The Case for American Internationalism

For the benefit of people throughout the world and for Americans themselves, the United States must lead internationally in the areas of security, economics, and democratic ideals. Since the end of World War II, the United States has worked with its allies to nurture and maintain an international environment that has expanded security, prosperity, and human rights throughout the globe. As new challenges to this system emerge, however, many across America have wondered whether the benefits of international leadership outweigh the costs.

The U.S. must continue to lead across the three realms of international engagement: security, economics, and democratic ideals:

In the security realm, the case for American international leadership has largely been made for us by current events. From the Middle East to Asia, and from Africa to Europe, events over the past two years have shown that when America holds back, hostile powers rush in to fill the vacuum. As the beheading of American journalists by ISIS, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and the continued expansion of China’s reach into international waters show, American inaction had demonstrable consequences. Russia’s military reentry into the Middle East is but the latest example.

John F. Kennedy, in defending open international markets, said unequivocally “closer economic ties among all free nations are essential to prosperity and peace.” Then, as now, strong U.S. global leadership made possible the vibrant international economic system, which is a historic, yet often overlooked, achievement.

It is the advancement of human rights and democratic ideals that is one of the most important goals of American engagement and also what sets it apart from other great powers. Cynics may dismiss the promotion of ideals and American values, but the spread of democracy and freer markets is fundamental to ensuring greater peace and prosperity.

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