We urgently need a more effective and creative foreign policy World 4.0, otherwise democracies will be defenceless – resembling shells without a core and without a future.
The Chinese Dragon has become increasingly aggressive in recent years ands stronger as the superpower of the 21st century with totalitarian thinking and no moral limits.
Africa’s population is growing by 30 million a year and is expected to grow from 1.25 billion today to 2.5 billion by 2050. 20 million jobs would have to be created each year to keep young Africans in their home countries, but on average there are only four million. Africa’s economic growth is literally being eaten up by the rising youth. The pressure to migrate will thus increase because mismanagement, incompetent governments and corruption will make the best flee. What we are currently seeing on the north shore of Africa is only a prelude to a huge wave of refugees. There are no military solutions to this problem. But there will not be any without the military either. Because security is the prerequisite for all conceivable solutions. Only then will there be investment in Africa. It also starts with legal security and good governance. Help is needed with education. That is still the best way to slow down population growth. What is still missing is a comprehensive and convincing Africa strategy that works. But there are first glimmers of hope: Well-governed African countries with internal peace, government transparency and rule of law are the island states of Mauritius, Seychelles and Cape Verde, Rwanda, Botswana, Namibia, Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco, reports the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
Europe 3.0 is needed
For three decades, the European Union (EU) has been intoxicated by its breathtaking expansion in the East to nearly 500 million people. Time and again, the EU’s peace-building function is emphasised with regard to two wars, but this narrative no longer convinces new generations.
In practice, the EU remains a bureaucratic and administrative institution devoid of strategic thinking. This is a bitter reality today. Let us recall that Robert Schuman proclaimed his revolutionary idea of a coal and steel union on May 9, 1950 in the clock room of the Quai d’Orsay. Coal and steel, the raw materials vital to the war effort, were to be administered on a European scale only five years after the total war. Konrad Adenauer enthusiastically supported this idea. They were still visionaries and Europe-makers with a mission for the future – and today?
There are too many tired euro-bureaucrats and euro- politicians with soap bubble rhetoric lacking creativity, effectiveness and detailed plans for the future. Too much conference routine without substance and future-oriented proposals. Moreover, the real power lies with the European Council representing the heads of the member states. They are the principal decision makers, less so the EU-Commission and parliament. At EU summits, they usually remain locked in their own national interests applying outdated recipes and developing ambitious plans with little substance. They often regard Brussels as a transfer union, which is supposed to plug their financial holes at home. In addition, many EU rules are not respected by the members.
Where is the bold European plan for the future, apart from the permanent call for more money for Brussels, a re- distribution of funds from northern to southern member states and a Green Deal?
Strengthening the soul of Europe through radical reform is needed:
Not just more money to distribute, but much more creativity and effectiveness in the EU and all member states. Reducing cumbersome bureaucracy. Personnel appointments based on qualification, not on national distribution keys. Taxable salaries based on performance. No more Brussels-bureaucracy stipulating numerous regulations, but above all innovative European lighthouse projects. Focus on the nine most important topics for Europe’s future: Rapid radical reforms aiming at more humanity, creativity and effectiveness in all the EU’s activities and member states, following best practice. The establishment and immediate implementation of an EU database of best practices. A globally competitive EU economic order, based on the best examples from all EU countries and the world. In other words: Introducing a Social Market Economy, like the one in Germany, in all EU countries. In addition, a modern e-government administration and low tax rates as in Estonia. Stable pensions like in the Netherlands. A Europe-wide health system like in Denmark. In other words, no small-scale renovation of old second-class systems filling in the financial gaps with over € 500 billion, but permanent and radical reforms aimed at introducing all first- class role models (best practices in the EU and abroad) throughout the EU and member states in just five years in all areas. As well massive joint digitisation supported by large AI and 5/6G consortia and an investment of over € 100 billion, analogous to the Coal and Steel Union in 1950. A more self-confident and credible foreign and security pol- icy, interlocked with NATO and the USA. One focus here is the global containment of the Chinese challenge.
The European Union must improve coordination of its foreign policy toward China and Africa and cooperate in partnership with the USA, Japan, South Korea, Australia and India. The continent of freedom must assume more responsibility, including in foreign and security policy. But security for Europe continues to exist only in alliance with the U.S. in the Atlantic bloc of NATO, because only in partnership with Washington can Moscow’s conventional and nuclear blackmail potential in Europe be credibly neutralized. The world’s best digital education in all EU countries. For example, people are still hardly learning English or acquiring digital knowledge. The consistent reduction of youth unemployment. Environmental protection with heart and mind. A Green Deal is good, but not enough . A Migration Realpolitik with Humanity. Fight against widespread corruption and organised crime, particularly in Italy, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria or Romania.
