The State of the World: Honoring the James H. Binger Chair in Global Governance
President, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order
James H. Binger Senior Fellow in Global Governance and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Council on Foreign Relations
Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations
CFR President Richard N. Haass and Senior Fellow Stewart M. Patrick honor the Robina Foundation upon the establishment of the James H. Binger Chair in Global Governance. The chair was established in 2016 through a generous gift from the Robina Foundation and was named in honor of long-time CFR member James H. Binger. It builds upon the Robina Foundation’s previous investment in the Council’s International Institutions and Global Governance (IIGG) program by ensuring that CFR continues to promote independent scholarship on issues of global governance. Stewart M. Patrick was named the first chairholder on January 1, 2017.
HAASS: Well, good evening. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations. I’m Richard Haass, and it’s a pleasure to see so many of our members here for joining us on the discussion on the state of the world and even more focused on the state of global governance. That’s A-N-C-E, not M-E-N-T-S. Got it? (Laughter.)
Tonight, we are proud and honored— to use that same word again— to honor the legacy of James H. Binger, who was a dedicated council member from 1974 for 30 years, and when he died in 2004, he was the former CEO of Honeywell Corporation; a native Minnesotan with rich and diverse interests— maybe that’s redundant, for those of you from Minnesota— and spent much of his time in Minneapolis but also in New York. And in your program, you will be able to read about this gentleman. He felt so strongly about the work of The Council on Foreign Relations that he named the council, along with three other institutions of the principal beneficiaries of the Robina Foundation, which he established in the last year of his life. And since 2005, the foundation has provided literally tens of millions of dollars to The Council on Foreign Relations, primarily to help launch the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, known affectionately as IIGG, to support— as well as to support a number of our diversity initiatives here. And one of the important consequences of that was providing endowment support to expand the Franklin Williams Internship Program.
So tonight is an opportunity not just to publicly thank the foundation for their support of so many aspects of what we do here at The Council on Foreign Relations over the last dozen or so years, but also it’s to mark the investiture of CFR Senior Fellow Stewart Patrick, as the first the inaugural holder of the James H. Binger Chair in Global Governance. And again, it’s the Robina Foundation that has provided the endowment, which has allowed us to establish this chair and will ensure that Jim Binger’s name is associated with the council in perpetuity.
So, it’s a real personal privilege to me to welcome the many members of the Robina Foundation Board who are with us tonight.
And at this moment, what I’d like to do is turn it over to the Board Chair Kathleen Blatz.
(Audience member sneezes). Bless you. (Laughter.) This is probably the time to also talk about our program in noncommunicable as well as infectious diseases. (Laughter.) Serious health concerns here in the City of New York. We’ve got the former mayor here. We’re prepared.
But it’s a chance to turn things over to Kathleen Blatz for a few remarks to set—to get us launched here tonight, after which we will have a panel with Stewart, Jim Lindsay, and myself.
BLATZ: Good evening. It’s really truly wonderful for me to be able to join you, the wonderful staff and leadership of the CFR, so many of its members, and to have my colleagues here to celebrate the work of CFR globally, generally, but in particular tonight to celebrate the creation of the James Binger Chair Global Governance.
We have been at this kind of work in partnership with CFR for about nine years, and what we have been funding is best known— and I have to read it— The International Institutions Global Governance Initiative. We’ve been funding it for nine years, and I have to say, Richard, that if you put together, with Jim’s able help here, a grant request to hire someone to help you with naming programs, I think it would be funded immediately— (laughter)— because this has been a tongue twister for the entire Board for nine years. We call it IIGG, which is also very catchy, as you can see.
But anyway, the work has been led by Stewart Patrick, and it’s really been nothing short of fantastic, and we’ll hear a little bit more from him later on tonight on the program, and I think he’s no stranger to people in this room. My colleagues— I just want to recognize them briefly— we have Gordy Aamoth, who is our Board member emeritus, who was a liaison to CFR; and Steve Lewis, who is our liaison now to CFR; and we have Marianne Short and Susan Berresford, who has been a member of CFR for years; and our able Executive Director Penny Hunt and our assistant Nancy Gilberg here— all from Minnesota.
Because we don’t always— we’re not always able to travel together for some of these celebrations, but the work of CFR has meant a lot to all of us and we are very, very supportive of the work. It’s as timely and relevant today as it was when the words were merely on paper to create this idea and that was nine years ago, so, that’s why we join you tonight.
I’d like just to say a little bit more about Jim Binger to provide some context to why, maybe, he brought us together tonight. Jim was a— if I had to pick just one word to describe his life, I would use the word expansive. There’s a nice summary of his background in the materials that you have there— Richard also made reference to it— but I can tell you a little bit about him. He was a very accomplished lawyer and he practiced law before he became the CEO of Honeywell, so, he was a businessman. He was an art lover, and he did own, I think, five theaters here in NY, and he also owned a few in Minnesota. He loved horses— some of that’s captured in the description of him— he was a polo player— but more importantly, I think he just loved horses to ride. He rode in the country every week for over 30 years. And he also bought race horses all over the world, and he owned a racetrack in Florida. And, of course, he was a generous philanthropist, which is what brings us together here tonight.
