Setting Foreign Policy Priorities in an Era of Political Polarization
As part of the 2018 Munich Security Conference, AICGS was pleased to cohost a breakfast program with the American Council on Germany. The theme of the discussion was “Setting Foreign Policy Priorities in an Era of Political Polarization.”
Participating in that exchange were: Niels Annen, Member of the Bundestag (SPD); Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO); Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX); John Emerson, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany; Jane Harman, Woodrow Wilson Center; Andreas Nick, Member of the Bundestag (CDU); Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; and Representative Michael Turner (R-OH).
The challenge of populism raised the initial question of what it is, and how it takes hold in society. The consensus of the politicians was that meeting the challenge requires understanding the perspectives of those who feel threatened or left behind by trends beyond their reach. Explaining and making foreign policy choices involves linking the bottom-up and top-down views of citizens and policymakers. Without support at home, any government will be unable to sustain a successful policy abroad.
That requires defining the parameters of common goals and shared benefits across borders. Polarization within a country can be as dangerous as cross-border tensions. The current atmosphere of zero-sum thinking on both sides of the Atlantic is a major problem in dealing with problems much larger than any single actor, no matter how small or large.
Photos from the event:
All photos by Jens Oellermann/ MSC