For most governments, in fact, foreign policy has become a mixture of political risk management and trade promotion. Shaping favourably the domestic politics of other countries is still an ambition of the greater powers, but its labour-intensive nature leaves most jobs incomplete. Nation building at home is the announced priority of all those who have in the past embarked on it abroad. The tendency now is for a more defensive foreign-policy approach.
As world politics becomes more global, leadership priorities have become more parochial. There may be a global power shift going on, but the transition will be a long one, and those gaining a greater share of global power have no obvious plan for how they will use it. In that transition, and during that shift, private forces will have more of a say and more of an impact. Public policy responsibilities cannot now fall only on the narrowing shoulders of government. Companies acting abroad need to go beyond corporate social responsibility and develop virtual foreign policies if they are to protect their interests and the environments in which they succeed. The media and NGOs, who are active internationally, are now expected to assume greater responsibility for the impact of their actions. In the age of privatised power, with so many international agencies of power, we are witnessing the privatisation of foreign policy. For states to deliver effective foreign policies for their citizens their approach has to be even more strategic. Given the need to act so quickly nowadays some may think strategic thinking a conceit or a luxury, but its absence can certainly be dangerous. As economic houses are being reconstructed in the West, and quickly being developed in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America, the need for a strategic perspective has increased.
John Chipman, Strategic Survey 2012 – Press Statement, Londra