tv Great Decisions in Foreign Policy PBS March 22, 2018 12:00am-12:31am PDT
(water crashing) (truck rumbling) - we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. (cannon blasts) (light music) - [eisenhower] in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence. whether sought or unsought by the military industrial complex. (exciting music) - [narrator] america has the world's only global military. no one else comes close. - [roosevelt] in this year, 1942, we shall produce 60,000 planes.
- [narrator] since world war ii, its defense budget has grown larger than that of the next 10 nations combined. that makes the pentagon, the agency american leaders turn to when they want to get something done overseas. preserving us power on the world stage will require a blend of hard and soft power, to better face the challenges of the 21st century. crossroads, america's defense strategy. next, on great decisions. (exciting music) - [announcer] great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association, in association with thomson reuters. funding for great decisions is provided by pricewaterhousecoopers, llp. (upbeat music)
- [narrator] there was a time when the us was a reluctant world power. foreign policy was run by the state department and the us treasury, and largely focused on advancing american commercial interests overseas. - we had american statecraft that largely relied on diplomacy and economic policy. we had secretaries of state that everybody knew their names, we had secretaries of war that nobody had ever heard of. the second world war changed all that. it really brought to the fore a unified department of defense. - policy makers talked in terms of us foreign policy, and defense policy. since world war ii and down to the present moment, policy makers tend to talk in terms of national security policy. national security policy tends to privilege, or to place particular emphasis on the role of the military in advancing us interests.
- [narrator] after world war ii, george kennon, a top american diplomat in moscow, sounded the alarm over the existential threat he saw in the soviet union. paul nitze saw the soviets quite differently. he called for military expansion to counter soviet armament. - [nicholas] george kennon concluded that the united states, after our success in the second world war, could not just draw back. that we had to have these permanent alliances like nato. - this treaty is a simple document. the nations which sign it agree to abide by the peaceful principles of the united nations. - and like our pacific alliance with australia, and japan and south korea, to safeguard the united states, because we had forces overseas, and had commitments and allies overseas, who were willing to defend us. it worked marvelously. - kennon and nitze disagreed. kennon said, play it for the long run, use all the instruments in your foreign policy quiver,
hold the arrows in that quiver. nitze tended to emphasize the military arrows in the quiver. he was pressing more for a more active buildup, in terms of the military. - that was the point in time in which the military institutions became more powerful in american government, than the diplomacy and foreign assistance institutions. (suspenseful music) - [narrator] after the postwar demobilization, american defense spending climbed, as it refocused to counter the communist threat. (suspenseful music) - after world war ii, given this sense of a growing peril from the soviet union, this confrontation of global systems, we set up a series of bases around the world.
(suspenseful music) - we needed a military that was sufficiently large to prevent intimidation by the soviet army, the soviet military, so that the political forces that we generated would have impact, like the marshall plan, the united nations charter. we created an international system that was favorable to our interests. that became the foundation for much of the defense department's planning for 35 years. - [narrator] by 1991, the soviet union, america's primary post-world war ii foe, collapsed. - world war three didn't happen, because the united states and europe were too strong. we effectively deterred any kind of soviet attack. (exciting music)
(people chanting) - [narrator] history did not end after the cold war. (people cheering) (speaking a foreign language) (speaking a foreign language) america's defense strategy would need to adjust to the new balance of power. - those who won the cold war believed that their model had triumphed, and that the western, democratic, capitalist us led alliance would now encompass the globe. that order would become the world order. - already the united nations has become the measure, and the vehicle, of man's most generous impulses. - the imf world bank. the united states remains honored to be one of the founding fathers of both organizations. - that's why we created nato. the powerful military alliance of democracies,
that has guaranteed our security for half a century now. - we've lost 60,000 factories since china joined the world trade organization in 2001. - the us government's position after the end of the cold war was this was a good thing, let's keep it going. the military did get smaller, but the united states really didn't shed any of its major foreign responsibilities. there was a very conscious decision, on the part of george hw bush administration, and then immediately after that, the clinton administration, to define a new set of objectives around american primacy. - some people were more optimistic about the possibility of perpetuating america's unilateral power, particularly its military strength. you had other people who saw, as a more realistic alternative to that, a kind of liberal multi nationalism, in which america would, not surrender its power, but sustain it by using it to build stronger,
multilateral institutions. - i was kinda part of that policy process back then. we expanded nato, we tried to extend democratic systems into eastern europe, we tried, although i think, probably insufficiently, to bring russia into the western system of nations, and that proceeded, i think, fairly well. - and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon. (crowd cheers) - [randolph] i think it was the attack on the towers in new york city, and the subsequent invasions of afghanistan and iraq, when things began to turn, turn outside of that path. (machine guns shooting) - [narrator] as more nations in eastern europe have sought membership in nato, russia has reasserted itself, politically and militarily.
