(Epistemic status: Low confidence.)
(Bias: High. Only giving one side of the argument. )
The more I think about foreign policy, the more I think it’s a strange extra-legal backwater. In all other aspects of statecraft, from economics to healthcare, there are harsh constraints on what leaders can and cannot do and huge amounts of law enforcing transparency and holding decisions makers accountable for failing to comply with statutory requirements. In international relations, there seem to be almost no constraints. A politician can declare war and kill 500’00, sponsor murderous regimes, islamist militias, subvert democratic governments etc.. All of this can be done at essentially the executive level, with only the most serious decisions like war requiring legislative approval. The public is seldom informed as these policies are secret and when and if things go wrong there is no domestic legal framework to hold people to account. Whenever I read the American conservative, Jacobin, Chomsky or any other dissident source, I hear the same refrains about how horrific some aspects of western foreign policy have been and how shocking It is that none of the instigators were held accountable. I seldom hear workable solutions. Looking at other areas of society I think one of the major reasons institutions such as the police, health services etc… are more functional, less corrupt and more accountable today than in the 1800’s is because they have been systematised. The legal system was extended to cover them and a variety of rules, regulations, targets dictate what conduct is acceptable and what conduct is illegal and constitutes gross misconduct or a felony. It seems like foreign policy is still a legal Wild West. Changing that may be a good way to ensure better decisions are made.