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When U.S. President Barack Obama recently spoke at the United Nations about countering ISIS, many of his critics complained that he put too much emphasis on diplomacy and not enough on the use of force. Comparisons were made with Russian President Vladimir Putin's military intervention in Syria's civil war; and, with the U.S. presidential election campaign shifting into high gear, some Republican candidates accused Obama of isolationism.Presidents who followed policies of retrenchment since the end of World War II have included Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and now Obama.While Nixon believed the U.S. was in decline, the others did not.The first question is how much the U.S. should spend on defense and foreign policy.The second question concerns how and in what ways the U.S. should become involved in other countries' internal affairs.Recent speeches by the U.S. presidential candidates show that debate about the first two questions has already begun. But the U.S. ignores the third question at its peril. For example, the U.S. Senate has failed to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, despite its being in America's national interest – indeed, the U.S. needs the convention to support its position on how to resolve competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.How can the U.S. maintain global leadership if other countries see Congress constantly blocking international cooperation?
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