February 02, 2006

Condoleezza Rice Completes Washington's Geostrategic Shift

In quick succession on January 18 and 19, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced major changes in the operational dimension of Washington's global diplomatic strategy.

Wrapped in the language of the Bush administration's campaign to encourage democracy around the world and explained under the rubric of "transformational diplomacy," Rice laid out plans to reposition diplomatic resources from Europe and Washington to emerging power centers in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, and to reorganize the administration of foreign aid by creating the post of director of foreign assistance, whose occupant would coordinate aid programs that are currently dispersed among several agencies and bring them into line with Washington's broad foreign policy goals.

Rice's announcements culminate a major revision of Washington's overall geostrategy that has been in the making since 2004 when the failures of the Iraq intervention exposed the limitations of U.S. military capabilities and threw into question the unilateralist doctrine outlined in the administration's 2002 National Security Strategy. Through the second half of 2004, Washington appeared to function in a policy void, as the neoconservative faction in the security establishment, which had already edged out the traditional multilateralists, lost influence and no competing tendency was strong enough to take its place. That picture changed in 2005 when Rice became secretary of state and moved to fill the policy vacuum by implementing her realist vision based on classical balance of power.

In her January 18 speech at Georgetown University, where she sketched out how U.S. diplomatic resources would be repositioned, Rice left behind the scenario of the neoconservatives and their allies in Vice President Dick Cheney's office that is premised on the ability of the U.S. to achieve sufficient military superiority to allow it to act alone to secure its global interests in the long term. Rather than thinking in terms of a unipolar configuration of world power dominated by the United States, Rice embraced multipolarity and the acknowledgment of Washington's limitations that follows from it.

Nearly echoing the analysis of Beijing's 2005 defense white paper, Rice asserted that "states are increasingly competing and cooperating in peace, not preparing for war." The complex web of convergent and divergent interests occurs within the context of a dispersion of power among regions -- the hallmark of multipolarity: "In the 21st century, geographic regions are growing ever more integrated economically, politically and culturally." Within regions, dominant power centers are rising: "In the 21st century, emerging nations like India and China and Brazil and Egypt and Indonesia and South Africa are increasingly shaping the course of history." The 21st century, in Rice's view, will not be a second "American century"; it will be a global century defined by what PINR has called "the new regionalism." [See: "The New Regionalism: Drifting Toward Multipolarity"]

The shift in Washington's geostrategic thinking from what it was from September 11, 2001 through the Iraq intervention in 2003 could not be more pronounced. It proceeds from the time honored rule of international relations that policy follows power. Rice's analysis was preceded by a change in the Pentagon's perspective through 2005 in which military planners introduced the idea that Washington was entering a "long war" to secure its interests against Islamic revolutionaries and a long term attempt to contain rising regional power centers that would require partnerships and stabilization efforts around the world.

Rice's view is no longer one voice among several in the Bush administration; her growing prominence and influence represent an acceptance in Washington of the reality of multipolarity. This realization brings the United States into line with the consensus among other world powers and that is likely to persist in succeeding administrations.

Now that Washington has begun to accept a world in which the U.S. does not shape the course of history according to its own agenda, but is a major player in an intricate and evolving pattern of cooperative and competitive relations, it has positioned itself to develop strategies for restoring some of the influence that it has lost as a result of the Iraq intervention and, far more importantly, as a consequence of the redistribution of global power that was beyond its control. Such strategic innovation in response to polycentricity is behind Rice's State Department reforms.

Diplomatic Repositioning

Rice's Georgetown speech is a curious mixture of the Bush administration's current ideology -- advanced in the president's 2005 Inaugural Address -- that the U.S. would "seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture," and a statement of concrete measures that would -- if they can be implemented successfully -- represent steps toward a realistic adaptation of U.S. diplomacy in a multipolar world.

