Foreign policy does not determine American elections. Indeed, of all Western countries, we are the least interested in the subject. The reason is simple: We haven’t had to be. Our instinctive isolationism derives from our geographic exceptionalism. As Bismarck once explained (it is said), the United States is the most fortunate of all Great Powers, bordered on two sides by weak neighbors and on the other two by fish.
Two world wars, nuclear missiles and international terrorism have disabused us of the illusion of safety-by-isolation. You wouldn’t know it, though, from the Democratic presidential race where foreign policy has been treated as a nuisance, a distraction from such fundamental questions as whether $12 or $15 is the proper minimum wage.
On the Republican side, however, foreign policy has been the subject of furious debate. To which Donald Trump has contributed significantly, much of it off-the-cuff, contradictory and confused. Hence his foreign policy speech on Wednesday. It was meant to make him appear consistent, serious and presidential.
He did check off the required box — delivering a “major address” to a serious foreign policy outfit, the Center for the National Interest (once known as the Nixon Center). As such, it fulfilled a political need.
As did its major theme, announced right at the top: America First. Classically populist and invariably popular, it is nonetheless quite fraught. On the one hand, it can be meaningless — isn’t every president trying to advance American interests? Surely Truman didn’t enter the Korean War for the sake of Koreans, but from the conviction that intervention was essential for American security.
On the other hand, America First does have a history. In 1940, when Britain was fighting for its life and Churchill was begging for U.S. help, it was the name of the group most virulently opposed to U.S. intervention. It disbanded — totally discredited — four days after Pearl Harbor.
The irony is that while President Obama would never use the term, it is the underlying theme of his foreign policy — which Trump constantly denounces as a series of disasters. Obama, like Trump, is animated by the view that we are overextended and overinvested abroad. “The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own,”declared Obama in his December 2009 West Point address on Afghanistan.
This is also the theme of Bernie Sanders. No great surprise. Left and right isolationism have found common cause since the 1930s. Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas often shared the platform with Charles Lindbergh at America First rallies.
Both the left and right have a long history of advocating American retreat and retrenchment. The difference is that liberals want to come home because they think we are not good enough for the world. Conservatives want to wash their hands of the world because they think the world is not good enough for us.
For Obama, we are morally unworthy to act as world hegemon. Our hands are not clean. He’s gone abroad confessing our various sins — everything from the Iranian coup of 1953 to our unkind treatment of Castro’s Cuba to the ultimate blot, Hiroshima, a penitential visit to which Obama is currently considering.
Trump would be rightly appalled by such a self-indicting trip. His foreign policy stems from a proud nationalism that believes that these recalcitrant tribes and nations are unworthy of American expenditures of blood and treasure.
This has been the underlying view of conservative isolationism from Lindbergh through Pat Buchanan through Rand Paul. It is not without its attractions. Trump’s version, however, is inconsistent and often contradictory. After all, he pledged to bring stability to the Middle East. How do you do that without presence, risk and expenditures (financial and military)? He attacked Obama for letting Iran become a “great power.” But doesn’t resisting that automatically imply engagement?
More incoherent still is Trump’s insistence on being unpredictable. An asset perhaps in real estate deals, but in a Hobbesian world American allies rely on American consistency, often as a matter of life or death. Yet Trump excoriated the Obama-Clinton foreign policy for losing the trust of our allies precisely because of its capriciousness. The tilt toward Iran. The red line in Syria. Canceling the Eastern European missile defense. Abandoning Hosni Mubarak.
Trump’s scripted, telepromptered speech was intended to finally clarify his foreign policy. It produced instead a jumble. The basic principle seems to be this: Continue the inexorable Obama-Clinton retreat, though for reasons of national self-interest, rather than of national self-doubt. And except when, with studied inconsistency, he decides otherwise.
Racial segregation is typically considered an illiberal product haunting modern American history, its most familiar guise being the “ Jim Crow” laws that segregated the American South from the 1870s through to the 1960s. But in his provocative book, “Bind Us Apart,” Nicholas Guyatt argues that we need to look both to an earlier period and some unexpected sources if we are to illuminate the origins of American apartheid.
Segregation, Mr. Guyatt argues, was not original to postbellum America. It dates, instead, to “the nation’s founding dilemma”: slavery. Thomas Jefferson’s writings, for instance, are replete with segregationist notions. And the mission of the American Colonization Society, supported by James Madison and James Monroe, was segregationist to the core. Founded in 1816, the ACS from 1821 to the Civil War collected free blacks in America and shipped them to Africa for resettlement in the all-black colony of Liberia. While “historians have often consigned colonization to a footnote in America’s struggle against slavery,” Mr. Guyatt says, in fact segregation provided the main plot for white America’s confrontations with race in antebellum America. “Racial separation,” he writes, “served as a rallying point for slavery’s opponents for more than seventy years, from the publication of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia in 1785 to the first years of the Civil War—perhaps even later.” Did segregationist ideas impact early America in other ways?
