Many argue that the United States should not have involved itself in the Ukraine war. For some, it’s a matter of national interest; for others, it’s simply too expensive. There are those who fear that U.S. involvement in the Middle East will trap Washington again in a dangerous situation that is not its business and will be costly both in lives and in money.
These are not frivolous arguments, but they miss other dimensions of war. The first is that war isn’t always a choice. The second is that avoiding war is sometimes even costlier than entering a conflict.
The United States has been forced to consider both dimensions in various conflicts since World War I, with some claiming that we have no interest at stake, that the financial and human toll would outstrip the importance of the war, or that the war would be unwinnable. The reason that this choice has been so important is that the United States is the dominant power in the world. Economically and militarily, it is everywhere, and all other nations know that drawing the United States into a war on their side would dramatically increase their odds of success. Like other empires before it, the U.S. is an overarching presence in the world and is therefore constantly confronted with military threats and military opportunities.
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