There are two poles to the American foreign
policy debate. One is values, essentially the quality of life within a country’s
borders. And then there’s interests. Interests if you will tend to be matters
of economic or security or diplomatic importance, so interests could be such
things as investments. Interests can be access to raw materials.
Interests can be stability. When you speak about values, it really runs a range,
and it deals mainly though with the quality of life, the degree of opportunity, the degree of freedom. It can be the basic ability of people to survive, say against a tyrannical regime,
but it can also affect political freedom, or religious freedom.
It could also involve things about economics: standard of living, certain types of
economic opportunity. This fault line of interests versus values can really be traced back over a century ago, say Woodrow Wilson in the aftermath of World War I. How much again should the United States focus on
the right of so-called self determination as opposed to where to draw lines and how to
keep countries from going to war. And if you look at so many of the current
debates about American foreign policy, you deconstruct them but you see
someone essentially arguing we should focus more on
interests or more on values. In this period of history I would actually argue that
it’s one of the more complex, that there’s more countries that are neither, if you will,
permanent friend or permanent foe, that it places a real premium on diplomacy
in ways that we haven’t seen, say, in earlier periods of history, which tended
to be more fixed and less dynamic. In foreign policy, again, you can’t choose
if you will what it is that’s out there. The behavior of other countries, the
nature of other countries, simply arrives in your inbox. Then you’ve
got to decide what to do with it. Take Egypt today. Should the United States be focusing on the restoration or movement towards full democracy in Egypt, or should we concern ourselves most with how the Egyptian government acts, say, against terrorism, or its willingness to
embrace peace with Israel? So there is always, I would argue,
something of a tension or a trade-off between interests and values.