Stephen Walt is the Robert and Rene Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was previously on the faculties of Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as Deputy Dean of Social Sciences. He is the author of books including The Origins of Alliances, Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy. He is a frequent contributor to journals including Foreign Policy and International Security. He was educated at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
He presently serves on the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies, and he also serves as Co-Editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, published by Cornell University Press. Additionally, he was elected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in May 2005.
Question: What is the greatest challenge facing the U.S.?
Stephen Walt: I think that, you know, as someone who has spent most of my career thinking about American foreign policy, I think the United States is going to have to do an enormous amount of adjusting over the next 30 to 40 years – adjusting both to sort of environmental limits that we’re now starting to become aware of; adjusting to China’s emergence as a major power, followed by India’s emergence as a much more consequential state. I think the globalization will affect us the same way it affects everybody else, and that’s gonna require some adjustments. Just to put it in one . . . one frame of reference, the United States has had the world’s largest economy since about 1900. We’re sort of accustomed to being the biggest economic actor on the block. Well at some point – maybe in my lifetime, but not too long after that – that’s probably not gonna be the case. And that’s going to involve some adjustments on . . . on America’s part. And it’s not clear to me that these adjustments were ready to make. Most countries, as they start to become relatively less influential, find it a painful process. I would like to accelerate the learning process. I would like us to learn to adjust to living in a world where we are not just the 800 pound gorilla out there. And I’d like us to learn that as quickly as possible.
Recorded on: 10/8/07