For most of the Cold War and through the fall of the Soviet Union, America was concerned about the growth of a national security state needed to deter Soviet aggression and fight wars on the edges of that confrontation.
When the cost and tension of the obligations got high enough, such as during the Vietnam conflict, the dominant viewpoint became America should not and cannot afford to be the world’s policeman.
But today, we have become the world’s policeman, not just for state-sponsored threats, for which we man aircraft carriers, such as the John C. Stennis, but for non-state terrorist aggression for which we maintain thousands of super trained counter-terrorism troops armed with drones.
Both the military and CIA now have significant forces and weapon systems under their control for the purpose of hunting down and killing individuals in battle zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in a dozen or more countries that are considered terrorist havens, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Syria.
Although the current budget crisis will reduce even Pentagon budgets, the likelihood the scope of the new mission will be reduced is unlikely unless we are truly broke or if the trade-off is one-for-one reductions in social security payments.
The American people really haven’t weighed in, although the general sense is both parties have major, if not majority, views that America should reduce its foreign operations footprint, now expressed by politicians as wanting to avoid nation-building.
A few facts about American foreign policy and public opinion today: Obama does much better in his foreign policy votes than domestic or economic policy. Nearly two-thirds (62%) approve of his performance in fighting terrorism (barely one-third approve of his job on the economy).
The latest Gallup poll indicates Americans feel both less threatened by a likely terrorist act (they are only 38% “very” or “somewhat” likely to believe terrorist acts in near future on U.S. soil), but also less confident the government could actually stop a future act (only 22% have “great deal of confidence”).
And finally, Americans are skeptical that all the effort and money is winning the war against terrorism. The largest percentage (46%) believe neither side is winning the war; i.e., terrorists vs. the U.S. and its allies.
Washington Post: National security emerges as Obama strong point
Gallup Poll: Tens years in, many doubt U.S. is winning war on terrorism