This week saw President Barack Obama’s formal farewell – and further revelations about what Vladimir Putin’s relationship with Donald Trump portends for the future.
In A Legacy of Hope but Modest Change, published in the Aspen Institute’s Aspenia Online, I tried to provide a balanced assessment of Obama’s tenure, focusing on, in my view, the “two defining accomplishments of Obama’s presidency,” his response to the financial crisis of 2008, and Obamacare.
In the stimulus, as in everything to follow, Obama was intelligent yet uninspired. Most economists, and certainly those amongst Obama’s own advisors, argued for an even larger stimulus than the one he ultimately embraced; the “small-c conservative” argument – advocating caution because of political difficulties – prevailed with him then, as it did often thereafter.
But Obama also “left the details of the stimulus to Congress – which promptly loaded it up with pork-barrel spending,” which “debased the entire concept to the public, reduced its economic efficacy, and in fact resulted in a lot of waste. It also meant that, despite the administration’s own mantra of not wasting a crisis as a chance to accomplish major change, the stimulus package became merely a huge but uninteresting example of textbook Keynesian economics in action rather than a truly transformative event.”
Most crucially, the Great Recession was not simply the bursting of a speculative bubble: It represented a “phase transition” from the booming late-20th century economy to the new economy of the 21st century, which will eliminate large numbers of existing occupations and life-paths – like the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy, except at about ten times the speed. … Obama’s stimulus plan reflected his understanding of the importance of this new economy, but his obliviousness to the fact that it was not an unalloyed good, in that half the country essentially would be obsolesced by it in their own lifetimes, caught between a recovery that would not reach them and a future that would not include them. The foundations for the coming, deepening division – and the politics of 2016 – had been laid.
A similar pattern followed with Obamacare:
[T]he main problem with Obama’s push was that it took his eye off the only ball that should have mattered at that point – the negligible economic recovery…. Ultimately, as with the stimulus, Obama did not care as much about the details as about making the history books. But the massive reform gave fodder to Middle Americans who believed they were being asked to pay for Obama’s (and liberals’) greater interest in the poor. Again, the battle lines of 2016 were already forming.
So, what comes next? “The recent news sounds basically like a technologically-updated version of a Cold War-era political pulp thriller,” I wrote in Putin’s War on Information in US News: “The evil Ruskies undertake espionage and disinformation efforts to create a chaotic American election, spend years cultivating a useful stooge easily manipulated by flattery, greed and sex to help spread divisive views about US foreign policy, and then along the way suddenly realize they actually might get him elected president. All of this, however, concerning as it is, is neither novel – unless it turns out that Trump was actually colluding with Russia all last year – nor, even then, the real threat.” So what is the real threat? Putin’s desire
to return to a world predating the New Economy with its increasingly-liberal political norms and social mores … (the unconfirmed private intelligence reports underlying the latest Trump revelations assert that Russia’s “TRUMP operation should be seen in terms of PUTIN’s desire to return to Nineteenth Century ‘Great Power’ politics anchored upon countries’ interests rather than the ideals-based international order established after World War Two”)….
Putin has marketed his regime as the defender of traditional social values (including religious fundamentalism and vehement opposition to homosexuality), traditional national prerogatives, and traditional (heavy) industrial economies – more-or-less a return to the Good Old Days of the 1950s. … Does this sound familiar? Of course it does.
What Putin has realized, more than anyone else, is that this hated New Economy rests entirely on the ubiquity of information, and that is its point of weakness. Putin’s war on information – and, unfortunately, it’s not his alone – is a wager, like many before, that there’s a thin line between liberalism and chaos. Those are the stakes at issue here.
You can read the full analysis by clicking on the article titles above. Meanwhile, buckle your seatbelts.
As usual, I welcome you comments below!
As the turbulent year 2016 winds down, I’ve bookended the holidays with two pieces about caring. The first, The Age of “Who Cares?”, appeared in US News & World Report two weeks ago and was featured in my last update. The following day, I received an invitation from a Canadian talk show, to discuss it.
