Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review on Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth's 'Don't Come Home, America': Retrenchment or Deep Engagement

The Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth argument is bias against retrenchment from the beginning and focuses on debunking realist theories for reducing the U.S. military grand strategy, sometimes by very generalized arguments in which they claim no empirical data, while debating in favor of the current hegemonic military entrenchment of the U.S on the international stage.  As a realist, I had favored the complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and a significant reduction of deployed U.S. military forces and outgoing U.S. military foreign aid on the international stage, before I read the article and I still hold the position after reading the discussion, even though Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth presented a few rational arguments in favor of the status quo.  Regardless of current deep global entrenchment policies, the entrapment of long military occupations aimed to rebuild foreign state regimes that are friendly to capitalism or to benefit so-called foreign allies, often encouraged by the powerful foreign lobby, is not a economically healthy policy for the United States as is clearly shown by the statistics showing that ninety percent of all war costs and ninety-four percent of American war casualties since the end of the Cold War have been from Afghanistan and Iraq (Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth, 2012, p. 31).  These numbers do not include the severely wounded or amputees that have returned from these imperialist missions.

In response to the realist argument on the costs of deep engagement, the authors argued that deep entrenchment is not the sole cause of U.S. debt and monetary problems.  I agree that the decline of the U.S. as a hegemon, the growing national deficit, and the budget crisis of the past decade are not solely due to the American global presence due to many domestic government policies, but the overexpansion does contribute to those economic areas and the capital utilized to rebuild western-friendly governments could be utilized domestically for a period of time in areas such as “infrastructure, education” (Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth, 2012, p. 24) and other vital areas, although with the corruption in Washington there is no guarantee that “resources freed up from global commitments would necessarily be diverted to uses more advantageous for long-term U.S. growth” (Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth , 2012, p. 27).  In 2012, “the Defense Department based planning cuts of just under $500 billion” (Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth , 2012, p.17) for the next half decade which will continue to result in the downsizing of military personnel and benefits for military members who put their lives in jeopardy while the private sector reaps massive profits of the racket of what is perceived in the media as a war on terror.  I do merit the argument against complete retrenchment due to the time and costs of having to redeploy American forces in the case of an actual threat to the United States, instead of the usual imperialism aimed at regime removal and rebuilding.

Turning toward the pro-deep entrenchment arguments of Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth, the first area on note presented is the fear that in the case of a scaled back U.S. entrenchment that other international states could not “manage regional multipolarity peacefully” (Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth , 2012, p. 35).  This argument is outdated and reeks of the Cold War model of thinking.  The majority of states on the international stage are locked into the IMF, World Bank, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Rome Statute and many other international organizations based on economic interests under globalization.  In addition, the U.S. has a vast range of alliances in place to include “more than sixty countries that now account for some 80 percent of global military spending” (Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth , 2012, p.40).  The world is safe enough for the U.S. to concentrate on domestic strengthening.  The most rational point that Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth put forth supporting their argument pertained to the economic and institutional benefits and leverage that the U.S. often receives by remaining deeply entrenched (Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth , 2012, p.43), although there is no proof that the U.S. would lose international political clout due to moderate retrenchment.  I remain with the realist view of retrenchment, starting with complete withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq and following with a freeze on all military foreign aid for a substantial time period.


Brooks, Ikenberry and Wohlforth.  2012.  “Don’t Come Home, America: The Case against Retrenchment” International Security 37, no. 3 (Winter 2012/2013): 7-51.

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