He had a vision before he died of creating this foundation. He didn’t serve on the foundation board, but he left the bylaws in good order and gave us direction of his vision. His vision was to have just four grantees, CFR being one of them, but also Yale University, where he went as an undergrad student; to the University of Minnesota Law School, where he got his law degree; and then a hospital system in Minnesota that is not the mayo, but is a very good hospital system— Abbott Northwestern/Allina. And when you know of his broad interests, I think you should know and feel very proud, given your association with CFR, that CFR rose to the top of where he wanted his money to go upon his death. He funded this foundation and he gave us instruction to spend all the money in 20 years or less, so tonight we take a closer step to that end goal, and he also wanted us to fund programs that were innovative and, if successful, to be transformative, not just to the institution itself that he gave money to but to the world outside of it.
So, Jim is not here tonight with us, but I have no doubts that he would be so proud of the fruits of our labor, of our partnership together, and that he would salute the leadership, Richard and Jim, and of course, two toasts for Stewart Patrick here tonight for being the first occupant of the chair. So, thank you very much, and congratulations, Stewart, to you. (Applause.)
I was going to introduce, I believe— Jim, are you going to say a few words, or are you going to all come up? OK.
LINDSAY: Good evening, everyone. I am Jim Lindsay, director of the David Rockefeller Studies Program here at The Council on Foreign Relations, and I actually want to echo Richard’s thanks to the Robina Foundation and the members of the Board for the very generous gift and extend my congratulations to Stewart on being in the inaugural James H. Binger Chair at the Council.
HAASS: Yeah, no pressure, Stewart. (Laughter.)
LINDSAY: It’s my honor to introduce my two co-panelists. I’m going to keep it short. Their extensive bios are in your roster. All the way to my left, geographically, is Richard Haass, now entering his 14th year as the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Richard has served a distinguished career both as a scholar and policy practitioner. He is the author or editor of 13 books on foreign policy, one book on management. And his most recent book, “A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order,” just came out last month. Highly recommend it. Got rave reviews, so congratulations.
To my immediate left is Stewart Patrick, who is the James H. Binger chair here at the Council on Foreign Relations and a director of IIGG, the International Institutions and Global Governance Program. Stewart has written prolifically on topics related to global governance. He is the author of “Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security,” and right now he’s wrapping up a book tentatively titled “Sovereignty Reimagined: America and the World.”
Stewart, I’m going to start with you and honor the fact that you are the new James H. Binger Chair. Now, the title of tonight’s event is “State of the World.” I’m going to stipulate for the sake of the discussion that the state of the world is turbulent, some may say in disarray, but certainly turbulent. What I’m really interested is sort of talking about the state of global governance, and if maybe you could sort of help us out by giving us your assessment of where we stand in terms of the state of global governance.
PATRICK: I feel like starting with the state of our global union is poor. It is—there’s no question that in certain areas efforts in international cooperation have borne fruit. We have had over, in recent years, successes with respect to the Paris climate deal, for instance. We have had successes with respect to the sustainable development agenda at the United Nations. But there’s no question that in many cases these—the inherited institutions that we have, have not kept pace with the times. Many of them, including the nonproliferation treaty regime, for instance, are straining.
Just to back up for a second and give you a thumbnail definition of global governance, global governance is less in a sense an aspiration than a description of the mess of reality that’s out there. When it comes to transnational threats like, whether it’s climate change or transnational terrorism or financial stability, you need to have not just international—excuse me—national governments that are getting involved in things. You need to have civil society organizations. You need to have private corporations, et cetera. So this is—the term global governance seems quite nebulous, but basically it’s just saying that you need to have a lot of messy arrangements often to set the agenda, to negotiate, to implement, to monitor and evaluate international cooperation.
The big problem with global governance today is really in this sort of normative or the purposeful desire to create a particular type of world order. We hear often that the international—that the liberal order that has been created and was created by the United States, primarily at the end of the second war—
LINDSAY: Could you do me a favor, Stewart, and could you just sort of explain to people what the liberal order is?
PATRICK: The liberal order is basically as set of principles and rules and norms and standards that basically are based on the principle of openness, open societies, open politics, open economies, open trade, and the agreement to live under a certain set of rules that everyone abides by, including an agreement that if some countries get out of control, that we will put our collective force to try to dissuade them from behaving in that manner. So this is something new. It’s something that has only existed, by and large, since the end of the Second World War. And it was—it did not come out of thin air. It basically was the creation of American power imaginatively deployed, right? So you have the institutions that we’ve talked about so much and—of 1945 era, of the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions, et cetera. The problem now is that at the end of the Cold War, everybody had the assumption, well, this liberal order, what it’s going to do is it’s going to expand around the world.
