Is America in Retraction Mode?
Conventional wisdom has the United States in a retraction mode. Do the facts support such an assertion? Critics of current U.S. foreign policy confuse internationalism with interventionism. Apart from a vibrant economy, an open society and military prowess, the tools of America´s leadership on the global level comprise alliances, partnerships, multilateralism and democracy.
Pragmatic, active internationalism is the hallmark of the nation´s international conduct. Renewing NATO alliance commitments accompanied by the increase of rotational military presence in Central and Eastern Europe, bolstering troop and hardware deployment in the Asian-Pacific region as well as intensifying cooperation with India while attempting to obtain a modus vivendi with China or fostering transpacific and transatlantic trade agreements hardly fit into the retrenchment narrative.
Gloom and doom rhetoric has always been a major component in the domestic debate about America´s global role. Indeed, the current global disorder in certain regions with a slew of failing or failed states, wars, nuclear ambitions, poverty as well as 60 million refugees and migrants on a global scale pose formidable problems for U.S. leadership and its capability to marshal support among allies and partners for lasting solutions.
Link the tightening of Chinese authoritarianism with Russia´s embrace of revanchism and dictatorship, add the rise of dschi
hadist groups, then the supremacy of Western liberalism appears hollow and its values under assault even in its own societies. Frequently China is understood as a counterexample to democracy´s and human rights´universal character and appeal. However, what distinguishes China is its lacking ability and interest in spreading its autocratic model of governance to the rest of the world. Respect for the rule of law, freedom and pluralism produce flexible societies, otherwise the task of holding together multiethnic, multireligious societies couldn´t be mastered. Pluralistic, responsive democracies appear more capable of coping with shifting pressures and rapid change than authoritarian governments.
Let´s return to the widespread notion that U.S. leadership has been absent in the past several years: Gideon Rose challenges this assertion in his essay “What Obama got right” in the September/October 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs:
“The United States today may be richer, stronger and safer than it has ever been; if not, it is certainly close to it: It has a defense budget equivalent to those of the next seven countries combined and together with its allies accounts for three-quarters of all defense spending. It has unparalleled power projection capabilities and globe-spanning intelligence network. It has the world´s reserve currency, the world´s largest economy, and the highest growth rate of any major developed country. It has good demographics, manageable debt, and dynamic innovative companies that are the envy of the world.”