The National Interest
July 16, 2012
The economy trumps national security as the country’s top political issue this election cycle. With the unemployment rate at 8.2 percent, this is not surprising. From a long-term strategic perspective, however, the two issues are closely connected. The current economic crisis threatens Americans’ standard of living and our capacity to address social problems. It also undercuts the U.S. ability to sustain international stability, a prerequisite for domestic prosperity. The campaign debate we must have is how the United States can deal with global problems while restoring its economic health.
In the near term, lackluster growth and ballooning deficits mean fewer resources for national security, including defense, diplomacy, foreign assistance and development. Economic challenges and dissatisfaction with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are prompting Americans to turn inward. Pressure to reduce the international burden is growing even as U.S. influence is declining. What is worse, these domestic constraints arise at a time when problematic trends abroad are limiting our options or creating greater demands for U.S. action.