- i don't agree at all with those people who blame nato for putin's truculence and aggressiveness. he's to blame for his own warped view of the world, not the united states, not germany, not france. - russia does, in fact, wish to dominate the countries around it, and then also make sure that democracies don't function, and to try to divide us, and undermine our institutional structure with false information, propaganda, and just generally, practicing a way to divide the democracies. - they're playing what a lot of people would say is a weak hand, very deftly. we maneuvered them out of the middle east, dr. kissinger did in 1973. they're back. they have a seat at the table in ways that probably their military strength doesn't warrant. - [narrator] china is rising as well.
it is second only to the united states in military spending. (suspenseful music) it has made territorial claims in the south china sea, in violation of international law. putting itself at odds with the us. (speaking a foreign language) - it's not an ideological competitor to the united states, in the way that the soviet union was an ideological competitor to liberal capitalism, but it's a geopolitical competitor to american power. - if china's rise continues on the trajectory which they're launched right now, they will inevitably pass us as the largest economy in the world that will be significant. their military capabilities have been growing quite considerably in recent years. - there are some areas where i think we have to
rightly push back against chinese influence, and trying to flex its military muscles, particularly in the south china sea. - their back is the middle kingdom now, and in every regard they're flexing their muscle. they haven't pushed yet for regional or wider hegemony, but the aspirations are probably there. once a nation gets additional capability, it's been almost axiomatic in history that it starts to reach out more. we don't wanna contain china, but at the same time, we don't want china to do more than a safe and stable world would expect and want. - [narrator] and it is not just regional powers on the rise. new theaters of war are emerging. - we've seen another russian attempt to effect the outcome of the election in france. - [narrator] cyber warfare, proxy wars, and non-state actors are playing a bigger role. - the things that could go bump tonight,
i mean the things that are most immediate, and could effect american life and well-being, terrorism, cyber activity, transnational crime. they're not the product of malevolent state power. no, i get it. a state could use any of those, but you don't need a state for any of those to be a problem. that's what's changed in terms of national security. - my fellow citizens, at this hour, american and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from great danger. - [narrator] the 2003 invasion of iraq was over in a matter of days. (people cheering)
efforts to rebuild iraq's national institutions, while countering an insurgency, required different tools. - afghanistan and iraq are both cases where we got involved without studying the problem well enough. - among those who were most enthusiastic supporters of the iraq war, i think they were convinced, or came to believe that there would be no need for nation building after the united states deposed saddam hussein, because there were a lot of people just waiting in the wings to create a functioning democracy as soon as saddam hussein was removed from power. - i was stunned really by the degree to which we knew a great deal about saddam hussein's weapons programs and military. and about the bath party, and very little about the tribal or religious make up of iraq. that meant that when we went into iraq, we didn't have intellectual basis we needed to do proper planning. - [narrator] as us defense capabilities expand,
so do concerns over the militarization of american foreign policy. - clearly, the center of gravity had moved to the pentagon, where it remains. that, i think, has become even more true under the trump administration, where the state department is not only having its budget cut, but it's being downgraded in more subtle ways, as being just a rather sort of useless tool in an outdated world. - now there is an emphasis on downgrading soft power. the trump administration is talking about relying much more heavily on hard power. particularly, military power. i think that is a mistake. then i need to buy more ammunition, ultimately. - after 2001, as we first flexed and used our military power, it became pretty obvious how long the dog's leash was.
