For decades after WWII, the U.S. stood across the world as a mighty colossus. We were the richest and strongest nation, and our history and institutions were the envy of all.
Hamilton on Foreign Policy
Not long ago I was asked by several students for my thoughts on the outstanding characteristics of good politicians. What follows is my response:
We are living in a difficult time. Our country and its communities are deeply polarized; many Americans distrust one another as well as the government and other institutions. The novel coronavirus has deepened our problems in a way none of us imagined.
The toughest issue in foreign policy is when, where and how to intervene in the affairs of other countries – and when to walk away. Given America’s role as a global leader, the question arises for U.S. leaders again and again.
The U.S. has been the world’s leader for decades in promoting democracy, political liberalization, free trade and collective security. For the most part, Americans support that role, but many are wondering about its costs, and are growing ambivalent about our global engagement.
It’s frequently observed that Americans don’t closely follow international affairs. That may be true, but my experience, over a period of decades, suggests most Americans appreciate the importance of our foreign policy and have a clear-eyed and sensible view of our nation’s role in the world.
Having served on many foreign policy committees and panels during my 34 years in Congress and for years afterward, I vividly recall that American policymakers continually devoted a great deal of time and effort to challenges in the Middle East.
It’s no secret that the Middle East is an extremely turbulent region of the world. For American foreign policy, it’s like a whirlpool that keeps pulling us in.
We like to think of the United States as a peace-loving country, but our history tells a somewhat different story. According to one calculation, we have been at war for 227 years and at peace only 16 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The killing of General Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike has raised tensions between Iran and the United States to a new level. The overriding question is, will we slide into a war?