But we have a crisis of the liberal order because for two reasons. The first is that it turns out a lot of countries, or a number of countries, including very powerful countries, don’t share that same vision. I’m thinking Russia and China to some degree in particular, but even other emerging powers don’t always do it. But the biggest threat to this order that we’re talking about is stemming, arguably right now, from domestic issues and the domestic populism and nationalism and insularity that we saw manifested in the Brexit vote, and it obviously has been a huge strain in recent American politics, including in the election of the current administration, which came to power on the—a groundswell of sentiment that the existing rules were not working for people, were not working for enough people. They were keeping us constrained, and we needed to basically get our country back. And I think it’s—what’s odd about this—or, I mean, it’s exciting but also sort of terrifying about this era is that we are back to, you know, when the Council was founded, where you really have to make the argument about internationalism, which we haven’t had in a while.
LINDSAY: Richard, the concept of order figures prominently in “The World in Disarray,” and you describe an old order that is fraying badly, eroding badly. I’d like to hear a little bit about why you think that is the case, but I’d also like you to explain, in your view, why that’s a problem, and who it’s a problem for.
HAASS: OK. Well, order, as Stewart was suggesting, is essentially about rules in the world, about how international relations are to be conducted, what are the legitimate uses of force, for example, what are the principles that ought to inform relations between and among countries. And it’s not just a matter of consensus, but also there’s got to be a balance of power. It’s got to be upheld, so usually it takes a shared sense of what the rules are to be, a commitment to how they ought to be set and changed, and then a balance of power which discourages people from overturning it. It’s existed, the current one, for some nearly 400 years, outgrowth of mayhem in Europe in the 17th century, and it’s based more than anything else on the idea of sovereignty, that we ought not to use force to change borders, and that what goes on within the borders of other countries is pretty much its business alone. It’s kind of live and let live society. And my argument is simply that this is all necessary and good. Obviously, it’s not always respected: World War I, World War II, more recently Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, the Russian military action and annexation of Crimea. But again, if it were a world without that, it would be a world of constant intervention and violence.
My argument is simply that it’s no longer adequate, that we live in a world, thanks to globalization, where nothing stays local for long, and whether it’s an infectious disease or hackers or terrorists or greenhouse gases or guns or drugs or you name it, things cross borders with a, you know, tremendous speed and tremendous volume, and we simply—and the question is how is the world going to contend with it. How is the world going to deal with various threats to either peace between countries or stability within them? And my argument is simply that there’s a tremendous gap now between the nature and scale and number of the threats and the consensus in the world about how to deal with them, and that’s why orders or—you know, order’s not some abstract notion, but it’s a—it’s a measure of the quality of peace, whether within or between countries.
And if you think about, say, the Middle East, one doesn’t need a long conversation about the—clearly the any measure of order is going to be frustrating. It’s a measure of the threats to peace, so that’s where things like North Korea’s nuclear missile program start figuring high or Russian interference in the American political campaign—there’s clearly no rules about what ought to govern cyberspace. Or we—some other areas of the international reaction may be better. There was a belated but still fairly effective reaction to Ebola or to Zika. So there, in the public health area, there’s been some progress. One could say that maybe the reaction to the Iran nuclear program in a preventive way was better than again, say, how it’s been to the North Korea. But if one looks at refugee issues, it’s obvious that even if there are rules, they’re often not respected. And what we’ve seen again in Syria, that, you know, this phrase international community is invoked every other minute, but the ugly truth is there isn’t much of one, that in many cases the whole idea of community is a slogan but not a reality. And what, you know, Stewart and others have been up to is trying, again, to close this gap. But it’s not some abstract academic notion. This directly measures the quality of international relations.
You know, my favorite book, the one I always refer to, is one by an Australian academic named Hedly Bull, and the title of the book is “The Anarchical Society.” And I find it the single-most useful framing concept still out there, because if you think of the world at any one point, there’s a balance between anarchy and society, between something that is a completely disorderly, anarchy or chaos, and society. And society’s where you have rules that are respected. At any moment in history and in any of the domains Stewart and his—Stewart and his colleagues are looking at, you can measure what’s the balance between anarchy and society.
And my only concern about the last few years—and I’ll stop here—is that in many areas the arrows are pointing in the wrong direction. And I think a really interesting question—and I expect we’ll get to it in this panel—is for the last 70 years the principal driver in many—we’re not perfect—has been the United States. And one of the interesting questions is, with an administration that is embracing a concept of America first, have we now reached a point in history where the United States is no longer willing to be the principal architect or upholder of essentially international order? And if so, what are the consequences? And this is, I think, a potentially very different moment in our collective work here.
LINDSAY: Well, Richard, let me take you up on the question you just posed.
HAASS: I was afraid you were going to do that.
LINDSAY: Well, because, I mean, clearly in the Trump administration, President Trump has a different view of the merits of many global arrangements, actually arguing that they impoverish America or constrain America or limit America’s sovereignty or freedom. And, again, if you go outside the United States, the British vote in Brexit was that they wanted a different kind of arrangement. They wanted their autonomy back. So I guess as I look at it, what is your case to Americans as to why shirking or turning away from the last 75 years is a bad idea? I guess the typical so what question.
