A recent special piece for CNN by Richard Fontaine considers whether foreign policy should be politicized. I like what Fontaine has to say, but I have to wonder why he (or anyone else in the United States) would ever feel a need to weigh the matter.
I can see two different ways we might use the word politicized.
One would refer to using a given foreign policy stance as a chip in a fight between two opposing groups of powerbrokers. For example, a minority party might fight one of the majority’s policies, even while agreeing with the policy choice, simply to appear to be fighting the opposing party.
But do we ever want anything to be politicized in that sense? Do we ever really want any issue, foreign or domestic, to become nothing but a political football? There’s no point in discussing whether foreign policy should be politicized like that.
That leads us to the other way something might be politicized: using political processes to choose among various possible policy options. I think that’s how we should interpret it in this case.
But we already made the decision in favor of a politicized foreign policy when we switched to democracy.
Constitutionally, the President and the Senate are those charged with determining foreign policy. As long as we think that Presidents and Senators should be chosen — essentially — by the people, it would seem that we think our foreign policy should be a political issue.
Or do we think that the people, when voting for various candidates, shouldn’t consider those candidates’ views on foreign policy? That the people, acting democratically, should actually have no impact on foreign policy?
If we want to discuss whether foreign policy should be politicized (and I think it is a legitimate question), we have to question first whether our foreign policy should be set by basically democratic means. Maybe it shouldn’t.