Don’t get me wrong: None of this is meant to suggest that the US can deal effectively with the world’s problems on its own. Unilateralism rarely works. It is not just that the US lacks the means; the very nature of contemporary global problems suggests that only collective responses stand a good chance of succeeding.
However, multilateralism is much easier to advocate than to design and implement. Right now there is only one candidate for this role: the US. No other country has the necessary combination of capability and outlook.
This brings me back to the argument that the US must put its house in order — economically, physically, socially and politically — if it is to have the resources needed to promote order in the world. Everyone should hope that it does: The alternative to a world led by the US is not a world led by China, Europe, Russia, Japan, India or any other country, but rather a world that is not led at all. Such a world would almost certainly be characterized by chronic crisis and conflict. That would be bad not just for Americans, but for the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants.
Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations in the US.
Copyright: Project Syndicate