Without a coherent foreign policy strategy, bad things happen in international relations.
When speaking at universities in support of my book, I tend to open with a few prefatory remarks about guerrilla diplomacy as both an approach to diplomatic practice and a framework for the understanding and management of international relations and global issues. Following that introduction, I usually set out a statement of the book’s main argument, to the effect that if development is the new security in the era of globalization, then diplomacy must displace defence at the centre of international policy. I then outline several essential building blocks of the analysis, such as the ACTE world order model, and suggest some of the implications for public administration and international policy.
In the discussions that have followed my presentations, one question often comes up: how can your program be implemented? How do we get from where we are to where you are advocating that we should be?
I reply that there are at least three prerequisites:
- The rehabilitation and popularization of diplomacy per se, bringing it in from the far reaches of esoterica and closer to the mainstream of public and political discourse by making it relevant and real.
- The radical reform of, and reinvestment in, the foreign ministry and foreign service.
- The formulation and articulation of a grand strategy in which guerrilla diplomacy can be situated.
With the publication of my book and related articles, and now with an extended road show, I hope to be able to contribute in some way to the realization of the first and second goals. It is the third element, however, which I would like to elaborate on.
I define a grand strategy as a unifying, long-term vision of a country’s global values and interests; an expression of where the country is, and where it wants to go in the world; and an analysis of its potential and capacity to achieve its objective. I consider it a core element of statecraft. Few other analysts, however, seem to share that view. As a term, it is largely unknown outside of specialist circles, and is rarely mentioned in the media. Even in academia it is rarely taught, particularly at North American universities.
Canada does not have a grand strategy; the last effort to cobble together such a document collapsed in a smoldering heap after a change in government, and nothing has been offered since. Such a strategy may be under construction south of the border, but the Obama administration has yet to set out anything comprehensive.
All of this, I think, is unfortunate, because grand strategy is an extremely useful concept. Without it, international policy tends to be ad hoc, incoherent, and splattered. Perhaps the only thing worse than no grand strategy is one that is flawed or failed, such as the notorious Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive defence and unilateral intervention. If bad or non-existent, poor decisions are made, lives are squandered, finance is wasted, and insecurity – often in concert with underdevelopment – is advanced.
In the particularly memorable words of Oxford University historian and theoretician Hew Strachan: without grand strategy, policy can become an instrument of war, rather than the other way around.
Well worthy of some sustained reflection, wouldn’t you say?