The EU needs future-oriented goals, concrete visions, actions rather than words. They have been neglected for too long. Only if it manages to maintain its inner fire, the European Union will, 100 years after its foundation, experience the year 2050 with an EU Mission Future Europe 4.0 actively shaping the global future.
Old foreign policy failed everywhere
A balanced overview of Western foreign policy in the 21st century is not only disappointing but catastrophic. Just a few examples:
In August 2021 the Taliban returned to power, after a 20 year long engagement of the West for nothing.
Four major American mistakes became apparent:
At the Petersberg Conference on December 4, 2001, the White House refused to accept the popular exiled King Mohammad Zahir Shah (“Father of the Nation”) in Rome as a symbol of unity and head of state in Kabul. There was a preference for the non-aristocratic Hamid Karzai, who was better known in the USA. When I met him, he looked more like a puppet of the Americans. A missed opportunity to create authority and loyalty.
Above all, Washington rejected strong autonomous and well-armed regions and disarmed the tribes. The U.S. relied on a central government in Kabul, which it claimed could “be better controlled”. But the loyalty of Afghans belongs exclusively to their tribe. I could already see that clearly in 1985. Afghans fight bravely only for their tribes and the local leader. Washington arrogantly ignored this fundamental fact and built the whole operation as a Potemkin house of cards. The idea of an Afghan National Army was built on sand and bound to fail- as expected.
Al Qaeda was already crushed in the spring of 2002. Mission Completed. The quick victory made people exuberant. The Taliban had not extradited the terrorists according to the traditional Pashtun hospitality. In the summer of 2002, peace negotiations with the Taliban should have started immediately from a position of strength, including the Taliban’s main sponsor Pakistan and the influential Saudis and the United Arab Emirates.
But Washington wanted to take revenge on the Taliban for the humiliation of 9/11 and build up a new democratic society. As the number one foreign Christian power in an archaic Muslim tribal society with no democratic traditions. After the bloody Soviet occupation only eleven years ago and the bad experiences in Vietnam until 1975. This design was nicely conceived in the West, but dangerously naive in the mountains of Afghanistan. The reason for the Afghan war on terror was articulated, although it had been more or less solved in 2002 – a misconception that prolonged the war for 20 years.
As early as the end of 2003, the Americans should have withdrawn from Afghanistan with a smart tit-for-tat strategy and an agreement with the Taliban and its main sponsor Pakistan. Instead of an overambitious and long-lasting “nationbuilding” effort (according to a Western model of democracy with its magic formula of free elections), the traditional division of power into autonomous tribal areas and a weak central government with the participation of all groups in Kabul would have made more sense, because it corresponds with the mentality of the Afghan tribes and their pride and desire for independence for centuries. Also, a focus by the West on the strong Northern Alliance in arms, rights for women (see D 31.), education for children, and a geopolitical arrangement.
Pakistan was not meaningfully involved – a must. This was bitterly lamented by Lieutenant General ret Hamid Gul, former Director of the ISI. The Afghan Taliban are Pakistan’s (secret) allies to maintain influ- ence on the western border and prevent encirclement by arch- enemy India. According to Pashtun guest law, Gul (nicknamed “The Godfather of the Taliban“) was part of the secret network that hid his protégé Osama bin Laden for nine years, first summer 2002 in Kutkey village in the north-west, since 2004 in Abbottabad in Pakistan next to the Pakistan Military Academy on Kakul Road, until U.S. Operation Neptune killed this mass murder there May 2, 2011.
NATO did not possess a prudent overall plan, instead there were just individual parts without hinges. U.S. General Dan Kelly McNeill criticized this internally early on. A considerable part of the billions was absorbed like a sponge by Afghan politicians and did not reach the population, so it had no effect. In addition, U. S. contractors with their good lobby network in Washington, D.C. ensured lucrative contracts, some of which were overpriced and often did not meet the needs of the people.
The bloody and expensive operation was bound to fail.
Out of ignorance and arrogance.
Donald Trump concluded a rather shaky agreement with the Taliban in Doha February 29, 2020. The U.S. armed forces and their allies withdraw in July 2021 – a lost victory 20 years later. All this could have been negotiated much better in 2002. A defeat for freedom and human rights. A tragedy for the Afghans.
