The Princeton Project on National Security
The final report of the Princeton Project was published on September 27, 2006. It is an important work and adds substantially to the National Security debate. On a cursory first pass, there is much I do agree with in this final report. However, there are some things that for certain these brainiacs remain clueless on. In is my intent to peruse this final report and post my responses to it from time to time.
The most comprehensive effort to date has been the Princeton Project, a two-year exercise in bipartisan policy-making based at the university of that name, drawing on a 400-strong brains trust made up of some of the West’s brightest strategic thinkers. The result is a report published last week entitled “Forging a world of liberty under law–US national security in the 21st century”, which lays out a roadmap. It is worth examining not just because of its provenance–its honorary godparents were George Shultz Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, and Tony Lake, Bill Clinton’s national security adviser–but because of the interest it is exciting in Congress and in the policy boiler-rooms run by some of the potential candidates for 2008.
One of the first recommendations is for Washington to dump the war on terror” as its central organising principle and instead “function like a Swiss army knife able to deploy different tools for different situations on a moment’s notice”. The US was caught looking the other way on September 11, 2001, preoccupied with China. But the same could happen again if the country maintains its single-minded focus on terrorism, the authors argue. The next big threats might not be another al-Qaida attack. It could be a Chinese threat to Taiwan, or an avian flu pandemic, or oil at $100 a barrel.
Meanwhile the Princeon authors urge the administration to drop the phrase “Islamo-fascism” to describe al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, because it is grossly offensive to the Muslim world and therefore fans Osama bin Laden’s dream of provoking a clash of civilisations. Like most experts outside the administration, the writers of this report argue that the route out of oblivion in the Middle East runs, not through Baghdad, but through Jerusalem and it two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict. “For the moment, we have lost our traditional status as a fair and honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” the report argues. It suggests a united front with the European Union to apply pressure on both sides to make compromises.
More controversial perhaps, are the prescription for reform of the United Nations, an institution it declares essentially broken. It not only advocates the enlargement of the UN Security Council with the inclusion of emerging 21st-century powers such as Brazil and India as permanent members along with representatives of the Muslim world and Africa; it also suggests the abolition of the veto over direct UN action in response to a crisis like Darfur. Thus individual permanent members with vested interests would not be able to block UN intervention against genocide and mass killing.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, one of the Project’s co-directors, argues: “If the US announced it believed in the democratisation of the UN, the end of veto on direct action, it would go a long way to restoring our credibility.” If UN reform fails in the face of resistance from the existing permanent members of the council, the report proposes the formation of a “Concert of Democracies” to act as an alternative fount of authority for multilateral global policing.
This event — hosted jointly by the New America Foundation and the Princeton Project on National Security — was a major day-long conference on Capitol Hill probing panels of experts on the challenges of the 21st Century with regards to developing a grand strategy, maintaining economic security, and revamping institutional rules for new threats.
The conference was punctuated by remarks on national security from Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and closed by a discussion on democracy building with Honorary Co-Chair of the Princeton Project on National Security and former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake.
To read the final report “Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, U.S. National Security In The 21st Century” by Prof. G. John Ikenberry and Woodrow Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter, click here.
Video of this conference is available at right, while the day’s agenda is detailed below.