Does the world need the United States to keep the peace?
Some say no. They argue that the U.S. would be better off without actively engaging around the world, and that we should instead retrench ourselves – allowing our allies to fend for themselves.
However, this is an overly simplistic theory, which is inadequate to deal with the complexities of modern international relations.
According to this “offshore balancing” argument, not only is the world “better off” without U.S. engagement, but the costs of engagement outweigh the benefits to America. One proponent of this argument includes our own President Obama.
But this does not hold up in the real world. Based on experience in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, U.S. retrenchment is a poor foreign policy. It has either led to, or shows signs of leading to, an international disaster.
Recently at a Heritage event, the problems of an offshore balancing strategy were discussed. In three key regions of the world, we have seen a lack of American presence lead to international disorder and crisis.
The Middle East is the main source of global instability. Over the past several years, we have seen that if you don’t visit the Middle East, the Middle East will visit you. U.S. withdrawal created a regional power vacuum, leading to the rise of ISIS. U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan allowed the Taliban to regroup and cement its power. Unchallenged, these groups intend to stick around. Therefore, the U.S. must actively engage in the region in order to manage problems, stabilize the region, and advance its interests. We cannot afford to walk away from the Middle East.
It would be downright foolish to withdraw from Asia. China’s aggressive rise poses serious regional political, economic, and security threats to the region.
It’s highly provocative activity in the South China Seas threatens the veryfreedom of the seas. China is the source of 95 percent of state-sponsored cyberattacks. It also actively provokes key U.S. allies including Japan, India, and Taiwan.
The U.S. security presence, cemented by its string of regional allies, serves as “the principle guarantor of regional stability.” Ultimately, the great power competition in the Pacific demands our active presence and engagement.
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