Walter Russell Mead on the Past and Future of American Foreign Policy | Conversations with Tyler
In a riveting discussion with Tyler Cowen, Walter Russell Mead, a renowned expert in foreign policy, delves into the evolution and future trajectory of American foreign policy.
He sheds light on the role of American hegemony, the influence of religion, the distinct approaches of the Democratic and Republican parties, and the challenges faced by the State Department and the CIA in comprehending the Middle East.
Contrasting Foreign Policy Approaches
There are distinct differences in the foreign policy approaches of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Democrats tend to learn from past mistakes, such as the Vietnam War, and place greater emphasis on soft power.
Conversely, Republicans, whose faith in American ideology was not as deeply wounded by the Vietnam War, have a different perspective on foreign policy.
Challenges for State Department and CIA
The bureaucratization of knowledge poses significant challenges for the State Department and the CIA in understanding the Middle East.
This often obscures the best thinking within these institutions, hindering their ability to effectively comprehend and respond to complex situations.
U.S.’s Response to European Jews During WWII
The U.S.’s failure to accept more European Jews during World War II can be traced back to the restrictive immigration policies of the 1920s and 1930s, which were particularly stringent for Jews from certain parts of Europe, notably Poland.
Implications of Reducing Drone Wars
While President Biden’s decision to scale back drone wars has resulted in fewer casualties, particularly among civilians, it raises concerns about a potential surge in terror threats to the United States and other countries.
Presidential Understanding of the Middle East
George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon are considered to have had the best understanding of the Middle East.
They recognized that America has both hard and soft power goals in the region and prioritized addressing what was essential.
Germany’s Economic Model
Germany’s economic model, which relies on cheap energy from Russia and large markets in China, is being questioned due to China’s plans to reduce its dependency on imported capital goods.
Potential Conflict in the Balkans
Serbia and Kosovo are potential flashpoints for a new conflict in the Balkans.
Russia, possibly with Chinese support, could instigate conflict to divert NATO’s attention and resources.
Future of Ukraine
Ukraine is expected to continue to exist as an independent nation in more or less its current geographic form.
The definition of ‘more or less’ could be flexible, but the continued existence of Ukraine is certain.
Role of the United Nations
If the UN were to disappear, there would be extensive discussions about what the successor institution would look like.
The UN is necessary, not because it accomplishes a lot, but because it addresses problems that no one else wants to handle.
Training of America’s Foreign Policy Elite
While there has been an increase in the number of PhD graduates involved in shaping American foreign policy, there has also been a decline in its effectiveness.
This can be attributed to the inward focus and less pragmatic approach of social science disciplines.