American officials pose for a photograph with Tajik locals in Dushanbe during a visit to USAID backed Water Users' Association on June 10, 2010 (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
The United States of America holds a prominent position in terms of technological readiness and national competitiveness in the present day. The country also has a long and distinguished history of using Science and Technology (S&T) to achieve its foreign policy and national security objectives. As a country with a world-renowned university education system; a highly advanced innovation environment; a competitive private sector; and a robust legal and executive apparatus the US has consistently maintained a commanding lead over allies and adversaries alike in terms of S&T capability spanning over several decades. A sound economy, effective diplomacy and credible S&T infrastructure has enabled the country to attain a position of influence in multilateral arms control and nonproliferation forums such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and Wassenaar Arrangement. US universities and private sector technology organizations have also contributed greatly to the country's considerable soft power.
S&T has played a significant role in US foreign policy most visibly since the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, and the prominence of S&T in the country's foreign policy has grown remarkably over the decades. Subsequent US administrations have relied on the use of S&T to advance key US foreign policy goals such as forging closer ties with other states through scientific engagement and gaining greater access to emerging trends in global technology. S&T has also enabled the country to pursue inter-state rivalries, make hard power interventions and counter asymmetrical threats. Progress in S&T is seen by the country's leadership as essential to achieve the national objectives of innovation, security and prosperity.
However, there are many challenges that may prove to be detrimental to US S&T capability and, in turn, its ability to effectively use S&T as an element of foreign policy. These include rise of information warfare; challenges from rising powers, rouge states, and rivals; unfavorable policy shifts; deficiencies in the primary and secondary education system; increased restrictions on immigration; and prevalence of social inequalities.
It is against this backdrop that this study seeks to examine the role of science and technology in foreign policy of the United States of America. The study begins by briefly investigating the evolution of S&T in US foreign policy from the early days to the 20th century. A review of the trends and policies of the 21st century is then made. Key challenges which may impede the role of S&T in US foreign policy are briefly outlined. Concluding remarks are provided after a careful analysis of the evidence at hand.
Evolution of Science and Technology in US Foreign Policy
On March 23, 2015 US President Barack Obama — in a speech made at the White House — remarked that "Technological discovery helped us become the world’s greatest economic power. Scientific and medical breakthroughs helped us become the greatest source of hope around the world. And that’s not just our past, that’s also our future." Attributing the success of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the country to the efforts of young scientists, Obama reaffirmed his administration's support towards promoting STEM education, research and infrastructure (Obama 2015).
The US has a long and distinguished history of promoting S&T both within the country and as a part of its foreign policy. Early American statesmen Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson — regarded to be among the Founding Fathers of the country — have also been described by Stine (2009: 1) 'as the nation’s first scientific diplomats.' The idea of Scientific Internationalism — that of using international scientific collaboration to build partnerships aimed at securing greater peace and prosperity — has a long history, and the US itself promoted global cooperation in various fields of S&T across international organizations such as the League of Nations and the International Committee for Intellectual Cooperation during the first half of the 20th Century (Miller 2006).
However, the clearest credible antecedent to many US government bodies aimed at promoting S&T as a part of American foreign policy remains the Interdepartmental Committee on Scientific and Cultural Cooperation set up under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served in office from March 4, 1933 until his death on April 12, 1945. The Committee provided practical US technical assistance to states in Latin America, and specialized in diverse fields of S&T ranging from statistics to marine sciences. The role of the Committee would go on to include technical assistance to Europe and Asia during the aftermath of the Second World War. The Committee, which ultimately gave way to more specialist organizations for the promotion of S&T in foreign policy by the 1950s, laid the foundations of practical scientific engagement between the US and the rest of the world (Miller 2006).
During the Second World War and the post war period, the US was globally viewed as a great power partially due to its proven track record of using S&T in areas such as military technology, including nuclear weapons technology. In the post Second World War era, credible competition arose in form of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which had a sophisticated S&T apparatus of its own for achieving domestic and foreign policy objectives. However, even during one of the most intense enduring rivalries in modern history, both the US and Soviet leaderships had shown some vision and will to bilaterally cooperate through various fields related to S&T (Skolnikoff 1967).
