Foreign Policy Guidelines
Jerry Ralph Curry
Major General, U.S. Army Retired
Essentially there are three pathways along which a nation
may proceed in the conduct of its foreign and economic affairs. The
first is the pathway of “do nothing” and hope for the best. Next, is
the pathway that leads to some form of accommodation. Finally, there
is a pathway that leads to finite resolution.
The finite resolution pathway rests on achieving specific
objectives, which will ultimately lead to fixing the problem—by a
successful resolution or conclusion of the matter or conflict.
Conversely, accommodation is satisfied by a lowering of the noise
level through a reduction in tensions or by simply postponing
conflict and confrontation. We’ll leave the “do nothing” pathway for
another day’s exploration.
The United States and a few other interested nations would like to
see North Korea cease and desist in its development of nuclear
weapons. On the other hand, the United Nations seems to only want to
see the “fuss” over the North Korean nuclear noise level reduced.
One approach is not necessarily better than the other, but each is
different from the other and can be expected to produce quite
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that over the years the concept
of concluding an international impasse with some degree of finality
-- of fixing it -- tends more toward becoming an Anglo-Saxon
concept. That is, English-speaking countries seem to tend toward
seeking a finite conclusion to political or economic problems.
Non-English speaking nations seem to lean more toward—but not
always—some form of accommodation. Again, this is not to value one
approach as better than another.
For example, as best as I can recollect from back in the days when I
was a student studying French, there was no French word that
directly translated the English word fair. This also applies to some
other languages. In the French language there are words that can be
translated as something being legal, just, factually correct or
precise, but no one French word seems to fully embrace the
Anglo-Saxon concept of fairness. Perhaps that is why occasionally
when a foreign diplomat or businessperson shakes hands with an
American who smiles and says, “This is a fair deal,” the foreigner
may, quite properly and with good reason, be bemused.
It may also help explain why the U.S. often seems isolated when
working through the mechanisms of the United Nations. While the U.S.
is striving toward final resolution, our U.N. colleagues may simply
be seeking some form of accommodation. Under such conditions it is
only natural for the U.S. to appear isolated.
At the same time our actions in the international arena should be
consistently predictable to other nations, especially to our
friends. And, where possible, we should take the time to lay a
diplomatic basis for future agreement with other powers, even though
currently we may be going through a period of disagreement and
When U.S. interests can be fully protected by accommodation, the
auspices of the U.N. is the perfect place to resolve such problems.
However, when some form of finite problem resolution is preferred,
such as in the North Korean nuclear matter, we will be forced to
work around the U.N. and through coalitions of nations whose
interests are more similar to ours. But we should never close the
door to eventual U.N. rapprochement.
In some ways it’s like “bull dogging. If a cowboy gets a good grip
on the bull’s horns and turns the head, the body follows. But if the
bull keeps looking straight ahead, he can’t be thrown. Since many
nations in the U.N. prefer accommodation, it is sometimes difficult
to get a good enough grip on the horns of the Security Council or
the General Assembly to turn them toward finite problem resolution.
For example, U.S. interests require a finite solution to Iran’s
development of nuclear weapons. But because China, Russia and a few
others only want accommodation, getting a finite resolution through
the U.N. may never be possible. Worse, if reckless and unstable Iran
becomes a nuclear power, other Mideast nations will feel their
security threatened and will insist that they too become nuclear
powers in order to protect themselves from a predatory Iran.
So since it is not in our self-interest to stand by and do nothing
while Iran develops a nuclear arsenal, and since it seems there is
no acceptable level of international support readily available to
help us achieve our ends, we must look elsewhere for a resolution to
the problem. The recent statements by the President of France in
support of our Iranian position are most welcome and are most
Here it seems that in order to successfully achieve our economic and
foreign policy objectives we will have to work around the U.N. and
build coalitions with nations such as France and Saudi Arabia who
also have Middle East interests and concerns, and who are willing to
join us in bringing about a finite resolution to the Iranian nuclear
problem. If we are successful in building such coalitions, perhaps
we can jointly figure out a peaceful way to get Iran to cease and
desist in its destabilizing development of nuclear weapons.
In any event, we can currently expect little help from the U.N.,
which seems content with merely reducing the noise level of the
Iranian nuclear weapons issue. At the same time, Iran’s
pronouncements and conduct are much too dangerous, erratic and
irresponsible to be ignored. Eventually some type of finite action
is going to have to be taken to contain or disarm Iran.