Delusions of Indispensability

The notion that America is the world's "indispensable nation" is hardly questioned, even as it fosters strategic overreach.

Issue: Mar-Apr 2013

ONE STRIKING feature of foreign-policy discussions in the United States is the widespread assumption that this country is the “indispensable nation” in the international system. Historian James Chace and Clinton presidential aide Sidney Blumenthal apparently coined the term in 1996 to capture the essence of Bill Clinton’s liberal-internationalist vision of the post–Cold War world, but it is a term that conservatives and moderates as well as liberals have used frequently since then. In his 2012 State of the Union address, Barack Obama asserted that “America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs—and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.”

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