HAASS: A couple of answers to it. One is that to the extent there’s disorder out there, we can’t build a moat—or, if you’ll pardon the expression, a giant wall—to protect ourselves from it. Again, nothing stays local for long. So if there’s tremendous amounts or rising amounts of disorder in the world, it will find its way to us, whether it’s through cyberspace or whether, as we saw in Europe, refugees crossing in, or it could be North Korean missiles able to reach the continental United States with nuclear weapons, or as we saw on 9/11, terrorists physically getting on airplanes with boxcutters. And you go down every dimension of international relations. So what happens out there affects here. And what I think the United States has always understood, it’s always internalized, that we need to worry about what goes on out there, not as an act of philanthropy or charity or, quote-unquote, foreign aid, but as an act of good old-fashioned realism. And the idea that acting in the world is an expression of realism, I think, is something that is not understood, and if things go bad out there, they will find a way to travel here. So that’s sort of one.
Two is, the cost of this is actually not all that high. Even—OK, so today it was announced that the White House wants to increase defense spending by roughly 9 percent, roughly from 550 (billion dollars) to $600 billion. I realize this is large amounts of money, but if this were to go through, just postulate that, we’re still talking at, what, about 3, 3 1/3 percent of GDP, which is far, far lower than the Cold War era average of what the United States was spending as a percentage of its GDP on defense. So not only do what we do out there has returns here, but what’s being suggested is, as high as it sounds—or it is—is still not by historical measures all that high on a relative basis.
And thirdly, the argument that what we do out there—and he showed this in the inaugural—in the president’s speech the other day at the conservative party—the conservative conference—and you may or may not hear it tomorrow night, I don’t know—is that what we’re spending out there, if only we’d spent it here, the idea that what we’re spending, to put it bluntly, on guns should be spent on butter, I’d say a couple of things. One is, you know, you can blame, for example, the Iraq War, the 2003 Iraq War for a lot. I don’t think you can blame it for the 2008 financial crisis. If we had never gone into Iraq, I don’t think necessarily our financial regulatory system would have been better. Or Afghanistan, you probably can’t—those of you who traveled through LaGuardia tonight, I don’t think you can—you could blame the state of LaGuardia on what we’ve done or not done in Afghanistan. So this idea that what we do abroad is somehow responsible for what we—we’re not doing at home, seems to me, again, simply not borne out by the facts. At the end of the day, the honest answer is we need to have both. We need both guns and butter, and then national security has to—has to have both dimensions. But I think this is a conversation that needs to be—needs to be had, and I think it needs—people need to understand the—you know, the connections. And again, the most basic one is that what happens out there will affect here.
And the other half of that is equally true. And I’d be curious if Stewart agrees with this—but I think he might—which is there’s no more important country—we can’t do it unilaterally, but the world is essentially not a self-ordering or self-organizing place. And what the last 70-odd years shows is the United States has got to play a fairly large role. And without that—and what we’ve seen, for example, in the United States retrenches—and I would argue that’s been the case in the Middle East—rather than seeing others in a good sense filling the vacuum, we see vacuums persisting and extraordinarily disorderly forces or actors tend to take advantage of it. So without the United States playing a large role out there, things out there tend to go from bad to worse.
PATRICK: Yeah, I would agree that the notion that somehow we can either retrench or free ride without suffering consequences is one that’s not going to be borne out and hasn’t been borne out in the past. You know, the question has—the debate over for the last sort of 15 years has been should the United States—how should the United States lead? Should it be leading vigorously from the front? Should it be leading from behind? But now we have a situation where there’s even a suggestion that the United States will not be leading at all. And in those circumstances, other countries will fill the vacuum. And the greatness of the post-war generation who put down the blueprints for the major institutions that we still have, is that they thought about milieu goals—in other words, they thought about the interests of the system. Out of enlightened self-interest, they realized that there needed to be an insurer or a manager of the system, and obviously that can be shared, that role, but it can’t be abandoned.
LINDSAY: Let me draw you out on that, Stewart, because what I’m hearing you and Richard say is that the world doesn’t self-organize. If we don’t lead, it’s not clear others will join us. But I think the same token is, if you look at the results of the 2016 election campaign, many Americans believe that other countries aren’t paying their fair share. So the question is, if American leadership is necessary but the domestic underpinnings of public support for that role don’t exist, how do you solve that conundrum?
PATRICK: Well, you solve it in a number of ways. One is that you try to get a little bit more specific about—and a bit more honest, frankly—about what we actually get for, say, our alliances abroad and that this isn’t—you know, the aspects of the Trump administration policy so far have seemed to describe alliances as, if they’re going to have any utility, they have to be some sort of a protection racket, for instance, rather than acknowledging how much money many of our allies are spending—and even if they’re not spending it necessarily as the amount of money on actual military forces as we would like them to spend.
