Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rise of US smart power diplomacy in the Mercury sub-period

In President Obama‘s first term, a new foreign policy strategy has emerged and taken hold, a so-called ‘smart‘ power strategy. This strategy focuses on using both ‘soft‘ and ‘hard‘ power approaches to advance American influence in the world. The policy evolved as a reaction to the hard power strategy of President George W. Bush, notably his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As predicted on December 30, 2011, in the Mercury sub-period of the SAMVA USA chart (Perpetual Union), which began in April 2012, the use of US foreign policy has become more important, along with an increased emphasis on the use a soft power strategy. In part, this is due to the realisation that information technologies are enabling the public to play a bigger role in political decision making in countries around the world, especially where power has been centralised. Arguably, President Obama‘s foreign policy has been influential in bringing about the Arab Spring in early 2011 and the democratisation of Burma in August 2011. The killing of Osama bin-Laden in May 2011 and the use of force in Libya are hard power components of the smart power approach, while the closer cooperation of the USA with ‘strategic partners‘ like China and Russia reflects the soft power emphasis. Interestingly, in 2012, the Republican presidential candidates were all vehemently against this foreign policy approach, favouring a more hard power policy strategy, especially in resolving the problems faced by Israel in the middle east. However, their policy approach did not resonate with the American public and their candidate, Mitt Romney, lost the election to President Obama. Moreover, due to the evident successes of the foreign policy, the celebrity role of Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, has increasingly come into view in the second half of President Obama‘s first term, especially as she gets ready to step down. Arguably, her successor, Senator John Kerry, will bring more traditional eminence to this role. The prominence of Clinton as Secretary of State is now reminiscent of the role of Henry Kissinger in this capacity during the Mercury-Mercury period.

The key moments of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State are helpful to show how the domain of US foreign policy shifted into high gear in 2011, as the Mercury sub-period approached.[1] Meanwhile, the prominence and successes of US foreign policy have been highlighted by Clinton's decision in early 2012 to step down after Obama's first term.

  • Dec. 1: Nominated by President-elect Obama.
  • Jan. 21: Confirmed by Senate in 94-2 vote.
  • March 6: Presents Russian foreign minister with “reset” button, but the Russian word used translates to “overcharge.”
  • July 27-28: Convenes first U.S.-Chinese Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington to advance diplomatic ties between the two powers.
  • Oct. 20: Persuades Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept second round of elections after first round is marked by low turnout and allegations of fraud.
  • Nov. 2: Urges Israel to go further in restraining housing settlements in the West Bank.
  • Jan 12: Catastrophic earthquake in Haiti leaves more than 300,000 dead, presenting challenges for State Department’s Agency for International Development.
  • Sept. 1: Middle East peace talks in Washington bring key leaders to Washington, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but little progress is made.
  • Nov. 28: Wikileaks releases a quarter-million confidential U.S. diplomatic cables, forcing State Department to repair damaged relations with allies.
  • Jan. 4: Death of Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire sparks beginning of Arab Spring.
  • Jan. 13: Warns in Qatar that region’s foundations “are sinking into the sand.”
  • Jan. 26: Public uprisings begin in Syria.

  • Feb. 11: Mubarak government falls in Egypt weeks after Clinton called it “stable.”
  • March 11: Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan presents new challenge for U.S. relief efforts.
  • March 19: U.S.-led bombing campaign in Libya, a multination coalition Clinton helped assemble.
  • May 1: Killing of Osama bin Laden, monitored in real time by Clinton and President Obama
  • Oct. 20: Moammar Gadhafi captured and killed in Libya.
  • Dec. 1: Meets dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma.
  • April 24: Clinton is named in Time magazine’s list of world’s 100 most influential people.
  • May 5: Ties Madeleine Albright’s record for most countries visited with trip to Bangladesh, her 96th country.
  • May 18: First U.S. ambassador to Burma since 1990 named, and bans eased on business investment there.
  • January 21: Hillary Clinton steps down as US Secretary of State and is replaced by Senator John Kerry.
Hillary Clinton's diplomatic legacy
Analysts have pointed out that "Clinton's to pull allies and even adversaries into more and deeper alliances so that as the world turns, U.S. values and interests are advanced." Clinton herself has stated "We want a seat at every table that has the potential for being a partnership to solve problems." She added "I think it's a smart but necessary approach in the 21st century, where we are all so networked and where we don't have the luxury of picking and choosing. We have to be engaged everywhere". One analyst noted that Clinton restored "diplomacy that's so sure-footed, you don't notice."[2] Other observers have noted her diplomatic and political success.[3]  Some have emphasised her approach to "look at diplomacy through innovation and the eyes of the people...Clinton approach has been nothing but contagious, pushing governments around the globe to embrace technology and social media tools to different degrees...Ediplomacy is certainly an area where innovation – rather then technology, per se – play the central role."[4]

A 'celebrity' as Secretary of State
On December 21, 2012, as Clinton gets ready to step down, CNN offered this verdict on her performance as Secretary of State.
"Anybody who follows Clinton would have some pretty big shoes to fill. Clinton was not just the most popular member of the president's Cabinet for the past four years, she had celebrity status and respect almost everywhere she went around the world."[5]
This is reminiscent of the celebrity of Henry Kissinger, who became Secretary of State in 1973, during the Mercury-Mercury period, and who is credited with inventing "Shuttle diplomacy" and, along with Richard Nixon, carrying out a policy of "detente" (thaw) with Russia and China.

