Reinvent American Foreign Policy Series

How can the United States become more effective in an era of mounting global challenges by emphasizing cooperation and collective action rather than the unilateral use of force?

Series-GFX-foreign-13American policies in the field of foreign affairs since the end of the Cold War have proven to be increasingly ineffective and controversial both at home and abroad. The conclusion of the Cold War on favorable terms to the United States and its allies appeared to offer the hope of reducing both the size of the U.S. military and the scope of the country’s worldwide security commitments developed as a legacy of World War II and the Cold War. In addition, the reduced risk of armed conflict between the major world powers as a result of the end of the Cold War also appeared to offer the U.S. the opportunity to focus on new kinds of national security issues of a more social, economic, and environmental nature such as climate change.

Unfortunately, the United States has so far squandered both opportunities in the post-Cold War period. Instead, the nation embarked on a series of costly, ineffective military (and paramilitary) interventions in the Middle East (and elsewhere) with an enormous human toll. The resulting dissatisfaction with this state of affairs has now called into question the most basic aspects of our current foreign and national security policies.

President Obama is trying to make a shift away from the use of force and confrontation and toward diplomacy, as evidenced by normalizing relations with Cuba, the Iran nuclear deal, and advancing cooperation around climate change with China. But does this herald a real change in direction or an aberration in America’s foreign policy trajectory?

As we approach the 2016 presidential election, now is an appropriate time to launch a new series of video roundtables that will step back and evaluate the “big picture” of U.S. foreign policy, and in doing so, fundamentally rethink America’s relationship with the rest of the world. 

Who are our real enemies, and what do they really want? How big does the U.S. military really need to be, and at what point does spending more money on weapons systems undermine America’s long-term national interests? What are the actual security challenges we face, as distinguished from the imagined fears continually foisted on the public?

Our current moment in history requires a fundamental review of foreign policy because arguably many of our most pressing security challenges now involve new kinds of overarching global problems, like climate change, which will take unprecedented coordination and collaboration of the international community to solve. And there are many similar 21st-century issues, such as global pandemics, nuclear proliferation, global terrorism, financial instability, and mass migrations, to name a few.

Can the U.S. lead a movement to strengthen international institutions and norms to resolve conflicts between nation states and others without resort to the use of force? Can the U.S. lead a global revival of economic, social, and political progress and help create new rules for the global economy, rules that would promote shared prosperity, not a Gilded Age of inequality and plutocracy? Can we rethink American foreign policy priorities and how they relate to our most important domestic goals, not undermine them?

How do we challenge and roll back the metastasizing national security state and the even more dangerous “deep state?” Can we find ways to challenge the political convention that says protecting national security demands restrictions of fundamental constitutional freedoms? Can we find ways to balance the needs of security and privacy?

The Reinvent American Foreign Policy series will ask these and other compelling questions that frequently do not get addressed by American policymakers, and we will try to propose new kinds of solutions. We begin with no preconceptions, except that America has made a lot of costly mistakes and needs to do better.

Join us as we Reinvent American Foreign Policy in a series of 15 virtual roundtable discussions and other conversations held over the new medium of interactive group video.