A classic example of this miscalculation was by Japanese militarists in 1941, who assumed the US would not respond fully to their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
On military power, about two-thirds of the US public said the US military was “already overcommitted” and they did not want the US engaged in Syria.
“Nevertheless, most want the US to remain the preeminent military power; 57 percent held that view and only 29 percent said it would be acceptable if China or another country became as powerful,” the Pew report said.
“Indeed, most Americans believe that the best way to ensure peace is through military strength,” it added. Even so, there is a “huge partisan gap on this question. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Republicans say the best way to ensure peace is through military strength, compared with 52 percent of independents and just 44 percent of Democrats.”
Along with the rebirth of isolationism has come a subtle change in the vision of Americans about their role as world leaders. Instead of taking charge, the Pew study concludes that: “Americans consistently favor a shared leadership for the US in the world.”
How that is to be achieved was left unsaid.
Richard Halloran is a commentator in Hawaii.