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80 Foreign Aff. 46 (2001)
Future of the American Pacifer, The

handle is hein.journals/fora80 and id is 814 raw text is: The Future of the
American Pacifier
7ohn 7. Mearsheimer
PASSING THE BUCK
THE CENTRAL AIM ofAmerican foreign policy has traditionally been
to dominate the western hemisphere while not permitting another
great power to dominate Europe or Northeast Asia. The United States
has not wanted a peer competitor. In the wake of the Cold War, U.S.
policymakers remain firmly committed to this goal. An important
Pentagon planning document stated in 1992, Our first objective is to
prevent the reemergence of a new rival ... that poses a threat on the
order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. ... Our strategy
must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future
global competitor.
In pursuit of this goal, the United States has behaved as an
offshore balancer, committing troops to Europe and Northeast
Asia only when there was a potential hegemon in those neighbor-
hoods that the local powers could not contain by themselves. In
effect, the United States has followed a buck-passing strategy-
remaining on the sidelines while getting others to bear the burden
of deterring or fighting aggressors-until it could no longer do so
safely. Unless this realist pattern of behavior changes radically, the
future of the U.S. military commitments to Europe and North-
east Asia can thus be expected to hinge on whether a potential
hegemon emerges in either region that can be contained only
JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER is R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service
Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. This article is
adapted from his forthcoming book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.

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