We have an article published in the latest edition of Survival critiquing America’s foreign policy of global interventionism and making the case for a grand strategy of restraint. Here are some excerpts:
The United States should reject the myths of primacy and the hyperactive foreign policy it has promoted. The United States is not the indispensable nation. Nor is it insecure. Nor is it capable of micromanaging the world’s affairs efficiently and effectively from Washington. In this light, the United States should pursue a more modest foreign-policy agenda that facilitates global trade and focuses more narrowly on the physical security of the homeland, while worrying less about trying to police the world.
…[A]lthough the American foreign-policy establishment sees US power as the linchpin of the global order and the United States as an indispensable nation, the truth is that many of the trends contributing to stability and economic growth are emergent phenomena, occasionally helped and occasionally hurt by US foreign policy, but driven by factors largely exogenous to US designs. Fortunately, many countries benefit from the relative peace and prosperity that prevails today and are therefore motivated to help preserve it. At this pivotal moment in history, America’s leaders should seek to lock in those attitudes and build a more resilient global order that is not overly dependent on a single dominant state.
…One thing Trump’s presidency proves is that even a commander-in-chief averse to the imperial responsibilities of primacy will not readily shirk them. Power does not check itself, either in the international domain or the domestic…Donald Trump’s ascendance to the highest office in the nation nearly three years ago was perhaps the most compelling illustration of the hazards of vesting the presidency with so much unbridled power. We share many of the concerns voiced by the foreign-policy establishment about what Trump has done, and might yet do, to US foreign policy, and how detrimental it could be to the stability of the international system. But any world order that depends for its survival on the whims of a single person in a single branch of government in a single country is simply untenable. Trump seems to have come along at the tail end of America’s ‘unipolar moment’, and the relative decline in US power is yet another reason to revise American grand strategy to accommodate changing conditions in an increasingly multipolar world.
We also lay out some guidelines for how to implement a more modest set of foreign policy objectives and for how to reconceptualize what qualifies as vital national interests under restraint. Do read the whole thing.
The piece is adapted from the conclusion of our forthcoming book, Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America’s Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (And How We Can Recover), to be published next month.