(National Interest) -- America’s major alliances date back six to seven decades. Washington has been protecting Europe, Japan and South Korea for longer than most Americans have been alive.
The original justification for this expensive global role was the Evil Empire, as President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union. Aggressive communism had to be contained, and America’s allies were in various degrees of prostration at the end of World War II and the Korean War. For a short moment of history the U.S. had to take on a unique and oversized international role to preserve the “free world.”
But that moment passed long ago—actually, even before the end of the Cold War. By the 1960s most of Washington’s Asian and European allies had recovered economically. With serious effort—which one would expect from nations facing serious, even existential security threats—they were capable of at least matching their potential antagonists. As the world moved into the 1980s it was evident that only their own lethargy and stinginess prevented America’s friends from taking over most, if not full, responsibility for their own security.
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