I think—I think you need to persuade folks also that if we—particularly if we take as uncertain—if we blow in uncertain trumpet and we introduce certain uncertainties into strategic relationships, geopolitical relationships around the world, it’s not like they don’t have a vote, these other countries that have been our partners and our allies. And in an article in this issue of Foreign Affairs, I talk about a phenomenon that is likely to rise, which is called hedging. Basically, when you think about a country’s confronting a big power, they’re either going to resist certain things it’s doing, or they’re going to acquiesce and roll over, right? So they’re either going to balance it or they’re going to bandwagon.
Well, Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, said I want you to play with another idea, which is maybe they’ll hedge, maybe they’ll vacillate. And what I fear is as—if the United States pulls back, if it—if it doesn’t act as the insurer of some of these countries, then they’re going to hedge their bets increasingly, and the United States is going to have less diplomatic maneuvering room. It’s going to have less influence in the Far East, where, you know, countries could conceivably do things that make them—put them a little bit in between the relationship with China and the United States, in the European Union, there—at the Munich Conference recently, there was a huge amount of uncertainty and bewilderment and people saying, look, we’re going to have to take out, in a sense, our own insurance policies. And that might mean cozying up to Russia. It might mean moving towards the notion of a European third force that’s apart from Russia and the United States. So when you do this, you set forth a lot of really uncertain forces that you’re not necessarily sure you’re going to be able to control anymore.
LINDSAY: Richard, I want to draw you out on the same question, because, obviously, if you take NATO as an example, the United States’ successive administrations have complained about the Europeans’ not doing their fair share. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates in his valedictory speech laid it out that the alliance was at the risk of making itself irrelevant, because members refused to invest in it. I think more broadly if you look at the global order that the United States created after World War II, it’s made a lot of countries very wealthy, or wealthier, and they have been quite happy with the benefits of the order and they have shied away from taking on the responsibility. So I’m left wondering, wouldn’t sort of President Trump’s approach be one way to get everybody’s attention and make serious commitment to the order because they haven’t been willing to make the commitment previously?
HAASS: Well, first of all, one of the countries that’s gotten wealthier as a result of what the United States has done in the world for the last 70 years is the United States. We’ve had a remarkable return on investment, and we ought not to ignore it. And the last 70 years look a hell of a lot better than the 50 years before it, in part—in no small part because the United States was active and leading. And I would actually argue it’s something of a bargain in terms of the—what it’s cost us and the return on investment.
The danger if we do less is, as one danger Stewart pointed out is people might defer too much to strong local states and Iran in the Middle East, to Russia in Europe, China in Asia. The other is, they may start taking matters into their own hands. And I think the Saudi invasion of Yemen is something of a warning there. If countries believe they can’t count on the United States, they may start doing things that we may not like, might be contrary to what we see as our interests, and they may start to arm in certain ways. Countries that aren’t confident, say, of an American commitment to make sure that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon, guess what? If countries come to that conclusion, they’re going to develop nuclear weapons of their own. If a China or a South Korea come to doubt the American nuclear commitment to them, guess what? They’re either going to defer to China or they’re going to build nuclear programs of their own. I mean, history doesn’t stop. Countries make security decisions all the time. So I think these are the sorts of consequences we have to think about.
And it comes back Jim’s previous question. What do you do about it? Well, I think the answer is you engage in debate about it. So people, you know, don’t—you know, this administration decided that it didn’t want to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement, and it pulled the United States out of it. I believe that was a strategic as well as economic error. And I think what people like me then need to do is go to make the case about why trade is not responsible for, you know, 80 to 90 percent of job loss that’s occurred in American manufacturing, that we need to point to the relentless pace of technological innovation, and that we need to have programs that deal with that challenge.
If we want to rebuild a consensus in favor of trade because people like me think it has economic and strategic benefits, and whether the disagreements is over trade or immigration or over foreign policy more broadly, then, you know, it’s the marketplace of ideas. And you go out there and you make the case in public, you make it to Congress, you make to the administration, you make it to schools or in schools, and we essentially have a big conversation. And, you know, I just simply think we’re at a time in history now where, unlike the previous 70 years, the conversation’s qualitatively differently, that there aren’t the same degree of givens, there’s questions that are now being asked that just simply weren’t asked. The potential deviation or difference from existing or traditional policy to what’s being thought about is much bigger, and so I think we’re having a first order debate about this country’s role in the world—not so much its goals, in part, but also its means, what it is we should—we the United States should be prepared to do. So this is a first order of debate, and I think when you have first order debates, it’s incumbent upon individuals who are—who toil in those vineyards to join the debate.
LINDSAY: At this point, I want to invite our members and guests to join the conversation. First, let me remind everybody that this meeting is on the record. I would ask that you wait for the microphone. We ask that you please speak into it directly. We also ask that you stand, state your name and affiliation, and we also ask if you would please limit yourself to one question and keep it concise so that everyone will have a chance or as many people as possible will have a chance to ask a question.
Sir, you get the first question.
Q: Thank you. Robert Cohan (ph) from Princeton University.
It seems quite clear that the political underpinnings for globalization have eroded. There’s a—there’s a—
HAASS: Underpinnings for what?
