In This Review

Who Speaks for America? Why Democracy Matters in Foreign Policy
Who Speaks for America? Why Democracy Matters in Foreign Policy
By Eric Alterman
Cornell University Press, 1998, 224 pp
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The author, a columnist for The Nation, argues that American democracy is a sham, its government and foreign policy controlled by self-appointed elites who rule in the interests of their corporate paymasters. By way of reform, Alterman calls for a "foreign policy jury" of 400 to 500 "ordinary people" elected on the basis of biographies and short statements. This council would have the right to deliberate on the nation's foreign policy and compel public officials to answer questions under oath. Over time, the author suggests, the jury would take over key components of policymaking, a constitutional revolution he claims would enormously improve the "continuity and stability of U.S. Foreign policy" and save "trillions of dollars" in the process. While Alterman complains repeatedly of the low quality of foreign policy debate in this country, this manifestly utopian proposal -- its details vague and its merits absurdly exaggerated -- offers unwitting testimony to that state of affairs.