Successful statecraft aligns interests with circumstance. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, a generation of statesmen grasping this essential truth presided over a radical reorientation of basic U.S policy. The result was a half-century of American global primacy.
Now, however, the era of American primacy has ended. The imperative of the present moment is to adjust U.S. policy to rapidly changing circumstances. In the two decades since 9/11, members of the foreign policy establishment have sought to finesse or avoid this issue. The failure of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan suggests that this is no longer possible.
Proponents of American primacy commonly rely on euphemisms to describe it, with “American global leadership” a particular favorite. Critics with an aversion to euphemism prefer terms such as “hegemony” or “imperialism.” The correct term is “privilege.”
Writing in 1948, George Kennan, director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, made an essential point. “We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population,” he wrote. “Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.”
Read the full article in the Washington Post.