Should America Retrench?

The Battle Over Offshore Balancing

A U.S. Navy F/A 18 Hornet lands on the USS Nimitz in the South China Sea, May 2013. EDGAR SU / REUTERS


A quarter century after the Cold War ended, critics have renewed their calls for the United States to abandon its existing grand strategy, which they contend has both cost too much in blood and treasure and delivered too little in terms of peace, prosperity, and security. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt make this case in their article “The Case for Offshore Balancing” (July/August 2016), which charts an alternative course. Under their preferred strategy, the United States would significantly roll back the system of alliances, the forward deployments, and the onshore presence that have characterized its security posture for decades. Instead, it would husband its strength by relying on other countries to maintain the balance of power in regions crucial to U.S. interests—namely, Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf—and step in militarily only when absolutely necessary, to prevent the emergence of a regional

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