Monday, September 20, 2010

Well summer has finally ended, and I have no choice but to accept the unfortunate reality that school is beginning yet again.  On the plus side, now that I've returned to academia and a somewhat-normal routine, I'm set to resume blogging regularly (or at least less-irregularly).  To kick things off, here is a response to Dan Drezner's post about how millennials understand foreign policy.  Jeremy wrote a terrific response last week, and so I'm going to expand upon some of his themes and explore a few new ones.

I see two major points in this discussion:

1) We are not isolationist, instead we are globalized to an unprecedented degree.
2) We are cynical of how the world works, but that is not always a bad thing.

The most important point, contra-Drezner, is that our generation is not going to be "anti-interventionist to the point of isolationism."  Instead, as Jeremy noted, this generation is truly the first "globalized generation."  In terms of foreign policy, this means that we understand the inherent interconnectedness of today's world.  Every individual across the globe could potentially impact our lives here, as the 9/11 hijackers proved, and as we increasingly rely on the internet for all aspects of our daily lives our vulnerability too grows.  This is the bitter fruit of economic globalization and the revolutions in communications, travel, and technology that have changed the fundamentals of our existence.

Furthermore, we millennials understand that there is no going back.  We cannot retreat to "Fortress America" and choose isolation; for seclusion is no longer an option.  There are two reasons for this - structural and personal.  Structurally, I find it hard to believe that the world will stop "shrinking" anytime soon.  Communications technologies are constantly growing more powerful, and as the global economy continues to integrate it pulls the world inextricably together.  We no longer manufacture everything in America that we need to survive, and the oceans of the world no longer serve as protective barriers against foreign intrusion.  America is part of this global system, and millennials understand that taking our ball and going home simply no longer applies.

On the personal level, globalization, however you choose to define it, has taken root amongst our peers.  Many millennials have traveled, studied, lived, and worked overseas, and not solely in Old Europe.  We are fortunate to have these opportunities, made possible by the decrease in time, barriers, and, most importantly, cost of international adventure.  The factors that enabled us to travel more than any previous generation are not going away, nor are the connections we made to people, places, and cultures.  In other words, we millennials have a greater understanding of the globe than our predecessors, and a vested interest in places that is impossible to otherwise replicate.

The second major point concerns our relationship with governments, our own and foreign, and the international system.  We are, to put it mildly, cynical.  The distortions and lies of the Bush Administration regarding Iraq headline the list of grievances, but struggling through the Great Recession while watching Congress dither is only slightly less influential.  Thanks to the miracle of the internet we have witnessed the prevarications of other governments and the ways in which they manipulate their own people.

This cynicism is not necessarily a bad thing.  Our eyes are open to the ways of the world, and we are prepared to analyze the events of the future, not simply accept what we are given.  And this doesn't mean that idealistic optimism is dead - we millennials have our fair share of dreamers, planners, and changers.  But we do recognize the difficulties of achieving real, substantive, enduring changes, and come prepared.

Drezner's post is laced with pessimism for the future, and Jeremy is fueled by anger and frustration from our experiences.  I don't share these views, but, like Jeremy, I am cautiously optimistic about the chances for our future.  The interconnected world presents evolving threats, and it will require intellectual rigor, pragmatic flexibility, and a clear vision to meet these new challenges.  I have faith that we millennials are prepared for what comes next.


Catie Corbin said...

Drezner lists a bunch of events and then shouts: ISOLATIONISM. I'm not really sure why (perhaps because my reaction to these events was significantly different). In my time living overseas, I have found it increasingly interesting to look at events occurring in the States from such a distance - physical and mental. I've noticed a panic....a shift in our understanding of being #1.
It was interesting...I flew back from northeastern Pakistan (to Islamabad) in the back of a U.S. Air Force cargo plane on Sunday with about 100 IDPs. The US military was dropping off loads of aid for the flood-affected victims and then gave free lifts to a bunch of people to Islamabad. A Pakistani general who gave me a ride to the "runway" said, "Thank you so much for your plane." I was like, "haha, it's not MY plane." And he was like, "Yes it is." In the back of the noisy, uncomfortable plane, a Pakistani friend turned to me and said, "Why is the US blamed for everything? Look at how you're helping all these people here. You do this and no one knows about it. You do all the work and take none of the credit."
My question to you all, particularly you D&D bloggers in international security is...Is the role of the United States changing so much that we will no longer be able to afford to help without getting credit for it? Are we so concerned about maintaining (or regaining) the status as the best and most powerful country in the world? Would it be ok if we were like #3 or #5? What will need to be sacrificed given our current battle in Afgh and our current financial crisis in order to secure an international ranking?
P.S. I'm psyched you guys are back in school. I look forward to reading you guys regularly again! :)

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