Prof. Harvey Sapolsky, legendary former director of the MIT Security Studies program, has taken the plunge into the big bad world of the blogosphere via the British online publication e-International Relations. Some might question the “legendary” status given the absence of even a wikipedia entry, but they might want to consult the lengthy list of government and military research institutions that have sought out his expertise, or perhaps Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, whom I personally heard little over a year ago offer the deepest gratitude for Sapolsky’s towering intellectual contributions to the study of military organization, national security, and grand strategy.
Still, it remains to be seen how tough he is once the “vast left-wing blog-spiracy” takes aim. I say that more tongue and cheek knowing full well that 1) some might label this blog as part of said conspiracy, and 2) there’s a better than even chance the respective groups caricatured by that phrase might find Sapolsky’s most recent piece – “Rethinking Republican Foreign Policy” – both provocative and compelling. He writes:
Restraint should be our new grand strategy. We are powerful, but have no need to manage global security and waste our resources and geographic advantage in doing so. Most security concerns are regional in nature, connected to us only by the creative rhetoric of our security establishment and those who want us to do their work. Our friends, closer to nearly all of these security problems than we, happily free ride on our eagerness to patrol the globe. Although rich, they consciously under-invest in their militaries, allowing us to carry the collective burden. Their claims about their inability to acquire more forces and better equipment rings hollow. Unless we do less, they will not do more.
America should come home, very soon from Europe and Asia and only a bit more slowly from Iraq and Afghanistan, but home nevertheless. We have natural strategic depth offered by our geography and it is time to reclaim it. There is no need to stand between our friends and their neighbors. Our friends face no great threats that would endanger us unless we act as their protectors. On the contrary, our security is weakened by our inclination to rush to sound of the guns which allows others to assume that we are responsible for solving their conflicts with their neighbors or ending their civil wars. Our rewards for this constant meddling are unfulfillable expectations, new enemies, and misspent resources.
…The adjustments others make to our resignation as the world’s policeman are likely to be very beneficial. NATO is a Cold War anachronism. When we quit NATO as we should, Europe at last will grow a spine. European nations will recall how to develop effective forces for their own protection and mechanisms for their coordination. They will also be a lot less inclined than they are now to support local adventurism on the border of Russia. And when we withdraw from our forward bases in Asia, Japan is likely to have to confront its often downplayed aggression before and during the Second World War which its now more powerful neighbors have not forgotten. With that war and the Cold War long over, it is time for a regional reconciliation.
Oil will flow, pirates will be chased, and Israel will be defended even if we are home. Our claim to being indispensible is wrong and self-deluding. We are better off in a world of adults. If we allow others to assume responsibilities which are rightly their own, they will learn to be more responsible. Best we will not be tied down across the globe trying to be in charge of everything. Our imagined global security requirements are the excuse for too much inaction at home and too much action abroad.
…Fascism is dead. Communism is dead. Colonialism is dead. Islam is in turmoil beset as it is by many internal conflicts and the march of materialism. Geography protects us even in an age of missiles and international trade. Our friends are safe and, if motivated, fully capable of taking care of themselves. Our leadership is unneeded and unwelcomed. It is time to tell the American people that they can safely turn inward. They will be grateful to those who speak the truth.
Though a welcome contribution, this is certainly quite a contrast to most of the positions being offered at the CNAS conference today (with the exception of Prof. Bacevich as Ben Katcher points out), and for that matter, to prevailing foreign policy positions of most of the DC foreign policy elite.
It’s easy to be skeptical of the assumption that Republicans will be the more likely party to embrace this strategy of restraint, especially given the degree to which the party seemed to wed itself to the neoconservative strategic vision and fear-mongering tactics over the past eight years. But perhaps successive electoral defeats will coax the party back towards a Bush I rather than Bush II foreign policy agenda.
— Sameer Lalwani