Beyond Borders

American foreign policy must look beyond the nation state and toward human security.

American foreign policy must look beyond the nation state and toward human security, writes Gayle Smith in Democracy.

Anyone not immediately caught up in the whirlwind of today’s Beltway foreign policy punditry would be driven to hair-tearing at the back-and-forth between defenders of the Bush Administration and the multitude of critics arrayed against it. That’s because while President George W. Bush’s approach has obviously failed, too many of its critics refuse to focus on why. Their alternatives revolve around competence, with perhaps a bit of multilateral fence-mending thrown in. But they also assume as valid the fundamental tenet guiding the Administration’s approach, as defined by George Kennan during the Cold War, that securing the national interest lies in protecting "the continued ability of this country to pursue its internal life without serious interference." While that approach might have been relevant to the era of Cold War containment, it is untenable today. In a globalized world, it is no longer enough to center our foreign policy on a narrowly-defined concept of "national security" that assumes the continued dominance of the nation-state. What is needed is a fundamental change in the terms of the debate to include a realistic assessment of a world that is both interdependent and increasingly fragmented. What is missing is consideration of human security–and why, if we are to promote effectively our sustainable security, it must be incorporated into a modern American foreign policy.

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