Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Editor’s Corner Summer 2016
Editor’s Corner Summer 2016

Editor’s Corner Summer 2016

In These Pages

We begin our summer issue of Orbis with Colin Dueck’s fine essay on how the next U.S. President can use strategic planning as a way to negotiate the difficult tradeoffs that he or she will face. He argues on behalf not only of a shift in the overall direction of U.S. foreign policy but also a different presidential decision-making style. Dueck begins by describing problems with the national security decision-making process under the current President, then he outlines specific recommendations for an improved National Security Council strategic planning process.

Next, Amit Gupta looks at the way that U.S. demographic changes may affect the future thrust of American foreign policy. If by 2044, as the U.S. Census Bureau indicates, “minorities” in America become a majority, there may be some major reorientations of American foreign policy with a shift in emphasis to Asia and Latin America. As a result, the U.S.-EU relationship may undergo some fundamental changes. Moreover, shifting demographic trends will allow the United States to compete more effectively within the international system and allow it to remain innovative, economically wealthy and militarily effective.

We present two article “clusters” in this issue: one on China and another on cyber security. In our first article for the China cluster, Richard Maher examines the effect that China’s rise has had on the Atlantic Alliance. He contends that the rise of China will most likely reveal divergent strategic interests and priorities among the members of the Atlantic Alliance, with a real possibility that America’s rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific could intensify perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic that NATO’s geopolitical value and relevance is declining.

In our second essay on China, Kai He contends that China’s rise is essentially a bargaining process between China and the outside world—especially with the United States. He discusses two strategies that a rising power can employ to convince the existing hegemon to accommodate that rise: “socialization” and “legitimation.” He examines the way in which China employed these two strategies to reach bargaining deals on the arms control regimes and anti-separatist movements in Xinjiang with the outside world. The author argues that the United States needs to take China’s bargaining efforts seriously in order to achieve a peaceful accommodation with China.

In the first article of our cyber-security cluster, Erica D. Borghard and Shawn W. Lonergan examine the nature of actors operating within the cyber domain: economically developed states on the one hand and private actors on the other. What are the implications of a state’s employment of private actors as “cyber proxies”? The authors argue that states employing cyber proxies are confronted with two dilemmas. The first is “Promethean” in that a state that equips cyber proxies provides the latter with tools that could be turned against itself. The second is that by empowering proxies with expansive political agendas, a state actor risks inadvertent crisis escalation. The authors explore how states can manage the risks associated with these dilemmas and the conditions under which they are likely to backfire.

In the second of our cyber articles, Christopher Whyte observes that although much of the literature on cyberspace and national security has backed away from the idea that cyberwar presents an imminent threat in world politics, there remains great concern about the potential for broad-scoped economic disruption prosecuted through digital means. He discusses the vulnerability of developed states to cyber economic warfare, addressing the possibility that a concentrated cyber economic attack could result in a crippling disruption on a large scale. But in the end, he concludes that large, advanced industrial states are only superficially more vulnerable to disruption than are other types of systems.

Finally, David G. Haglund and Deanna Soloninka discuss the meaning of “Wilsonianism,” contrasting it with the international relations theory of “realism” as a way of understanding the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations over the past two-and-a-half decades. What role does Wilsonianism play in the continuing debate about whether the United States and its Western allies “lost” Russia following the ending of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet Union?

The summer issue concludes with two thought-provoking book review essays. Jeremy Friedman reviews three recent books on China and James Cameron reviews two books that address the future trajectory of U.S. nuclear policy at a critical time.

Looking Ahead

On January 16, 2016, Tsai Ingwen, from the Democratic Progressive Party, won the presidency in Taiwan. The DPP also won its first majority in Taiwan’s legislature. What will be the ramifications for Taiwan and mainline China in this new political era? To address this important question, we are planning a special issue of Orbis devoted to Taiwan in fall 2016. And in our winter 2017 volume, we are pleased to be producing a Special Issue on “Advice to the New President” from a panel of experts representing various disciplines.

Looking Ahead Impromptus and Asides: Shakespeare, the Political Teacher of the English-Speaking Peoples

April 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Shakespeare was not only the poet of the English-speaking people but also their political teacher, as Homer was the political teacher of the Greeks and Vergil was the political teacher of the Romans. Although he wrote long before the Founding of the United States, American politics owes much to Shakespeare, as well. During his visit to America in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville noted that even in the meanest cabin on the American frontier of the time, one found two books: the King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare.

So what could Americans learn from a poet who wrote about kings and dukes and Roman nobles? The fact is that Shakespeare explores a number of themes that have influenced not only British but also American politics: the nature and limits of political life; the effect on politics of Christianity, classical philosophy, and modernity as represented by Niccolo Machiavelli and Francis Bacon; the meaning and practice of statesmanship; the best polity vs. real polities in the form of England, Italy, and Rome; the link between individual character and the political regime; and the relationship among poetry, politics, religion, and philosophy.

The division of Shakespeare’s plays into histories, comedies, and tragedies often obscures the fact that all of his plays—including the comedies—are political, in the sense that they are treatments of the human condition under different constitutions. The human beings he describes seek completion within a political community, whether it be an ancient city such as Athens, a timocratic regime such as Rome, a commercial republic such as Venice, or a monarchy such as England in transition from a medieval polity to a modern one.

As Allan Bloom has written,

Shakespeare devotes great care to establishing the political setting in almost all his plays, and his greatest heroes are rulers who exercise capacities which can only be exercised within civil society. To neglect this is simply to be blinded by the brilliance of one’s own prejudices. As sqoon as one sees this, one cannot help asking what Shakespeare thought about a good regime and a good ruler. I contend that the man of political passions and education is in a better position to understand the plays than a purely private man. With the recognition of this fact, a new perspective is opened, not only on the plays but also on our notions of politics. The poet can take the philosopher’s understanding and translate it into images which touch the deepest passions and cause men to know without knowing that they know.

