Nicholas Goldberg: America needs to try harder to match its foreign policy to its morals
In the year since I published the article ‘How to Save America’s Foreign Policy’ in Foreign Affairs, there has been a remarkable revival of interest in our foreign policy. That does not mean that the policy’s mistakes have not been made; neither does it mean that U.S. policy has not been ineffective; nor does it mean that the international order has not been weakened; and, most important, it does not mean that our foreign policy has not had a damaging effect on our domestic society. But the foreign policy has to be more than ineffective, it has to be moral – and we have to be willing to try.
Why do we need to try harder? If our moral instincts were so strong, then we could avoid errors. The world is a complicated place and even the most effective leaders of today will face obstacles. But there is no need to give up; there is no need to resign ourselves to our mistakes or to fail to make our country safer, more prosperous, more free, and more democratic.
The current U.S. foreign policy of unilateralism has not worked, and it is not working now because the U.S. has become too isolationist. The problem is not the isolationism itself, but that it is an insufficient response to regional challenges. The regional challenges and the corresponding demands of the international order – economic, diplomatic and security – are so great that we need to be as active within the international order as we are against it.
The world requires American leadership; the world demands the U.S. to lead; the U.S. can lead only if it is willing to lead. The U.S. as it has been used to lead – as the world’s policeman – cannot lead if it is not willing to lead.
As a nation, we are not at home in our government: we are far away from home. Our foreign policy is not about us – America’s position on the global stage is about the world. That is why foreign policy cannot be confined to ‘national interest’. Rather it is about the national interest, but it is also about the world. And we are not just the world’s policeman; we are its architect. Because, as