It has come to my attention that the United States has a new Congress in session. It took some doing, but we even have a new speaker of the House, along with 86 new members in the House and Senate (48 Republicans and 38 Democrats). This column is for them (or, perhaps more accurately, for the staff members who will do the real work).
For starters, I know that many of you don’t care that much about international affairs, and neither do most of your constituents. The United States’ foreign-policy establishment may work overtime trying to manage the world (and spread liberal values when it has the chance), but most Americans remain ignorant of and largely indifferent to issues of foreign policy, save in the wake of tragic events such as 9/11. There’s broad but shallow support for an “active role” in world affairs, but domestic issues are almost always considered more important by most Americans. It’s a paradox: The United States plays an outsize role in the world and devotes a big chunk of the federal budget to foreign policy and national security, yet its citizens’ attention is usually riveted closer to home.
I’m not going to try to tell you how to get reelected; you’ve proved that you know more about winning votes than I do. Instead, I’ll stick to my lane and focus on a few things you might want to know about the wider world and the United States’ position in it. (If you have a fundraiser to attend and are pressed for time, you could read a previous column of mine, on how to get a degree in international relations in five minutes.)
Here’s the first thing you ought to wrap your brain around: The United States’ position in the world ain’t what it used to be. Don’t misunderstand me, it is still the world’s most powerful country, and its prospects are bright provided it doesn’t make too many mistakes at home or abroad. Our military forces are still formidable (if not quite as omnipotent as they appeared in the 1990s), the U.S. economy is outperforming many others, and we retain disproportionate influence in the global financial order. U.S. support and protection is still welcome in many places, if not as widely as it once was.
Read the full piece in Foreign Policy.