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Knowledge Base

Why America Must Remain Engaged Abroad

Authoritarianism: The denial of personal freedom in favor of strict obedience to an authority.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP): Founded in 1921, the Chinese Communist Party is the founding and only governing party of the People’s Republic of China. The party controls the People’s Liberation Army.

Disengagement: Removing military forces from an area.

Hegemonic: Politically or socially dominant.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): A militant terrorist organization based in Iraq and Syria.

Jihadist terrorism: A term used to describe militant Islamicist movements. Although the term jihad is nuanced within Muslim communities and encompasses many kinds of striving or struggling, Western countries have adopted a simplified definition of the term to describe radical terrorist movements.

The Kremlin: Shorthand reference to the Russian government in the same way that “the Pentagon” refers to the US Department of Defense or “the White House” refers to the Executive Office of the President.

Liberal democracy: a form of representative democracy with free and fair elections, characterized by a competitive political process. All adult citizens are given the right to vote regardless of race, gender, or property ownership. A liberal democracy may take various constitutional forms such as constitutional republic, a federal republic, a constitutional monarchy, a presidential system, a parliamentary system, or a hybrid semipresidential system. For example, countries such as the United States, India, Germany, and Brazil each take the form of a constitutional republic.

NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) on April 4, 1949. NATO contributed to preventing communist expansion past the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

Offshore balancing: A strategy in which a great power uses regional powers in Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf to check the rise of potentially hostile powers in each of those regions. This strategy calls for limited intervention from the great power, who only becomes involved if the threat to a region is too great for other powers to handle.

Proxy war: Conflicts where countries use intermediaries in order to accomplish political or military goals. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union did not fight one another directly. Instead they supported people and regimes in various countries in order to expand their influence. Iran has been engaging in a four-decade long proxy war against the United States. Rather than directly attack the United States, Iran prods anti-American sentiment in countries like Iraq, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Iran then provides support to violent actors in these countries in an effort to drive the United States out of the region.

Retrenchment: A move to a more isolationist foreign policy, motivated by the assumption that any engagement in the world is a source of conflict.

Rule of law: The rule of law is another way of saying that laws, as they are written, are applied equally to everyone without regard for wealth, political power, or status. If an individual or company breaks the law, they face the consequences. It is often taken for granted in countries with a strong rule of law that people respect the rules. But that isn’t the case everywhere. In countries where the rule of law is not as prevalent, the law as it is written is applied unequally. 

September 11 attacks (9/11): A series of attacks coordinated by terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of September 11, 2001. The attacks consisted of four hijacked planes: three flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and a fourth that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania before hitting its target. The attacks on September 11 resulted in almost three thousand fatalities and spurred the US War on Terror and invasion of Afghanistan.

Strategic empathy: An understanding that ideology, emotions, and aspirations drive and constrain the actions of other countries. 

Strategic narcissism: The tendency to define problems as we would like them to be and only in relation to ourselves. Strategic narcissism assumes that others have no aspirations or agency except in reaction to US policies and actions. It leads a country to pursue strategies that are based on what it prefers to do rather than what the situation demands.