In a speech delivered on December 8, 1953 US President Dwight D. Eisenhower made a proposal to jointly allocate fissionable material to a neutral international body to 'serve peaceful pursuits of mankind' such as generation of electricity through nuclear energy in 'the power-starved areas of the world' (Eisenhower 1953, quoted in Skolnikoff 1967: 24-25). Eisenhower's calls for closer S&T cooperation — including his letters to Russian Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin and Premier Nikita Khrushchev — received a cold and skeptical response from the Soviet leadership in Moscow, which was alarmed at the prospect of having American nuclear missiles close to its border, and emboldened by the progress made by Russian scientists, particularly in the field of space exploration (Sagdeev 2008).
President John F. Kennedy — who succeeded Eisenhower on January 20, 1961 — was more successful in ensuring some degree of cooperation with America's socialist rival through the means of S&T. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 1963 Kennedy lamented the need for competition with the USSR in the area of space exploration and suggested that countries around the world work together for achieving aims and objectives of common interest in the field of outer space (Kennedy 1963, quoted in Skolnikoff 1967: 23). Thaw in US-Russia S&T ties began to emerge after Kennedy made repeated and persistent attempts at initiating cooperation with the Soviet Union in the field of space exploration, and Moscow responded positively to his outreach. In 1962, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Deputy Administrator Hugh Dryden and Russian space scientist Anatoli Blagonravov led talks that resulted in early US-Russian cooperation in applied scientific research related to outer space, particularly in the fields of meteorology, geomagnetic field and communications (Sagdeev 2008).
The US-USSR relationship — and that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Warsaw Pact factions — was marked with a high degree of aggressive competition originating due to discordant ideologies and competing interests. This Cold War would continue until the fall of the USSR in 1991. But throughout the Cold War the US and the USSR were also able to achieve some precious measure of cooperation through the means of S&T. Despite going through periods of severe hostility such as the Cuban Missile Crisis the two countries also managed to pursue joint programs in the field of applied S&T most notably exemplified by the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project in 1975 (Sagdeev 2008).
Throughout the Cold War, US capability to lead the world in many areas of S&T also brought positive international attention that resulted in greater American engagement with foreign states. By the 1960s, NASA had emerged as a powerful institution in US foreign policy, and by 1965 NASA had managed to forge international scientific collaboration with sixty-nine countries. This engagement ensured greater international awareness and appreciation for the US space program in comparison to its more secretive Soviet counterpart, which had an opaque bureaucratic culture unique to socialist states of the era (Skolnikoff 1967, Sagdeev 2008).
During the Cold War, the US also managed to find areas of mutual interest with other states — including those which did not fully support its policies — by employing S&T in its own foreign policy. Also, by the Cold War era US universities, particularly those specializing in the field of S&T, gained significant international recognition. Even countries such as India and Iran — which lacked any considerable measure of pro-US sentiment during the Cold War — sought to learn from, and replicate, the success of American universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with varying degrees of success (Leslie and Kargon 2006).
The US further deployed its formidable scientific prowess in areas such as agriculture and meteorology to forge working partnerships with counties around the world, assisting countries such as India achieve national objectives such as Green Revolution by lending valuable technical assistance (Doel and Harper 2006). The role of the US private sector in R&D related to science, technology and innovation also witnessed a steady growth during the Cold War era, and private sector R&D spending exceeded that made by the public sector for the first time in 1980 (National Science Board 2004, cited in West 2011).
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the US emerged as the world's most powerful country. A sound economy and a high degree of sophistication in military technology led to significant gains in hard-power interventions, most notably during the First Gulf War in Iraq and the Kosovo War (Paarlberg 2004). In both these instances and others, technologically superior US led coalitions were able to defeat numerically superior adversaries in conventional warfare, furthering US security and foreign policy objectives in distant regions.
The role of S&T in post-Cold War US foreign policy revolved around five major and mutually-reinforcing tenets according to a report on science, technology and American diplomacy prepared jointly by the Office of the President of the United States of America; United States House Committee on Science; United States House Committee on International Relations in 1996 during the Bill Clinton administration. These five tenets were Building Democracy; Promoting and Maintaining Peace; Promoting Economic Growth and Sustainable Development; Addressing Global Problems; and Providing Humanitarian Assistance.
