Prior to the end of WW II, we did not have a Defense Dept. We had both a War Dept and a Dept of the Navy. The War Dept could assemble ( and disassemble an Army in times of perceived national peril) and the Navy would carry them around the world as needed on their floating and protected transports. Truman disdained the Marines, never considered naming them an independent service, and called them “The Navy’s police force”
The Cold War changed everything and hence spawned a Dept of Defense headed initially by James Forrestal, but we were still for the most part governed by Center – Right administrations ( Truman, Ike, JFK, Nixon, and Reagan ) who accommodated right wing strong men in order to hedge against Soviet and Chinese communist imperialism It was the left ( LBJ) that led us into Vietnam and then serving as wet- nurse to a radical- left, pulled a volte-face, by siding with the world’s revolutionaries( the likes of Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, and Daniel Ortega)
Donald Trump has shown himself to be a prickly neophyte, stumbling his way through an early presidency. His blunders will become legend. Yet we should be careful to “not throw the baby out with the bathwater” He has a rudimentary if crudely correct idea that the “American imperium ” ( to quote Pat Buchanan) can not last forever. A question he initially raised was ” Why should we still retain the self-image of the world’s policeman”. As Sec of State under Truman, Dean Acheson said of England, “Great Britain has lost an Empire and not yet found a role “
What precisely is our role in the world?