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The US National Intelligence Council: Stalled Engines


The current international system is faced with several challenges related to security, economic development, cultural identity, and issues to do with equality. While some states are of the view unilateral decisions are needed to resolve these challenges, a quite a few are of a different observing that cooperation and formation of alliances would better address some of these challenges. States with economic, security, and cultural powers are likely to make unilateral decisions that allow them to act swiftly particularly to salvage their national interests, but the perceived weaker states will always consult their developmental partners before drafting a policy that would have a far-reaching consequence.

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Major theories of international relations claim that national interests influence the behavior of state and non-state actors. In fact, state relations are often viewed from the influential perspective of power meaning that prosperity economically, socially, and politically is what drives states to formulate policies (Brown, 2006). The US has been committed to ensuring that its national interests are achieved and this would better be done through influencing policy in the developing countries with claims that it wants to improve human conditions by eliminating some of the issues that interfere with the wellbeing, such as authoritative leadership, poor health, and extreme poverty.

Stalled Engines talks about the US influence in the international system, as it attempts to resolve the issues that many societies face (NIC, 2012). It is one of the cases offered in the article published by the National Intelligence council titled global trends 2030: alternative worlds. If the United States and its western European powers make a decision not to intervene in the global affairs, the world would be unfavorable place for people to survive.

The concept of stalled engines supports this idea and suggests further that the developing world would face several developmental and security challenges in the event that the US and European powers decide to focus on developing their economies, strengthening their identity, and enhancing their national securities. In the article, the authors state categorically that maintaining peace and stability globally is no longer the major aim of the US and European countries meaning globalization is improbable extension of world politics. In this paper, it is noted that the US does not focus too much on global security and economic development, but instead it has to resolve issues facing its people nationally.

Initially, the US utilized its economic, military, political, and socio-cultural powers to either generate conflicts or resolve them, as long as its national interests were realized. Based on this, the instruments of global power, such as security, identity, and economic might would be discussed briefly to understand why the US is not in a position to influence policy formulation globally.

Theoretical Approach

Influencing global politics is not an easy affair since it entails identifying what is wrong in another state and going a notch higher to provide a solution. Many countries across the world employ the US tactics of solving issues, as it is always believed that political and economic challenges are resolved through instituting a democratic regime that is responsive to the desires and the wishes of the majority. Through this, many societies were forced to drop their traditional ways of conflict resolution in favor of the American styles, which is a defining feature or identity of the US. The US foreign policy makers were convinced that instituting a productive conflict resolution mechanism would perhaps play a role in convening the national interests or security, which is closely related to economic ambitions given the fact that investment can only take place in a secure environment.

In the case provided talking about the stalled engines, it is observed that the US and its European partners are unable to guide the world towards a prosperous future because of diminishing economic power and several security challenges (Viotti, & Kaupi, 2013). In the case provided, the ideas of both realists and liberalists are brought out since it is noted that the US and its western powers in Europe is changing from employing a realist perspective and adopting the liberalist view in handling issues in the international system. However, liberalist approach could be employed in predicting the future as indicated in the case provided since the country will have to engage in various agreements to regain its power. Initially, only national interests drove the US to act, including intervening militarily and making effective use of global organizations and agencies, including the World Bank, the IMF, and the USAID agency.

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It is surprising to note that the perceived superpower is reluctant to intervene in global conflicts, but this could be defined by the rise of economic powerhouses, such as China and Japan. From a realist approach, states are often interested in realizing the national interests and nothing would prevent it from doing so meaning it would engage in either war or peaceful talks, depending on the scenario. A close analysis of the article suggests a qualitative theory that focuses on understanding the behavior of state and non-state actors (Daum, Lloyd, & Mausbach, 2003). For instance, the theory derived would help an analyst understand why a state behaves the way it does and would be the driving factor towards such a behavior.


Unlike during the bipolar era, the economic power of the US has gone down in the recent years following a financial crisis that hit the country from 2008 onwards. The citizens of the country are struggling with huge government debt, which have seen the increase of food prices making live unbearable for many. Policy makers are aware of the challenges that the state face and have shifted from a costly leadership position to a leaner administration. The problems faced in the US and Europe has affected the performance of developing countries, with some opting for alternative developmental partners.

Currently, China is the major developmental partner of many African states since it is engaged in road and rail construction, communication technology improvement, and technical assistance. The emergence of the BRICs, which brings together some of the United States’ antagonists, such as Russia and China, is a real threat to national interests. However, the US does not have the ability counter the emerging trend that would see the collapse of its financial system. When the country was facing serious economic problems, the stock exchange markets in China and Japan were really doing well. Currently, the economic strategists in the country advised the government to incorporate China into World Trade Organization since the emerging state had become a major force economically and it could not e neglected (Viotti, & Kaupi, 2013).

There have been calls from all quarters in the country to end the war in the Middle East since the economy cannot support it. Many corporations nearly closed their operations because of insufficient profits meaning that consumers are careful on how they spend their resources, something that affect the margins. Initially, the US was the best market because of the capability of the population, but the case is different currently, as many organizations are shifting to China, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Security Interests

Interstate and intrastate conflicts are common in various parts of the world, particularly in Western Europe, Middle East, Asian subcontinent, North Africa, East Africa, and Central Africa regions, but the United States is reluctant to intervene, which is not normal given the fact that it did everything possible to avert the situation during the bipolar era. The ongoing conflicts between the Shea and the Sunni in the Middle East is of much concern because it would affect the flow of oil globally, but the US has been reluctant to do something to an extent that even the weakest states, such as Iran, are trying to intervene. During the Cold War, the US made unilateral decisions to stop belligerent actors and rogue states, such as Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan from threatening the world peace, but it is not doing enough currently. Iran declared that it was going to test its nuclear yet the European powers and the US never took any action.

