Since the end of World War II, the international community has looked to the United States to provide leadership to rebuild, create institutions and restore stability. Yet the global order of the 21st century looks quite different. As the world emerges from the financial crisis, issues related to inequality, political turmoil, climate change, security, technology and terrorism confront developing and developed countries alike, challenging traditional centres of power and influence.
Although the US remains an economic and military heavyweight, its role on the international stage is less certain, given the shifting geopolitical and domestic contexts. At home, America faces a polarized political environment hindered by strained budgets and divided public opinion. Abroad, there is a contradiction – the global community perceives an overreach by the US in areas such as drone use and eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, while many countries still welcome and encourage US engagement in diplomacy and security, as well as trade and investment. The current administration has made the case for “intervention not overreach”, yet translating these words into actions remains a daunting challenge.
This contradiction, summarized by Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution as a period of “dual ambivalence”, reflects a simultaneous desire and hesitancy for American engagement in foreign policy, investment and peace-keeping. The Global Agenda Council on the United States seeks to inform the debate around the US’s role in the world in the run-up to the 2014 mid-term and 2016 presidential elections through a series of thought pieces and dialogues with key stakeholders across the US and around the globe