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January 28, 2010

American Success in an Interconnected World
Posted by David Shorr

Interesting reactions to the SOTU and the way the lines are blurring between domestic and foreign policy, between the economy and America's geostrategic position. In a way, Brian Katulis is saying that globalization is shrinking the sense of distance between America's economic competitiveness and our political and strategic competitiveness, just as globalization has shrunk many other "distances." Brian and his CAP colleague Nina Hachigian's SOTU reactions also reinforce my belief that the most important insights into the new foreign policy context are variations on the theme of interdependence.

Brian and Nina indeed speak with authority on the links between economic and foreign policy. Brian and Nancy Soderberg's book on the Prosperity Agenda details the many reasons US leaders should focus on raising living standards globally, and many ways they can do so. And Nina's Next American Century book with Mona Sutphen is a persuasive argument for the strategic value of a strong innovation economy and integration with the world's other pivotal powers.

Nina is also persuasive in identifying the follies of US primacy as a strategic objective. I'd like to propose a friendly amendment, though, to Nina's critique of the Bush-Cheney calamities (in other words, primacy was half-baked in even more ways than she lists). Along with the crudeness and cynical belief in intimidation went a kind of laziness. Not only did the hard-liners trust in the efficacy of brute power, but I think at another level they viewed engagement and negotiation as requiring too much effort. These were "history's actors," don't forget; they were creating new realities, making bold strategic gestures and couldn't be bothered with the patient slog of diplomacy. Oh, and don't forget the arrogation of moral authority. Along with American hard power was a presumed soft power of inherent American rightness. This was often expressed as the democratic America's obvious superiority -- i.e. when compared to our adversaries, American virtue excused any of our purported sins. Like I say, it's worth reminding ourselves of the multiple delusions we're trying to correct. 


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This was often expressed as the democratic America's obvious superiority -- i.e. when compared to our adversaries, American virtue excused any of our purported sins. Like I say, it's worth reminding ourselves of the multiple delusions we're trying to correct.

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