According to the US Congressional Research Service, in the three decades since the Cold War ended, the US has used its armed forces abroad every year. In particular, it has squandered an immense amount of blood and treasure in two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Elsewhere, America’s new geopolitical orientation will force countries that have until now counted on US protection and support to learn to fend for themselves.
For example, some Middle Eastern countries have sought to rebuild ties and foster peace in preparation for American disengagement: Relations between some Gulf states and Israel have improved dramatically in recent years.
In Europe, “strategic autonomy” may be mostly rhetoric for now. But as the US makes it increasingly clear to its European allies that the region is a secondary priority, they will have to turn their rhetoric into action.
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once claimed that the US is the world’s “indispensable nation.” That description has arguably been true for most of the post-Cold War era.
But in the age of the US-China cold war, America may be the indispensable power for East Asia, but not for other regions. As this new reality takes hold, the rest of the world will have no choice but to adapt. That could lead to more military conflict, but it could also lead to more peace.
Minxin Pei, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, is a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. PROJECT SYNDICATE.