ABOUT THIS BOOK
The surprising story of the movement to create a truly democratic foreign policy by engaging ordinary Americans in world affairs.
No major arena of US governance is more elitist than foreign policy. International relations barely surface in election campaigns, and policymakers take little input from Congress. But not all Americans set out to build a cloistered foreign policy “establishment.” For much of the twentieth century, officials, activists, and academics worked to foster an informed public that would embrace participation in foreign policy as a civic duty.
The first comprehensive history of the movement for “citizen education in world affairs,” Every Citizen a Statesman recounts an abandoned effort to create a democratic foreign policy. Taking the lead alongside the State Department were philanthropic institutions like the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and the Foreign Policy Association, a nonprofit founded in 1918. One of the first international relations think tanks, the association backed local World Affairs Councils, which organized popular discussion groups under the slogan “World Affairs Are Your Affairs.” In cities across the country, hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered in homes and libraries to learn and talk about pressing global issues.
But by the 1960s, officials were convinced that strategy in a nuclear world was beyond ordinary people, and foundation support for outreach withered. The local councils increasingly focused on those who were already engaged in political debate and otherwise decried supposed public apathy, becoming a force for the very elitism they set out to combat. The result, David Allen argues, was a chasm between policymakers and the public that has persisted since the Vietnam War, insulating a critical area of decisionmaking from the will of the people.
Every Citizen a Statesman will undoubtedly prove essential reading for historians across a variety of fields…Allen argues persuasively that the eventual creation of foreign policy free of public opinion was contested, not predetermined.
-- Madelyn Lugli Tocqueville 21
US leaders often proclaim that a successful foreign policy requires public support. Yet they have been reluctant to cede power to a public with little expertise in the subject. With a firm grasp of the historical materials, a fluid writing style, and a gift for narrative, Allen shows that the United States has never figured out what a truly ‘democratic’ foreign policy might be. This fascinating book is a pleasure to read, and the lessons it draws are both timely and troubling.
-- Stephen M. Walt, author of The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy
An elegant, insightful, and wonderfully original work of history. Simultaneously a richly detailed case study of the forgotten Foreign Policy Association and a thoughtful meditation on the nature of public opinion, Every Citizen a Statesman forces us to grapple with an essential question: what would it take to democratize American foreign policy?
-- Sam Lebovic, author of A Righteous Smokescreen: Postwar America and the Politics of Cultural Globalization
A compelling and original book. Tracing the rise of the Foreign Policy Association, an organization formed to align democracy and diplomacy in the twentieth century, Allen shows how tragically difficult it can be to close the gap between powerful policymakers and a public that sees foreign affairs as distant from daily life. This insightful work shows that the relationship between the ideals of democracy and the practice of foreign policy remains as complex and relevant as ever.
-- Jeremi Suri, author of Civil War by Other Means: America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy
Is an authentically democratic foreign policy—that is, a foreign policy stemming from a deeply engaged public—a noble dream, a potential reality, or a fool’s errand? Allen takes up this question with an evenhanded approach and a real mastery of the source material. Timely and well argued, Every Citizen a Statesman is a major contribution to the study of US foreign relations and political history. A superb, fascinating book.
-- Christopher McKnight Nichols, author of Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction: Destiny and Democracy
Chapter 1. “Foreign Relations Was Something for Women”
Chapter 2. The Fact Cult
Chapter 3. The War for Democracy
Chapter 4. How to Teach a City to Lead the World
Chapter 5. World Affairs Are Your Affairs
Chapter 6. Who, Me?
Chapter 7. The Diplomatic One Percent
Epilogue: A Foreign Policy for the American People?