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U.S. soldiers on Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles before the Atlantic Resolve military exercise outside Vilnius, Lithuania. Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles from the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Battalion on rail cars ahead of the Atlantic Resolve military exercise outside Vilnius, Lithuania, Oct. 21, 2019 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

What Would ‘Restraint’ Really Mean for U.S. Foreign Policy?

Monday, Nov. 4, 2019

After decades of American global engagement, the concept of “restraint” is having its moment, and understandably so. Thirty years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Americans are weary of foreign misadventures, whether undertaken by neoconservatives or liberal interventionists, and they want more attention and resources devoted to challenges at home. The national security establishment may still endorse U.S. primacy, backed by a global network of alliances, the forward deployment of American troops, “onshore balancing” in Europe and Asia, and democracy promotion around the world. The public is more circumspect, preferring a restrained internationalism.

Political leaders have begun to take notice. Donald Trump won the Republican primary and ultimately the U.S. presidency in 2016 partly because he was more attuned to the public mood than his GOP competitors and Hillary Clinton. In this election cycle, progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have made ending “endless wars” a centerpiece of their populist appeal, and no mainstream Democratic candidate is running as a hawk. ...

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