In his Washington Post column E. J. Dionne surveys the list of worthies on Joe Biden’s prospective foreign policy team and is clearly worried that they’ll return to the foreign policy that provoked a reaction from ordinary middle income Americans:
When President-elect Joe Biden introduced his national security team this week, a line that received almost no attention defined what may be the most important challenge confronting his able group of experienced professionals.
Biden was referring to his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, when he said: “Jake understands my vision, that economic security is national security, and it helps steer what I call a foreign policy for the middle class, for families like his growing up in Minnesota.”
Talk of a “foreign policy for the middle class” may sound like campaign boilerplate, but it accurately describes one of the central obligations this band of liberal internationalists has assumed. They need to demonstrate to Americans on Main Street that the diplomats in Foggy Bottom have their interests in mind.
That’s the same internationalism that has led us into war twice in the last thirty years. There’s also a direct link between the internationalist admission of China to the World Trade Organization and a massive reorganization of the U. S. economy away from manufacturing with the attendant loss of manufacturing jobs. Since then there has been little prospect of much of the population’s earning other than minimum wage.
One need not agree with Warren or Sanders on everything to accept that the long-term durability of an internationalist foreign policy depends on reviving public confidence that its architects regard the home front as more than an afterthought. It’s worth remembering that Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman — the presidents who built the post-World War II alliance systems and an impressive array of international organizations — inspired confidence among U.S. workers that they had their backs.
It’s also worth mentioning that one of the factors that has kept us at war in Afghanistan is it’s what the very best experts have recommended. Perhaps internationalists and experts have learned their lessons.
I think that internationalists operate under a faulty premise—that regional allies like Germany, France, Japan, and South Korea have anything but their own interests in mind when they attempt to persuade us to take a course of action. Maybe things will be different this time around. My advice is trust everybody but cut the cards.