the mind. In times of plenty states can
afford to pursue diffuse goals; in lean times, however, statesmen must discern
from among a nation’s countless preferences its most pressing and abiding priorities. Since this task requires restraint and
sometimes sacrifice, it can appear daunting and dour. But it can also be bracing – even
restorative. Today the slow wane of a
decade of war frees foreign policymakers to reassess the nation’s vital
interests, and the gradual ebb of an economic downturn empowers domestic
policymakers to reconceive long-standing entitlement programs. How American government relates to its
citizens, and how America relates to the wider world, are alike open for
reconsideration. Rarely do such
promising opportunities for bold thinking and innovative policymaking present
Lean times need not
occasion pessimism. Rather, it is in
times of penury rather than plenty that a nation’s priorities become clear,
radical reapportionment of resources in light of these priorities becomes
possible, and the foundations of future strength and accountability can be
secured. Lean times demand and enable
leadership. Delegates of SCUSA 64 are
charged to consider what form US leadership, however austere it may be, can and
should take across a range of policy areas.
Which US interests are vital and which peripheral? What ways and means can the United States
afford in pursuit of its interests?
Which institutions and alliances augment these ways and means, and which
(if any) unduly constrain or overextend US power? And what modes of engagement with its peers
will enable the United States to address both the root causes of the crisis
that ushered in the present age of austerity and the emerging, global threats
destined to afflict ages of austerity and prosperity alike?
The following paper
aims to defend a modest, but perhaps counterintuitive, claim: austerity offers
an opportunity for US leadership as much as a challenge to it. It frames the central questions in a number
of policy areas accordingly. These areas
fall into five main groups:
Grand Strategy: What is “grand
strategy”? What are the alternative “grand
strategies”? What should US grand
strategy be, and how do limited means influence its formulation? This section frames the table on grand
Ways and Means: Given that the
means available to US policymakers will be more limited than before, how should
policymakers ensure that they have means appropriate to the nation’s grand
strategic ends? This section frames the
tables on civil-military relations, insurgency, and diplomacy, democracy, and
How should US policymakers act to promote accountability in policy areas that
exceed the purview of any single nation?
This section frames the tables on international political economy,
global climate change, cyberspace, nuclear proliferation, and humanitarian
Regional Issues: Given that
austerity seems destined to restrain US engagement abroad, which regions are
vital to US interests and which are peripheral?
This section frames the tables on the Middle East, Southeast Asia,
China, Europe, Russia, and Africa.
Domestic Source of
US Foreign Policy:
How does US homeland security policy reflect the nation’s place in the larger
world? How can it better promote the
nation’s strategic interests, while reflecting the United States’ tradition of
divided sovereignty? This section frames
the paper on homeland security and federalism.