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American Power After Afghanistan

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American Power After Afghanistan

How to Rightsize the Country’s Global Role

Foreign Affairs,

5 min read
3 take-aways
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Will America’s failure in Afghanistan prompt a rethinking of its muddled post-Cold War foreign policy?

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The most powerful country in the world does not know what to do with its power, writes foreign policy expert Jessica T. Mathews in this lucid, concise essay on US international missteps since the end of the Cold War. She notes that America’s failure in Afghanistan is an opportunity for the United States to examine its history of failed interventions, and she offers some sound advice for a change of course. Anyone interested in geopolitical history and in current events will find this a worthwhile read, especially those wondering how America managed to lose the longest war in its history.


Since the end of the Cold War, the United States’ military interventions abroad have yielded few victories.

Since the 1990s, the United States has been a nation in search of its global identity. It has tried acting as architect of the liberal world order, as driver of the war on terror, and as head of the global struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. Over the course of these developments, America has increasingly come to depend on military force, while at the same time growing more diffident about diplomacy as a tool in international relations. The United States’ stunning failure in Afghanistan should prompt thoughtful consideration of the nation’s track record when it comes to such interventions, and of its post-Cold War foreign policy in general.

Political scientist Minxin Pei studied the history of US attempts to change foreign regimes...

About the Author

Jessica T. Mathews is a distinguished fellow and the former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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