In recent years, a sharp debate dominates the scholarly literature on American foreign policy and grand strategy: should the United States retrench from the expansive commitments undertaken in the aftermath of World War II as a globe-spanning military superpower, or should it renew its efforts to pursue the present strategy of global leadership? This issue is not merely of parochial interest to academics; rather, it represents the key dilemma faced by Washington foreign policymakers in the aftermath of the 2016 election campaign and the changes brought by the anti-establishment Trump presidency. Both sides of this debate contend that the American public supports their preferred strategy. However, a closer examination of recent public opinion date actually shows that the American people favor a “middle path” rather than either of the two preferred grand strategies advanced by proponents of Global Leadership and Restraint, respectively.
President Trump came into office with strong prior beliefs about the failure of US alliance policy and the need for allies to pay for US defense efforts on their behalf. Some feared that he presaged a rising isolationism among the American public that would support a president seeking to pull back from US commitments overseas. But Trump is failing to lay the groundwork for a new approach to the Indo-Pacific. Instead, the US is pursuing a two-track Asia policy, with Congress and the administration reading from different scripts. And the public is only on board with one of those approaches.
It took only minutes for the Trump Administration to support Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, when he challenged the nation’s incumbent president, Nicolás Maduro, for power last week. Trump may have promised to “stop racing to topple foreign regimes,” but his choice to back Guaidó isn’t surprising. In fact, just about every American president since FDR has attempted foreign-imposed regime change, or FIRC, in one form or another. This history offers some lessons that shed light on the crisis unfolding in Venezuela.
China’s recent policy paper on the European Union shows that the country continues to recognize the EU as an important partner in many fields. A new, distressing element is that China has toughened its demands towards the EU to respect its core interests and to refrain from meddling in its internal affairs.
This article was originally published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) on 2 January 2018.
A European Security Council (ESC) would – so the German government has suggested – make the European Union (EU) better prepared for making decisions about international politics and thus better able to act. It believes that if the EU and its member states do not manage to take and implement coherent decisions more quickly, their ability to (further) enforce European rules and strengthen multilateral formats will be weakened. The EU-27’s diplomatic, financial and military resources should therefore be supplemented by a format for more effective intergovernmental cooperation. However, this idea can only take shape if the German government can demonstrate the added value of such a body, and if it shows more willingness itself to shape foreign policy within the EU framework.