Retreating Ashore: The Flaws of Offshore Balancing

If adopted at this point in history, Offshore Balancing (OSB) would represent another distinct step toward the disintegration of Europe and the alliance structure that has underwritten peace and prosperity for the last generation. Rather than husband U.S. resources, it abdicates America’s leadership position, abandons friends and allies, and dismisses its ability to shape events. On one hand OSB minimizes the possibility of making foreign policy mistakes and eliminates entanglements. But it only does that by increasing instability however, and ensures that U.S. forces will arrive belatedly and at a disadvantage. We need a strategy that avoids being the Crusader State, without abandoning friends and encouraging opponents. This strategy reenacts the myths of Splendid Isolation that some British policy makers mistook for strategy in the last century. OSB, as presented, is a strategy that makes a virtue out of ignoring strategic interests, eluding obligations and responsibilities, and avoiding disciplined strategic choices. Were this the 1990s, at the apex of the Unipolar Era, this strategy would be relevant.  Today, it risks power vacuums, entices regional aggression, and puts U.S. military forces at both a strategic and operational disadvantage. Developing a more viable strategy, without these defects, will be a critical task for the next President.

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