The changing role of America as a global superpower

by Ian Bremmer,
Portfolio Penguin (£14.99)

Twenty per cent of all the oil traded each day passes through one tiny, sun-kissed, missile-targeted channel. The Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and Oman, is one of the world's great strategic pinchpoints and in recent days it has seen US navy ships patrolling aggressively to deter Iranian harassment of shipping. The Strait is, to many Americans, as vital as the Hudson River or the Mississippi. It is not, and can never be, (in the spirit of British pre-war appeaser Neville Chamberlain) "a faraway Strait of which we know little".

Oh yes, it can. Ian Bremmer is abandoning the Strait of Hormuz. He does not say this explicitly but the message in his new book on American foreign policy could not be clearer: what he calls the Indispensable America approach, under which the US continues to police and defend freedom can, he believes, no longer be justified. Nor can he support what he calls the Moneyball America approach, in which interests are defended only when they are vital and obviously threatened.

Abandoning these two staples of American foreign policy, Bremmer makes the case for what he calls Independent America, in which the superpower acknowledges, to itself and to the world, that the time has come to say ...Well, to say what? Not goodbye. He is clear about this and the clarity is vital because all too often lazy writing about Independent America suggests that it is Isolationism. It is not.

Bremmer wants America to be open: to trade, to immigration, to ideas. But, "instead of throwing money at other people's problems let's invest more money more wisely in American education, rebuild our infrastructure ... Putting an end to our prohibitively expensive Superhero foreign policy can make all that possible".

Convinced? Bremmer is not worried if you are or if you are not. His aim is to help you think about these issues and to clarify your view. This is not a polemic. It's a heuristic device. But it's still a bombshell: and in the context of the 2016 presidential debate, a challenge to all the candidates to say something sensible about how they would change US policy to suit the changed realities of the world. This is Bremmer's essential point: "For the past 25 years we've acted as if we are becoming stronger in the world. We're not, and our foreign policy should reflect that."

So cheerio Hillary Clinton and howdy Rand Paul? Yes, I did say, a bombshell.