The World Can Have Peace and Prosperity, If It Wants

Stephen M. Walt in Foreign Policy:

ScreenHunter_2472 Dec. 25 19.34Peace on Earth, good will toward men.” One hears this phrase in the United States this time of year, but prospects for peace and goodwill abroad, not to mention at home, appear to be evaporating before our eyes. Staving off a gradual downward spiral of foreign and domestic politics into violence and rancor requires some serious reflection on what’s gone wrong, and a willingness to rethink our present approach.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a column explaining why international peace was in the U.S. national interest. Yet none of the presidential candidates — not even Bernie Sanders — made it a key theme of their campaign. We heard a lot about strength and resolve and “greatness” and leadership, along with repeated warnings about alleged threats and “enemies,” but hardly a word was said about the virtues of peace or the policies that the United States should follow in order to preserve it. Indeed, one of the candidates kept making bizarre and bellicose statements of various kinds, including not-so-veiled threats of violence against his political opponents. And guess what? That guy eventually won.

Looking beyond the recent U.S. election offers little reason for optimism. There are a few bright spots — such as the renewal of the peace deal in Colombia — but encouraging episodes like that are few and far between. The European Union used to be a shining symbol of its member states’ commitment to transcend their conflict-ridden history; today the EU seems to be in a slow-motion process of disintegration. Syria is a demolished wasteland, and Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan, and Libya remained mired in violence with no end in sight. The political landscape in Asia is beginning to shift as well, and the U.S. president-elect has already questioned the “One China” policy and repudiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A neat trick: He’s managed to provoke China and undermine the U.S. position in Asia simultaneously, and he’s not even in office yet. Fasten your seatbelts, folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

More here.