The next president of the United States faces a world on edge. From the unraveling of the Middle East and the re-nationalization of Europe to the emergence of new terrorist groups and military technologies, America confronts a more complex and less controllable world than at any time in history. Dealing with these challenges will require a refocused grand strategy, one that better aligns America’s capabilities with its interests and prioritizes what is truly important.
Priority number one must be Asia. Not only is the Asia-Pacific region ground zero for future economic growth, the rise of China poses unique challenges to American influence in the region. Indeed, as China rises economically, it is becoming more assertive militarily and is staking out positions in direct opposition to the United States. America must respond carefully, and the next president should ensure that the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” is rebooted to address the obstacles and opportunities arising in the region.
Next comes Europe. This year the European Union has been in near-constant, existential crisis. The refugee crisis. A string of terrorist attacks from Brussels to Paris to Nice. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Rising tensions and provocations from Russia. These challenges are not isolated to Europe and will have profound spillover consequences for the United States. It is critical, therefore, that America work to rebuild the transatlantic alliance. As my colleague Phil Levy and former US Ambassador to the EU Kristen Silverberg propose, this could be done in part through a “New Atlantic Growth Pact” that binds the economies of the United States, EU, and UK.
The next president also must grapple with the problems emerging from the Middle East, but America must not let these problems consume its broader strategy in Asia and Europe. These challenges—the ISIS threat, instability in Egypt, Syria’s civil war—are certainly important and must be addressed. But to be clear: The biggest and most consequential trends around the world are happening beyond the Middle East, and the United States should orient its foreign policy accordingly.
Lastly, all of these challenges are made more complicated by new and emerging technologies, from autonomous drones to human-machine combat prototypes to weaponized social media. For the United States, these technologies pose tough legal and ethical questions for policymakers. And in the wrong hands, such technologies pose serious dangers.
This week’s reads provide a glimpse of the many global challenges that await the next US president and offers some ideas on how they can be addressed.
Kristen Silverberg and Phil Levy/The Wall Street Journal
Council fellow Phil Levy and former US Ambassador to the EU Kristen Silverberg propose a new “Atlantic Growth Pact” among the United States, EU, and UK to stimulate trade and nurture the commercial relationship between the industrial democracies of the North Atlantic. Such a pact would lock in economic cooperation between the three powers, especially as the UK prepares to leave the EU. It would also give the United States an opportunity to continue to lead the world on trade, even as the hallmark trade deals of the Obama administration, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, founder in the face of popular opposition.
Philip Stephens/Financial Times
Barring a political earthquake and a victory for Trump, the US election will not change the essential parameters of the relationship between Russia and the West, writes Philip Stephens. Even still, the United States and its allies can establish principles to frame a new “reset” grounded in realism by applying the following rules: resolve, consistency, engagement, and respect. Resolve by setting and keeping red-lines that cannot be crossed without consequences. Consistency in the West’s economic sanctions, keeping them open-ended until Russia changes its actions. Engagement with Russia on mutual areas of interest. And respecting Russia as though it is still a great power—the essentials of diplomacy.
Peter Baker/The New York Times
The problems with the Middle East that are vastly more challenging than at any other time. The next president faces the challenge of restoring American credibility in the region and striking the right policy balance. If President Bush was too assertive and President Obama too restrained, then the new president might seek a middle ground. The United States should not attempt to “nation build’ and try to fix every root cause but instead should focus on building a collation that takes into the interests of each nation, including Iran and Turkey.
Geoff Dyer and Heba Saleh/Financial Times
Hillary Clinton’s actions during the beginning of the 2011 Arab Spring offers insight into how she might approach foreign policy matters as president. Then Secretary Clinton urged President Obama to be cautious on whether to support the protesters in Tahrir Square or long-standing US ally Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Obama’s younger advisors, on the other hand, argued that he should support the protesters quickly and be on the right side of history. Clinton’s inclination is caution and a tendency to advocate for traditional allies and stability.
Christoph Reuter/Der Spiegel
As the battle for Mosul rages, many are concerned about how the conflict will be resolved, even after Islamic State fighters are expelled from the city. The fate of more than a million citizens hangs in the balance as ISIS herds many suburban inhabitants closer to the city center, and fears abound that ISIS may unleash chemical weapons as pressure mounts in the face of advancing coalition forces. Moreover, the coalition remains a fragile alliance of national militaries, Shiite militias, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. It remains to be seen how these divisions will be overcome in the post-ISIS administration of Mosul.
Emerson T. Brooking and P.W. Singer/The Atlantic
The advent of the Internet and the rise of massive social media platforms was hailed as the beginning of a new era of peace and understanding between peoples. Emerson T. Brooking and P.W. Singer discuss in The Atlantic how this vision has been distorted as terrorist networks such as ISIS have weaponized social media to spread their ideology and wage a digital information war and national governments in Russia and China have employed censorship to manipulate public knowledge and opinion. All this raises questions about the role of the Internet in the 21st century conflict.
Matthew Rosenberg and John Markoff/The New York Times
The Pentagon is spending billions developing new autonomous weapon technology to keep its edge over China and Russia. The concept is called “centaur warfighting”—half man, half machine—with the machine serving to enhance man’s abilities, not replace them. The public’s main concern is that these new technologies will become a real-life “Terminator,” with killer robots turning against their human masters. The Pentagon argues that humans will always be in the loop, less “Terminator” and more “Iron Man.” Matthew Rosenberg and John Markoff note that concerns remain, however, from experts in the industry.
Roger Cohen/The New York Times
Israel, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, has become ever more assertive militarily and nationalist; even criticism of the state is treated as treason, writes Roger Cohen. A two-state solution is now a pipe-dream, as the United States still provides billions of dollars in aid and as Netanyahu, under political pressure from the extreme right, stays the course and avoids political responsibility to move forward. Protesters argue that democracy should be more important to Israel than being Jewish. Palestinians ultimately only want human dignity and equality under the law.
Eduardo Porter/The New York Times
A core proposal of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been the construction of a wall to curb illegal immigration from Mexico. While such rhetoric has gained populist appeal, a group of scholars and policy makers has come together to propose an alternative blueprint for regulating flows of migrants: a framework in which Mexican nationals could legally and easily apply for low-skilled employment in the United States. Authors of the paper believe that such a program for guest workers would allow the United States to maximize and direct the benefits these workers already bring to the economy.