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American Virtue Rules

November 15, 2019

William S. Brownfield was Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs until September 30, 2017. His successor, Kristen Dawn Madison, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 26, 2018. Unlike Secretary Brownfield, Ms. Madison is a former Senate staffer and policy specialist at the American Enterprise Institute.

Her appointment is of interest because U.S. “counter corruption” policy is the focus of Impeachment Proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Though American politics has experienced numerous instances of corruption, advocating “anti-corruption” in other countries has risks. Many nations are governed by corrupt leaders and confronting them with their misdeeds can de-stabilize those governments.

A recent book by University of Pennsylvania History professor, Walter McDougall, relates America’s sensitivity to “virtue” in ourselves and others to a “civil religion” that has deep roots in American culture and politics. His book is titled The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest.

Apparently, President Trump does not favor this attitude and especially in its manifestation in American foreign policy and has delegated former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, to negotiate foreign policy in Ukraine.

We’ll learn much more about that decision as Impeachment proceedings move forward, but a greater policy issue remains: Should the United States have a policy directed at corruption in nations with which the United States has diplomatic relations?

Let me put this in personal terms: I invite a professional colleague to dinner at my home. My colleague takes exception to the cleanliness of my kitchen and tells me that he is so appalled that he will notify our employer.

Frankly, I wouldn’t appreciate this offensive observation and I would move aggressively against him.

Isn’t that at bottom what’s at issue in the removal of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine by President Trump?

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