Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Restraint Isn't Isolationism—and It Won't Endanger America

| July 22, 2019

Critics of offshore balancing claim a more restrained U.S. foreign policy will breed insecurity. They're wrong, and their arguments are easily debunked.

What sort of foreign policy do Americans want? One thing seems clear: They don't want the one they've been getting in recent decades. And who can blame them?

Americans have repeatedly expressed their frustration with the overly ambitious and mostly failed strategy of liberal hegemony that has been in place since the end of the Cold War. Instead of making the United States more secure and prosperous, while defending core U.S. values, the misguided attempt to remake the world in the United States' image sparked needless rivalries with some states, made the terrorism problem worse, led to costly quagmires and failed states, and failed to deliver prosperity beyond the richest 1 percent.

Given this sorry track record, it's not surprising that critics of this broad approach are increasingly numerous and vocal. The voices advocating greater foreign-policy restraint are growing in number and attracting far more attention now than in the past. The founding of a new, restraint-oriented think tank—the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft—whose supporters include the odd couple of George Soros and Charles Koch, suggests that realism and restraint are ideas whose time has come. (Full disclosure: I played a minor role in this initiative and presently serve on one of the institute's advisory committees.)...

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“Restraint Isn't Isolationism—and It Won't Endanger America.” Foreign Policy, July 22, 2019.

The Author

Stephen Walt