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Should The U.S. Stay Or Should It Go?

8 Jan

the-clash-should-i-stay-or-should-i-go-epic-5There was an outburst of “grand theorizing” last week between the big heads in IR theory (under sub-heading “Grand Strategy”), and I was ecstatic. Well, intellectually intrigued. Should I stay or should I go? And, as Mick Jones (or, PSY) claimed about the meaning behind those immortal lyrics, the debate between “deep engagement” vs. “offshoring” (there’s a problem here with nomenclature, especially when Stephen M. Walt allows the “deep engagement” side its euphemism and justifiably objects to the “isolationism” tag, but then doesn’t offer a more media-friendly tag of his own, other than the clunky, “offshore balancing”.), let’s not let the niggling questions interfere with the rock. It was a classic debate.

Erik Voeten does have a point.

Neither of these are polar positions. Posen is no isolationist who wants to withdraw from every commitment. Brooks et al are not raving interventionists. This makes this to some degree about what the optimal level of engagement is rather than a debate about binaries. The merits of the specific policy proposals are thus very important.

Of course, I mean China – and South Korea’s role on that issue – when I read “specific policy proposals”. But, I also don’t recall a discussion about the intersection of path dependence within the American military establishment, or the role of multinational corporations, and grand strategy. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to Barry Posen’s argument, because his article is stuck behind a pay wall. So, Stephen M. Walt’s Foreign Policy contribution has to do the heavy lifting for the “Should I go?” side.

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