Center for International Policy
Something in the Air: “Isolationism,”
Spending, and the US Public Mood

Executive Summary

Carl Conetta,
CIP Project on Defense Alternatives
October 2014

main points

          Public opinion polls show a decline in support for U.S. global engagement over the past decade. However, this is not evidence of "neo-isolationism," as some political leaders and commentators have suggested.

          Despite the decline, polls continue to show majority public support for U.S. global engagement and for a U.S. global role comparable to that of other major powers. Public dissent has focused narrowly on America's recent wars and on the notion that the United States should assume a uniquely assertive or “top” global role.

          Americans favor cooperative, diplomatic approaches to resolving conflict and they tend toward a "last resort" principle on going to war. However, the U.S. public will rally to support a forceful response to violent attacks on perceived vital interests. Americans also support forceful action to stem genocide – at least in prospect.

          Americans do not favor involvement in most third-party interstate wars or in any civil wars. They also do not support regime change efforts, armed nation-building, or persisting constabulary roles abroad. On balance, the U.S. public lacks a "crusading spirit" with regard to the use of force abroad – whether the aim is posed in moral, humanitarian, political, or geopolitical terms.

          To gain public support, military goals must be seen as realistic, pragmatic, and cost-effective. Ongoing support requires that the perceived costs of war match the perceived benefits. Domestic economic conditions are key in shaping the perceived "opportunity cost" of war.

          Current support for bombing ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria is consistent with the limits outlined above. Support will waver if the mission grows or fails to show real progress.

          Polls show a chronic gap between elite and public views on military intervention and America's global role. Foreign policy elites express a stronger preference for military activism and a dominant U.S. role. More common among the general public are selective engagement, cooperative leadership, and isolationist views. These differences may reflect differences in how costs and benefits are experienced.

          Singular events such as the 9/11 attacks can temporarily close the elite-public gap. It re-emerges if the public feels that the costs of military activism are exceeding its benefits. Economic and fiscal crises increase public sensitivity to cost-benefit issues and to trade-offs between competing goals, domestic and military.

          One consequence of recession, federal deficits, and the experience of recent wars has been reduced support for defense spending. Counter-balancing this is enduring majority support for superior defense capabilities. However, the public views military superiority as a deterrent and an insurance policy, not a blank check for military activism.

          A plurality of Gallup respondents in 2014 continue to desire less Pentagon spending. This may soon change. Public perceptions of threat and of the health of the U.S. military are pivotal in determining attitudes on spending and such perceptions are quite susceptible to manipulation.

          Partisan political dynamics significantly affect public opinion on defense spending. During polarized election campaign periods, security policy debate becomes more hawkish, carrying public opinion with it.

          Political actors seeking bigger Pentagon budgets and a more confrontational foreign policy can frame issues in several ways to bias debate. A common stratagem is to frame discussion of budget issues in terms of averting a "hollow military." Another is to use Second World War metaphors – references to Hitler, Munich, and isolationism – to frame current security challenges and policy options.

          Top presidential candidates for 2016, both Democratic and Republican, are likely to promote significantly higher levels of defense spending: more than $600 billion for Fiscal Year 2018.

          Historical precedent suggests that, given partisan allegiances and the hawkish turn in the security policy debate, a plurality of Americans may come to support higher spending levels. However, precedent also suggests that majorities will not soon support new large-scale protracted military campaigns abroad. Moreover, support for increased spending, should it emerge, will soon evaporate if national leaders continue to over-reach abroad.

Introduction: ISIS and “isolationism

Soon after the official departure of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, some American political leaders and commentators began perceiving and decrying a “neo-isolationist” trend in U.S. public opinion.[1] The evidence was polling data showing strong public reluctance to involve the nation in new conflicts abroad -- specifically in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Iraq.[2] A related concern has been public opinion on U.S. defense spending, which continues to lean toward additional cuts despite a 12% real reduction in the baseline Pentagon budget since 2010. This, some have insisted, is hobbling America’s capacity to deal with global challenges.[3]

During summer 2014, however, American public sentiment seemed to take a hawkish turn in response to the sudden advance and depredations of the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham”(ISIS).[4] Today, large majorities of Americans favor U.S. air strikes on ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.[5] And this has inspired some defense leaders and lawmakers to argue that effective action against ISIS requires boosting the Pentagon’s budget.[6]

So, has the neo-isolationist moment passed? Will the public now support a loosening of Pentagon budget constraints?

A serious examination of public opinion data over the past decade (and more) shows that isolationism – a desire to disengage from global affairs – was never at the heart of Americans’ reluctance to involve the United States in new conflicts abroad. The real target of growing public discontent was unbounded U.S. military activism – that is, a tendency to intervene seemingly everywhere without due attention to cost or benefit. The public’s current desire to strike hard at ISIS does not contravene this dissent at all.

U.S. public concern about ISIS surged in two steps during 2014 – first in response to the humanitarian plight of minorities fleeing ISIS and again in response to the vicious murder of American journalist James Foley.[7] What polling on ISIS tells us about current U.S. public attitudes toward war is that:

           Americans will often support limited military action to stem what they perceive as the impending mass slaughter of innocents abroad.

          Americans are ready to respond forcefully to vicious assaults on Americans by foreign extremists.

          Organized attacks on Americans that seem to be “identity-based” will be viewed as a threat to Americans everywhere.

The current limits of Americans’ will to war are also clear. Majorities continue to oppose the deployment of ground troops. Support is tied to relatively low-cost standoff operations. There continues to be little support for involvement in interstate wars, civil wars, regime change efforts, nation-building, or persisting constabulary roles.

One change that does seem likely is an increase in public support for additional Pentagon funding. This would be partly a result of partisan political dynamics (as examined below). It would also reflect a public desire for reassurance about the strength and resilience of U.S. national defenses – although not a green light for a broad resurgence in interventionism. Historical precedent suggests that this support will not last long if national leaders continue to over-reach internationally – as seems likely.

What remains true and distinctive about the current period is that U.S. public opinion on security policy is at a crossroads defined by new strategic and economic realities as well as a decade’s experience of war. Accurately appreciating the public mood requires looking beyond the current fixation on ISIS and clearing away the haze of alarmist claims about “neo-isolationism.” There is an undeniable public desire for a more sustainable and effective approach to securing the nation – one that neither Democratic nor Republican leaders seem able or willing to provide.

Second thoughts on war

The public’s reluctance to open new war fronts is commonly described as “war weariness” – a depletion of will. Actually, it reflects a rudimentary cost-benefit assessment of recent U.S. military activism. How does the public see America’s major military involvements of the past 13 years?

           Today, the public views the use of force in Iraq to have been a wrong decision by a 50% to 38% margin.[8]

           The use of force in Afghanistan fares better with 51% to 41% of the public considering it the right decision. However, Americans also believe by a 52% to 38% margin that the U.S. effort in Afghanistan has been mostly a failure.

Similarly, the public does not believe that intervention actually reduces the risk of terrorist attack.[9] With regard to the Syrian civil war, for instance, Americans believe by a margin of 60% to 3% that direct U.S. involvement would increase the threat of terrorism.[10] With regard to ISIS, 34% believe that U.S. military action will increase the likelihood of attacks on the United States, while only 18% believe it will reduce the risk.[11]

Some suppose that America's recent economic woes play a key role in the public’s “neo-isolationist” turn. Williams Galston writes that "As long as the economy remains troubled," a preference for nation-building at home "will prevail against external challenges that seem less than existential."[12] And, in fact, numerous public opinion surveys show that, since 2007, fiscal and economic concerns have displaced worries about foreign borne threats at the top of citizen national priority lists.[13] This is not solipsism. Instead, it reflects a public desire to rebalance national priorities in light of new strategic circumstances.

America’s current economic and fiscal woes are unusually acute and they reflect global economic trends that suggest no early or easy respite.[14] The shift in global economic power now underway will produce a circumstance – a new global economic balance – unlike any America has experienced since the 19th century.[15] These trends have inspired forecasts of a “New Normal” domestic condition characterized by slower growth, higher unemployment rates, and reduced government services.[16]

These developments have increased public sensitivity to the cost-effectiveness of government action. So has the meteoric rise in federal debt and deficits. But the measure of economic health most salient to the public is change in household income. Between 2007 and 2012, median household income fell by more than 8% in real terms.[17] As of mid-2014, it remains 6% below the 2007 level.

On the cost side of the equation, overseas military operations have drained $1.75 trillion (2015 USD) from the treasury over the past 14 years. Baseline Pentagon spending grew steeply during this period as well. In aggregate it has exceeded the level set in 2000 by $1.6 trillion. And to these economic considerations the human cost of war must be added: for America, 6,800 service people killed and more than 50,000 injured (by official count).

The cost of recent wars has been extraordinary and the results much less than anticipated. This touchstone fact suggests that Americans have not grown “war weary” as much as war wise. Looking closer, the trend in opinion goes further back than the past few years. And it points to a critical gap between leaders and led. At issue is the official consensus that has guided U.S. security policy for most of the post-Cold War era. Put simply, Americans have lost faith in its worth and effectiveness.

Americans Rethink Global Engagement

Testing for “isolationism”

Periodic polls by the Pew Center and Chicago Council for Global Affairs give a longer, more detailed view of trends in opinion on global engagement.[18] At first glance, several seem to add credibility to concerns about “neo-isolationism.” For instance, Pew has periodically asked respondents if the United States "should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." Forty-three percent said yes in 1975, 41% in 1995, and 52% in December 2013.[19]

Pew 1

Pew also has tested agreement with the statement: "We should not think so much in international terms but concentrate more on our own national problems and building up our own strengths."[20] Remarkably, 73% of respondents agreed in 1975, 78% in 1995, and 80% in December 2013. These responses reveal both the trend and depth of public concern. But do they evince isolationism?

