America’s Dangerous Drift
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America’s Dangerous Drift

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In light of today's enormous domestic and international challenges, the United States today needs, more than ever, an effective grand strategy. Without one, the nation is in a dangerous state of drift.

In the aftermath of the recent U.S. presidential elections and in the midst of grueling battles over spending and deficit crises, American politics is highly polarized with the electorate and their policymakers deeply divided on domestic issues.

Turning to foreign policy, the picture is equally troubling. The United States struggles without a coherent grand strategy, while the American people, its friends and allies, and competitors wonder what principles guide Washington's foreign policy. What, they must ask, does the United States want to achieve in its foreign policy, and what leadership role does it seek to play in this rapidly evolving world order.

Worse, many fail to grasp that grand strategy involves far more than foreign and national security matters. Grand strategy is precisely about the broader, if often ignored, context of building and reinforcing the domestic political and economic foundations of American national power.

Knowing full well the serious challenges facing the United States, there is no more pressing problem for the nation than to develop a grand strategy that gives policymakers and the public a clear, positive, and bipartisan vision of the principles and ideas that guide U.S. foreign policy. This strategy must articulate a vision for the U.S. that is more than the sum of the challenges the nation faces.

To be effective, America’s new strategy must reinforce the domestic foundations of American power, reassure friends and allies that American foreign policy embraces a prudent balance between our principles and ideals, and avoid the twin perils of strategic overreach or neglect.

While the challenges are daunting, failure is not an option.

In a series of essays over the next several weeks, I will discuss the current void in American grand strategy at precisely the moment when the world faces increasingly dangerous sources of disorder. These essays will define the purposes American grand strategy should strive to achieve, as the nation deals with a new set of international challenges. Next, the series will outline the main principles that define a new grand strategy for the United States, and then discuss how to put those principles into practice. Lastly, this series proposes that despite great challenges, America nevertheless has the will and determination to move toward greater clarity of purpose in its foreign policy.

Why America Needs a Grand Strategy

Simply put, grand strategy is a broad set of principles, beliefs, or ideas that govern the decisions and actions of a nation’s policymakers with public support on foreign policy. The need for grand strategy is particularly acute in the case of the United States today. Its extraordinary power and influence make it more necessary than ever for American actions to be guided by a coherent grand strategy. The logic is inescapable: no nation can operate without a grand strategy. Without one, the nation faces a singular danger: when its policymakers are tempted to take actions without the guidance that a clear, purposeful strategic framework provides, we will see confusion, shifting policies, and “drift.”

The failure to define a grand strategy and the problems it causes are not new, but the challenge is more urgent than ever. With the end of the Cold War, scholars and policymakers failed to formulate a successor to the grand strategy of containment. Policymakers instead adopted policies that relied on the residue of containment or, more commonly, on piecemeal, ad-hoc solutions to problems. The danger is that adhering to the obsolete strategy of containment will contribute to foreign policy failures.

Comments
74
Daniel Lieberman
June 17, 2013 at 23:13

No global climate change? Seems like it might interest a grand strategist.

[...] America’s Dangerous Drift (THE DIPLOMAT) [...]

jst1dering
April 29, 2013 at 03:45

The Constitution would provide a good start.

Nasir Muhammad
April 7, 2013 at 05:15

Interesting thesis.

K.A. Wheeler
March 10, 2013 at 04:32

http://nationalstrategicnarrative.org/

"Porter and Mykleby give us a non-partisan blueprint for understanding and reacting to the

changes of the 21st century world. In one sentence, the strategic narrative of the United States in

the 21st century is that we want to become the strongest competitor and most influential

player in a deeply inter-connected global system, which requires that we invest less in

defense and more in sustainable prosperity and the tools of effective global engagement." -Anne MArie Slaughter

[...] (Please see Part I of our three part series on American Grand Strategy: America's Dangerous Drift.) [...]