Promotion of democracy abroad has been a recurrent theme of U.S. presidents for nearly a century and has always run up against the fact that Washington's perceived interests often require it to cooperate with non-democratic regimes and movements, and to undermine democratic tendencies. It is not to be expected that the Bush administration will close the familiar gap between rhetoric and practice; indeed, in her speech, Rice singled out for praise "good partners like Pakistan and Jordan," neither of which are democracies.

If the democracy language has any concrete import, it refers to the belief in sectors of Washington's security establishment that U.S. interests are best served by market-oriented governments that allow enough popular participation and sufficient independence of civil society groups to dissipate anti-U.S. left and right oppositions. As is the case with every state, the U.S. above all wants regimes that are favorable to its perceived interests. All other things being equal, Washington would prefer that those regimes follow democratic forms. When -- as in Georgia's Rose Revolution and Ukraine's Orange Revolution -- people-power combines with market-oriented and pro-Western leadership, Washington will back the democratic movement. Awareness of that has caused governments around the world to look on Washington with suspicion and to distance themselves from it.

The high concept of Rice's version of the democratization ideology is "transformational diplomacy," which she defines as "a diplomacy that not only reports about the world as it is, but seeks to change the world itself." Here, either Rice is only rephrasing what all states have always done, or she is announcing a policy of soft regime change to replace the hard version of military regime change represented by the Iraq intervention. If it is regime change that she has in mind, it is not clear that a public announcement of a policy to destabilize in order to try to gain greater stability serves Washington's interests.

The significance of Rice's new diplomatic strategy does not reside in its ideological rhetoric, which can be pared away without loss, but in its concrete measures to reposition Washington's diplomatic resources that begin what is likely to be a long term trend in U.S. foreign policy regardless of which political party controls the presidency and what ideology it adopts.

Taking up the thinking of 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's foreign policy and security team, Rice noted in her speech that in light of the probable peaceful future of relations among great powers, "the fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power." Among the threats to U.S. security, she identified terrorism, pandemics, arms proliferation and failed states, all of which can only be countered by cooperation with regional powers and access to trouble spots.

At the heart of Rice's plan to respond to the emerging threat pattern is the redistribution of U.S. diplomats to the rising power centers around the world, starting immediately with 100 and reaching, according to analysts, as many as one-third of the 4,000 foreign service officers during the next decade.

The mission of U.S. diplomacy will also be redefined through a series of measures ranged under the idea of "forward deployment," in which diplomats will go into the field and administer programs in addition to their traditional duties. Regional public diplomacy centers will be created to counter anti-U.S. media, American Presence Posts -- sometimes staffed by only one diplomat -- will be set up outside capital cities, and there will be Virtual Presence Posts -- local interactive websites -- to appeal primarily to youth. Diplomats will work directly on projects to improve health care, reform education, set up businesses, fight corruption and encourage democratic practices.

Diplomats will also coordinate more closely with the U.S. military through political advisors, and the State Department's Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization will have access to up to US$100 million from the Department of Defense to manage post-conflict situations -- recognition of the shortcomings in planning for the aftermath of the Iraq intervention.

Although Rice claims that her revision of U.S. diplomatic strategy is a "bold" initiative, it is actually only a first step toward making Washington a more effective player in a multipolar world, and it promises only limited success. Most importantly, in order to be successful, the reforms will have to be backed by adequate funds, which are unlikely to be made available under the conditions of persisting budget deficits.

There are also questions about how security will be provided for the American Presence Posts, and the effectiveness of public diplomacy has yet to be proven in regions, such as the Middle East, where anti-U.S. sentiment has become deeply entrenched and is bound up with opposition to U.S. policies. Finally, it remains to be seen how much access regimes that are suspicious of Washington's aims will grant its diplomats.

Rice's reforms follow a pattern that has been established by the Pentagon in its redeployment of troops from Europe and South Korea to smaller bases within the "arc of instability" that stretches from East Africa through Central Asia. That policy has been limited by failures to gain access when Washington has provoked hostility from local regimes, such as Eritrea's and Uzbekistan's. The same problem is likely to come up when Rice's strategy is implemented.

