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The Gentleman from Nebraska Misfires on America’s Foreign Policy Debate

May 6, 2019 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

Sen. Ben Sasse’s recent essay in the
Texas National Security Review was met with some withering
criticismon Twitter. Much of it depicted the article as
relying far more heavily on partisan tropes, threat inflation, and
generalities than on in-depth analysis or critical thinking.
Perhaps it’s a mistake to expect robust analysis or arguments
from any politician. However, Sasse — one of the Republican
Party’s rising stars, a former college president, and a
history PhD from Yale — should know better.

The theme of his article is America’s lack of imagination
in talking about foreign policy, an argument that might confuse
anyone who’s been paying attention to the recent and wide-ranging debates about the future of U.S. foreign policy that
have happened, including in the Texas National Security
Review
. It turns out, of course, that what Sasse means when he
says that “America is facing a crisis in its foreign policy
imagination” is that Americans aren’t actively
envisioning how wonderful things would be if everyone agreed with
him on foreign policy, or how terrible things would be if they
didn’t.

Sen. Ben Sasse – one of
the Republican Party’s rising stars, a former college president,
and a history PhD from Yale – should know better.

Indeed, there’s a strong tension in his article between
his calls for Americans to develop a foreign policy vision and his
insistence that his is the only valid approach. The article shifts
in the span of a few lines from asserting that “America needs
a new way forward” to arguing that “U.S. policymakers
can’t pretend the American voters will go along with a
program of vigorous engagement without being persuaded, courted,
and wooed.” So when Sasse says that he wants the American
people “brought into a conversation about what the world
might look like,” he appears to views their role in this
conversation as passive listeners.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. It certainly fits
with a worrying trend among segments of the foreign policy
establishment in the era of Trump: assuming that the American
people are unhappy with American foreign policy not because of its
failures, but rather because it has not been adequately explained to them. Yet after almost two decades
of an unwinnable “War on Terror,” it’s somewhat
condescending to assume that the problem is with the American
people, not with the foreign policy itself.

Sasse is also wrong when he states that Americans have no shared
foreign policy vision. As one recent study from the Chicago …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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