The Decline of American Engagement: Patterns in U.S. Troop Deployments

The number of U.S. troops deployed has been trending downward over the short and long terms, and is projected to reach zero before mid-century. Linear and nonlinear forecast models of troop levels agree that total and deployed U.S. troop levels are declining rapidly. The trends are paradoxical as they contrast with an increasing number of countries where U.S. troops are based above three different threshold levels of troops in country per year. Econometric tests of causality indicate a link runs from total troop levels to deployments, but not vice versa, implying that a smaller U.S. military will indeed cause foreign policy to be less directly engaged.

A visual overview of summary data shows an outright decline that runs counter to conventional wisdom, but is made stark when projected forward using linear and nonlinear techniques. Not only is America’s global footprint growing smaller in raw and per capita terms, but the size of the worldwide force is trending lower as well.

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