HONOLULU, HAWAII — OCTOBER 6, 2012: The Battleship USS Missouri at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
When America decided to rule the world

Interview by Ishaan Tharoor

The United States had superpower status thrust upon it, the conventional view holds. Amid the collapse of European empires and the global threats of Nazism and Stalinism, America emerged as the liberal leviathan on the world stage, turning the tide of World War II and rebuilding the international order. It dominated new institutions such as the United Nations and enforced its authority for decades with an unrivaled military footprint spanning much of the globe.

But this wasn’t simply a matter of fateful circumstance. In his new book, “Tomorrow, the World,” historian Stephen Wertheim argues that U.S. primacy was a “conscious decision” made by Washington elites well before World War II.

The debates from that time are relevant now as growing numbers of Americans question whether the United States needs to “police” the world. Both President Trump and some of his opponents on the left at least claim to seek fewer entanglements abroad and to bring U.S. troops home.

Wertheim is deeply involved in that evolving conversation. He helped found the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a new Washington think tank backed by both liberal financier George Soros and right-wing billionaire Charles Koch that advocates for U.S. restraint in geopolitics and a shift away from decades of militarized foreign policy.

Read the full interview in the Washington Post.

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