Pew 2

The two questions asked by Pew differ from each other in an important respect. The first poses more of an absolute or binary choice: engagement, yes or no? The second is more relativistic, probing feelings about the balance between domestic and foreign policy. What it reveals is strong support for rebalancing priorities. Frustration of this desire may be pivotal in provoking more unequivocal attitudes on engagement. At any rate, rebalancing does not imply withdrawal.

Gauging engagement

The public’s desire to recalibrate engagement draws attention to the necessary context for any serious examination of isolationist dangers: the actual character and extent of U.S. global engagement. Of course, by any measure, the United States is intensively – indeed, exceptionally – engaged in world affairs.[21]

Presently, the United States participates in more than five dozen international organizations and thousands of international agreements.[22] It is a permanent member of the UN security council as well as a leading member of the Group of Seven, the IMF, and the World Bank. And it is the world’s top provider of foreign aid, surpassing the next three top providers combined.[23] In terms of global military engagement, America is in a class by itself:

          America’s military is today significantly involved in more than 15 conflicts worldwide (as well as several peace operations).[24]

          It is party to military alliances with 45 nations and maintains security assistance partnerships with more than 100 others.[25]

          It maintains a military presence in 175 foreign nations, 40 of which host U.S. military facilities. It routinely stations or deploys at least 200,000 troops overseas. In recent years, the number has ranged as high as 400,000. (All other nations combined have less than 150,000 outside their borders.)[26]

Not only is the United States exceptionally engaged in world affairs, but a closer look at polling data shows that a significant majority of Americans remain quite internationalist in outlook.

Balanced engagement, not "isolationism"

One question routinely posed in Chicago Council surveys is subtly different than those reviewed above: “Is it better for the future of the country if we take an active part in world affairs or if we stay out.”[27] (Fig. 3.) In Sept 2014, 58% of Americans thought it best to be active, while 41% stood opposed. Notably, this question does not juxtapose domestic and foreign goals. Nor does it imply being a global “busybody.” It centers on the perceived value of being involved in the common affairs of nations. When engagement is viewed this way, significant majorities of Americans favor it.

Chicago Council poll

It is generally true that the public expresses greater concern with events at home than with those abroad when the choice is posed as a simple dyad. When national priorities are disaggregated, however, concerns about global affairs often rise to the top of the list.

In fact, both Pew and Chicago Council polls find that significant majorities consistently support U.S. participation in international institutions. Majorities also support cooperative multinational approaches to addressing world problems – as long as leadership, responsibility, and burdens are evenly shared.[28] What attracts little public support is the role of the United States as global cop, hegemon, sole leader, or "most active" world leader. Thus, the 2012 Council survey found 78% of respondents agreeing that the United States was “playing the role of world policeman more than it should.”[29]

A series of questions on current and potential conflicts by the Pew Center also shows that “Americans are broadly supportive of nonmilitary forms of international engagement and problem solving, ranging from diplomacy, alliances, and international treaties to economic aid and decision making through the UN.”[30]

War and engagement

When asked in general about possible intervention in different types of overseas contingencies, majorities support action to stop genocide, prevent humanitarian catastrophes, and secure the flow of oil – a mix of high-purpose and self-interest goals.[31] Routinely disfavored is involvement in foreign civil conflicts and interstate wars.[32] Broadly speaking, support for intervention also declines when questions grow more specific about time and place or when casualties are mentioned. Conversely, support is stronger when intervention is presented as a collective or UN-mandated effort.

Overall, Americans tend toward a “last resort” stance on the use of force. They are willing to go to war for a variety of reasons, but they see war as an exceptional response to dire circumstances. And they are pragmatic in desiring realistic goals and cost-effective outcomes. What they lack is a “crusading spirit” with regard to the use of force abroad, whether the aim is posed in moral, humanitarian, political, or geopolitical terms.

These basic sentiments about military operations abroad help explain the trend in public responses to general questions about global engagement today. Although polling since 2004 confirms a steady decline in support for nonspecific “global engagement,” Chicago Council surveys correlate this decline with negative assessments of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Looking further back, similar shifts in opinion are evident during times of troubled military operations abroad (1964-1976) or following the conclusion of major confrontations (1992-1995).

Chicago Council time-series polls also verify the sensitizing effect of economic recessions. The Council records an especially sharp decline in support for engagement between 2006 and 2008, leading the Council authors to conclude that “the American people want to play an active part in world affairs but their internationalism is increasingly constrained by economic troubles at home.”[33]

Leaders versus Led on Global Engagement

The elite-public divide

The alarmism about Americans’ desire to reform U.S. global practice is symptomatic of a chronic gap between policy leaders and the general public. In Pew Center polls covering the years 1993-2009, a strong plurality of the public preferred that the United States play a leadership role equal to that of other nations.[34] By contrast, policy elites strongly prefer that the United States play a dominant or “most assertive” role. Only a third of the public chose these strong leadership options.

Regarding the use of force, the U.S. public is routinely less hawkish than national leadership.[35] One Chicago Council poll contrasted elite and public views on 11 conflict scenarios.[36] The public proved less willing to justify forceful U.S. intervention in eight of the scenarios. And, of course, the recent consternation over supposed “neo-isolationism” turns entirely on the public’s reluctance to deeply involve the United States in new foreign confrontations.

Explaining the gap

A variety of factors may account for the gap between public sentiments and official policy, including the fact that policy makers occupy a social and demographic strata not representative of the general public. This can contribute to differences in the perception and weighting of policy costs and benefits. So can institutional pressures, partisan political concerns, and special interest inducements. At heart, the elite-public divide reflects a divergence in strategic assumptions or dispositions.[37]

Since the mid-1990s, the central tenet of U.S. security policy has been to put U.S. military predominance to work in efforts to transform the global strategic environment.[38] This has included an expansion of military alliance commitments as well as efforts to contain rising powers, patrol the global commons, stabilize fragile states, extinguish extremism, and reform (or even restructure) “rogue” nations. These ambitious proactive goals contrast with the more traditional ones of simple deterrence, defense, and crisis response.

Political scientist Barry Posen has called the dominant approach the Primacy strategy, and it has both neoliberal and neoconservative variants.[39] These variants differ over the weight given to diplomacy and multilateralism. The neoconservative variant also is distinguished by its enthusiasm for supposedly “decisive” military campaigns. Both have expanded the scope of U.S. military activism, however, and lowered the threshold on the use of force.[40]

The allure of primacy

The primacy strategy gained prominence at the Cold War’s end in part because it held out the alluring prospect of advancing a new global “rule set” under U.S. leadership, which appealed to both neoliberals and neoconservatives. Most important to the rise and resilience of the primacist approach, however, has been the institutional momentum and political clout of the defense establishment. The adoption of a strategy prescribing “full spectrum dominance” and greater military activism put an end to post-Cold War Pentagon retrenchment. The basic precepts of the new approach were reflected in the first Quadrennial Defense Review (1997). During the 12 years following publication of the first QDR, the baseline Pentagon budget grew 45% in real terms. The total Pentagon budget (including war costs) grew 92% in real terms.

Although dominant in official circles, the primacist view has been at odds with U.S. public preferences throughout most of the post-Cold War era. The gap narrowed only in the years immediately following victory in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf war and the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Today, after a decade of energetic military activism, the gap is wider than ever. But it can be managed. Different strategic dispositions sometimes converge (or can be made to converge) on similar policy choices. Much depends on popular perceptions of national security challenges. And these can be significantly influenced by political leaders, policy experts, and the news media.[41] Military leaders in particular have unique sway.[42]

Elites influence public thinking both by direct appeal and by filtering, framing, or “spinning” the information they convey.[43] In the security policy arena, Second World War metaphors are common framing devices. These include allusions to Hitler, Munich, Pearl Harbor, appeasement, and isolationism.[44] They serve to center public discourse on the prospect of a catastrophic “breakout” by an unrelenting and incomparably powerful foe. Although analogy is no substitute for analysis, it can – if sufficiently evocative – move a nation across the threshold to war.

Defense Spending, Global Engagement, and Public Opinion

America’s current national security strategy is nothing if not expensive. Since 1998, when post-Cold War retrenchment ended, the United States has allotted approximately $10 trillion (2014 USD) to the Department of Defense, including war funding. Today, America devotes 4% of GDP to defense, which is about twice the country average for the rest of the world.[45]

US Defense Spending

Gallup polling on defense spending shows that during the post-Cold War era public opinion has moved from majority support for significant reductions to plurality support for increased spending back to plurality support for cuts.[46] (Fig. 5.) Today, total Pentagon spending (including war costs) is down 21.5% in real terms from its 2008 high point. And this certainly constrains the capacity for military activism – but the public favors it.

Gallup polling

Trends in opinion about defense budgeting

To summarize the historical findings of Gallup and others:[47]

1985-1995:   A strong plurality of Americans support reductions in defense spending throughout this period. A clear majority support cuts in 1990. DoD annual budgets decline by 31% in real terms during these years.

1995-1998:   A transition period during which preference for the “status quo” increases and then is supplanted by pluralities favoring increased spending. Budgets decline by 6% across these years.

1998-2003:   Significant public support for increased spending is evident. (Interestingly, this support is especially strong in 2000 and 2001 before the 9/11 attacks.) Annual budgets increase by 29%.

2003-2007:   By early 2003, public opinion is shifting toward “spend less.” This sentiment grows steadily between 2003 and 2006 along with concerns about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Budgets continue to rise, however, growing 37.6% in real terms.

2007-2008:   “Spend less” sentiment surges further upward gaining plurality assent as the financial and economic crisis takes hold and Operation Iraqi Freedom seems to mire in civil war. Budgets rise 8.5%.

2008-2012:   “Spend less” sentiment moderates somewhat as an untested Democrat takes the presidential helm, but then rebounds as the nation focuses intently on reducing the federal debt and deficit. Budgets decline by 9%.

