David R. Henderson  

Is America in Retreat?

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This evening Johan Norberg, who, with Free to Choose Media, put together a one-hour video on foreign policy, will be presenting a segment of the video at the Commonwealth Club. There will be a panel discussion after. I will be one of the panelists.

The gist of the video is that the U.S. government is in retreat from commitments around the world and shouldn't be.

Here are the details:

Location: 555 Post St., San Francisco
Time: 5:45 p.m. check-in, 6:30-8:15 p.m. film screening and discussion

This link gives the fees for non-members.

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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Jon Murphy writes:

Should be a good talk. Norberg is one of my favorite writers/media personalities out there. Hopefully video after will be available.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Jon Murphy,
One of my favorite, too. But I disagree with his main message in this movie.

Roger McKinney writes:

If leaving other nations alone is retreating then I'm all for it. The documentary hilites Ukraine, Syria and China. Why not survey Iraq and Afghanistan? Those two nations are disasters with no end. The US has made life worse for those citizens.

I'm a fan of the Herbert Butterfield school of foreign policy. It requires humility, which doesn't exist in Washington. And it warns of unintended consequences.

Both Syria and Ukraine are example of unintended consequences of US interference. The US pulled off a coup against and legit democratic government in Ukraine and installed a bunch of Nazi thugs. Russia responded in the same way the US would if Russia had done the same in Mexico.

400,000 people have died in the Syrian war because the U.S. decided to arm rebels from the start and encourage the Saudis to arm them. Had the US stayed out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine the world would be a lot more peaceful now.

Why would anyone care about fake islands in the South China Sea? Let the Chinese police it, if it has to be policed.

Norberg wants the US to be the world policeman, but so far we have been the biggest cause of death and destruction.

Thaomas writes:

@ Rloger McKinney,

"The US pulled off a coup against and legit democratic government in Ukraine and installed a bunch of Nazi thugs."

Alternative facts!

And Crimea?

I agree however about Iraq.

Roger McKinney writes:

Yes, alternative facts from the specialist on Russia and Ukraine at New York U. NPR has done several interviews with him. And from as taped phone conversation between a state dept employee and a Ukrainian thug.

I don't find that hard to believe. I listened to an interview with Senator Jim Inhofe who travels widely and often does prayer breakfasts in other countries. He said he never invites state dept people because of their reputation for fomenting coups around the world, often against democratically elected leaders.

Bill writes:

A worthwhile topic. The answer to the post's title depends on what "retreat" means and what "commitments" means before we can determine if there is retreat and whether retreat is desirable or not.

"Commitments" surely includes legally binding arrangements under international law (e.g. treaties) whether or not Congress subsequently enacts, and the president signs, contradictory legislation. If legally binding is an element of "commitments" for our purposes, then unenforceable promises (e.g. executive agreements) are not commitments. To me, "commitments" doesn't equate to "rationally beneficial use of military and political force," which in turn may include maintenance of applications of force or military and political hegemony a la the "Monroe Doctrine", "Bush Doctrine" or any other "using force or threat of force surely must benefit America and therefore declining to exercise force to the fullest extent = retreat" type doctrine.
Congress and the president have the power to maintain and direct a navy etc to secure the channels and instrumentalities of foreign commerce, but the benefit that foreign nations/subjects may derive from the US's exercise of that power does not thereby vest any right in such foreign parties to continued US Navy presence/action. "Superpower" status, actual or perceived, is a belief about social standing and strength, not a commitment to act in accord with "superpowerness." Does a commitment exists whether or not a foreign state/party acts in detrimental reliance on

Now to "retreat." Does "retreat" always lie when military or political assertions of strength, hegemony or influence are not exerted to the utmost extent as heretofore used? e.g. If the federal government decides to close a FOB in Bangladesh, and alternatively (1) Bangladesh allocated its own military resources with respect to India in a way reflecting reliance on perpetual US military presence, or (2) the Bangladeshi economy benefits from a pattern of exchange with American personnel on base, or (3) the US government sends foreign aid to Bangladesh government as quid pro quo for use of the FOB in any fashion, does the US subsequently declining to continue performance of (1), (2), or (3) signify "retreat?" I think none of the above. Or, say the US sends money and weapons to rebels in Country A in Year 1, money/weapons to the government in County B in Year 2, and same to rebels in Country G in Year 3. If the US declines to send money/weapons to other similarly situated grantees in Years 4 and 5, is this a "retreat" from "the world stage?" I would say possibly as to Countries A, B and G, but not as to the subsequent grantees.

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