James Traub: Do Americans Really Want a Wall? – Foreign Policy

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CK MacLeod

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  1. “Wall” here is a metaphor for isolationism and trade barriers. A poorly chosen one, when there’s a very specific wall associated with Trump. (Do Americans really want a wall? Builders do, if they can get part of the contract. Glaziers do, but only if it’ll have windows.)Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      (and Drapers, you don’t think we’ll let you put untreated windows in our new shiny wall, do you?)Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      More seriously, this is a good point… the arguments in favor of the current Interventionist consensus are not always compelling (they can be, but now they are simply assumed rather than argued)… and worse, the arguments made against opponents are disturbingly shallow – Wall, Isolationist, Nationalist – slogans at best, not really grappling with alternatives.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, Foreign Policy is so dominated by Global Interventionists that there’s very little countervailing thought… to the point that I think it is unhealthy even for good Interventionist policy decisions.

      I don’t think foreign policy elites have fully absorbed this [So called “Nationalist” mood] collective attitude. The Atlantic Council and the Brookings Institution has just published a report on the Middle East that concludes that the United States must engage much more forcefully in in the region

      There’s a very deep well of electoral support for a new foreign policy agenda that would expose Clinton in a General. Trump doesn’t really understand (or care), so he is only hitting this chord by accident; but its there, and in the hands of someone competent could form a plank in a new political alignment.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Marchmaine: There’s a very deep well of electoral support for a new foreign policy agenda that would expose Clinton in a General.

        There’s a mixture of moods in that sentence. The existence of such a “very deep well of support” seems to be predicated on the notion that said “new foreign policy agenda” has actually been elaborated somewhere, and would not merely “expose Clinton,” but would also withstand scrutiny, or a test, on its own terms. Depending on how you define this “new foreign policy agenda,” we might further investigate the extent to which its major elements may already have been tested. Otherwise, we can certainly observe widespread somewhat inchoate yearnings for alternatives to the status quo, but such is the human condition universally. The classically conservative position rejects the assumption that a desirable alternative ready to be implemented must exist.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          We could, but they took away my membership card to the foreign policy agenda club some years ago.

          I’ll willingly agree that there’s a single unified opposition theory of foreign policy waiting in the wings… but that wasn’t really my contention.

          That a challenge to the existing (dominant) foreign policy consensus could be mounted effectively is, I think, more true now than it has been for rather a long time.

          My suspicion is that a variation of the Bush Doctrine (original, not the Neo-con revised edition) is where a lot of folks would end-up (both D and R). Fewer foreign entanglements, but massive unilateral pre-emptive force if deemed necessary. This is, by the way, where I think Trump nearly is or certainly where I think Trump would end-up… emphasizing the fewer entanglements when advantageous (vs Clinton/Obama) and massive unilateral pre-emptive force when advantageous (vs. Obama/Clinton).

          That Trump is the guy stumbling on to this is partly why I see this as a missed. opportunity…Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Marchmaine:
        There’s a very deep well of electoral support for a new foreign policy agenda that would expose Clinton in a General.Trump doesn’t really understand (or care), so he is only hitting this chord by accident; but its there, and in the hands of someone competent could form a plank in a new political alignment.

        On the contrary, there is a very wide but very shallow well of electoral support that would form a tsunami wave that would capsize the Clinton ship, if a foreign policy ‘earthquake’ occurred (e.g. 9/11)

        Foreign policy’s interaction with US electoral politics is characterized by incurable ignorance. For decades now, polling shows that the American public overwhelming wants to ‘cut foreign aid’ and that they grossly overestimate how much of the US budget goes to foreign aid.

        The *only* time the American public cares about foreign policy choices is when American military people are dying overseas, and even then, if you keep the casualties low enough, in drips and drabs, no1currs.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

          Alsotoo, I wonder to what extent non-interventionism is being confused with unilateralism. CK mentioned that equating a rejection of the status quo as support for non-interventionism is a mistake in the absence of a clearly articulated policy framework. I think he’s right, insofar as that goes. But I’d go even further: seems to me the preferred alternative embraced by portions of the right isn’t non-interventionism, but non-multilateralism. (“Just win, baby!”)Report

        • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Kolohe says:

          Kolohe: Foreign policy’s interaction with US electoral politics is characterized by incurable ignorance.

          The incurable ignorance begins with the notion that there is or could be such a thing as an American “foreign policy” truly distinct from “domestic policy” and vice versa.

          So:

          The *only* time the American public cares about foreign policy choices is when American military people are dying overseas, and even then, if you keep the casualties low enough, in drips and drabs, no1currs.

          … should I think be understood as follows: The only time that the American public approaches foreign policy choices in analytical isolation is when American soldiers are risking their lives in relatively large numbers overseas. Otherwise, for the global neo-hegemon there is simply “policy,” but a citizen may quite reasonably focus first on those aspects of it with which he or she comes in contact: If, for example, your employer shuts down operations in the U.S. and moves them to _______, you may experience the effect as quite uncomfortably “domestic,” but the underlying question is also, obviously, irrevocably “foreign,” and cannot even be understood on some other basis. The same obviously goes for trade and immigration, It goes somewhat less obviously, but no less consequentially, for income inequality and stagnation, financialization and public debt, and finally for familiar manifestations of cultural anxiety.

          Even marriage equality, student loan burdens, and the Flint Water Crisis are inextricably “foreign” as well as “domestic.” Capitalism is a global system and America plays a unique role in the global system: That roles provides us, or has provided us, with the luxury of imagining that we can deal with global problems as domestic problems. In a way that’s the whole point.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            The way the US system works, specific foreign policy powers are given to the President and only some of Congress. And that’s by design, in practice, Congress has virtually ceded all of foreign policy to the executive branch. Plus, besides the usual recent abdication, the Obama administration has taken procedural steps to deliberately keep Congress from invoking its Constitutional prerogatives, to the dismay of no one at all. (The Paris Climate agreement was not a treaty, the Iran deal was legally constructed in such a way that not only did it not need to meet treaty criteria to go into effect, a majority of both houses could Congress could vote against it without any diminishment of the deal).

            I largely agree that there are fuzzy boundaries between issues that are truly ‘domestic’ and truly ‘foreign’ – and often no boundary at all. The scary thing is, our system is completely unprepared for that fuzzy boundary, and into that power vacuum lies a lot of potential negative consequences for sovereignty and devolution of political power to the lowest level possible.

            Just one for instance – the Constitution has all taxing authority start in the House of Reps. But it also completely cuts the House of Reps out of the loop for treaties. So if and when the international carbon tax regime *does* go into effect, can the Senate and President use that loophole to institute a tax that never sees the floor of the House?

            In any case, people have mentally compartmentalized the two, both in the masses and the political leadership.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Whatdamean Obama hasn’t made the sale? President McCain nor President Romney, to say nothing of Presidents Cruz, Rubio, Kasich or Trump, would have been able to deliver an open ended indefinite commitment of almost 10 thousand troops in Afghanistan.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    “Leadership, of course, means persuading citizens to go where they would rather not.”

    Why stop at “persuasion”? We have nudging and outright lying. All have been practiced. Maybe, just maybe, “leaders” should LISTEN and just maybe follow their employers directions. That is, allegedly, what elections are about.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

      Directions tend to cost money.
      Voters don’t actually want to spend money, of course, they just want the goodies.

      After all, this is America, and here we eat human meat.
      Naturally, it’s not labeled as such…
      [It’s not that I have anything against the rampant hypocrisy…
      I’m concerned about the medical issues inherent in eating human meat.]Report