Introductions

Welcome Daniel Bessner to FX as our new columnist!

Hey, it’s Derek. Yesterday I told you about an exciting new project here at Foreign Exchanges, bringing historian and international relations scholar Daniel Bessner to the newsletter as a featured columnist. Here’s Daniel to introduce himself in his own words and to talk a bit more about what he’ll be doing.

We’ll have more to say when we get closer to rolling out Daniel’s first column, but for now let me say again that the sustainability of this project depends on your support. Subscribe today and get 20% off your first year:


Hi all! Just wanted to write and introduce myself and give a bit of a sense of what I’ll be doing for Foreign Exchanges. As you all know, since Donald Trump’s election—and, more specifically, since it appeared Bernie Sanders might have an actual chance of winning the Democratic primary—there’s been an efflorescence of thinking on the left about what the future of a “progressive” (in my view, a social democratic) foreign policy might look like. There are, unfortunately, few models to which US leftists can turn for inspiration: throughout the Cold War, the US left was kept out of power, especially in terms of foreign policymaking. While we may take inspiration from left-wing leaders and movements throughout the world, it’s doubtful that we, as people (mostly) living in the United States in 2020, can learn much (or would want to learn much) about wielding power by examining, say, the history of Cuba. So, we’re really starting from, if not scratch, the beginning.

Since Bernie lost, the left looks set to be in the semi-wilderness for four to eight years. In my opinion, this doesn’t mean we should despair. We should look at Bernie’s loss in 2020 as being analogous to Barry Goldwater’s defeat in the 1964 presidential election; though Lyndon Johnson crushed Goldwater, the latter’s defeat inspired the next generation of conservative thinkers, activists, and politicians to consolidate, focus on strategy, and sharpen their ideas.

An opportunity (Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

This is where I think the left is in 2020: now is a time for retrenchment, where we develop the ideas and strategies that will help us win and govern well when we do.

It’s for this reason that my FX column is going to focus on big picture ideas that I hope will spur some discussion, and maybe even provide some suggestions, about how the left should think about U.S. foreign affairs.

To tell you a bit about myself: I’m presently an associate professor at the University of Washington. My academic work has focused on the rise of the national security state, the history of IR theory, and how Americans developed the ideas that continue to guide how we interact in the world. To be more specific, my book, Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual (buy it!), explores how a German exile from the Nazis came to America and helped develop the institutions of the national security state. I’ve also written in public forums, mostly about the future of left-wing foreign policy.

I’ll leave it there for now. I’m very much looking forward to engaging with your responses to my pieces.