You can listen to the whole interview on your computer or smart phone, but here are some highlights:
“Walls are not going to keep the world’s problems out of the United States because the problems are bigger than that and we live in a world that’s largely interconnected now. We don’t have the luxury of not caring about what goes in the Middle East – or any other country, for that matter.”
“At the moment, the focus has clearly shifted to self-centeredness more than a larger vision. And I think that can be destructive to our lives individually and to the society as a whole.”
“I think everybody involved on both sides of this election have paid inadequate due to the needs and problems of other people in this country. It’s not just Aleppo, it’s not just Trump people, it’s not just this election – we’re living at a time of great, great change, and I think it’s leading a lot of people to feel insecure on all sides, and to focus on themselves as a result. And I think that’s understandable. But it’s not good.”
In my new piece for Christmas in US News, So Much You Can Do, I tried to suggest what some responses to these challenges. Please click the link to read the full piece (my editors keep track of that sort of thing!), but here’s the gist:
Instead of crying by the riverbank at the dismantlement of Obamacare, the block-granting of Medicaid, and the defenestration of Social Security and Medicare, or spending the next four years idly proposing a return to similar New Deal and Great Society programs in some imagined future, we can start using [new] technologies to build virtual communities – the real future – that do choose to cross-subsidize health care, secure retirements and educational opportunity for those who need them, and to reap the benefits.
But there are countless other ways on an individual basis to stand against the incoming tide. There are children who need mentoring – and adults who do, too. There are immigrants who need welcoming, and values like free speech that need exercising. There are small acts anyone can undertake every day that make a small difference, but if repeated by the rest of us would make a large difference – in, say, wasting less energy or consuming less needless packaging or paying slightly more to support better working conditions. You can find one way each day to check your self-interest and act with kindness toward another. You could easily fill your day with things that will make a difference in ways that, without you, will go in the opposite direction under the Trump Administration.
You can decry that there’s so little you can do. Or, as you gather with loved ones over this holiday period, and pass by countless strangers in the streets, you can recognize that, in fact, there’s so much more you can do than there is possibly time for.
I’m looking forward to putting a dent in that in 2017. I’ve got in the works:
Our new-and-improved education consulting practice. We recently completed two studies in Alaska, are wrapping up another in Texas, and my whitepaper on school innovations in Massachusetts will be published in the new year.
A new social venture to accomplish some of what’s discussed above. Alumni of the University of Chicago’s business school have volunteered to help work out the financing and technology details, so I hope to “go live” with this venture in late 2017.
Expanded adventures in academia – including a series of forums and podcasts from the University of Chicago on “The Future of …,” flowing from my course there, “The Future of Government”; a new course this winter at Union Theological Seminary in New York on the deeper drivers of right and wrong –from biology to psychology to game theory – and what we can do about them; and a new annual conference tying together all the foregoing at Brown University, to be announced early in the year.
I’ll be giving you details in further updates in the coming weeks. But until then, have a Happy 2017, filled with caring!
Happy holidays from our family to yours.
In the two weeks since Election Day, I’ve been trying to explain to various audiences what I think it all meant. Just before the polls closed that evening, I moderated a panel of experts from a half-dozen countries on what the election would mean for the rest of the world. As I discuss in a piece out today in US News & World Report, “The New Old Nationalism,” the Russian pollster on the panel
made an interesting comment to me in advance of our session: Russian citizens have more sympathy to Trump, he said, because he is an “American nationalist, not globalist.” Not that long ago, “an America nationalist” would have been a damning epithet coming from the Kremlin, basically a longer version of the word “imperialist.” Now, it’s … something that both foreigners and “conservative” Americans alike embrace[:] They see global economic and social integration as … a perversion of the rightful natural order, in which different peoples hold discreet territories, separated by walls.
