The Democrats need a new foreign policy

Published on Sunday, 30 December 2018 19:12
Written by Max Boot

The Washington Post

For decades, elites in the United States had a consensus on foreign policy: They believed that championing a liberal world order was in our interest. Now, we are seeing a new left-right axis emerge around protectionism and isolationism - the very policies whose failure during the 1930s ultimately led to the internationalist consensus of the postwar period.

President Donald Trump has launched trade wars and undermined our allies while kowtowing to tyrants. And the Democrats? They don’t have much of a foreign policy, and when the party’s progressives propound one, the results sound like Trumpism of the left.

Here, for example, is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., writing in Foreign Affairs: “While international economic policies and trade deals have worked gloriously well for elites around the world, they have left working people discouraged and disaffected. Efforts to promote the United States’ own security have soaked up huge resources and destabilized entire regions, and meanwhile, U.S. technological dominance has quietly eroded. . . . To fight back, we need to pursue international economic policies that benefit all Americans, not merely an elite few.”

How is this different from what Trump says? The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is as ready to abandon free trade as the Trumpified GOP - and as willing to criticize money spent for nation-building abroad as a giveaway to foreigners that would better be directed toward domestic needs.

“Far too often,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said at Westminster College in September, “American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm.” Trump, too, wants to scale back foreign interventions. He is pulling out of Syria and drawing down in Afghanistan. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will make a principled argument for nation-building conducted by small numbers of soldiers, diplomats and aid workers: namely, that it is far cheaper to help foreign governments control their own territory than to deal with the terrorism, crime and disease that flourish in ungoverned areas.

To be sure, Trump would hardly agree with a great deal of what Sanders and Warren say. The senators focus on combating climate change and income inequality - problems whose existence Trump does not admit. They also strongly condemn authoritarianism and corruption - problems that Trump exemplifies rather than combats.

Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Sunday, 30 December 2018 19:12. Updated: Sunday, 30 December 2018 19:14.