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Will budget cuts = isolationism?

March 4th, 2013
10:15 AM ET

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

The forced budget cuts, known in Washington as sequestration, are now in force in the United States and $85 billion in spending cuts are in the process of being implemented, with about half of them coming out of Washington’s spending on international engagement. The impact on America’s capacity for global leadership will not be felt overnight. But these reductions in defense spending, anti-terrorism activities, foreign aid and the budget for the State Department will shrink the U.S. footprint around the world, with consequences for the projection of both U.S. hard and soft power.

In the wake of the sequester, the questions now heard outside the United States include “what does this say about Americans’ willingness to pay for future global commitments?” “How much of this austerity is driven by Tea Party sentiments and influence?” And, most broadly, “are American fiscal rectitude and isolationism converging?”

The answers are not clear cut – in part because it’s possible that the Obama administration and Congress will rejigger the terms of the spending cuts in the months ahead.

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