I approached the end of an interview with Michael Doran that explored in detail America’s place in the world, the former high-ranking defence official in the George W. Bush Administration, now a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, wondered aloud whether he was ‘living in 1927 or in 1977.’ It was a playful question that illustrated the historic tendency of US foreign policy to slide from one extremity to the other over a relatively short space of time.
At the end of the 1920s, Doran explained, with memories of the First World War still fresh, America was inward-looking and distrustful of foreign engagements. Nonetheless, a little over a decade later, the US was fighting Axis forces in Europe, Asia and Africa in the war against fascism.
Similarly, at the end of the 1970s, America’s foreign policy mood was haunted by the withdrawal from Vietnam. But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US Embassy hostage crisis in Iran, and the election of Ronald Reagan all contributed to a renewed American assertiveness in world affairs and, ultimately, the collapse of the Communist Bloc.
‘In both those decades, one or two slaps in the face and we were back out in the world,’ Doran said, as he surveyed the deeper implications of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. ‘Maybe that’s the kind of situation we’re in again. Or maybe we are looking at something much more structural, a situation in which we really pull back.’ READ MORE.