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Tags: nafta | tpp | cold war

Trump's Foreign Policy Should Take Cues From John Quincy Adams

us president donald trump at a campaign rally in manchester new hampshire

On Aug. 15, 2019, President Trump reacted at the end of his speech at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H. The Trump administration is pursuing economic sanctions as a foreign policy tool. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Paul F. deLespinasse By Tuesday, 20 August 2019 04:32 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, had previously been secretary of state. His diplomatic experience began as a precocious teenager in Saint Petersburg, serving as secretary to the American representative in Russia.

The new Quincy Institute For Responsible Statecraft, named in honor of Adams, will open in November of this year. Its stated goal is to promote "ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace."

Adams would have approved strongly.

He supported George Washington's farewell address advice that the U.S. should avoid foreign "entanglements." As secretary of state, Adams proclaimed that "wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."

As Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, executive editor of The American Conservative, noted, the Quincy Institute has been "explicitly founded for the purpose of bridging left-right divides to create a new alternative consensus to that of the neoconservatives and liberal 'humanitarian' hawks."

Amazingly, initial financial support comes from a million dollars donated jointly by liberal George Soros and conservative Charles Koch.

It is hard to imagine a broader range of support!

This new Institute is badly needed. American foreign policy under both parties since the Cold War ended thirty years ago has been misguided and largely unsuccessful.

Since the 9/11 attacks, we have plunged into prolonged and inconclusive Mideast wars. These wars wasted trillions of dollars, produced thousands of American military casualties (and much larger numbers of foreign ones) , alienated world opinion, and in general made bad situations worse.

These military adventures were motivated by a combination of paranoia, misplaced idealism ( "humanitarian" interventions), and institutional inertia lingering from the previous half century — World War II and the Cold War.

The foreign policy establishment that previously served us so well hasn't adapted to the new world emerging since the Soviet Union collapsed. It continues to focus on military preparedness, spending more on the American military than do the next eight or nine most powerful countries combined.

Whatever we may think of Donald Trump, his administration has at least paved the way for a major reconsideration of foreign policy. It has not always practiced Mr. Trump's preaching against poking our military nose into every troubled country on the planet. It has threatened to attack North Korea , Iran, and even Venezuela.

But it has refrained (so far) from actually doing so. Reversing Teddy Roosevelt's advice to "speak softly and carry a big stick," Mr. Trump has tended to shout at foreign adversaries but to refrain from whacking them.

Many of the administration's foreign policies, though, will be criticized by the Quincy Institute, especially its major increases in the already huge military budget and cutting of funds for diplomacy.

Starving the State Department and ending financial aid to Central American countries have been counterproductive. Backing out of the Iran Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) the Paris (climate) agreements on combating global warming, NAFTA, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), has not been helpful. Throwing repeated monkey wrenches into the world and American economies with tariffs was not a good idea.

The Quincy Institute, as its founders have emphasized, will not advocate an isolationist foreign policy, but rather a much less militaristic but still active involvement in the world.

Andrew Bacevich, author, college professor, and former military professional, is one of the founders of the Quincy Institute. When an interviewer asked him what he understands by "responsible statecraft," he replied:

"With the end of the Cold War, policy elites succumbed to an extraordinary bout of hubris, perhaps best expressed in the claim that history had designated the United States as its 'indispensable nation.'

Hubris bred recklessness and irresponsibility, with the Iraq war of 2003 as Exhibit A.

We see 'responsible statecraft' as the necessary antidote.

Its abiding qualities are realism, restraint, prudence, and vigorous engagement.

While the QI is not anti-military, we are wary of war except when all other alternatives have been exhausted. We are acutely conscious of war's tendency to produce unintended consequences and to exact unexpectedly high costs."

After 60 years of research, teaching, and journalism focused on promoting world peace, I was absolutely delighted to learn of the founding of the Quincy Institute For Responsible Statecraft.

Hopefully the Quincy Institute will bring ideas like those of Andrew Bacevich to the widest possible audience in Congress, the State Department, and the public, convincing them to take these ideas seriously.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.


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Ending financial aid to Central American countries has been counterproductive. Backing out of the Iran Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) the Paris (climate) agreements on combating global warming, NAFTA, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), has not helped.
nafta, tpp, cold war
Tuesday, 20 August 2019 04:32 PM
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