Cato: The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy

Cato Institute

“Featuring the author Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, and Contributing Editor, Foreign Policy magazine; with comments by Stephen Wertheim, Visiting Scholar, Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and Visiting Assistant Professor in History, Columbia University; moderated by Christopher Preble, Vice President of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

At the end of the Cold War, the United States was confident that it stood on the precipice of a new era of peace and prosperity as the world’s sole superpower. U.S. leaders adopted a strategy of primacy, aimed at discouraging others from challenging American power, and they sought to spread democracy and liberal economics within an American sphere of influence that encompassed most of the world. Today, relations with Russia and China have deteriorated, nationalist movements are on the rise, and the European Union seems unsteady at best.

In his new book, The Hell of Good Intentions, Stephen Walt traces many of these problems to the flaws inherent in primacy. U.S. power has allowed policymakers to pursue ambitious foreign policy goals, even when those goals are unnecessary or doomed to fail. And yet, despite many setbacks, an entrenched foreign policy elite retains its faith in liberal hegemony. Join us at noon on Wednesday, October 17, as Walt explores these ideas and outlines the case for a fresh, new approach to American foreign policy based on realism and restraint.”

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