A Real Alternative
GIVEN THE tremendous challenges facing the United States, we would be wise to heed Dimitri Simes's call for our leaders and citizens to engage in a vigorous debate about the course and content of American foreign policy. He's also right that this discussion needs to be less about tactics than the overriding purpose and character of policy. Yet his claim that we've never had such a spirited discourse-that both Democrats and Republicans "have displayed little inclination . . . to question the fundamental assumptions of American foreign policy since the Soviet collapse" in 1991-leads one to wonder: Where has he been?
Throughout the 1990s and still today, the United States's role in the world has been the subject of intense, sometimes stifling, but largely healthy debate. After the crumbling of the Soviet Union, many American leaders and analysts believed that the United States was in decline and that we would soon miss the stability and predictability of the Cold War; some politicians argued that foreign policy would take a back seat to international economics and globalization. Questions about how the United States should use its power were intensely debated: from the risks and costs of helping end ethnic wars and genocide through military force, to what was required for such U.S. actions to gain legitimacy and the future of its role in institutions like the UN and NATO. These debates raged in many places, including these pages, where Francis Fukuyama infamously declared the "End of History", Jeane Kirkpatrick argued that the United States should be a "normal" power, and Patrick Buchanan made the stunning call for "America First-and Second and Third."