Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts America Needs a Post-Containment Doctrine

America Needs a Post-Containment Doctrine

For over forty years, the doctrine of containment has guided American thinking about national security and foreign policy. Today, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the global retreat of communism, U.S. policy makers are trying to move beyond containment. As they attempt to do so, they will need an understanding of American foreign policy and national security traditions, and an appreciation of the mistakes that have previously led Washington policy makers astray. Above all, they will need a statement of America’s objectives and interests in the world, one that clearly defines the nature of America’s global engagement and the role of the US. military. President Bill Clinton’s national security and foreign policy advisors should view the formulation of such a statement as their top priority, and the president himself must become deeply involved in clarifying and communicating this message.

Under the leadership of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, the Defense Department developed a new “regional strategy” and a “Base Force” plan to project American military power.’ For its part, the State Department under Secretary James Baker espoused the concept of “collective engagement” to explain certain foreign policy endeavors, such as aid to the former Soviet Union and a renewed commitment to the United Nations. President Bush himself consistently avowed that the United States must remain engaged in the world, and declared that isolationism and protectionism are not in America’s interest.

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