For all the policy blunders and moral hypocrisies of the last 70 years, American strategy mostly worked and thus created the present globalized world. American foreign policy ensures its continuance. At times, isolationists unduly prevented U.S. police action; at other moments, nation-builders naïvely thought they could remake the Third World into the image of the West. Sometimes interventions worked, at other times not so well; there would be no Hyundai or Samsung without the Korean War, even as Vietnam was lost to Communism. Iraq was finally freed from a genocidal monster who turned oil money into death for his own people and his neighbors; but it was not firmly set on the path of constitutional government after the abrupt American pullout.
Over the last five years, those long-held strategic principles have largely been ignored or rejected by the Obama administration. There is real doubt today that the U.S. would risk coming to the aid of South Korea, Japan, or Taiwan. If Putin tomorrow sent a division into Estonia to deliberately provoke an Article V NATO response, he might well not get one — and therefore may well try. If Iran tested a bomb next year, the U.S., for all its now-trite “unacceptable” and “outrageous” talk, would likely shrug and assume that a nuclear Iran was analogous to a nuclear Pakistan or Israel and thus no big deal. Our allies assume that since 2009 American friendship is mostly rhetorical or ceremonial, but no longer exists in the sense of any serious guarantees.
As Churchill wryly noted, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing–after they’ve tried everything else.” In the decades since, our allies have understood, and usually shown great patience with their often-bumbling but always well-meaning American friends. Judging by their current actions, I’m not sure things are as bad as Hanson says — but how much longer until they are?