“America well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own…she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.” So cautioned John Quincy Adams on the Fourth of July in 1821.
Have generations of Americans since heeded the counsel of our sixth president?
It’s been three-quarters of a century since the Axis powers were defeated, nearly 30 years since the Iron Curtain was lifted, and 17 years since terrorists weaponized planes on U.S. soil, killing nearly 3,000 Americans. Today, America is neither entrenched in a great war, nor frozen in the kind of nuclear game of chicken that induced Baby Boomers to undergo fire drills that had them hiding under their elementary school desks. We are not anticipating another 9/11-style terrorist attack.
Yet the U.S. military is still operating in 40 percent of the nations of the world. It is has been engaged in nation-building efforts in Afghanistan for the better part of two decades. Some $5.9 trillion has been spent to fight the “war on terror” in that time only to see the pool of jihadists grow ever-larger. Little wonder that nearly half of Americans believe U.S. foreign policy over the last 20 years has made the country less safe.
The newest addition to the RealClearPublicAffairs family seeks to address and answer the profound questions raised by this experience: Is there a realistic alternative to this expansive, global military footprint? Would a different approach better ensure America’s security and prosperity? If America cannot be the world’s policeman, what grand strategy should guide U.S. foreign policy? The mission of these pages is to provide a curated and serious examination of these vital questions.
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