2012-2014:   The total 2014 Pentagon budget is down 13% from the 2012 level in real terms. But it still registers 42% above the level of 2000. In Gallup’s February 2014 survey, “send less” sentiment out-polls “spend more” by 37% to 28%.

The trend in public opinion across the 2003-2014 period clearly shows the effect of disillusionment with the post-9/11 wars and growing sensitivity to issues of cost. However, it does not imply a general lack of public support for high levels of military spending.

As the public sees it: How much is enough?

Polling by Gallup and others over the past 20 years show that a majority of Americans consistently values America's position as the world's top military power.[48] This does not contradict the public’s preference for diplomacy over war or its apprehensions about military activism. It simply reflects a bedrock faith in the deterrent power of a strong military, which can accord with a variety of positions on engagement. Still, the value afforded superiority does imply public sensitivity to issues of defense sufficiency and readiness – as a matter of homeland protection, if nothing else. And this concern provides leverage for those who wish to see higher levels of spending.

How much defense spending suits the public? It depends.

Most polling does not engage respondents in a deliberate process of weighing budget realities and options. One exception is a 2012 poll conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC).[49] It provided respondents with detailed background information and summary arguments for increasing and decreasing spending. The result was a majority favoring an 11% reduction in the Pentagon base budget from the 2012 level which, in real terms, would be roughly equivalent to the effects of sequestration. This may be the best available indication of well-informed public opinion on the topic. But it is not indicative of how public opinion on spending usually takes form.

What drives opinion on defense spending?

The 2012 PPC poll revealed that most U.S. citizens actually have little idea of how much the nation spends on its military – not in absolute terms, nor relative to other federal spending, nor relative to what other nations spend. At best, national media may convey a sense of whether the Pentagon budget is slated to grow or shrink in a particular year in current dollar terms. So, what determines public response to this information?

Intensive polling by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) has shown that spending preferences will vary significantly depending on how questions about defense spending are framed.[50] Alternatively mentioning foreign threats, higher taxes, military weakness, or federal debt produces significantly different responses about defense spending. This not only illustrates the power of message framing, it also suggests that strategic, political, and economic considerations play a key part in shaping public sentiments. What matters is how the perceived rise or fall in spending resonates with these broader considerations.

The considerations that can significantly affect public opinion about defense spending include:[51]

           Perceptions of the strategic environment and threats to U.S. security,
           Perceptions of national strength and defense preparedness,
           New security policy initiatives (including war) and their outcomes,
           Economic and fiscal conditions, and
           Presumed trade-offs between defense and other government spending.

Some of these inputs are directly experienced by the public – for instance: personal economic circumstances. Much else is heavily mediated (as noted above) and thus susceptible to manipulation and framing. In the case of defense preparedness, warnings of a “hollow military” can be an especially effective frame. The “hollow military” frame invokes uncertainty and speaks to Americans’ invariant desire for reliable protection.[52] This works to bias opinion by centering discussion on the possibility (however remote) of a sudden, unanticipated, and catastrophic collapse of national defense capabilities.

Citizens are only selectively receptive to opinion leaders, however; They tend to privilege those leaders whose general disposition echoes their own. This makes partisan and ideological allegiances important factors in opinion formation. It also means that any apparent consensus among Democratic and Republican leaders is especially powerful in shaping public opinion.[53]

Opinion on defense strength and preparedness

Since 1990, Gallup polling has also periodically examined public satisfaction with U.S. military strength and preparedness.[54] (Figure 6.) Importantly, changes in how people feel about the condition of America’s defenses does not correlate uniformly with either changes in defense spending or with sentiments about the defense budget. The relationship is a complicated one.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, public satisfaction with U.S. defenses declined in response to controversy over the readiness of America’s armed forces. Budget increases during 1998-2000 were not sufficient to redress this concern, however. Public satisfaction did not begin to recover until 2002-2004, seemingly in response to initial progress in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. As the wars dragged on, however, “defense satisfaction” eroded.

By 2007 and 2008, the plurality view was that U.S. national defense was "not as strong as it needed to be." At the same time, a plurality of Americans came to feel that defense spending should be reduced. During these years, more than one-third of Americans seemed to favor defense cuts while simultaneously feeling that U.S. defense strength was either "about right" or "not enough." These seemingly contradictory sentiments can be reconciled when understood against the backdrop of economic crisis, fiscal pressure, and growing disillusionment with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Figure 6. Gallup Polling on Military Spending, Strength, and Preparedness


DoD Budget

% Change*

Level of Pentagon Spending

% respondents

Strength of National Defenses

% respondents

Military Strength and Preparedness

% respondents


Too Much





Excess Strength




















































































































































2000 Aug










2000 May


















































* Percentage reflects budget change in current dollar amounts

** Majority/plurality position appears in bold

Sources: Gallup, Military and National Defense,; DoD, “National Defense Budget Estimates for FY2015,” May 2014,

Gallup polling results suggest that, after 2004, the public became increasingly sensitive to the inherent limits of military power and increasingly attentive to the balance of costs and benefits associated with combat operations. This gave greater traction to the distinction between necessary and unnecessary military action – a distinction that the primacy strategy typically obscures. The American public seemed increasingly aware and accepting that a nation could be the world's top military power and yet not able to achieve some goals at an acceptable cost. The question became, Which goals are realistic and necessary – and which are not?

Figure 7. Change in Fiscal and Economic Conditions 1985-2014


Federal Deficit or Surplus as % GDP


Real Growth in Median Household Income

Real Growth in Per Capita GDP



1985: 5%

1989: 2.7%

1992: 4.4%

1985: 7.4%

1989: 5%

1992: 7.8%





2000: 2.3%

2000: 3.9%





2009: 9.8% GDP

2012: 6.7% GDP

2009: 10%

2012: 7.9%




Deficit: 3.5% GDP


+2.5% since 2012

+3.9% since 2012






Sources: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Real Median Household Income in the United States" and “Federal Surplus or Deficit as Percent of Gross Domestic Product”; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, "Current-dollar and real GDP"; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey"; and, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, "Historical Gross Domestic Product Per Capita 1969-2014."

The shift in attitudes during the 2004-2008 period contrasts with the change in the late 1990s and early 2000s. During both periods, Gallup polls found comparable levels of public concern about defense strength and preparedness. However, during 1998-2001, this concern was matched by a willingness to spend more. For several reasons, public concern meant and implied different things during the two periods.

In 2007 and 2008, public opinion had been conditioned by years of costly and indecisive war. Among other effects, this fractured leadership consensus, which facilitated public dissent. By contrast, as noted, the turn of opinion during 1998-2000 was prefaced by controversy over military readiness and by an apparent bipartisan consensus on the need to boost Pentagon spending. In this case, the issue was understood as one of ensuring basic defense and deterrence capabilities.

The contrast in economic conditions also made a difference. (Fig. 7.) Beginning in 2007, economic and fiscal crises led the public to set a tougher standard when judging the worthiness of activism. By contrast, in the 1998-2000 period, a sense of relative prosperity had prevailed. Between 1993 and 2000, Median Household Income (MHI) had grown 14.5% in real terms and the federal budget had moved into surplus. Between 2000 and 2011, MHI dropped 9% and federal deficits ballooned past $1.3 trillion.

A pending shift in opinion on defense spending?

Since 2011 public satisfaction with military preparedness has increased and clear majorities once again feel that U.S. defense strength is “about right.” This is concurrent with Pentagon spending cuts and plurality support for additional cuts. It also accords with public reluctance to start or join new wars abroad. This reluctance does not mean that the public will continue to favor defense budget restraint, however.

Twice in the past 40 years public opinion on defense spending shifted swiftly and dramatically from favoring reduced spending to favoring more. The first period was 1978-1982. The second was 1998 to early 2000, as mentioned above. Comparing these pivot points with emerging conditions today suggests that the public may soon be amenable to a rebound in defense spending – not in order to enable more activism but, paradoxically, as an alternative to it.

Historical shifts in opinion on defense spending

The first transition period (1978-1982) covers most of the Carter administration years and the first two of the Reagan administration. The second (1998-early 2001) encompasses most of President Clinton’s second term and the first months of the Bush administration. Both periods were preceded by significant post-conflict reductions in defense spending. Both saw sharp spikes in public support for increased spending.

Five factors played a role in effecting change during both these periods:

 First, the standing president seemed weakened politically by domestic developments – Carter, by persistent stagflation and the energy crisis; Clinton, by the Lewinsky scandal and his subsequent impeachment (Dec 1998). And this generally weakened White House control of the policy narrative.

Second, shifts in opinion pivoted on hotly contested and partisan election campaigns during which Democrats felt pressed to protect their right flank.

Third, security policy debate became captivated by perceptions and assertions that the United States was failing to counter new challenges abroad.

Fourth, military leaders began to warn insistently of a putative “hollowing” of the armed forces (meaning a sharp decline in combat readiness). Allegations of a weakened military and reports of trouble abroad served as reciprocal “frames,” each reinforcing the other.

Fifth, bipartisan consensus appeared to take form among policy leaders in support of higher levels of defense spending, or greater assertiveness abroad, or both. As noted, bipartisan consensus can have a powerful effect on public opinion, as trusted leaders on all sides seem to point in the same direction.

The surge in support for defense spending was short-lived during both periods. As budgets rose and the presidency changed hands, the appearance of elite consensus evaporated and public opinion rapidly reverted to a “spend less” preference.[55] This was due partly to rising deficits and economic troubles, but also to dissatisfaction with changes in U.S. military posture.[56] The reversion in opinion did not soon curtail the rise in spending, however. During both periods, defense spending continued apace at exceptionally high levels for five or more years.