Q: Of globalization. That is, the international institutions that many of us have studied have become more and more extensive, have eroded sovereignty to some extent, and at the same time the underlying nationalism of national publics hasn’t really changed. It was submerged in the good times and it’s kind of coming out now.
So the question I want to pose is what the panelists say about the relationship between the domestic politics and international institutions. And one way to put this is the so-called elephant curve, which shows the effects over the last 20 years on incomes of people at different points in the global income distribution. This has been the greatest period of reducing inequality in the history of the world. So the people in India and China who were very poor have benefited tremendously. The very wealthy have benefited tremendously. But the average American worker, someone at the 80th percentile of global income, has not benefited at all. So the curve goes like this, and then down like this, and then up at the top. And that tells you a lot about the political underpinnings and the loss of them. So what can we do about that?
PATRICK: Well, if I might start with that, Richard wrote—the previous book that he wrote, “Foreign Policy Begins at Home,” started at getting at some of this, but I think that—but it’s even—that notion is even more relevant now because it’s basically the domestic foundations that for the longest time were largely internationalistly inclined in the United States.
I think part of it is the only way of dealing with that is trying to recraft the—a bargain within the—with U.S. integration and the global economy, but along with other countries at least in the same boat. I think that one of the things that happened to the post-war settlement in dealing with global economic relations was, after the 1970s, when one way of looking at it is that capital got liberate and labor obviously didn’t. And, you know, our colleague Ted Alden—notwithstanding the general gains you get from trade, our colleague Ted Alden has talked about the hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing because of the failure of public policymakers who have the leeway to do so—although it would have been costly—to actually create social safety nets and—but also worker retraining and also investing in infrastructure and these sorts of things. And so there is enough fiscal space and enough—if there’s enough willpower to actually engage the American workforce in different sorts of opportunities so that they can—you know, if you look at other countries, in many countries in Western Europe, in Denmark for instance, which of course everybody’s always trying to get to Denmark, but the degree to which they actually invest in providing basic income for people who have gotten displaced is remarkable, whereas in the United States it almost doesn’t exist.
So that would be one way of trying to straddle that international domestic divide. What you want to avoid, of course, in all of these multilateral negotiations is the opposite, which is a race to the bottom, where you are increasingly undercutting workers’ rights and capital is flying to different parts of the world without heed of the domestic implications.
LINDSAY: Want to take a crack at it?
HAASS: Yeah, just for minute. I actually think we’ve reached a point that where the principal phenomenon will not be related to globalization but I think will be more—everyone’s domestic, and I think it will be because of innovation. And, you know, I looked at in 20 years where we’re going to be with robotics, and probably since this meeting’s begun Amazon’s put in a hundred new robots. You’ve got driverless vehicles. You’ve got millions and millions of jobs that are going to disappear for people who are in them and aren’t going to be here for the next generation coming of age. So we can blame it on trade and we can blame it on immigration, but that’s scapegoating. That’s not serious public policy. We’ve got to get serious as a society with what we’re going to do.
And Stewart was suggesting some of the things, whether it’s training—because right now we’ve also got a mismatch between workers’ skills and job needs. We’ve got to figure out how to deal with that gap. There’s a lot of best practices around the world and a lot—and some new things being developed in this country, by corporations, by states and municipalities, but we’ve got to get really good at identifying and spreading best practices. We do need things like wage insurance, temporary ways of getting people through patches when their income has fallen off. But this is the serious conversation we have got to have and I think other societies—if I—you know, if I were going to design an agenda for the G-7 or G-20, this would be it. This is the agenda we ought to be having, rather than allowing it to be captured by the latest international political thing. This is the structural challenge, and it’s the hardest kind of crisis for societies to deal with because it’s in that category of what I call slow-motion crises. You know, you’ve got things like climate change. You’ve got this. You’ve got debt. These are all slow—it’s very hard to get a sense of urgency.
Well, we know where it’s heading. And we’re about to have—I mean, if you read—I mean, the most popular article in the history, I guess, of all the downloads of Commentary Magazine, it was Nick Eberstadt’s about the miserable 21st century. And it’s this depiction. It is bleak house with big slices of our society, which, as Bob said, are not participating in the upside. You read J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. These are warning shots. These are collective warning shots about—that we have to address, because we’re not going to succeed as a society or an economy if large chunks of this country don’t participate. So we have got to deal with that.
LINDSAY: The gentleman right there by the pillar.
Q: Thank you. I’m I.K. Cush. I am with New African Magazine.
Mr. Haass, you said that without the U.S. playing a large role in the world, things go from bad to worse. I think I got you there. Do you feel that way with regards to Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, given the U.S.’s involvement in that part of the world?
HAASS: I think there’s times the United States has made mistakes either in overreaching—and I would say Iraq 2003 I would put in that category; I’d put Vietnam in that category; I’d put Libya going in in that category probably; Korea going north of the 38th Parallel. And there’s other times I think we’ve underreached. And I would say Libya the aftermath was an example of that, of pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq.