Science and Technology in US Foreign Policy: The 21st century
US pre-eminence in terms of S&T continued into the 21st century and continues to this day. In the 21st century, the US has maintained a commanding lead over allies and adversaries alike in terms of research papers published by its scientists. Scholarly and academic output originating from the US in the various fields pertaining to S&T has also consistently been the highest in the world in terms of citations in academic sources. Both the public and private sectors in the US have sought to maintain the country's hard power advantage by investing substantially in defense R&D. As a result, the country manages to maintain a convincing lead over potential rivals such as China in key S&T areas such as military technology, microelectronics, information technology, nuclear technology and space (Paarlberg 2004, National Science Board 2016).
Advancements in technology have also resulted in yielding soft power dividends for the country. Owing partially to its world-renowned university system, which has long attracted more international students than any other country, and its iconic private sector technology organizations — such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft — the country was ranked 3 out of 30 in Portland Communication's annual Soft Power 30 index in 2017.
In the 21st century, R&D spending in the US continued to be dominated by the private sector and business organizations accounted for as much as 68 percent of the total R&D expenditures made in the country in 2003 (National Science Board 2004, cited in West 2011). Trends in US R&D from 1990-2013 indicate that the business sector has consistently surpassed the US federal government in terms of total R&D expenditures. The business/industry sector is also the top employer of scientists and engineers in the US, surpassing the government and education sectors (National Science Board 2016).
The George W. Bush administration (January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009), which led the US into the 21st century, laid considerable emphasis on the use of the S&T in foreign policy. The Bush administration — while responding to a question put forth by the US Congress, House Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Research and Science Education regarding the utility of S&T in diplomacy during a Congressional hearing in April 2008 — listed ten detailed objectives justifying the country's international R&D programs. The objectives as interpreted by Stine (2009: 7) were: Performing science to the highest standards; Access to the frontiers of science; Access to scientific talent; Augmentation of scientific human capital; Security through technology-based equity; Leveraging on foreign science capabilities; Science diplomacy; Global support for global scientific issues; Science as a tradable asset; and Science for glory.
The Barack H. Obama administration, which succeeded the Bush administration, sought to utilize S&T in American foreign policy to project the country's soft power, hard power and smart power. Soft power outreach through S&T under the Obama administration is exemplified in President Obama's speech in Cairo University. In the speech — made on June 4, 2009 — Obama announced the following US foreign policy directions:
“On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.”
The Obama administration also sought to use sophisticated US military technology to pursue national security objectives in unstable states such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Hard power intervention came most notably in the form of drone strikes, which became the method of choice when it came to elimination of individuals who posed a threat to US national security, such as Taliban leaders Naik Muhammad and Mullah Akhtar Mansour (Khan 2016). While the overall success of the Obama administration's drone campaigns is a subject of debate, it is beyond doubt that drone technology gave the US a potent additional option to respond to jihadi asymmetrical warfare.
Hillary Clinton, who served as Secretary of State under the Obama administration, emphasized on the use of smart power during her tenure. Clinton's description of smart power varies from the orthodox concept. In her book Hard Choices: A Memoir, Clinton (2014) describes smart power as choosing the optimum selection of tools to bolster, not replace, traditional diplomacy. These tools — ranging from social media support to Iranian dissidents to providing credible developmental assistance to friendly states — were meant to advance the core national interests of the US, and one of the goals under the smart power strategy was an expanded focus on technology.
The intention to use S&T to achieve foreign policy objectives has also been evident in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS) published by the White House under the incumbent Donald J. Trump administration in December 2017. The NSS (2017) prioritizes an improved understanding of global trends related to S&T to maintain US lead in R&D, invention and innovation. Other S&T intensive priority actions that the country seeks to take on a global scale to protect its national interests include detection and disruption of global weapons of mass destruction; detection and containment of biothreats at their source; disruption of information networks which promote anti-US activity; disruption of cyber threats; and promotion of space commerce.
Organizational Structure of a US Diplomatic Mission (Source: Viotti and Kauppi 2013). American Embassies play a key role in executing the country's S&T initiatives abroad, and many embassies host specialists in S&T to execute tasks according to the arrangements made between the US and specific host countries (Stine 2009).