… All of this – the tribalism, the illiberalism, the eternal struggle – its proponents would say, is simple realism. It is, in any event, the “alt” view of the future that the 2016 elections (and those coming in 2017) are elevating to global policy. I believe that, in the long-run, it’s a view that will lose. But in the long-run, we’re all dead.
One of my greatest regrets about 2016 is an article I didn’t write: When I returned from a European conference in May at which the dynamic duo of Kristina Wilfore and Stephanie Berger presented polling data on attitudes toward women, I began to write a piece predicting that misogyny would become the central fact of this campaign. My editors persuaded me to split the resulting diatribe into two parts, one of which became the first of several I’d write on how Hillary Clinton needed to overcome some of this by addressing the concerns of white working class men – but the argument on the coming wave of misogyny got sidelined, at least during the campaign. After the piece I wrote a few weeks ago complaining that discussions of “morality” have been largely hijacked by the subject of “sex,” the folks at Aspenia asked me to expand the argument for an issue on “Women & Power”; an abridged version was published online yesterday in Italian – until the English version is published, you’ll have to make do with this synopsis, building off Newt Gingrich’s outburst late in the campaign to Megyn Kelly: “You are fascinated with sex, and you don’t care about public policy”:
But the description – fascinated with sex, don’t care about public policy – might best fit the American public as a whole. One major subtext of the 2016 election has been sex and America’s ambivalent relationship with it…. Issues involving women and power – whether political leadership, their broader place in society, or their preponderance on the receiving end of all forms of violence from the physical to economic exploitation and poverty – aren’t really about whether they are strong or intelligent or emotionally stable enough to lead others or to protect themselves. They are, rather, about women’s position as gatekeepers of men’s access to the reproductive process – and sex – and men’s desire to wrest away that control for themselves.
In case all this leaves you unduly depressed headed into Thanksgiving – at least, any more so than most people I know already are – I argued in my main assessment of the election itself that you shouldn’t be, although not perhaps for the reasons most people might think:
Yes, there are some authoritarian, reactionary people amongst both Trump’s supporters and his advisers – but that’s not the majority, amongst either them or the rest of the American public. So put on your big-boy pants….
The future belongs to the decline of the nation-state. That sounds just as scary to liberals as it does to the reactionary, anti-globalist “nationalists” of Trumpworld. The real challenge for progressives is whether greater equity can be created within, not ignoring, this reality. Trump’s victory ironically provides the opportunity to explore the possibilities today rather than, as would otherwise be the case, sometime later this century in (as I described here just before Election Day) an even more troubled environment.
You can read the full piece, “Party Will Be Irrelevant,” here. As always, I welcome your comments. Meanwhile, a Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Which will it be?
Veterans of campaign work know that the slowest day of the year is, ironically, Election Day with its long wait for the results. For those of you counting the hours to poll closure, standing at a polling place waiting for voters to show up, or simply trying to find someone with exit-poll results or the latest turn-out rumors, here’s some reading material to while away the time. My last pre-election piece ran Friday in US News, and, in it, I pulled together my thinking over the past year on the future of government, the Trump phenomenon, Brexit, my visits to six countries and meeting political leaders from several more, and evolving technologies. If you want to know what happens starting tonight when the polls close, here’s my best guess:
Looking back at the turn of the 22nd century, the collapse of the nation-state system, which had existed for roughly 400 years, now seems obvious and long-overdue. But historians agree that the critical point, when the outcome went from unimaginable to unstoppable, was the disputed United State election of 2016, which ignited what has come to be known as the “Disunited States” Period.
Rumblings had been coming for decades: The collapse of empires throughout the 20th century. The increasing frequency and severity of global financial crises. The rise of nonstate challengers to the major states. And the geometric growth of technologies that simultaneously undermined the two defining elements of the “modern” nation-state – control over (1) the monopoly of force, and (2) a defined geographic territory.
