The U.S. is arguably in a position it hasn’t been in before. This all happened after WWII. While American isolationism officially ended during the Spanish-American War, WWII marked a new era in American foreign policy – interventionism. After the Civil War, the US faced little domestic threats, and foreign threats were all but inexistent prior to the twentieth century. Somehow strangely, as the US became more entangled in foreign affairs, contrary to the warnings of its founders, so too, did America’s national security come more into question. The end of the Cold War, and the demise of the Soviet bloc, produced a new world order marked by US hegemony – a unipolar world. Up until this point, the US was largely focused on containing the USSR – this was largely an external threat. But the emergence of Islamic terrorism transformed an international issue into a national security dilemma for the US. But the US never went directly to war with the USSR, whereas it has embarked on military campaigns against Islamic radicals. On the contrary, the US hoped for the USSR to collapse from within, without direct confrontation. Perhaps this is why it dissolved. But the new security threat of Islamic terrorism has been approached directly, as with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and now Syria. The US’ national security is more than ever threatened today. Do America’s post-WWII policy of interventionism and the emerging threat to its national security, evidenced by the rise of Islamic terror groups, coincide?
The rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the emergence of BRICS, Russia’s assertiveness in the Ukraine and Georgia, the economic crisis and the US’ increased military campaigns are arguably signs of a change in the “world order” (Schweller et al 2011). Perhaps it is too early to suggest that the US is in decline, considering its immense military might and wealth, but there is reason to believe that, since WWII, it has grown increasingly insecure. The military and economic growth of countries like Japan and China as well as the EU are further signs of relative decline (Huntington 1988). It isn’t absolute because the US remains the world’s super power by a long margin – but the growth rate of its competitors has surpassed its own. Based on its history, could it be argued that the US was militarily and economically most secure when its foreign policy was less characterized by interventionism?
Huntington, S. P. 1988. The US—Decline or Renewal?. Foreign affairs, 67(2): 76-96.
Schweller, Randall L., and Xiaoyu Pu. “After Unipolarity: China’s Visions of International Order in an Era of US Decline.” International Security 36(1): 41-72.