By Harrison Yu
This morning’s session on the future of U.S. foreign policy was perhaps the most informative and least speculative set of lectures that we have had thus far. Both Barbara Slavin and Lawrence Korb have had years of experience each, working in the field and in think tanks. They talked about problems that the U.S. will face in dealing with foreign countries. Korb reminded the group that Russia is still a major threat to U.S. interests, followed by China, Iran, North Korea, ISIS, and a whole host of other global factors. Slavin’s focus was on the Middle East and how the U.S. would likely continue somewhat similar policies in the region, if for different reasons.
Both speakers talked of Trump’s plans in ways that were clearly informed by actions that previous presidents have taken. In seeing Trump as “coldly realist,” Slavin argues that he will act in a way that strengthens U.S. military power at the expense of liberal values like human rights. Korb talked less of Trump’s plans but still mentioned the unlikelihood of future President Trump backing out of NATO, seeing as other NATO members have started increasing their military budgets.
Yet, despite their very informed ideas of how the world exists today, I found myself wanting a second opinion. This is not because I disagreed with them but rather because I agreed with them. I wanted someone to come before us and defend why a Realist perspective makes sense for the Trump’s presidency. I understand why a Liberal Internationalist would want Trump to consider human rights and international organizations as important factors in his decision making process, but why would he ignore these values and institutions in favor of a Realist foreign policy.
Slavin alluded to Trump’s objectives, but she did not delve into the topic that I feel a different person would bring. She stated that Trump wants to appear as a strong leader in the face of other strong leaders. Trump likes to compare his relative strength to foreign leaders like Putin, Duterte, and Erdogan. This will come at a cost to Liberals who want a more diplomatic president but will instead see their world order come under fire.
So, what can liberal internationalists like myself do when a Trump presidency means a more unilateral display of force? We can join the international organizations that mean so much to us but so little to Trump. The Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Oxfam, and so many others will be the ones to continue to push for humanitarian efforts, even if our government does not. We can be the change that we wish to see in the world.