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Watch Our Conference: ‘Foreign Policy in America’s Interest’

On November 15, 2016, The American Conservative gathered leading scholars, journalists, and policy experts to discuss the future of U.S. foreign policy in the wake of the 2016 election. Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb delivered a keynote address at the conference, “Foreign Policy in America’s Interest: Realism, Nationalism, and the Next President”, held at George Washington University in downtown Washington, DC. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a Congressional critic of unauthorized military interventions, also made remarks, while other political analysts and foreign-policy experts discussed what type of mandate Donald Trump will have as he takes office and how the new administration should handle relations with Russia. A final discussion with prominent historians and scholars reflected on what 2016 means for the country’s longstanding commitment to intervention and globalism.

If you missed the livestream, you can view the entire program in the videos below.


8:15 am  Welcome

8:25 am  Opening Remarks


9:00 am  The Next President and the National Interest


10:15 am  Russia, America, and Great Power Competition


11:30 am  Keynote Address

12:15 pm  Break


12:30 pm  What the Election Means for War and Peace

1:30 pm  Closing Remarks

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4 Comments To "Watch Our Conference: ‘Foreign Policy in America’s Interest’"

#1 Comment By pitchfork On November 23, 2016 @ 11:00 am

That’s interesting what Massie said about the number of phone calls they got in 2013 saying not to go to war in Syria.

I was so ticked off that I called and wrote both of my senators and my representative — I even wrote everyone I could think of at Dept. of State and with DOD intelligence. Plus the President and Vice President. I hate calling my politicians, but I called Elizabeth Warren (then my senator) every day for a week demanding to know what her position was as she hadn’t given one publicly.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 23, 2016 @ 2:03 pm

I thought this was an important conference and am glad it’s being offered again. I didn’t see much discussion, but hope there will be more this time.

One of the things that’s not properly intuited is that the issue of NATO members “freeloading” isn’t really true in the way that it’s being discussed. The fact is, if NATO members paid more, then NATO policy would reflect their own national interests far more than hegemonic American ones. This is something that American policymakers and their sponsors do not want. The conundrum is underlined by what a panelist noted, that first strike policy is not what most Americans think it is, in response to an attack on the “homeland,” but as a first use of nuclear weapons in response to a major threat towards East European NATO members. As pointed out, the Russians haven’t expanded, even back into historical Russian empire areas. But the real craziness is that not only would there be nuclear blowback to the U.S. continent itself, but that the eastern European nations would not be protected by this at all, but would suffer even more direly. It’s really been a game of nuclear chicken, assuming that the Russians are so sane that they will accept American hegemony if American leadership is so seriously insane as to be willing to commit suicide if they don’t get their way. But what if their leadership is as crazy as ours?

Additionally, it’s pretty clear that the Philippines’ leadership is driven by the desire to have as much independence as possible. Duterte’s bringing up the Spanish-American War in which American special interests made of his country an imperial conquest makes this clear. The only practical way for a country like the Philippines to achieve such a goal, is to play both the hegemons off each other, raising the bidding and taking down payments without ever delivering his country to either.

Historically, we cannot claim that the U.S. hegemony in Asia has been salutary for the peoples there. So it is just, that those there don’t see it that way, or as a kind of status quo they would like to alter. A vacuum created by abrupt withdrawal would be dangerous; but a bellicose attitude that seeks greater hegemony instead of cooperation is even more destabilizing.

One of the conundrums and quandaries is that the U.S. dollar as world exchange medium and reserve currency is maintained by the full faith and backing of the U.S. military worldwide to enforce that, with those seeking to use alternatives sanctioned and targeted for regime change. That this is so produces a potential that a realistic multi-polar world could produce negative economic consequences for domestic politics, which is resisted by just the neoliberal, neoconservative forces we see at play, and which would also fail if reduction of the military footprint results in higher unemployment and collapse of the dollar resulting in inflation and joblessness at the same time.

