America's Coming Retrenchment

How Budget Cuts Will Limit the United States’ Global Role

Courtesy Reuters

The acrimonious negotiation that produced legislation to raise the American debt ceiling while cutting the federal budget deficit, which President Barack Obama signed on August 2, was an early skirmish in the battle to bring deficits under control. That battle is bound to be protracted, difficult, and contentious, and one of its casualties will be spending on foreign and security policy, which will decline in the years ahead. That will impose new limits on the projection of American power around the world.

What a difference a year makes. Only last year, in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, I published a review (“Overpowered?”) of three books whose common theme was that the United States was doing far too much beyond its borders. For its own sake and the sake of other countries, the three authors recommended, the country should pursue a more modest foreign policy. Now, as I forecast at

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