Democracy Arsenal's David Shorr is worried:
I also start to wonder about how America will sustain its role as the foundation of the international system. It's a dubious premise for some people, but it's clear to me that in many ways (you'll-miss-it-when-it's-gone kinds of ways) the United States serves as glue for the geopolitical order. And I'm growing less confident that our own domestic politics will sustain the associated international engagement and commitment.
It won't be the reawakening of America's historical isolationism, sometimes cited as a tendency that's merely in remission. Having followed opinion polls over the years, I think the voting public has basically the right instincts. Looking at the 2008 election, voters were clearly uncomfortable with the widespread international mistrust that Bush foreign policy had generated; they wanted America to be the good guys. But improving international perceptions is different from providing international leadership, and I can imagine the US turning inward and relinquishing the role of global leader.
American retreat from the world wouldn't come all at once. Retrenchment instead would creep up gradually. Indeed, it's possible that the pull-back has already started. For instance, it's not clear that our political system is still able to ratify significant treaties. Likewise, I worry about whether we will really commit to rebuilding our corps of diplomatic and development professionals. Down the line, I could imagine the United States reducing its forward deployments of military bases around the world -- not an abrupt severing of alliances, but reducing overextension. I don't advocate any of this and worry that the world's problems would worsen as a result. But I'm started to get seriously concerned that this is where we might be headed.
Why, I wonder, would Shorr want to perpetuate a circumstance which he admits overextends the United States? And, in any event, is it really natural to expect the United States to foot the defense bill of other leading economies en-perpetuity?