Foreign Policy asked nine giants of the international relations field -- all of them named among the most influential IR scholars by their peers -- to give us their take on the biggest foreign-policy challenges facing the United States. From out-of-control Pentagon spending to the rise of China, here's what they told us to watch out for.
1. What is the top foreign-policy problem/challenge facing the United States, and why?
Francis Fukuyama: Dealing with the rise of China. China is potentially the second most powerful state in the global state system, and integrating large rising powers has always been a huge challenge for international systems.
Joseph S. Nye: Managing the rise of China in a peaceful manner. If we mess it up, it will affect everything else. And good management requires a balanced "Goldilocks policy" that is neither too hot nor too cold.
Kenneth Waltz: How to get the Pentagon under control. Facing no present or foreseeable military threat, we continue to spend ridiculous sums on our military forces.
John Mearsheimer: Its proclivity for getting involved in unnecessary and foolish wars that cannot be won quickly and easily, if at all.
James Fearon: The crazy situation we have gotten ourselves into in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where we are simultaneously trying to crush the Taliban while we are aligned with and providing massive funding for a regime that sees the survival of the Taliban (or subsets of it) as a vital security interest. It's pretty clear that withdrawing is in our security interest, but unwinding the position without doing terrible humanitarian damage and while retaining an ability to do effective counterterrorism is a major challenge.
Alexander Wendt: Global warming, not just because the long-term threat is potentially so dire, but because in the short-term there are so few incentives for countries to work together and take the hard measures that will be needed to address the problem. Rather than being a laggard on this front the US should take the lead in bringing the international community together to deal with the problem.
Robert Keohane: The rise of China.
Martha Finnemore: Our own inability to plan and lead internationally. Our political system has always made this difficult, but dysfunctional politics is not simply a domestic problem. We are the strongest state in the system. If we cannot organize politically to implement sensible budgets, financial regulation, energy policy, and security measures, we compound global threats and reduce our own ability to deal with them.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita: I believe it is the European debt and euro crisis. A collapse of the euro or even a significant shrinkage in the eurozone would throw the global economic system into turmoil as countries struggle to introduce national currencies, creditors are potentially wiped out by writing off of bad debt or inflating it away.