America’s Dangerous Drift (Page 2 of 5)

After the Cold War, policymakers believed the world was less dangerous. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, some held that communism’s collapse would unleash the “end of history.” This belief in a benevolent future masqueraded as hope that the world, guided by liberal democracy and free markets, would become a more peaceful, stable, and better place.

Despite challenges in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, the hopes for a more benign world lasted about a decade. This relative peace, shattered by 9/11, signaled the start of a struggle against extremism. During the last decade, the international community has floundered in the face of a seemingly never-ending stream of unexpected and destabilizing challenges. Many of these events have affirmed how desperately America needs a grand strategy to guide how it deals with unexpected geopolitical shifts and surprises.

Ideally, debates about grand strategy and how to address challenges should occur at a higher conceptual level. Sadly, however, largely tactical considerations have dominated such debates. When specific decisions and policies are unguided by bedrock principles of grand strategy, U.S. policies will feel more haphazard or random, which is a recipe for ineffective and, at times, self-defeating policies.

The United States lacks a strategic framework that defines its role in world, what the country seeks to achieve, and how to bring that role into balance with the nation’s resources and public will.

Above all else, Americans need to answer one basic question: what principles should govern U.S. policy in an increasingly unstable world?

While by no means a panacea, a grand strategy will help the United States understand what threats are inevitable, which ones really matter, and how to deal with them. Where states once faced singular ideological, political, or military threats, today’s problems flow from complex and overlapping sources of disorder. Furthermore, modern threats and challenges, ranging from rising great powers to unpredictable non-state actors, do not lend themselves to the simple guidance offered by earlier grand strategies. Unless American policies toward both current and future problems are governed by a grand strategy, U.S. policies will be disorderly, incoherent, and ineffective.

Sources of Disorder

Conditions in 2013 directly put at risk the peaceful and secure world American policymakers and the public historically hoped to build. These sources of disorder, often defined by unique circumstances, fall into several categories.

1. Great Powers

Foremost among these is the threat posed by other great powers to American interests and global stability. The rise of China undoubtedly is the most prominent example. Beijing’s growing economy, the world’s second largest, with its increasingly competent military and assertive foreign policy, signal China is a power to be reckoned with. States in Asia rightly worry about the consequences for security if China’s rise occurs in the face of America’s “drift.”

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) [...]

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

"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 [...]

March 5, 2013 at 07:58

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.

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. 

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!

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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