Here Is Hard To See-A Discussion Of Foreign Policy And Some Possibilities For Trump: Eliot Cohen On ‘The Big Stick’


by no3rdw

Eliot Cohen discusses his book ‘The Big Stick‘ alongside an interesting panel at Johns Hopkins School Of International Studies.

Here are some interesting points brought up throughout the hour-long discussion:

Cohen makes the case for re-energization of the post WWII international order America has created and for which it has set the ground rules; to continue the liberal international order and fund it with our blood and treasure (by Cohen’s lights, the benefits still outweigh the costs).

America ought to keep tending to fragile alliances, working hard to maintain them, and keep preparing itself to back them up Teddy Roosevelt-style:  There’s a place for American hard-power, and will likely be to defend this liberal order as Cohen sees it.

Much American thought and institutional strategic planning hasn’t necessarily pivoted since the end of the Cold War.

American ‘big-picture’ thinking has perhaps been in decline, giving way to a lot of high-level discussions about theoretical disputes (not necessarily a good indicator of institutional strength…but you probably already knew that).  In my experience, the less there is or there appears to be, the more people tend to fight over it.

Regional disputes are more dominant right now (Russia in Ukraine and the Baltics…China in the South China sea) and unfortunately, America doesn’t necessarily have the hard power to set rules in more than one region, even if it’s just deploying military force to back up the liberal order in one region at a time.

This means we could be headed for a very bumpy ride (not just here at home).

***For what it’s worth: I’ve become annoyed at frequent emotional and establishment anti-Trumpism (which Cohen displays) for a few reasons:

I feel loyalty and sympathy for Tea-Party-esque populism, and I see it as a vital corrective against institutional decay and potential abuse of power (I think of this as a Constitutional Republic with a functioning democracy…and I often find myself sharing the local sentiment of people who sacrifice the blood and treasure for the liberal order to run…and who often get little in return).

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize Trump:  He’s opportunistic and probably not all that principled and may well be taking advantage of Tea-Party populism.  He’s a shrewd NYC real-estate developer offering many reasons to wonder if his character is fit for the office (the woman-chasing and self-promotion).

He could easily blunder us into conflict, and expose us all to serious risk.

He could well fuse a cruder, authoritarian populist nationalism {into the American political DNA} based on his experience as a NYC real-estate developer, gravitating towards what he knows: Strong unions + ruthless competition + big money + slickly navigating regulatory mazes + bravado and showmanship.

But, boy, he sure is galvanizing a lot of people who channel their own anger and righteous indignation onto him, having beaten many at their own game, highlighting just how much institutional and political decay there is in American life these days, and just how many people are willing to take advantage of it.

As Cohen points out:  Here we are.

But…enough already.  You’ve got your own thoughts.  Building-up is a lot easier than tearing-down.

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

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