Smart Power

"In international relations, the term smart power refers to the combination of hard power and soft power strategies. It is defined by the Center for Strategic and International Studies as "an approach that underscores the necessity of a strong military, but also invests heavily in alliances, partnerships, and institutions of all levels to expand American influence and establish legitimacy of American action"...According to Chester A. Crocker, smart power "involves the strategic use of diplomacy, persuasion, capacity building, and the projection of power and influence in ways that are cost-effective and have political and social legitimacy" – essentially the engagement of both military force and all forms of diplomacy... In light of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, the Bush administration was criticized for placing too much emphasis on a hard power strategy... Obama's "2011 May Speech on the Middle East and North Africa" called for a smart power strategy, incorporating development, in addition to defense and diplomacy, as the third pillar of his foreign policy doctrine."[6] 

Joseph S. Nye, foreign policy advisor to President Obama, has advanced his thesis that there are
" Two important power shifts [.] occurring in this century -- power transition and power diffusion. Power transition from one dominant state to another is a familiar historical event, but power diffusion is a more novel process. The problem for all states in today's global information age is that more things are happening outside the control of even the most powerful governments. In an information-based world, power diffusion is a more difficult problem to manage than power transition.[7] 
Nye argues that smart power becomes a necessary strategy to cope with such changes in the world of realpolitik. However, the Republican candidates for President in the 2012 primary and presidential debates would have none of it. As one analyst phrased it:
"On foreign policy, the platform shared by Republican candidates for president can be encapsulated in one phrase: the war on smart power... The Republican candidates yearn for another American century."[8]
American Century
Indeed, the American Century was a key objective of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other important luminaries in the administration of George W. Bush. This concept is characterized as the 20th century having been largely dominated by the USA in political, economic and cultural terms.

"The United States' influence grew throughout the 20th century, but became especially dominant after the end of World War II, when only two superpowers remained, the United States and the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States remained the world's only superpower, and became the hegemon, or what some have termed a hyperpower... The American Century existed through the Cold War and demonstrated the status of the United States as one of the world's two superpowers. After the Cold War, the most common belief held that only the United States fulfilled the criteria to be considered a superpower...America's military strength was an essentially naval-based advanced military with the highest military expenditure in the world...America had one of the largest armies in the world. America had one of the two largest air forces in the world. America's powerful military allies in Western Europe (NATO) had their own nuclear capabilities. America possessed a global Intelligence network (CIA).[9]

Clearly, the emphasis here is on the military might of the USA, the hard power aspect of foreign policy.

Evaluating Obama's foreign policy
As described by the State Department, the foreign policy agenda of the US is
"to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community."[10]
This agenda is in alignment with the placement of a powerful Sun as 2nd lord of status on the MEP of the 7th house of foreign policy and the placement Mercury as 3rd lord of speech and action in the same house. 

Some have considered Obama's foreign policy "from Libya to its approach to Syria...[to have] been a disappointment[11], while for others it has been effective.[12]. In January 2012, the following assessment was made "Obama has made steady moves in support of democracy. After treating it like a dirty word in its first year and a half, the administration has returned to a pro-democracy posture not only in the Middle East, but also in Russia and Asia."[13] The smart power foreign policy, which involves a rebalancing of efforts in a new fiscal environment, has received growing acclaim at home and abroad. Some authors argue that "the rebalancing is the most valuable investment in U.S. foreign policy today."[14]  The reelection of President Obama in November 2012 has also reinforced the growing anecdotal evidence that his foreign policy in the first term has been a great success in terms of its agenda of spreading freedom and democracy around the world - as well as maintaining peace - in view of the role of the USA as the "World's policeman".

Prediction for the USA in 2012
On December 30, 2011 the following prediction was made for the USA based on the SAMVA USA chart:
"In April 2012, a change in sub-periods takes place, from the Saturn sub-period (February 16, 2009 - April 19, 2012) to the Mercury sub-period, suggesting a shift in the collective emphasis...As Mercury is 3rd lord and sun-like planet in the 7th house of the chart, from April a shift in emphasis is expected towards advances in high tech activities driving economic developments and increased diplomatic activities of the US government." [15]
Earlier it has been pointed out that the importance of foreign policy has increased during Mercury periods, with an emphasis on securing the freedom of action and speech around the world.

It can now be seen that this salient prediction for a shift in 2012 to an empahsis on US foreign policy, notably in terms of a growing recognition of its success, has been demonstrated to have been realised.

[1] What will Hillary Clinton's diplomatic legacy be? US Today - 5/17/2012 11:43 PM ET.
[2] What will Hillary Clinton's diplomatic legacy be? Richard Wolf, USA TODAY – 17 May 2012.
[3] Hillary Clinton using ‘Smart power‘. CNN - October 27, 2011.
[4] eDiplomacy: Hillary Clinton's legacy beyond 140 characters. Andreas Sandre, Dec. 14, 2012, 1:24 PM.
[5] Obama nominates John Kerry to be secretary of state. CNN - December 21, 2012, 2316 GMT.
[6] Wikipedia entry on Smart Power.
[7] In an information age, soft power wins, Joseph S. Nye, CNN- February 14, 2011, 1917 GMT.
[8] Stokes: The GOP war on 'Smart Power'. Jacob Stokes, CNN - November 21st, 2011, 06:18 PM ET.
[9] Wikipedia entry on the American Century
[10] Mission and Values: United States Department of State and USAID. 2007.
[11] The Top 5 U.S. Foreign Policy Screw-Ups of 2012.Matthew Feeney - December 14, 2012.
[12] Top 8 Foreign Policy Achievements of the Obama Administration.Madame Noire - August 31, 2011.
[13] Grading Obama's Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy - JANUARY 23, 2012.
[14] Shawn Brimley and Ely Ratner (2013). Smart Shift: A Response to "The Problem With the Pivot"
[15] Predictions for the USA in 2012 - December 30, 2011

No comments: