Monday, September 26, 2016

Trump's Fascism Poses Existential Threat

Seventy-one years ago, my generation’s grandparents finished a war against fascism, one of the most hideously destructive ideologies to ever seize the imaginations and lives of the world’s people.  More than four hundred thousand Americans died ridding the world of this scourge.  Today, we have to use the democratic tools at our disposal—freedom of speech and expression, the deployment of reasoned argument, and our vote—to ensure that fascism does not take root in our country’s institutions.
Republican Donald Trump has introduced a degree of hatred to our politics—as a substitute for serious policy—that is breathtaking for its openness.  Trump, instead of focusing on solidarity built around institutions or a commitment to a shared, national interest, has turned to ethnic nationalism.  
Trump has argued that citizenship, belonging, and access to the public sphere should be determined by religion and race.  He has targeted black and Latino communities in our country, people whose histories have already been defined by enslavement, exploitation, and second-class citizenship.
Instead of blaming the powerful and the corrupt who have sabotaged our politics, or asking the wealthy to pay their share, Trump invites us to blame weaker, poorer, or more politically marginal members of our own community, our fellow citizens.  Like the Fascists our country fought, Trump has isolated communities on the basis of real characteristics (language, religion) or imagined racial traits (Mexican migrants as criminals, black Americans as “spongers”), and marked them for targets for anger and abuse.  He has proposed to use ID cards or other more visible indicators to facilitate the direction of his supporters unproductive range.  
In the economic realm, Trump’s populist window dressing barely even masks his deep commitment to the populist and plutocratic power against which Americans have for years rallied.  Fascists of 1920s and 1930s made similar economic promises, and they too emerged in an era when democratic governments struggled to meet political and economic challenges.  Trump essentially invites us to give up our faith in democracy, and place it instead in the hands of a strong-man.
Trump has suggested “bombing the shit” out of our enemies, repudiating international rules and norms that protect our soldiers and civilians, murdering civilians, torturing captives, and dismantling international institutions.  Like other Fascists, Trump’s participation in formal politics has been accompanied by subtle or not so subtle threats of violence.  From the very beginning, his campaign inspired angry voters to use vigilante violence against members of the communities he attacked in speeches.
Trump has celebrated the violence and fanaticism of the worst of his supporters, bragging that he could commit murder without losing supporter.  He has threatened to destroy the constitutional freedoms that protect the press and allow scrutiny into the dealings of powerful people in our country.  He has launched racist attacks on members of the judiciary, and called into question the ability of Latinos to serve in civic capacities and enjoy the full extent of the rights and opportunities that accrue to citizens.   
Trump has attacked the “political correctness” of our culture. But it has become clear that “political correctness” refers to nothing more than those features of our society which abhor racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of hate and bigotry.
Our country, as it exists in the 21st century, is premised on the idea that citizenship and belonging are not tied to race, language, or religion, and that we should be good to each other.  I think that most people would agree that individuals in public life and public service should devote their time and energies toward devising sound public policy that creates a more just, equal, fair, and tolerant society.
Instead, Trump has invited Americans to return to a form of politics that stopped just short of our shores in the 1940s.  He has invited us to turn on each other with a savagery that has nothing to do with sound public policy or the values that we like to believe define our nation.  And he threatens not only the stability of our country and the livelihoods of people in it, but the security of a world that is already too dangerous because of the actions of the party he represents.
Trump and his party discuss the United Nations and international institutions as sinister foreign entities.  But the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died in the Second World War knew that their government supported the creation of a United Nations.  It was a collective goal, born of the recognition that the poisonous ethnic nationalism of the 1930s required not only destruction by military force, but deterrence in the future by promoting forms of solidarity that transcended the parochialism of nations.  Trump is threatening to undo the fruits of the sacrifice of one generation of Americans, and the labor of those that came after.
Donald Trump, like fascists before him, has made it clear that the niceties of democracy won’t stop his jack-booted march to power.  He, his campaign, and his supporters have promised to provoke a constitutional crisis or unleash a bloodbath if he loses at the polls, and the candidate has repeatedly, coyly suggested that his supporters murder his political opponent.
Trump would literally cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war in his quest for political power.
One of my grandfathers joined the American military that helped to crush Fascism in Europe.  The other, 15 years younger, arrived in this country as an “illegal,” and has been an upstanding, taxpaying, moral member of our national community for more than sixty-five years.  He married a woman who didn’t live long enough for me to meet her, but who was herself the daughter of migrants fleeing a tumultuous revolution in Mexico.
