Warrior Maven

Should the US Scale Back its Global Presence?

Founder of the Quincy Institute wants the United States to give up its “fantasy” of world hegemonic leadership

USS Harry S. Truman in the Persian Gulf. (Daniel Hawkins via US Central Command)

(Washington D.C.) In both “After the Apocalypse” (2021) and “The Reckoning that Wasn’t” (2023), Professor Andrew Bacevich, one of the founders of the Quincy Institute, wants the United States to give up its “fantasy” of world hegemonic leadership, and adopt the foreign policy principles of “realism, sobriety, and an appreciation of limits.”

If coupled with an emphasis on “purposefulness, discipline”, and an “economy of effort”, the US would adopt the very things Bacevich explains that George Kennan in his “Long Telegram” on Soviet conduct had hoped America would in the post-World War II era embrace. The idea is to use American military power minimally, and as such also keep in check what President Eisenhower warned was a too powerful military-industrial complex.

With the tragic end of US military involvement in Afghanistan, and wars in Iraq and Libya fresh in the minds of millions of Americans, caution and restraint in the use of American military power does not seem like a bad set of recommendations. When added to the equally tragic outcome of the war in Indochina, it is understandable that critics of the US military believe new international rules of engagement would make sense, particularly the idea of jettisoning a hegemonic role for the United States. To me its counter-intuitive, but there has always been a strain in the US public that has embraced as attractive the idea of “peace through retreat.” After all, if the US doesn’t have such a large military and a less than robust network of overseas facilities, maybe the US would be less involved in wars overseas. In pursuit of that goal, Bacevich calls for a nearly fifty percent cut in the US defense budget and a major drawdown of US military bases overseas.