Policy Brief - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

A Conservative’s Prescriptive Policy Checklist: U.S. Foreign Policies in the Next Four Years to Shape a New World Order

| Jan. 09, 2017

As Donald Trump prepares to enter the presidency, many observers at home and abroad seek to anticipate the outlines of his foreign policy. This essay has a different purpose. Based on the rigorous definition of vital U.S. national interests that follows immediately below, [1] it proposes a prescriptive checklist of U.S. policy steps that would strengthen the domestic base of American external actions; reinforce the U.S. alliance systems in Asia and Europe; meet the Chinese and Russian challenges, while improving the quality of diplomatic exchanges with Beijing and Moscow; reshape U.S. trade policy; gradually pivot from the Middle East to Asia (but not from Europe); maintain the nuclear agreement with Iran; and confront international terrorism more aggressively, but with minimal U.S. boots on the ground in ungoverned areas and without nation building. This list attempts to take into account the President-elect’s public statements on foreign policy, but does not assume that all of them will be manifested after January 20. It rests squarely on the application of the Nixon/Kissinger national interest driven conceptual framework that refined American foreign policy five decades ago to current U.S. challenges and opportunities.

Vital U.S. National Interests

Vital national interests are conditions that are strictly necessary to safeguard and enhance Americans’ survival and well-being in a free and secure nation. Five vital U.S. national interests today are listed here, consistent with this austere definition:

  1. Prevent the use and deter and reduce the threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, as well as catastrophic conventional terrorist or cyber attacks, against the United States or its military forces abroad;
  2. Prevent the use and slow the global spread of nuclear weapons, secure nuclear weapons and materials, and reduce further proliferation of intermediate and long-range delivery systems for nuclear weapons;
  3. Maintain a regional and global balance of power that promotes peace and stability through domestic American robustness, U.S. international primacy and the strengthening and defending U.S. alliance systems, including with Israel;
  4. Prevent the emergence of hostile major powers or failed states on U.S. borders; and
  5. Ensure the viability and stability of major global systems (including trade, financial markets, supplies of energy, and climate).

Footnotes

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Blackwill, Robert. “A Conservative’s Prescriptive Policy Checklist: U.S. Foreign Policies in the Next Four Years to Shape a New World Order.” Policy Brief, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, January 9, 2017.

The Author