Wanted: Global Strategy that works

“If one considers where America was 20 years ago and compares that to where the United States is today, in terms of its ability to achieve its own stated, high-priority objectives in the world, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the United States is a declining power.”

That’s Flynt Leverett, professor in Penn State’s School of International Affairs, in a recent public lecture at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law.

U.S. power is waning, Leverett added, “because, since the end of the Cold War, American political and policy elites have failed to do their job as strategists.  They have failed to define clear, ‘reality-based’ strategic goals and to relate the diplomatic, economic, and military tools at Washington’s disposal to realizing these goals in a sober and efficacious manner.” 

Leverett speaks from more than an academic perspective. Before coming to Penn State in 2003, he held positions with the CIA, the State Department, and most recently as senior director for Middle East affairs with the National Security Council. His opinion pieces have appeared in CNN, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, and Politico, and he is a frequent guest in national media ranging from “Charlie Rose” and “Frontline” to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

In his talk, part of a yearlong series on national security sponsored by the Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs, Leverett identified two competing strategic models: a “global leadership model, whereby the United States seeks to maximize its international standing and influence through adroit management of regional and global power balances,” and a “global transformation model, whereby the United States seeks not to manage the balance of power but to transcend it.”

The chief reason why American policy is failing, he argued, “is because, since the end of the Cold War, the global transformation model has gained almost complete ascendancy over the global leadership model in American policy circles.

“The pursuit of hegemony,” Leverett added, “in the face of objective, material reality, is not just quixotic—it is deeply counter-productive for a great power’s strategic position… Pursuing hegemony actually ends up making you weaker.  And that is the story of American foreign policy over the last 20 years.”

Want more? You can catch the whole talk here.

Or check out www.RaceForIran.com, a prominent online forum for policy analysis regarding Iran and the broader Middle East that Leverett publishes with his wife and frequent co-author, Hillary Mann Leverett.

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