War on the Rocks published an article the other day — U.S. DIPLOMACY AFTER THE RUSSO-UKRAINIAN WAR — that unintentionally illustrates why the United States is losing influence on the international front. Once upon a time — Okay, I mean in the aftermath of World War II — the United States enjoyed a reputation like E.F Hutton. This is an obscure reference to a once popular set of commercials that featured the catch phrase — “When E.F. Hutton Talks People Listen.” Like E.F. Hutton, who has vanished from popular culture, the United States is becoming irrelevant on the diplomatic front because Washington prefers threats and bullying to diplomacy.
The article at War on the Rocks is a joint-piece by Kelly M. McFarland, Chester A. Crocker and Ryan Conner. I remember Crocker from my days at the State Department. He is now in his 80s and represents an era when diplomacy was still considered a relevant talent when it came to U.S. national security. I am sure that Crocker and his two co-authors meant well, but Good Lord! The substance of their piece shows they have an underdeveloped sense of irony and are living in a fantasy world . This one paragraph sums up their dream world:
The linchpin of any successful diplomatic strategy moving forward will be a special emphasis on multilateral diplomacy, where the United States can use its convening power to build and lead coalitions around mutual interests. As power diffuses throughout the system, such coalitions will be necessary to align efforts and marshal resources. Rather than seeking explicit commitments to stand by the United States in its rivalry with China or any other actor, Washington should prioritize flexible frameworks that do not compromise other countries’ concerns and provide these hedging nations with a positive currency. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called this “variable geometry.” It allows for convergence on issues requiring a concert of powers without requiring adherence to or support for all U.S. priorities. As it already does in forums such as the G7, the United States can organize informal arrangements with other countries on issues like climate change, finance, or nonproliferation, either within established institutions, such as the U.N. Security Council, or outside them.
This is fine as theory. But it certainly does not define what the U.S. has been doing on a daily basis to other nations for the last 30 years. We are accustomed to using the G7 and G20 as a bludgeon to coerce Russia, China and other Global South countries to do what we wanted or else. Over the last 25 years the United States has become Christopher Walken in the Saturday Night Live skit. Instead of demanding “more cowbell”, Washington shouts, “more sanctions.”
You want a short list of countries? Just name the countries that the United States has not sanctioned one way or another. Instead of multi-lateral talks, the Washington way has focused on figuring out how to inflict pain on foreign countries and how to interfere with their economic activity. If you truly believe that is a sound policy then I encourage you to join the Foreign Service of the United States asap. You will have ample opportunity to use an economic truncheon on nations that are not keen on acquiescing to the ways of Washington.
In my opinion, the article reads like a fairy tale. That is why I started off with the phrase, “Once upon a time. . .”
One of the things I enjoy most about doing Podcasts is the chance to meet new and interesting people. It used to be you had to get on a plane or ship and go somewhere to accomplish that. No longer. They are just a click away. One of my new friends is Dr. Nima Rostami Alkhorshid (given his last name I believe his family is from Iran). He lives in Brazil and is a Professor of Civil Engineering and hosts a podcast, Dialogue Works. The man obviously is an optimist. His personal interest in trying to figure out the Russian/Ukraine conflict has led him to track down and snag interviews with most of the usual suspects — e.g. Paul Craig Roberts, Scott Ritter, Jeffrey Sachs, Andrei Martyanov, etc. English is not his native tongue, but he does a great job of asking probing questions.