The rise of China has happened because of its expansion of its manufacturing base. America can’t retrench easily from its unsustainable position without unrest unless it first provides an alternative to an economy which has become unduly dependent on war.

Yes, the jobs have to come back, or some equivalent for them.

#3 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 26, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

So many vitally important things were said at the “Foreign Policy in America’s Interest” conference. But one especially important comment by Jim Pinkerton was this:

“One comment for any aspiring realists out there – and this might put me a little bit at odds with Bob [Merry] and perhaps Will [Ruger] – is I think that the realists across American history were also economic nationalists.

“I think what has happened – and I view this as unfortunate – is that in the last couple of decades the realists, the “Scowcroftians” if you will, have pretty much decided to throw in with the free traders on economics.

“And so you get a realist foreign policy and a de facto globalist economic policy. And as Scott was saying – and I think we all agree – it’s kind of hard to imagine the United States succeeding at another, say, Iraq war in the future in no small part because a country with 4% of the population of the world and 19-20% of the GDP is a little bit hard-pressed to be policeman of the world.

“And so whatever foreign policy you have in mind, you’re better off with a strong economy. And I think the evidence is kind of overwhelming that if, for example, the Chinese make 90% of the world’s computers, including 100% of the computers at the Pentagon from what I can tell, we’ve got a real vulnerability there. We can be the most realist, practical, pragmatic, cynical, real-politicking foreign policy ever and still just inevitably find ourselves in a confrontation with China over something. It just happens.

“And I would really hate to think that we had gotten ourselves in a situation on economics where we’re so strategically attenuated that we just wake up one day and discover all our satellites don’t work. So, I think, that’s where the realists have to address a little bit better than they have is not just the Congress of Vienna, it’s also the sort of Hamiltonian approach to “how do you build a strong economy”?

“Foreign Policy in America’s Interest: The Next President and the National Interest”

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#4 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 28, 2016 @ 3:18 pm

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was first elected President in November 1932, my father was a 12-year-old in Urbanna, Va. When the news came over the radio, the townspeople built a giant bonfire in the middle of a farmer’s field and drank home-brew and celebrated the Roosevelt victory all night long! Daddy said that he had never seen so many people so excited!

On that same November day in 1932 a teacher I was to have in the late 1950s — who had just finished working her way through college the previous June — was so excited by the FDR win that she jumped into her run-down, used car and drove straight to Washington, D.C. to offer her help to whomever in the new administration might need her. She was hired and worked in the Roosevelt Administration until the end of the decade.

Now 84 years later another presidential election has brought excitement to millions Americans hopeful for significant change. With respect to the new people needed to help the Trump administration develop a new, more realistic US foreign policy — William Ruger says: “I would encourage people who have a realistic mind set to want to help our country, to step up to the plate in its time of need, and to try to participate in this process, even if they didn’t love Donald Trump, I think that they can do something for their country.”

The rest of William Ruger’s excellent comment at the “Foreign Policy in America’s Interest” Conference: “One of the problems that we have right now — those of us who favor a very different foreign policy approach than we’ve followed over the last 15-25 years — is that the restraint bench is pretty thin. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s really important for people like Chris Layne sitting in the front row and Mike Desch out at Notre Dame to develop more realist scholars who could contribute to these debates, but then those types of scholars need to get into the fray at some point. And that’s the other thing that a Trump presidency could really help in the long run is to give people who have different views – who don’t have those fancy resumes yet – to give them some experience in government, so that the next time there’s a Republican presidency, or even a Democratic presidency that wants to embrace more restraint, that these people will have some of that experience, so it’s not just the top jobs that matter – it’s also some of the lower jobs, and I would encourage people who have a realistic mind set to want to help our country, to step up to the plate in its time of need, and to try to participate in this process, even if they didn’t love Donald Trump, I think that they can do something for their country.”

Exciting days lie ahead! There are so many people with some useful level of foreign policy expertise – including so many people at and around The American Conservative – who could offer their services to the Trump Administration to help shift US foreign policy in a new, more realistic, more restrained direction!