we should seek to have a very very strong military, that in the minds of our foe, is unbeatable. part of that involves only using it when you absolutely have to. (guns firing) (light orchestra music) - [narrator] to critics, washington is not taking advantage of the array of soft power tools at its disposal. - there is the saying, "when you have a really big hammer," "everything looks like a nail." you see, in the united states, a tendency to resort to using the military for things that many other countries would assign to diplomats, or to nonmilitary agencies, or even to ngos. such a large share of the security budget is military in nature. it's not so surprising that we use our military as often as we do. - there are only so many situations you can shoot your way out of. most situations are best resolved through diplomacy.
unfortunately, we deprive ourselves of that option by underfunding our diplomacy. it's our biggest mistake as a great power. - how do you go about encouraging the growth of democracy in a place like china? well, you don't do it with aircraft carriers. - you have to be clear about what soft power can do for you. it cannot patrol the seas. it cannot reassure allies, the way boots on the ground can, a formal presence can. so there's a role for both. - we have acted for too long, like we are not the preeminent military global power. i think we are now reasserting ourselves. that's why it's going to be painful, i think, in the next several years, because there's multiple crises that are coming to a head all at the same time. that is not because the united states is the greatest military power on earth. it is because our presidents
have not acted as though we are. - [narrator] some suggest a foreign policy which more adeptly blends hard and soft power is needed. a smart power approach. - it's a combination of how we use our powers of intimidation and our powers of inspiration. i think the powers of intimidation should be viewed like a spice that you put in food. a fundamental power that we want to nurture as a country are these inspirational qualities that america has. - as somebody who spent quite a bit of time negotiating, hard power is my greatest ally at the negotiating table. unless there is a threat, there is a worse alternative than negotiating, there is really not much of an incentive for some of these parties to actually come to the negotiating table in the first place. - our diplomacy is the most important way to avoid having to use our military forces. the old saying about sparta. the purpose of the spartan army was to give credibility to spartan diplomacy.
but the purpose of spartan diplomacy was to avoid having to use the spartan army. - [narrator] balancing the foreign policy toolkit is an enormous challenge. - the remedy to some of these issues is not just pouring more resources in. it's doing it in a way that is going to make the different pieces of our government more interoperable, optimize their ability to interact with one another, and to comb out unnecessary redundancy in systems. - it's easy to appropriate money for defense, because it's almost a litmus test for patriotism. give more money to the troops. that's the obvious one, and we think that if you are offered a higher defense budget, you're more patriotic. well, that's obviously too simplistic. the other part is, there's a constituency for defense expenditures. often, when we think about funding our diplomacy, we get that confused with straight foreign aid. - there's a combination of reasons why congress seems to embrace nearly limitless defense spending. it's a combination of, defense contractors are
very strategic about making sure that they have plants and facilities in virtually every congressional district in the country. they do a great deal of outreach to make sure that members of congress aware that there are defense related jobs in their districts. - for the military, the biggest thing that sustains the defense department's budget, is the economic relationship that it has with the communities where bases are located. the american economy is not used to being particularly engaged with the state department. it simply lacks the domestic constituency that would support its budget. - [narrator] virtually every presidency is marked by its own foreign policy doctrine. an attempt to answer the question of how and when the us should intervene overseas. - what we're really asking about is, how much military force do you wanna use to control what's going on in other countries?
now that part of the spectrum, i don't think that we're as good at intervention as we like to think we are. - i've got no barometer as to when interventions are good, when interventions are bad. (cannon blasts) we're all in iraq. eh, it didn't turn out so well. we're half in in libya. eh, it didn't turn out so well. we didn't go in in syria. eh, it didn't turn out so well. there will be times, in my view, when america has to intervene in places around the world, with all the aspects of american power. - distribution of power in the world says military is no longer your most effective way of coping with the issues we have to deal with. it has proven itself incapable of nation building. we tried it in iraq, failed. we tried it in afghanistan, failed. when we recognize that that is the case, we're gonna have to do something to enhance our statecraft.