In addition to Congressional oversight and policy directions from the President, the US also enjoys a robust legal and organizational apparatus to guide and execute S&T initiatives that are a part of its foreign policy. According to Stine (2009):
“Title V of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY1979 (P.L. 95-426) provides the current legislative guidance for U.S. international S&T policy. This act states that Department of State (DOS) is the lead federal agency in developing S&T agreements. The National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-282) states that the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is to advise the President on international S&T cooperation policies and the role of S&T considerations in foreign relations. DOS sets the overall policy direction for U.S. international S&T diplomacy, and works with other federal agencies as needed. OSTP acts as a interagency liaison. A number of federal agencies that both sponsor research and use S&T in developing policy are involved in international S&T policy.”
Owing to its robust institutions and policies, the US was ranked second in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index 2017–2018, which ranked a total of 137 economies according to overall national competitiveness. Based on WEF calculations ranging from 2009-17, the US has also shown a consistently high degree of sophistication in terms of innovation environment. Furthermore, the country has been among the top performers in the world in terms of technological readiness between 2009-17 according to WEF data.
The US has also emerged as a key member of several multilateral arms control and nonproliferation efforts such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Wassenaar Arrangement. Prominent position in such significant global organizations enables it to play a role in the shaping of international treaties, agreements and arrangements. It is further able to influence restrictions and sanctions on states that violate international nonproliferation regulations (Woolf, Nikitin, Kerr 2010).
As evidenced above, the US has long maintained a global prominence in S&T, and that has enabled the country to achieve its strategic objectives both at domestic and foreign policy levels. However, the country also faces several pressing issues and challenges. The key challenges faced by the US in terms of S&T originate from both outside and within its borders. Some of the major external and internal challenges faced by the country in this regard are given below. Each of these challenges have serious implications for the role of S&T in US foreign policy.
Rise of Information Warfare
According to the NSS (2017), the US needs to engage in effective Information Statecraft to counter the misuse of information aimed to advance goals detrimental to US national security. In this regard, the NSS (2017) notes problems arising from China and challenges arising from Islamist terrorist organizations and Russia. Priority actions to address these challenges include gaining an improved understanding of information strategy and capability of the adversary, and crafting effecting responses in coordination with the private sector and moderate voices around the world. Innovation, greater international accountability, and more effective communication strategies are suggested to counter anti-US propaganda and to promote American values.
Challenges from Rising Powers, Rouge States, and Rivals
In the 21st century, the diffusion of technology has intensified in the rapidly globalizing world. Populous states such as China and India have both the intent and the resources to emerge as global leaders in S&T and innovation. As China, India and other rising powers continue their efforts for achieving national progress they will also become attractive to global scientists and technicians, who have overwhelmingly favored the US as a destination of choice for study or employment. This rise of multi-polarity presents challenges to the current US position as the global center of gravity the field of R&D and innovation (Galama and Hosek 2009).
To further exacerbate things, some emerging powers may harbor intentions inimical to US national interests. In this regard, China will be a country of concern since it has a formidable R&D apparatus of its own which is evolving with high intensity and has made impressive gains over the past few decades. It has also played a vital role in disseminating nuclear technology to rogue states such as Pakistan and North Korea, challenging US interests in South and East Asia (Kan 2009, Galama and Hosek 2009, National Science Board 2016).
Credible nuclear weapons capability and long-range missile technology has now taken a firm hold in North Korea's arsenal. This presents significant issues for the security of US allies Japan and South Korea, and for the security of American territory itself. Jihadist activity against the US and its South Asian partners is promoted by Pakistan, which has managed to shield itself from conventional retaliation owing to its nuclear umbrella (Kan 2009, The White House 2017).
There are early indications that rival states — such as China and Russia — may already be able to credibly challenge elements of US primacy in space. The NSS (2017) notes with alarm the growing militarization of space, and countries pursuing development of Anti Satellite (ASAT) weapons. The NSS (2017: 31) further articulates that 'Any harmful interference with or an attack upon critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital U.S. interest will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.'
Unfavorable Policy Shifts
Although the US has a robust institutional mechanism for the promotion of S&T both within and outside the geographical boundaries of the country, much of the direction in terms of S&T policy can still undergo drastic shifts. Pielke Jr. and Klein (2009: 25) — commenting on the role of Science Advisor to the US President — observe that “The science advisor does have a very unique role in helping to oversee and coordinate the budgets of agencies that support science, but even here the science advisor's role is subject to the idiosyncrasies of each administration.” It would be pertinent to note that although S&T has played an important part in US foreign policy at least since the Roosevelt administration, each administration has taken its own unique approach to promoting S&T in according to its priorities.
