The New Foreign Policy Frontier

Obama tweets during his first ever Twitter Town Hall

From Anne-Marie Slaughter, the New Atlanticist:  The frontier of foreign policy in the 21st century is social, developmental, digital, and global. Along this frontier, different groups of actors in society — corporations, foundations, NGOs, universities, think tanks, churches, civic groups, political activists, Facebook groups, and others — are mobilizing to address issues that begin as domestic social problems but that have now gone global. It is the world of the Land Mines Treaty and the International Criminal Court; global criminal and terrorist networks; vast flows of remittances that dwarf development assistance; micro-finance and serial entrepreneurship; the Gates Foundation; the Arab spring; climate change; global pandemics; Twitter; mobile technology to monitor elections, fight corruption, and improve maternal health; a new global women’s movement; and the demography of a vast youth bulge in the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia. . . .

As an Atlantic correspondent and as curator/host of the new feature, Notes from the Foreign Policy Frontier, I will be working out some of the broader concepts we need for thinking about effective policymaking on this new frontier. As Internet guru Clay Shirky puts it, talking about "non-state actors" is like calling an automobile a horseless carriage. The term just underlines our need for a framework that moves beyond states and addresses both governments and societies. Here complexity theory and network theory offer more answers than game theory; neuroscience, psychology, and sociology often provide better insights and solutions than political science and economics. Also vital are the voices of a much wider range of people than standard foreign policy commentary allows: citizens of developing countries, women and girls, minorities, youth, indigenous peoples, corporations, civic groups, state, local, and municipal governments, and so on.

Equally important, I’ll be looking at the world through a very different lens — highlighting features of the foreign policy landscape that simply disappear if we examine only a world of opaque unitary states negotiating, pressuring, fighting, and ignoring each other — Arnold Wolfers’ classic image of the international system as a bunch of billiard balls banging against each other. Those readers who follow me on Twitter will know that I am actively curating foreign policy news, analyses, and commentary from as wide a spectrum of global sources as possible, and always welcome inputs and responses. I will often link to what I find on Twitter and elsewhere here, as well as posting thoughts, impressions, and longer reflections and commentary. Join me! And let me know, in the comments or on Twitter, what you are thinking and doing on the foreign policy frontier.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a member of the Atlantic Council, is Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. Photo credit Reuters.

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