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(HOST) Lately commentator Olin Robison has been thinking a lot about the future of American Foreign Policy, and how it may change after the 2008 elections – and he says he’s not the only one…

(ROBISON) Over the last couple of months I have attended several conferences and had many conversations in Europe mostly about US foreign policy – both now and going forward.

The short short version of all this is that many, probably most, Europeans find much to complain about where the US is con-
cerned these days. But there is no surprise in that.

What has come as something of a surprise – at least to me – has been the degree to which Europeans, especially academics and policy wonks generally, are now wanting to talk about US foreign policy after the current administration.

There are a number of strains running through these conversations which strike me as especially interesting. Now, truth in advertising does require me to point out that some of this may be wishful thinking both on my part and on theirs. Nonetheless, here it is:

I am increasingly of the opinion, as are a growing number of European thinkers, that many years from now, looking back, the eight years of the Bush administration will be seen as an aberra-
tion in terms of foreign policy, as a major cul-de-sac into which US policy entered during these years but from which, in due course, it had to emerge.

This does not necessarily mean, in my mind at least, the election in 2008 of a Democratic administration. But it does mean the probable election of an administration that is more centrist within the historic context of American presidencies.

If this turns out to be true it will mean that US policy internationally will likely again become more multilateral in nature; there will likely, once again, be less ‘go-it-alone’ international activity on the part of the US, and there will be a corresponding diminution of what is seen in Europe as a confrontational posture between the US and its traditional allies.

I also suspect that the US will move fairly quickly, either before 2008 or shortly thereafter, to find ways to disengage from Iraq –
or at the very least to diminish quite dramatically the level
of troop commitments. There will then likely be a sort of post-
Iraq syndrome in US foreign policy not completely unlike the
post-Vietnam period, which of course lasted quite a long time.

We will probably see the re-emergence of a less ideologically driven foreign policy and, one hopes, a foreign policy less visibly tied to specific domestic interests. The so-called ‘neo-cons’ will likely come to be seen as dangerous to the body politic, and, unhappily for them, they will be tarred with the brush of admini-
strative incompetence.

Now, to return to the disclaimer: This may just be wishful thinking, not only on my part but on the part of the many Europeans to whom I have talked in recent weeks. But, quite frankly, the signs are all there, and most of what there is to be seen supports some version of this.

No, this is not partisan rhetoric. It is based in the well-established fact that no major foreign policy initiative in the United States can survive over time without majority popular support.

So, dear friends, read the polls. It isn’t a matter of supporting our troops. Everyone supports our troops – as we should. That isn’t the issue. The issue is the policies they are asked to carry out and that is what seems now to be under serious question.

This is Olin Robison.

Olin Robison is past president of both the Salzburg Seminar and of Middlebury College. He now lives in Shelburne.

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