|Leaders in Glass Countries Shouldn’t Throw Stones|
|Part 2: Leaders in Glass Countries Shouldn’t Throw Stones|
|Part 3: Leaders in Glass Countries Shouldn’t Throw Stones|
|Part 4: Leaders in Glass Countries Shouldn’t Throw Stones|
With that insight in mind, consider the following connections between Ferguson and foreign policy.
For starters, let’s acknowledge that there is a trade-off between ambitious U.S. efforts to transform other parts of the world and the ability of government institutions to improve the lives of Americans here at home. I don’t think more social spending would eliminate racism or solve all the problems in places like Ferguson, but Americans would almost certainly be far better off if we hadn’t wasted $3 trillion+ in our misguided Iraqi and Afghan adventures. For example, spending some of that money on much-needed infrastructure here at home would have created a lot of jobs — including in places like Ferguson — and boosted the overall productivity of the U.S. economy.
Similarly, an unrealistic and overambitious foreign-policy agenda distracts U.S. officials from problems closer to home. When U.S. President Barack Obama has to spend weeks worrying about Ukraine, Syria, the Islamic State (IS), Jerusalem, the Senkaku Islands, Afghanistan, Iraq, T-TIP, Ebola, Boko Haram, South Sudan, etc., etc., it inevitably crowds out time he can devote to crucial domestic issues. Similarly, when the attorney general has to spend hours, days, and weeks adjudicating fights over NSA law-breaking or the status of Guantánamo, that means less time trying to figure out how to reform a deeply flawed criminal justice system.
This obvious point is not an argument for an isolationist foreign policy. Top U.S. officials should pay attention to world events and use America’s considerable power to protect vital U.S. interests. But we ought to recognize that there is a trade-off between our ambitions abroad and our capacity to build a better nation here at home. Even the president of the Council on Foreign Relations has figured that one out (though he mostly wants to fix the homefront so that America can still wield a big stick abroad). But remember: When a big social issue like Ferguson suddenly appears on your TV screen, it is at least in part because we’ve been devoting so much attention and so many resources to problems in distant lands, instead of focusing first and foremost on the needs and challenges that our fellow citizens still face.