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The Future of the American Pacifier

Courtesy Reuters

PASSING THE BUCK

The central aim of American foreign policy has traditionally been to dominate the western hemisphere while not permitting another great power to dominate Europe or Northeast Asia. The United States has not wanted a peer competitor. In the wake of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers remain firmly committed to this goal. An important Pentagon planning document stated in 1992, "Our first objective is to prevent the reemergence of a new rival ... that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. ... Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor."

In pursuit of this goal, the United States has behaved as an offshore balancer, committing troops to Europe and Northeast Asia only when there was a potential hegemon in those neighborhoods that the local powers could not contain by themselves. In effect, the United States has

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