For example, former US Vice President Al Gore laid unprecedented emphasis on the use of S&T for the protection and conservation of Earth's environment and natural resources. Gore was awarded — along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his efforts against global climate change originating due to human activity (Nobelprize.org 2017). However, the incumbent Trump administration has shown an alarming degree of skepticism towards climate change. In June 2017, President Trump openly declared his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, claiming that the terms and conditions were not favorable to his country's national interests, and that the deal required re-negotiation (BBC 2017).
Another notable example of US policy fluctuation comes in the form of divergence in the approach of the Obama and Trump administrations in maintaining relations with the Islamic world. The Obama administration sought to utilize S&T to reach out and create an area of common interest with Muslim majority countries in sectors such as energy, health, agriculture, information technology and environment (Obama 2009). However, the Trump administration imposed severe restrictions on visas granted to citizens from the Islamic world, even going to the extent of issuing Executive Orders 13769 and, later 13780, to curb the entry of people from countries such as Iran to the US. Yong (2017) notes the many contributions that scientists of Iranian origin have made to S&T in the US and contends that travel restrictions imposed under the Trump administration will severely harm US science.
Deficiencies in the Primary and Secondary Education System
Despite the presence of excellent universities, there is some reason to believe that the US primary and secondary education system may need reform (Paarlberg 2004). In terms of international tests, the National Science Board (2016) found that the 15-year-old demographic segment of the US student population has shown a trend to score below the international average in mathematics and slightly below the international average in science.
President Obama — in his October 17, 2016 speech at the Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, DC — outlined several ways in which his administration attempted to reform the American education system. However, as his Presidency neared its end, he also noted several pressing challenges. One of the challenges that he outlined was the existence of many high schools across the country with inadequate infrastructure and resources to impart quality education. Another was the lack of support to underprivileged students and students from a challenged background. He noted the prevalence of racial discrimination in the country's education system and remarked that after graduation, US students faced competition for jobs not only from within the country but from outside, including from China and India (Obama 2016).
Overall, the US continues to face several institutional challenges and policy uncertainties in the areas of primary and secondary education (Paarlberg 2004, World Economic Forum 2017).
Increased Restrictions on Immigration
One way through which US universities have traditionally managed to enroll scientifically adept students despite limitations at domestic primary and secondary level is by attracting some of the very best young minds from around the world (Paarlberg 2004). The National Science Board (2016) statistics reveal that 34 percent of master's degree holders and 41 percent of doctorate holders specializing in the field of science and engineering are students of foreign origin.
Manufacturing firms across the US S&T sector have also benefited considerably by the presence of foreign skilled workers. Skilled migrants from India, Europe, China and other regions have contributed significantly to the country's S&T industry and R&D capabilities (Paarlberg 2004, Galama and Hosek 2009). The dominant ways through which foreign skilled individuals enter the country’s S&T workforce are by either entering the country's universities and staying back or by directly applying for an S&T position in the US after completing education in their country of origin (Galama and Hosek 2009).
However, increasing immigration restrictions and caps on the H1-B visa, coupled with stable and attractive opportunities in emerging economies such as China and India, may result in the US becoming less attractive as a destination for scientists and technicians around the world. The reduction in migration and stay rates will mean that the US may have reduced access to the very best international talent and may lose its comparative advantage in the realm of S&T in the coming decades (Galama and Hosek 2009).
Prevalence of Social Inequalities
The US workforce in science and engineering also reflects the racial and gender inequalities prevailing in the country, and despite the success of several robust positive action initiatives in the past there may be reasons to believe that a significant percentage of American population has yet to realize its optimum potential.
The National Science Board (2016) found that minorities — including African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans — remained underrepresented in the workforce belonging to science and engineering sectors. Women also remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce. More attention in this regard is required if the US seeks to maintain its pre-eminent position in S&T to further its domestic and foreign policy objectives.
The US enjoys many key strengths which enable it to use S&T in its foreign policy. The country's vibrant universities and competitive private sector have given it a decisive edge over competitors in the international system in terms of S&T. Furthermore, US universities and private sector companies in the S&T sector have also yielded valuable soft power dividends.
