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The way America does business with the world is arguably today's most critical foreign policy issue. What might constructive engagement entail? This initiative focuses on U.S. relations with partners among the established democracies, with problematical allies, and with states of deep concern.

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The lessons of the unruly post–Cold War environment have surely been that, on a raft of new or exacerbated security challenges—terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian intervention in civil conflicts, energy security et al—the engagement of a coalition of the willing and able is not just morally appealing, but strategically smart. To quote one veteran observer, it is both possible and desirable "to define multilateral engagement in terms of American national interests."

Finally, if one accepts the logic and value of multilateralism, this must be a multilateralism that is institutionalized, embedded in policy. The floated notion of "á la carte" multilateralism is notionally appealing, but specious. There is an inherent contradiction between commitment to multilateral behavior on the one hand, and on the other selective application based on narrow parochial interests.


The Council's global engagement initiative consists of a series of critical case studies. This entails a three-tiered focus:

1. U.S. relations with partners among the established democracies. Here, an obvious candidate is the NATO alliance; NATO has expanded, and will continue to do so, well beyond the alliance's original theater. What are the implications of this, and of the related question of NATO’s new missions, especially Afghanistan?

2. U.S. relations with what might be termed "problematical allies." Here, Russia and Pakistan come immediately to mind as states where obvious crucial U.S. interests are manifest, but where cooperation/partnership is undermined by internal political developments on both sides.

3. U.S. relations with states of deep concern. Iran is the obvious candidate, in that, despite the preoccupation with Iran's nuclear ambitions, Iran both actually and potentially has a role to play in a number of key policy challenges, including Afghanistan.

The Carnegie Council's U.S. Global Engagement program gratefully acknowledges the support for its work from the following:

  • Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • Rockefeller Family & Associates
  • Krishen Mehta

The program encourages collaboration with other like-minded organizations, and in particular acknowledges the substantive contribution of the Institute for Democracy Studies.

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U.S. Global Engagement

Program Staff

David C. Speedie
Director, U.S. Global Engagement Program, Senior Fellow

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