The following is the Oct. 26, 2018 Congressional Research Service Report, U.S. Role in the World, Background and Issues for Congress.
From the report:
Some observers perceive that after remaining generally stable for a period of about 70 years, the U.S. role in the world—meaning the overall character, purpose, or direction of U.S. participation in international affairs and the country’s overall relationship to the rest of the world—is undergoing a potentially historic change. A change in the U.S. role in the world could have significant and even profound effects on U.S. security, freedom, and prosperity. It could significantly affect U.S. policy in areas such as relations with allies and other countries, defense plans and programs, trade and international finance, foreign assistance, and human rights.
The U.S. role in the world since the end of World War II in 1945 (i.e., over the past 70 years or so) is generally described as one of global leadership and significant engagement in international affairs. A key element of that role has been to defend and promote the liberal international order that the United States, with the support of its allies, created in the years after World War II. Other key elements have been to defend and promote freedom, democracy, and human rights as universal values, while criticizing and resisting authoritarian and illiberal forms of government where possible; and to oppose the emergence of regional hegemons in Eurasia or a spheres-of-influence world.
The fact that the U.S. role in the world has been generally stable over the past 70 years does not necessarily mean that this role was the right one for the United States, or that it would be the right one in the future. Although the role the United States has played in the world since the end of World War II has many defenders, it also has critics, and the merits of that role have been a matter of long-standing debate among foreign policy specialists, strategists, policymakers, and the public, with critics offering potential alternative concepts for the U.S. role in the world.
One major dimension of the debate is whether the United States should attempt to continue playing the active internationalist role that it has played for the past 70 years, or instead adopt a more restrained role that reduces U.S. involvement in world affairs. A number of critics of the U.S. role in the world over the past 70 years have offered multiple variations on the idea of a more restrained U.S. role.
The overall issue for Congress is how to respond to recent developments regarding the U.S. role in the world. Potential key issues for Congress include but are not necessarily limited to the following:
- Is the U.S. role changing, and if so, in what ways?
- Should the U.S. role change?
- Is a change of some kind in the U.S. role unavoidable?
- How are other countries responding to a possibly changed U.S. role?
- Is a changed U.S. role affecting world order?
- What implications might a changed U.S. role in the world have for Congress’s role relative to that of the executive branch in U.S. foreign policymaking?
- How might the operation of democracy in the United States affect the U.S. role in the world, particularly in terms of defending and promoting democracy and criticizing and resisting authoritarian and illiberal forms of government?
- Would a change in the U.S. role be reversible, and if so, to what degree?
Congress’s decisions on this issue could have significant implications for numerous policies, grams, and budgets, and for the role of Congress relative to that of the executive branch in U.S. foreign policymaking.