May 5, 2021

Future U.S. Global Engagement, Where, When and Why?

Dr. Charles Kupchan

The reign of Liberal Internationalism, which has guided an outward-facing US foreign policy since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, has seemingly come to an end with the Trump presidency. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, defunding the WHO during the Covid pandemic, and reneging on a variety of other diplomatic relations, the US seems to have recycled those isolationist policies that dominated the first 200 years of its history. Dr. Kupchan prescribes a blended approach for the Biden administration going forward—only through cleaning one’s house (i.e. restrengthening civil, political, and economic rights) can the US rebuild diplomatic, economic, and military ties that prove beneficial for all parties involved.


Charles Kupchan talks on the condition of American statecraft and the three major transitions we have had in recent years. He first outlines that prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor the American government was in an era of isolation. Yet, following the bombing, the US entered a contrasting liberal internationalism period. Yet, when Trump ran for president, he moved us back into an isolationist era as a response to the call from the American people to put American first—particularly from the working class right. Kupchan calls this choice by Trump and extreme overcorrection which he believed Biden must fix. He points out three things that he believes Biden must correct and learn from the Trump admin. First, continuing to put Americans first and focusing on domestic policy. Second, pulling America out of costly but ineffective wars. Lastly, learning to be pragmatic rather than too ideologic—meaning not splitting the world into two sectors autocratic and democratic. But rather, meeting the global world where it’s at and being a global player despite ideological differences.

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