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Welcome to Say More, a weekly newsletter that brings Project Syndicate’s renowned contributors closer to readers. Each issue invites a contributor to expand on topics covered in their commentaries, address new issues, and share recommendations, offering readers exclusive insights into the ideas, interests, and personalities of some of the world’s leading thinkers.
This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of the think tank New America and Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University.
In last week’s edition of Say More, José Antonio Ocampo, Chair of the UN’s Committee for Development Policy, assessed Latin America’s economic prospects, advocated the development of a truly global currency, and explained how to create a corporate tax system that is “fit for the digital economy.”
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Anne-Marie Slaughter Says More…

Project Syndicate: By effectively giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the green light to attack northern Syria’s Kurds, America’s most effective ally against the Islamic State (ISIS), US President Donald Trump has once again handed a victory to an authoritarian leader. You’ve underscored the danger of that approach with regard to Hungary, a far less strategically significant country than Turkey. What immediate and longer-term risks do you foresee arising from Trump’s withdrawal of US troops from Syria, and how might they be mitigated?

Anne-Marie Slaughter: The United States effectively has two foreign policies at the moment. Trump admires strongmen around the world and cultivates personal relationships with them. This often results in his taking impulsive and dangerous decisions that are deeply adverse to US interests – as defined by the State Department, the Pentagon, and even his own National Security Council.
Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria and clear the way for a Turkish invasion falls into this category. It was a victory for Turkey, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Russia, Iran, and ISIS. And it was a loss for the US, which surrendered much of its influence in the Middle East and betrayed both its allies and its values.
This carries serious longer-term risks. For example, in Afghanistan, the Taliban might be encouraged to keep fighting, in the hope that Trump will simply decide to withdraw US troops from there, too. In the Baltics, Russian President Vladimir Putin might be emboldened to mount a direct challenge to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which holds that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.
The only way to mitigate these risks is to remove Trump from office, either through the ballot box next year or impeachment by the US House and conviction in the Senate before that.

PS: Even before the US withdrawal, you warned that ISIS was cultivating an “online narrative of victory” that could “translate into success on the ground.” With the Trump administration’s chances of winning the “battle for the narrative” presumably significantly depleted, who else could take the lead in countering ISIS’s communications offensive?
AMS: The European Union, with its many Muslim citizens, should have the capacity to shape and promote a decisive counter-narrative to ISIS. But, given the EU’s preoccupation with Brexit and the need to reinvigorate its own integration processes amid deep internal divisions, it is unlikely to play this role.
With ISIS eager to prove its continued power and relevance in the wake of America’s withdrawal from Syria and US Special Forces’ killing of the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, we should expect it to launch new attacks soon. Europe will be its most likely Western target.
PS: After the Democrats regained control of the US House of Representatives in last year’s midterm elections, you cautioned that the House has “just enough power to get into foreign-policy trouble and not enough to get out of it or to adopt and implement a coherent strategy.” The Democrats’ “best bet” was thus “to let Trump take the lead on global affairs,” and work to check and balance his actions. What actions could the House take today to check Trump’s foreign policy, not only regarding Syria, but also with respect to, say, China and North Korea?
AMS: The House is trying to check Trump’s foreign policy – most notably, by considering economic sanctions against Turkey. Already, it has voted overwhelmingly to impose sweeping sanctions on Turkey for its incursion into northeastern Syria, a significant bipartisan rebuke of Trump. As of this writing, five sanctions bills targeting Turkey’s access to US arms and energy are circulating in the US Congress.
Moreover, the House has voted – again, with bipartisan support – to recognize the 1915 killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide. The US had previously been reluctant to make that declaration, in order to preserve its relations with Turkey, which has predictably denounced the move.
On China, the House has passed three bills in support of the Hong Kong demonstrators. One condemns China’s intrusions into Hong Kong’s affairs and supports its people’s right to protest. Another makes Hong Kong’s special economic and trade status conditional on annual assessments by the State Department of whether the city is sufficiently autonomous to justify that status under US law. A third seeks to block the sale to Hong Kong of tear gas and other crowd-control tools.
It is not clear whether any of these measures will pass the Senate. But even if they don’t, the House votes signal to the world that a large share of Americans – even many Republicans – do not support Trump’s foreign policy. Furthermore, the House retains the power of the purse, which it will continue trying to use to shape foreign policy.
PS: When the Paris climate agreement was concluded in 2015, you praised its flexible, non-binding nature. But when Trump took over, he exploited precisely that feature to repudiate the “executive agreement” entered into by his predecessor. With many other countries falling short of their climate commitments, do you still view the Paris agreement as “a model for effective global governance in the twenty-first century,” or is a more binding approach necessary?
AMS: It has been several decades since the US has signed and ratified a multilateral treaty, so it is unlikely that Barack Obama could have gotten a “Paris climate treaty” through the Senate. And it is not just the US: if the Paris agreement had been presented as a binding treaty under international law, many countries would have refused to sign or insisted on diluting its obligations considerably.
Yes, in withdrawing the US, Trump exploited the agreement’s flexibility. But the most important feature of the Paris agreement is not the involvement of governments, though government action is obviously critical. Rather, it is the inclusion of non-government stakeholders: business, civil society, philanthropic organizations, and provincial and municipal governments. Ultimately, the combined actions of these actors will have as large an impact on emissions reduction as those of governments.
So, no, I do not think that more binding agreements are what the world needs. On the contrary, binding is far less important than “rolling” – that is, evolving and increasing commitments by all parties, official and unofficial.

