The anti-war groupthink of 2020 may be less dangerous in the short run than the pro-war groupthink of 2003. But after 17 years of involvement in Iraq and nearly 20 years of occupying Afghanistan, we are no longer talking about the short run. With Trump, the right has a chance to strike a new course in foreign affairs after the failures of neoconservatism under Bush. But a new course requires strategic thinking, not sentimentality or mere slogans of the ‘Come Home, America’ variety. America will never come home from the Pacific because one of our states and several of our territories are in the middle of the ocean, vulnerable to any aggressive Asian power.
If America came home from Europe and left Nato tomorrow, Russia would soon do to Latvia and Lithuania what it has done to Ukraine, and for much the same reason: Crimea was a strategic priority for Russia, and so is direct access to the Kaliningrad exclave. That might not lead to war on the Continent, but if I were Poland, it would lead me to think about nuclear deterrence. And if I were Russia, I would think about deterring Poland from obtaining nuclear deterrence.
If America comes home from the Islamic world, meanwhile, Afghanistan will revert to Taliban control and chaos will continue in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran vying for power and Israel, Russia, and others taking whatever role they deem necessary. But this is happening anyway with Americans in the midst of struggle. We can leave and spare lives and treasure — and we should. To stop the chaos from following us home, however, may require a new attitude to immigration as well as war. The anti-war right won’t find any allies on the left in that cause.