When Rice's reforms are considered as a whole, their most significant components are her forthright acknowledgment that "partnership" is necessary in order to manage threats to U.S. security and the simple shifting of diplomats to emerging regional power centers. What those diplomats will do and how effective they will be will depend more on Washington's positions in inter- and intra-state conflicts than on the mechanics of forward deployment.

Centralization of Foreign Aid

Having laid out her revision of U.S. diplomatic strategy, Rice moved on January 19 to announce her reorganization of foreign assistance to the staff of the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.A.I.D.). Here, the heart of Rice's reform was the centralization of the administration of foreign aid, along the lines of the Bush administration's 2004 restructuring of the intelligence apparatus, aimed at coordinating assistance programs to serve the goals defined in her statement of diplomatic strategy.

In order to bring the various aid programs controlled by the State Department under unified guidance, a new post of Director of Foreign Assistance (D.F.A.) has been created whose occupant will superintend the Office of Global AIDS Coordinator, The Millennium Challenge Corporation and U.S.A.I.D. The D.F.A. will also be the U.S.A.I.D. Administrator, bringing that agency, which has previously been independent, under greater State Department direction.

Accounting for US$14 billion of the yearly US$18 billion U.S. foreign assistance budget, U.S.A.I.D. had been given its relative independence in order to ensure that it would pursue its mission of providing long-term development aid unfettered by temporary changes in foreign policy. Although Rice assured U.S.A.I.D.'s staff that its mission would be unimpaired by the reform, she also made it clear that foreign assistance would be "aligned" with the objectives of her transformational diplomacy.

There is little doubt that Rice does not intend the reorganization to be merely cosmetic and that she wants to diminish the power of U.S.A.I.D. to allocate funds -- the "dual-hatting" of D.F.A. and U.S.A.I.D. Administrator will not serve to bring all foreign assistance under the development agenda, but will gear development programs to serve strategic aims.

Rice's reform plan met with predictable criticism from elements inside and outside U.S.A.I.D. who believe that Washington's long term interests are best advanced by insulating development programs from political pressures. While that argument has merits, so does Rice's view that Washington needs to mobilize its diplomatic and financial resources to restore its global power -- a process that will demand genuine sacrifices.

As is the case with her plan to reposition diplomats, Rice's reorganization of foreign assistance has strict limitations. Outgoing U.S.A.I.D. Administrator Andrew Natsios has identified Congressional earmarking of aid as a greater problem than deficiencies in coordination, and earmarking will not be touched by Rice's reform. In addition, the State Department will not gain control over assistance programs that are currently dispersed among the Defense, Agriculture and Commerce departments. It is also likely that there will be resistances within U.S.A.I.D. to integrating its organizational culture into the State Department's. Again, Rice's reorganization is more a first step than a bold transformation.

Conclusion

Reflecting Washington's diminished position in the global configuration of power, Rice's revisions of U.S. diplomatic strategy and her reorganization of foreign assistance will have limited immediate effect and will be hindered from long-term success by constraints resulting from the likelihood of budgetary austerity. Nonetheless, Rice's reforms are significant because they are embraced by a multipolar perspective on world politics that brings Washington into line with the other major power centers. Her reforms put into place concrete measures that follow from that perspective, even though they are -- as should be expected -- just a beginning.

Rice has made it plain that the new diplomatic strategy is predicated on a sustained effort that will take at least a generation to bear fruit -- another long war as the one envisioned by Pentagon planners. That effort -- even if it were successful -- will not restore the U.S. to the dominating position that it held temporarily after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it might stem Washington's loss of power and even strengthen its position if it were deft at manipulating regional balances of power.

Within the context of the general consensus that world politics are structured by a complex web of competition and cooperation that is stressed by Islamic revolution, competition over natural resources, the eruption of populism, state failure, environmental degradation and the possibility of pandemics, other power centers will welcome Washington's acknowledgment of multipolarity at the same time that they will be challenged by it.

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein



The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of inquiries@pinr.com. All comments should be directed to content@pinr.com.

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