from James Dobbins at The WSJ, American Retrenchment Is a Golden Oldie
But we don’t know how the country will respond to the next crisis. It took the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, nine months after Luce’s call to arms, to push the U.S. into World War II. It took the installation of Soviet puppet regimes throughout Eastern Europe to keep America engaged on the Continent for 40 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany. It took the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for Mr. Carter to commit to defending the Persian Gulf. The 9/11 attacks turned Mr. Bush into a nation builder, and the rise of the Islamic State and the Russian invasion of Ukraine led Mr. Obama to recommit American forces to the Middle East and Europe.
Mr. Obama, like his predecessors, discovered that while Americans wanted a less costly foreign policy, they had difficulty accepting the diminished influence that went with it. Americans are unlikely to remain comfortable seeing their leaders heading a coalition of petro-state monarchs and illiberal strongmen while the democratic world marches to a different drum.
‘Leading from behind’ was a stunningly facile policy. It only works if someone acceptable and capable is willing to lead. If there is evil in the world, and if there is going to be a dominant nation, who would we prefer it to be? We may not seek or desire a dominant role, but the alternative has been unacceptable.