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Should America Be the World's Policeman?

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States became the world's sole superpower. At the time, some commentators foresaw "the end of history." Democracy and peace, they predicted, would sweep across the globe. It didn't turn out that way, of course, and some say that's because the U.S. is shirking its responsibilities.

Should the U.S., with its enormous military might, act as a global sheriff, policing the world's trouble spots?

That question was posed recently to a panel of experts in an Oxford-style debate, part of the series Intelligence Squared U.S. The debates are modeled on a program begun in London in 2002: They are lively and, at times, contentious.

In the latest debate, held on Feb. 12, the formal proposition was: "America Should Be the World's Policeman." The debate was held at Asia Society and Museum in New York City and moderated by Morley Safer, correspondent for CBS' 60 Minutes. Three experts argued in favor of the proposition and three argued against.

In a vote before the debate, 24 percent of audience members voted for the resolution, 44 percent against and a sizable 32 percent were undecided. By the end of the evening, considerably more people had shifted in favor of the motion, though the final vote was very close: 47 percent of the audience favored the proposition that "America Should Be the World's Policeman" and 48 percent opposed it. (Five percent remained undecided.)

Highlights from the debate:

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