The Obama legacy: Forward to 2016

Since 2012, the factors associated with past rebounds in support for bigger defense budgets have again become prominent, beginning with a distinct decline in the President’s popularity.[57] The United States is again entering a period of intense electoral campaigning that will span 2014-2016. Democratic candidates will focus on protecting their right flanks, per usual. Already the leading Democratic contender for the presidency is positioning herself to the right of the Obama administration on foreign policy issues.[58] This will move media and expert discourse in a more hawkish direction.

Unlike his Democratic predecessors, President Obama has largely avoided a contentious relationship with military leaders by accommodating them on key issues – especially defense spending. Despite the nation’s economic and fiscal crisis, Obama’s first four Pentagon budgets provided total funding equal in real terms to that provided in Bush’s last four (approximately $2.8 trillion in each case). Although significant reductions began in Fiscal Year 2013, the President successfully cast these as due to Congressional gridlock and the Budget Control Act.[59] Pentagon leaders were free to pressure Congress to lift the limits on spending. In the meantime, the administration allowed the Pentagon to circumvent the full weight of sequestration in various ways.[60]

In defense strategy, Obama has gradually restored the neoliberal version of the primacist approach, charting a course part way between those of the Clinton and Bush administrations.[61] He has stepped away from large-scale protracted military deployments and instead put emphasis on lower-visibility strike operations and security force assistance. U.S. military activism is less intensive and focused today than during the Bush years, but more expansive.[62] Although the growing scope of activism runs counter to public preference, the light-footprint methods favored by the administration mitigates this tension.[63]

Locked in a box

While side-stepping many of the political difficulties faced by his Democratic predecessors, Obama’s defense policy has straight-jacketed public debate in several ways that limit the prospects for reform.

First, the President’s accommodation with the Pentagon on spending has created the appearance of bipartisan leadership accord on the need for baseline defense spending to significantly exceed one-half trillion dollars annually. For more than three years civilian and military leaders at the Pentagon have been adamant in warning that dipping below this amount by even as little as 5% might have catastrophic consequences.[64] This has primed policy discourse to respond to “hollow force” claims, which are now fully deployed.[65] And it has virtually ensured that Democratic and Republican candidates in 2016 will vie in bidding up Pentagon spending (as was the case in 2000).[66]

Obama’s perpetuation of the primacy strategy has also locked policy discourse in the neoliberal-neoconservative box. The primacy approach overvalues and overplays America’s “sole military superpower” status, seeing security problems everywhere as a challenge to U.S. leadership. It privileges military responses of one sort or another and focuses debate on the calibration of military action: What type? How much? How long?

Faced with difficult challenges – as in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine – the primacy approach favors escalation. And it legitimates charges of “weakness” should policymakers or the public seek more deliberate or restrained approaches. It is little surprise that Second World War issue frames are now fully in play – casting Assad and Putin as Hitler, warning against a replay of Munich-like appeasement, and tarring non-interventionary sentiment as “isolationist.”[67] “Hollow force” claims are also being linked by military leaders to instability abroad.[68]

Will the public turn?

Despite the hawkish turn in policy discourse, historical precedent suggests that Americans will not soon support a return to big protracted military operations abroad – and certainly not the commitment of large numbers of ground troops.[69] Public reluctance to take on major contingencies after Vietnam was not resolved until the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War – 15 years after the Vietnam exit. By contrast, a rebound in Pentagon spending could find public support as an acceptable assertion of strength. This, too, would accord with historical precedent.

Weighing against public acceptance of higher defense spending is America’s “new normal” economic circumstance. Although U.S. GDP is slowly recovering, the improvement in the economic circumstances of most Americans has lagged behind.[70] Still, median household income may reach its pre-recession levels by 2017, making a rise in defense spending more salable. Much depends on the degree of uniformity among opinion leaders in espousing hawkish and alarmist views on international events and U.S. national defenses.


A flexing of the Pentagon’s budget muscles will not redress the problems that vex U.S. security policy. Nor will it heal the recurring gap between official policy and majority opinion. Contrary to public preferences, increased Pentagon spending will enable increased military activism. It also will reduce the pressure on the Pentagon to reform how it uses it resources.

The current trend in official policy represents a missed opportunity. Economic and strategic realities both argue for a thorough reset of U.S. security policy, whose failures are manifest. Recent polling suggests that the American public is ready to consider change. And policy alternatives are available for consideration.[71] What is lacking is positive leadership.

Critical public debate can serve as a policy corrective, but the integrity of this process depends on discarding those metaphors and framing devices that appeal to public fear and uncertainty. This includes facile allusions to the threats and failures of the 1930s and 1940s: Hitler, Munich, and isolationism.[72] It also includes “hollow force” claims made on behalf of America’s half-trillion dollar military. Such allusions should uniformly face a long hard climb to credibility.


1. Recent concerns about isolationism:

          AFP, “Hagel warns Americans of the risks of isolationism,” 6 May 2014, available at

          Megan Thee-Brenan, "Poll Shows Isolationist Streak in Americans," New York Times, 1 May 2013, available at

          Joseph I. Lieberman and Jon Kyl, "The regrets of U.S. isolationism," Washington Post, 26 Apr 2013, available at

          Cathy Young, "The Problem With the New Isolationism," Time, 23 Apr 2014, available at

          Nicholas Burns, op-ed, "The new American isolationism; Support for our global role is eroding at a time when it's sorely needed," 30 Jan 2014, available at

          George F. Will, "When isolationism ruled," Washington Post, 22 Sep 2013, available at

          Bill Keller, op-ed, "Our New Isolationism," New York Times, 9 Sep 2013, available at

2. Polling data on U.S. military intervention in the Ukraine and Syria crises can be found at Syria-related polls are available at Ukraine-related polls are at Iraq- and ISIS-related polls are at

Additional polling data on Ukraine:

          Emily Ekins, “Poll: 58 Percent of Americans Want the U.S. to Stay Out of Ukraine,” Reason, 4 Apr 2014, available at

          Sarah Dutton, et. al., “Poll: Most say U.S. doesn't have a responsibility in Ukraine,” CBS News, 25 Mar 2014, available at

          Scott Wilson, "Obama, in Brussels speech, prods Europe to stand up to Russia, bolster NATO," Washington Post, 26 Mar 2014, available at

          Aaron Blake, “Few Americans want ‘firm stand' against Russia in Ukraine,” Washington Post, 11 Mar 2014, available at

          Pew Research Center, “Most Say U.S. Should `Not Get Too Involved' in Ukraine Situation; Reluctance Crosses Party Lines,” 11 Mar 2014, available at

Additional polling data on Syria:

          Adrian Croft, "Americans, Europeans oppose Syria intervention: poll," Reuters, 18 Sep 2013, available at

          Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, "Public Backs Diplomatic Approach in Syria, But Distrusts Syria and Russia," 16 Sep 2013, available at

          Pew Research Center, "Opposition to Syrian Airstrikes Surges," 9 Sep 2013, available at

          Andrew Dugan, “U.S. Support for Action in Syria Is Low vs. Past Conflicts; History shows though that support increase should conflict start,” Gallup, 6 Sep 2013, available at

          Steven Kull, "Framing of Syria issue key to public support," CNN, 6 Sep 2013, available at

          Max Fishe, "Syria intervention even less popular than Congress," Washington Post, 26 Aug 2013, available at

          Lesley Wroughton, "As Syria war escalates, Americans cool to U.S. intervention," Reuters, 24 Aug 2013, available at

          Pew Research Center, "Public Remains Opposed to Arming Syrian Rebels," 17 Jun 2013, available at

          Jeffrey M. Jones, “Americans Oppose U.S. Military Involvement in Syria,” Gallup, 31 May 2013, available at

3. Assertions that defense cuts threaten global stability:

          Loren Thompson, “Sequester's Legacy: How A Bad Budget Law Could Lose America's Next War,” Forbes, 2 Sep 2014, available at

          David Francis, “With ISIS Threat, Some in GOP Want Defense Cuts Repealed,” The Fiscal Times, 24 Aug 2014, available at

          Bill Gertz, "Dempsey: Threat of Conflict in Asia Increasing; U.S. Military decline hastens global instability," Washington Free Beacon, 5 Mar 2014, available at

          Drew MacKenzie and John Bachman, "Rumsfeld: U.S. Going Into Decline Due to 'Weakness' in Military,", 18 Feb 2014, available at

          Guy Taylor, "Kerry warns budget-cutters; Foreign role 'a necessity' for the U.S.," Washington Times, 21 Feb 2013, available at

          Armed Forces Journal International, "The pit and the pendulum: Civil-military relations in an age of austerity," 1 May 2013, available at

4. "Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham" translates as "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" with "Levant" referring to Greater Syria (encompassing present day Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, and parts of Turkey).

