Americans, Go Home?

Stephen Wertheim, Grand Strategy Program Quincy Institute

DIE ZEIT: Stephen Wertheim, President Biden says “America is back”. You as an American historian think this idea is dead wrong – while Franziska Brantner, as a German member of parliament, is relieved to hear the message. What is so wrong about an America that embarks again on common missions with Europe like combatting climate change or countering authoritarian threats?

Stephen Wertheim: There’s nothing wrong with cooperating on common threats like these. I just don’t think that that’s what the United States has mainly been doing in the world for several decades. I worry that “America is back” means a return to the United States putting its global military dominance at the center of its foreign policy. This quest for dominance divides the world into subordinate allies and permanent adversaries.

ZEITFranziska Brantner, as a Foreign Policy expert of the Green Party, do you feel that Germany is a “subordinate ally” to the United States?

Franziska Brantner: No. I’m happy that we are an ally again and no longer a foe, as Donald Trump put it. I think Biden has rightly recognized that we face a global competition between democratic and authoritarian forces – between nations, but also within our democracies. Biden acknowledges that we must fight authoritarianism at home and abroad, and that our enemies unfortunately do cooperate quite well.

Wertheim: Sure, the United States should be a reliable partner for countries with common interests and values. But an alliance is about warfighting, not friendship. The United States serves as the military protector of dozens of countries. Countries excluded from those alliances ask themselves: What are these alliances for? Whom do they oppose? That’s part of the difficulty that we have had in relations with Russia. Even worse, intensified military competition with China has the potential to become a kind of Cold War, which could very well escalate into a hot war. That’s why the United States can orchestrate more partnerships by pulling back militarily. Läs hela intervjun