Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:41 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:41 | SYDNEY

Business-as-usual is failing America


Hugh White

3 August 2012 10:53

Thanks to Cecelia O'Brien for her response to my op-ed on foreign policy in the presidential election. I quite take her point that it is not usual for foreign policy to feature much in the campaign at this stage, or indeed at any stage. But I'd just like to press a little on the assumption that what usually happens is OK. The question is whether the normal processes of US foreign policy debate will be up to the task of steering America's responses to the changes it now faces in the world.

There are two reasons to doubt that assumption. The first, looking backwards, is the performance of US foreign policy over the past decade or more. It is a long time since America had a clear win abroad. That suggests that the usual processes of foreign policy debate in the US may not be very effective. 

Second, looking forward, the issues that America faces today are, I would argue, more serious than any America has faced for many decades. It has after all never had to deal with a country as powerful, relative to the US, as China is now. To manage this effectively is going to require, I think, a very deep rethink of US foreign policy indeed. The issues must be extensively and courageously debated in the political realm if good decisions are to be made. Business as usual will not deliver that, even if it had a much better track record that it does.

I have complete faith that America can continue to play a vital and central role in world affairs. But not if its political processes cannot address the hard questions that America now faces. And if not in a presidential election campaign, then when?

Image (Three Flags, by Jasper Johns) courtesy of Wikipedia.