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Bearing the Burden of Global Leadership

Does U.S. Leadership Have a Future?

Speakers: Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Project on International Order and Strategy, Brookings Institution; Author, The World America Made
Michael Mandelbaum, Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Author, The Road to Global Prosperity
Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama
Presider: Gideon Rose, Peter G. Peterson Chair and Editor, Foreign Affairs
April 23, 2014

Event Description

Weary from a decade-plus of foreign wars, the United States has pulled back from its traditional role of global leader and has pursued a less ambitious and more multilateral approach to addressing international crises. Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins, and CFR's Stephen Sestanovich join Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose to discuss the prospects for renewed, more assertive U.S. leadership, or whether the current period of foreign policy retrenchment is likely to continue.

Event Highlights

Stephen Sestanovich on the current period of retrenchment in U.S. foreign policy:

"We've got the mess behind us, you know. We're not dealing any longer with Bush foreign policies. We've got a whole new set of problems. And the president has to figure out whether he wants to—intends to pivot from that period of reduced leadership to a renewed activism. It is the historical pattern is to make that pivot. But it's generally a pretty long process, even when it happens. Retrenchment often lasts longer than the maximalist excess that precedes it."

Robert Kagan on Russia's intentions in Ukraine:

"And let me just end by saying Putin is not done. Let's be clear about that. So to talk about what he's done in Crimea is not the real conversation. He is going to take the rest of Ukraine. Maybe not the West. But he's going to take Kiev. He's going to take the East plus Kiev. So we're going to wake up at some point in the next couple of months, and that's going to be the situation."

Michael Mandelbaum on the ability of the United States to promote democracy abroad:

"I don't think there's anything the United States government can do effectively to promote democracy. It has to come from within. Our efforts have been sometimes vigorous, always goodhearted. And I think we have no track record of success."

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