Third, a grand strategy will be effective only if it commands broad and unequivocal support from the American public and their policymakers. The vision for foreign policy must reflect the society’s essential values – its political culture and national identity. Beyond the overall lack of vision, the single greatest weakness of American grand strategy in 2013 is the strident and destructive tone of partisanship that envelops its domestic and foreign policies. Simply put, a politically divided or ideologically polarized America cannot provide a positive vision for leadership.
Fourth, the nation is long past the age when American grand strategy can pursue “cookie-cutter” or “school solutions” to challenges. What I am proposing is the hardly radical but often overlooked principle that American grand strategy should be, above all else, agile and flexible as it responds to the demands of the American people and the challenges of a rapidly evolving world. America desperately needs principles that help policymakers adapt policies to fit widely varying challenges – in effect, to move beyond the same old, tired solutions to new problems.
Until the present economic downturn, the United States unquestionably had – and ultimately still has – far greater economic strength than its nearest competitors combined. But this state of affairs is at risk. About the constantly escalating fiscal cliff crisis, as Fareed Zakaria recently warned, “looming past the cliff, however, is a deep chasm that poses a much greater challenge — the retooling of the country's economy, society, and government necessary for the United States to perform effectively in the twenty-first century.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
If Washington continues to grossly mismanage the U.S. economy and produce annual trillion dollar deficits, the inevitable consequence will be to diminish American economic power. If this trend continues, the American people must contemplate living in a radically different, and for many, a dangerously unfamiliar one.
In this climate, Washington needs a more agile grand strategy, which rebuilds the domestic foundations of the nation’s power, while actively confronting forces, both foreign and domestic, that weaken international peace and security. The United States must also commit itself to building a world in which other states contribute to regional leadership, while working collaboratively toward common goals.
These principles of reinforcing the domestic foundations of power, exercising strong leadership, and practicing greater collaboration often exist in tension. However, it is vital for the nation to develop a framework that guides how it deals with competing challenges at home and abroad. Neither the public nor their policymakers should assume that America’s supposed preeminence will exist in perpetuity. In the end, the United States needs a strategy that encourages positive American leadership and global security, while balancing the need for all states to work together to rebuild and reinforce the foundations of peace, security, and prosperity. It did so before, and can do so again.
CENTRAL PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN GRAND STRATEGY
Principle 1: Reinforce domestic foundations of American national power
Just as U.S. grand strategy needs to look outward, it also must look inward to address the problems facing American society. For too long, scholars and policymakers preoccupied themselves with the foreign policy and national security elements of grand strategy. Sadly, most current thinking about foreign policy operates almost exclusively through the lens of security and military affairs.
However, at this moment the “grand strategy imperative” calls for policymakers to define America’s roles and responsibilities in a less hegemonic and, perhaps more humble, demeanor. To reinforce American leadership abroad, the United States must demonstrate that its grand strategy is as much about devoting attention and resources to reinforcing the domestic foundations of power as it is about conducting foreign policy. Unfortunately, modern policymakers often forget this most basic of principles.