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Foreign policy

A Middle Path? US Public Opinion and Grand Strategy

Image courtesy of Presidio of Monterey/Flickr.

This article was originally published by E-International Relations (E-IR) on 3 March 2019.

In recent years, a sharp debate dominates the scholarly literature on American foreign policy and grand strategy: should the United States retrench from the expansive commitments undertaken in the aftermath of World War II as a globe-spanning military superpower, or should it renew its efforts to pursue the present strategy of global leadership? This issue is not merely of parochial interest to academics; rather, it represents the key dilemma faced by Washington foreign policymakers in the aftermath of the 2016 election campaign and the changes brought by the anti-establishment Trump presidency. Both sides of this debate contend that the American public supports their preferred strategy. However, a closer examination of recent public opinion date actually shows that the American people favor a “middle path” rather than either of the two preferred grand strategies advanced by proponents of Global Leadership and Restraint, respectively.