James Mann is author-in-residence at Johns Hopkins’s School of Advanced International Studies. He is the author of Rise of the Vulcans (Viking) and The Obamians (Viking), which is being published this month.
Imagine for a moment: It is two weeks after Election Day and President-elect Mitt Romney holds a press conference to announce his foreign-policy team, the officials who will guide his administration’s relations with the rest of the world. “Team of rivals!” proclaims Romney. He says he has decided to fill the top jobs in foreign policy with his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination. For secretary of state: Rick Santorum. For secretary of defense: Newt Gingrich. For CIA director: Rick Perry. For national security adviser: Michele Bachmann …
America has been operating with the wrong paradigm for China. Day after day, U.S. officials carry out policies based upon premises about China's future that are at best questionable and at worst downright false.
The 2004 election results carry especially profound implications for the Democrats on foreign policy. John Kerry's defeat means that the party must develop both new voices and a broader vision of America's role in the world.
It will not be sufficient to argue merely that the Republicans have bungled foreign policy. (If that message didn't work this time, amid the chaos of Iraq, will it ever?) Nor is it enough to claim that the Democrats have their own personnel with hands-on foreign-policy experience. How many presidential campaigns will the Democrats enter with the same old spokesmen, like Richard Holbrooke or Sandy Berger, arguing that if they were in office, they could manage things better than the Republicans?
On the face of things, the overseas focus of America's antiterrorist campaign should be on the Middle East. Osama bin Laden is a Saudi. His al-Qaeda network is made up primarily of Saudis, Egyptians, and others from the Middle East. No matter how you define the underlying causes of the problem--whether you blame Islamic fundamentalism, state support for terrorism, the corrupt and undemocratic nature of regimes like Saudi Arabia, the inequitable distribution of oil wealth, America's need for military bases to protect oil supplies, or, in bin Laden's recent redefinition, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--they all have their origins in the Middle East.