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Commentaries by Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

Professor, Harvard University

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is a professor at Harvard and author most recently of "Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump".
  • Oct 11, 2021

    As US President Joe Biden’s administration implements its strategy of great power competition with China, analysts seek historical metaphors to explain the deepening rivalry. But while many invoke the onset of the Cold War, a more worrisome historical metaphor is the start of World War I. In 1914, all the great powers expected a short third Balkan War. Instead, as the British historian Christopher Clark has shown, they sleepwalked into a conflagration that lasted four years, destroyed four empires, and killed millions.

  • Aug 09, 2021

    During the four decades of the Cold War, the United States had a grand strategy focused on containing the power of the Soviet Union. Yet by the 1990s, following the Soviet Union’s collapse, America had been deprived of that pole star. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, US President George W. Bush’s administration tried to fill the void with a strategy that it called a “global war on terror.” But that approach provided nebulous guidance and led to long US-led wars in marginal places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2017, the US has returned to “great-power competition,” this time with China.

  • Jun 10, 2021

    A century ago, an influenza pandemic killed more people than died in World War I. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more Americans than died in all US wars since 1945. A big difference, however, is that science did not have a vaccine for the influenza virus back then, but now several companies and countries have created vaccines for COVID-19.

  • May 12, 2021

    In his recent address to the US Congress, President Joe Biden warned that China is deadly serious about trying to become the world’s most significant power. But Biden also declared that autocrats will not win the future; America will. If mishandled, the US-China great-power competition could be dangerous. But if the United States plays it right, the rivalry with China could be healthy.

  • Mar 11, 2021

    When China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, recently called for a reset of bilateral relations with the United States, a White House spokesperson replied that the US saw the relationship as one of strong competition that required a position of strength. It is clear that President Joe Biden’s administration is not simply reversing Trump’s policies.

  • Jan 06, 2021

    American foreign policy tends to oscillate between inward and outward orientations. President George W. Bush was an interventionist; his successor, Barack Obama, less so. And Donald Trump was mostly non-interventionist. What should we expect from Joe Biden?

  • Dec 09, 2020

    Friends and allies have come to distrust the United States. Trust is closely related to truth, and President Donald Trump is notoriously loose with the truth. All presidents have lied, but never on such a scale that it debases the currency of trust. International polls show that America’s soft power of attraction has declined sharply over Trump’s presidency.

  • Oct 15, 2020

    There is no single future until it happens, and any effort to envision geopolitics in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic must include a range of possible futures. I suggest five plausible futures in 2030, but obviously others can be imagined.

  • Aug 13, 2020

    Since 2017, America’s National Security Strategy has focused on great power competition, and today much of Washington is busy portraying our relationship with China as a new cold war. Obviously, great power competition remains a crucial aspect of foreign policy, but we must not let it obscure the growing transnational security threats that technology is putting on the agenda.

  • Jul 09, 2020

    Many analysts argue that the liberal international order ended with the rise of China and the election of US President Donald Trump. But if Joe Biden defeats Trump in November’s election, should he try to revive it? Probably not, but he must replace it.

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