Sustainable strategy and domestic dissonance

Much virtual ink has already spilled in discussion of Richard Haass’s “Restoration” foreign policy piece. One of the more disturbing trends that it reflects, along with much of the criticism of it, is the conflation of foreign and domestic policy.

It is not that a foreign policy is necessarily externally activist, or that it does not involve any domestic policy components. However, a truly durable foreign policy, or at least one that aspires to the level of grand strategy, cannot be so dependent on domestic policy, nor should grand strategy be advanced as a way to advance domestic policy positions.

It is worth noting again that George F. Kennan was a political outcast with no real domestic constituency, and that containment did not inherently contain any serious domestic agenda. Even in an era of much higher partisan support for a common foreign policy, thanks to the presence of the external Soviet threat among other factors, a grand strategy predicated on the adoption of a specific domestic agenda would not have lasted long.

After all, the United States is a republic. That the parties should come in and out of power, and have relatively divergent views on matters of economics and public policy should be expected. A foreign policy whose selling point is the long-term, bipartisan adoption of a specific domestic agenda in the absence of an overwhelming external threat has some value as a political cudgel, but very little value as a plausible grand strategy. Continue reading