Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

America Is Wide Open for Foreign Influence

| Apr. 08, 2019

If you’re an outsider with a political agenda, there's no better country to target than the United States.

Ever since the Treaty of Westphalia, the idea of territorial sovereignty has been central to how most of us think about international politics and foreign policy. Although a huge amount of activity occurs across state borders, one of the chief tasks of any government is to defend the nation's territory and make sure—to the extent it can—that outsiders are not in position to interfere in harmful ways. But for all the effort and expense devoted to keeping harmful influences out, sometimes countries wind up locking and bolting the windows while leaving the front door wide open.

Take the mighty United States, for example. It has a vast Department of Homeland Security, whose job is to defend its borders from international terrorism, illegal migration, drug smuggling, customs violations, and other dangers. The United States has intelligence agencies monitoring dangerous developments all over the world to keep them from harming Americans at home. It has spent trillions of dollars on a sophisticated nuclear arsenal designed to deter a hostile country from attacking the U.S. homeland directly, and it's spent additional hundreds of billions of dollars pursuing the holy grail of missile defense. Americans now worry about cyberthreats of various kinds, including the possibility that foreign powers like Russia might be interfering in U.S. elections or sowing division and false information via social media. And then there's President Donald Trump's obsession with that southern wall, which he declares is necessary to keep the Republican base riled up—oops, sorry, I meant to say "is necessary to protect us from impoverished refugees or other undesirables."

Given all the time, effort, and money the United States devotes to defending the realm against outside intrusions, it is ironic that the United States may also be the most permeable political system in modern history. More than any great power's that I can think of, America's political system is wide open to foreign interference in a variety of legitimate and illegitimate ways....

  – Via the original publication source.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“America Is Wide Open for Foreign Influence.” Foreign Policy, April 8, 2019.

The Author

Stephen Walt