The Global Economy in Today's World, the Old Split between 'Domestic' and 'Foreign' Interests No Longer Applies

By Richard E. Feinberg and Peter Hakim. Richard E. Feinberg is executive vice president of the Overseas Development Council. Peter Hakim is director of the Inter-American Dialogue. | The Christian Science Monitor, September 17, 1991 | Go to article overview

The Global Economy in Today's World, the Old Split between 'Domestic' and 'Foreign' Interests No Longer Applies


Richard E. Feinberg and Peter Hakim. Richard E. Feinberg is executive vice president of the Overseas Development Council. Peter Hakim is director of the Inter-American Dialogue., The Christian Science Monitor


THE "new world order" seems to be conspiring against the Democratic Party. Recent events in the Soviet Union are one more in a series of foreign crises that have thwarted the Democrats' efforts to effectively focus voter attention on the Bush administration's "domestic" policy failings.

Part of the Democrats' problem is that the odds are stacked against them. In the rapidly changing, conflict-prone world we live in, it is a safe bet that international crises will regularly capture headlines and intrude on United States politics.

At the core, however, the Democrats suffer less from statistical inevitability or bad luck than from a fundamental conceptual error. It simply no longer makes sense to bifurcate the United States policy agenda into "domestic" and "international" issues. In an increasingly interdependent world, particularly one in which economics has moved center stage, our ability to resolve problems at home more often than not depends upon the policies and actions of other nations. And, at the same time, our capacity to influence the policies of those nations - i.e., our ability to conduct an effective foreign policy - will hinge on how we deal with our ills at home.

It has become almost conventional wisdom - echoed even by some who have made their careers in foreign policy - that the time has come for the US to turn its resources and energy inward to address long-ignored domestic needs. The "domesticists" have a point. Our national troubles are severe and worsening: stagnant real wages and growing economic inequality; collapsing bridges and crumbling highways; a failing educational system; a horrendously costly medical establishment; and rampant urban violence and drug use. These and other problems surely demand greater national attention.

That does not mean, however, that we can suddenly ignore the rest of the world. No matter how appealing, the "Come Home, America" slogan is basically wrong. With the end of the cold war and the dismantling of the Soviet Union, international relations have changed almost beyond recognition, but their importance has hardly been reduced. In fact, global economic issues now impinge upon the well-being of the average American more powerfully than the cold-war rivalry ever did. …

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