Online Exclusive 06/2/2020 Blog

Vox Populi: After the Event

This past week, the Carnegie Council (virtually) hosted Mark Hannah of the Eurasia Group Foundation and Dina Smeltz of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to discuss what Americans think about foreign policy and how this relates to the forthcoming election. The "Vox Populi" discussion reiterated earlier themes that policymakers and politicians must, as Smeltz pointed out, "connect foreign policy to everyday people's lives and make it important to them." It is also about calibrating policy but, as Hannah also noted, recognizing that the public gives an administration a great deal more leeway to operate in foreign affairs.

How will recent events--the pandemic, the economic collapse, and now the protests and disturbances change any of these conclusions? Both the Chicago Council and the Eurasia Group Foundation will be undertaking new polls for the fall. It may accelerate the narrative about domestic reconstruction and regeneration. It may also change perceptions about both where and when the military is used and how much it should be funded, versus more funding for pandemics or for development and neighborhood reconstruction and efforts to promote racial justice and reconciliation. (Morning Consult polling data here)

Will this accelerate trends towards internal focus away from world affairs? Prior to the latest developments, Joe Biden was staking out a "restorationist" perspective for foreign affairs. Will he shift more towards a "democratic community" approach? John Davenport, writing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, has argued that the shocks of 2020 call for reinvigorating cooperation among democratic states in the global arena:

A similar logic applies to many other global problems, such as slowing climate change, deterring genocide, preventing the spread of terrorism, stopping cyber-propaganda and election hacking by autocracies, preserving biodiversity, helping developing nations reduce corruption, resisting money-laundering and cybercrime, and avoiding financial contagion in market crashes. In every case, what we need is not "less globalism" but rather global cooperation and governance that complement global trade and travel. That will require the leaders of major democracies around the world to forge a new alliance that is strong enough to sustain a better global system of rules and international organizations. This is the only way to secure public goods that require coordination among many nations.

This may prove to be the missing link that Smeltz discussed: how to connect what the U.S. does in foreign affairs with domestic considerations.

We'll see how current developments does or does not impact the foreign policy discussion.