The Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the International Studies Program hosted a talk titled “American Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump” on Thursday, Oct. 11. SAIS professors Hal Brands and Francis J. Gavin addressed the state of foreign policy today. Sydney Van Morgan, head of the Hopkins Program in International Studies, moderated the discussion.
Brands explained the ways in which U.S. foreign policy has developed since the late 20th century. He believes that one major recent change is the rise in competition between global powers.
“During the 2000s, we worried about humanitarian crises and catastrophic terrorism,” he said. “Now we’re worrying about all of those things. We’re also worried about the return of really severe competition and the potential for conflict between the United States and Russia, the United States and China. Basically great power competition is back, so you put all those things together and the world’s just a lot messier and nastier than it was, say, 20 years ago.”
Gavin addressed the importance of both looking to the future and the past when developing international policies.
“Policy is all about juggling perfect solutions, unintended consequences and institutionally, because of the nature of the world being more complicated and larger, flows of information, people, finance, you name it, just being overwhelming, we’ve sort of lost the ability to put ourselves in a historical context, looking backwards and thinking forward, thinking what of the hundred issues we are facing right now, are the two or three that are gonna have the longest-term consequences,” he said.
The talk ended in a question and answer portion.
Sophomore Carmela Irato asked the panelists a question regarding a political topic currently being discussed in one of her classes.
“Many people think that foreign policy and the influence of external situations such as the rise of populism in Europe is what led to Trump taking office,” she said. “Would you say that the unstable state of the world today due to possibly the administration was inevitable?”
Brands listed ways in which foreign policy might have contributed to Trump’s election, including the electorate’s fear of losing jobs to competition. According to Brands, however, more jobs are lost to automation than to trade.
“It’s easier to blame lost jobs on China, on Mexico, on fill in the blank than on automation,” Brand said.