a limited foreign policy and a focus on defense


Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has embraced a heavily interventionist and increasingly military-dominated foreign policy. The belief in this grand strategy accelerated after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This strategy purports to use U.S. military power to shape the international order, as opposed to merely defending the United States and its vital interests. The high costs and dubious benefits of this policy come into sharper focus. It is counterproductive to U.S. safety. It discourages other countries from doing more to defend themselves and their interests. It imposes excessive costs on American taxpayers and unnecessary risks on U.S. troops. Meanwhile, it increases the likelihood that the United States will be drawn into wars that do not serve U.S. vital security interests.


Congress should:

  • adopt a less-interventionist foreign policy focused on a strong defense of the United States and its territories;

  • avoid military interventions that are not vital to U.S. national security;

  • reorganize the military to support a less-interventionist foreign policy and, in the process, reduce military spending to a level appropriate for a less-interventionist policy;

  • reassert its Constitutional responsibility and authority to declare war and decide when the U.S. should intervene militarily.

Note: These proposals are based in part on policy analyses developed by the Cato Institute.