Democratizing U.S. Foreign Policy

Bringing Experts and the Public Back Together

The U.S. Capitol behind a chain-link fence, September 2013.  Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

In August 2016, 50 Republican U.S. national security officials published a letter opposing Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency. This group, which included such well-known experts as Aaron Friedberg, Dov Zakheim, and Philip Zelikow, declared in no uncertain terms that, if elected, Trump “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

The letter sank without a trace within days of its release. The public had no desire to heed the so-called experts. On the Fox News website, where one might expect Republicans to receive a fair hearing, commentators lambasted the signatories as members of a disgraced “establishment” in which they had no trust.

Such vitriol affirms what Tom Nichols recently argued in these pages—that Americans have “lost faith in expertise”—and suggests that foreign policy expertise is facing particular discredit. This diagnosis raises two critical questions. Why has the public spurned the experts when it comes

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