On Foreign Policy

I talk about healthcare a lot on the trail, because of the amount of time I’ve spent in the industry and the extremely important role it plays in all of our lives.

But I do know about some other fields as well. Before I started working with rural hospitals, I was a college professor teaching American foreign policy and consulting for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

So, I thought I should get some thoughts down on paper about the current stand-off with North Korea on their nuclear weapons program.

Any country’s foreign policy has to be, first and foremost, in its own self-interest. Any and every decision that our government makes abroad has to be in the interest in securing this country and advancing our interests.

That means that success or failure is determined by whether or not those interests are achieved. End of story. Not whether we get someone to “back down,” whether we “look tough,” or any of the other garbage ideas you’ll see on cable news.

Here are the American interests in the current conflict, as I see them:

  1. Preventing North Korea from developing a “miniaturized” nuclear weapon that can be mounted to an ICBM.
  2. Continuing to prevent any other country from developing any kind of nuclear weapon.
  3. Avoid any outbreak of war, since that would jeopardize both ourselves and our long-time partners in the region such as South Korea, Japan, and Australia.
  4. Bring all parties — the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia, and ourselves — to the table to determine a long-term plan for reunification in a way that does not jeopardize any of the first three goals.

When President Trump screams his head off on Twitter it doesn’t make us more safe. It makes us less safe. It makes war more likely and does not further the American interest.

We have to engage North Korea quickly and directly in bilateral talks, and without any preconditions if that is what it takes. That won’t save face and it won’t feed our president’s ego and “tough guy” self-image, but it will further the American interest.

Diplomacy is about making difficult decisions and sacrificing ego to advance long-term goals. And successful diplomacy will require a stronger kind of leadership than what we’re currently getting.

-n