A Roadmap for American Grand Strategy (Page 4 of 5)

Principle 2: Reinforce American leadership to restrain sources of disorder

The sense of drift in American foreign policy relates directly to the failure to define a grand strategy for the nation. As I discussed last week (see part I), this is occurring precisely at the moment when the world faces increasingly dangerous sources of disorder. The rise of great powers, middle powers, authoritarianism, and unexpected sources of disorder undermine the peaceful and secure world that the United States historically seeks to build. These sources of disorder pose a direct challenge to American leadership.

Building on the first principle, we must think of defining American grand strategy in terms of actively restraining the forces, actions, and ideas that contribute to instability, insecurity, and chaos. Since the world remains a dangerous and unpredictable, it is strategically necessary for the United States to remain engaged – to lead on occasion, so to speak, “from the front.”

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This principle of American grand strategy must rest on more than simple rhetoric. Its purpose should be to make the world safer, more prosperous, secure, and free. Washington must exude a sense of strength and purpose. By ‘strength,’ I do not mean in the classic military sense, but strength in using all of the nation’s tools – political, economic and diplomatic – to help build a better world. For its grand strategy to succeed, the United States must demonstrate in word and deed a sense of vision as well as the judgment and power to use its strength to promote a just and peaceful world.

Simply put, America needs to stand for and defend principles that promote human rights and dignity, equality for all peoples – men and women – freedom of expression, free enterprise, and fair elections. These values are consistent with the historical principles of American foreign policy that existed well before the Cold War and will endure well beyond this and subsequent generations.

This principle of America’s leadership role emphasizes how essential it is to discourage states or actors from taking actions that harm the interests of the United States or other free societies. In promoting these values, American grand strategy has many tools at its disposal. It can withhold political or economic support from, use military power against, or build alliances to confront, actors whose behaviors undermine peace, security, and prosperity.

Principle 3: Reinforce alliances and partnerships

For political and economic reasons, this is precisely the moment when the United States faces a new imperative in its grand strategy. Its challenge is to formulate a grand strategy that reinforces America’s influence and ability to exercise a leadership role, but without going so far in the opposite direction that the nation effectively disengages from the world – or creates the impression that it is doing so. If it creates a leadership vacuum, the United States will face all manner of risks, challenges, and truly bad outcomes.

While some believe that the United States is in decline and must scale back its involvement, my own view is that an enduring element of American grand strategy must be to reinforce the role of alliances and partnerships. This powerful and enduringly positive principle should be central to and wholly enshrined in every facet of the nation’s grand strategy.

In practice, Washington’s credibility and influence increase when it willingly demonstrates its support and encouragement for other states to exercise leadership. Washington only gains when it shows greater support for multilateralism. It must learn to use existing international institutions, while building new ones, as part of its strategy for promoting states and actors to work together to restrain the dangers to international security.

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