July 19, 2012 ▪ Interviewed by Viktor Kaspruk
Professor of international security studies at the United States Military Academy Kori Schake told The Ukrainian Week about the shifts in U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama
U.W. Professor Schake, has the United States’ new National Security Strategy shown results?
President Obama has done what he campaigned on: ending the war in Iraq, re-emphasizing the war in Afghanistan, talking to hostile regimes in Iran, Syria and North Korea, and attempting to reset the relationship with Russia. The problem is that he wrongly believed that ending the wars rather than winning them would meet our needs, and that the constraint on our relationships with Iran, Syria and Russia was American policies rather than the attitudes and choices of those regimes.
U.W. Does direct and sustained presidential engagement help ensure successful policy development, implementation, and outcomes?
Yes, that’s true. To his credit, President Obama has paid sustained attention to counter-terrorism policies and continued most of the policies of the Bush Administration in those areas. On alliance relations, I think America’s friends are less satisfied with the President’s level of engagement.
U.W. Although Obama has abandoned the language of the “global war on terror”, he still maintains that the United States is at war with “a far-reaching network of violence and terror”…
I think that’s right. I take it as a measure of just how dangerous America’s enemies are that a president who campaigned on ending most of the counter-terrorism policies of his predecessor has continued and even accelerated most of them.
U.W. Can concentrating efforts in Asia reduce the possibility of China dictating conditions in the region?
I don’t think China is in a position to dictate conditions in the region, nor will the United States under any president allow them to. In fact, what I think we’ve seen in the past two years is the Chinese behaving aggressively in Asia to such an extent that it has reinforced America’s close relationships with nearly every country in the region.
U.W. Now the USA’s basic attention is concentrated on Asia, while Europe is more in the background. Has this strategy justified itself?
I think the Administration is vastly over-selling its “pivot to Asia.” Our allies in Asia want close relationships with us, and much of our economic activity and dynamism is focused in Asia just now, so that does justify more activity in Asia. But that does not necessitate denigrating our involvement with Europe. It didn’t during the Korean War, it didn’t during the Vietnam War, and it won’t as we all work to manage a rising China and a rising India and a rising Vietnam and other emerging countries in Asia. Europe remains home to America’s closest allies and the main contributors to solving the problems we are worried about. By talking about a “pivot to Asia” the Administration created a problem for itself with the perception of diminishing Europe.
U.W. Will this reduce America’s influence in Europe?
I’m pretty confident that America’s influence in Europe will remain strong, for the reasons I just mentioned: our closest friends are there, these are the countries we turn to for help when we need to solve problems, and the countries we care most about being safe and prosperous.
U.W. What is the administration’s strategy on Eastern Europe and Ukraine?
The way the Obama Administration has handled the “reset” of relations with Russia has given the impression of diminished interest in the security of eastern Europe, but I do think that’s a mistaken impression. Ambassador McFaul in Moscow is, I think, the best source for understanding Obama Administration policies, and he’s been very straightforward that while we will work for better relations with Russia, we won’t purchase them at the cost of the interests of our allies and friends.
Kori Schake is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an associate professor of international security studies at the United States Military Academy.
During the 2008 presidential election, she was senior policy adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign, responsible for policy development and outreach in foreign and defence policies.
From 2007 to 2008 she was the deputy director for policy planning in the State Department. In addition to staff management, she worked on resourcing and organizational effectiveness issues, including a study of what it would take to “transform” the State Department to enable integrated political, economic, and military strategies.
During President Bush’s first term, she was the director for Defence Strategy and Requirements on the National Security Council. She was responsible for interagency coordination for long-term defence planning and coalition maintenance issues. Projects Schake contributed to include conceptualizing and budgeting for continued transformation of defence practices and the most significant realignment of US military forces and bases around the world since 1950.
Her publications include State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department (Hoover Institution Press, 2012), Managing American Hegemony: Essays on Power in a Time of Dominance (Hoover Institution Press, 2009), “Choices for the Quadrennial Defense Review” (Orbis, 2009), “Dealing with a Nuclear Iran” (Policy Review, 2007), “Jurassic Pork” (New York Times, 2006). She coauthored “How America Should Lead” (Policy Review, 2002), and coedited The Berlin Wall Crisis: Perspectives on Cold War Alliances (2002), and “Building a European Defense Capaibility” (Survival, 1999).
From 1990 to 1996, she worked in Pentagon staff jobs, first in the Joint Staff’s Strategy and Policy Directorate (J-5) and then in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.