Together, these changes had opened up a wide cleavage between two broad classes globally, cutting across traditional national borders: the so-called “Globopolitans” – sometimes denounced in the ensuing wars as the “elites,” but really people of all economic backgrounds in the interconnected global metropolitan centers, where incomes generally were rising – and “Remnants” of the less globally integrated regions of every continent, whether within single countries (like the interior of the former United States) or across multiple countries (like the Middle East or Horn of Africa). Differences in income levels between countries had narrowed – but incomes within them severely diverged worldwide. Globopolitans, regardless of location, saw a world of opportunity growing ever wealthier and more equitable; the Remnants saw a world of stagnation, widening unfairness and, perhaps as importantly, “cultural extermination” due to post-modern global change.
Remnants believed their salvation lay in eradication of this globalist threat through a return to earlier cultural, economic and national structures. They failed to recognize, at least initially, the twin ironies of their anti-globalist grievances: This actually connected them with similarly aggrieved peoples globally – the gods they worshiped and cultures they defended may have differed, but the worldviews were much the same. And it triggered the ultimate destruction of the traditional “nations” on which their traditionalist ideological agenda became increasingly fixated.
Working class revolt, fueling populist politics of both left- and right-wing varieties, simmered across Europe and other regions to a lesser extent in the wake of the global financial crisis that struck in 2008, but the first clear flare was the surprise “Brexit” vote in Britain to leave the European Union in mid-2016. This was hailed as the triumph of traditionalist, nationalist values over a condescending globalist elite – but it led in quick succession to the break-up of first the United Kingdom, then of England itself: Globopolitan London jettisoned the anti-globalist regions holding it back, pegged its currency to the American dollar and reunited informally with Scotland, Wales and Ireland to rejoin the European economy. In many ways, this presaged the (typically) larger and more violent developments in America.
The 2016 U.S. presidential election was widely perceived to be the nastiest in well over a century, with underlying themes of fraying racial, sexual, religious and national identity. But most historians today ascribe the uprising, and ensuing crack-up, to the tectonic economic forces described above.
The actual winner of that election was lost to the historical record in the disorder that followed. But we do know that the results were so close that they triggered months of unrest, refusal to accept defeat by the losing side and bitter paralysis of the government. In a notable departure from the country’s long-standing norms, both presidential contenders were subjected to post-election prosecution and ended up jailed. A deep, worldwide recession resulted, exacerbating the underlying tensions even further.
If you want to know what “happened” after that … click here to read the rest of the piece. Whatever you do, exercise your right as an American: Get out and vote! And as for the results, register your prediction below: Which tie will I being wearing on Wednesday?
It’s been quite a two weeks. A Turkish friend started IM’ing me from Istanbul as the coup attempt against President Erdogan broke out, and our text conversation continued in “real time” throughout that dramatic night and into the next few days.
The next week, the Democratic National Convention convened here in Philadelphia and quickly consumed all my time: One US Senator decided to make my house his own B&B and then insisted I stay out until 2 a.m. listening to his favorite band – and, in return, unexpectedly gave me floor credentials.
One of the final-night speakers contacted me out of the blue and asked me to redraft her prime-time speech on a few hours’ notice. I met with three 2018 gubernatorial candidates about policy, and ran into countless old friends from all over the country – it was a great time. Then the next day, I had the opportunity to meet with journalists from Pakistan and female political leaders from Afghanistan to discuss the convention and the upcoming elections. The results of all this are below: three new articles – on the Turkish coup (sorta), the current election, and its potential aftermath.
Yesterday’s piece in US News & World Report – The Other Half of America — synthesizing where I think things stand after Donald Trump’s stunning acceptance speech describing America in apocalyptic terms, has already produced a surprising number of insult-filled emails (not like it’s that hard, but you actually have to feel strongly enough about responding to go look up my email address – it’s not in the articles). More people than usual have already re-posted or re-tweeted it. So, it seems to have hit a nerve on both sides. This is becoming increasingly true, with emotions unusually high in this election – as I note in the article, a previous piece provoked a similar Twitter exchange: “When the tweet started with the words, ‘I never heard of u b4,’ I immediately knew this was the rare reader who wasn’t a member of my immediate family and that the exchange wasn’t going to end well.”
