Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Menon forecasts Tectonic Movement

Menon's latest book is entitled The End of Alliances.

With the end of the Cold War, a new paradigm for American foreign policy is slowly but surely emerging, says Rajan Menon, the Monroe J. Rathbone Professor of International Relations, in his new book The End of Alliances (Oxford University Press, 2007).

Relegated to the history books is the ideologically driven rivalry of two superpowers and their competing network of alliances around the world, along with concepts such as the nuclear "balance of terror."

Those old realities have been replaced by new ones: a depleted Russia, overextended American military forces, the emergence of China and India as major powers, the rise of transnational terrorism, the problem of failed states, entrenched global poverty, and accelerating environmental degradation.

Indeed, Menon asks, why should the United States cling to Cold War-era military alliances that have been rendered superfluous, ineffective, and obsolete by a world that bears little resemblance to that of the Cold War?

"We are," he says, "in the early stages of what will prove to be a redefinition in the means and ends of American statecraft: a total reordering of the way we deal with others and others with us."

In essence, the U.S. grand strategy of containment will be supplanted by one that engages the world through fluid alignments that shift, depending on the issues at hand.

The slow-motion shift already underway casts doubt on the staying power of U.S.-led Cold War alliances, which are the focus of Menon's book.

Menon is convinced that "tectonic movements" in American grand strategy lie ahead, even though they may seem implausible now and will surely be resisted by a foreign policy establishment that remains institutionally and intellectually tied to Cold War theory and practice.

What he foresees is a subtle and slow shift from alliances to "alignments," which he describes as a "supple and creative mode of statecraft." The new strategy should be one that balances realism with principle and rests on a hardheaded awareness of real threats to American security, combined with a commitment to address global problems ranging from poverty to pollution.

"We should reduce our dependence on foreign oil as a way to reduce our profile in the Middle East and our dependence on unsavory regimes," says Menon, who advocates a focus on reducing global poverty along with an assemblage of states—including oil-rich Arab states—and organizations such as corporations, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations.

He also advocates quick intervention to offer disaster relief with other willing superpowers, as well as a nuanced policy toward a rising China that is "judicious and subtle, not alarmist and ideologically driven."

Menon's book—the latest of several in his prolific career—began as an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times, where Menon is a frequent contributor. It was later expanded into an article for the World Policy Journal. This unintended book has already garnered critical acclaim and considerable debate among policymakers.

His views have been sharpened by his experiences as a fellow at the New America Foundation, former academic fellow and senior advisor of the Carnegie Corporation, and senior fellow and permanent member of the Council of Foreign Relations, the nation's premiere institution for research and debate of international affairs, as well as a stint in the government.

--Linda Harbrecht

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Inauguration 2007 issue

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2007

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