Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Create a Supreme Foreign Policy Court

The establishment of a Supreme Foreign Policy Court independent of elected officials and empowered to comment publicly on the conduct of U.S. foreign policy might enhance the quality of U.S. national security.

When a former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence wonders why the Government is "covering up" the nature of Saudi Arabia's connection to 9/ll, citizens must wonder "What is going on?" Exactly who is "the Government" such that it would exclude the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the key intelligence issue of this century?

The cited report about ex-Senator Bob Graham raises numerous broad questions of current concern, including:

  • Is Saudi Arabia truly an "ally" of the U.S., or are we kidding ourselves? Distinguishing friends from foes is about as basic a requirement for responsible governance as one can imagine, and it is a task poorly executed by leaders who go for the short-term advantage.
  • To what degree is the national security structure in the U.S. an institution in crisis, incapable of identifying key threats to U.S. national security? 

How would we know? Would confusion over who was really responsible for a terrorist attack on the U.S. constitute a wake-up call? Would you be even more concerned if such confusion still existed a decade later and extended to the level of an ex-chairman of the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence? Where is the line between the need to reform the national security "institution" and the need for an "orderly failure" of that institution? How would one go about safely managing the orderly failure...and, one hopes, replacement of such a critical government institution?

Going a bit deeper, if society determined that "orderly failure and replacement of the national security structure were called for, what exactly would need to be changed: the president alone, the access to information for the Congressional committees, or what? Given the performance of the U.S. national security decision-making process at the very top, perhaps these considerations are worth pursuing to lay out a process for shoring up the principle that the leaders of government are responsible to the people and do not have the right to design a foreign policy behind the backs of the American people that sacrifices national security for goals that may be dangerously short-term or focused on the interests of some elite special interest.

How to do this is obviously far beyond the scope of this post. The point is to launch a debate that would raise national consciousness about the issue. For starters, it may be worth considering that the issue of ensuring governmental responsibility to society was considered by the Founding Fathers in the domestic context, way back before the national security state was even a gleam in the eyes of our leaders. The Founding Fathers' answer was a Supreme Court independent of the electoral cycle. How about a Supreme Foreign Policy Court composed of national thinkers, with the majority required to be individuals who have never been elected to national office and are not otherwise employed in public service but with access to all foreign policy information and entitled to comment publicly on the quality of our leaders' decisions?

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