Wish Lists From Reflections Over the Holiday Season
What are we hoping for from the United States Department of State under Rex Tillerson's leadership? Several things. We express these hopes acknowledging they do not arise from any insider's information or insight. They are, rather, just wishes arising out of what we would argue to be sane, Christian principles of relations amongst nations.
Firstly, it is fundamental not to presuppose any nation to be a threat, let alone to be an enemy. In stating this, we are not espousing some kind of latter day Quakerism, or pacifism. On the contrary, every nation ought to have a realistic view of possible threats, military or otherwise. But there is a world of difference between competition, on the one hand, and military attack, on the other.
Therefore, it is prudent to follow Teddy Roosevelt's advice: when it comes to other nations, talk softly, but always carry a big stick. No nation should be presupposed to be an enemy--particularly those whose own "stick" is substantial and could do much damage.
Trump has "made noises" which suggest he may be willing to see the United States adjust its foreign and defence policies along these lines. But it is far too early to tell.
Secondly, it is prudent not to get wound up by nations which appear bellicose and a real threat to their immediate neighbours, and even more distant nations.
Historically, the twentieth century illustrated the risks of entering into treaties with other nations, sometimes far distant nations, that involve mutual defence commitments. The senseless slaughter of World War I shows the risks of such military and political alliances. Rather, every nation should be encouraged to be responsible for their its own defence and discouraged from relying upon good old Uncle Sam to come to its rescue should it be attacked.
Therefore, we would argue, it is high time mutual defence treaties such as NATO were dissolved. All western nations ought to take responsibility for maintaining their own defence--even as strictly neutral Switzerland has done for many years. We believe Trump is right on the money when he argues that European and Nato nations need to start paying up for their own defence, instead of looking to the United States to maintain military equipment and military bases in Europe. The same arguments carry water with respect to Japan, Asia, and the Pacific.
Thirdly, as far as possible, a clear demarcation needs to be made between offensive military capability, and defensive technology. When it comes to defensive technologies, there should be a willingness to consider selling the technology and capability to any non-aligned nation seeking to defend itself. Hence the prudence and wisdom of providing (one hopes, selling) technology such as missile interception capability to the Baltic States and former Russian and Eastern European states. Obama's cancellation of this programme was, and will remain, deplorable.
Is China a "threat" to the United States? Is Russia a "threat" to the US? To see the world in such categories is to risk creating the very monster one hopes never to see. Vlad the Impaler, whatever his foibles and follies, ought not to be cast as an enemy--unless and until he proves it to be the case. Therefore, it would be better to talk softly and realistically, even whilst carrying a big stick.
Maybe there will be opportunities for just such a reset under the Trump administration. The US Defence Department ought to become true to it's name: an arm of government existing solely for the purpose of defending the United States from armed, military attacks. It ought to wind back the policies and ideas which would have the United States play the role of "leader of the Free World", or would view the the nation's military capability as the end of the spear pushing and prodding other nations into some kind of universal fake humanitarianism.
It will be interesting to see just what kind of break from the old policies the new administration may make. Or, whether it will end up to be "business as usual". Does the new President have a view? Who would know. Sooner or later Trump will need to get way beyond "tweeting" to the world. We candidly admit that we have no idea what US foreign policy will turn out to be. Does anyone?
In the meantime, we maintain a modicum of hope that we may yet see a positive paradigm shift from the new administration.