Before I get into it, let’s first relish THE ABSOLUTE FREEDOM that comes with this platform.
For the first time ever, I’m writing about the topics I’m vested in without representing an academic or non-profit institution. I’m not following a prompt or rallying a public to call-to-action. I’m not being graded, not being paid (yet), and most certainly not adhering to a dated template or word count. I can stay surface level or go as deep as I want. I’ve completely rid of any sense of credibility, so count Wikipedia and me as one of the same.
Also, I can fucking swear. And stop mid sentence if
Localized Foreign Policy
Due to coronavirus, we’re all currently living in a state in which existing economic inequalities only deepen and social unrest is charged more than ever. It should come as no surprise then that public understanding, let alone consensus, regarding international relations is as fractured as it is overlooked. A new Biden administration introduces a reimagined foreign policy agenda that attempts to reverse Trump-era policies with restoring international alliances, prioritizing clean energy, and slamming down on China’s trade practices and human rights violations.
The truth is, understanding foreign affairs is dense, and intimidating. Even with a degree, I debut this public journal with the reluctance that it’s not my place nor my expertise to write on the human experiences that exist within our global economy. Especially given how I’ve lived in the same city my whole life. In my sincere attempt to learn I’ll feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve developed a solid opinion, only for a quick Google search to discredit everything I’ve thought I knew.
But I know I’m not alone in this. To no fault of the individuals involved, it seems that foreign policy tends to operate in the siloed community of leading D.C. analysts, polyglot professors, and seasoned government officials. Even living in an increasingly globalized world, it’s important that we take a look at the implications of foreign policy at our local municipalities. Everyday Americans and US residents simply don’t have the time nor incentive to educate themselves on the international community. Through my modest experience in government relations, I could sense eyes glaze over the matter during an election year, while being quick to repost an IG post about the geopolitical struggle happening in Myanmar (no shame btw)
We promote this culture that we ought to know, while navigating a system in the dark that doesn’t organically inform nor reward its citizens to be in the know.
According to a survey commissioned from Gallup by the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Geographic Society, “‘More than 80% [of respondents] agree it is important to teach foreign policy in high school,’’ yet those same respondents showed gaps in their knowledge on the subject matter. The same survey also concluded that “just over half could identify Iraq on a map.”
While it may be easy to write off that Americans are bad at geography, there may be ways in which we can adjust our local approach to foreign policy that may help us align our actions with our intentions.
Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security, observes that US strategic interests tend to favor a position of nobility, recommending that the Biden administration ought to focus on managing global issues rather than solving them. Failed attempts of democratization have led policymakers to pursue a “‘get caught trying,’” strategy rather than leaving the public with the perception of inaction. I read the whole thing and would quote more but my Foreign Affairs free trial expired. This is quite a popular recommendation though, as a case for absolving neoliberal economic policies has been building for some time in the international affairs community.
The recommendation made here in US foreign policy is to begin adopting a position of management as opposed to fixing, which intends on restoring the middle class due to a shift in domestic stockpiling. Culturally, we can expect to see a heightened “buy local” attitude as well.
But another practice of localized foreign policy could also be implemented is by practicing a “glocal” approach to city government. Local leaders may deal with issues of a global interest through the lens of their own communities, while on that same token interact with international stakeholders. The argument made here calls for more social cohesion and opportunity for conflict-resolution practices to begin at the ground level.
What I personally want to see ore from the international affairs community is a more intentional effort to reduce barriers of entry in opportunities to pursue the field professionally. A competitive field is one thing, but omitting essential information about international affairs roadmaps just for prospective leaders to Google in the oblivion places too much focus on the process itself as opposed to the nature of the work.
Domestic social issues are sensitive as is, but when navigating an international playing field it often feels rather stifling to ask the very questions individuals may deem as obvious. I don’t know if others could relate to this but I don’t feel inclined to assert a strong conviction on issues at an international scale, primarily because I still deem myself an apprentice of the field as opposed to an active agent. I catch myself in this paralysis of knowing which subjects to write about but struggling to identify the approach. .
And with that, I'm signing off here for now.