Following the military invasion by the USA and its allies in March 2003, more than half a million people died, the vast majority of them civilians. 4,500 American soldiers died in the Iraq war. 32000 were wounded. The costs add up to an incredible $ 1100 billion. $ 758 billion of this sum was spent by the U.S. Department of Defense. A mislead US investment in a very rich country in the Gulf. Iraq has oil reserves of $ 850 billion (2019) and can produce up to two billion barrels of oil per year. In 2019, this amounted to a value of $ 120 billion. During its military intervention in this oil-rich country, Washington suffered a high death toll and burned a lot of tax money thereby benefiting two main strategic opponents: Iran was able to expand its influence in its predominantly Shiite neighbouring country with Shiite paramilitary organisations and unprecedented religious, political and economic contacts. Chinese petroleum companies are involved in the big oil business. More than twenty percent of Iran’s is exported to China. Beijing is Tehran’s largest trading partner.
The only real friends of the U. S. in the country, the Kurds, were betrayed by chief administrator, Paul Bremer, when he did not give them back the oil-rich Kurdish city of Kirkuk. Masoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan-Iraq, complained about the U.S. policy of centering power in the capital Baghdad (as in Afghanistan) and dismissing all members of the armed forces and government officials, some of whom subsequently joined the insurgents and the IS.
An endless disaster of Western policy of inaction since 2011. Half of 22 million inhabitants have been displaced, five million of them outside the country. 500 000 dead or missing. The brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad won the murderous war against the insurgents with Russian help. He stands for a brutal dictatorship, corruption and unemployment.
When the uprising against the dictator began in 2011, the United Nations adopted the 1973 resolution to protect the civilian population. The USA, Great Britain and France supported the opposition with air strikes. But the West lacked a clever post-war plan, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Civil war has been going on ever since.
Only Lost Victories
These four examples underscore a complete failure of classical foreign policy. They could be called lost victories or classified as strategic stupidity based on Western ignorance and arrogance.
Our Western foreign and security policy is in urgent need of renovation.
Today we are unable to anticipate and get ahead of events. This is the case in the Syrian war and in coping with the streams of refugees from Africa.
The political and administrative composition of the countries under Western influence were ill-conceived, uncreative and ineffective, see Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vast majority of foreign policy makers and experts remain committed to conventional thinking and outdated concepts. The strategic community describes and analyses problems in papers and conferences – talking instead of acting. Prevention and combating the causes are often called for – but almost never implemented on a large scale with sufficient resources.
Bold peace initiatives are – very rare.
Creative solutions – almost zero.
Good planning – no chance. A structural failure.
We need a fresh policy World 4.0
This type of foreign policy cannot and must not continue. We urgently need a new, more effective, creative foreign and security policy World 4.0.
World 4.0 must be based on today’s classic foreign policy, which we call World 3.0. It consists primarily of reacting to crises after the volcanoes have already erupted. In Sunday speeches, our politicians carry pious wishes like prayer mills and reflexes from a cascade of punched and ba- nal formulas such as: “We advise dialogue and prudence” or “we demand moderation”. This is always combined with the call for another conference or state visit. Beautiful and im- portant, but far from being precise and purposeful largely resembling the holes of an Emmental cheese.
The new foreign and security policy World 4.0 continues to be based on the classic Foreign Policy 2.0, as it was fabulously defined by the French Cardinal Richelieu, the Austrian Foreign Minister Prince Metternich or, as Realpolitik, the German thinkers Hans J. Morgenthau or Henry A. Kissinger. After the brutal war policy of the Middle Ages (1.0).
Still Military Power is Needed
Today we still need a solid foundation of power and national interests. Without sufficient defence capabilities, peace and freedom cannot be maintained and there can be no successful foreign policy. We must avoid “provocative weakness”, as legendary Pentagon strategist Dr. Fritz Kraemer, always warned.
Without the ability to uphold security, everything is nothing; democracies are naked and merely faced with the challenges of totalitarian ideologies and states like Russia, China, Iran or North Korea. That is why we need credible defence capabilities for all democracies backed up by sufficient financial resources.
A policy of peace is always based on sound defence policy as the foundation for stability. This realization might be unpo- pular, but without it, peace and freedom would be built on quicksand. In this case, liberal democracies would submit to extremists and dictators turning into their vassals. Ultimately the flame of freedom would be extinguished in the other count- ries as well. Consequently, the capability to defend oneself and allies is a moral duty. In contrast, pacifism amounts to the nai- ve and dangerous surrender of freedom and logical reason.
The main elements of the new foreign policy World 4.0
Power politics is far from enough. Hawks alone cannot bring lasting peace. The adage “When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” gets to the heart of the matter. An effective foreign policy must not be limited to the military and the supply of “fine American weapons”, otherwise it is bound to fail.
