“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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Regime change is implausible, behavior modification is unlikely. So what’s left?
Will the so-called “shale revolution” allow the United States to disengage from the Persian Gulf? A rich body of scholarship argues that since the United States no longer depends on imports of Gulf oil, it can extricate itself from the region militarily and even disengage politically with minimal negative repercussions. The United States cannot, in fact, afford to radically downsize its footprint in the Persian Gulf in the immediate future.
During a recent speech at Auburn University, the director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, argued that her agency has neglected state adversaries over the last 17 years to focus on the counter-terrorism fight. This was the second public speech where the director argued that a shift in CIA priorities toward adversarial nation-states is required and in America’s interest.