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Not a Serious Country
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Not a Serious Country

American foreign policy has fallen prey to domestic politics with devastating results for the future world order. Francis Fukuyama's latest.

Francis Fukuyama

American foreign policy has been sucked totally into the dysfunction of our domestic politics, with devastating results for the future world order. Let me put this simply.

Ukraine, after fiercely resisting the Russian full-scale invasion for two years, is now in the process of losing the war. The Ukrainian military has simply been running out of ammunition because the United States has cut off further military assistance. Europe is having a similar problem filling the gap because of the opposition of one EU member country, Hungary. President Putin is now confident that he will outlast the West and win not just the current war, but future ones as well.

To be clear, a majority of Americans, and a majority of their elected representatives in both houses of Congress, favor providing continued aid to Ukraine. There has been a bipartisan negotiation in the Senate that has led to a package deal that would provide this assistance (as well as to Israel and Taiwan) provided it is linked to a tightening of controls at the U.S. southern border. This is what Republicans have been loudly demanding for much of the past year; indeed, they claim it is such an emergency that Texas and other red states are mobilizing their National Guard units for this purpose.___STEADY_PAYWALL___

President Biden recently asserted that he was willing to close the entire border if that is what it took to get the aid package through. However, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has been campaigning against this deal and has instructed his MAGA allies in the House, led by speaker Mike Johnson, to reject it outright. He and his right-wing allies do not want the problem to be solved because they want to keep the border issue alive until the November election. Given the Republicans’ narrow House majority, the package could easily pass with Democratic votes and a handful of dissenting Republicans, but any bipartisan cooperation of the sort seen in the Senate has been made verboten

The Republican Party has grown very adept at hostage-holding, something that led to Trump’s first impeachment in 2019. The hard core MAGA wing represents a minority within a minority, yet our institutional rules permit them to veto decisions clearly favored by a large majority of Americans. In the case of the southern border, Trump wants to veto an outcome that the Republicans themselves proclaimed to be a critical emergency, all for the sake of the electoral advantage he believe it gives him. This is another example of Donald Trump’s willingness to burn the whole house down if it serves his personal interests, much like his recent comment that he hopes an economic crash will come before November.

President Biden needs to explain this situation much more clearly to the American people. His administration has a tendency to think that it is sufficient to articulate a policy position once to make it stick. Biden needs to emulate Trump and repeat over and over and over again that Trump and the Republican radicals in the House are blocking a solution to the southern border, as well as facilitating a Russian victory over Ukraine. 

The United States has for some time ceased to be a serious country. Our extreme polarization combined with institutional rules that privilege minorities makes it impossible for us to meet our international obligations. The European Union has a version of the same problem, where its consensus requirements allow a single small country to block action by the whole. But we cannot begin to address these long-term issues unless we succeed at the short-term task of keeping Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans out of power in the coming election. 

Francis Fukuyama is chairman of the editorial board of American Purpose and Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow and director of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy program at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

DemocracyUnited StatesUkraineFrankly Fukuyama