Introducing the Winners of our 2018 Student Foreign Policy Essay Contest

Book and pen. Via

The winners of the Society’s annual student foreign policy essay contest with The National Interest have been published. This year’s contest prompt was simple: Where can America do less? Or, more precisely, “In what area of the world could the United States reduce its military involvement? Explain your reasoning.”

  • First place went to Tom Zolot of the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Zolot’s essay challenges the implicit assumption of the question that militarization is an issue in our foreign policy. He instead zeroes in on militarization of policing here in the United States. The essay stood out from the pack with its focus on specific areas of federal policy that have accelerated the militarization of law enforcement and its extensive use of statistics. Key quote:

    “Progressively, police use hardware, doctrine and tactics not just metaphorically similar to the military, but directly from them, incentivized by federal policies. The military increasingly assumes law-and-order functions, as surveillance and intelligence unify in ways over a century of separation protocols warned against. Militarized cops, with paramilitary raids and military surveillance systems, disproportionately damage marginalized groups and undermine civil liberties. They eviscerate public trust in police, polarize communities and provoke protesters.”

  • The contest had two coequal runners-up. One was Samuel Leiter of the University of Chicago. Leiter’s essay suggests that the US needs to reduce its role in East Asia in order to avoid confrontation with a rising China. Critics of this view, he notes, have worried that this could prompt East Asian states to seek nuclear weapons as independent guarantees of their own security against China, and that this in turn could lead to China launching preventive wars against those neighbors. “Containing China,” Leiter writes, “would be a losing strategy that drains American resources, but if a withdrawal would create a vacuum and instability in the region, then it could be just as destructive to American foreign-policy goals.” A Beijing version of the Bush Doctrine would certainly qualify.

    But would China really launch preventive wars? “Is there a serious risk of China, the rising power in East Asia, attacking Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan if they attempt to acquire nuclear weapons?” Leiter asks. No: “An examination of the history of preventive strikes against nuclear programs will show that such a scenario is unlikely.”

  • The other runner up was Sean T. Crowley of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Crowley’s essayargues that Western advances into Russia’s traditional sphere of influence created a context that helped empower Russia’s security establishment – including men like Vladimir Putin.

    “In short, provocative American actions—NATO expansion, support for the so-called “color revolutions,” regime change wars in the Middle East—have triggered historical Russian suspicions of foreign intervention and empowered a jingoistic security class that operates in an information vacuum. Russo-American relations are at a historic impasse as any further Western intervention in the former Soviet space or efforts to punish Russia for its overseas meddling will only affirm the view of the siloviki that there exists a Western plot to keep Russia down (with much of the Russian public sharing this view).”

Congratulations to all three winners. In addition to cash prizes, they received free subscriptions to the National Interest. You can help provide opportunities like this to more students by supporting the Society today.