A TNI Symposium: What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?

The National Interest has gathered an all-star cast to answer a timeless question. 

September-October 2015

Editor’s Note: The following is a TNI special 30th anniversary symposium. We asked twenty-five of the world’s leading experts: What is the purpose of American power? Each day we will post multiple responses to this important question. Please check back daily. Below you will find a schedule of when each response will be posted (and a link when live):

Wednesday, August 19: Graham Allison, Tom Cotton, Les Gelb, Grover Norquist and  Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Thursday, August 20: Ian Bremmer, Paul Kennedy and Joseph Nye.

Friday, August 21: John Mearsheimer, Ruth Wedgwood and Robert Zoellick.

Monday, August 24: William J. Burns, Gideon Rose and Paul Saunders.

Tuesday, August 25: Paula J. Dobriansky, Yoichi Funabashi and Robert W. Merry.

Wednesday, August 26: David Bromwich, Gary Hart and Zalmay Khalilzad.

Thursday, August 27: Michael Lind, Kishore Mahbubani and Gideon Rachman.

Friday, August 28: Ferdinand Mount, Paul Pillar.


What Is America’s Purpose?

Several decades after the end of the Cold War, the United States is confronting an increasingly unstable world in which its preeminence is facing new challenges. What, if anything, should be the purpose of American power?

In 1989, a recent college graduate interviewed for a job with National Interest editor Owen Harries. Harries, the former Australian ambassador to UNESCO, asked whether he sympathized more with the neoconservative or realist approach to foreign affairs. After a short pause, the candidate boldly split the difference, observing that it was wise to set limits on intervention abroad, but that it was also the case that, as Norman Podhoretz had recently observed in Survey, it was imperative to elicit a certain amount of nationalism among the American public to rouse it to action.