For most of my three and a half decades as an American diplomat, the foreign-policy establishment (known unaffectionately in some quarters as “the blob”) took for granted that expansive U.S. leadership abroad would deliver peace and prosperity at home. That assumption was lazy, and often flawed.
Riding the waves of globalization and American geopolitical dominance, we overreached. We deluded ourselves with magical thinking about our capacity to remake other societies, while neglecting the urgent need to remake our own. Unsurprisingly, the disconnect widened between the Washington policy establishment and the citizens it is meant to serve.
Globalization and the deregulated flow of goods, services, and capital didn’t lift all boats. Instead, much of the American middle class—the engine of our country’s historic rise—wound up shipwrecked by income stagnation, automation and outsourcing, economic inequality, educational debt, and crippling health and housing costs. The coronavirus pandemic has only deepened these dislocations, making a reset of U.S. foreign policy’s relationship with the middle class even more urgent.
By the time I left government several years ago, well before the pandemic broke, it was already well past time to reconnect foreign policy to domestic renewal. Now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, I share my colleagues’ interest in playing a part in this effort. The result is a new report, “Making U.S. Foreign Policy Work Better for the Middle Class,” the culmination of a systematic, two-year survey of three heartland states—Ohio, Colorado, and Nebraska.