Rethinking Foreign Policy Challenges

September/​October 2016 • Policy Report

In American politics, particularly during an election year, you’re likely to hear a lot about political “divisiveness.” Yet on one topic, the two parties have historically had very little meaningful disagreement — foreign policy. While Republicans and Democrats might quibble over the details of how we ought to conduct our interventions or manage our allies, the essential premise upon which America’s current foreign policy rests — that America must maintain primacy, supposedly preserving peace for all nations and allies by asserting its dominance throughout the globe — is never questioned.

Our Foreign Policy Choices, a new guide to foreign policy edited by Cato’s Christopher Preble, Emma Ashford, and Travis Evans, challenges this bipartisan consensus and offers an alternative policy of restraint — one that emphasizes that America’s global influence is strongest when spread by peaceful rather than military means.

Our Foreign Policy Choices features numerous Cato scholars and other experts tackling the top foreign policy concerns of today — from military budgets to NATO policy to strategies for handling ISIS, Iran, Russia, China, and more. It provides a valuable resource for journalists, hill staff, and politicians — Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson recently cited the guide’s section on North Korea, which urges greater diplomacy with China in lieu of foolhardy interventionism, during his editorial board meeting with the Washington Post.

Ashford, Preble, and Evans traveled to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in July, hoping to engage both of the major parties in a substantive debate over these issues. They distributed copies of the foreign policy guide and spoke privately with several media personalities, including Jake Tapper and Joe Scarborough, as well as many representatives and senators. Ashford was featured on a Washington Post Live panel at the Republican National Convention, where they discussed the state of the GOP’s foreign policy platform. “It’s an interesting year for many Republican lawmakers, who now see their party’s candidate differ substantially from them on foreign policy issues,” said Ashford. “But the new debates in foreign policy that are appearing this year also really highlight the fact that many Americans want a broader debate on foreign policy, instead of just politics as usual.”