Gulliver's Troubles: America First, American Leadership, or One Among Many?
America has some adjusting to do; it is no longer the “exceptional nation.” After 45 years of the Cold War and another decade of international leadership, the US faces a rapidly evolving global system, with rising powers, regional conflicts, transnational actors, and a changing international balance of power. American today appears more like a Gulliver, weakened and tied down by a myriad of challenges, countries and organizations. Military power is not enough, not always welcome, and counter-productive. American diplomacy is weaker than at any time in the last 70 years. America faces a dramatic choice: America First, which abandon’s many traditions of US diplomatic and military policy; Hegemonic Restoration, which is impossible; American Multilateral Leadership, which faces increasing resistance from other powers, countries, and non-governmental groups and organizations; or American Restraint –re-tooling American statecraft to accommodate a position of one, among many global and regional powers. Will US policies and actions exacerbate the centrifugal trend of global power relations, attempt to shape international events and policies when such efforts are not fully welcome, or adjust to new global and regional realities. Can, and will the toolkit of American statecraft be reshaped to emphasize diplomacy over the use of military force in dealing with new global realities?
Dr. Gordon Adams lives in Brunswick, Maine, where he retired in 2015 after 45 years of think tank, government, and teaching responsibilities in New York and Washington, DC.