5. Recent polling on ISIS:

          Pew Research Center, "Bipartisan Support for Obama's Military Campaign Against ISIS," 15 Sep 2014, available at

          Mark Murray, "Large Majority of Americans Lack Confidence in Obama Mission to Destroy ISIS, Poll Shows," NBC News, 14 Sep 2014, available at

          Washington Post, "Public strongly backs airstrikes against Islamic State," 9 Sep 2014, available at

          Mark Preston, "CNN poll finds majority of Americans alarmed by ISIS," CNN, 8 Sep 2014, available at

6. Pentagon budget relief to fight ISIS?

          WJ Hennigan, “Airstrikes against Islamic State may put brake on military cuts,” Seattle Times, 14 Sep 2014, available at

          Jeremy Herb, “Lawmakers see budget opening in ISIL,” Politico, 12 Sep 2014, available at

          Eric Pianin and Rob Garver, “Battle Against ISIS Could Boost the Pentagon’s Budget,” Fiscal Times, 11 Sep 2014, available at

          Brendan McGarry, “Pentagon May Retool Budget for Iraq Airstrikes,” DoD Buzz, 22 Aug 2014, available at

7. Opinion surveys by the Washington Post and ABC (WP/ABC) show public support for air strikes on ISIS rising from 45% in June to 54% in August to 71% in early September. The August surge in opinion was propelled by attention to the humanitarian plight of Iraqi minorities fleeing ISIS, while the steep September spike was in response to the brutal execution of The September WP/ABC poll also shows 59% of respondents thinking that ISIS constitutes a “very serious” threat to U.S. vital interests. An early September poll by CNN essentially concurs, showing 76% support for air strikes and 45% of respondents believing that ISIS constitutes a very serious threat to the United States. See Washington Post, "Public strongly backs airstrikes against Islamic State," op. cit., available at; and, Mark Preston, "CNN poll finds majority of Americans alarmed by ISIS," op. cit., available at

8. Susan Page, “Poll: Grim assessment of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan,” USA Today, 31 Jan 2014, available at; and, Pew Research Center, “More Now See Failure than Success in Iraq, Afghanistan,” 30 Jan 2014, available at

9. Lydia Saad, "Half in U.S. Anticipate More Terrorism Soon," Gallup, 26 Apr 2013, available at; and, Institute for Economics & Peace, "2012 Global Terrorism Index, 2012," available at

10. The belief is not an irrational one. Deaths due to terrorism are today much more numerous worldwide than in the first years of the “global war on terrorism” and organizations employing terrorist methods are larger and more widespread. Mark Landler and Megan Thee-Brenan, "Survey Reveals Scant Backing for Syria Strike," New York Times, 9 Sep 2013, available at; Lydia Saad, "Half in U.S. Anticipate More Terrorism Soon," Gallup, 26 Apr 2013, available at; and, Institute for Economics & Peace, "2012 Global Terrorism Index, 2012," available at

11. Pew Center, “Bipartisan Support for Obama’s Military Campaign Against ISIS,” 15 Sep 2014, see figure “Impact of Military Action on Terrorism Risk in the U.S.” available at

12. William Galston, "The Economic Roots of American Retreat," Wall Street Journal, 18 Mar 2014, available at

13. The change in the public’s ranking of national priorities is apparent in the polling data compiled by in its section on “Problems and Priorities,” available at

14. U.S. economic conditions:

          Drew DeSilver, "At 42 months and counting, current job ‘recovery' is slowest since Truman was president,” Pew Research Center, 25 Sep 2013, available at

          The Economist, “Recessions compared,” 29 Jul 2011, available at

          Josh Bivens, Andrew Fieldhouse, and Heidi Shierholz, “From Free-fall to Stagnation,” Economic Policy Institute, 14 Feb 2013, available at

          Steven Mufson, "The dollar, less almighty: Big investors see possible long-term currency weakness," 21 Apr 2011, available at

          Michael Spence and Sandile Hlatshwayo, “The Evolving Structure of the American Economy and the Employment Challenge,” Council on Foreign Relations, Mar 2011, available at

15. Sebastián Laffaye, et. al., “Changes in the global economic power structure: towards a multipolar world?” Argentine Journal of International Economics, Feb 2013, available at; PricewaterhouseCoopers, “World in 2050: The BRICs and beyond – prospects, challenges and opportunities,” Jan 2013, available at; and, Uri Dadush and Bennett Stancil, “The World Order in 2050,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Apr 2010, available at

16. A “new normal” economy?

          Jared Bernstein, “Beware the New Normal,” New York Times, 23 Dec 2013, available at

          Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The U.S. economy to 2022: settling into a new normal,” Monthly Labor Review, Dec 2013, available at

          Paul Krugman, “A Permanent Slump?” New York Times, 17 Nov 2013, available at

          Mohamed A. El-Erian, "Ryan and the next 'new normal'," Washington Post, 13 Aug 2012, available at

          Paul Krugman, “Defining Prosperity Down,” New York Times, 2 Aug 2010, available at

          Mohamed El-Erian, “A New Normal,” Secular Outlook, May 2009, available at

17. U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements, Income,” Jun 2013, Table H-8, “Median Household Income by State: 1984 to 2012,” available at 

18. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “America's Place in the World 2013,” 3 Dec 2013, available at; Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment, 15 Sep 2014, available at; Chicago Council, "Foreign Policy in the New Millennium," 10 Sep 2012, available at; Chicago Council, "Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities," 16 Sep 2010, available at

19. Pew, “America's Place in the World 2013,” 3 Dec 2013, p. 5, available at

20. Pew, ibid., p. 20.

21. Michael Cohen, "America stands accused of retreat from its global duties. Nonsense," The Observer, 12 Apr 2014, available at

22. Central Intelligence Agency, "United States,” World Factbook, updated 20 Jun 2014, available at Also see, “Appendix B: International Organizations and Groups,” World Factbook, available at; U.S. Department of State, “Treaties in Force,” 1 Jan 2013, available at

23. Curt Tarnoff and Marian Leonardo Lawson, "Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs and Policy,” Congressional Research Service, 20 Apr 2012, available at

24. The United States is considered “involved” in a conflict if U.S. agencies are conducting combat or deterrence operations or if U.S. military personnel are providing vital operational or logistics support for allied state or non-state combatant or constabulary forces. The “more than 15 conflicts” include those in Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Korean peninsula, and Yemen as well as operations against Al-Qaida emulators and other militant groups that stretch across several central African countries. (President Obama’s 12 June 2014 War Powers memo mentions deployments to Niger, Chad, and Uganda.) The ongoing peace operations involving U.S. troops include KFOR (Kosovo) and MFO (Egypt).

          Barack Obama, “Letter from the President - War Powers Resolution,” 12 Jun 2014, available at

          Barbara Salazar Torreon, “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2013,” Congressional Research Service, 30 Aug 2013, available at

25. The 45 nations include 27 non-US members of NATO and 15 nations identified as a Major Non-NATO Ally in accord with Section 2350a(f)(2) of Title 10 of the U.S. Code: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. Several of these also enjoy mutual defense pacts with the United States: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, and South Korea. Three other nations enjoy exceptionally close, substantial, and long-standing military security relationships with the United States: Colombia, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. U.S. defense treaties are reviewed at U.S. Department of State, “U.S. Collective Defense Arrangements,”

The following resources give background on the broader range of security partnerships:

          Center for International Policy, Security Assistance Monitor, available at

          Kenneth Martin, Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management, "Fiscal Year 2013 Security Cooperation Legislation," The DISAM Annual, Aug 2013, available at

          U.S. Dept. of State, “Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest,” Annual Reports, available at

26. Quarterly data on the location of U.S. active-duty military personnel is available at Defense Manpower Data Center, “Active Duty Military Personnel by Service by Region/Country,” However, recent quarterly reports do not take accurate account of those personnel deployed in contingency operations, including those deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and South Korea. An accounting of troops deployed in South Korea is provided by Mark E. Manyin, et. al., "US-South Korea Relation," Congressional Research Service, 12 Feb 2014, available at Historical deployments for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are surveyed by Amy Belasco, “Troop Levels in the Afghan and Iraq Wars, FY2001-FY2012: Cost and Other Potential Issues,” Congressional Research Service, 2 Jul 2009, Estimate for non-US military deployments is derived from the country sections of International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2012 (London: IISS, 2012).

27. Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment, 15 Sep 2014, pp. 6-7, available at

28. Although a decline in cooperative spirit is apparent in the recent Pew Center poll, majorities still prefer international cooperation on a broad range of policy issues (PRC 2013, p. 21). The 2012 Chicago Council survey reviews the U.S. public’s preference for diplomatic approaches to conflict management across a variety of scenarios (CCGA 2012, pp. 20-24). The Council survey also finds the public to prefer that U.S. military interventions occur as part of a UN or allied operation, not unilaterally (CCGA, Figure 1.12, p. 19).

29. Chicago Council, 2012, op. cit., p. 11.

30. Pew Center, 2013, op. cit., p. 20.

31. Chicago Council, 2012, op. cit., p.17.

32. These conclusions are also generally supported by a survey of polling on the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War and the Somalia and Bosnia interventions. Andrew Kohut and Robert C. Toth, “Arms and the People,” Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 1994.

33. Chicago Council on Global Affairs, "Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities," 16 Sep 2010, available at

34. Pew Research Center, America's Place in the World 2009, 3 Dec 2009, p. 14, available at

35. Jim Lobe, "U.S. Public-Elite Disconnect Emerges Over Syria," Inter Press Service, 14 Sep 2013, available at; and, Benjamin H. Friedman, “Americans Are Less Hawkish than Their Leaders,” The Skeptics blog, National Interest, 15 May 2012, available at

36. Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, “Global Views 2004: American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy,” 2004, page 29, Figure 2-7, “Support for Use of Troops in Various Circumstances,” available at

37. An individual’s “strategic disposition” reflects values, perceived interests, available information, and beliefs about how the world works. Among policy experts these might be expressed in disciplined or formal international relations theories and strategies. Few among the general public would know or subscribe to these. Nonetheless, individuals’ opinions on foreign policy reflect coherent perspectives that are rooted in core beliefs and values. In this sense, individuals’ policy beliefs and opinions are “structured,” if not systematic. Moreover, there are rough analogs between formal and informal perspectives or dispositions.

          Dukhong Kim, “Beliefs in Foreign Policy Goals and American Citizens’ Support for Foreign Aid,” European Journal of Economic and Political Studies, (1) 2013, available at

          Matthew A. Baum and Henry R. Nau, “Foreign Policy Worldviews and U.S. Standing in the World,” prepared for the annual convention of the American Political Science Association, New Orleans, Louisiana, 30 Aug 2012, available at

          Benjamin I. Page, Robert Y. Shapiro, The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans' Policy Preferences (University of Chicago Press, 27 May 2010).

          Ole R. Holsti, “The Three-Headed Eagle: The United States and System Change,” in Holsti, Making American Foreign Policy (New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2006), Chapter 5, pp. 89-105.

