US foreign policy not beneficial for average people: Study - GulfToday

US foreign policy not beneficial for average people: Study


Joe Biden. File

Elizabeth Shackelford, Tribune News Service

“Those of us who conduct foreign policy haven’t always done a good job connecting it to the needs and aspirations of the American people,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his first major speech. President Joe Biden’s administration, he said, seeks to change that and is calling this approach a “Foreign Policy for the Middle Class.”

According to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ new survey on American Attitudes toward US foreign policy, the administration’s ideas coincide with public opinion in many ways. Where they don’t, the administration should invest in making the case at home for how these policies benefit the American people. The basic sentiment that US foreign policy has not traditionally served average Americans is shared by both administration officials and the general public. According to the survey, Americans believe US foreign policy has benefited the wealthy and large businesses far more than the middle class.

Many of the administration’s specific ideas for shifting priorities also align with public preferences. To start, the administration is focused on building resilience here at home — in our economy, education, environment and health care — to ensure we remain globally competitive, particularly against a rising China. This means investing domestically to ensure our communities and systems can better withstand global shocks and shoring up our own democracy so we can prove that our form of government serves people better than growing authoritarian movements across the globe.

Americans agree. Strong majorities want their government to focus more on domestic issues to enhance America’s position in the world, by improving education, strengthening our democracy, and maintaining U.S. economic power.

Biden has also championed the need to lead with diplomacy and work closely with friends and allies to address global challenges such as climate change and COVID-19. As he said in his speech last month at the United Nations General Assembly, “As we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy.”

Contrary to what some in the foreign policy establishment assume, Americans are not weary of this kind of engagement in the world. Like the administration, Americans in the survey strongly back both diplomacy and alliances and want America to play a leading role in global challenges like preventing nuclear proliferation, combating terrorism, sharing COVID-19 vaccines with countries in need and limiting climate change.

Like the Biden administration, most Americans surveyed believe maintaining military superiority is very important for national security. There is even strong support for maintaining or increasing US military presence abroad and defending allies if they are attacked. But this doesn’t mean Americans want to use force indiscriminately. For example, a broad majority continues to support the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan even following the ugly exit. And Americans still strongly prefer shared global leadership to America having a dominant role.

In some areas, however, public opinion diverges from the administration’s assumptions. Biden’s team has underestimated public support for international trade. Secretary Blinken has questioned whether Americans have broadly shared in economic gains of free trade agreements. But American public support for international trade is high, according to the survey. A record majority of Americans now believe globalization is mostly good for the United States too.

But Americans still support trade restrictions against China and government funding of research and development of emerging technologies to help U.S. companies compete. This aligns with policies the administration is using or considering to help balance the playing field.

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