Notes on American Affairs: “Why a New Policy Journal?” by the Editors

The debut of American Affairs comes at an opportune time, when few understand what has happened, and even less can say what comes next.

As the editors point out, American policy formulation since the end of the Cold War has become chained to a “debilitating nostalgia, which views the ideologies of the last few decades as the only alternatives and their policies as the only solutions.”

This stagnant orthodoxy, endorsed by both major parties, trusts in the benevolence of corporate globalization, largely unfettered free markets, and the belief that the United States has the resources, capability, and even the moral obligation to run the world.

This trust, regrettably, is now misplaced, and something else must take its place.

This something is not yet concrete, but two of the major challenges facing the United States include re-building the domestic economy, and re-fashioning a global order that is not fully dependent on the constant deployment of American firepower.

Before the 2016 presidential election, there was little mention of re-building the American economy, of promoting a resurgence of domestic manufacturing and bringing jobs back to the United States. The fact that the national conversation has changed accordingly should be seen as a positive.

People need jobs, they want to work, and the domestic economy must provide these opportunities for them. A principle driver of the “populist” campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders was a feeling amongst many Americans that the economy no longer works for them. They took to the streets, and the ballot box, determined to rebel against the establishment and its system. Re-building the American economy is no longer simply about efficiencies and competitive advantages, but about social stability and national development.

In addition, the U.S. must also reevaluate its place in the world, and its place within the post-WWII Bretton Woods international order that appears to falter and crack evermore with each passing day.

The United States is not the idealistic Cold War fighter it once was, with a clear enemy and a common purpose. The editors are right when they question what the United States has gained in the world since the collapse of communism, except for “the promotion of chaos and the irresponsible squandering of hard-won strategic advantages.”

The United States has endured more than fifteen years of war in the Middle East, with thousands of American lives lost and trillions of dollars squandered, yet the establishment continues to clamor endlessly for more foreign wars. Our “experts” tell us that we must now confront Russia over their meddling in the Ukraine, stop China’s militarization of the South China Sea, intervene in the Syrian civil war, stand up for human rights in Venezuela, and more. Much more.

It is now time to put “America first” in our foreign policy, not because we are xenophobic or isolationist, but because we have no other choice. The United States does not have the resources or ability to solve every problem everywhere. Every other country puts its own interests first — it is time for America to do the same.

I look forward to future editions of American Affairs, and hope that it can fulfil its objective of becoming a “forum for the discussion of new policies that are outside of the conventional dogmas, and a platform for new voices distinguished by originality, experience, and achievement rather than the compromised credentials of careerist institutions.”

It is a tall order, of course, but one can dream.