Foreign policy is messy--and also incredibly interesting. Every day, decisionmakers must formulate and modify the US’s stance towards states like Russia, China, Germany, Iran, Syria, and Israel and tackle cross-cutting issues that touch on human rights, climate change, poverty, human insecurity, nuclear arms proliferation, and economic collapse. In Contemporary American Foreign Policy: Influences, Challenges, and Opportunities, authors Richard Mansbach (Iowa State University) and Kirsten Taylor (Berry College) examine modern foreign policy problems from a variety of angles, not just through the lens of a so-called “national interest.” In each chapter, they focus on today’s most pressing contemporary challenges, exploring their origins and backgrounds. They systematically shed light on the competing forces that influence them, outline the various policy options available to decisionmakers for addressing them, and explore the potential consequences of those policies. Throughout, they also look at foreign policy at all levels: international, society, government, “role”-specific, and individual.

Introduction

Introduction

A Syrian child receives treatment following a suspected gas attack by the Assad regime.

Firas Taki/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In August 2013, as the brutal civil war in Syria between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and his Sunni foes continued, a neighborhood in the country’s capital was the target of a gas attack. As a horrified world became aware of the effects of toxic chemical weapons, a debate unfolded about whether or not Washington should use military force to punish the Syrian government for using this weapon against its own citizens.

Few moments in recent history have been as exciting and unpredictable as the current era. The distribution of global military and economic power is changing, and American dominance of global affairs, so pronounced at the end ...

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