Letter from the Editor

By Glasser, Susan | Foreign Policy, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Letter from the Editor


Glasser, Susan, Foreign Policy


SIXTEEN YEARS AGO, when another secretary of state sat down to write for FOREIGN POLICY, the world looked like a starkly different place to a top American official--a post-Cold War mix of opportunities and threats, bound together not so much by anything except the promise of American leadership. Indeed, said Warren Christopher, "The simple fact is that if we do not lead, no one else will." It was an age--and one that now seems quaintly outdated--of America the indispensable nation. Fast-forward to today, and the struggle by the United States to assert its continued leadership in the world--or even its commitment to remaining there.

In her exclusive piece for this issue of FOREIGN POLICY, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does her best to convince us that America is not retreating from the world. Or at least that it should not. "Beyond our borders," she writes, many are now questioning "America's intentions--our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make--and keep--credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action." Clinton's answer is a resounding yes, but the questions themselves are revealing, extraordinary even, coming from a sitting secretary of state, and the context is clear: These are angst-ridden times to be an unabashed advocate of America's role in the world, when everyone from Tea Partiers at home to financial markets abroad is wondering about the staying power of this humbled superpower. The rest of FP's special section on America at this time of troubles is dedicated to diagnosing what ails the country. We started by asking that question to a standout collection of foreign writers and thinkers, from Chinese market guru Fan Gang to Canadian environmental scientist Vaclav Smil and Dutch writer Ian Buruma. Their provocative and pointed contributions, starting on page 64, remind us what an uncomfortable position this is for a United States that is more used to sitting in judgment on other countries than receiving the world's criticism. …

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