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Foreign Policy and the Next U.S. Administration

09/18/2008 6:00 PM E51"315
Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT, Director Security Studies Program; Carol Saivetz, Visiting Scholar Center for International Studies,Research Associate Harvard University Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies; Taylor Fravel, Associate Professor of Political Science MIT

Description: After tuning in closely to the presidential campaign, these panelists don't discern worlds of difference in the candidates' approaches to foreign policy. But the speakers convey key concerns and offer words of advice to the next U.S. president.

Barry Posenis interested in the future of U.S. grand strategy, by which he means our plan for achieving and maintaining security and power. Thus far, says Posen, both presidential candidates "largely share the same view on U.S. grand strategy," which is very expansive, with "a long, global agenda for U.S. security goals."

Both sides agree on the continued struggle against terror, containment of rogue states, and a commitment to the spread of democracy. Their disagreements are "tactical, though not trivial," involving for instance the relevance of international institutions, and the role of diplomacy. Posen worries that both campaigns "overlook key problems in U.S. post"Cold War strategy or offer facile answers." Money is a big problem: we've been financing military ventures with so much borrowed money that Posen wonders if our power position in the world hasn't been diminished. The candidates "tend to talk about national security policy as if there are no resource constraints," and if the next president adopts the same unfettered approach, the U.S. risks provoking other nations -- pushing them to act recklessly and build up their militaries. Candidates must join the issue of "whether or not we need to make tradeoffs between solving problems at home and slaying dragons abroad."

Carol Saivetzworries that the next president will usher in a new cold war with Russia. The past eight years have led to a steady erosion of U.S."Russian relations. When Putin came to power, he "wanted to play in the old boy's club," but met with a series of "perceived and real humiliations," from NATO expansion to Kosovo. Because "Russia is a superpower wanna be," says Saivetz, the next president must "craft serious policy towards Russian and not just knee"jerk reactions."

Toward that end, Saivetz recommends the new administration develop a consistent and even tone of discourse with the Russians; keep them in international institutions but "reign them in tightly;" work with Russia on all issues where there's a commonality of interests, such as terrorism; make room for Russia in the negotiations around Iran's nuclear program; and if U.S. missile defense must go on in Europe, at least give the Russians access to sites. "We must stop this tit for tat retail," she says, noting Russia's new interest in Venezuela. The next president must "pull back from the edge; it sounds like Cuba."

The candidates are not really discussing Asia, says Taylor Fravel, but they are surprisingly similar in what they do say. He describes a set of challenges to the next administration, including handling the evolving crisis with North Korea's nuclear program; maintaining stability in Taiwan and Chinese relations; achieving a climate change agreement with China; engaging multilateral institutions like ASEAN rather than bilateral military agreements; and "coping with and accommodating China's rise."

About the Speaker(s): Barry R. Posen serves on the Executive Committee of Seminar XXI, an educational program for senior military officers, government officials and business executives in the national security policy community. He has written two books, Inadvertent Escalation: Conventional War and Nuclear Risks and The Sources of Military Doctrine, which won two awards: The American Political Science Association's Woodrow Wilson Foundation Book Award, and Ohio State University's Edward J. Furniss Jr. Book Award.

Posen is also the author of numerous articles, including "The Case for Restraint," The American Interest, (November/December 2007) and "Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony," International Security, (Summer, 2003.) He has been a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow; Rockefeller Foundation International Affairs Fellow; Guest Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow, Smithsonian Institution; and most recently, Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Posen's current research interests include U.S. national security policy, the security policy of the European Union, the organization and employment of military force, great power intervention into civil conflicts, and innovation in the U.S. Army, 1970"1980. Carol Saivetz has written widely on Soviet and now Russian foreign policy issues and is currently working on a book on Putin's foreign policy. M. Taylor Fravel studies international relations, with a focus on international security, China and East Asia. His publications have appeared in International Security, Foreign Affairs, The China Quarterly, The Washington Quarterly, Journal of Strategic Studies, Armed Forces & Society, Current History, and Asian Survey as well as in edited volumes. His book, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China's Territorial Disputes will be published by Princeton University Press in 2008.

Taylor is a graduate of Middlebury College and Stanford University, where he received his PhD. He has been a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, a Predoctoral Fellow the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, a fellow with the Princeton"Harvard China and the World Program and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also has graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, Center for International Studies

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MIT World — special events and lectures

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