My grandfather—whose children and grandchildren have been uniformly praiseworthy citizens, making exemplary contributions to their families and communities—was neither a rapist nor a murderer nor a drug dealer.  But he did come to this country to make a better life for himself than he could imagine in Central America, and I would fault no one for that.  
As my grandfather fights a losing battle to recognize his family and his surroundings, I take some small solace from the knowledge that he cannot see the hateful fervor that grips too many of his fellow citizens, who Donald Trump gleefully invites to turn on each other.
I ask that we make decisions in this election that ensure that when people like my grandfather--a teenager when Fascism was extinguished in Europe--survey the world, they still see something of potential value and worth in the United States, rather than a smoking ruin of a nation and a cautionary tale for the world about the capacity to forget and to hate.  

Fiat lux.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Donald Trump's Law and Order Campaign

Donald Trump’s supporters often cite their candidate’s respect for “law and order” as a key feature of his appeal.  Trump centered his dark convention speech around the same theme.  And his criticism of Hillary Clinton is based on her administrative malfeasance, which the contract-breaking, bankruptcy-declaring, charity-cheating, fraudulent university-opening Republican tries to spin into a narrative of serial corruption and impunity.

However, unless you have crawled out from beneath a rock within the last five minutes, portraying Trump as the “law and order” candidate takes extraordinary delusion or dishonesty.  
Donald Trump has pledged to commit war crimes in violation of international law by carpet bombing cities, murdering civilians, reinstituting torture, and waging aggressive war (one of the criminal charges levelled at Nazis at Nuremberg).  Rudy Giuliani, a leading Trump surrogate, recently went so far as to claim that “until the war is over, anything is legal,” echoing Trump’s own suggestions that the U.S. should invade Iraq, “take the oil...declare victory and leave.”
Most U.S. administrations have broken international law in one fashion or another, as have virtually all global powers.  But Trump would mark the first time since the 1930s that the leadership of a major world power has openly advocated aggressive war and the casual conquest of other states for their resources.
Lest we think this is Trump’s only point of similarity to the fascists who won power in Europe during the 1930s, we should remember that at the core of Trump’s campaign is an effort to ruthlessly exploit racial and religious differences between people in the United States.
In Trump’s case, this takes the form of upending the Constitution by denying U.S. citizens rights--civil liberties, their equality before the law, the right to serve in certain capacities--on the basis of their ethnicity and faith.  
Like all authoritarians, Trump is troubled by the free press, and has mused openly about how best to abuse other sections of the Constitution that protect the rights of journalists, and citizens more broadly, to write and speak freely.
Trump has on multiple occasions suggested that he will not be bound by the results of an election.  He has made a habit of suggesting that his opponent should be assassinated.  Supporters have outlined a specific pattern of behavior for their candidate to stoke uncertainty in the democratic process to lay the groundwork for post-election sabotage.
His campaign has suggested that Trump and his supporters could engineer either a “constitutional crisis” or a “bloodbath” if he loses the election.
The celebrated “law and order” candidate is not only threatening to tear up the consensus around international laws and norms that has made the world a better place since the 1940s.  He is taking aim at fundamental components of the Constitution, offending any tenable interpretation of the document.
For those who think the Constitution’s primary function should be to shackle us to the cultural and political mentality of the late-eighteenth century, its most fundamental significance is often overlooked.  “Nationalism,” the stuff that binds a nation together, comes in two broad forms.  Ethno-linguistic nationalism defines membership in a state and the rights associated with that membership in terms of race and language.  Expressions of this sort of nationalism exploded in fascist Europe, and have enabled genocides on multiple continents.
Civic nationalism, in contrast, defines membership in a national community by dint of shared values and institutions, specifically repudiating the notion that the most binding forms of solidarity must be race or language.  
Donald Trump’s assault on the Constitution, and his threats to overturn laws and norms that protect people domestically and globally from indiscriminate violence, mark a turn to ethno-linguistic nationalism.
Our country, with its inescapable diversity, can literally not function if we adopt Trump’s version of nationalism.  But Trump is telling people that it is okay to discuss stripping people of their rights based on language, religion, and race.  His entire campaign is premised on unleashing violence: by the predatory capitalism that made him rich absent any discernable talents; by our military against civilians around the world; by the state and his supporters against his political opponents and journalistic critics; and by the perversion of the law against non-white, non-Christian citizens of our country.
