We face the necessity of choice, and perhaps the place to begin is for Americans to ask two questions.
First, what is so vital to our security we must defend it at the risk of war? Second, what Cold War commitments can we relinquish now that the Soviet Empire no longer exists and Russia no longer represents a global threat?
Once the Afghan War is over, certainly, a U.S. withdrawal from South and Central Asia would seem in order, as this is about as far from the United States as one can get.
The same would hold true of Korea. From 1950 to 1953, the United States, with a 330,000-man army, fought both North Korea and China. At issue was not only the fate of the peninsula, but the orientation of Japan in the Cold War.
Today, Seoul has twice the people and 40 times the economy of the North. Pyongyang has no Stalinist Russia or Maoist China backing it up in a war with the South. Can we not now withdraw our remaining 28,000 troops and restrict our commitment in any new war to air and naval support?
China today not only claims Taiwan, but the Senkaku Islands that Japan claims, and all of the islands in the South China Sea, which are also claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Is it our obligation to validate all of these claims against China? What is our vital interest in any of these disputes when every president since Richard Nixon has agreed that Taiwan is part of China? Cannot these countries buy from us the weapons to defend themselves?
Europe is as prosperous and more populous than the United States. And the Russian army is no longer in Germany, but 1,000 miles to the east, behind the Baltic republics, Belarus and Ukraine.
What is the necessity now for a U.S. troop presence in Europe?
Retrenchment is rarely attractive. But what is apparent today to almost all is that this country is now and has been for at least a decade living far beyond her means.
We borrow hundreds of billions annually from allies, to defend those allies. We borrow hundreds of billions annually from our children's future to maintain our present lifestyle. Our leaders have yet to show the toughness and maturity the new times demand.