Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth
The United States' Global Role in the 21st Century
Oxford University Press 2016
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in National SecurityNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network September 16, 2016 Christian Peterson
A decade and a half of exhausting wars, punishing economic setbacks, and fast-rising rivals has called into question America’s fundamental position and purpose in world politics. Will the US continue to be the only superpower in the international system? Should it continue advancing the world-shaping grand strategy it has followed since the dawn of the Cold War? Or should it “come home” and focus on its internal problems? The recent resurgence of isolationist impulses has made the politics surrounding these questions increasingly bitter.
In America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2016), Stephen G. Brooks (Dartmouth College) and William C. Wohlforth (Dartmouth College) take stock of these debates and provide a powerful defense of American globalism. They stress that world politics since end of World War Two has been shaped by two constants: America’s position as the most powerful state, and its strategic choice to be deeply engaged in the world. Ever since, the US has advanced its interests by pursuing three core objectives: reducing threats by managing the security environment in key regions; promoting a liberal economic order to expand global and domestic prosperity; and sustaining the network of global institutions on terms favorable to US interests. While there have been some periodic policy failures, America’s overall record is astounding. But how would America’s interests fare if the United States chose to disengage from the world and reduce its footprint overseas? Their answer is clear: retrenchment would put core US security and economic interests at risk. And because America’s sole superpower status will long endure, the US will not be forced to turn inward. While America should remain globally engaged, it also has to focus primarily on its core interests: reducing great power rivalry and security competition in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East; fostering economic globalization; and supporting a multilateral institutional system that advances US interests. Pursuing objectives beyond this core runs the risk of overextension. A bracing rejoinder to the critics of American globalism, America Abroad is a powerful reminder that a robust American presence is crucial for maintaining world order.