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18

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2017

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

The new administration’s challenge is to sustain

U.S. leadership in an increasingly unhinged world.

BY KE I TH W. M I NES

MR. PRESIDENT,

You Have Partners at State to

Help Navigate the World’s Shoals

Keith W. Mines is a Senior Foreign Service officer

currently serving as an Interagency Professional in

Residence at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Prior to joining

the Foreign Service, he was a U.S. Army Special Forces

officer. He has served throughout the Western Hemisphere, as well

as in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa and Europe, in diplomat-

ic, United Nations and military assignments. The views expressed

here are the author’s alone and not necessarily those of the U.S.

government.

F

or the past two years, we have engaged in a

raucous national debate on the state of the

world and America’s place in it, all against

a dramatic backdrop that includes the rise

of radical Islamism, the collapse of nations,

a resurgent Russia, unprecedented refugee

flows and a more assertive China. History, it

would seem, has returned with a vengeance.

Your challenge boils down to engaging an

ambivalent U.S. public to take on the task of sustaining American

leadership in an increasingly unhinged world. I offer the follow-

ing assessment of that challenge, and some thoughts on how your

partners at the State Department can help.

FOCUS

NOTES TO THE NEW ADMINISTRATION

Shoring Up the Home Front

Before getting too far along, you will need to have a conversa-

tion with the American people about our place in the world. The

election showed that Americans are skeptical of our engagement

abroad and unclear about our interests. As Robert Kagan recently

put it, “They favor the liberal order in so far as they can see how it

touches them. But they are no longer prepared to sacrifice much

to uphold it.”

This shows up most clearly in the debate over globalization,

of which

The Economist

has written: “There is a widespread sense

that an open economy is good for a small elite but does nothing

for the broad mass of people. ... The storms inflicted by a more

integrated economy were underestimated, and too little effort

went into helping those who lost out.” The editors also remind

us, however, that “half of America’s exports go to countries with

which it has a free-trade deal, even though these countries

account for less than a tenth of global Gross Domestic Product.”

You’ll need to implement domestic programs to help globaliza-

tion’s losers and enable all Americans to compete more success-

fully, all the while expanding access to the global markets that

will be at the heart of export-led economic growth.

In the security arena, the American people feel similarly

betrayed, primarily by the uneven progress in Iraq and Afghani-