Revolutions are difficult to gauge in their early stages. They are born out of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a growing feeling that deep change is needed. Most of the time such dissatisfaction ends with modest reform. But in rare instances, it can turn into true revolution and alter the course of history. Because revolutions are driven by thousands, even millions, of individual human decisions, predicting their outcome is difficult. Even the revolutionaries who start them are often surprised by the result.
Today a revolution may be brewing in American security policy. More and more Americans are dissatisfied with the task of managing the global security system the United States took on after World War II. It is not clear whether this will coalesce into a full-blown revolution, but the possibility is real. If it does, American security policy and the global security system itself will be very different in the future.
One indicator of this revolutionary potential is a shift in public attitudes toward America's role in the world. After the grinding struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan and with a growing sense that al-Qaida no longer poses the dire threat it once did, Americans are weary of war. As Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center phrases it, "Feeling burned by Iraq and Afghanistan and burdened by domestic concerns, the public feels little responsibility and inclination to deal with international problems that are not seen as direct threats to the national interest." The result has been a surge in isolationist sentiment matched only by the post-Vietnam period and the years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union.