          Alvin Richman, Eloise Malone and David B. Nolle, “Testing Foreign Policy Belief Structures of the American Public in the Post-Cold War Period,” Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 4, Dec 1997.

          Jerel Rosati and John Creed, “Extending the Three- and Four-Headed Eagles: The Foreign Policy Orientations of American Elites during the 80s and 90s,” Political Psychology, Vol. 18, No. 3, Sep 1997.

          Stanley Feldman, “Structure and Consistency in Public Opinion: the Role of Core Beliefs and Values,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32, No. 2, May 1988.

          Jon Hurwitz and Mark Peffley, “How Are Foreign Policy Attitudes Structured? A Hierarchical Model,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 81, No. 4, Dec 1987.

          Eugene R. Wittkopf, "On the Foreign Policy Beliefs of the American People: A Critique and Some Evidence," International Studies Quarterly, Dec 1986.

38. The United States gained a position of global primacy as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union and eastern bloc during the period 1989-1992. Sustaining primacy has been central to U.S. security strategy since the mid-1990s. Military primacy is just an enabler, however. The more fundamental challenge, as Richard Haass wrote in 1999, “is what to do with a surplus of power and the many and considerable advantages this surplus confers on the United States.”

          John A. Gans Jr., “American Exceptionalism and the Politics of Foreign Policy,” The Atlantic, Nov 2011, available at

          Robert Jervis, “The Remaking of a Unipolar World,” Washington Quarterly, Summer 2006.

          Mackubin T. Owens, “America’s Role in the World: Republican Empire and the Bush Doctrine,” Ashbrook Center, Ashland University, Apr 2006, available at

          Michael Mandelbaum, The Case For Goliath: How America Acts As The World's Government in the Twenty-first Century (New York City: Public Affairs, 2005).

          Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, “American Empire, Not 'If' but 'What Kind',” New York Times, 10 May 2003, available at

          Thomas Donnelly, “What's Next? Preserving American Primacy, Institutionalizing Unipolarity,” American Enterprise Institute, May 2003, available at

          Stephen Peter Rosen, “An empire, if you can keep it,” National Interest, Spring 2003, available at

          Max Boot, “America's Destiny Is to Police the World,” Financial Times, 19 Feb 2003, available at

           Josef Joffe, “Clinton’s World: Purpose, Policy, and Weltanschauung,” Washington Quarterly, Winter 2001.

          Richard N. Haass, “What to do with American Primacy,” Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct 1999, available at

          Robert Kagan, "Benevolent Empire," Foreign Policy, Summer 1998, available at

          Steven Erlanger, "Albright Sees an Ambitious World Mission for United States," New York Times, 6 Jun 1997, available at

          Ronald Steel, Temptations of a Superpower (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, Mar 1996).

39. Although the neoliberal and neoconservative variants of Primacy thinking diverge over how U.S. military dominance is best exercised, they share a fundamental premise: The national security of the United States requires that America act as the world’s leading power and that it maintain and exercise global military primacy.

          Barry R. Posen, "Stability and Change in U.S. Grand Strategy," Orbis, Fall 2007, available at

          Barry Posen and Andrew Ross, "Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy," International Security, Winter 1996/1997, available at:

          Barry Posen, "Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony," International Security, Summer 2003, available at

The contours, costs, and problems of the Primacy strategy are explored in:

          John J. Mearsheimer, “America Unhinged,” National Interest, 2 Jan 2014, available at

          Daniel W. Drezner, "Military Primacy Doesn't Pay (Nearly As Much As You Think)," International Security, Summer 2013.

          Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (New York: Oxford University Press, Apr 2013).

          Melvin Goodman, National Insecurity: the Cost of American Militarism (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 5 Mar 2013).

          Carl Conetta, “Going for Broke: The Budgetary Consequences of Current U.S. Defense Strategy,” Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #52, 25 Oct 2011, available at

          Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (New York Metropolitan Books, Mar 2011).

          David S. Mcdonough, “Beyond Primacy: Hegemony and ‘Security Addiction’ in U.S. Grand Strategy,” Orbis, Jan 2009.

          Carl Conetta, “Dissuading China and Fighting the ‘Long War’,” World Policy Journal, Jun 2006, available at

          Matthew J. Morgan, “American Empire and the American Military,” Armed Forces & Society, Jan 2006.

40. Post-cold war U.S. norms governing the use of force:

          John F. Troxell, “Military Power and the Use of Force,” chapter 17 in J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr., ed., U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Policy and Strategy (Carlisle PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 4th Edition, Jun 2012). See especially Figure 17-4. “Guidelines for the Use of Force,” p. 227. Available at

          Trevor McCrisken, “Ten years on: Obama’s war on terrorism in rhetoric and practice,” International Affairs, Jul 2011, available at

          Michael Hirsh, “Defining Down War: Obama is already adept at going to war without saying so, but the team of Panetta and Petraeus is likely to turn this age-old deception into an art form,” National Journal, 1 Jul 2011, available at

          Peter Feaver, “Obama’s National Security Strategy: real change or just ‘Bush Lite?',” Shadow Government blog, Foreign Policy, 27 May 2010, available at

          Harry van der Linden, “Barack Obama, Resort to Force, and U.S. Military Hegemony,” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 23:1, Spring 2009, available at

          Carl Conetta, “Forceful Engagement: Rethinking the Role of Military Power in U.S. Global Policy,” Project on Defense Alternatives, Dec 2008, available at

          Allen S. Weiner, “The Use of Force and Contemporary Security Threats: Old Medicine for New Ills?” Stanford Law Review, Nov 2006, available at

          Mel Goodman, “The Militarization of U.S. Foreign Policy,” Foreign Policy in Focus, 30 Sep 2005, available at

          Jonathan Kirshner, et. al., “Iraq and Beyond: The New U.S. National Security Strategy,” Occasional Paper #27, Cornell University, Peace Studies Program, Jan 2003, available at

          Jim Mokhiber, "The Uses of Military Force," Give War a Chance, PBS Frontline, 11 May 1999, available at

          Foreign Affairs, Editors Note, “Springtime for Interventionism,” Nov/Dec 1994.

41. Elite and media influence on public opinion:

          Tim Groeling and Matthew A. Baum, “Crossing the Water's Edge: Elite Rhetoric, Media Coverage, and the Rally-Round-the-Flag Phenomenon,” The Journal of Politics, Oct 2008.

          David Barstow, “Message Machine: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand,” New York Times, 20 Apr 2008, available at

          Adam J. Berinsky, “Assuming the Costs of War: Events, Elites, and American Public Support for Military Conflict,” Journal of Politics, Nov 2007, available at

          Chaim Kaufmann, “Threat Inflation and the Failure of the Marketplace of Ideas: The Selling of the Iraq War,” International Security, Summer 2004, available at

          Robert M. Entman, Projections of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2004).

          Stuart N. Soroka, “Media, Public Opinion, and Foreign Policy,” Press/Politics 8(1), Winter 2003, available at

          Philip J. Powlick and Andrew Z. Katz, "Defining the American Public Opinion/Foreign Policy Nexus," Mershon International Studies Review, May 1998.

          Larry M. Bartels, “Politicians and the Press: Who Leads, Who Follows?” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, Sep 1996, available at

          Robert Entman, “How the Media Affects What People Think: An Information Processing Approach,” The Journal of Politics, May 1989.

          Benjamin I. Page, Robert Y. Shapiro and Glenn R. Dempsey, “What Moves Public Opinion?” The American Political Science Review, Vol. 81, No. 1, Mar 1987.

42. James Golby, Kyle Dropp, Peter Feaver, “Listening to the Generals: How Military Advice Affects Public Support for the Use of Force,” Center for a New American Security, 4 Apr 2013, available at

43. People use heuristics to interpret new events and policy choices. Framing is a method for pre-loading information with a preferred heuristic. Frames evoke standard responses by associating one event or policy with another more evocative one. If successful, the association sets the terms of public discussion in ways that privilege one type of response over another. Metaphors that appeal to fear or uncertainty can be especially effective in fixating discourse. An effective message frame poses a dilemma for those who may want to directly challenge it because doing so keeps discourse centered on the frame.

          A. Trevor Thrall and Jane K. Cramer, eds., American Foreign Policy and The Politics of Fear: Threat Inflation since 9/11 (New York: Routledge, 10 Jun 2009).

          Ronald R. Krebs and Jennifer K. Lobasz, “Fixing the Meaning of 9/11: Hegemony, Coercion, and the Road to War in Iraq,” Security Studies, Aug 2007.

          Dennis Chong & James N. Druckman, “A Theory of Framing and Opinion Formation in Competitive Elite Environments,” Journal of Communication, Mar 2007, available at

          Stephen D. Reese, “Framing public life: A bridging model for media research” in Reese, et. al., Framing Public Life: Perspectives on Media and our Understanding of the Social World (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001), available at

          Vincent Price, David Tewksbury, and Elizabeth Powers, “Switching Trains of Thought: The Impact of News Frames on Readers' Cognitive Responses,” Communication Research, Oct 1997.

          Robert M. Entman, “Framing: Towards Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm,” Journal of Communication, Dec 1993.

