JACKSONIAN AND OTHER RESPONSES: EXTENDING THE CONVERSATION
Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project asked me to respond in greater detail to the critical feedback that the post on Modern Foreign Policy Execution sparked, in particular, Dave Schuler’s post that I linked to yesterday and to a detailed treatise by Kurt Hoglund at The Jacksonian Party. Bruce has kindly put my remarks up in his post “The Difficult We Do Today; The Impossible Just Takes A Little Longer” where he expounds on the need for reform of foreign policy structure to be a task for which we must take the long view but for which steady pressure must be applied. Bruce explains:
“Schuler’s skepticism is warranted, but self-limiting. As we used to say in the Marine Corps: The Difficult We Do Today; The Impossible Just Takes A Little Longer. That’s not meant to infer that our foreign policy become Marine-like in spirit, but to suggest that focus and organization coupled with faith in mission will overcome.
….I believe that although difficult, and the impossible will take a bit longer, that one inevitable result of our current troubles will be the development of a flatter interdepartmental foreign policy and execution that will be much more informed, prescient, coordinated, and effective.”
I agree. This is going to be politically difficult because we are proposing taking some power away from senior Washington mandarins – both in the positive as well as the liberum veto sense – and moving it to the experienced field hands who will be collectively given the financial independence ( perhaps by initiating ” foreign policy block grants” instead of line-item departmental appropriations) and tasking authority to accomplish foreign policy objectives. If ever seriously proposed by a president ( even in watered down form), there will be an epidemic of apoplexy inside the beltway and every knife will come out to stop this reform from becoming a reality. Nevertheless, the weight of cultural evolution, technological innovation and globalization will continue rushing forward in the world whether bureaucrats like it or not. Networks are here, friendly and hostile and they must be engaged.
Regarding Mr. Hoglund’s post, the “Jacksonians” occupy an aggressive but “swing” position in American politics according to the taxonomy developed by Walter Russell Mead ( a subject Dave has previously explored in his informative posts here and here). Their attitude might be epitomized by the military writer Ralph Peters – they are seekers of clean and clear victories and have scant patience for the building of nations. Despite my being more ” Wilsonian” than is Hoglund, he has keyed on to the same problem that I have discerned (frankly, the current foreign policy process is going to produce mediocre results regardless of whether the president is a neoconservative adventurer or a dovish isolationist – the bureaucracies pursue their agendas under every president). An excerpt from “Taming the Turf Wars “:
“The topics cited in the Article I cover in Reforming the Intelligence Community, which looks at the massive and internecine ‘turf wars’ as the main problem for the IC and getting the best cross-specialization INTEL available for multi-level analysis and then synthesis of knowledge. This would require not only a complete overhaul of how work is approached, but remove the Agencies from the ‘product ownership’ area and put them into a ‘skills management’ role. By enforcing the idea that certain types of INTEL can stand alone, the entire IC is dysfunctional as there is no lower level cross-agency working system. Thus each Agency gets its own view of the INTEL it *has* but no ability to synthesize across many Agencies and outlooks. Here non-traditional INTs such as economic and agricultural forecasting would also come into play for a full synthesis of necessary knowledge types available. By removing the Agency fiefdoms and making INTEL gathering and analysis a shared Community Level activity, the internecine turf wars are removed and Agencies are judged on how well they manage contributed skills within the Community at large, not how much work product and viewpoint they turn out. This does require moving clandestine ops back to something directly under Presidential control, like the old OSS. They can be sent to gather specific INT needs, but only with full knowledge and approval of the President.”
Aside from my remarks that Bruce has published, the National Intelligence Council is supposed to help in the synthesizing process and was somewhat more aggressive in doing so, reportedly, under NID John Negroponte. Assuming that was the case, that synthesis is being layered on top of the analytical process, like frosting on a cake, rather than occurring in the mixing of the batter by the analytical ” cooks”. There people out in the blogosphere with direct experience working in the IC and the NIC who are better placed than I to comment further here.
A further point on synthesis, I had envisioned these field teams be appropriately IT-networked so as to allow continuous virtual as well as F2F collaboration. Critt Jarvis at Conversationbase, himself a former member of the IC community, responded with a post “Modern foreign policy execution needs mass collaboration“, tying my idea to the principles enunciated in the networked book Wikinomics and to Dr. Barnett’s A-Z Ruleset. Further and deeper exploration of the topic of the intersection of the IC with the tools of IT can be had by diving into the archives of Haft of the Spear and Kent’s Imperative, both of which I heartily recommend.