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In this illuminating study, MacDonald argues that the success of imperial conquest during the colonial era hinged less on brute power than on the ability of European states to build and exploit social ties with elites among the colonized.
The Obama administration's war against ISIS is entirely consistent with its previous efforts to limit U.S. foreign policy entanglements. Indeed, Washington's strategy is cribbed straight from the retrenchment handbook.
Hagel bills this year's proposed U.S. defense budget as a novelty. The New York Times portrays it as an antiquity. Senator Lindsey Graham paints it as a travesty. In truth, it is none of those things. Rather, the proposed budget represents a continuation of nearly three years of defense retrenchment, which is modest in scope and prudent in purpose.
The United States can no longer afford a world-spanning foreign policy. Retrenchment -- cutting military spending, redefining foreign priorities, and shifting more of the defense burden to allies -- is the only sensible course. Luckily, that does not have to spell instability abroad. History shows that pausing to recharge national batteries can renew a dominant power’s international legitimacy.