Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

A Clash Is Coming Over America’s Place in the World

Posted by M. C. on March 2, 2019

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor.

Adam McCauley


In the past several months, a meaningful debate has finally started to emerge over America’s role in the world. Politicians and analysts — left, right and center — are conceding that longstanding mistakes have brought the United States to an uncertain moment. Provoked by President Trump, they are concluding that the bipartisan consensus forged in the 1990s — in which the United States towered over the world and, at low cost, sought to remake it in America’s image — has failed and cannot be revived.

But the agreement ends there. Foreign policy hands are putting forward something like opposite diagnoses of America’s failure and opposite prescriptions for the future. One camp holds that the United States erred by coddling China and Russia, and urges a new competition against these great power rivals. The other camp, which says the United States has been too belligerent and ambitious around the world, counsels restraint, not another crusade against grand enemies…

The New Cold Warriors

Mr. Trump has consistently criticized American leaders for being too weak and too generous toward other countries, and none more than China. When he began his campaign in 2015, he decried China as a “bigger problem” than the Islamic State, denouncing Beijing’s trade practices alongside its military buildup. Now, a growing number of foreign policy experts, including centrists who deprecate the president, agree — and add Russia to the list of great power competitors…

The Restrainers

At the same time, Mr. Trump has helped to incite a counter-movement. A trans-partisan coalition, aligning progressives and libertarians, is encouraged by the electoral success of his criticism of Middle East interventions, but seeks much greater restraint than the president has delivered. Those who advocate restraint believe the United States went wrong by expanding, not contracting, its global responsibilities after the Soviet Union collapsed…

The Coming Clash?

Does the future belong to great power competition or restraint? Partisans of each camp have good reason to feel the wind at their back. Decades of policy failure have converged with the daily eruptions of President Trump to throw open the question of what America’s place in the world should be…

In the upcoming election, battles within the parties may prove as consequential as the main fight between them. For if the last two years have shown anything, it is that America’s purpose in the world is deeply unsettled, and just might be poised for a major change.

Be seeing you

endless war




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