Shadow Government

Romney must campaign successfully, but in a way that will let him govern successfully

Now that Governor Romney can concentrate on the general election, he would be well-advised to consider again the ways that campaigning can complicate governing when it comes to foreign policy. In this, he has no better tutor than the last challenger to successfully win the presidency.

The political process rewards hyperbolic critique of the ruling party coupled with extravagant promises of wholesale change. If candidates governed according to the letter (or perhaps even the spirit) of their campaign rhetoric, then the problems might be acute. However, the prevailing pattern of American politics is a reversion to the mean, the persistence of pragmatic continuity in defiance of flamboyant critiques from the extreme flanks.

There is still room for mischief within the boundaries of that pattern. Sometimes the mischief is minor, as when candidate Obama promised in ever-more-rigid terms to adopt a position on the Armenian genocide that all seasoned experts knew he would abandon once in office -- as he did.

Sometimes the mischief is more consequential, as when candidate Obama promised unconditional leader-to-leader talks with Iran, which led the administration to squander two extraordinary opportunities in his first year in office -- Iran's short-lived Green Revolution response to electoral fraud in June 2009 and the revelations of the illegal uranium enrichment program at Fordow in September 2009. During this crucial period, Obama failed to intensify the coercive diplomacy that they developed later.

And sometimes the mischief is potentially quite profound, as when the Obama administration acted on their campaign belief that the way to leverage better cooperation from the Iraqi government was to underscore our determination to abandon them rather than to follow the Bush practice of hugging Maliki as closely as possible.

So far, Governor Romney has avoided these kinds of self-inflicted wounds. The closest he has come is calling Russia our "No. 1 geopolitical foe," which is a bit of hyperbole that the candidate probably wishes he had phrased differently.

His stance on the Chinese currency also might be a candidate for campaigning vs. governing scrutiny. He has promised to quickly declare it a currency manipulator. While many experts might agree that China has been manipulating its currency, successive administrations have shrunk from making that declaratory step because of concern about the significant repercussions of a trade/currency war that might ensue. Romney might be following a sophisticated strategy of jawboning, however, hoping to cajole China into taking more steps of their own to address the situation so that Romney's threatened step does not need to be taken. If China calls the bluff, however, a President Romney would have a difficult choice to make.

A successful Romney would probably walk back from reckless campaign promises when confronted with the stark responsibilities of governing. But better to avoid the recklessness in the first place.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Shadow Government

U.S.-Europe-Asia: The new strategic triangle

Trilateral dialogues come in many forms. Those that mix allies with competitors can have the deleterious consequences of diminishing like-mindedness for the sake of inclusivity. More successful trialogues combine like-minded countries that can bring capabilities to bear in ways that cut across national and regional divides, creating an effect that is greater than the sum of its parts.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the rhetoric surrounding the U.S. "pivot" to Asia was the perception that Washington, even as it intensified its commitment to trans-Pacific leadership, was pivoting away from Europe, home to its historic allies. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell is working hard to correct that interpretation and transcend regional divides -- by leading a U.S. push to coordinate with Europe on Asia in unprecedented ways.

As he told the Trilateral Forum Tokyo organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Tokyo Foundation today, there are enormous opportunities for the Atlantic allies to work together in a structured, systematic way in rising Asia. These include:

Burma, where a historic political opening can be constructively encouraged (and where backsliding on liberalization can be deterred) through close coordination between the United States and the European Union, including via a graduated loosening of the sanctions that helped spur Burma's military government to opt for managed political change -- and where the allies can bring to bear lessons learned in Europe (for instance, in the Balkans) to support Burma's fragile process of ethnic reconciliation.

China, where U.S. and European concerns over issues like human rights, protection of intellectual property, and rule of law are convergent, and where the West wields much more leverage than commonly understood as a result of being China's dominant trade and investment partners.

Asian institution-building, where no one can teach Asian nations with only a superficial history of multilateral cooperation more about how to build durable and robust regional institutions in the fields of security, trade and investment, and transnational governance.

Security issues, where Europeans have not been pivotal players since the days of gunboat imperialism a century ago, but where a more global Europe must step up its game as competition among Asia's rising and established powers creates dangerous security dilemmas that threaten international security and prosperity.

This is more than just talk: American and European officials now meet regularly on an Asia-specific agenda; the United States and the EU have agreed to roll out a new mechanism for transatlantic cooperation on Asia at the next ASEAN Regional Forum summit this summer. This is an initiative that should be welcomed by Asian officials who overwhelmingly believe Europe punches below its weight in Asia, despite the resilience of European power and ideas in the world, deep economic ties, and the increasingly global impact of developments across the Indo-Pacific region.

The reality is that for too many European nations -- and for too many European Union officials -- China trade policy has been a substitute for an all-of-Asia strategy that encompasses the full spectrum of Western interests and leverages Western ties to powers of great significance, including Japan, South Korea, India, and Indonesia. For their part, American officials until recently have given little creative thought to connecting the two alliance systems that the United States has built and nurtured for 60 years, spanning the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, into a more global arrangement that transcends bureaucratic stovepipes constructed for another era.

Asia's rise is a global phenomenon, not simply a regional one: to take just one example, consider how China's rise affects global energy markets, global governance, and developments in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. At the same time, military modernization and intensifying competition within Asia -- between Japan and China, North and South Korea, and India and China, for instance -- implicates Western powers with deep ties to Tokyo, Seoul, New Delhi, and Beijing.

Power shifts within Asia promise to displace existing balances in ways that will require the United States, to sustain its leadership, to secure every advantage it can in a more fluid environment by working with its friends, many of whom are in Europe. From the Asian perspective, every key power has a compelling stake in Europe's ability to emerge from its sovereign debt crisis and restore economic growth. Despite wishful thinking about decoupling between the West and the rest, the global economy cannot grow sustainably as long as Europe, a primary market for and source of Asian trade and investment, is in the grip of recession.

Given the overlapping interests of Asian and Western democracies, it only makes sense to coordinate much more systematically, rather than relying on a set of outdated regional toolkits unadapted to a more globalized century. Similarly, to the extent that China is both a top economic partner and top security concern for so many countries, it only makes sense for them to use their combined influence to manage relations with Beijing from a position of strength -- rather than succumb to a more national approach that will disadvantage every country that cannot alone match China's clout.

For these reasons, the U.S. State Department's effort to bridge that Atlantic and Pacific communities, if matched by seriousness in European and Asian capitals, promises to pay dividends for Western interests in a more non-Western world.