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December 30, 2011

Rebuilding American Power: Clemons Responds to Kupchan

The Atlantic’s Washington editor at large Steve Clemons recently wrote a response to Charles Kupchan’s “Grand Strategy: The Four Pillars of the Future,” which appears in the Winter 2012 issue of Democracy: a Journal of Ideas. Kupchan’s essay was part of a symposium on progressive first principles in foreign policy.

In his piece, Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, calls on policy-makers to rethink American foreign policy goals and fashion a more realistic and sustainable grand strategy:

In this new era, a progressive grand strategy for safeguarding the nation’s interests should rest on four first principles. To begin, grand strategy and national power start at home—with political and economic solvency. Only if the United States recovers consensus and prosperity will it have the political purpose needed to provide effective leadership in a changing world. Second, the United States must rebalance means and ends by pursuing a judicious retrenchment; the nation needs to bring its strategic commitments back into line with its interests, resources, and public will. Third, Washington should work with emerging powers to fashion a more inclusive and representative global order—one that updates, but preserves, a rules-based international system. Fourth, the United States should breathe new life into the Atlantic community. As countries that practice authoritarian capitalism rise in power and influence, the democracies of the West need to continue to serve as the anchor of liberal values and progressive change.

In a post entitled “Rebuilding America’s Stock of Power,” Clemons responds to Kupchan’s argument:

[W]hile I strongly support Kupchan’s call for a principled, centrist, non-partisan approach to foreign policy affairs — the problem is not one between progressives and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans. The problem is that both parties are deeply divided within, split among five and perhaps more camps. Realists or some version of the school of thought that thinks that America must tend to its stock of power first and judiciously apply its national security and economic capacity in a way that either advances U.S. national interests, or at a minimum, doesn’t diminish its power capacity, populate both political parties. Realists today are one of the buried, subordinate personalities of America’s schizophrenic national security psyche today.

The Democracy symposium will be the subject of a panel discussion at the New America Foundation on January 11, 12:15 pm - 1:45 pm. The event, titled “Reframing U.S. Strategy in a Turbulent World: American Spring?,” will feature Kupchan, Rosa Brooks, the Hon. Tom Perriello, Bruce W. Jentleson, and Democracy editor Michael Tomasky, who will moderate. Steve Clemons will deliver opening remarks.

The event will be held at the New America Foundation at 1899 L Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036. You can RSVP here.


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