Courtesy Reuters


"Foreign policy leadership" has become an ambiguous phrase. It once meant leading the American people in the formation and execution of national policy. But some now use it to state a less obvious idea: the United States leading other nations in the international arena. Why should other nations follow U.S. leaders rather than their own? Leadership involves some common stake between the leader and the led, some basis for agreement on goals to be sought and prices to be paid. The more recent meaning of foreign policy leadership has thrust itself to the fore because of America's claim to be "the leader of the free world."

That claim arose during World War II, when the United States was the de facto leader of the Allies. It made sense to have a dominant partner in the military alliance for the duration of the war effort, and even

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