Don’t pretend that you can support Trump just to secure conservative justices on the Supreme Court.  That Court will have precious little salience if Trump launches his constitutional crisis or bloodbath.  And in no way is that an excuse for backing a candidate whose signature policies involve stripping people of their rights and unleashing violence around the world.  Trump would presumably look for justices who would be sympathetic to the most horrific components of his agenda.
Don’t pretend that you can support Trump because he “tells it like it is.”  Otherwise, you and your fellow Trump supporters wouldn’t have to spend so much time interpreting your candidate’s words and explaining why the fundamentals of sentence structure and verbiage don’t pertain when he speaks.
Don’t pretend that you can support Trump because he’s “anti-establishment.”  He made his career due to his proximity to the “establishment”, political and economic alike.  And he’s not going to so much “shake things up” as upend the laws and norms that his supporters like to claim “make our country great.”
There’s a saying, “You are what you eat.”  I think you are also who or what you vote for.  And be very clear that if you support Donald Trump, you are more than deplorable.  You are taking part in a campaign that is committing to slaughter innocents abroad and rob countries of their resources in clear violation of laws the U.S. has signed and enforced on others.  You are taking part in a campaign that has committed to single people out for modification or denial of their rights and abilities to participate in civic life based on their religion and race.  You are taking part in a campaign that is already complicit in fostering post-election violence, and has threatened to launch what amounts to a coup if it loses.

Think long and hard about whether these are mindsets, policies, and enterprises with which you want to associate.  Because you can’t vote for Donald Trump and keep these things clear of your conscience.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Election Talk about Russia Could Reshape International Policy in Troubling Ways

Regular readers will know that I’m no fan of many facets of President Obama’s foreign policy.  But the past eight years have seen serious circumstances capable of dragging the U.S. into dangerous conflicts with other global actors, including Russia.  The president’s measured approach to international policy is one factor that has helped the U.S. to steer clear of turning local conflicts in Ukraine and Syria in wider, global war.
But we are not out of the woods yet.
We are seeing the reemergence of rhetoric in the United States that seems intent on placing our country on a collision course with Russia.  Traditionally, it was the Republican Party that was home to those advocating a hardline approach to relations with Russia.  Now, thanks to Donald Trump’s bizarre embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is Democrats who are rushing to castigate Russia and its leader as the source of every global ill.
Vladimir Putin presides over an authoritarian regime that enriches an oligarchy while foreclosing opportunities for dissent.  Democrats are right to observe that Donald Trump shares many of these characteristics or aspirations.  Trump advocates an economic policy designed to shift wealth towards those who are already extraordinarily wealthy.  Trump has mused about supporters shooting his opponent, his ability to persecute journalists, and the bloodbath that his advisors think should ensue if he can’t triumph in a democratic election.  His convention speech was defined by its draconian “law and order” drumbeat.
My own worry is that the way in which Democrats are capitalizing on this moment—which has the benefit of highlighting Trump’s authoritarian leanings—might wind up creating a set of narratives and conditions from which we find it difficult to retreat.
One feature of the global Cold War that influenced developments around the world from the 1940s to the 1990s was the constant effort on the part of the United States to overstate the threat posed by the Soviet Union in military, propaganda, and economic terms.  Doing so led policymakers in the United States to see every action, anywhere in the world, that seemed to work at cross-purposes with U.S. interests, as being propelled by the hand of Moscow.
Whether in Chile, Congo, South Africa, Vietnam, Guatemala, or Iran, no local figure could speak an unkind word about capitalism, colonialism, or U.S. meddling without allegedly being prompted by sinister figures in the Kremlin.  New states in Africa and Asia, and older states attempting to reinvigorate their democracies in the Americas and elsewhere, were seen as incapable of thinking for themselves, and so foreign policy “experts” assumed that any time such states expressed independent thoughts those represented the work of Soviet propagandists.
The almost cartoonish view of politics and society, and of human agency aside, this had serious consequences for our world.
Because the United States cast Russia as an omnipotent evil empire responsible for all the world’s evils, it consistently misattributed motives to other states, misdiagnosed the source of global challenges and changes, and acted in ways that ultimately proved contrary to the public interest in the U.S. and which caused great and entirely needless instability and suffering for people in other countries around the world.
