The Devil You Know Versus the Devil You Don’t

Dan Drezner, who has been teasing us with his Kerry-like indecisiveness as to whom to vote for in this election, is leaning ever so slightly toward Kerry.

A few days ago, he asked:

Which is better: a foreign policy with a clearly articulated grand strategy but a f#$%ed-up policy process, or a foreign policy with no articulated grand strategy but a superior policy process?

After getting input from Phil Carter, Kevin Drum, Fareed Zakaria, and Matt Yglesias (links and extensive excerpts in Dan’s post), he’s leaning toward the latter.

Honestly, this choice, even if we take its premises for granted, seems obvious to me. I’d rather drive a crappy car that breaks down now and again in bad neighborhoods, but at least know where I’m trying to go than drive a slightly less crappy car that turns around every few minutes because because it’s nuancenator kicks in. Neither option is all that great, to be sure. But there is at least some slight chance of reaching your destination in the first instance. Indeed, in the second instance, even if you somehow got to where you were supposed to be going, how the hell would you know?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Alan says:

    It’s a fake choice. Kerry is a talker, not a doer — a George McClellan of our time. The option of well-executed strategy will never come to pass; we’ll just cool our heels in the hallways of the UN.

  2. Kerry has a superior policy process? And what exactly would that be, aside from kissing France’s, uh, ring.

  3. Indeed. I am by no means convinced that he offers a superior policy process. A less proactive one, yes, and therefore lower risk–but I am not sure that qualifies as “superior.”

  4. Patriot says:

    You guys are so right. I’d rather sacrifice American money and lives for a guy that used 9/11 as an excuse to invade a country that didn’t attack us. Clarity: let’s get Iraq. Frenchy-lover Kerry probably would have just gone after bin Laden instead.

    Attacking caves instead of cities? He wouldn’t know a good target if it bit him in the ass.

  5. craig henry says:

    Grand strategy with poor process? You just described Churchill in WWII.

    No strategy and great process? That’s the Wermacht.

    Ummmm. Guess who won?