Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Stephen Walt ─ What Grand Strategy for America?: Why Offshore Balancing is Best

Thursday, October 27, 2016

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

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Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has expanded its security commitments and tried to bring as many states as possible into a U.S.-led liberal world order. That strategy—sometimes dubbed “liberal hegemony”—has repeatedly failed. The United States should return to its earlier strategy of “offshore balancing” and focus on three key regions: Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf. If a potential hegemon emerges, Washington should commit resources to preserve a favorable balance of power and if necessary fight to uphold it. If no potential hegemon is present, however, the United States should remain offshore and let local powers handle regional security problems themselves. This approach would reduce U.S. defense burdens, mitigate the terrorism problem, and discourage WMD proliferation. It is also a strategy that most Americans would prefer.

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs. He previously taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as Master of the Social Science Collegiate Division and Deputy Dean of Social Sciences. He has been a Resident Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution, and he has also served as a consultant for the Institute of Defense Analyses, the Center for Naval Analyses, and the National Defense University. He presently serves on the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies, and he also serves as Co-Editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, published by Cornell University Press. Additionally, he was elected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in May 2005.

Professor Walt is the author of The Origins of Alliances (1987), which received the 1988 Edgar S. Furniss National Security Book Award. He is also the author of Revolution and War (1996), Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (2005), and, with co-author J.J. Mearsheimer, The Israel Lobby (2007).

Security Seminar Series