Shakespeare wrote at a time when an Englishman could consult three philosophical possibilities in seeking guidance regarding the best life for man and the political arrangements most conducive to that life.

In his introduction to Shakespeare as Political Thinker, John Alvis describes these traditions as three roads intersecting in Shakespeare’s England. Two led to the past; the third led to the future. The first road led to Athens via Rome—the guides on this road were Vergil, Plutarch, Aristotle, and Plato. The second road led to Jerusalem—its guides were Hooker, Fortescue, John of Salisbury, Aquinas, Augustine, Paul and the Evangelists, and through the mists of time, Moses. The third was a new road under construction, leading to the modern scientific and technological state of New Atlantis. The guides on this road were Machiavelli and Bacon.

The opening paragraph of Federalist 1 suggests that the United States chose the road to New Atlantis:

…it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide, by their conduct and example, the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force (emphasis added).

But it is clear that the Founders also took their bearings from the other roads as well, especially the road of classical political philosophy. Their choices of pseudonyms during the debates over the Constitution illustrate their debt to this tradition as related through the works of Plutarch in particular.

Here is how Plutarch described his enterprise in his Life of Timoleon:

Using history as a mirror I try by whatever means I can to improve my own life and to model it by the standard of all that is best in those whose lives I write. As a result I feel as though I were conversing and indeed living with them; by means of history I receive each one of them in turn, welcome and entertain them as guests and consider their stature and their qualities and select from their actions the most authoritative and the best with a view to getting to know them. What greater pleasure could one enjoy than this or what more efficacious in improving one’s own character?

Shakespeare’s plays serve the same purpose: to educate his viewers by having them confront a variety of men and women living under various constitutions/regimes. Thus, his plays serve the truth: “minding true things by what their mock’ries be.”

From Shakespeare, Americans learned the relationship between the human soul and political constitutions. The Greeks divided the human soul into three parts: nous, the intellective, reasoning part of the soul; thumos, the spirited part of the soul, concerned with honor and justice; and epithumeia, the appetitive part of the soul, concerned with basic human desires and subject to the passions.

For the Greeks, various polities each reflected a part of the human soul. In this taxonomy of regimes, the noetic part of the soul was seen in rule by the one; the thumetic part of the soul in rule by the few; and the appetitive part of the soul in rule by the many. Each form of rule had a good and bad version, the former based on rule for the benefit of the entire polity and the latter rule on behalf of the ruler alone. Thus, the good form of rule by the one was kingship; the bad form tyranny. The good form of rule by the few wasaristocracy; the bad form oligarchy or plutocracy. The good form of rule by the many waspoliteia or a balanced constitution; the bad form was democracy or ochlocracy: mob rule.

This taxonomy led the Greek historian, Polybius, to suggest that all political regimes were subject to the anakuklosis politeion, or “cycle of constitutions.” Kingship—rule by the one on behalf of the whole deteriorates into tyranny. The virtuous few—the aristoi—depose the tyrant, but over time aristocracy deteriorates into oligarchy. The oligarch is overthrown by the virtuous many but a balanced constitution deteriorates into democracy, and the cycle then repeats itself.

One sees a version of the anakuklosis politeion in Shakespeare’s sonnet, The Rape of Lucrece (Lucretia) and his Roman plays. Lucretia’s rape by Sextus Tarquinius, son of the last Roman king, leads to her suicide, which in turn compels the aristocrats to expel the Tarquins and establish the Republic. In Coriolanus, we see a timocratic regime that is nonetheless at war with itself. Julius Caesar overthrows the republic and after his assassination, his adopted son, Gaius Octavius, now Caesar Augustus, defeats Antony and other leading men to establish a cosmopolitan empire, the decline of which we see inTitus Andronicus.

What the American people in general and the Founders in particular learned from Shakespeare’s Rome was the instability of democracy, which served the passions, not the reason of the people; the dangers of demagogues; the importance of the rule of law; and the necessity of institutions—in this case the Constitution—to tame the ambition of great men while tamping down the passions of the people.

Thus, this warning against demagogues from Federalist 71:

There are some who would be inclined to regard the servile pliancy of the executive to a prevailing current, either in the community or in the legislature, as its best recommendation. But such men entertain very crude notions, as well of the purposes for which government was instituted, as of the true means by which the public happiness may be promoted. The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they intrust (sic) the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests. It is a just observation, that the people commonly intend the PUBLIC GOOD. This often applies to their very errors. But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of promoting it” (emphasis in the original).

Shakespeare taught the English-speaking world the deficiencies of most polities, suggesting thereby how deficient constitutions can be improved. The timocratic Roman Republic of Coriolanus is full of men motivated by thumos but deficient in other characteristics. The commercial republic of Venice feeds the epithumeia of its citizens but thumetic men are lacking; this means that the Venetians must depend on outsiders, such as Othello—who do not share their religion—to defend the city. The Vienna ofMeasure for Measure is a city of extremes: it is characterized by bordellos and convents. It is a city that needs to be taught moderation.

And this most of all is what America seems to have learned from Shakespeare: that a balanced constitution that accommodates the souls of all of its citizens and moderation are necessary for a healthy polity. By working through the entirety of partial, partisan regimes, Shakespeare’s readers and audiences can get a sense of the best practicable regime. And as we survey the world today, that best practicable regime appears to be the American Republic.