Together with the Jackson School, the Foundation recently hosted a foreign policy lecture given by a major scholar. The evening featured Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The speaker’s invitation came about through Daniel Bessner, who serves as the first Anne H.H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Professor of American Foreign Policy. Foundation Board President Craig Gannett and Vice President Linda Mason Wilgis attended.
Professor Walt’s lecture centered on arguments from his recent book, The Hell of Good Intentions. He contends that over the past several decades, American foreign policy has been based on a strategy of liberal hegemony, which promotes democratic values, human rights, the rule of law, and open markets. Yet this approach of trying to remake the world in America’s image has resulted in the U.S. being overcommitted and involved in costly never-ending conflicts, as well as contributing to corruption, civilian deaths, and instability around the world. And he suggested that the entrenched foreign policy establishment (AKA “the Blob”) has perpetuated rather than redirected this failing strategy.
Professor Walt called for a new policy – offshore balancing. This approach would focus attention on balancing China within Asia, gradually reducing our military commitments in Europe, working toward eliminating our military presence and normalizing relations in the Middle East, getting out of the regime change business, and promoting our political values by setting a good example. He emphasized that he did not advocate for isolationism but for diplomatic, economic, and some military engagement. Finally, Professor Walt suggested that this approach had not only been effective earlier in the 20th century, but that many Americans also favor it today.
We are pleased to have provided support for this public event that brought an important foreign policy thinker to our Seattle audience.
Maura Sullivan, Program Officer