Economic Strategy and National Security: A Next Generation Approach

By Patrick J. DeSouza | Go to book overview

for people and the media to focus on foreign policy and understand what they are looking at.

Finally, a third option: find a new enemy and use "rally round the flag" rhetoric to get the attention of the media and the American people. Take China, a tempting target for demonization because its system of values deviates from our own, especially with regard to human rights. This is a path fraught with danger--treat someone as an enemy and you may well create one.

A better candidate for enemy status is a nexus of new threats-- rogue states, terrorism, international crime and drug trafficking, the spread of weapons of mass destruction. This presents its own problems: how to make the case without terrifying people; how to sound resolute without over-promising; how to put a face on a diverse and complex problem. Consider Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program. It isn't hard to paint Saddam as the mother of all villains, or his chemical and biological weapons as a grave threat to our security. But if at the end of the day Saddam is still standing and his arsenal still intact, the result is a gap between words and deeds that will leave people disquieted and disconnected--even if in fact, a policy of containment does just fine in preserving our vital national interests.

This is an especially challenging time to be in the business of communicating foreign policy. Simply put, the challenge is to help make sense of a radically new world to the American people. To explain why it is so important that America continue to play a leading role in that world--why it will make a tangible difference in peoples' lives. To convince wary taxpayers that money spent on international affairs is not money wasted. In short, to shed some light on just what America's mission is in the world at a time when that mission is changing, our country is changing and the world is changing faster and more profoundly than ever before. It's an interesting story--and if we tell it right, we just may find that it has a very large audience.


Notes
1.
See, e.g., Beinart, "An Illusion for Our Time," The New Republic, October 20, 1997. For example, merchandise exports by industrialized countries were 13 percent of GDP in 1913 versus 14 percent in 1992.

-86-

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