To the Editor:
Robert Kagan’s excellent survey of 20th-century American foreign policy [“The Case for Global Activism,” September] presents an accurate picture of the dangers the country will face if it now attempts to withdraw from world politics. Mr. Kagan, however, underestimates the significance of one phenomenon whose role he does mention. “Americans did not shun international involvement in the interwar years,” he writes. “Rather, they tried to enjoy the benefits of such involvement while hoping to avoid its inevitable costs.”
I would suggest that this effort to avoid paying the “inevitable costs” of intervention, which started long before the cold war, has been especially visible since it began. Thus did the electorate throw the Democrats out of the White House when the Republican candidate in 1952 promised to end the Korean war, and when the Republican in 1968 promised to end American involvement in the war in Vietnam. Thus did the “Nixon Doctrine” suggest that with proxies like the Shah of Iran American security could be protected without sending any more boys overseas, and the “Reagan Doctrine” tried to do the job with proxy guerrilla armies.
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