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This week, the story I followed most closely wasn’t a breaking news item or global development, but an important debate taking place in Washington these days over whether or not restraint should serve as the guiding framework for U.S. foreign policy.

The concept of restraint grew out of the academic school of international relations known as realism, which focuses on national interests and power dynamics as the drivers of international affairs—and the foundation on which a sound foreign policy should be based. It has historically faced off against idealism, which embraces an…

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