Amid all the doom and gloom about declining U.S. power and respect abroad, Americans can take solace in the fact that their university system remains the envy of the world. But at a time when the United States faces a host of new challenges-from the Arab Spring to the global financial crisis-does anyone in power care what the academy thinks? A small circle of scholars makes their views known in op-eds and blog posts, or by taking sabbaticals inside the Beltway, but the views of most academics remain unheard in Washington.
So what does the Ivory Tower think about the pressing issues of the day? Below are some highlights of our 2011 survey of international relations scholars at U.S. universities. This year, for the first time, we also separately surveyed practitioners who have worked on national-security issues within the U.S. government-the people who run America's foreign-policy machine. And from global warming to the rise of China, we found that the academics and the policymakers don't always see eye to eye.
Top Foreign-Policy Problems Facing the United States
IR scholars take a broad view of the most important foreign-policy issues facing the United States. Thirty-two percent think this shortlist includes the rising power of China, up from 23 percent in our 2008 survey. Another 32 percent of academics rank the Arab Spring among the top three. But concerns about the global economy and monetary regulations, including the global debt crisis and the euro's collapse, loom large.
Practitioners are even more alarmed than scholars about the rise of China, with 42 percent listing it as one of the most important issues facing the United States today and 54 percent regarding it as a pressing issue in 10 years. More policymakers than scholars worry about the global debt crisis, while the Arab Spring makes the list of the top three problems. But some security concerns remain more salient for policymakers than for scholars.