America’s status as the greatest and most influential nation on earth comes with certain inescapable realities. Among these are an abundance of enemies wishing to undermine us, numerous allies dependent on our strength and constancy, and the burden of knowing that every choice we make in exercising our power—even when we choose not to exercise it at all—has tremendous human and geopolitical consequences.
This has been true for at least 70 years, but never more so than today. As the world has grown more interconnected, American leadership has grown more critical to maintaining global order and defending our people’s interests, and as our economy has turned from national to international, domestic policy and foreign policy have become inseparable.
President Barack Obama has failed to recognize this. He entered office believing the United States was too engaged in too many places and that globalization had diminished the need for American power. He set to work peeling back the protective cover of American influence, stranding our allies, and deferring to the whims of nefarious regional powers. He has vacillated between leading recklessly and not leading at all, which has left the world more dangerous and America’s interests less secure.
It will take years for our next president to confront the residual effects of President Obama’s foreign and defense policies. Countering the spread of the self-declared Islamic State, for example, will require a broadened coalition of regional partners, increased U.S. involvement in the fight, and steady action to prevent the group’s expansion to other failed and failing states. Halting Iran’s regional expansionism and preventing its acquisition of a nuclear weapon will demand equal urgency and care.
The Middle East, however, is far from the only region with crises. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing’s attempts to dominate the South China Sea, resurgent despotism in South America, and the rise of new threats—from devastating cyberattacks to challenges in space—will all require the careful attention