[...] “America’s Dangerous Drift“, 25 February 2013 [...]

Mart
March 5, 2013 at 07:58

Advice?
1. Do not kill your own citizens in bloody false flag events like 911 , and blame this on so called terrorist, which you breeded before and use this as a pretext for your criminal imperial expansion

2 Respect foreign govenments and international law. I understaand that you are pissed by Mr. Putin’s actions. You will be pissed more, because you betrayed people of russia and also europe twice! Cult of personality? Phew.. This anti-stalin method of operation is laughable. We know this well :)

3. Watch your back.

yesyouareright
March 5, 2013 at 03:32

you are so right. Outside the U.S., one can find MORE people hate the U.S. than like the U.S. The U.S. is the Biggest rogue country in the world. Bush most famous saying: you are either with us, or against us. LOL.

It is ok if the U.S. still have enough money to buy the loyal all over the world. But too bad, now the U.S. is BROKE, cannot afford to do it any more.

Jim Shawley
March 4, 2013 at 07:29

I'm afraid I respectfully disagree with every point you have made, Mr. Werner.

1)  Beginning with a "coalition" government, that is neither desirable nor necessary.  We are not a parliamentary form of government; rather, we are a constitutional republic.  Within that constitutional framework, we have already granted the office of the presidency considerable power vis-a-vis international statecraft.  It is only due to incompetence on the part of this administration, and a failure to recognize the need for a post Cold War "grand strategy" on the part of every administration from Clinton on, that we are in the situation we currently enjoy.  Regarding matters of international statecraft, it has only been since Bush II that America has experienced a failure to speak with one voice as an international leader.  (To be sure, there were whispers as far back as the Reagan administration, but party politics began to trump national security vis-a-vis allowing our "diplomat-in-chief" to perform his duties.)

2)  Israel is not a part of the United States, subject to presidential directives or, for that matter, congressional resolutions.  What they *are* is the only democratic state, save Iraq, in that region.  Regarding settling with Palestine, just what would such a settlement entail?  If Israel were to cede real estate to Hamas all that would accomplish would be a further endangerment of Israeli security, and Hamas would still not be satisfied:  It is, after all, ideologically committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, just as Iran is, so Israel has nothing to gain.  However, Israel has long been an ally of the United States, and vice versa; we ought not squander that relationship: There are no other "friends" of the United States in that area, especially after the so-called "Arab Spring."  One need only watch the news cycles to be aware that the most recent design of the Katyusha rocket has been improved such that practically no part of Israel is totally safe from their reach.  Yet the political world tends to excuse such random, terror-laden usage, while condemning Israel's targeted attacks on the launch sites.

3)  China is indeed a concern, but ceding to them the island nation of Taiwan will not satisfy that government's hunger to finally, after millenia, become the world power it once percieved itself to be.  Recognizing that, like Iran, the *people* of China are not the culprit (their despotic governments are), we still must recognize the danger of allowing them to evolve into becoming a regional hegemony; the Pacific rim's economy affects entirely too much of the world to grant them power over the deep water sea-lanes.  Further, we have, in the past, when both political parties recognized that politics stopped at the water's edge, committed to protecting Taiwan from an invasion (perhaps less inflammatory, "forced re-unification") from China.  Will we meet our committments?  Consider also North Korea:  Kim Jong Un is most assuredly an unknown (Dennis Rodman's love for him notwithstanding); but we can be confident of this–he and his government is a *known* unknown.  Should he actually deploy a nuclear weapon against South Korea, the entire region will become de-stabilized overnight; no more "freeze-frame" a la assassination of the Archduke of Austria prior to WW-I, when the whole matter *could* have been defused, but, sadly, wasn't.  No, and furthermore, we would find some 30,000 US military personnel and their families in jeopardy, because of our weakened state.

