Realism About America’s Influence
Ali Wyne is a researcher at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008 with bachelor’s degrees in Management Science and Political Science, and, as a senior, received the Institute’s highest honor for students, the Karl Taylor Compton Prize. Prior to joining the Belfer Center, Ali was a Junior Fellow in the China Program (now the Asia Program) at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Ali is a member of Chatham House, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Council for Emerging National Security Affairs (CENSA), and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. He also serves as a discussant at Bloggingheads.tv and a Next America Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Ali’s articles have been published in the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, the International Herald Tribune, the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and theNational Interest, among other outlets. He contributed an essay, “Public Opinion and Power,” to the Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy (London: Routledge, 2008), and will be contributing another to a book that is forthcoming from CENSA in early 2013, American Strategy and Purpose: Reflections on Foreign Policy and National Security in an Era of Change.
In 2011, Ali delivered the welcome address at the 41st St. Gallen Symposium and joined Big Think’s inaugural class of Delphi Fellows.
Roger Cohen recently argued that despite “the enduring centrality of American power” and “the nation’s immense capacity for renewal,” “even all the right choices for the United States will not alter the rise of India and China.” Cohen’s statement isn’t one of fatalism, but rather, of realism. In defining the goals of U.S. foreign policy, it’s critical to distinguish between outcomes over which the U.S. could reasonably be argued to have some influence and those over which it doesn’t have much, if any.
China’s rise is among the more compelling illustrations of the latter. Although Republicans and Democrats may differ in emphasizing engagement vs. balancing, it’s not clear that either of those approaches or a particular mixture thereof would fundamentally alter China’s economic trajectory or its course of military modernization. Those phenomena will largely continue to ride on decisions that China’s leadership makes or does not make, just as America’s domestic health and defense posture will largely continue to ride on decisions that its own leadership makes or does not make. If China’s GDP overtakes America’s under a Democratic administration, it would be unfair for Republicans to argue that the president “allowed” that outcome to occur; the same would go for Democrats if this outcome occurs under a Republican administration.
I’m hardly suggesting that U.S. policy towards China is irrelevant. While there’s little that the U.S. can (or should) do to stop China from accumulating power resources, it can (and should) try to influence how China uses those resources. No country, after all, looms as large in China’s foreign-policy calculations as the U.S. In an important essay in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, Andrew Nathan and Andrew Scobell explain that it
is the most intrusive outside actor in China’s internal affairs, the guarantor of the status quo in Taiwan, the largest naval presence in the East China and South China seas, the formal or informal military ally of many of China’s neighbors, and the primary framer and defender of existing international legal regimes. This omnipresence means that China’s understanding of American motives determines how the Chinese deal with most of their security issues….U.S. military, economic, ideological, and diplomatic capabilities are relatively easy to discover—and from the Chinese point of view, they are potentially devastating.
The above considerations, of course, extend far beyond China. In general, it makes little sense to view the rise of other countries—whether as reflected in higher per-capita income or military capabilities that are commensurate with growing prosperity—as failures of U.S. foreign policy. By that logic, the recovery of Germany and Japan after World War II would have been failures, as would the ascent of the Asian Tigers in the decades following, even though both of those outcomes were essential to cementing the postwar order that America continues to anchor. And, by that same logic, the rise of virtually any country today would constitute a failure. While that judgment might hold in a hypothetical international system that was atomized and autarkic, it applies less in a highly interdependent one, wherein relative rises and falls of countries create challenges as well as opportunities.
Photo Credit: Steve Collender/Shutterstock.com
Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.
- A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
- The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
- This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.
- Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
- These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
- The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.
- Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
- Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
- Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.