The American internationalism of the 20th century has become a victim of its own success; its greatest goals – the defeat of Fascism and Communism – have been attained. And so it is perhaps no surprise that the bipartisan domestic commitment to the global compact in force since the end of World War II has begun to crumble. Fiscal constraints, weariness with war and isolationism are eroding the American will to lead. The nation has often chafed “at the burden of our obligations.” But what once appeared to be a truism of an earlier era – the willingness to shoulder “the burdens of leadership in the free world" – has ceased to resonate with many Americans.
American internationalism has never been simply a response to threats, but an expression of who Americans are and what kind of world we want to live in. Our Founders outlined universal political truths: life – that is, security – liberty – that is, political freedom – and the pursuit of happiness – private, civic and economic liberties. To us, this is what defines a just world. Moreover, the greater the acceptance of these values around the world, the more peace, security and economic prosperity the U.S. has enjoyed.
But how do these principles apply in a new era? In particular, what are America’s security interests and how should they be safeguarded? The world is as complex and dangerous as it has been in many decades. Only a few years ago, the nation sustained an attack more devastating than anything seen in half a century. Global terrorism, radical Islam, the rise of China, the spread of nuclear weapons, economic turmoil, the instability of South Asia, and a growing arc of states in turmoil across Africa and the Middle East present challenges to our security and well-being.
How shall we meet them? How shall we define and prioritize our interests? Can regional issues be subcontracted to others? And can we continue to enjoy relative prosperity without the engagement that characterized recent decades? Through a series of working groups, reports and conferences, this Project seeks to craft a new bipartisan consensus to define America’s global role, identifying the building blocks and requirements of American internationalism in a new century.
For more information, please contact Phillip Lohaus at [email protected] or 202-862-5932.