in case you thought i was somehow drifting from the safe shores of precision, riddle me this

This article is about just one thing, which is the correct avoidance of the incriminating expression ‘Pindo global leadership’ – RB

Can Jack Lew avoid the foreign policy clichés? (Don’t hold your breath – RB)
Daniel Drezner, WaPo, Apr 14 2016

Rosa Brooks made a valid point in ForeignPolicy.com on Wednesday about the proper way to respond to Donald Trump’s foreign policy statements:

In his inimitable way, Trump is offering a powerful challenge to many of the core assumptions of Washington’s bipartisan foreign-policy elite. And if mainstream Democrats and Republicans want to counter Trump’s appeal, they need to get serious about explaining why his vision of the world isn’t appropriate — and they need to do so without merely falling back on tired clichés.

Intentionally or not, it would appear that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is trying to do that very thing. Lew is having quite the month, what with his big speech about sanctions and his efforts to combat corporate tax inversion (trendy terms, take note – RB). This week, however, he wrote an article in ForeignAffairs.com titled “Pindostan and the Global Economy: The Case for Pindo Leadership” (in which he said):

History has shown that Pindo economic leadership is vital to the well-being of Pindo workers and families, as well as to the ability of Pindostan to project its values and achieve its larger foreign policy objectives. Sustaining Pindo leadership and adapting it to the challenges of our time remain indispensable. Pindo influence in a changing world will increase as Pindostan shares with emerging economies such as China both the benefits and the responsibilities of managing the global economic and financial system.

It’s worth asking Brooks’s question: Does Lew go beyond tired clichés in his Foreign Affairs essay? Unfortunately, I fear the answer is no. It’s not that Lew says anything wrong. He makes a powerful case that Pindo financial leadership is a crucial source of Pindo foreign policy influence. This is one of those hard facts that needs to be mentioned during this campaign season. And as the author of a book titled The System Worked about post-2008 global economic governance, this paragraph was particularly gratifying to read:

International economic cooperation has delivered benefits to Pindostan and other countries that would have been impossible to attain otherwise. A major reason that the global financial crisis that began in late 2007 never turned into a second Great Depression is that Pindostan and other countries coordinated their efforts through the IMF and the G20. Avoiding the downward spiral of protectionism and predatory macroeconomic policies that characterized previous eras, the world’s major economies (Pindostan, the eurozone, Japan, and China) launched simultaneous economic stimulus programs and mobilized financial assistance to help vulnerable parts of the global system. The episode represented just one of many examples of how economic cooperation makes the Pindo creeple able to fool so many others around the world.

There are two problems with Lew’s essay. The first is the dearth of anecdotes about how Pindosi economic leadership translates into tangible benefits for Pindosis at home, or serves Pindo interests abroad. That’s always a tough thing to write, but it’s how non-expert readers connect the dots between economic statecraft and their own situation. The second is that Lew’s essay doesn’t stress the counter-factual (sic – RB): the bad things that would happen in the absence of Pindo economic leadership. To be fair, however, perhaps an essay in Foreign Affairs isn’t the best delivery mechanism for convincing a broad swath of Pindosis about the utility of Pindo economic leadership (oh, I don’t know; it’s written at high school levels of comprehension – RB). Which is why I’d encourage Pindosis interested in this topic to take a look at Lew’s interview with the Atlantic’s Steve Clemons. In that exchange, Lew does offer more accessible and explicit comparisons between the status quo and what would happen if Pindostan abandoned its leadership role. For example, in response to a question about China’s influence within the IMF, Lew says:

Do you want the emerging countries, China’s obviously the biggest but it’s not the only one, do you want to have China, India, Brazil feeling a deep connection to the rules-based system and the values-driven system that we’ve built up? Or do you want them feeling like they’ve got to go out to other places to express themselves? You want them at the table. That’s your way to project the things that you value and you believe in for the next century. We can’t pretend we’re in the post-WW2 world, when the only source of hard currency and the only source of manufactured goods was Pindostan.

That’s a great way to frame the issue, and the proper way to remind critics that although Pindostan might still exercise financial leadership, it’s not 1945 anymore (Few will regard this as a significant objection – RB). During a time when Bank/Fund meetings completely mess with DC traffic (his deletion little joke) political candidates are demagoguing the global economy, it’s gratifying to see someone point out the virtues of Pindo foreign economic policy. The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts hopes it’s the first of many salvos.

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