A dual strategy of hard and soft factors offers a promising solution. So far, however, these soft elements have been neglected because they are not visible, such as an aircraft carrier or a battle tank. And no arms lobby stresses their importance. A huge mistake.
We need many new ideas, intelligent options and unconventional solutions, many billions of dollars to fund for their implementation and, in addition, concrete planning and more actions by politicians.
Our worst enemy is a cumbersome bureaucracy, always far too slow, uncreative, too cautious, passive, naive and poorly controlled by ideologists or lay politicians. In this treadmill everything new, active and creative is crushed. People do not want to argue, they just urge prudence and plan new conferences merely producing more hollow words. Experience indicates that frustratingly long processes tend to burn too many funds. New unconventional proposals are not welcome. Instead, cautious wording and muddling through are the order of the day. Just don’t attract attention and stay under cover. Years of diagnosing problems instead of starting a therapy. This course of action is also risk-free for careers. Diplomats and foreign policy experts describe problems perfectly, but do not look for practical solutions. Hardly anyone dares to ask: where, how, when, or about the costs? In the end, only slogans like “We should do something”, but no 500-page plans from A to Z, thought through from all angles. The result is an action vacuum. Planning is superficial and influenced by wishful thin- king. Much input and too little output. That is our Achilles’ heel, which we could eliminate ourselves if we only wanted to.
We must free ourselves from the superficial PR show foreign policy of the pompous G-7 and G-20 summits and conferences. They merely pretend to be events of decision makers. We must move away from a media-staging foreign policy to the active implementation of concrete, welldesigned plans strengthening our position.
Much more Einstein-style creativity should be incorporated into our foreign policy and make it more effective. We need creative, independent minds, not administrators. We need a new foreign policy elite with inner fire and enthusiasm. Ultimately, personalities make politics – good or bad. Creativity must become the condition for any promotion: Only those who come up with intelligent and practical new solutions and help implementing them should be promoted. A diplomat should have developed at least two new creative solutions and implemented one before being appointed as ambassador.
The planning and decision-making process in foreign and security policy is far too slow and inflexible, trying to tackle turbo problems at snail’s pace. We must invest in better planning as well as in quicker and more flexible responses. We should also review and readjust our entire policy’s effectiveness annually. It is important to include all hard and soft factors as well as long-term costs and financing options.
Democratic countries need as many as possible, not fewer allies, in the interconnected world which is being challenged by Beijing. Combined they are stronger than China with its population of 1.4 billion. Even the USA, with its 333 million citizens, can no longer impose its will on Beijing or the remaining 7.5 billion people on earth. New isolationism is naïve, wishful thinking ends up in the loss of American influence.
Planners must always think from the bottom-up. That doesn’t mean observing other countries from the Foreign Office or State Department standpoints. It is not what we want that counts, but what the local population wants and needs.
Massive support programmes for young people and the new elites in crisis regions need to be focused. In each country, we could first collect the greatest talents in all areas via the embassies in a database, offer them free programmes locally or in exchange, thus creating an extensive talent pool. I am thinking of millions of young people from Africa or the Middle East, not just a few tens of thousands. It is estimated that we need five billion dollars a year for this endeavour. The existing programmes are far too small and underfunded.
An additional international mentoring programme with many experts could have an enormous positive effect. Millions of experienced people from the West could thus impart their knowledge and values to talented young mentees and build personal ties and networks. We have a great many retirees whom we could win over for this important task. Here too, we need five billion dollars a year.
For each major area (e.g. Africa, China, Ukraine, Syria), foreign ministers should present a detailed progress report to parliament once a year. This forces bureaucrats to cooperate and present their thoughts and plans to parliament and the public.
We need to involve the numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) more closely from the outset and thus promote creativity like yeast in a dough. Public hearings would be suited for this task.
The European Union could better coordinate its foreign policy towards China and Africa and work in partnership with the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia or India. The continent of freedom must assume greater responsibility in foreign and security policy. But Europe’s security rests on the alliance with the USA, because Moscow’s nuclear blackmail potential can only be neutralized in cooperation with Washington.
The few democracies of the world should better coordinate a fresh foreign policy World 4.0 and work in partnership-teams closer together with clear plans and control. They must assume greater responsibilities for a safer world and the global protection of freedom and human rights.
