World Leadership
The end of the cold war has brought more violence to the world than when there were two large, stabilizing forces looming at one another in the form of the Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Most Americans are uncomfortable with playing the role of the world's policeman, but threats to our own interests as well as a fear of a world without military leadership allow many of us to be persuaded to commit military forces to places like Bosnia and Iraq. Many Americans either distrust the United Nations outright, or else they generally support the UN, but fear that it is ineffective in a crisis. We are, at best, ambivalent about the role of the United States in relation to the rest of the world.

Energy, Water, and the Environment
The American appetite for energy, primarily in the form of oil, promises to pose serious political and economic stress for many years to come. The United States does not produce enough petroleum to satisfy our appetite, making us dependent on foreign sources. We have low gasoline prices and a love affair with large vehicles. Proponents of energy independence are sharply divided on how to proceed. One faction wishes to exploit more oil reserves in the U.S., primarily in Alaska, while others are unwilling to sacrifice national wildlife preserves for what is at best a temporary solution. Unwilling to seriously subsidize mass transit and pedestrian paths and bikeways, the United States spends some 200 million dollars per day on road construction.

The United States has about 4 percent of the world's population, and consumes a quarter of the world's energy. Of course, other highly industrial countries also disproportionately consume energy. For each dollar of gross domestic product, however, the U.S. consumes about 40 percent more energy than Japan or the European Union.

Global climate change has directed our attention to the coming crisis in water allocation. The Southwestern desert has virtually bloomed with agricultural expansion as a result of the dam projects of the last century. But while agricultural use is expected to be reduced, the municipal demand in places like Nevada and Arizona is expected to continue to increase. These hot, dry areas are the fast-growing population centers in the U.S.