At a JST Breakfast Meeting, CSIS’s John Hamre Leads a Discussion of US Foreign Policy in 2022
On January 28, the Jerusalem Strategic Tribune held the first of its small group breakfast meetings in Washington’s Metropolitan Club. The Tribune intends to bring together its essayists and columnists for wide-ranging discussions on international affairs, on a not-for-attribution basis. Publisher Ahmed Charai welcomed the group and introduced as guest speaker CSIS President and former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre who was interviewed by JST Advisory Board Chair and former Under Secretary of Defense Dov Zakheim.
Hamre’s tour d’horizon led to a discussion focused on the technological and economic challenges that China poses to the US. One consensus of the group is that the US should be doing a better job of integrating economic and technological issues into the heart of foreign policy decision-making. The composition of National Security Council still reflects its Cold War origins; the NSC doesn’t regularly include the Commerce Secretary, the Education Secretary or the US Trade Representative, for instance. The Defense Department has yet to learn how to engage the private sector and especially Silicon Valley in addressing technological challenges. There is little appreciation for the strategic role that trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement played in preventing more outsourcing of US manufacturing to China.
On Russia and Ukraine, Hamre and Zakheim explored the kinds of measures that the US and the Europeans could cobble together to help Putin climb down. Reference was made to the defusing of the Cuban Missile crisis through a US decision to remove obsolete Jupiter missiles from bases in Turkey. On the Middle East, Hamre described how the US got involved there as a theater of the Cold War; today there is little strategic underpinning to US involvement in this region.
The relative roles and merits of State and Defense Departments in the formation and conduct of foreign policy today led to an interesting discussion. While State should be the natural choice to lead on strategic planning, it is not structured to do this. State is organized primarily by regional bureaus which staff the Secretary and other principals and coordinate with the embassies. These bureaus lack operational planning capacity. Defense does strategic planning through its combatant commands, which are outside Washington and less subject to partisan bickering which warps long-range thinking. Reliance on Defense for strategic planning has its weaknesses, however, for instance not playing sufficient attention to the European Union which is not a regular DoD partner.
The JST plans to hold breakfast meetings in Washington and Jerusalem every two months, timed to the release of the print editions of the journal. The next session is planned for late March in Washington.