A review of Ronan Farrow’s War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence (Norton, 2018) and Ben Rhodes’ The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House (Random House, 2018).
By Alex Thurston
Recently, there has been some compelling work done to articulate a left foreign policy vision, but there has been little corresponding work on left foreign policy implementation. If a democratic socialist won the White House, how would the left approach the nuts and bolts of foreign policy? Has anyone on the American left run a Deputies’ Committee meeting? Steered a nominee through confirmation hearings? Written talking points for a president?
After all, even a democratic socialist president elected with a large mandate might encounter suspicion and opposition not just from Congress, but also from the military and executive branch agencies – the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and even the State Department. Unlike the bipartisan foreign policy “blob,” moreover, the left’s bench of people with senior executive branch experience is thin. The left has little access to the networks that produce papers such as “Process Makes Perfect” – although the left would do well to study such reports. In short, the best foreign policy vision might falter when faced with the challenges of building effective governing coalitions within the executive branch itself.
One way to examine these problems is through the lens of new memoirs by Obama-era officials. Two books attracted my interest first – Ronan Farrow’s War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence and Ben Rhodes’ The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House. Continue reading “The How-To Question”