I found this interview with Jake Sullivan:
You may skip the first fifteen minutes.
There is also an accompanying transcript: https://www.cfr.org/event/leslie-h-gelb-memorial-event-common-sense-and-strategy-foreign-policy
It’s worth watching for at least the nominal answers to questions like “what is the purpose of foreign policy? whom should it serve?” etc.
I found the Commandments cited interesting:
One, thou shalt employ common sense. Foreign policy is not rocket science.
Two, thou shalt understand power and use it. Power is power, not hard or soft, not smart or dumb. Through pressure and incentives, make others do what others do not want to do.
Three, thou shalt be wary of the soft power of love and the hard power of marshalled might. One is foreplay; the other is ancillary.
Four, thou shalt exorcise the demons of dogma, ideology, politics, and arrogance.
Five, thou shalt exalt the virtues of pragmatism, realism, moderation, and competence. Set priorities. Distinguish what is achievable and what is beyond reach. Aim for the former and manage the latter.
Six, thou shalt enshrine the precept of mutual indispensability. American leadership is summoned but not sufficient.
Seven, thou shalt ground policy in strategy, not fly by the seat of one’s pants. Strategy is a guide, not a straitjacket.
Eight, thou shalt learn from these masters: Truman, Marshall, and Acheson; Nixon and Kissinger; Bush Sr., Baker, and Scowcroft.
Nine, thou shalt recall the gospel that great nations ultimately perish from within, not without. Foreign policy originates at home. Invigorate America’s values and valuables with vigor.
And ten, thou shalt hark to Leslie Gelb’s clarion call that I quote: “For all America’s faults, don’t doubt that we remain the last best chance to create equal opportunity, hope, and freedom. But this will require something that has not happened in a long time: that pragmatists, realists, and moderates will unite and fight for their America.”
In particular number nine seems relevant to the current moment.
Finally, the title of this post comes from a phrase during the interview, elaborated as:
And he explained what he meant, that, essentially, a great deal of it is people making decisions without enough information with based on some ideology or in a bit of a bubble and then trying to catch up with events halfway around the world that they really don’t understand and then spending the rest of their lives defending their decisions about things that they really never believed in in the first place.