However, by adopting a more restrained approach, the United States can encourage its allies to adopt more sensible policies towards their neighbors. Threatening to remove U.S. backing can force countries to act more sensibly, as the 1956 Suez Crisis demonstrates. Washington refused to join the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt to prevent the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Instead, President Dwight D. Eisenhower used financial and diplomatic pressure to force all parties to accept a UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai Peninsula, averting a potential land war between NATO and Soviet-backed powers.
The historical record shows that, paradoxically, the United States can play the strongest leadership role in the world when it acts with restraint, carefully weighing every use of U.S. power rather than writing blank checks for local allies. Indeed, these blank checks hurt not only America but also U.S. allies, encouraging them to act rashly without thinking of potential consequences. John Quincy Adams famously cautioned Americans against going “abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” and this warning is especially true when such monsters are conjured up by local regimes looking to become Washington’s favorites.
Matthew Petti is a student at Columbia University.
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump (C) looks on as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef (R) exchange a memorandum of understanding, a commitment by the Gulf states not to finance militant organizations, at the Gulf Cooperation Council leaders summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.