As the U.S. slowly withdraws, in the manner of the British before and after World War II, all the old hot spots that have receded in our memory — Cyprus, the Aegean between Greece and Turkey, the Falklands, the 38th Parallel, the Persian Gulf, contested islands off Japan — will become news again. If Afghanistan does not return to its pre-9/11 status as a terrorist haven, then Somalia, Sudan, or Yemen will have to do.
In short, interested parties rightly assume the U.S. cannot or will not intervene abroad. They envision making opportune territorial adjustments during this remaining four-year window of opportunity — just as China invaded Vietnam, Russia went into Afghanistan, Communists infiltrated Central America, and Islamists stormed our embassy in Tehran in the waning years of the Carter administration.
Will the world lament the consequences of a U.S. retreat? Not likely.
A theme of Western philosophy from Plato to Tocqueville has been the people’s preference for equality, rather than greater freedom and prosperity with the attendant cost of inequality. The idea of an America more or less the same as other countries — imperiled by debt, class tensions, and festering social problems, and without a global footprint — will be welcome news to most of the world, even as their own neighborhoods become much poorer and more dangerous places.