The forced removal in 1838-39 of 10,000 Cherokees to Oklahoma is an infamous event, but Mr. Guyatt urges us to see Indian removal against the story of black colonization. “If we place these efforts to resettle black people and Indians in a single frame,” he writes, “an unsettling but inescapable truth emerges. White reformers, politicians, and churchmen believed that non-whites could only realize their innate potential as human beings—and perhaps even their equality with whites—by separating themselves from the American republic.” American liberals, he writes, saw segregation “as the principle means of imagining slavery’s demise in the early republic”; they were the unlikely forefathers of “Jim Crow.”
Mr. Guyatt, who teaches history at the University of Cambridge, makes many convincing arguments in this book. Part one, “Degradation,” demonstrates that white Americans often considered black Americans and Native Americas to be potential equals—but only in the future. In the present, they were thought inferior because they were hopelessly “degraded”—blacks by the corrupting power of slavery, Indians by exposure to frontier lawlessness.
Many intelligent Americans held these ideas, including Jefferson and Madison, as well as prominent physicians such as Benjamin Rush and David Ramsay. They and many others get attention in Mr. Guyatt’s engaging narrative. His account is so all-embracing that at times it fragments into stories that overlap thematically but do not intersect.
BIND US APART
By Nicholas Guyatt Basic, 403 pages, $29.99
In part two, “Amalgamation,” the author shows that by the 1790s many “enlightened thinkers” expected the imminent end of slavery but did not “embrace interracial unions.” Rejecting intermarriage, though, did not mean no interracial sex. “Free whites and enslaved blacks had engaged in interracial sex since the arrival of slaves in America in the 1620s.” And there were those who rejected the general rule of no intermarriage. Some, like the Kentuckian Richard Mentor Johnson (1780-1850), were open about their “practical amalgamation.” Johnson, a U.S. congressman and the famed killer of Shawnee leader Tecumseh, had a long-term relationship with Julia Chinn, a mulatto slave he had inherited from his father. Their union produced two daughters, Imogene and Adaline. Both girls married white men, causing much public outrage; intermarriage was illegal in Kentucky at that time.
In the book’s final section, “Colonization,” Mr. Guyatt shows how Americans of all descriptions, and even their European visitors and correspondents, came to see separation of the races as the only practical alternative to continued slavery. Segregationists included the anti-slavery English agitator Granville Sharp; the Marquis de Lafayette of France; and Virginia’s elite slaveholders, such as George Washington. Blacks, too, held such views, including several who in 1773 petitioned for their freedom in Massachusetts. That ubiquity might suggest a qualification to the controversial claim of Mr. Guyatt’s subtitle—that “Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation.” Perhaps so, but they were not alone.
Mr. Guyatt’s argument might usefully be qualified in other ways. He shows that racial segregation found some support in the Enlightenment’s “benevolent” concern for the well-being of America’s non-whites. But his account plays down other guiding ideas. Racial segregation often reflected a raw fear of racial mixing and racial warfare, as well as anxieties felt by the liberal and illiberal alike.
Jefferson—complicated as always on issues related to race—captured these tensions with frightening clarity in a description of the “founding dilemma” that Mr. Guyatt quotes but does not sufficiently unpack: “Deep rooted prejudices, entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have received; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, which divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.”
For many of Jefferson’s contemporaries, segregation seemed a solution to this predicted cataclysm. But the Enlightenment also spawned ideas about natural rights and a common human nature that, with time, offered more attractive solutions. Many have worked to achieve this inclusivity and are working still.
Известный американский художник Норман Рокуэлл путешествовал по Советскому Союзу в год 50-летия Октября. Результатом его поездок стали картины, самой известной из которых суждено было стать полотну "Российский класс" (Russian Classroom).
В выпуске популярного журнала Look за 3 октября 1967 года (ровно 10 лет после полета спутника!), посвященного СССР, эта картина стала иллюстрацией к статье про советское образование.
В 1973 году картину украли.
В 1989 году ее купил на аукционе Стивен Спилберг.
В 2007 году ассистент Спилберга обнаружил картину в списке украденных произведений искусства, составленном ФБР.
Начался судебный процесс, подробно освещавшийся американской прессой. (В 2010 году суд признал аукцион законным, но Спилберг уже обменял ее на другое полотно Рокуэлла).
a Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the "Open World Leadership Center Trust Fund" program, he speaks with its participants on the topic of "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for
over ten years, he shares ideas about public diplomacy. He is particularly interested in the relationship between public diplomacy and propaganda.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. A partial description of these papers (some 80 boxes of material, valuable to researchers interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations) is available online.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John Lackey Brown, who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964): "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating." These wise and tender words were written years before "soft power" was ever coined.