In the fall of 1989 as the scope of momentous international change, especially in Europe, became increasingly apparent, Peter G. Peterson, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Council's Board of Directors initiated a new enterprise that became known as "Project Sea-Change." The primary purpose of the program was to generate a series of imaginative analyses of a radically changing American role in the world, which would be gathered together in book form. 1 No attempt was made to define a single comprehensive American foreign policy for a new era; rather, the authors were asked to describe a vision of the future in those key geographical and functional areas of greatest relevance to American security and well-being.

Our interest is to provoke thought about the early 21st century at a time when radical alterations in both internal governance and international practices have become imperative. Rigid distinctions between each country's foreign and domestic policies are dissipating. Economic and social factors-dependent on domestic prosperity and consensus-have become leading criteria for international standing, and there has been a flourishing of democratic values. American power based heavily on military leadership of a Cold War alliance will come under increasing challenge from allies, economic competitors and aggressive regional powers alike, yet the crisis in the Gulf demonstrates that the United States must remain prepared to lead the Western response to new threats to collective security.

In this issue, Foreign Affairs publishes excerpts from the chapters of Sea-Changes. The Council hopes that these excerpts and the full volume will help to open a wider debate on the future of America in the world.

Peter Tarnoff, President

Council on Foreign Relations

1 Sea-Changes: American Foreign Policy in a World Transformed, edited by Nicholas X. Rizopoulos, New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1990.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now