The United States confronts a host of foreign policy problems in
the 21st century, yet the Republic's security strategy is
increasingly muddled and counterproductive. The litany of misplaced
priorities and policy failures grows ever larger.
More than five years after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, American
forces remain mired in an expensive nation-building mission in
Iraq. Washington's goal of making Iraq a united, secular,
democratic model that would transform the political environment of
the Middle East looks today like a fool's errand. Instead, the U.S.
invasion of Iraq destabilized that country and removed the
principal regional strategic counterweight to Iran, greatly
strengthening Tehran's power and influence. Equally unfortunate,
the prolonged U.S. occupation of Iraq has served as the perfect
recruiting poster for al-Qaeda.
Disagreements over Iraq policy as well as other matters have soured
Washington's relations with its long-time European allies. NATO,
the centerpiece of Washington's transatlantic policy for nearly six
decades, is foundering in Afghanistan and displays a growing lack
of cohesion and relevance. Tensions between the United States and
Russia are on the rise as authoritarianism has reemerged in that
country and Moscow resists Washington's assertive policies,
especially the ongoing expansion of NATO into traditional Russian
spheres of influence and the repeated displays of contempt for
Russian interests in the Balkans and other regions.
American policymakers grapple with the prospect of new and volatile
nuclear powers, most notably North Korea and Iran. It remains to be
seen whether Washington's strategy of using multilateral
negotiations involving North Korea's neighbors to induce Pyongyang
to end its quest for nuclear weapons will succeed. The more
hardline strategy of imposing economic sanctions and considering
the use of military force is clearly not working with regard to
Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Other problems, such as the Taiwan issue, are just clouds on the
horizon at present, but they have the potential to cause serious
trouble in the coming years. The Taiwan problem highlights the
danger inherent in Washington's habit of making ill-advised
security commitments to small, vulnerable client states that are
not crucial to America's own security and well being. In the case
of Taiwan, such an obligation could lead to armed confrontation
between the United States and China.
Even the war on terror looks increasingly murky and problematic.
The once decisive victory in Afghanistan has eroded as al-Qaeda and
its Taliban allies have made a resurgence, and Washington's
strategy seems adrift.
Ted Galen Carpenter examines these and other foreign policy
challenges that America confronts in the 21st century and diagnoses
what is wrong with Washington's current approach. Throughout these
essays, he outlines an alternative strategy that would protect
America's security while avoiding unnecessary and unrewarding