With Upcoming 2016 Election, Global Power Shifts Will Face the Next U.S. President

For Release

July 23, 2015

Chaos in the Middle East, Russian intervention in neighboring states, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, climate change and a decline in U.S. military readiness have raised fresh questions about how America envisions its role in a turbulent geopolitical environment, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

Nevertheless, the world is not falling apart and these difficulties are not beyond the United States' ability to manage, according to the lead author.

“Even though the mounting chaos in the Middle East has fed wider, more-exaggerated anxieties, on balance, portents of disaster are overstated,” said James Dobbins, a coleader of the project and the Distinguished Chair in Diplomacy and Security at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Prior eras have seen much greater shifts in the global power balance than those underway today.”

Today, America is faced with strategic foreign policy choices across a number of policy domains, Dobbins says.

Written in collaboration by several senior RAND researchers, the report is the first in a series, “Strategic Rethink,” that will examine critical foreign policy choices that, given the upcoming 2016 election, are likely to face the next U.S. president. For example: What are America's global ambitions? What level of international engagement is the U.S. public prepared to support and what can be sustained? How might the next U.S. president exercise leadership in a tumultuous world?

The Strategic Rethink project brings together researchers from across RAND to explore whether there is a coherent “grand strategy” for diplomacy and defense that would align the wide array of U.S. interests around the globe with the means to achieve them. Looking across the Middle East, Europe and Russia, international economics, national defense, climate change and cybersecurity, the project seeks to offer elements of a national strategy that could inform policy choices.

“The past few years have been a reminder that stability is not the natural state of the international environment and that peace is not self-perpetuating,” Dobbins said. “However, the problems the United States faces today are not greater in scale than those it mastered in the past. But doing so in the future will require efforts comparable to those made in the past.”

Later volumes of the project will examine particular aspects of a national strategy, including the global economy, national defense and intelligence, alliances and partnerships, and institutional reform of the U.S. system for managing national security.

The report, “Choices for America in a Turbulent World,” can be found at www.rand.org. Other authors are Richard H. Solomon, Michael S. Chase, Ryan Henry, Stephen Larrabee, Robert J. Lempert, Andrew Liepman, Jeffrey Martini, David Ochmanek and Howard J. Shatz.

The project was supported by philanthropist Rita Hauser and other individual donors to RAND.

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