According to the US Congressional Research Service, the US has used its military forces abroad every year for the three decades since the end of the Cold War. In particular, it has spilled an enormous amount of blood and treasure in two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Elsewhere, America’s new geopolitical orientation will force countries that have hitherto counted on American protection and support to learn to fend for themselves.
For example, some countries in the Middle East have tried to restore ties and promote peace in preparation for the US withdrawal: relations between some Gulf states and Israel have improved dramatically in recent years.
For the time being, ‘strategic autonomy’ in Europe can mainly be rhetoric. But as the US makes increasingly clear to its European allies that the region is a secondary priority, it will have to put its 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 era of the cold war between the US and China, 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. This can lead to more military conflict, but also to more peace.
Minxin Pei, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, is a non-resident senior fellow at the United States’ German Marshall Fund. PROJECT SYNDICATE.