Our Biggest Policy Error

If you’re looking for the history of the greatest policy error that the U. S. has made in the last 40 years (it’s a crowded field), check out Reihan Salam’s article at Atlantic.

3 comments… add one
  • Gustopher

    There are too many unknowns with China to say that our economic strategy with them was a mistake and that something better would have come out of it had we don’t it differently. It would also be hard to tell at the time.

    I would put attempting to remake the Middle East in the early 2000s and on as our biggest mistake in my lifetime (1970 or so on). We did remake the Middle East, but not in a way remotely favorable to ourselves, the locals, or really anyone.

    And we had plenty or warning and experience that it wasn’t going to go well. Nation building didn’t work in Somalia a decade before, and when were were hitting similar problems in Afghanistan, we decided to double-down and start up the Iraq fiasco too.

    Getting involved in Libya to push over the Gaddafi regime was also a mistake. It was speeding along the inevitable there, but it also showed we cannot be trusted. Any intervention on our part should have been to swoop in, and put Gadaffi on a plane to a perfectly fine retirement in Guam or something so we would live up to the spirit of our word. Pleasant exile is generally better than being sodomized with a bayonet — I mean, if you have to choose.

    I draw a line between Iraq and Libya that might not be there. My instinct is that destabilizing Iraq and Southwest Asia also destabilized Northern Africa, but I can’t claim to know the details of how.

    Iraq and Libya also strongly suggested that dictators need nuclear weapons to preserve their power. North Korea filled in the rest of that narrative, and that is going to be a big problem going forward. Yey.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    To be fair; the deal Congress approved contained many safeguards against offshoring that the US government could implement unilaterally. The surprise was the Bush administration failed to exercise them at all; this is something Lighthizer noted to Congress in 2010.

    Why Bush never exercised those safeguards is interesting too; I personally put it to two reasons; one, an overly ideological commitment to free trade/open markets. Two, the war on terror/Iraq took all attention / ability to focus on other issues including China.

  • I don’t blame China for pressing its advantage. I blame three consecutive administrations and the Congress for a feckless policy.

    What should have happened is a gradual opening up of trade with China in exchange for reforms, particularly legal reforms. IMO China’s lack of an enforceable civil code to which foreigners can apply for redress of grievances is damning.

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