Why we need a foreign policy elite

Fortunately, dalliances with anti-establishment, populist isolationism tend to be short-lived. Over the years, voters wisely turned away from naïve beckoning to create “Fortress America,” as Senator Robert Taft advertised in the early 1950s, or to “Come Home, America,” George McGovern’s presidential campaign slogan in 1972.

And while “elite” has an obvious anti-democratic meaning, today the foreign policy establishment looks more like the America it guides. The Eastern establishment was exceedingly insular in Eisenhower’s day: white, male, Protestant, preppy. But by Nixon’s time it had loosened up to include Mr. Kissinger, a Jewish refugee. Today’s foreign policy establishment is heavily populated by graduates of elite schools, but many of them are minorities and the children and grandchildren of immigrants.

No doubt, the modern foreign policy establishment can be criticized for stale or lazy thinking, or parochial self-interest. But it still includes many men and women with a sophisticated knowledge of the world. To ignore them and their counsel is foolish.

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