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A plan for action: a new era of International Cooperation for a changing world: 2009, 2010, and beyond.

Seeking to advise a newly elected American president on the formulation and conduct of foreign policy, this study's three co-directors, Bruce Jones (New York University's Center on International Cooperation), Carlos Pascual (Brookings Institute), and Stephen Stedman (Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation), recruited an impressive advisory group of nearly three dozen American and foreign individuals with extensive diplomatic experience. Published last September by Managing Global Security (MGI), A Plan for Action presents both a plan and a timetable for its implementation, all in support of MGI's mission to build "international support for global institutions and partnerships that can foster international peace and security ... for the next 50 years."

The directors assume that American global leadership is either a reality, or at least desirable, and then assert that "the greatest test of global leadership will be building partnerships and institutions for cooperation" that can meet the challenges posed by climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, poverty, disease, and economic instability. In order for the U.S. to achieve (or maintain) this position of global leadership, it must first abandon well defined notions of sovereignty and adopt a new principle the directors label "responsible sovereignty." To that end the United States must accept "obligations and duties" toward other states, which have no comparable obligation.

The directors' plan consists of four separate yet mutually supporting "tracks," specific goals for each track, and all to be accomplished between 2009 and 2012. The first track--restoring credible American leadership--calls for the United States to reject unilateralism. As the implicit example of unilateral U.S. behavior seems to be its 2003 invasion of Iraq, this reader was left to speculate how many appeals to the UN must be made and how many allies must join the United States in order to render its action acceptably multilateral. The authors also call for the closure of the Guantanamo Detention Facility, without venturing to reveal what the United States must do with its current detainees. The track also calls for a doubling of the number of Foreign Service Officers and rewriting the Foreign Assistance Act without specifying exactly how either specifically contributes to a restoration of American leadership.

The second track calls for revitalizing international institutions by making them more inclusive. The G-8, for example, should become the G-16 through the addition of Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, and either Egypt or Nigeria. In order to support the UN Security Council, the authors suggest the United States give up its veto power in the expectation that the other four permanent members will do likewise. They also suggest that Europe and the United States give up their monopoly of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (WB), which is a very strange suggestion because neither has a monopoly. Since votes are based upon donations and approval of actions requires 85% of the votes, both Europe and the United States protect their interests by ensuring their respective donations exceed 15% of the total given to both institutions each year. That provides the United States and Europe a veto of sorts, but any other nation wishing to gain a similar "monopoly" can do so by boosting its contribution to the 15% plus level.

The next track--shared threats--states that the "global agenda ... demands action," yet with the exception of calling for both the United States and Russia to reduce their respective nuclear arsenals, the actions demanded seem to be solely American responsibilities: Sign a climate change agreement; open a World Trade Organization round to benefit poor countries; create an international peacekeeping force of 50,000 with a two billion dollar budget; and establish another senior UN office, a High Commissioner for Counter Terrorism Capacity Building. The United States currently provides a quarter of the UN's general fund and a third of all its funds for peacekeeping, peace-building, and peace-making operations. The call for a standing peacekeeping force calls to mind the 1992 Peace Agenda of Boutros Boutros Ghali, which received very little support from the international community since few states wanted to give the Security Council a standing army--or provide the troops.

The final track--internationalizing crisis response--calls for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement without revealing how this elusive goal is accomplished; commitment of "adequate" (undefined) civilian and military forces to Afghanistan with a "surge" (undefined) of civilians in Iraq; continued diplomatic talks with Iran on its nuclear program (with no identified diplomatic end game); and a regional security arrangement for the Middle East. The latter seems the most problematic, especially given the fact that this reviewer can find no input to the report from Middle East experts who live and work in the Middle East, with the possible exception of a former chief of the UN Development Program. Discussion on North Korea is missing from all the tracks.

All in all, these four tracks appear very Euro-centric and represent the worldview of Western structuralism and institutionalism. While criticizing past presidents for not considering the feelings of non-Americans in formulating U.S. foreign policy, the authors seem to believe the world will react positively if the United States follows their particular brand of benevolent paternalism, in which the United States continues to tell others what to do and how to do it--so long as that is done through consultations, diplomacy, and an abundance of foreign aid. Those who lean to the left of center probably will find this report edifying and enlightening, while those who lean to the right may well view it as just another attempt to lay the groundwork for global governance and to chip away at, if not strip, American claims to national sovereignty. One of the more galling aspects of the report is that every suggestion for every recommendation for every track comes down to only two choices: the way things were done under the Bush Administration or the way things should be done by whomever follows him in office. Never has this reviewer encountered the word "must" so many times in so few pages, and it is invariably applied to what the new president must do if the United States is to have a credible foreign policy.

By Bruce Jones, Carlos Pascual, and Stephen John Stedman

Reviewed by Colonel John Handley, USA (retired)
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Author:Handley, John
Publication:American Diplomacy
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 28, 2009
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