This article first appeared on the Ethics & International Affairs blog.
Jon Finer, who has been nominated to serve as the deputy national security advisor in the Biden/Harris administration, gave an interview with GlobalBrief in 2020. He was asked about the impact of domestic politics and trends on U.S. foreign policy formulation. Finer's response is worth perusing:
In some ways, the traditional divide between American foreign and domestic policy decision-making is starting to break down. I do not see this as an entirely bad thing. The longstanding firewall between these two parts of the administrative state was based on good reasons and motives. People thought that national security and foreign policy should be insulated from political calculations. This notion that politics should stop at the water's edge is well grounded and well-intentioned. It has led to a disconnect between what foreign policy-makers do, and what most of the rest of the American political apparatus knows about, cares about and understands. [Emphasis added]
There are issues like immigration, terrorism and trade that have domestic components and foreign policy components. Treating them as one or the other does a disservice to the attainment of the best answers that the system can produce. As such, one thing that is happening in the modern era of American politics is that politics is being infused into foreign policy to a greater extent.
At the same time, Finer warned about what happens when foreign policy is not grounded in an enduring domestic political consensus. It leads to concerns as to "whether American commitments will endure longer than one political cycle. . . . There will now be legitimate questions asked by people on the other side of the negotiating table about how long those commitments will actually endure beyond the next election."
Along with other senior appointments—Jake Sullivan as national security advisor, Susan Rice as head of the domestic policy council—it appears that the new administration is looking for ways to recenter U.S. global engagement onto a broader and more enduring domestic base.