Contemporary Issues in American Politics

A summary of American global influence, its involvement in global security and foreign policy

Paris Agreement
Belt and Road Initiative

US Global Hegemony and Influence

Since the end of World War II, the United States has been considered a “global hegemon”: a country or state that has the ability to exert significant influence and control over the international system, including political, military, and economic power. This status, coupled with its cultural influence, has allowed it to shape the global political order in significant ways.

During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the United States played a leading role in containing the spread of communism around the world, and its policies and interventions helped shape the geopolitical landscape of the era. The US was also a major player in the creation of international institutions such as the United Nations, NATO, and the World Bank, which further solidified its position as a global leader.

In the post-Cold War era, the United States continued to exert significant influence on the global political order, promoting democracy and human rights, and leading the fight against international terrorism.

US Involvement in Multilateral Organizations

Historically, the United States has played an important role in multilateral organizations such as the G7, an important forum for the world’s largest advanced economies (including the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK) to discuss pressing global issues.


One of the key areas of focus for the G7 in recent years has been global health, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The G7 has played an important role in coordinating global efforts to address the pandemic, including vaccine distribution, funding for research and development, and economic recovery efforts, in which the US has been actively involved.

In addition to the G7, the US plays a key role in other multilateral organizations focused on trade, development, and security, including the WTO (World Trade Organization), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As a member of these organizations, the US plays a crucial role in shaping global economic policies and promoting international cooperation.

Climate Change: National Security Threat

Climate change is increasingly seen as a major national security threat, as it poses risks to human health, food and water security, and economic stability. The country has seen an increase in extreme weather events, such as heat waves and hurricanes, which have caused billions of dollars in damage and loss of life.

International governance responses have included the Paris Agreement, signed by nearly every country in the world in 2015. The agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, the US played a key role in negotiating the agreement under the Obama administration.


In 2017, the Trump administration announced its intention to withdraw from the agreement, citing concerns about the impact on the US economy. President Biden has since reversed this decision and rejoined the Paris Agreement, signaling a renewed commitment to addressing the global challenge of climate change.

US-Central America Relations and Immigration

The state of US relations with its Central American neighbors has been complex and often fraught with tension. The United States shares a border of nearly 2,000 miles with Mexico, which is the primary point of entry for many immigrants to the US. According to recent estimates from Pew Research Center, there are approximately 10 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States today – representing 3% of the population – though this is largely due to visa overstays rather than illegal crossings.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration’s aggressive deportation measures were highly popular with his base, and included a controversial policy that separated families at the border and pursued aggressive deportation measures.

Under the Biden administration, the administration has pledged to work with Central American countries to address the root causes of migration, including poverty, violence, and political instability and has committed to increasing aid to the region to support economic development.

US Role in UN Security Council and NATO

The US is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and plays a key role in maintaining peace and security worldwide. It also maintains one of the largest militaries in the world with over 1.3 million active personnel, as well as nuclear weapons capabilities.

While NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was originally founded in 1949 as a collective defense pact against the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War, it continues to serve as a crucial alliance for the US and its European partners in promoting security and stability in the region.


The organization has expanded its role beyond collective defense and has been involved in numerous peacekeeping and humanitarian missions worldwide, including in Afghanistan and Kosovo. The US is a leading member of NATO, contributing a significant portion of the organization’s budget and providing military resources and personnel.

US Military Interventions: Iraq and Afghanistan

Despite its military and political might, the United States military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan brought to the forefront the limits of its power and sparked debates about its role in the world.

These interventions came in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and were aimed at removing regimes that were accused of supporting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The war in Iraq lasted from 2003 to 2011 and resulted in the overthrow of the regime led by Saddam Hussein. It also led to the deaths of an estimated 460,000 Iraqis (including civilians) and over 4,000 US troops, and has also been credited with creating a power vacuum that allowed for the rise of terrorist groups such as ISIS.

Troops from the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001 in order to remove the Taliban regime, retreated after more than 20 years, after which the Taliban soon regained control of the region.

The wars have led to both domestic criticism and damage to the US’s reputation globally, due to allegations of human rights violations, including torture of prisoners.

Challenges to US Global Hegemony

The US is facing challenges to its global hegemony from a number of sources. Rising powers such as China and Russia are challenging US dominance in various regions of the world.

With a population of over 1.4 billion people and a rapidly growing economy, China has become a major player in international trade, finance, and diplomacy. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to build infrastructure and promote economic development in countries throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, has been described as an attempt to expand Chinese influence and promote its own model of governance.

The US has responded to China’s rise by increasing its military presence in the Pacific region, building closer relationships with allies such as Japan and South Korea, and taking steps to address China’s trade practices. The US-China relationship is a complex and often contentious one, with both countries seeking to assert their influence and protect their interests in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.


Contemporary Attitudes to Foreign Policy

The growing sense of disillusionment among the American people regarding the effectiveness of their government’s foreign policies has significantly affected its domestic political landscape.

The costly military interventions in the middle east have not achieved the desired outcomes, leading to frustration and resentment among the public.

This issue has been taken up by populist and nationalist movements within the US, which often advocate for a more inward-looking isolationist foreign policy and criticize globalist institutions such as the United Nations and international trade agreements.

President Trump was known for his criticism of NATO during his presidency, calling it “obsolete” and accusing other member countries of not paying their fair share towards the organization’s budget. He also threatened to withdraw the US from NATO, raising concerns among US allies and foreign policy experts about the potential consequences for transatlantic security and the stability of the global order.

These talking points have sown doubt amongst American allies and partners as to its commitment to global leadership and its adherence to international norms and values.

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