4)  Finally, religion.  I will grant you your argument vis-a-vis religion being a source of most wars, provided you concede that humanism and communism, are no less religions than Islamism or Buddhism.  Uncle Joe's 60+million in toto, Hitler's multi-millions (no, he was *not* a Christian, any more than a mouse in a cookie jar makes him a cookie), Pol Pot's millions, Mao's untold millions.  Yes, Islam and Christianity have been in a conflict for centuries, as has Islam and the Jews (but, one may be forgiven for asking), who started the fight?  Imperial Japan's WW-II exploits could possibly be attributed to emperor-worship, if one stretches.  But in the end, there have been more casualties of anti-/non-religious ideologies than of "religion".  John Lennon's "Imagine" makes for great fantasy, but the harsh reality is, it is just that:  Fantasy.  Meanwhile, this nation, whose foundation was at least informed by the religious principles set forth by Protestantistic Christianity, yet welcomes all religious expression (or none, if an individual so desires) has shown itself as the last, best hope for the expression of freedom and dignity of humanity, more than any other form of government, or any other nation-state or city-state. 
You made your points cogently, and you demanded I exercise some long-dormant brain cells, and I hope you take my comments as merely arguments for the other side. 

Werner
March 3, 2013 at 04:58

I believe that the USA needs a national coalition government to reform its strategies by speaking with one voice. The President should get extraordinary powers to propose and implement new strategies as described in your article. A divided house cannot take on this task, you need a national government that speaks with one voice.

On the international front its time the USA imposes on Israel a settlement with the Palestinians, this will take out a lot of the bad will in the Middle East against the USA, it would also calm down the powers in Iran and lead to a rapid conclusion with its nuclear ambitions to be used for peaceful purposes only. Israel would have to give up its nuclear arsenal to show the world that America means business.

China is another story but it can be dealt with by getting the other asian nations under one umbrella just like NATO in Europe. The question of Taiwan will have to be adressed and in my opinion it should be re-integrated with the mainland, such action would help to keep China at a level the US can deal with.

Russia should be dealt with by Europe under the umbrella of NATO, the E.U. should be strengthened and supported by the USA, Great Britain should be encouraged to become more positively involved in the E.U. instead of hindering its development, the US can greatly help in this.

Religion should be taken out of politics, nations should not be judged by their religious believes, religion in my opinion is one of the biggest divisive powers on our planet, most wars have been fought because of religion, something has to be done about this cancer, the US could be a leader by separating State and Religion and make it one of the great values of America.

Kim's Uncle
March 1, 2013 at 04:28

The most dangerous drift for any US administration is to ignore US responsibility in Asia/Pacific region. The US is a Pacific power! If China has a responsible government that reflects the will of the whole country instead of just the few corrupt thieves in the CCP, then most Asia and America would not be alarmed by a rising China. But reality is just reality! China has modern day fascist government where Chinese business interests collude with the political class to produce this Frankenstein’s monster!

Cooperation with our allies in the pacific is the upmost importance in order to keep this Frankenstein’s monster in check!

Jean-Paul
February 28, 2013 at 09:29

@ John Chan

 

Well at least you are admitting that you are inconsistent, now if you could admit that you are a hypocrite, slanderer and propaganda agent, then you might finally start to gain some credibility once again.

Tom F
February 28, 2013 at 08:03

@American Policy

I think you've made some very salient points there, but I also think the article is largely complementary with your perspective. A grand strategy does not necessarily to go 'grand', as a citizen of the Asia Pacific, I just hope that America finds its niche (again), and re-engage in the region in a way that complements its 'grand strategy', and because it had recently misplaced its trust in CCP China.  

I also most certainly agree the TPP is a very good starting point, at least in dealing with China's outwardly destructive economic policies. For the CCP supporters here, no I don't wish for China to be isolated and a billion Chinese go hungry. I wish for you to realise that the hardwork of low wage Chinese workers, of Chinese businesses fairly and efficiently competing in the global market are being white anted by CCP personal interests. Solar panel anyone?

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