Collapse takes stock of a volatile and threatening international environment by looking at some of the underlying causes and flashpoints―the principal one being the failure of institutions and elites to respond to their constituencies and address the problems of our age. This is a problem spanning the increased polarization that bred nationalist and populist movements, the continued failure of Western leaders to come up with effective strategies for combating authoritarian rivals like Russia and China, and the ongoing Islamist threat.
Schoen makes clear in Collapse that the indispensable ingredient to any constructive path forward is effective, engaged, and committed American leadership. This is discussed in Collapse through the lens of the failed models of President Trump’s two recent predecessors, which reflected, respectively, an uncritical embrace of American power―lacking in strategic insight and proportion―and an uncritical abandonment of American leadership that suggested an abject view of the U.S. moral example in the world. Instead, Schoen posits Assertive Democratic Idealism―an embrace of U.S. moral leadership around the world but in ways that remain leavened by realism and a guiding understanding of our national interest. Whether President Trump can deliver on such a vision remains to be seen.
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