Reform the United Nations
Criticism of the United Nations is justified; however, one should make better use of this organisation. So far, the UN has been dominated by too much national and unimaginative small-scale thinking without penetrating impact. Why can’t democracies curb the abuse of the UN by dictatorships like China, Russia or Iran? Where are the courage and protests of their diplomats and foreign ministers? Democracies are in the minority in the UN with its 193 members. Any member can apply for membership in General Assembly committees. Too often, the goat is turned into the gardener.
Three examples: In April 2020, Iran was elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for four years. “The UN’s main global policy-making body dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of women,” the Commission’s website states. However, Iran is a terrorist country without women’s rights. At the same time, Iran joined the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), where Tehran now supervises critical human rights groups, such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, in their work within the UN. On October 13, 2020, the United Nations General Assembly elected China, Cuba, and the Russian Federation to the Human Rights Council, three countries that are strangers to respect for human rights.
The new foreign policy 4.0 must place human rights, the soul of the UN and democracies, back in the centre of its activities. With more courage for the forces of freedom. Otherwise, we will lose the systems competition by remaining silent and passive.
We need a broad public debate before politicians take action. Until now, decisions have too often been taken by the executive branch of government without allowing in-depth analysis and extensive debate. Subsequently decisions are quickly passed in the parliaments. Controversial discussions are no longer welcome, although they are at the heart of any democratic opinion-forming process. We should establish a more effective cost-benefit management system, in which the total costs of a crisis are listed and reviewed annually.
We cannot create a sound foreign policy in a sleeping car. Vague time management needs to be reviewed regularly. We need a more accurate idea of when we want to and can achieve what. Everything must be implemented and controlled more rapidly. So far, fine speeches and appeals have been the order of the day. We are losing because we are acting far too slowly without a timetable.
We need more optimism, less cynicism and resignation: The dismantling of the SS-20 from 1987 onwards – which hardly anyone had expected in advance – or the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, German reunification in 1990 and the liberation of Eastern European countries prove: Everything is possible.
- We need a more effective and creative foreign and security policy World 4.0. Sufficient defence capabilities are indispensable. Otherwise, democracies would be unable to defend freedom against its enemies. Provocative weakness would make wars even more likely. World 4.0 is based on a clever dual strategy of hard and soft factors. Combined they are capable of creating a stable foundation for a more effective foreign policy and security.
- The soul of a new foreign policy World 4.0 is composed of the elements human rights, tolerance and freedom. By actively protecting human rights, we must fight against the icy wind of a world without freedom. The torch of freedom is no longer just in New York, but everywhere where free people stand up for our global values. We should implement the codes of tolerance and courageously stand up against intolerance worldwide.
- The interests and needs of local populations are more important than the often unrealistic and desire-driven planning in Western capitals.
- World 4.0 activates responsible elites in partner countries and promotes knowledge transfer and fair trade. Its new elements are maximum creativity, global networks, know-how transfer through mentoring programmes and the promotion of codes of tolerance in accordance with the UN Charter.
- Its creative planning includes detailed specifications on a long-term basis. Moreover, it monitors the success for each important case annually. World 4.0 is preventive, action-oriented and not just crisis management.
- The Holy Flame of Freedom and Humanity must again be held up with more courage. Only then will the liberal West survive in the 21st century. In foreign policy, we should protect the UN human rights charter as our soul. A strong moral backbone, clarity and commitment to truth are called for, an active course of zero-tolerance versus a policy of intolerance. So far, refusing to see, hear and speak up in case of rampant injustice paralyse our diplomacy, inconsequential admonitions and the desire for even more economic exports paralyse our morale. Such behaviour minimizes the West’s trustworthiness. In the competition between liberal democracy and totalitarian states, such as China or Russia, we would not be able to succeed in preserving our freedoms and happiness, nor that of our fellow human beings in the 21st century. We are currently selling our soul in exchange for imports into the countries of bondage and dictatorship. There should be no arms supplies to countries that seriously violate human rights or promote extremist ideologies abroad.
Governments should set up a Human Rights and Freedom Fund to support groups fighting for freedom and human rights abroad with several hundred millions of dollars a year.
In addition, each country should submit an Annual Report on the Global Human Rights Situation to parliament.
Governments could also establish a national Documentation Centre on Human Rights Violations. Such an office in Salzgitter recorded the injustices of the East German GDR. In this office, public prosecutors collected information on serious violations committed by members of government, civil servants and judges in other countries. Individuals violating the UN Human Rights Charter ought to be placed with their family members on a list of all Western countries banning entry for ten years. Their assets abroad would be confiscated and distributed to the victims. This should apply in particular to perpetrators of torture, war crimes, political sentences with prison terms of more than three years and the persecution of religious minorities.