplomatic and economic interaction. Pyongyang needs to accept that it cannot have it both ways.

Even as we handle the challenge of rogue states like North Korea, we need to reinvigorate our bilateral relationships with important partners and friends. Let me take a moment to single out Russia, a subject of special interest to this audience. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a sea change in U.S.-Russian relations, so that disagreement no longer creates crisis. But to be frank -- and friends need to be frank -- our bilateral relationship over the past two years has had setbacks as well as achievements. On the positive side of the ledger, Russia has understood that NATO’s enlargement does not clash with its basic interests. Both of our countries have signed the Treaty of Moscow, calling for deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals, and we anticipate exchanging instruments of ratification at the St. Petersburg summit next month. More broadly, our two presidents and senior officials consult regularly on a wide range of issues, from Afghanistan and terrorism to cooperation in space and trade.

On the negative side, we were disappointed at Russia’s opposition to a second UN resolution authorizing force to compel Iraqi compliance with its disarmament obligations. That said, I want to applaud Russia’s vote earlier today in the Security Council on behalf of a resolution that lifts sanctions and provides a foundation for the rebuilding of Iraq.

Beyond Iraq, the United States is looking for solid Russian cooperation in addressing other regional threats. We have made clear our desire for Russian involvement in persuading North Korea to abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons, just as we have reiterated the dangers posed by Iran’s nuclear program. I believe there is considerable potential for future cooperation in meeting both of these challenges. We welcome Russia’s constructive involvement in the Middle East peace process and look for their cooperation in advancing the success of the road map. At a global level, we look to Russia to assume its rightful role as a responsible international power, one that avoids cultivating relations with rogue states and that resists excessive nationalism or reflexive anti-Americanism.

It is also important that Russia continue to consolidate political and economic reform at home. The last decade has been one of extraordinary change and adaptation for Russian society, but much work remains to ensure the emergence of a mature market democracy, particularly in the areas of the rule of law and independent media. We encourage Russia to take all the steps necessary for WTO membership. We also support the search for a political settlement in Chechnya and call on Russia to conduct its policy in Chechnya in a manner consistent with international standards of human rights. Our goal is an ever-deepening bilateral relationship based on partnership with an increasingly democratic, market-oriented Russia.

As we address threats to global stability and improve international partnerships, we must also seize opportunities to advance shared prosperity. The Bush administration is pursuing an ambitious trade agenda in the hopes of bringing all willing countries and regions into the expanding circle of economic prosperity. Our regional trade strategy aims for agreements in Latin America, Southern Africa, and the Middle East, and bilateral agreements with Australia and Morocco. President Bush recently signed a free trade agreement with Singapore, and we expect to sign a similar one with Chile in the near future. We are committed to concluding the Doha Round of the WTO by 2005. The global elimination of all barriers to trade in goods, services and agriculture would increase global income by an estimated $800 billion, of which almost two-thirds would flow to developing countries, lifting an estimated 300 million people out of poverty.

Our commitment to development does not end with free trade. The Millennium Challenge Account represents a unilateral U.S. commitment to increase development assistance by 50% over three years, with this new aid being targeted to those countries that govern justly, invest in their people, and promote economic liberty. It represents a new approach to foreign aid, based on the principle of developing-country responsibility.

Another challenge to U.S. foreign policy is a less traditional one: the threat of infectious disease. The recent SARS epidemic has reminded us of a grim reality of globalization: in a borderless world, where distance is made irrelevant, problems spread easily from one region to another. But the impact of SARS pales in comparison to the gravest international public health crisis we face today -- HIV/AIDS. Secretary Powell has called the HIV virus the “greatest weapon of mass destruction on the face of the earth today.” It has already killed more than forty-two million -- and is killing another six people every minute. President Bush recognizes that the battle against AIDS is a moral imperative and an issue of national security. He has responded with an Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which will provide $15 billion over the next five years to save many millions of lives.

Requirements for Success

What emerges from this quick tour d’horizon are a number of themes:

Inconsistency is no vice. To the contrary, when it comes to foreign policy, inconsistency is often a virtue. I speak not of principles, but of policy. The United States does not have a “one size fits all” approach to the world. Iraq, for example, should not be over-interpreted as a rigid template for U.S. policy toward other countries that pursue weapons of mass destruction, support terrorism, or deny people their basic liberty. In the case of Iraq, we used force as a last resort, against a country with a clear record of aggression, and after a large degree of international consensus had developed about what Iraq needed to do. We will have to put together different policies, tailored for local, regional, and international realities, to meet other challenges -- whether in North Korea, Iran, Syria, or elsewhere.

No one tool can do it all. Our armed forces are the envy of the world and constitute an essential background to much of what we can accomplish internationally. But defense policy is only one component of foreign policy. We face a panoply of threats to our national interests, from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to global financial crises, from the collapse of weak states to the spread of infectious disease, and from transnational terrorism to global warming. Not all of these problems can be addressed with military power. If all you have to work with is a hammer, as the saying goes, every problem looks like a nail. To be successful in foreign policy, as in carpentry, we need the right tools for the various jobs. This implies an entire toolbox -- including diplomacy, development and democracy assistance, intelligence, sanctions, incentives, and trade policy.

