Their position is eroding as more Republicans are worried about the threat of escalation and the diminishment of other US priorities, writes Will Ruger in Responsible Statecraft.

With the end of the Cold War in 1989-1991, we might have expected there to be a profound rethinking of American foreign policy. The Soviet Union was dead, largely through self-immolation. The United States — in its unipolar moment — was now free from the systemic pressures that had led it during the Cold War to build a massive military and shelter an array of allies.

But very little new thinking emerged. Scholars like Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington mused about the end of history and the clash of civilizations. President George H.W. Bush talked about a New World Order. But elites on both the Left and the Right chose not to seriously wrestle with the significance of this power shift.

What happened instead was more a continuation of the past than a shift from it. Old assumptions and theories about the nature of the world that had dominated during the Cold War became fixed and hardened in the minds of the foreign policy establishment. Rather than a time of rethinking, our Cold War approach was put on steroids. Elites served up a variety of rationales, first the problem of rogue states, followed by global terrorism and the responsibility to protect, and now great power competition.  Unsurprisingly, the strategy (and budgets) for each of these problems were similar: primacy.

Unfortunately for America, something not very funny happened on the way to the imperial forum.  We kept getting frustrated or worse, whether in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and many other places across the globe.  The world simply wouldn’t conform to our desires. This put primacy in trouble as more and more people — including one Donald Trump — questioned whether it was good for America. They wondered whether a different, more restrained approach might be better. They eventually came to support the end of our misadventures in the Middle East, and U.S. withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan in 2021 suggested a new future for American foreign policy.

Then the Russia-Ukraine War began, one year ago.

Stay up to date with us


Get weekly Canon roundups straight to your inbox