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Restoration Doctrine

The good news is that there is doctrine that fits the U.S.’s circumstances. It is one that judges the world to be relatively nonthreatening and makes the most of this situation. The goal would be to rebalance the resources devoted to domestic challenges, as opposed to international ones, in favor of the former. Doing so would not only address critical domestic needs but also rebuild the foundation of this country’s strength so it would be in a better position to stave off potential strategic challengers or be better prepared should they emerge all the same.

My term for such a doctrine is restoration: a U.S. foreign policy based on restoring this country’s strength and replenishing its resources—economic, human and physical. ~Richard Haass

After distracting the reader with a paragraph on why this isn’t isolationism, Haass goes on to lay out what this restoration doctrine would involve. I say that the paragraph on isolationism is distracting mostly because it is unnecessary. If the president of the Council on Foreign Relations can’t write a foreign policy opinion piece without having to explain that what he is saying is not isolationist, no one can. Haass still rehearses why an obviously non-isolationist doctrine isn’t isolationist. Except maybe in debates over trade, I cannot think of any other policy debate where this habit is so ingrained.

Haass’ restoration doctrine would still have the U.S. engaged in an “active foreign policy,” but with “fewer wars of choice” and it “would limit foreign policy to what matters most.” There are parts of this that I can’t fully endorse. For example, Haass says towards the end that “there would still be elements of democracy promotion, counterterrorism and humanitarianism as either opportunities or exigencies arose,” and I fail to see why democracy promotion or humanitarianism (here meaning humanitarian interventions) should still be included. Haass has set much more demanding standards for humanitarian intervention, but I don’t see how this is consistent with his overall doctrine. Nonetheless, on the whole Haass’ proposal is startlingly reasonable and long overdue.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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