Gallagher's Proposal & Emerging Narratives

Feb 11, 2020

This article first appeared on the Ethics & International Affairs blog.

One of the members of the Carnegie Council study group on U.S. global engagement, Colin Dueck, alerted me to an important Wall Street Journal op-ed by Representative Michael Gallagher (R-WI) which lays out a new paradigm for conducting U.S. foreign policy, as it relates to trade and "great power competition" with regards to technological advancement. Gallagher calls for the United States and the United Kingdom to forge a new trade and technological alliance, and then opening this new alliance to other countries which meet the appropriate standards of governance and commitment to liberal (free market/democratic) values. The goals would be to re-orient the trading relations of both countries away from a China which neither shares those values nor is showing signs of fulfilling Robert Zoellick's hope expressed some 15 years ago that Beijing would buttress the existing world order.

Gallagher's proposal is rooted in two emerging narratives about U.S. foreign policy that the Carnegie Council's recent report identified: the "democratic community" narrative, where the U.S. and like-minded partners loosen ties to authoritarian trading partners and privilege connections with states which share similar values, and the "regeneration/reindustrialization" narrative, where a focus is on facilitating economic growth and development, particularly in technological breakthroughs.

One thing I have noted in my encounters with members of Congress is that the latter narrative—and the idea for it came from encounters and discussions with representatives from both sides of the aisle—is that restoring and honing America's competitive edge is of great importance to them—but also from their assessment that the long-term basis of American power and its leadership of the community of nations comes from its culture of innovation. Thus, the core example of Gallagher's proposal—a U.S./UK partnership in developing 5G—is designed not merely to offset China but also can develop constituencies in both countries that would benefit from such a program. This is not a "foreign policy as social work" approach or "foreign policy as world police" but an approach to foreign policy that seeks benefits at both the international but also the domestic level.

Gallagher is attempting to answer the question about who the U.S. is competing with and what it is competing for—and to provide a set of concrete policy options. His op-ed is part of a process and conversation that the Center for a New American Security believes is imperative as the U.S. considers what role it will be playing in the world as we move into the mid-21st century. In a just-released assessment, Protracted Great Power War, Andrew Krepinevich makes this point, which sums up the issue at hand:

In a democracy, it is essential to develop and sustain popular support for a long-term competition that involves periods of peace but also the possibility of protracted conflict between the great powers—especially if a key U.S. security objective is to avoid such a conflict and the enormous costs it would almost certainly incur in waging it.

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