New Guide Hopes to Change Foreign Policy Debate at RNC and DNC Conventions

July 18, 2016

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In a new book, Cato Institute scholars present practical, realistic approaches to today’s top foreign policy challenges, grounded in a strategy of restraint.

In a new policy guide, Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role, Cato Institute scholars offer a clear strategic vision and a set of foreign policy options that starkly contrast with the foreign policy platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Bipartisan support exists for extensive alliance commitments, frequent military intervention, and higher defense spending. Cato’s new volume offers a wiser alternative that would make U.S. foreign policy cheaper, safer, and more popular.

Rather than being the policeman of the world, the authors argue for a more restrained approach to the world that avoids over-spending on defense and averts needless military intervention. Two editors of this book, Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy, and Emma Ashford, Research Fellow, will attend the Democratic and Republican national conventions to put forth these ideas.

The anthology includes chapters on key topics such as ISIS and the threat of terrorism, how to sensibly deal with the Syrian conflict, the right approach to Iran in the aftermath of the nuclear deal, and Russian assertiveness in Eastern Europe. It advises policymakers that NATO incentivizes free riding among allies and that America’s East Asian partners like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan should carry a larger share of the defense burden in the face of a rising China.

America’s current foreign policy of maintaining a global military presence and intervening even when vital U.S. interests are not at stake is expensive, dangerous, and unnecessary. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have cost us dearly in blood and treasure without making us more secure.

Restraint-oriented reforms could reduce annual defense spending by more than 25 percent and polls show that a majority of Americans do not want the United States to take a leading role in solving all the world’s problems.

“This new book seeks to advance a much-needed debate about the direction of foreign policy,” says Emma Ashford. “Contrary to the conventional wisdom in Washington which identifies grave dangers to U.S. interests around every corner, Americans are fortunate to enjoy substantial security. We rarely need to use our military might. It’s in our interest to understand this.”