Walter Russell Mead on US Grand Strategy
Weekly Pulse
August 24-30, 2007
Walter Russell Mead, Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, spoke this week at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad on the grand US strategy, in which, according to him, “the role of China and India as part of the new international order based on free trade is crucial in US perceptions.”

Pakistan, he said, “has to re-adjust its foreign policy accordingly. It has to move beyond Indo-centrism. Pakistan’s traditional policy of using its geo-strategic importance to secure support from great powers is not going to work in future, since the United States is not building India as a counterpoise to China.”

He argues, “Pakistan should perceive the end of South Asia as a region of hostility as a victory for itself, and move ahead to integrate in the modern world the way India and China are going. The rise of India makes it unnecessary for the United States to confront China.”

Walter Russell Mead is one of America’s most celebrated writers on US foreign policy. He is on the editorial board of journal, The National Interest, and contributes regularly to periodicals such as Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He has authored a number of books, including Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World (2002), and Power, Terror, Peace and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk (2004), and the forthcoming book, God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World.

US Role in the World

In his opening remarks, Reed looked at the 400 years of world history to suggest a continuum of world power, which, in the 17th century belonged to the Dutch, then remained in the hands of the British until the Second World War, and was transferred to the United States in the post-war era. He said that the three powers followed the same pattern in their “secret plan to rule the world.

First, they developed an open system domestically. Second, they pursued global commercialism. Third, they sought global hegemony. Fourth, they developed an international economic system, where they could secure commercial benefits. And, lastly, they build open and liberal institutions abroad.

The United States, he says, is following the same five-point global agenda. It, for instance, enabled Germany and Japan, which were the main threat to the allies, to be a part of the global economic order where not just the United States but also Germany and Japan could collectively benefit. America looks at the rise of China and India in Asia in a similar positive light.

Pakistan’s Foreign Policy

Pakistan, according to Dr Meed, is a very important country in the Muslim world, and the United States wishes it played a more important role in Asia. “The country has to re-chart its future in accordance with Asia’s foremost emerging reality; that is, the rise of India and China as international partners of the United States in the new free trade-based international economic order Asia.”

Quoting Henry Kissinger, Dr Reed said that “if the end of the Cold War was a bigger development than the end of the Second World War, then the rise of India and China is a development greater than the end of the Cold War.” The lesson for countries like Pakistan, according to him, is that they should re-fashion their foreign policies accordingly.

It would be futile on Islamabad’s part to hope that it could use its traditional “geo-political position” card to win support from China if relations with the United States go sour. That, in Meed’s words, “is not going to happen in future, when the global interests and priorities of China, India and the United States will be compatible.”

He pointed out that the A Q Khan nuclear smuggling scandal had done an irreparable damage to Pakistan’s relations with the United States. “The Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, have no objection to Pakistan having a nuclear bomb, as it removes the existential threat from India. But they won’t accept the opportunistic and irresponsible behaviour on its part regarding nuclear proliferation,” he said. “On the A Q Khan issue, the Democrats are far more vociferous. There is tremendous breakdown of trust, and it would take Pakistan a long time to regain American trust.”

Mead argued, “Since India has not violated this trust, the US-India nuclear deal has gone through. The United States and Pakistan have to go beyond this matter and rebuild their ties…Like with India, the United States is engaged with Pakistan in a number of joint scientific projects, and there is no reason for the two countries not to move forward and come to a point where they can also engage in peaceful nuclear projects such as the Indo-US nuclear deal. However, for that, the two countries have to find ways to leave the A Q Khan issue behind.”

Democratizing Muslim World

While answering a question concerning dichotomy in US policy towards the Muslim world—whereby Washington calls for greater democratization of the region and yet it continues to sustain dictatorial political setups—he was of the view that the majority opinion in the United States currently favours the notion that democratization of the Muslim world serves America’s long term interests.

He mentioned the case of Indonesia, the largest Muslim country, where the United States has supported the growth of democracy. “If Pakistan were a democracy, and developed itself according to its creator’s vision of a moderate democratic country, then we would not have seen the problems that we see today in US-Pak relations. The United States expects Pakistan’s Islamic society to be more democratic and more prosperous.”

According to Mead, double standards are not an American problem but a human problem. For instance, when President Bush made his Axis of Evil speech, he was criticized for branding three different countries together. And when, in response to such criticism, the Bush Administration started dealing with them differently, then it was criticized for practicing double standards; i. e, diplomacy with North Korea, war-mongering with Iran.

US Support to Israel

While answering another question about US relationship with Israel, he said there were many misperceptions about it. The perception that “US and Israel have been hand in glove, and that US foreign policy has been mechanically pro-Israel and that the US has been responsible for all the things Israel has done is simply not borne out by the historical record.”

He noted that in 1948, the newly established State of Israel procured its arms courtesy of the Soviet Union via Czechoslovakia. In the 1956 Suez conflict, Britain and France were Israel’s main arms suppliers and in the Six Day War, French Mirage jets won the war for Israel. “Who gave Israel nuclear technology? The French, over the violent objections of the Americans,” he said.

Therefore, there are significant limitations to the influence the United States exerts over Israel and the notion that cutting American aid to Israel would cause peace to break out was wrong. “People really forget that for Israeli society the defining collective memory is of the Holocaust, when the entire world ignored the Jews, was utterly indifferent to their plight and they were murdered in their millions.

“Israeli politics centers on this truth. Decisions of life and death for the Jewish people are going to be taken by Jews and no one else and that includes the United States of America,” he said. And if Israel needed to, it would shift its great power alliance from the United States to another country.

“If it was in its interests to find new partners, the prime minister of Israel would get on the phone, he would call India. He would call Russia. He would call China. Somebody would take that call. India and Israel actually have a tremendous confluence of interests. And with a strong Israeli alliance, India would immediately become a major player in the Middle East, something which is of interest to India.”