Partnership is Essential. For all of our power, there is little that the United States can do in the world that it can’t do better with the active participation of others, be they governments, international organizations, or NGOs. At their best, partnerships help us share burdens we would otherwise have to bear alone, find solutions to problems that defy purely national responses, and enhance the acceptance and legitimacy to our undertakings. In the war against Iraq, we relied on coalition partners willing to place critical assets at our disposal, including armed forces, access to bases, overflight rights, quiet diplomatic support, and emergency relief supplies. We rely on partnerships in the global war on terrorism: foreign governments are providing intelligence and law enforcement cooperation; trading partners are ensuring the security of shipping containers; and private financial institutions are helping us to track the transfers of funds that sustain networks of terror.

Institutions add value. Provided they are effectively organized, are given realistic mandates, and contain members committed to common aims and norms, international institutions can and often do advance U.S. national interests. Indeed, it would be difficult to carry out critical dimensions of foreign policy -- from trade to non-proliferation to environmental policy -- without them. Institutions provide standing capacity, so that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time a new problem arises. They also bring multiple parties together to confer, encourage the rapid flow of information, and provide economies of scale. The World Trade Organization is a case in point. It provides a forum in which to negotiate new trade liberalization agreements, to seek remedies against protectionist and discriminatory policies, and to resolve disputes with trading partners. In all cases, the United States needs to ensure that existing institutions are adapted to current realities. NATO, for example, is evolving from a Cold War alliance focused on Europe to one suited to today’s security challenges wherever they may arise, such as in Afghanistan and possibly Iraq.

Multilateralism comes in many forms.
Multilateral cooperation is most successful when it is built on a real convergence of interests and values. At certain times, the United Nations and other global frameworks may be best placed to address U.S. foreign policy goals. But when the United Nations or other bodies are unwilling or unable to move against dire threats, we reserve the right to act in less encompassing alliances or flexible, ad hoc coalitions of the willing -- as we did in Kosovo and most recently in Iraq. No organization, not even the United Nations, has a monopoly on legitimacy; rather, legitimacy depends most on the rationale for an action and the manner in which it is undertaken.

We ignore failing states at our peril. As President Bush said, “the events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states like Afghanistan can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states.” Countries that disintegrate into anarchy can offer a haven for terrorists, criminals, and drug traffickers and an environment conducive to extremist ideologies. One of our most pressing tasks today is to prevent the weak or brittle states from imploding entirely. Another is to assist countries that have collapsed into violence to begin the slow and arduous process of recovery. We have renewed our commitment to rebuild Afghanistan, for example, pledging nine hundred million dollars this year -- on top of the one billion dollars we have already contributed.

Any U.S. foreign policy must combine interests and values. One of the main impulses behind America’s international engagement, and one of the greatest sources of its global power, has been its enduring impulse to make the world a better place. In this sense, the common dichotomy between a U.S. foreign policy based on interests and one based on values is misplaced. The American public has always insisted that our national objectives be linked to our national ideals. And the appeal of U.S. leadership abroad rests in part on the attractiveness of our political institutions, society, and culture, and our willingness to serve as both exemplar and champion for the concept of human rights and democracy. Indeed, our democracy promotion efforts are based on the most hard-headed of calculations: the realization that democracies rarely go to war against one another, but rather settle their differences peaceably.

Today’s world presents opportunities as well as problems. In our preoccupation with the global war on terrorism, we should not overlook so much that is right in today’s world. From a historical perspective, the most positive aspect of the current international system is the absence of irreconcilable conflicts among the main concentrations of world power: Europe, Russia, China, Japan, and the United States. Containment and confrontation, the hallmarks of the Cold War, have yielded to patterns of consultation and cooperation. This considerable congruence of interest and agreement on the rules of international order offers a promising foundation for managing the common challenges that confronting us all.

Our over-riding goal should be to create a world in which most governments, organizations, and peoples embrace arrangements to allow them to realize their shared interests and that reflect fundamental values that are not simply American but universal. All nations and peoples have a stake in a world in which force is used only as a last resort, in which terrorism is regarded as beyond the pale, in which weapons of mass destruction do not spread and are not used, in which free trade becomes the norm, in which citizens enjoy basic liberties, in which democratic values triumph, and in which the rule of law replaces the way of the gun. Bringing about such an integrated world may be optimistic, even idealistic, but it is in no way naïve.

Let me close by returning to where I began, to George Kennan. His life stands out as a model to public service and provides a ringing confirmation that in the realm of foreign policy, ideas matter. Kennan’s grand concept of foreign policy was “containment.” Our challenge is to come up with a new vision for a very different era, one that takes account of clear American primacy but also recognizes that we live in an age of globalization characterized by transnational problems requiring cooperative solutions.

Thank you again for asking me here to speak this evening at an event that honors my most illustrious predecessor -- or at least someone with the same name.











Note: The text of this and other statements by Richard Haass and members of the Policy Planning Staff can be found at www.state.gov/s/p.

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