44. Metaphor as a framing device; The uses of Second World War analogies

          Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "On the Use and Abuse of Munich," New Republic, 3 Dec 2013, available at

          Victor Ottati, et. al., "The Metaphorical Framing Model: Political Communication and Public Opinion" in Mark J. Landau, et. al., eds., The Power of Metaphor: Examining Its Influence on Social Life (Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 15 Nov 2013). Pre-publication version available at

          Fredrik Logevall and Kenneth Osgood, "The Ghost of Munich: America's Appeasement Complex," World Affairs, Jul/Aug 2010, available at

          Robert Dallek, "The Tyranny of Metaphor," Foreign Policy, 12 Oct 2010, available at

          Nehemia Geva and Douglas W. Kuberski, "Effects of Historical Analogies on Foreign Policy Decision Processes," paper prepared for the 64th Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois, 20-23 Apr 2006, available at

          Jeffrey Record, "Appeasement Reconsidered: Investigating the Mythology of the 1930s," U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, Aug 2005, available at

          Jeffrey Record, "Perils Of Reasoning By Historical Analogy: Munich, Vietnam, And American Use Of Force Since 1945," Occasional Paper No. 4, Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College, Air University, Mar 1998, available at

45. World Bank, “Military expenditure (% of GDP),” accessed 1 Jul 2014, available at

46. Gallup, “Military and National Defense polls,” Feb 2014, available at

47. Gallup polls have been supplemented by other sources for the mid-1970s and mid-1990s. These other sources include Pew Research Center, Time/CNN-Yankelovich Partners, and the General Social Survey (National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago). They are available by subscription at Polling the Nations,

48. Gallup, “Military and National Defense” polls, op. cit. See polling results for:

          “Do you think the United States is number one in the world militarily, or that it is one of several leading military powers?”

          “Do you feel that it's important for the United States to be number one in the world militarily, or that being number one is not that important, as long as the U.S. is among the leading military powers?"

Also see, Pew Center, “Public Sees U.S. Power Declining as Support for Global Engagement Slips,” 3 Dec 2013, available at; Pew Center, “America's Place in the World 2013,” op. cit., pp. 11 and 22; Chicago Council, "Foreign Policy in the New Millennium," op. cit., p. 16; Chicago Council, "Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities," op. cit., p. 15; and, Pew Research Center, “America's Place in the World 2009,” op. cit., pp. 3 and 17.

49. Program for Public Consultation, "Majority of Americans Willing to Make Defense Cuts," 10 May 2012, available at

50. Steven Kull, “Americans on Defense Spending - A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes: Report of Findings,” Program on Intl Policy Attitudes, 19 Jan 1996, available at

51. Joshua D. Kertzer, “Making Sense of Isolationism: Foreign Policy Mood as a Multilevel Phenomenon,” The Journal of Politics, Jan 2013; and, Steven Kull, “Does the public favor defense budget cuts?” Center for Public Integrity, 26 Jan 2012, available at; Steven Kull, “Americans on Defense Spending ,” ibid.

52. “Hollow force” properly refers to a condition in which a military is substantially less capable than its apparent size and equipment level suggests. This is a condition worthy of grave concern. It is a precursor to military disaster, possibly with strategic consequences – as the Iraqi military has recently illustrated. Of course, armed forces routinely suffer less serious deficits in readiness and sustainability. There is a great and consequential difference between “hollow” and “less than perfect” or “less than desired” – a difference obscured by facile references to “hollow forces.”

At any rate, the "hollow force" construct is a slippery one. Measures of military readiness are partly subjective. Readiness itself is not simply a function of funding or resources. Military planners can allocate resources in ways that short-change readiness. And how readiness is judged depends partly on wartime deployment plans, which can be more or less ambitious. Notably, the military readiness problems during both the Carter and Clinton terms had more to do with how the Pentagon managed its resources than with budget shortages.

          Frank L. Jones, "A ‘Hollow Army' Reappraised: President Carter, Defense Budgets, and the Politics of Military Readiness," Letort Paper, Strategic Studies Institute, Oct 2012, available at

          Andrew Feickert and Stephen Daggett, "A Historical Perspective on ‘Hollow Forces’," Congressional Research Service, 31 Jan 2012, available at

          Lawrence J. Korb, "Are U.S. Forces Unprepared and Underfunded?" Naval War College Review, Spring 2002, available at

          Carl Conetta and Charles Knight, “The Readiness Crisis of the U.S. Air Force: A Review and Diagnosis,” PDA Briefing Report #10, 22 Apr 1999, available at

          James Kitfield, "The Myth of the Hollow Force," Government Executive, 14 Dec 1998, available at

          Congressional Budget Office, "Paying for Military Readiness and Upkeep: Trends in Operation and Maintenance Spending," CBO Reports, Sep 1997, available at

          Richard K. Betts, Military Readiness: Concepts, Choices, Consequences (Washington DC: Brookings Institution, Mar 1995).

          William W. Kaufmann, "Hollow Forces? Current Issues of U.S. Military Readiness and Effectiveness," Brookings Review, 22 Sep 1994.

          Congressional Budget Office, "Trends in Selected Indicators Of Military Readiness, 1980 Through 1993," CBO Papers, Mar 1994, available at

53. Adam J. Berinsky, “Assuming the Costs of War: Events, Elites, and American Public Support for Military Conflict,” Journal of Politics, Nov 2007, available at

54. Gallup, “Military and National Defense” polls, op. cit. See polling results for:

          “Next we'd like to know how you feel about the state of the nation in each of the following areas. For each one, please say whether you are very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied. If you don't have enough information about a particular subject to rate it, just say so. How about the nation's military strength and preparedness?"

          “Do you, yourself feel that our national defense is stronger now than it needs to be, not strong enough, or about right at the present time?”

55. During the Reagan years, “spend less” sentiment out-polled “spend more” beginning in 1982. During the GW Bush presidency, “spend less” sentiment out-polled “spend more” beginning in Feb 2003.

56. By late 1982, public sentiment on spending had returned to Vietnam syndrome levels and Reagan's popularity rating had dropped from 51% to 43%. The Republicans lost 26 House seats in the 1982 mid-term election.

          Daniel Yankelovich and John Doble, "Nuclear Weapons and the USSR: The Public Mood,” Foreign Affairs, Fall 1984.

          David Shribman, "Foreign Policy Costing Reagan Public Support," New York Times, 30 Sep 1983, available at

          Steven R. Weisman, "Aides Fear Reagan's Peaceful Image Is in Peril," New York Times, 6 Apr 1983, available at

          Adam Clymer, "Reagan Evoking Rising Concern, New Poll Shows,” New York Times, 19 Mar 1982, available at

57. See at

58. Michael Hirsh, "Hillary Clinton Steps Away From Obama on Foreign Policy," National Journal, 17 Mar 2014, available at

59. Meghashyam Mali, “Poll: Public would blame GOP more than Obama if fiscal talks fail,” The Hill, 26 Nov 2012, available at; and, Reid J. Epstein, “Obama to troops: We're stronger, Defense cuts not my fault,” Politico, 31 Aug 2012, available at

60. To ease the impact of budget caps and sequestration the administration allowed the migration of costs from the base DoD budget to the Overseas Contingency account, which was not capped by the BCA. And in 2014, the President proposed an “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative” that, if offset by tax increases and mandatory spending cuts, would give the Pentagon an additional $26 billion for the year.

See: William Hartung, "Get Rid of the Pentagon's Slush Fund," Huffington Post, 31 Mar 2014, available at; and, Michael Bruno, "Pentagon Budget Request Seeks Capability Over Capacity," Aviation Week, 4 Mar 2014, available at

61. The neoliberal practice of primacy in the Obama administration:

          Mark Landler, “Obama Signals a Shift From Military Might to Diplomacy,” New York Times, 25 Nov 2013, available at:

          Michèle Flournoy and Janine Davidson, “Obama's New Global Posture: The Logic of U.S. Foreign Deployments,” Foreign Affairs, Jul/Aug 2012.

          Richard L. Kugler and Linton Wells II, Strategic Shift: Appraising Recent Changes in U.S. Defense Plans and Priorities (Washington DC: Center for Technology and National Security Policy, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, Jun 2013), available at

          David Rohde, “The Obama Doctrine: How the president's drone war is backfiring,” Foreign Policy, 27 Feb 2012, available at

          Michael Hirsh, “Defining Down War,” op. cit., available at

          Trevor McCrisken, “Ten years on: Obama’s war on terrorism in rhetoric and practice,” op. cit., available at

          Peter Feaver, “Obama’s National Security Strategy: real change or just ‘Bush Lite?',” op. cit., available at

62. President Obama has substantially increased reliance on drone strikes, conducting over 400 since he took office. He has increased military attention to nations other than Afghanistan and Iraq, including Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somali, and several other African nations. The deployment of special operations forces has expanded significantly as have the number of security cooperation arrangements, which now involve more than 150 nations. The administration’s “Asia pivot” – better described as part of an Asia-Africa “spread” – signals a more consistent and energetic effort to counter-balance and contain Chinese power. Something similar now seems on the agenda for Russia.

          James Kennedy, “U.S. Foreign Assistance: More Guns than Butter,” Foreign Policy in Focus, 4 Mar 2014, available at

          Nick Turse, “America’s Secret War in 134 Countries,” Huffington Post, 16 Jan 2014, available at

          Linda Robinson, “The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces,” Council Special Report No. 66, Council on Foreign Relations, Apr 2013, available at

          Thomas K. Livingston, “Building the Capacity of Partner States Through Security Force Assistance,” Congressional Research Service, 5 May 2011, available at

          Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, “U.S. 'secret war' expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role,” Washington Post, 4 Jun 2010, available at

63. U.S. public opinion regarding armed drone use overseas:

          New York Times, “Americans' Views on the Issues,” 6 Jun 2013, available at

          NBC News, “Poll finds overwhelming support for drone strikes,” 5 Jun 2013, available at

          Bruce Drake, “Obama and drone strikes: Support but questions at home, opposition abroad,” Pew Research Center, 24 May 2013, available at

          Chris Cillizza, “The American public loves drones,” Washington Post, 6 Feb 2013, available at

          Pew, “America's Place in the World 2013,” 3 Dec 2012, op. cit., p. 31.

