U.S. leadership in world affairs has been a given for most of the period since World War II. Even after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. was assumed to be the predominant if not the only superpower. A combination of overreach and ambivalence, however, began to call this position into question, not least among the American public. The Trump presidency amplified and acted on these doubts to redefine how and when the U.S. would act consistent with the slogan “America First.”
The Biden administration has affirmed its willingness to reengage with the world in the hope of reestablishing America’s preeminence internationally. But how likely is this to happen, given sharp domestic political divisions, the damage done to longstanding alliances over the course of the Trump administration, and persistent questions about whether the US. is in decline? Can the world assume that the Biden administration will restore a measure of bipartisanship to American foreign policy that recommits the U.S. to global re-engagement? Can Washington accomplish this in a way that strikes a better balance between engagement and over-commitment?
This panel will also:
–Ask whether the U.S. still has the moral authority to claim leadership of the so-called “free world?” Is this a concept that has outlived its usefulness? Even if the U.S. has always had to ward off criticisms of its close ties with countries that have abysmal human rights records, is it in a worse place because the perception of America’s commitment to democracy, rule of law, and constitutional order is shaky at best?
–Discuss the state of America’s diplomatic apparatus and intelligence community. The tension between career and political appointees has always been present, but did the Trump administration’s invocation of a “deep state” in opposition to the White House demoralize and undermine these institutions? If so, what needs to be done to rebuild them and, more important, protect them in the future from becoming overly politicized? Should the State Department and the intelligence community be placed more on a par with the armed services?