The main message of the piece, however, which seems to have gone by both the liberals who like it and the Trump supporters who loathe it, is that while the latter’s “positions may seem counter-factual,”
that’s not how it feels. As a result, they are embracing political and legal positions they once opposed and that liberals once advocated for others. To liberals, this looks like hypocrisy and disingenuousness. But the fact that this means that liberal institutions (and liberal concern) aren’t there for them only makes their anger worse.
My convention piece for Aspenia — A Major Political Realignment Amidst the Confusion —elaborates on this theme, starting with the observation that “Donald Trump has realized Richard Nixon’s vision of making [blue collar] voters the core of the Republican Party, the culmination of a process long in the works, and the party realignment will look something like today’s polling for years to come: a more upscale Democratic Party more libertarian and less inclined to Big Government solutions than in the past, and a Republican Party more solicitous of Big Government programs to help low-to moderate-income voters than the party’s traditional ‘conservatism’ would ever countenance.”
It then urges Hillary Clinton to be like Franklin Roosevelt and “reach out to disaffected working Americans with an agenda that speaks to their needs.” It concludes with a warning of the US breaking apart after this election – presaging the beginning of Trump’s warnings several days later that the election will be stolen from him – asserting that, “The main questions are whether this can be headed off now by the ‘newly ascendant’ crafting an agenda for the economically dislocated, as Democrats would have in the past – and, if not, if the resolution comes peacefully or not.” (I was also quoted this week in much the same vein in Governing magazine.)
My article on the Turkish coup — A Predictable Surprise in Turkey — is similarly somber. It begins and ends, “When the end of democracy came … everyone was surprised.” You can read into it what you want – but read it. While this all might sound rather depressing, I’ve actually been enjoying myself through it all. Hope you are, too.
As always, I welcome your comments below.
Memoirs are subject to something like the law’s “hearsay rule”: They are admissible not for the truth of the statements they contain but for the fact that the declarant said them. This is especially true of former statesmen, writing to frame the judgment on their past actions. It is even truer of those still in the political arena, trying to position themselves for the future. And it is most true of Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, which bears the double burden of both justifying the ample and controversial career of someone already an historical figure and simultaneously advancing the anodyne pronouncements of a candidate.
Nevertheless, what the author chooses to reveal about herself is still revealing. The publication of Hard Choices essentially marked the beginning of the former Secretary of State’s pursuit of the presidency – and in many ways, the book and its launch proved to be a doppelganger for the subsequent campaign: Overly ponderous, overly expensive, and overly long, calculatedly unexciting and unintentionally controversial. Yet, if Hillary Clinton is any guide to Hillary Clinton, then the “vast right-wing conspiracy” needn’t be as concerned about a radical President Clinton as it once was. The most significant passage in the book may be this rather insignificant biographical tidbit:
“As a girl in Illinois, I played my share of softball, and one of the lessons that stuck with me was that if you try to hit only home runs, you’ll end up popping out more often than not. But if you also go for singles and doubles, even walks, they can add up to something bigger”.
This isn’t an original idea, and could reflect Clinton’s tactical approach without speaking to any larger strategic vision. What’s striking about Hard Choices, however, is that this appears to be the strategic vision: Whatever her politics, Hillary is, essentially, a tactical, and conservative, thinker. Partially, this is again due to the book’s emphasis on narrative: In relating major world events from the perspective of day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour developments, it reflects all too well the reality that those in high government positions rarely get to think deeply and long-term but rather react simply to the crisis du jour. But, consistently, even in those situations Hillary’s is the voice for going slow, for doubts and suspicions – for conservatism: As the Arab Spring erupts and spreads, she longs to join in the enthusiasm and idealism of both President Obama and his aides – which she consistently identifies with youthfulness – but sees more reason to stand with the regimes that have historically served as the cornerstone of US foreign policy. She opens a chapter specifically on the world-changing nature of new technologies with a lengthy denunciation of Wikileaks and, by extension, all the ways in which these technologies are undermining the nation-state.