A recent article in the Guardian suggested that “almost everyone gets Russia wrong—apart from Obama.”  The author’s thesis was that there is a growing, bipartisan consensus about the need to confront Russia, which is portrayed by the Clinton campaign, the national security state, and the Republican Party alike as being run by an “11th dimensional chess grandmaster, who is behind every world event.”  The President, in contrast, stays calm.
However wrongheaded Donald Trump is in his admiration of Putin and everything the authoritarian leader represents, we should be careful about how much we allow this moment to run away with how we deal with reality.
It might be convenient for election season to bash Trump, Putin, and the pernicious nature of Russian influence, but if we go too far with this—as we did during the Cold War—we will create a public fear and a public narrative that will seize control of our policymaking, distort our analysis of causation and consequence in global events, and will prevent us from using diplomatic tools that can yield better and safer results.
Many Democrats might feel it is worthwhile to stir up anti-Russian sentiment if it means denying Trump the White House.  But they should be careful, because even if Hillary Clinton becomes president in January, which seems likely to be the case, we have to deal with the consequences of the extent to which their narrative has developed the ability to drive policy.
Where President Obama has been able and willing to resist the blandishments of the national security establishment (including those populating his cabinet), he has done a respectable job of managing a dangerous world, even if he has shown a disinclination to change the terms of global engagement or to come to grips with the ramifications of decades of bad international policymaking.
I think that in very different ways, Obama and Clinton’s struggle with foreign policy has to do with their capacity to understand other actors’ perspectives.  In the President’s case, he can clearly appreciate how history and culture shape other state’s interests, but occasionally fails to understand that not everyone shares his commitment to measured, careful debate and decision-making.
Nor do all actors—both those from smaller states or those from beleaguered civil society as with the Arab Spring—have the leisure of his approach to international policy.  Virtually every negotiation the President undertakes is asymmetrical, with weaker actors with less leverage, and he seems to struggle to see how this can shape the expression of interests and the process of negotiation.
In Clinton’s case, the difficulty seems to stem from a broadly well-meaning but fatal arrogance that has long defined much U.S. policymaking, along with the multicultural illiteracy that plagues a nation isolated by its hubris and sense of exceptionalism.  Exceptional nations, the idea goes, stand apart from the norms and historical processes that affect other states and people.
In spite of this, I appreciate the President’s measured approach to international policy, and his disinclination to bluster.  Clinton doesn’t share those characteristics—partly because she is under more pressure than most male politicians to prove her ‘toughness’ and ability to do and say stupid and short-sighted things.  And if an experienced diplomat who knows the consequences of such actions can be drawn back into a kind of Cold War framing, that doesn’t bode well for our international policy.
Clinton’s preferred practice of policy, combined with the temptation to use the threat from a resurgent Russia to whack Donald Trump, could have serious ramifications.  We should recognize the nature of Putin’s regime and criticize its aggression and human rights violations.  But we shouldn’t allow that to govern our policy, to overstate Russia’s influence on global events, or to recuse ourselves from the introspection about our own behavior that is necessary to reshape our international relations.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Donald Trump and Iraq

If you’ve followed Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency, you will undoubtedly be aware that a significant piece of his campaign pitch revolves around his claim that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have presided over a shambolic international policy that has left the United States weak and powerless in the world.  
It is undoubtedly the case that Hillary Clinton has been on the wrong side of a great many debates on international and national security policy.  Her predilection for aggression and for ill-conceived intervention is shared by most of the national security establishment, and particularly by the Republican Party.  She was a poor choice to bear the Democratic Party’s standard, but represents less of a danger than the alternative, as the analysis below illustrates.
President Obama has steered the U.S. through one of the most dangerous periods of its recent history, avoiding the first very real possibilities of entanglements in wars with major global and regional powers that the U.S. has faced since the end of the Cold War.
That the U.S. is not involved in a shooting war with Russia in Ukraine, and in a full-fledged war involving Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Britain in Syria is a testament to the President’s cool head and refusal to embrace the jingoistic hysteria of neo-conservatives.  This is hardly a blanket endorsement of the foreign policy of a president who has embraced barbaric tools offered him by an overmighty security state.  
But the fact is, his Republican predecessor launched a war of aggression against the advice of Western intelligence experts who warned that such a war in Iraq would lead to the proliferation of international terrorism and lead to a sectarian civil war in the country.  
Not only was the war undertaken on the basis of lies told by the Vice President, distortions rammed through the UN by the Secretary of State, and blithe dismissals of critics by the President.  It was undertaken without any notion that the exercise of massive, violent, destructive military power needed to be accompanied by planning for the post-war.  It was a war that was morally wrong, strategically stupid, and abysmally executed.
