America’s partners around the world must have a serious case of whiplash. The past 20 years have seen U.S. foreign policy ricochet from unilateralism to “leading from behind,” from the isolationism of America First to an attempt to restore our diplomacy and global partnerships all at once. Foreign policy priorities always shift when the White House changes hands, but these swings are now more pronounced and jeopardize the credibility of U.S. commitments abroad. The polarization of American politics now includes our foreign policy.
That’s why one of the consistent sources of America’s strength — our cities and states — should be much more involved in designing and executing foreign policy. Cities and states have less partisan turnover and their leaders generally have less time for political shenanigans: They need to deliver tangible services for constituents. Elevating the role of cities and states in diplomacy — or in other words, decentralizing diplomacy — will build more practical, collaborative, and mutually beneficial diplomatic partnerships.