Stephen Wertheim is the Deputy Director of Research and Policy at the Quincy Institute, an organization that promotes responsible statecraft. We discuss the history of our foreign policy, and why it is in the public interest of all Americans to move away from endless war and reinvigorate diplomacy for a peaceful world.
Responsible statecraft should derive from serious consideration of the public interest, with robust public debate and a strong role for Congress. The Quincy Institute believes that democratizing US foreign policy to include diverse points of view from minority, immigrant, and outsider communities — in addition to foreign policy experts — will lead to more vigorous diplomacy and less military intervention. Responsible statecraft would also require Congress to take its war-making responsibility back from the Executive Branch. US foreign policy should engage the world with peaceful discourse.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the US and the Soviet Union embarked on a decades-long arms race. During this time, the American military-industrial complex grew to become a vital tool of national security. When the USSR collapsed, the US became the world’s only superpower. In order to secure unipolar primacy, America pursued greater military hegemony and dominance over potential rivals. Regional conflicts were viewed as existential threats to American democracy, embroiling us in needless conflict around the world. America’s imperial overstretch is a result of its militarized foreign policy that believes dominating a region by force, such as in the Middle East, can lead to stability. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred. Instability in the Middle East has led to a vicious cycle of violence and built permanent enmities worldwide.
The American diplomatic corps has been devastated under the current administration, coming at the heels of years-long decline. US foreign policy has repeatedly prioritized military force over diplomacy, espousing the idea of “peace through strength.” This rigid and devastating doctrine has resulted in near-endless war. Instead of being neutral, the US is often on one side of a conflict and hence cannot be a mediator. As we face the climate emergency and other transnational problems, the US must prioritize rebuilding the State Department and investing in more vigorous diplomacy. American power and influence should be wielded to resolve conflicts, end wars, and enhance peace.
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Stephen Wertheim is Deputy Director of Research and Policy at the Quincy Institute. He is also a Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. He specializes in the role of US policy on the global stage, from the late nineteenth century to the present.
The Quincy Institute promotes ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace. It launched on December 4, 2019.
You can follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenwertheim and the Quincy Institute @QuincyInst.