Again, one can dismiss all this inherent conservatism as promoting other narrative needs – distancing herself from Obama’s Middle East policies, or proving she’s sufficiently patriotic and pro-security to be president. But it’s clear even when Clinton comes closer to articulating a global “vision.”
Like most thinking people on the left today – in fact, like even the military and virtually everyone outside the increasingly hermetic world of Republican politics – Clinton contemplates a much broader conception of US national interest than military might and balance-of-power politics. “I wanted,” she writes at the outset, to deal with a range of emerging challenges that were going to require high-level attention and creative strategies…. I knew there would be traditionalists in the foreign policy establishment who would question whether it was worth a Secretary of State’s time to think about the impact of Twitter, or start programs for women entrepreneurs, or advocate on behalf of American businesses abroad. But I saw it all as part of the job of a 21st-century diplomat.
Well, maybe the first two; “advocating on behalf of American businesses abroad” isn’t exactly a groundbreaking preoccupation for an American diplomat. She starts to give this a more visionary framework, declaring that “now we needed new architecture for a new world, more in the spirit of Frank Gehry than formal Greek classicism. Where once a few strong columns could hold up the weight of the world, now a dynamic mix of materials, shapes and structures was needed.” This promising metaphor is followed by a list of subjects outside “the traditional work” of foreign policy – social media, pipeline routes, carbon emissions, marginalized groups, human rights, common economic rules – that “would be crucial measures of our national power.”
But just when it appears that Clinton aims to present a “21st-century” vision of America’s national interests, the limits of that vision become clear: Using the au courant term “smart power” to encapsulate all these non-hard (i.e. military) aspects of national strategy, Clinton writes, “For me, smart power meant choosing the right tools [emphasis added] … for each situation,” and, “The goal of smart power and our expanded focus on technology, public-private partnerships, energy, economics, and other areas beyond the State Department’s standard portfolio was to complement more traditional diplomatic tools and priorities, not replace them.” In case this isn’t clear, she provides illustrations of her concept from “our work on Iran”: “We used new financial tools and private-sector partners,” “energy diplomacy [to] help[ ] reduce sales of Iranian oil” and “social media to communicate directly with the Iranian people.” In other words, Clinton seems to envision all of this in the context of rather traditional jostling between traditional states: This is a book about new means, not new ends; about tactics, not strategies; and about new playbooks, not necessarily an entirely new game.
Of course, Hard Choices, intended primarily to highlight its author and her experiences, is inherently backward-looking, and thus only in the book’s final section – 100 of its 600 pages – does it address “The Future We Want.” This future apparently consists of environmental sustainability, Third World development, new communications technology, and human – largely gender – rights. Apart from passing references to Arab countries’ poor treatment of women, and an early mention of “food,” however, the issues on which this volume of Aspenia focuses are otherwise largely absent from the book’s Frank Gehry “architecture.” For instance, the causes of the Arab Spring are nowhere analyzed, other than occasional references to the fact that maintaining corrupt autocratic regimes probably wasn’t a good long-term strategy either for those countries or for the US; almost as soon as such a lull for reflection intervenes, however, we are back to the latest phone call with a foreign minister or meeting with President Obama. Yet, given that almost half the book is given over to problems in Islamic countries (about one-third of that to Afghanistan and Pakistan), one might hope for some deeper analysis of what’s causing all these, in order to help get to that “Future We Want.” A great deal of analysis suggests that rising commodity prices – a consequence of global climate change – is what ignited the Arab Spring and poses one of the great challenges to global stability over the next several decades. But this subject is merely hinted at in Hard Choices.
