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The Folly of Retrenchment

Why America Can’t Withdraw From the World

A U.S. fighter jet over Iraq and Syria airspace, March 2017 Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters

For seven decades, U.S. grand strategy was characterized by a bipartisan consensus on the United States’ global role. Although successive administrations had major disagreements over the details, Democrats and Republicans alike backed a system of alliances, the forward positioning of forces, a relatively open international economy, and, albeit imperfectly, the principles of freedom, human rights, and democracy. Today, that consensus has broken down.

President Donald Trump has questioned the utility of the United States’ alliances and its forward military presence in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. He has displayed little regard for a shared community of free societies and is drawn to authoritarian leaders. So far, Trump’s views are not shared by the vast majority of leading Republicans. Almost all leading Democrats, for their part, are committed to the United States’ traditional role in Europe and Asia, if not in the Middle East. Trump has struggled to

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