- [narrator] political movements themselves gravitate toward different uses of military force. - neoconservatives have the most robust sense of the value of american hard power. neoconservatives do not hesitate to act unilaterally. neoconservatives are unwilling to be bound by other international institutions, whether the un or anybody else. neoconservatives would argue that the aggressive use of military power is needed to promote democracy, and safeguard human rights. - there are a lot of similarities between liberal interventionism and neoconservativism. i think one of the key differences, however, is the faith, or the belief in, international institutions as a, shall we say, a forced multiplier for american military power. they would prefer that that power be exercised with some sort of international legitimacy, or imprimatur, whether it's the united nations, or a multilateral organization like nato,
or something like that. - the realist inclination is one that is inclined to use force only as a last resort, and further inclined to use force, only when genuinely vital interests are at stake. of course, that immediately raises the question, well, what do you mean by vital interests? - [narrator] critics argue the notion that america has the ability to fix every problem dooms the us to a cycle of foreign policy defeat. - intelligence sharing and police work. there is no other way to get at terrorism. the military has a role, but the military can't fix terrorism. because that is so underlying the dynamic as to what creates terrorism. - if it becomes clear that the repeated use of military force is causing us more problems, than it is giving us good solutions, at some point, the political figures and the policy
analysts will say, maybe we oughta find a different balance here. - i would certainly support a robust military budget, but i would also say that intervention should be very limited, very last resort, and only if we really mean to win. - i guess professor nye would say that the substitute for hard power is soft power. but i think i would suggest that the substitute for hard power is creative statesmanship that in accommodating the core interests of important powers can lead to an order tolerable to all. hard power will have a place in creating and maintaining that order. - [narrator] others argue far away conflicts can eventually reach american shores. - if we want to continue to enjoy the dramatic benefits of the so-called liberal world order, a rules-based order that we helped design and develop and sustain after the end of the second world war,
we're gonna have to continue to invest in engaging effectively, actively, in the rest of the world. - my concern is that if america is pulling back, retrenching, stepping down from its role, if you like, herculean role, of upholding the global order it created, then other, less benign forces are going to take its place, including chaos. that's even worse than authoritarianism. - america's vital interests, the interests that touch the lives of everybody in this country, remain connected to a global set of interests. i don't think we're gonna go back into some kind of total isolationism, i think our debate is ultimately gonna be about, how do we think through a global strategy. not whether to have a global strategy.
- [narrator] no matter the lens through which washington chooses to see the world, the only constant is change. the policy answers of yesterday are unlikely to fit the challenges of today. (violin music) - [announcer] great decisions is america's largest discussion program on global affairs. discussion groups meet in community centers, libraries, places of worship, and homes across the country, to discuss global issues with their community. participants read the eight topic briefing book, meet to discuss each topic, and complete a ballot, which shares their views with congress. to start or join a discussion group in your community, visit greatdecisions.org, or call 1 800 477 5836. great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association, in association with thomson reuters.
funding for great decisions is provided by pricewaterhousecoopers,llp. (orchestra music) - [narrator] next time on great decisions. south africa's transition from apartheid to a democracy captivated the world in the early 1990s, but as the celebrations faded, south africa's journey in the post-apartheid years has grown increasingly treacherous. south africa, in the shadow of mandela. next time on great decisions. (light music) (light music)
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