By the Way...

PS: Who has benefited the most from Trump’s presidency?
AMS: The bullies, the haters, the trolls, the sexists, the racists, and everyone who wants to smash and destroy, rather than build.
PS: Once again, a woman has emerged as a Democratic frontrunner to challenge Trump in next year’s presidential election. In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was thwarted in part by raw misogyny. If Senator Elizabeth Warren or another woman wins the Democratic Party’s nomination, what should she do to neutralize a similar sexist backlash?
AMS: I’m not sure that there is anything the candidate herself can do. Calling out the offenders will simply trigger more defensiveness and demonization from voters who cannot accept the idea of a woman in the White House, but think that they can. Much of the bias is, after all, subconscious: voters convince themselves that they are fine with a woman president, just not this woman.
The most effective way to resist this backlash would be for men – including journalists, politicians, and business and civic leaders – to point out the double standards and sexist criticism that Warren or any other woman candidate faces, and to do so consistently. They might be better positioned to bring the issue to the public’s attention in ways that trigger fewer – or less intense – negative reactions.
PS: If you could choose a single policy to be implemented in the US, what would it be?
AMS: Affordable, high-quality daycare for everyone who wants or needs it. Ensuring that all children get the chance to fulfill their potential is essential for America’s economic, military, and moral wellbeing. We need to harness all our talent to build a better future, and that requires not only supporting all children while they develop, but also enabling their parents to contribute. Yet, as it stands, daycare for two children costs more than the average rent in all 50 US states – a situation that is driving far too many women out of our workforce.
PS: You list “patriot” first in your Twitter bio. Why is it important for you to claim that label?
AMS: Carl Schurz, a major general in the Union army during the Civil War and, later, a Republican senator, offers the best way to understand patriotism. A German immigrant who loved his adopted country, Schurz said: “My country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right. When wrong, to be set right.”
Today, the political right has co-opted patriotism in the US, frequently with the active connivance of the left, which often confuses overt displays of love of country with nationalism. But it is precisely because I love my country that I must criticize it when it – no, we – fall short of our professed values and ideals, as we inevitably do. In my view, the cycle of striving to be our best selves and falling short and striving again has been the main driver of America’s progress, however uneven and insufficient.

Slaughter Recommends

We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Slaughter's picks:

The Uninhabitable Earth

By David Wallace Wells

Climate change is the existential threat of our time. This book assembles the science on the vast array of consequences of climate change – food shortages, refugee emergencies, resource conflict, and economic devastation – in a way that drives home the true urgency of the situation.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

By Shoshana Zuboff

Capitalism cannot continue in its current form, so many scholars and pundits are now envisioning different paths forward, with women – who were excluded from the process of creating the current system – offering some of the most interesting takes. Zuboff’s commanding work on the subject encompasses a lifetime of critical thinking, as well as specific research into the nature of the current technological-economic revolution.

The Hemingses of Monticello

By Annette Gordon Reed

A decade after recounting Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, Reed wrote the story of the family that resulted from that relationship. The book is a reckoning, especially for someone like me, who grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Jefferson-worship is a way of life. Equally important, it is an account of an American family, just as American as the Jefferson’s “official” white family. It reminds us that the history of all Americans – regardless of race, class, and legal status – is American history.

From the PS Archive

From 2015
Slaughter called for shifting the focus of the movement for women’s equality to the role of men. Read the commentary.
From 2017
Slaughter and co-author Mira Rapp-Hooper advocated more networking among countries concerned about the loss of US security guarantees. Read the commentary.

By Anne-Marie Slaughter

With moving personal stories, individual action plans, and a broad outline for change, Slaughter offers a vision of what gender equality really means, and how we can achieve it.

Around the Web

In case you missed it, here are some other places around the web where Slaughter's work or ideas have appeared recently.

In one of the most-read articles in The Atlantic magazine’s history, Slaughter refuted the notion that women truly can “have it all.” Read the essay.
A year later, Slaughter expanded on her ideas, explaining how shifts in work culture, public policy, and social mores can lead to greater gender equality. Watch the TED talk.
In 2017, Slaughter answered The Economist’s questions about how network theory could be applied to global problems. Listen to the podcast.
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