A Foreign Policy Vision For The Next American President

What Will American Foreign Policy look like in 2016 and beyond?  The United States is confronting a number of complex foreign policy challenges.  If a Republican Administration is elected, the answer is likely outlined in the new book, Choosing to Lead: American Foreign Policy in a Disordered World.

The book was written by a volunteer network of foreign policy experts who believe in self-confident American leadership, known collectively as the John Hay Initiative (JHI).  The John Hay Initiative was formed in the wake of the 2012 presidential election by Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, and Brian Hook, and is composed of a group drawn from the Romney foreign policy team, the Bush 43 Administration, and the Republican foreign policy community at large.  There are more than 25 chapters and more than 30 authors.  I wrote the chapter on international development.  Choosing to Lead brings together several years of work.

A sampling of some of the groups more prominent members include: General Michael Hayden, former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security; Paula Dobriansky, who has held senior positions in both the State Department and National Security Council; and Senator Jim Talent.

Peace through strength is a common theme throughout the book.  While the foreign policy challenges we face are as serious and complex as at any time in our national history, the authors believe that the United States is more than capable of rising up to meet them.  The book starts from the premise that the United States retains a series of key advantages that position us to lead and concludes that the United States should “choose to lead.”

 These advantages include: the ongoing US energy revolution, the world’s strongest military, history’s strongest and largest network of alliances, and system of government for all its faults which remains functional.  This group believes we can and should leverage these assets to insure that over the next 70 years the world enjoys as much peace and progress as it has over the last 70.

Choosing to Lead addresses a range of current challenges including the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Iran, a newly aggressive Russia, and a rising China. The book offers prescriptions for how the United States can respond to these challenges.  The tone of the book is analytical—its purpose is not to score political points but to provide a constructive foreign policy vision for the next American leader.

Several of the interesting ideas that come out of the chapters include:

  • The post Cold War U.S. Alliance system has helped underwrite the rules based global order, and has facilitated stability and economic growth around the world.  There are opportunities to further develop and strengthen relationships with key partners as new challenges and priorities emerge around the world including Japan, Colombia, Australia, and Korea, and India.
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a strong signal of U.S commitment and leadership in Asia.  The trade deal will tie together 11 countries, including Japan, Australia, Vietnam, and Singapore among others that all together account for nearly 40 percent of total global GDP.   It is the United States clear interest to deepen economic relationships and expand trade in Asia.
  • Strengthening U.S. cyber policy and capabilities must be a priority for any new President.  Cyber capabilities in countries like Russia, China, and Iran pose threats to our economy and national security.  The United States has an opportunity to push it capabilities in this space, and assume role of global leadership addressing this emerging global threat.
  • China will present both challenges and opportunities in the years to come. We have to be responsive to emerging military capabilities and ambitions, but keep the door open for opportunities like inclusion in TPP if China is willing to make the necessary reforms.
  • Continued U.S engagement through the multilateral system, including through institutions like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and African Development Bank, as well as our own domestic aid agencies will be crucial for sustaining global economic progress.  These institutions continue to serve U.S. interests, and promote a stable rules based order around the world.

Choosing to Lead is an optimistic book of ideas and proposed solutions.  Ideas have consequences and ideas fill voids.  Come June of 2016, when the Republicans have a nominee that nominee will look to some of the authors and many of the ideas in this book.  If there is a Republican in the White House many of the ideas in this book will be there as well.

Article Published in Forbes.com on October 4, 2015.

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