So I’m not saying we get it—you know, we get it right or not. But as a secular trend, when I look at the history of the last 70 years and I look at the U.S. alliance system, I look what we’ve done with NATO, I look what we’ve done with the alliance system in Asia, yeah, I think one of the reasons the last 70 years looked a hell of a lot better than the preceding 50 is because of what the United States has done.
Just as an aside, by the way, if I’m right in my list of where the United States got it wrong, none of those things was because of American alliance commitments. Those are all examples where the United States embarked on a foreign policy that I thought was more ambitious than it needed to be. The danger, obviously, now is we overreact the other way. We now underreach in a—in a systematic way.
LINDSAY: Yes, ma’am, right here.
Q: Felice Gaer, the Jacob Blaustein Institute.
The issue of human rights is in the U.N. Charter because of the United States, and yet the Human Rights Council that’s been created has become the whipping boy of the U.N. and the poster boy—sorry about the gender—
HAASS: I was going to say, why not poster child? (Laughter.)
Q: Poster child, thank you. And the poster child for the idea that if the U.S. withdraws, everything will be fine. They deserve it, because the Human Rights Council has bad members, because it has bias against certain countries, because it has ballooned the issues. Can you tell us, do you agree—this is for Stewart—do you agree with this criticism? And how would you advise the administration on this issue of withdrawal?
PATRICK: Well, I certainly would advise them not to withdraw. And I actually would draw their attention to a paper that can be downloaded on CFR.org, co-written by Mark Lagon—I note a former Jesse Helms staffer—and his colleague Ryan Kaminski of the U.N. Foundation, basically making the argument that although the administration of George W. Bush chose not to run for the Human Rights Council when it replaced the Commission on Human Rights, which had been obviously very dysfunctional, on the grounds that this wasn’t much better and there still were a lot of human rights abusers on the council, they make a very persuasive argument that the U.S. participation was absolutely essential in changing, not eliminating but changing, the mono-maniacal focus on the state of Israel, in bringing certain tough resolutions to bear, including on Iran, including not least on Syria, where the Security Council was paralyzed, the Human Rights Council did perform quite admirably in terms of some quite condemnatory resolutions.
Now, there is a difference between the amount of work you have to put in to get these resolutions off the ground, a huge amount of diplomatic shoe leather and telephone calls, or however they communicate these days. But the kicker really is if the United States is not in there, there’s no question it will be dominated by the Chinas and Russias and others of the world.
That’s a great question.
Q: Joel Mentor, Barclays.
My question basically is about the role of mythology—the role of mythology in terms of promoting the international order. It seems to me people aren’t necessarily truth-seeking or logical, fully logical beings, right? We know smoking is bad for us, but that doesn’t necessarily stop people from doing it, right?
So it seems to me that throughout the Cold War, besides, like, very subtle logical arguments about why we should be engaged in the world, a lot of the stuff that gave people that motivation to support a vigorous engagement with the world was this idea of America supporting democracy and stuff like that. But we’ve lost our political innocence post-Watergate, Vietnam War. You’ve had whole generations of students who’ve grown up hearing America isn’t necessarily even that much better. We overthrew governments in Guatemala or stuff like that.
Is it even possible to create a new mythology to actually be the underpinning for an aggressive engagement with the world for America?
PATRICK: That’s a really interesting question. It gets, I think, to the heart of some of the argument that Donald Trump is making, and obviously his—when he was asked about Vladimir Putin and said, you know, you think our country is all that great? He’s obviously resonating with that sort of an argument. And it raised the question in a lot of people’s minds, is, after, you know, centuries of Winthrop’s city on a hill, are we now ready to sort of finally bury the notion of American exceptionalism?
My own take is that that amount, that aspect of our political culture runs extraordinarily deep. And I would be surprised if—I’m shocked, frankly, that the Trump administration has gone this far, and President Trump, with virtually no discussion of the purposes of American power. There’s no discussion of human rights, no discussion of democracy promotion, et cetera. I mean, you can soft-pedal, but not even to mention it at all is really remarkable in our political context.
I just don’t know—I mean, it’s an open question, is America now sort of a normal, you know, cynical country that maybe has woken up from the myths that have imbued so much of its political culture over the years? I don’t know. I find it hard to believe that it’s not going to be resurrected.
LINDSAY: Richard, is American exceptionalism dead?
HAASS: No, but American exceptionalism has taken a hit. You know, a lot of non-Americans have commented to me over the last year or two that this is not the United States they thought they knew. And I think Joe Nye’s ideas about soft power are relevant here, where the example we set. We have hurt ourselves, I think, there.
I also think we have a structural challenge, which is during the Cold War a lot of what we were doing was what we were against. Containment—American foreign policy was essentially—had a negative purpose. It was to push back. Buried within it was a positive purpose, but it was to push back.
