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Come Home,America The Strategy of Restraint in the Face of Temptation Eugene Gholz, Dayl G.Press, and Harvey M. Sapolsky T h e Cold War lasted SO long and grew to be such a comfortablepart of everyday life that it is now very difficult to chart a new foreign policy course for the nation. U.S. national strategy is a confusing mix of grand rhetoric, false starts, and well-advised caution. U.S. troops remain forward deployed, but in smaller numbers than they were during the Cold War. The United States intervenes often in the conflicts of others, but without a consistent rationale, without a clear sense of how to advance U.S. interests, and sometimes with unintended and expensive consequences. It is time to choose a new course. Here we advocate a foreign policy of restraint-the disengagement of America’s military forces from the rest of the world. Restraint is a modern form of isolationism:we adopt its military policy of withdrawal, but reject its traditional economic protectionism . The Cold War was worth fighting and winning. Soviet expansionism threatened vital US. interests; it seemed ready to swallow America’s allies in Europe and Asia, who were exhausted by World War I1 and racked by national selfdoubt . After victory over the monumental insanity of Nazism and Japanese militarism, the United States sought the prosperity interrupted by depression and a long war. But full enjoyment of its national wealth was postponed by the need to ward off the Soviet Union. Despite the collapse of the Soviet threat, American interests have not changed. The United States still seeks peace and prosperity. But now this preferred state is best obtained by restraining America’s great power, a power unmatched by any rival and unchallenged in any important dimension. Rather than lead a new crusade, America should absorb itself in the somewhat delayed task of addressing imperfections in its own society. The restraint we propose should not be misdescribed as a total withdrawal from the world. On the contrary, we believe in a vigorous trade with other Eugene Gholz and Day1 G. Press are doctoral candidates in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Harvey M. Sapolsky is Professor of Public Policy and Organization in the Department of Political Science at M.I.T. and Director of the M.I.T. Defense and Arms Control Studies (DACS)Program. This paper began as a project for the DACS Working Group on Defense Politics. The authors would like to thank Robert Art, Dan Byman, Carl Kaysen, Barry Posen, Richard Samuels, Jeremy Shapiro, Chris Twomey, and an anonymous reviewer for insightful comments on previous drafts. Internafional Security, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Spring 1997),pp. 5 4 8 0 1997 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5 International Security 2 1 9 I 6 nations and the thriving commerce of ideas. Military restraint need not, and will not, bring economic protectionism.’ In fact, restraint does not even require unconditional military isolation. Terrorism should still elicit a strong response, and if America’s vital interests are challenged, there should be hell to pay. We advocate a strong military, just not a large or busy one. Isolationism in the 1920s was inappropriate, because conquest on a continental scale was then possible. Now, nuclear weapons assure great power sovereignty-and certainly America’s defense. Americans want to enjoy the freedom and opportunity that their forefathers sought and for which many of them fought and died. They can achieve this, if only they restrain the urge to claim interconnectivity in all human conflict. U.S. power may be massive, but it is still limited. To quote a famous, although premature, expression of the policy we advocate: it is time to come home, America. Now that the Cold War is over, George McGovern is right. This paper has four sections. In the first we present our core argument in favor of restraint. We argue that the highest priorities of American foreign policy are to protect U.S. national securityand to promote America’s prosperity. A policy of restraint is the best way to satisfy these objectives. In the second...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 5-48
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
N
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