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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Is There a Doctrine in the House?

What policy should the United States adopt toward China's rise? How should it greet India's emergence, Japan's new assertiveness, Europe's drift or the possible decline of Russia? How can the United States reduce terrorism, promote trade, stop nuclear proliferation and increase freedom?

These are among the toughest questions on the U.S. foreign policy agenda, and right now Washington is trying to answer them without a compass. Containment, the doctrine of resisting communist expansion, survived some four decades of challenge, but could not survive its own success. What America needs is a foreign policy for both the post-Cold War and the post-Sept. 11, 2001 world.

That a guiding principle is needed cannot be doubted. A doctrine allows us to map out strategies and determine priorities. Those strategies and priorities in turn guide decisions of long-term importance, like where to invest the country's intelligence and diplomatic assets, as well as how to deploy its military forces and channel its assistance programs. A doctrine also helps prepare the public for the commitments and sacrifices that may be required -- and it signals U.S. priorities and intentions to outside governments, groups and other actors.

There has been talk of a "Bush doctrine" during the current U.S. presidency, but in truth U.S. President George W. Bush's administration has not applied a coherent policy so much as it has employed a mix of tactics, including counterterrorism, pre-emption, unilateralism and democracy promotion.

Counterterrorism is narrow in scope and provides no guidance for dealing with the opportunities and challenges globalization poses, like expanding trade or combating disease. Pre-emption (or prevention, to be more precise) is relevant to an even narrower set of circumstances and cannot be a regular feature of policy given the uncertainty and controversy it entails. Unilateralism is not viable because most of today's pressing problems are global ones that cannot be met by the United States alone, given the limits of its power.

Democracy promotion is a more serious proposition, but to make it a doctrine would be neither desirable nor practical. Too many problems, including some that threaten the lives of millions, will not be solved by the emergence of new democracies. Into that category falls the necessity of dealing with today's (as opposed to tomorrow's) terrorists, the emergence of Iranian and North Korean nuclear capacities, and genocide.

Promoting democracy is one U.S. foreign policy goal, and rightly so, but when it comes to relations with China, Egypt, Russia or Saudi Arabia, other national security interests must bear equal or greater weight. Moreover, promoting democracy is too difficult to be a truly viable doctrine. In Iraq, where the United States used military force to oust a regime and occupy a country, the costs have been too high and the results too uneven to furnish any kind of model for future operations.

What, then, is the appropriate foreign policy doctrine for the United States? I would suggest "integration." Based on a shared approach to common challenges, it means that the United States would cooperate with other world powers to build effective international arrangements and to take collective actions. And those relationships would be expanded to include other countries, organizations and peoples, so that they too can come to enjoy the benefits of physical security, economic opportunity and political freedom. Finally, the United States should offer rogue states the advantages of integration into the global economy in exchange for fundamentally changing their ways.

Containment was the right doctrine for the Cold War. But for the current era, the United States must find a way to bring others in, not keep them out. Integration meets that criterion, along with all the others required of a new doctrine. It reflects existing international realities, addresses U.S. national security challenges, sets forth ambitious but achievable objectives and provides "first order" guidance that policymakers can consistently apply. It is also domestically supportable.

Richard N. Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. This comment first appeared in The New York Times.