Colloquy Downeast Blue Hill Maine

Colloquy Downeast

Spirited Conversations in Great Company

FacilitatorSeth Singleton
Date & TimeFridays, January 10, 17, 24, 31
3:00 – 5:00 pm
LocationHoward Room, Blue Hill Public Library

Rethinking American Foreign Policy

It’s perestroika time for American foreign policy. The era of American world hegemony – if it ever really existed – is over. The old toolkit of intelligence – diplomacy – military deployments – covert operations in place since the national Security Act of 1947 no longer works well and has already been superseded by cyber- and economic sanctions. The Trump Administration has abandoned “soft power” and promotion of democracy and human rights for a doctrine of national interest and advantage. Trump has taken a wrecking ball to alliances and international agreements. He has made “tariff wars” and economic coercion by sanctions new principles of American policy. So far, Trump rejects military intervention – although his advisers perhaps do not.

We know all this and won’t spend much time going over it. What we will do is consider how to bring some clarity and order out of the present foreign policy chaos. What might a new grand strategy and a new set of foreign policy principles and instruments look like? There are several possibilities. One is Trump’s vision of an impregnable, mighty, independent America pursuing its own advantage, with the economic and military clout to bend others to its national will. Another is revitalization of the “liberal international order” and alliance of democracies. A third, favorite of many foreign policy wonks, is “offshore balancing” – diplomatic manipulation of others so they don’t threaten us. A fourth is soft power with military withdrawal – what Bernie Sanders might be for if he could articulate it. A fifth is dividing up the world with Russia, China, and Europe – a new arranged cohabitation of informal empires.

This colloquy will explore these possibilities and debate what a new coherent policy should look like.

Possible readings: Stephen Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions (2018); Robert Kagan, The Jungle Grows Back (2018); Michael Lind, “Blocpolitik” (2018); articles from the May-June 2019 Foreign Affairs.

 
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