The United States is at a crossroads in foreign policy, similar to what happened in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. There are no overarching foreign policy goals or strategy. Many thought that after the terrorist attacks on 9-11 the US had found its new raison detat by routing out terrorists and the states that sponsored them while promoting freedom and democracy across the world. However, after over a decade of fighting in the “War on Terror,” America has once again because lost in the foreign policy arena. People no longer consider terrorism an existential threat, and they are unsure of the direction America should go.

The United States should turn to history to establish a foreign policy that looks to the future, specifically Cardinal Richelieu and Klemens von Metternich. These two magnanimous individuals understood how to work within the system to produce the best results for their country. Cardinal Richelieu, a French Catholic, led his country during the Thirty Years War, which ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. He willingly worked with Protestants and Muslims if it meant creating security for France. Metternich was just as brilliant as Richelieu; he engineered the détente with France and the Conference of Vienna. Each of these men knew the international system and how to promote the national interest and international stability. America needs to utilize this as its primary motivation to re-establish international order and stability by promoting the involvement of sovereign states and mitigating the involvement of those states that are not.

This new foreign policy strategy should obviously be dualistic in nature and there are a plethora of rewards and punishments the United States can use to encourage states to act democratically and have at least a semblance of sovereignty. First, America should focus on the positive reinforcements for sovereign states. One possible “carrot” is for America to advocate for at least four new permanent seats on the U.N. Security council. Brazil, South Africa, India, Japan and possibly Germany deserve a permanent place on the Security Council for how far they have come in creating sovereign states. All of them had problems in the past with totalitarianism, autocracy, or plutocracy. Now each of them controls their borders, have functioning militaries/police forces, free markets, protection of basic liberties, and most importantly democracy.

These countries have come exponentially further than many of those countries they tangentially live. Argentina is still fighting over the Falklands. Robert Mugabe runs Zimbabwe like a tyrant. Pakistan is absolute chaos and harbors various terrorist organizations including the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. North Korea operates as a rogue regime that threatens regional stability. America should offer positive benefits for those countries that have worked tirelessly to make their countries work. This will offer an example of what happens when states want to work within the international order and act respectively.

However, the United States needs to also punish those states that do not act respectively, have no sovereignty, and act outside international norms. There are several rogue regimes currently in the world, including Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Zimbabwe. America can begin re-establishing world order by ostracizing these nations and not letting them participate in the international system. The first country on the list needs to be Zimbabwe because it does not pose a security threat, has few allies, and no significant military. America could make an example of Zimbabwe to other rogue regimes that do not have sovereignty.

There are three simple steps the United States can take to isolate and punish them for violating human rights and be a dictatorship. First, America needs to implement a travel ban to the United States and its territories. Currently officials in the Zimbabwe government can freely travel under diplomatic immunity to America for official business. However, the U.S. should revoke that privilege and tell the governments officials that have violated human rights they will be arrested the moment they land in the country. Second, the U.S. needs to put unilateral sanctions on Zimbabwe that will not allow money to transfer through the country or it will be seized. No matter how one does it, when one moves money around the world, it usually crosses through America. No more for Zimbabwe. Finally, America should tremendously pressure the Kimberly Process to name Zimbabwe’s diamonds “conflict diamonds.” Diamonds are Zimbabwe’s largest export and labeling them “conflict diamonds” will seriously hamper their economic ability. Zimbabwe should just be the first country that America shuns in its attempt to rebuild the international order.

Of course there needs to be other policy concerns of American foreign policy: military action, counterterrorism, missile defense, et al. But foremost among America’s foreign policy concerns needs to be the international order and state sovereignty, because without either of those international relations become meaningless.

Treston Wheat :: Georgetown University :: Washington, DC :: @TrestonWheat