121. Memorandum From Steven Sestanovich of the Policy Planning Staff to the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Wolfowitz)1


  • Comments on “General Foreign Policy Framework”2

This paper has some of the windiness appropriate to a long-term planning document and I like that, but it’s not very discriminating. It doesn’t make the distinctions and choices that are needed if it really is to drive policy.

1. There is a difference between the justifications and goals of policy. Articulating the nature of the international order to which we aspire is useful more for the former than the latter: it may convince governments and others who have their doubts about us to go along with the short-term actions we take, since our heart is in the right place. But we still have to select the practical objectives for what is, after all, a short time-frame (two years).

2. A revised version of this document should distinguish among different types of objectives: fully-completed accomplishments (to which a President can point in a reelection campaign), accomplishments still underway but with visible progress (to which he can also point), and areas of accomplishment where real groundwork has been laid but no visible payoff yet made. The last category is important (and not just because political opponents may point to it), and a lot of the goals stated in this paper fall into it: institution-mongering, fabric-repairing, and so forth. But they are very difficult from the first two.

3. Given these distinctions, a second draft should probably also consider the ways in which we are—very loosely and often tacitly—willing to trade off among different areas of policy. My own preference, for example, would be to cede some ground in our dispute with the allies over East-West economic policy (where a large part of our agenda is either unattainable or likely to be taken care of by the market) in exchange for stronger and tangible support in other specific areas where they can help us counter the Soviets—whether it’s conventional defense spending, foreign aid, out-of-area deployments, covert action, [Page 471] etc. In other words, this paper may over-focus on the “West” as a whole; we need to consider the specific bargains we will strike with specific partners on specific issues (Glassman calls this idea the “balance-sheet” approach—a good term).

4. This Administration came to power very confident of the galvanizing effects on our doubting allies of American leadership. We probably ought to acknowledge that the payoff has been much less than we hoped in case after case, especially the select three of this paper (Germany, China, Saudi Arabia). It is arguable that each of these three (for powerful internal and other reasons beyond our control) will continue to be less helpful to us over the next two years, no matter how strong our determination to the contrary. If so, we have to have our fall-back positions well prepared; a next cut at this planning exercise should perhaps zero in on these three and compare costs, risks, and benefits of working with them as opposed to others.

5. Finally, planning is not the same as stating your preferences; the chances are quite good that, although we have built a good base in past two years, things will now get worse, not better. It seems to me the following is a fair list of even-money probabilities for six months from now:

Pipeline—stalemate with allies, growing bitterness after US proposals flop.
Lebanon—further Israel-Syria hostilities, no internal stability, IDF settles in as permanent occupying force.
Pakistan—military deliveries suspended due to Congressional pressure and Zia’s disregard of assurances; Paks move toward settlement in UN proximity talks.
China—new steps toward detente with Soviets.
Mexico—transfer of power disrupted by economic crisis, first signs of civil war.
Namibia—breakdown of negotiations for independence; clear Cubans won’t go, period.

Add to this total calm in Poland and the death of Khomeini. Does this suggest we shouldn’t be spinning our wheels on warmed-over Wilsonianism?

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/P Files, Memoranda and Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff to the Secretary and Other Seventh Floor Principals, Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons PW Chrons 10/21–31/82. Confidential.
  2. See Document 117.