In developing countries, states have been violating the law by playing critical roles in fuelling conflicts that result in mass murder and forceful transfer of populations yet the US insists on following the international law that is not developed. In Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Ivory Coast, elections resulted in forceful transfer of populations in what referred to the internal displacement, but the US was never interested in bringing sanity (Serewicz, 2006). In the Stalled Engines scenario, the inability of the US to intervene in Iranian case is interpreted to mean lack of power. China is known to take a non-interventionist approach, but it was quick to give a comment on the nuclear testing claims.

Identity Interest

In the current international system, the US is doing little to bolster its identity globally, as it has turned inward with an aim of strengthening the living conditions of its people. In the previous global order, the US ensured that the entire world was attracted to its culture by promoting equality and diversity through education, music, and art. For instance, it established Fulbright scholarships to cater for the needs of international students wishing to pursue their careers in the US. Such students would be instrumental in developing the identity of the US once they returned to their native countries since they would be offered higher positions in government while some would be professors in colleges and universities.

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Additionally, exchange programs were available for students, as this would help in strengthening cultural ties, which have an impact on identity, but the country is much focused on the issue of national security and such arrangements are unavailable. In the stalled engines, the American political reforms by the year 2030 are revealed and the idea of creating megacities is discussed thoroughly, as it would enhance regional cooperation. Through the megacities, global issues, such as global warming and refugee migration would be tackled effectively.


The idea is that the power of the US in the international is falling is undisputable since it has already lost the economic might it once enjoyed given the fact that the China and its partners, such as Brazil, South Africa, Russia, and India are developing at an unprecedented rate. First, the US should stop focusing too much on world security and concentrate on strengthening the internal organs that would economic development. It has to ensure that only fundamental security measures and strategies are supported, such as the fight against terrorism, but encouraging military intervention should be dropped. After the 9/11 attack, the country established the department of homeland defense to with strong intelligence organs and this should played a critical role in security state borders.

The idea of engaging in military intelligence in several states is a waste of resources in the 21st century since it would not help in the realization of security interests given the fact that the international system has developed and several actors exist. Some powerful organizations have enormous powers and they do not allow military intervention without proper consultation. To achieve national interests, the use of the military should be dropped in favor of international organizations, such as the World Bank and the IMF since they have been proven effective, especially in the developing countries (Hurd, 2013).

Such organizations do not exist to realize the objectives of the developing countries, but instead they are effective instruments of domination and control. Currently, the ratings of the two organizations are low and the US government should consider strengthening them to counter the influence of China, which is giving loans to developing countries without conditions. The American NGOs should be restructured globally to an extent that they should not simply focus on human rights, but instead they have to talk about economic issues.

To boost identity, several educational programs, especially those supporting needy students from poor families to pursue high education, should be introduced. The Fulbright scholarships played a critical role in strengthening the US culture, but the situation is different in the current international system since several countries, including China, offer similar programs. Instead of utilizing military intervention in resolving conflicts, the US should consider employing political tools whereby dialogue is given a chance to end inconsistencies in the affected areas. This would call for inclusion of various parties leading to amicable resolution of issues.

School of Thought

Liberalism is the ideal theory that the state should employ in dealing with the global issues, as this would allow it realize national interests, identity, and economic development. Liberalist approach underscores the fact that national interests influence states to act, which suggests that before foreign policy formulation process takes place, actors will always weigh options. The major interest of any state in the global system is maintenance of sovereignty, which is popularly referred to as self-preservation. This would allow the US to promote military security and power, economic development, and form hegemony, which means controlling other states.

It is established that two or three states might perhaps have similar interests forcing them to cooperate in order to realize that particular interest. For instance, states cooperate in the international system to promote peace and economic trade. If the national interests of the state are not being met, the policy makers decide to engage in negotiations to end such unpleasant conditions that impede cooperation, but for realists, a state would engage in war to realize the much-needed interest. Based on this fact, liberalists are of the view that no state can claim to be interested in fulfilling its national interests without considering the position of other states. The US has to realize that the BRIC is an important factor to consider when making political, economic, and social policy.


Stalled engines is one of the articles published by the National Intelligence Council suggesting that the US does not have powers to control issues in the global system. Based on this, the US is now focused on redeveloping its society to achieve the much-needed economic, political, and social power. In other words, the state is doing away with the interventionist foreign policy that was adopted after during the First World War and going back to the isolationist approach that had characterized the American foreign policy for many years before the wars.

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Brown, C. (2006). Sovereignty, Rights, and Justice: International Political Theory Today. Cambridge: Polity Press. Web.

Daum, A., Lloyd, G., & Mausbach, W. (2003). America, the Vietnam War, and the World: Comparative and International Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Web.

Hurd, I. (2013). International Organizations Politics, Law, Practice (2nd ed.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Web.

National Intelligence Council (2012). Global trends 2030: Alternative worlds. Washington DC: Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, 107-133. Web.

Serewicz, L. (2006). America at the Brink of Empire: Rusk, Kissinger, and the Vietnam War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Web.

Viotti, P., & Kaupi, M. (2013). International Relations and World Politics (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson. Web.

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