By Ike Swetlitz:
Christiane Amanpour, a distinguished journalist and media personality, engaged in a conversation with The Politic, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization Ernest Zedillo, and other members of the Yale community on Monday afternoon. She touched on a variety of topics, but particularly intriguing was her indictment of American foreign policy for being superficial.
Amanpour said that the people of the United States are not invested enough in their country’s foreign policy, that we are “shielded” from what it means to be great power. She blames two institutions for our lack of political literacy: the media and the education system. The media fails because it does not have a plan for informing us about the world, and education fails because we do not sufficiently learn about the world – in the areas of language, geography, or history, for example – until we go to college. Because of this, we don’t sufficiently pressure our politicians to make long-term decisions that prioritize the gravity of international situations over the politicians’ chances for re-election. And our representatives know about our lack of investment, so they can get away with short-term politics over long-term problem solving.
Such long-term problem solving, to Amanpour, necessitates intervention. However, the nature of our political system lends itself to impatience and intervention that isn’t concerned with what happens after we withdraw from a country. She suggests that, rather than ceasing our meddling, we should be more concerned with its long-term effects.
But let us follow through the possible consequences of such a view. Consider a political system so longsighted that it attempts to engineer international relations to suit its interests. It cares about the gravity of such problems and tries to solve them. It creates long-term policies designed to create a stable world that is friendly to it. This case sounds much more like an imperialism with which I hope most Americans are not comfortable.
America’s foreign policy doesn’t need to fall into the latter category in order to be genuine. Education through schools and the media can help create a politically literate society. But we should not so quickly condemn America to the role of the world’s policeman without, as Amanpour suggested, considering the long-term effects of such a career choice.
Ike Swetlitz ’15 is in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.