About Power & PolicyPower & Policy is a virtual forum for explaining and debating the exercise of American power in the world. The core participants are renowned Harvard Kennedy School faculty members and associates who have spent decades studying how power works.
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Author Archives: Graham Allison
By Graham Allison Yesterday was a dark day for the United States. When Richard Lugar lost the Republican primary election, not only did Indiana lose its senator of 38 years, but the nation was deprived of one of its greatest … Continue reading
By Graham Allison If we had known then what we know now, would we choose war again? In the real world, foreign policy-making often requires hard choices, sometimes between bad and worse. After the fact, even the most objective analysts … Continue reading
By Graham Allison In today’s Boston Globe, I argue (half in jest) that, for his demonstration of how one of the weakest states on earth outfoxed the most powerful, Harvard consider Kim Jong-il, posthumously, for the 2011 Great Negotiator Award. … Continue reading
The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. By Graham Allison Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs The 10th anniversary of the September … Continue reading
This week’s announcement that North Korea has become the chair of the UN Conference on Disarmament should become the peg for euthanizing this body, giving it the burial it deserves, and getting real about the current state of global nuclear … Continue reading
The Obama Administration must be congratulated for its extraordinary diplomatic successes that resulted in yesterday’s victory at the United Nations Security Council, and the full endorsement of a no-fly zone over Libya by the Arab League. The issue at this … Continue reading
The wave of uprisings in the Middle East surprised everybody from regional experts and government intelligence agencies to investment banks and geopolitical consulting firms. Since our original February 18th posting, we have seen Libya ignited in war. Bahrain and Yemen … Continue reading
No one watching recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and beyond can fail to be both amazed and awed. Serious observers have also been puzzled—much more so—than a reader of the punditry would infer. Hindsight is always 20-20. But look ahead. … Continue reading
As a colleague who has been learning from Joe Nye for many years, I join the chorus applauding his latest in a string of pearls of wisdom about power in international affairs. The Future of Power is a must-read. Imaginatively, judiciously, Joe tours the horizon of current debates and offers thoughtful, policy-relevant advice.
From questions about the rise of China and decline of the U.S., to cyberspace and changing metrics of power in 21st century international affairs, he advances the debate.
With so much to agree with, what’s to disagree? While my major difference is more one of emphasis than fundamentals, let me overstate it for the sake of clarity. Consider the core question: what is the single biggest threat to American power and security today?
Interestingly, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has answered this question unambiguously. As Mullen has stated on several occasions, his considered judgment is that “the single biggest threat to American national security is our debt.” By debt he means not only the current mountain of nearly $14 trillion of gross federal debt that has accumulated mostly over the past decade, but also the current trajectory that will add an additional $1.5 trillion this year, and even worse, embedded trendlines in spending and taxing that are undermining America’s balance sheet.
In the words of our colleague Larry Summers, who just returned from Washington: “Is there not something odd about the world’s greatest power being the world’s greatest debtor?”