Just to be very clear: a Republican administration lied about connections between a dictator and terrorists, cooked up intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, and ignored warnings that a war would make Americans less safe rather than more safe.  
The result was a lengthy conflict that plunged our country into debt, led to the deaths and woundings of thousands of American soldiers, and sparked a sectarian war.  The institutional void this war created led to the empowerment and spread of international terrorists who threaten the existence of states in the region and the lives of citizens in the U.S. and Europe.  The conflict critically weakened the U.S. in the international sphere, and threatened in recent years to draw in the U.S. into wars involving regional powers (Iran) and global powers (Russia).
We should be grateful that the President avoided such conflicts, and resisted efforts for the U.S. to take a more inflammatory position in both Ukraine and Syria.  I can well imagine that a President Trump, who flies off the handle over unfavorable media coverage, might have failed to resist efforts to draw the U.S. into war.
But back to Trump’s claims about the disastrous nature of recent U.S. foreign policy.  If we can accept the reality that the President has avoided some potentially disastrous moments in trying to clean up after the damage wrought our country and the world by the Bush administration, we should acknowledge that one real test of Trump’s judgment--in the total absence of policymaking on his resume--is evaluating the kind of decision he might have made in 2002-3.
This takes us to Trump’s central big claim about foreign policy: namely, that he consistently opposed the war in Iraq.  This is meant to create a contrast with Hillary Clinton, and Trump repeats this claim at every opportunity.
The problem with this claim, as with so much of what Trump says, is that it is untrue.
It is true that as things began to go sour with out war on Iraq, Trump joined a host of other opportunists--Hillary Clinton among them--in criticizing the conduct if not always the rationale for the war.  But at key moments in the run-up to the war--i.e. at those moments when as President, Trump would have been making big calls--Trump is on record having supported it.
But let us be far more generous toward Trump than evidence demands or than he is to his opponents.  Let’s say that we acknowledge his mangled claim to have opposed a disastrous war with its disastrous consequences.  In order to assess whether this half-hearted opposition after the fact is really indicative of good judgment, we would then have to see how Trump behaves when confronted with other, similar situations.
When it comes to the decision to intervene in Libya--another intervention that caused the proliferation of terrorism, destabilization, and crises in neighboring states--Trump once again claims to have opposed intervention.  This is a bald-faced lie.
At a recent forum that featured both Clinton and Trump, the former committed not to embroiling U.S. soldiers in a new war in Iraq, whereas Trump suggested he would be prepared to launch a conflict using small numbers of ground troops to secure and hold access to oil sources in Iraq.
This demonstrates that even if we take the wriggling fascist at his weasel-like word and believe that he opposed the war in Iraq in 2003, he is still demonstrating his inability to learn from that conflict.  Not only in a military sense--Rumsfeld and the neo-cons also sent an absurdly small and under-equipped force into a maelstrom of their own making.  Also in a geopolitical sense--regime-change, aggressive war, and historical and political ignorance seldom yield good results.
In summary:
-Donald Trump did not really oppose the war in Iraq at the crucial point when it was being debated, but instead piled on the band-wagon of opposition as it became clear to even obtuse believers that the ill-conceived war was going wrong.
-Donald Trump did not oppose the war in Libya, undertaken in a more limited fashion but in a broadly similar set of circumstances (from an American perspective).
-Now Donald Trump proposes to embroil the U.S. in a new war in Iraq, and suggests that we undertake the war in question in a manner calculated to fail and with the full knowledge that such a unilateral invasion to extract resources is guaranteed to backfire spectacularly.  
Even leaving aside Trump’s fascism, he is a candidate who supported the disastrous war that our President opposed and sought to extricate us from.  He now supports renewing the war in question.  Trump is someone who possesses little knowledge of the world and--perhaps because of his patrician, insulated upbringing--little idea about the consequences of his actions.  

Anyone who thinks that this man has what it takes to navigate the geopolitical challenges of our era needs to reacquaint themselves with reality, and with the big stakes associated with it.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Can the U.S. even do international policy?

In his book Unfinished Empire: the Global Expansion of Britain (Bloomsbury, 2012), historian John Darwin tackles the complex beast that was the British Empire.  Darwin’s book is one of those where the whole is less than the sum of its parts.  But those parts—chapters that deal thematically with trade, exploration, rebellion, administration, religion, and security—offer valuable interpretations of the workings of an empire that continues to shape our world fifty years after its formal dissolution.
