Does American Leadership in the World Still Matter?

february, 2021

25feb2:30 pm3:30 pmVirtual EventDoes American Leadership in the World Still Matter?


(Thursday) 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Event Video

Event Details

U.S. leadership in world affairs has been a given for most of the period since World War II.  Even after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. was assumed to be the predominant if not the only superpower.  A combination of overreach and ambivalence, however, began to call this position into question, not least among the American public.  The Trump presidency amplified and acted on these doubts to redefine how and when the U.S. would act consistent with the slogan “America First.”

The Biden administration has affirmed its willingness to reengage with the world in the hope of reestablishing America’s preeminence internationally.  But how likely is this to happen, given sharp domestic political divisions, the damage done to longstanding alliances over the course of the Trump administration, and persistent questions about whether the US. is in decline?  Can the world assume that the Biden administration will restore a measure of bipartisanship to American foreign policy that recommits the U.S. to global re-engagement?  Can Washington accomplish this in a way that strikes a better balance between engagement and over-commitment?

This panel will also:

–Ask whether the U.S. still has the moral authority to claim leadership of the so-called “free world?”  Is this a concept that has outlived its usefulness?  Even if the U.S. has always had to ward off criticisms of its close ties with countries that have abysmal human rights records, is it in a worse place because the perception of America’s commitment to democracy, rule of law, and constitutional order is shaky at best?

–Discuss the state of America’s diplomatic apparatus and intelligence community.  The tension between career and political appointees has always been present, but did the Trump administration’s invocation of a “deep state” in opposition to the White House demoralize and undermine these institutions?  If so, what needs to be done to rebuild them and, more important, protect them in the future from becoming overly politicized?  Should the State Department and the intelligence community be placed more on a par with the armed services?


Speakers for this event

  • Aaron David Miller

    Aaron David Miller

    Aaron David Miller is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department Middle East analyst and negotiator in Republican and Democratic Administrations. He is a CNN Global Affairs Analyst and the author most recently of the End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want ) Another Great President.

  • Michael C. Kimmage

    Michael C. Kimmage

    Michael Kimmage is a professor of history at the Catholic University of America. His most recent book is The Abandonment of the West: The History of an Idea in American Foreign Policy (Basic Books, 2020). He is a fellow at the German Marshall Fund and the chair of the Kennan Institute Advisory Council at the Wilson Center. From 2014 to 2016, he served on the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State.

  • Paul R. Pillar

    Paul R. Pillar

    Dr. Pillar is a Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Center for Security Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a Fellow of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, in which his last position was National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia. Earlier he served in a variety of analytical and managerial positions, including as chief of analytic units at the CIA covering portions of the Near East, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia. Dr. Pillar also served in the National Intelligence Council as one of the original members of its Analytic Group. He has been Executive Assistant to CIA's Deputy Director for Intelligence and Executive Assistant to Director of Central Intelligence William Webster. He has also headed the Assessments and Information Group of the DCI Counterterrorist Center, and from 1997 to 1999 was deputy chief of the center. He was a Federal Executive Fellow at the Brookings Institution in 1999-2000. Dr. Pillar was a visiting professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University from 2005 to 2012. Dr. Pillar received an A.B. summa cum laude from Dartmouth College, a B.Phil. from Oxford University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is a retired officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and served on active duty in 1971-1973, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. He is the author of Negotiating Peace: War Termination as a Bargaining Process (Princeton University Press, 1983); Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy (Brookings Institution Press, 2001; second edition 2003); Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform (Columbia University Press, 2011); and Why America Misunderstands the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception (Columbia University Press, 2016). He is a contributing editor of The National Interest and writes frequently for that publication and Responsible Statecraft.

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