Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role— –47fh.,b29
The end of the Cold War ushered in a unipolar world, cementing U.S. dominance over a generally liberal international order. Yet where once it seemed that U.S. foreign policy would be simpler and easier to manage as a result, the events of the past 15 years — the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Arab Spring, and Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine — strongly suggest otherwise. The world today is certainly safer for Americans than it was under the existential threat posed by the Soviet Union. But the world is undoubtedly more complex, as nonstate actors, shifting alliances, and diverse domestic political factors complicate U.S. foreign policy formation and implementation. A robust debate on America’s foreign policy choices is urgently needed.
Instead, policymakers and political candidates generally embrace the status quo. Bipartisan support exists for extensive alliance commitments, frequent military intervention, and higher defense spending. Though this orthodoxy is unsurprising since many candidates receive advice from a limited number of sources, it is deeply concerning. Debates tend to focus on which specific actions the United States should take, only rarely asking whether the United States should be involved, militarily or otherwise, in various global crises.
Even President Barack Obama, elected in large part thanks to his repudiation of the Bush administration’s conduct of foreign policy, has failed to alter the underlying bipartisan consensus that America remains the “indispensable nation” whose leadership is required in perpetuity. It is easy to see why this idea persists: America’s invaluable and outsized role in protecting the liberal international order during the Cold War was followed by two decades of unipolar primacy, where Washington attempted to exert its influence nearly everywhere.
But, as President Obama has discovered, America’s “unipolar moment” is waning. As he told the Atlantic Monthly’s Jeffrey Goldberg in April 2016: “Almost every great world power has succumbed” to overextension. “What I think is not smart is the idea that every time there is a problem, we send in our military to impose order. We just can’t do that.”
U.S. influence in the world remains preeminent, but with a rising China, a reassertive Russia, and emerging regional rivalries, it is no longer unchallenged. . America’s foreign policy decisions have an impact on our security, today and in the future, as well as on other nations. In the long term, the lack of debate on foreign policy, by precluding serious consideration of our options, will damage American interests. It will blind us to the changes taking place in the world today and will prevent us from capitalizing on new opportunities to advance U.S. security and prosperity.
Americans are fortunate enough to enjoy substantial security; we rarely need to use our military might. Yet our current grand strategy — known as primacy or liberal hegemony — demands a massive, forward deployed military. That strategy tempts policymakers to use force even when U.S. vital interests are not directly threatened.
To conserve American power and security, a strategy of restraint focuses on avoiding distant conflicts that do not threaten American interests. Restraint argues that the U.S. military should be used rarely and only for clearly defined reasons.
source-cato, christopher preble, emma ashford, travis evans,