U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is working to end the 16-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy signed into law by Pres. Clinton that requires gay and lesbian servicemen and women to keep their sexuality a secret. Udall sent a letter to Pres. Obama yesterday urging him to repeal the law and “replace it with a policy of nondiscrimination.” Udall posted his letter as a blog at Huffington Post on the same day former Colorado U.S. Sen. Gary hart posted a HuffPo blog analyzing chronic U.S. strategic policy failings.
“With our nation involved in two major wars, we need all qualified men and women – many with mission-critical skills – to be able to serve,” wrote Udall. He included the text of his letter.
Udall’s blog fell somewhere near the middle of the page.
Former Sen. Hart, however, got top billing for a piece he wrote on the ways the country’s domestic and foreign policy are shaped by U.S. cultural resistance to long-term planning.
the United States has generally resisted strategic approaches to domestic matters or grand strategies for its role in the world. Strategy suggests planning, and planning is something centralized governments do.
The price paid for go-it-alone individualism is dependence on reaction. We are stalwart, dedicated, and resolute in reaction to adversity, especially attacks by foreign forces. We are miserable at anticipation and preparation. The latter requires centralized authority, something Americans instinctively resist.
Last month, the senator-turned author and university department chair began blogging his experience as an international observer for the Afghanistan elections at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs website mattersofprinciple.com. As a blogger, Hart has proven to be a craggy skeptical optimist, which makes for good reading.
We [Americans] prefer to wait until something bad happens — Pearl Harbor, economic depression, or 9/11 — and then we unite in response. That is all well and good, except a heavy price in blood and treasure is almost always paid.
There is the alternative of preparing for the future. For example, it was possible to see a new economic wave called information technology by the early and mid-1970s. We could have trained young people and retrained industrial workers for the new jobs this wave would create. But we did not. Some smart people predicted the Wall Street collapse in 2008. Regulatory steps to prevent it were not taken. And, of course, sufficient evidence of a terrorist attack, including evidence involving airplanes and tall buildings, existed in the early 21st century. No serious steps were taken to prevent it.
We had a strategy throughout the second half of the 20th century. It was called “containment of communism.” It required massive coordination of defense, foreign, and even economic policies. And, arguably, it worked, though at a total price some think was excessive. Thereafter, we replaced that strategy with one called “war on terrorism.” As a central organizing principle for the nation, that has worked less well.
We might consider a new grand strategy for the 21st century…