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Who's in the Video

Sean McFate

Dr. Sean McFate is an adviser to Oxford University's Centre for Technology and Global Affairs, as well as a professor of strategy at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s[…]
  • When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many Americans jumped for joy. At the time, some believed there weren’t going to be any more political disagreements anywhere in the world. They thought American democracy had won the “war of ideas.”
  • American exceptionalism has sought to create a world order that’s really a mirror image of ourselves — a liberal world order founded on the DNA of American thinking. To many abroad this looks like ethnic chauvinism.
  • We need to move on from this way of thinking, and consider that sometimes “problem-solving,” in global affairs, means the world makes us look like how it wants to be.

SEAN MCFATE: 1989, the Berlin Wall crashes, and a lot of America jumped with joy. We won the Cold War, et cetera. Whether that's true, it's a different debate. But there were a couple scholars out there who thought -- you know, like Frank Fukuyama wrote a book called "The End of History." He said, "The future is Utopia. It's going to be all great. There's not going to be any more political disagreement anywhere in the world because American democracy has won the war of ideas that's ancient and old."

Which is absurd, but this absurdity became a New York Times bestseller and launched his career and et cetera. And ever since then, this idea of American exceptionalism has sought to create a world order that's really a mirror image of ourself. And many -- and I lived abroad, and to many people, this looks like ethnic chauvinism. But we go around, our foreign policy tries to shore up a world order, a liberal world order founded on the DNA of American thinking. And when it can't do that, it contains the problem, whether it's the Middle East or in Africa. And the way this looks -- how this comes out in American policy is this.

You hear this phrase for Africa, African solutions for African problems. That's really code for containment. But that doesn't solve any problems. It doesn't create American order in Africa or the Middle East, as if that's even feasible or desirable. It's not. What we need to do is move away from containing problems and solve them. And problem-solving does not mean that you're going to make the world look like the place you want it to be. Problem-solving can also be the world makes you look like it wants to be. And we need to move on, whether it's -- and not just in foreign policy, but again, like in warfare.

We are fighting according to our rules of war, yet those rules no longer apply. And then we wonder why Afghanistan is the longest war in history. That's the world we're up against.