Policymakers also must contemplate self-generated sources of disorder. The United States, dangerously, has been adrift for more than two decades. A nation deeply divided politically faces the additional burden if it operates without a positive,reassuring, and bipartian strategy to guide its foreign policy. How can policymakers expend resources – the nation’s “blood and treasure” – when it is unclear why they are doing so and for what purposes? How can policymakers ask the public to support policies when people rightly wonder what, precisely, is the purpose of American foreign policy? Why should we, much less others, make sacrifices when the fundamental goals of American foreign policy are unknown?
An inert or decaying grand strategy, when facing powerful sources of global disorder, presents a truly serious problem. Can the United States effectively manage challenges from great powers, middle powers, authoritarian states acting in rough concert, and unexpected problems when it lacks a coherent, positive, and compelling vision for its grand strategy? Suffice it to say, the answer is no.
Ultimately, the sources of disorder and the inevitable crises that will be spawned will compel the United States to formulate a new grand strategy – one better aligned and more precisely attuned to the risks and opportunities we face. It is far better to do so now than to wait until a crisis strikes.
In the end, grand strategy is about much more than responding to problems. To be effective, it must embrace the fundamental reasons and motivations that shape how and why the United States engages in foreign policy.
Just as there can be no substitute for having a coherent and purposeful grand strategy, the failure to define one produces an immensely dangerous drift in foreign policy.