ISIS is wreaking havoc and spreading a violent ideology all over the world. Including inside the United States. Russia continues to rebuild their sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have not been this high since the end of the Cold War. The Syrian conflict continues unabated with little hope of resolution in the near future. This and other conflicts resulting in the highest level of human displacement on record. U.S. allies are becoming increasingly non-democratic as freedom all over the world continues to decline.
But everything is fine. At least according to the Obama administration. ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States. Despite an uptick mostly as a result of the Syrian conflict, war deaths are down. And world prosperity is up, promising a better future for citizens all over the world.
This view of the world conforms to recent work by a number of prominent scholars. In The Better Angels of our Nature Steven Pinker argues that we may be living in the most peaceful moment of human existence. Joshua S. Goldstein makes a similar argument. These works simply mirror earlier arguments by scholars such as John Mueller, Francis Fukuyama and Immanuel Kant.
Too bad numerous scholars and the American public disagree. Logically and statistically Pinker misses the point. The Obama administration has made many foreign policy mistakes which may have exacerbated existing issues instead of alleviating them. Some republican criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy are fair. And such criticism is reflected in Hillary Clinton’s poor approval ratings.
Mistakes will be made. Purely rational decision-making is a myth. Decisions made in the moment under stress will be imperfect and in some cases wrong. These mistakes must be acknowledged and taken as lessons. Declaring everything is fine is wrong and dangerous because it opens the door to contrasting narratives.
See the alternative.