Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Pragmatists

Last night I was thumbing through AU professor (and sometime consultant, advisor, director, fellow and diplomat) Robert Pastor's chapter on U.S. foreign policy in A Century's Journey. Full disclosure: This wasn't casual bedtime reading. I'm in his class.

Pastor argues that U.S. foreign policy is characterized by a sort of divided vision. Team Teddy leans toward strength, independence and unilateralism. Team Woody leans toward international institutions, universal norms and multilateralism. However, most U.S. foreign policy decisions have been decided by a third, pragmatic camp: Team Undecided, which tends to be swayed and directed by current events.

I haven't gotten far into the reading (although I will soon, as I'm co-leading a discussion on it), but thus far it seems that Pastor's emphasizing hard power (that is, economic and military) action. But how does this bi-/tri-polar foreign policy system influence soft power activities in the United States? After all, foreign policy is one of the most crucial factors in shaping foreign opinions about the United States--a major PD goal. So what does this mean for soft power?

For some reason, it's put a Kaiser Chief's song in my head: We are the angry mob. We read the papers every day. We like who we like, we hate who we hate, but we're also easily swayed.

Pastor suggests that the United States has frequently been more committed to Wilsonian rhetoric than Wilsonian action, an inconsistency that could undermine PD efforts abroad. In fact, the entire system, with its reliance on the pragmatic but variable Undecideds seems geared toward inconsistency in general. And that's a problem for an enterprise that relies on consistency.

Of course, I'm only a few pages in and I could be totally off-base on my assessment. Stay tuned for an update when I finish my reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment