Tue, Nov 11, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Despite what the critics say, the US is not retreating

Naysayers allege that US influence is waning, citing inaction on Syria and Ukraine as proof that its foreign policy has been reduced to watching the ‘bad guys’ do what they like

By Michael Cohen  /  The Observer

None of this is to say that US power and influence are worthless. Far from it, but there are serious constraints on how effectively that power can be exercised — and grave consequences when it is wrongly applied.

As history has consistently shown, the US faces enormous barriers in affecting events in faraway lands that have their own political, ideological, religious and ethnic idiosyncrasies.

In this sense, what is so often dismissively labeled as retreat, withdrawal or isolationism is, in reality, restraint and pragmatism on the global stage — acknowledgment of the limits on US power; recognition that Americans are tired of foreign misadventures; and an understanding that even the best of US intentions can lead to the worst possible results.

US columnist Michael Cohen is a fellow at the Century Foundation.

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