The US enjoys a robust legal and executive apparatus to execute its foreign policy goals through means of S&T. This has contributed immensely in defining the country's intentions and guiding its policies. This is a remarkable achievement since many states in the international system do not enjoy such clear legal frameworks and vigorous executive capability. Owing to its longstanding status as a technologically advanced large economy, the US also enjoys an influential place at the global high table in many multilateral arms control and nonproliferation forums.
The country has long been able to successfully attract and assimilate the very best skilled individuals from around the world, and their academic and professional contributions have led to impressive levels of technological readiness and innovation. Advances in military technology have also allowed the US to further its national security objectives on a global scale that is unmatched by other states or in the international system. The use of S&T has bolstered the country's ability to embark on confrontation and cooperation with different elements in the international system according to its national interests.
Policy direction in the US can undergo drastic shifts, and the Office of the Science Advisor to the President functions with limited power. Some of the country's previous administrations have shown a will to lead from the front on global issues such as climate change only to have their policies reversed under the incumbent administration. This creates an atmosphere of uncertainty under which US leadership in the world faces legitimate questions.
The full potential of the domestic S&T workforce in the US is limited by longstanding deficiencies in the primary and secondary education system. Social inequalities and racial discrimination result in under-representation of minority demographic segments in the country's S&T workforce. To further exacerbate things, there are immigration restrictions which impede the availability of skilled workforce of foreign origin. These weaknesses do not augur well for the future of the US S&T sector, which is ultimately only as good as its human resources.
Dissemination of technology in a globalized environment has meant that there are multiple centers of technology, and the country has shown an intention to keep up with global trends to maintain its lead in S&T. If the country keeps up with global S&T trends by building international partnerships, then it stands to benefit from progress made outside its borders. In this scenario, emergence of multiple poles of S&T does not necessarily translate into crisis but can instead be an opportunity. The US has previously benefited from advances in S&T made in Europe and Japan. More international R&D can translate to greater opportunity for access to and acquisition of foreign technology.
The country's prominent position in key multilateral arms control and nonproliferation regimes also allows it an opportunity to enable or restrict the rise of other states. This allows the country significant leverage in the international system, and an opportunity to address issues of proliferation of harmful technology — such as nuclear and biological weapons — multilaterally instead of resorting to unilateral action such as the ill-fated 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In the international system, the US faces threats not only from rising powers, rouge states and rivals but also from non-state actors such as jihadist terror groups. Rising powers present both opportunities and threats. As rising powers become more attractive to scientists and technicians the US may have to contend with reduced access to global S&T workforce. Its own restrictive immigration system may further add to reducing availability of scientifically and technologically adept workforce.
Emergence of rising powers further becomes a threat of considerable magnitude if the motivations of the powers are inimical to US interests. One such rising power is China, which views itself as a peer competitor to the US and seeks to challenge US primacy in S&T by building its own national power. China's rise has also been marked with technological assistance to rouge states North Korea and Pakistan, even extending to cooperation in nuclear weapons technology. This diffusion of nuclear technology has already resulted in strategic challenges for the US and its allies in East and South Asia.
Rival states such as China and Russia continue to maintain sophisticated weapons capability to limit US primacy areas such as outer space. Both have further sought to use information technology to advance their narrative, and Russia may have done so outside its borders. Non-state actors have also benefited from the global diffusion of technology. Jihadist elements — once known for crude bombs and AK-47s — now operate sophisticated information networks for propaganda. A technologically advanced US has considerable long-term options in addressing threats related to information warfare but for now they persist.
It is important to state that not all rising powers harbor intentions that are inimical to US interests. India — a country with over a billion people and a significant S&T apparatus of its own — is important to note in this regard. The world's sole superpower has shown a visible intention to strategically partner with the rising Asian giant as the interests of the world's two largest democracies converge in South Asia, the Indo-Pacific, and on the issue of jihadist terrorism (Clinton 2014, The White House 2017).
The US has shared technological leadership with democratic allies from the European Union and Japan through much of the modern history. In the 21st century, new strategic alliances with technologically proficient emerging powers present an opportunity for the US to address shared external challenges through effective global cooperation.
Although S&T is just one element of the United States of America's overall foreign policy, it has proven to be a significant one. The international system has long witnessed US leadership in areas such as S&T, security, trade and climate change. However, as a more insular and conservative administration under President Donald Trump takes hold in Washington, DC the most pressing challenges that the country may face may originate from the decisions made by America’s own leadership rather than those made by foreign powers or elements.
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