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PacNet #67 – Power and Leadership: Recognizing (and Appreciating) the Difference

Any discussion of US foreign policy begins with an understanding and appreciation of American ‘power’ and influence in an evolving and uncertain world. The conversation often starts with the assertion that the US is "the indispensable nation" as President Obama insisted in the candidates’ foreign policy debate last week. But the debate about US power and purpose glosses over the more important issue – that of leadership. While considerable ink has been spilled over the first two items, precious little attention has been given to the third. In fact, the tendency is to conflate them and to assume that power is leadership. That sort of reasoning is lazy, wrong, and dangerous. We need to explore the meaning of leadership on its own terms if a discussion of US power is to bear fruit.