Economic Concerns Spur Debate On US Leadership Role

The Time Has Come For America To Withdraw Its Forces
Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman uses the opinion pages of The New York Times to make the case for America to depart from its historic leadership role. She says not only should the US continue its withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, it should bring home forces based in Germany and Japan.

“Today, our largest permanent bases are still in Germany and Japan, which are perfectly capable of defending themselves and should be trusted to help their neighbors. It’s time they foot more of the bill or operate their own bases. China’s authoritarian capitalism hasn’t translated into territorial aggression, while Russia no longer commands central and eastern Europe,” she says.

Hoffman also maintains that continued talk of a two-front war merely “speaks to the irrational endurance of the Truman Doctrine.”

America Should And Must Remain Engaged
William C. Martel holds a view opposite to Hoffman and argues that the US must “remain committed to playing a leadership role” despite the economic costs because “the costs of inaction are simply too great to contemplate.”

In the second part of a series mapping out a “grand strategy” for US foreign policy, Martel posits that an American grand strategy should “promote a world in which states are permitted and encouraged to pursue peace and prosperity” and must be guided by “both moderation and balance.”

Acknowledging the pressures of a lingering recession, Martel believes it is critical to remain engaged given the  “challenges posed by China, Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela – and increasingly Egypt in the highly unstable Middle East.”

But, he adds, it is also crucial to recognize that America “does not have unlimited power – it cannot do everything, everywhere, all of the time, for the rest of the world.”

Will Budget Cuts Result In A More Isolationist America?
In an opinion for CNN‘s website, Bruce Stokes, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Global Economic Attitudes, contends that cuts in the budgets of the State Department likely will have “consequences for the projection of both U.S. hard and soft power,” but that does not necessarily mean America will stand down from its prominent role in global affairs.

Stokes believes the impact will be felt more in terms of soft power, partly because more Americans support trimming the Federal budget in areas related to foreign aid and other State Department programs. He cites a recent Pew Center poll that finds those programs receive less public support.

Stokes notes that the US accounts for 41 percent of all global defense spending and 23 percent of all foreign aid, so cutbacks will “impact both global security and development.” However, he makes clear “such austerity does not necessarily reflect growing American isolationism.”


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