I was particularly struck by a passage in Darwin’s chapter on “Defending Empire,” subtitled “the Gouty Giant.”  In describing the challenges that beset the British state, Darwin writes of the period following the Seven Years’ War: “From then on [British] thinking was forced to be global.  It was not just the case that their restless expansion multiplied the list of their enemies…This global dimension contained a new threat.  For it was now all too likely that a frontier war in South Asia or an American rebellion would suck British troops and divert British sea power just at the moment when they were needed elsewhere to foil the designs of their European foes, or repel an invasion at home.
“The price of empire on a global scale was not just the means to contain an endless succession of crises in different parts of the world, but also the resources to cope when a chain reaction occurred, when danger in one zone exposed weakness in others.  From that point of view, the imperial triumph of 1763 was merely the prelude to a fifty-year lesson in what could go wrong” (304).
If this sounds familiar, it might be because the United States faces a similar conundrum.  For the last hundred years, the United States has possessed and pursued some version of global empire.  In the opening years of the twentieth century, that included a territorial empire in the Americas and the Pacific.
Today it takes the form of a chain of bases encircling the globe, representing careworn commitments whose logic looks increasingly creaky, new ones that we are only beginning to understand, and future points and provocations of crisis, some of which will be sparked by the very presence of the bases in question.  This is an informal empire, but one that is no less real for its small territorial footprint.
Accompanying this infrastructure of empire, designed to allow the United States to launch interventions against offending autocrats, rogue democrats, and transnational terrorists, is an attitude that shapes not just how the public processes news and events, but how policymakers behave.
Like liberal Britons in the nineteenth century, many Americans possess a conviction that their country has both the right and the ability to re-shape the world in its own image or in whatever image is convenient for the immediate demands of our political economy, using whatever force might be necessary.
But as Darwin suggests, our violent, freewheeling, and arrogant engagement with the world in which we tolerate no rivals means that our leaders and strategists are unable to keep up with the latest crisis or threat.  Policymakers are perhaps singularly blind to many of these threats because they are of their own making.
We not only lack what Darwin identified as the economic resources needed to manage our international commitments.  We are sorely lacking in the resources of intellect and imagination needed to develop more productive and predictable, and less costly and violent relations with other nations and peoples.
Our inclination to see responses to climate change, national security, and post-industrial economics in zero-sum terms means that we have put little effort into either long-term thinking or developing international institutions and networks capable of tackling problems of ecology, terrorism, or human welfare and security.  Each national security crisis—even the name helps to misdirect diagnoses and mangle policy responses—is treated either in a vacuum or with reference to existing military and security policy kits built for the Cold War or the disastrous post-9/11 interventions that continue to bedevil our political economy and global security.
This is sad because in political terms international policy is the arena which affords the executive the most freedom of movement and around which it might be easiest to develop an action-oriented consensus.  But part of the problem is that there is already a very wide and deep consensus in Washington, D.C., among people from both political parties, about the nature of the U.S. role in the world and the place of armed force in that role.
Today, Democrats are gloating over Donald Trump’s ignorance of the world, and reassuring themselves that their party has ascended to a position of unchallenged preeminence when it comes to shaping U.S. foreign policy.  But that just makes them a bigger party to a dysfunctional consensus, and keeps them—or the public at large—from asking their nominee serious questions about how to seriously address tremendous global challenges: climate change; international terrorism; rogue states who flaunt international law (ranging from the U.S. to North Korea); free trade and the still elusive freedom of movement; intense nationalism; and many others.
Critics mocked President Obama’s “less is more” approach to certain features of foreign policy.  But reality is, no empire of any sort is capable of addressing global challenges of the sort that confront us today.  Such empires are too driven by their own jingoism and paranoia.  Global problem solving will have to involve the U.S. stepping back from demanding the right to define the terms of every discussion, and stepping up to embrace membership of a law-abiding international community.
It is in neither the public interest nor the global interest that our policy be driven by chants of “USA! USA!” at party conventions, and the constant reiterations of American exceptionalism that propel too many of our decisions.
I hope that moderators in some of the coming presidential debates will work to remind us that “international policy” is a realm that should occupy the minds of Americans, and that constantly defining challenges in terms of “national security” does no justice to our symbiotic relationship with the other states and people of the world.  But I suspect we have a much longer and more worrying wait.