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Hal Brands

The World Doesn’t Need a More Restrained America

New arguments for the US to stop involving itself in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere fail to confront the global instability such a change would bring.

Opposed $40 billion in Ukraine aid.

Opposed $40 billion in Ukraine aid.

Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

It has been a bumpy year for the restraint coalition — that loose network of analysts, advocates and politicians calling for a sharply reduced US role in the world. Having reached peak influence with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, this group initially found itself marginalized by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Now, the restraint crowd is offering a renewed critique of US policy, one that will probably prove to be persistent, though not persuasive.

Restraint is a broad church. It features anti-interventionist academics, who often style themselves as non-ideological “realists,” alongside well-funded think tanks such as the Quincy Institute. It includes libertarians such as Senator Rand Paul who deplore the financial costs of US foreign policy and progressives who contend that American globalism is a cover for imperialism and neoliberalism. There are pacifists who believe that all wars are criminal, as well as nationalists such as Senator Josh Hawley who argue that being appropriately hawkish on China requires being more dovish on nearly everything else.