I think now a lot of what we do in the world is more based on a positive purpose, and that’s often more difficult to sell. And I think we have to constantly remind people of the benefits and necessities of doing it. And I don’t think we’ve done a terribly good job at doing it. I don’t think it’s obvious. And again, I think, particularly after Iraq, to some extent Afghanistan, when intervention fatigue set in, people became very mindful of the down side of American involvement in the world and stopped focusing on the upside or the benefits of American involvement in the world. And I think that’s a conversation. The lesson I take from that, it’s not axiomatic that people are so inclined.
LINDSAY: It would seem that Americans are skeptical that this actually works. I mean, what’s notable about Afghanistan and Iraq is that vast investments of blood and treasure, and it has not yielded the kind of results that were promised or expected; very different than World War II, which led to the creation of this world order.
HAASS: Right. But the lessons to that are to sort of think very hard about what ought to be the purposes of foreign policy. What are the purposes of military force? You know, Colin Powell used to basically say military force is really good at destroying things, and that’s a good use for it. But you try to use military force to change the DNA of other societies, that’s a tall order.
And I think, you know, if Americans have second thoughts about what I would call transformational foreign policy, I actually think that’s the beginning of wisdom. Not everybody agrees with me on left and right, but so be it. I think we have to—to me the debate then is what is the—what ought to be America’s priorities in the world? How ought we to go about them? But that’s still a foreign-policy debate that implicitly embraces having a lot of foreign policy.
I think it’s different to have a foreign-policy debate, which I think the one we’re entering in now, where people no longer accept that and they basically reject having a lot of foreign policy and again are asking why bother. It’s assuming, not even asking, but concluding or assuming it’s not worth it. And that’s a different—that’s a qualitatively different foreign-policy moment.
LINDSAY: But you pointed out that there are costs to inaction, just as there are costs to action.
HAASS: Yeah, absolutely. And in my experience, certainly in government, very few administrations, if any, are as good at assessing the costs of not acting as they are of acting. And I think in some ways it’ll be the great explainer of the Obama administration experience in Syria is every time you look at all the options of doing things, and you do what we used to call paralysis by analysis, you talk yourself out of it, because every conceivable course of action is risky and costly and all that.
But in my experience, almost never does an administration look as rigorously at the cost of not doing something, or just continuing with where you are. And it’s just a—it’s one of the reasons you actually need, by the way, a strong national security advisor, is to make sure that the course of not acting gets examined every bit as rigorously as all the alternatives.
LINDSAY: OK, we have time for one more question. Before I take it, I want to remind everybody that this meeting has been on the record. We’ll come right here to the front.
Q: Thank you.
LINDSAY: Could you just wait for the microphone?
Q: (Off mic.) Is this working?
LINDSAY: Yes, you are.
Q: To what extent has the global order, which is basically a club, if you will, where countries agree to behave in a certain way for a collective best interest and have to pull back a little bit on their own local greed, been undermined by the relentless mercantilism of a handful of countries—just a few, China, Germany; you can add Japan, South Korea—and the fact that that’s gone on for so long, and people have known about it, and it hasn’t really been addressed? Has that undermined this to a great degree?
LINDSAY: Are people killing a good thing, Richard?
HAASS: (Inaudible.) I think one of the lessons has to be—two things. One is you’ve got to set adequate rules for trade, and two, you’ve got to enforce them. And I think there’s questions on both sides whether the current trade rules are adequate. And some people say, for example, the rubric under which, say, China was allowed into the WTO was insufficiently demanding; didn’t anticipate a lot of how China could take advantage of certain openings without meeting certain responsibilities. And in lots of cases the rules are inadequate also. Subsidies are largely outside currency issues or are largely outside and hasn’t dealt enough with intellectual-property theft, if it’s dealt with it at all.
So to me the argument is how do you raise the standards and how do you improve the enforcement of trade rules rather than walk away from it? But, yeah, I think part of the backlash against trade has been from, again, inadequate standards, inadequate enforcement.
LINDSAY: You want to take a crack at it?
PATRICK: Yeah. I would very much agree. And I think one of the biggest weaknesses that Richard alluded to within the global trading system is the lack of accepted definitions of currency manipulation and, you know, chronically undervalued currencies that—you know, it’s one thing if it’s Singapore. It’s another thing if it’s China. And the fact that that was allowed to continue for so long and the diplomacy got all tied up in—
LINDSAY: Well, let me ask you about that, Stewart, because there are rules on the U.S. books about currency manipulation. They’ve been around for a long time. Successive administrations chose not to enact them. So I guess I’m not sure how one can blame people for playing the rules if the leader of the system doesn’t enforce the rules.
PATRICK: This may be a little bit more of a difference of opinion over whether or not the powers that be in the relevant administrations, who may have thought to themselves we’ve got a lot of fish to fry with the Chinese, saw the thing versus others, particularly in the legislative branch, whose constituents were screaming because they were losing out of high-skilled manufacturing jobs. But I agree with you, it’s—you know, if it’s a problem, then we better treat it like a problem.
LINDSAY: OK. I think we’re going to bring our session to a close there on that note. Again, I want to thank Richard, thank Stewart, and thank the Robina Board. (Applause.)