It’s not that Clinton doesn’t see the problems, and can’t connect the dots. At the outset of the final “Future” section of the book, she writes, “In the 21st Century, we’ve also had to pay attention to the emerging global challenges that affect everyone in our interdependent world: pandemic diseases, financial contagion, international terrorism, transnational criminal networks, human and wildlife trafficking – and, of course, climate change.” That discussion would make a terrific book. It would even make a terrific section of this book. But out of all those topics, the only one that gets any real attention is climate change.
Here, Clinton muses, “Imagine the violence that could follow in the wake of more severe droughts and extreme food and water shortages in fragile states, or the effects on global commerce as farms and infrastructure are destroyed in floods and storms. What will be the effect on global trade and stability as the gap between rich and poor countries widens further?” What, indeed. Unfortunately, the reader will have to imagine on his or her own, as Clinton provides little guidance on these problems. A few pages later – right after she brings up the softball analogy with which I opened – she gives a sample of the type of “small-ball” policies she pursues: a “Climate and Clean Air Coalition” (in other words, a working group of the type beloved of policy wonks) to reduce short-lived particulates “that would buy the world precious time to develop new technologies and the political will to deal with the tougher carbon problems.” In other words, Clinton, brilliant though she may be, is no grand-strategist.
Perhaps what is really a campaign screed rather than a serious attempt at either historical analysis or 21st Century agenda-setting isn’t where to expect a real discussion of the ways in which non-traditional problems, such as pandemic disease and population movements, are going to change calculations of national interest and national security – or how emerging technological and economic forces will alter not just the “tools” at the disposal of nation-states but also the challenges they face and the very foundations upon which they stand.
There is one area, however, where Hillary Clinton holds the promise of being a truly revolutionary president. She has worked hard not to be a women’s candidate – but Hard Choices makes clear that she would be very much a women’s president. The theme that global women’s empowerment could be transformative burbles in the background of the entire book but it finally gushes forth in the very last chapter, on human rights. As noted, “human rights” for Clinton is very much wrapped up in questions of gender (she spends almost as much time on LGBT issues as on women, per se). But she does not state her case as a matter of justice; rather, it is an issue of a more secure, stable, and prosperous world:
“This was a point lost on many of the men working across Washington’s foreign policy establishment, but over the years I came to view it as one of the most compelling arguments for why standing up for women and girls was not just the right thing to do but also smart and strategic. The mistreatment of women was not the only or even the chief cause of our problems [around the world]. But the correlation was undeniable, and a growing body of research showed that improving conditions for women helped resolve conflicts and stabilize societies…. I became convinced that this was a cause that cut to the heart of our national security.”
Clinton comes to her feminism naturally. But it also reflects a broader reality that she seems to have come to intellectually: Like many Americans of differing ideologies – but especially the Midwest Republicanism with which she was raised – she sees economic development as leading to bourgeois values that eventually produce more liberal, open and stable societies that are, in turn, conducive to American security and supportive of American values: “The global middle class is a natural constituency for America. It’s in our interest to see it grow to include more people. We should do everything we can to expand it at home and around the world.” Unfortunately, this declaration concludes a chapter; how exactly to do that isn’t worked out in the book.
But it’s clear from her earlier asides, and certainly by the time one reaches the final chapter, where Hillary Clinton thinks the answer lies. Currently, more than half the world is consigned to lives that limit their productive capacity along with their happiness and fulfillment, purely because of their sex. As the World Bank concluded several years ago, this is the biggest reason for the Islamic world’s poor economic performance. It is what is holding back Africa, the continent growing the fastest in the 21st Century, and India, which will be the century’s largest nation. Expanding education and entrepreneurship for women in these regions is probably the single biggest change that could unleash global growth, stabilize dangerous societies, and relieve global population and environmental pressures, and (incidentally) generally make the world a better place for Americans.
Pursuing such policies would not really be a hard choice. But it’s pretty clear that a Hillary Clinton Administration is the only one that will make it.