Foreign Policy Decision-Makers

Foreign Policy Decision-Makers

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Given the intense political jockeying that is continuing between the President and Speaker Boehner over the fiscal cliff this may well not be the time to address the need for new gun control legislation beyond where the President has gone so far; setting up a panel to report back specific recommendations; or to send forth to the Senate proposed new Cabinet members for his second term for its advise and consent. Obama saw his reported, first nominee for the State Department, Susan Rice, withdraw her name from consideration; his reported Defense Department nominee, Chuck Hagel, beginning to get into trouble; and there is a lack of clarity if Obama's economic policy will be better served in a second term if Jack Lew stay on as White House Chief of Staff or moves over to Treasury or is it better served by bringing on someone even more closely identified with business or finance.                   

The Hagel-Rice potential nominees, beyond their own personal baggage and histories, speak to a larger and more fundamental philosophical issue which needs to be considered. In the making of foreign policy and national security policy, both Rice and Hagel—as well as others in the Administration including the President —frequently have rejected the classic realist approach to international relations. They tend to be more concerned about the moralist/humanitarian/ human rights/ peace-making emphases in diplomacy objectives.  It is axiomatic among these scholars and practitioners to go much longer and further than the realists in rejecting the use of force.   The critique from this position states that one always needs to consider the consequences of failing to use power to solve problems as it could well redound to the detriment of the country.

All of which now opens up the question as to whether and if and to what extent a new wave of office holders in the key foreign policy chairs will affect U.S. policy in the Middle East in general and vis-à-vis Israel in particular. This will include how the U.S. will address the various forces still seeking to express the goals of the Arab Spring; whether there will be a difference in U.S. policy towards the humanitarian tragedy in Syria; whether the demands of various Palestinian groups will trump Israel’s need for security and safety; whether U.S. military interests in Bahrain and economic exigencies in Saudi Arabia will override human rights violations by Sunnis against Shiites; and how this group will balance the fight against terrorist groups with a willingness to resort to extreme measures.

This then makes one more seriously consider the consequences of the personnel shifts being considered within what was referred to by the first editor of Foreign Policy, John Franklin Campbell, as the foreign affairs fudge factory.

read more: