Online Exclusive 06/3/2019 Blog

More Emerging Narratives for U.S. Foreign Policy

I had the signal honor of taking part in a conference sponsored by the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, which gave me an opportunity to hear other emerging narratives that could develop as a way to provide a story and explanation for the scope and degree of American engagement in global affairs. After all, members of Congress--who have to directly obtain a mandate from voters--are in a better position, in some ways, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of narratives than academics or the denizens of the think tank community.

So I would add to the previous post the following additional possible narratives for consideration.

The retrenchment/redefinition narrative. Rather than the United States dispersing its attention and resources all over the world, the United States would concentrate on developing and strengthening an expanded trans-Atlantic core--Europe, Africa and Latin America--and maintain its outer Pacific rim that would be connected to the U.S. The idea shares some similarity with the democratic community approach but would also attempt to develop both a geographically-defined region and one sharing cultural values to provide a greater sense of cohesiveness, as well as generating more mutually-beneficial economic relations (in terms of reorienting the sourcing of raw materials and resources and the production of finished goods). The reindustrialization/regeneration narrative. This approach would focus on rebuilding America's core economic might rather than risk continued hollowing out of the U.S. in a vain attempt to continue to be the primary source of global public goods. This approach shares some aspects of a narrative developed by Justine Rosenthal in 2007: "Laying low while focusing our efforts on military and industrial R & D can bolster our position; technological development fostered the American moment, increasing our military capabilities and spurring economic growth. Innovation is dual use, helping us in both hard- and soft-power terms." Climate change as the central organizing principle. The impacts of major climate shifts--flooding, extreme weather, famine, etc.--would seem to qualify under Amitai Etzioni's definition of a problem that threatens the security of nation-states but which requires cooperative, concerted action among countries to find and implement solutions. A focus on climate change would focus on U.S. leadership of a community of nations aided by American innovation to deal with the expected shifts during the 21st century--and redefine American allies and partners by their ability to contribute to this shared task.

It will be interesting to see if elements of these additional narratives surface in the 2020 election campaigns.