64. Pentagon leaders resist budget rollback:

          Agence France-Presse, "Pentagon Chief Sounds Alarm Over U.S. Budget Cuts," 17 Nov 2013, available at

          Amanda Terkel, “Sequestration May Mean More Military Casualties, Army Chief Of Staff Says,” Huffington Post, 29 Jul 2013, available at

          David Francis, "The Pentagon Cries Wolf on Sequestration Pains," The Fiscal Times, 3 May 2013, available at

          Nick Simeone, "Navy, Marine Corps Leadership Warn About Sequester," American Forces Press Service, 16 Apr 2013, available at

          Michael Cohen, “America's military can handle anything ... except a budget cut,” Guardian, 20 Feb 2013, available at

          Claudette Roulo, "Chairman Outlines Sequestration's Dangers," American Forces Press Service, 13 Feb 2013, available at

          Callum Borchers, “Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warns against ‘disastrous’ spending cuts,” Boston Globe, 27 May 2012, available at

          Tim Mak and Charles Hoskinson, “Leon Panetta paints doomsday scenario,” Politico, 15 Nov 2011, available at

          Carlo Munoz, "Services On Empty, Can't Take More Cuts: Vice Chiefs," AOL Defense, 26 Jul 2011, available at

          David S. Cloud, "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warns against defense cuts," Los Angeles Times, 4 Aug 2011, available at

          General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, "The Future of the Military Services and Consequences of Defense Sequestration," testimony before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives, 2 Nov 2011, available at

65. Recent assertions of “hollow force” dangers:

          Loren Thompson, “Sequester's Legacy: How A Bad Budget Law Could Lose America's Next War,” Forbes, 2 Sep 2014, available at

          Bill Gertz, “Defense Panel: Obama Administration Defense Strategy ‘Dangerously’ Underfunded,” Washington Free Beacon, 31 Jul 2014, available at

          Sara Scorcher, "Security Insiders: Defense Budget Cuts Put the Military on a Dangerous Course," National Journal, 7 Apr 2014, available at

          Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “Gen. Amos: Marines Can’t Fight Major War If Sequestered; Navy Short Carriers Too,” Breaking Defense, 16 Apr 2013, available at

          Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., “Kendall: Sequestration Will Make Hollow Force Inevitable,” American Forces Press Service, 7 Nov 2013, available at

          Lance Bacon, “Current funding makes hollow force 'inevitable,' 3-star says,” Army Times, 9 Oct 2013, available at

          James Jay Carafano, “Omens of a Hollow Military,” National Interest, 4 Sep 2013, available at

          Sam Fellman, “U.S. Navy Secretary: 'Hollow' Force Coming If Sequestration Goes Unchecked,” Defense News, 11 Sep 2013, available at

          Jeremy Herb, "Joint Chiefs warn budget issues could create `hollow force'," The Hill, 16 Jan 2013, available at

66. Judging from recent White House and Republican proposals for Pentagon spending, Presidential candidates in 2016 will probably advocate future baseline Pentagon budgets exceeding $600 billion (then-year dollars). This would represent a greater than 12% real increase over current levels and a budget 50% larger than in 2000-2001. Of course, a boost in spending assumes lower federal deficits than today and modification of the BCA – both of which are likely.

67. Second World War tropes in discourse on Syria and Ukraine:

          Rep. Trent Franks, “Prince Charles is right: Similarities between Putin and Hitler are uncanny,”, 23 May 2014, available at

          Michael B Kelley, “12 Prominent People Who Compared Putin To Hitler Circa 1938,” Business Insider, 22 May 2014, available at

          Paul Johnson, “Is Vladimir Putin Another Adolf Hitler?” Forbes, 5 May 2014, available at

          Walter Russell Mead, “Putin: The Mask Comes Off, But Will Anybody Care?” The American Interest, 15 Mar 2014, available at

          Michael Goodwin, “Obama has his Munich moment with Putin and Crimea,” NY Post, 15 Mar 2014, available at

          Philip Rucker, “Hillary Clinton says Putin’s actions are like ‘what Hitler did back in the ’30s’,” Washington Post, 5 Mar 2014, available at

          Andrew Kirell, “Harry Reid Likens Assad to Hitler,” Media-ite, 9 Sep 2013, available at

          BBC, “Syria: 'This is our Munich moment', says John Kerry,” 7 Sep 2013, available at

          Bruce Golding, “Assad is like Hitler: Kerry,” New York Post, 2 Sep 2013, available at

          Michael Hirsh, “On the Verge of Appeasement in Syria,” National Journal, 1 Sep 2013, available at

68. “Hollow force” tropes and global instability:

          Loren Thompson, “Sequester's Legacy: How A Bad Budget Law Could Lose America's Next War,” Forbes, 2 Sep 2014, available at

          David Francis, “With ISIS Threat, Some in GOP Want Defense Cuts Repealed,” The Fiscal Times, 24 Aug 2014, available at

          Bill Gertz, "Dempsey: Threat of Conflict in Asia Increasing; U.S. Military decline hastens global instability," Washington Free Beacon, 5 Mar 2014, available at

          Drew MacKenzie and John Bachman, "Rumsfeld: U.S. Going Into Decline Due to 'Weakness' in Military,", 18 Feb 2014, available at

          Armed Forces Journal International, "The pit and the pendulum: Civil-military relations in an age of austerity," 1 May 2013, available at

69. The American public supports diplomatic measures (including sanctions) with regard to the Syrian and Ukrainian civil conflicts, but not direct military action or assistance. With regard to the advance of ISIS, a strong majority has supported limited air strikes – with a view to preventing ethnic cleansing and retaliating for attacks on Americans – while strong majorities oppose sending ground troops in either a combat or support role. Regarding defense spending, the balance between those who want less spending and those who support more has changed marginally since 2012: from 41% vs 24% to 37% vs 27%. Peter Moore, “Bipartisan support for Iraq air strikes,” Economist/YouGov, 12 August 2014, available at:

70. In real terms, U.S. median household income remains 6% below the pre-recession level, which itself was no higher than in 2000. By contrast, even under full sequestration, the Pentagon budget would be 14% above its 2000 level in real terms. On current economic conditions and the pace of recovery, see:

          Tom Raum, “White House: Jobless Rate Won't Fall To Pre-Recession Levels Until 2017,” Associated Press, 4 Mar 2014, available at

          Econintersect Newsletter, "Median Household Income Again Statistically Unchanged in Dec 2013," 24 Jan 2014, available at

          Robert Pear, “Median Income Rises, but Is Still 6% Below Level at Start of Recession in '07,” New York Times, 21 Aug 2013, available at

          Alfred Gottschalck, Marina Vornovytskyy, and Adam Smith, "Household Wealth and Debt in the USA: 2000 to 2011," Random Samplings, Official Blog of the U.S. Census Bureau, 21 Mar 2013, available at

          Tom Raum, "White House: Jobless Rate Won't Fall To Pre-Recession Levels Until 2017," Associated Press, 4 Mar 2014, available at

          Annie Lowrey, "Household Incomes Remain Flat Despite Improving Economy,” New York Times, 17 Sep 2013, available at

          Neil Irwin, "The typical American family makes less than it did in 1989," 17 Sep 2013, available at

          Peter Coy, "American Families Are Poorer Than in 1989," 12 Jun 2012, available at

          David Sicilia, “A brief history of U.S. unemployment,” Washington Post, 4 Nov 2011, available at

71. Alternative security strategies and defense postures:

          Barry Posen, "A New U.S. Grand Strategy," Boston Review, 1 Jul 2014, available at

          Barry Posen, Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 24 Jun 2014).

          Patrick C. Doherty, "A New U.S. Grand Strategy," New America Foundation, 9 Jan 2013, available at

          Carl Conetta, “Reasonable Defense. A Sustainable Approach to Securing the Nation,” Project on Defense Alternatives. 1 Dec 2012, available at

          Lawrence Korb and Miriam Pemberton, "Rebalancing Our National Security: The Benefits of Implementing a Unified Security Budget," Institute for Policy Studies and Center for American Progress, 31 Oct 2012, available at

          Alex Rothman and Lawrence J. Korb, "Defense in an Age of Austerity," Center for American Progress, 6 Jan 2012, available at

          Richard N. Haass, “The Restoration Doctrine,” The American Interest, 9 Dec 2011, available at

          Richard N. Haass, "Bringing Our Foreign Policy Home," Time Magazine, 8 Aug 2011, available at

          Wayne Porter and Mark Mykleby, "A National Strategic Narrative," Woodrow Wilson Center, 8 Apr 2011, available at

          Leslie H. Gelb, “GDP Now Matters More Than Force: A U.S. Foreign Policy for the Age of Economic Power,” Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec2010, available at

          Benjamin H. Friedman and Christopher Preble, “Budgetary Savings from Military Restraint,” Cato Institute, Policy Analysis #667, 23 Sep 2010, available at

          Gregory D. Foster, "Transforming U.S. National Security: A Call for Strategic Idealism," Defense & Security Analysis, Jun 2010.

          John Tirman and Nick Bromell, "The New Globalism: A Vision for America's Role in the World," AlterNet, 10 Dec 2008, available at

          Barry R. Posen, "The Case for Restraint," American Interest, 1 Nov 2007, available at

          John Feffer, et. al., "Just Security: An Alternative Foreign Policy Framework," Foreign Policy in Focus and Institute for Policy Studies, Jun 2007, available at

          Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers and John Sloboda, "Global Responses to Global Threats Sustainable Security for the 21st Century," Oxford Research Group, Jun 2006, available at

          Edward Haley, “A Defensive Grand Strategy for the United States,” Armed Forces & Society, Spring 2004.

          Stephen M. Walt, “Beyond bin Laden: Reshaping U.S. Foreign Policy,” International Security, Winter 2001/02.

72. Tom Shachtman, "It's Time to Abandon 'Munich;' After 75 years, foreign policy's uber-analogy needs to go," Foreign Policy, 29 Sep 2013, available at; and, Justin Logan, "It's Past Time to Bury the Hitler Analogy,” American Prospect, 6 Nov 2007, available at

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