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January 20, 2012

Grand Strategy in Four Points
Posted by Jacob Stokes

Charlie_KupchanIn the next week or so, details of next year’s defense budget will begin to seep from the halls of the White House and the Defense Department. The budget will, at least in theory, be guided by the Defense Strategic Review released by the White House earlier this month. That document laid out a military strategy.

But the conduct of foreign affairs goes beyond issues of force structure and military doctrine (although those are, of course, essential). A military strategy should follow a grand strategy. Several attempts have been made at exploring a grand strategy for a post Iraq and Afghanistan/financial crisis-era. Richard Haass has argued for a “restoration” strategy. Dan Drezner has looked at the Obama administration’s strategy, which he characterizes as “counterpunching.” Officially, there's the National Security Strategy.

In the latest issue of Democracy (yes, I’m behind on reading), Charlie Kupchan of Georgetown and CFR puts forth four principles for a progressive grand strategy. The piece is a strong addition to the discussion. Below are those four principles, along with portions of the piece that are especially relevant in the context of the U.S. political debate:

Restore political and economic solvency: “The first first principle of a progressive agenda is that political and economic renewal at home is the indispensable foundation for strength abroad. Conservatives do not offer a credible alternative to this first plank of a progressive agenda. They not only fail to appreciate the vital link between bipartisanship and national security but deliberately seek to undermine political consensus. President George W. Bush sought to exploit, not repair, political divides; his advisers explicitly advocated polarizing policies that catered to the Republican base, not the moderate center. Since Obama entered office, Republicans have consistently sought to obstruct his foreign policies—regardless of the substantive merits.”

Balancing means with ends. “Progressives have the right formula for finding this balance between doing too much and too little. Going back to the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the progressive foreign policy agenda has consistently embraced a liberal internationalism that is equal parts power and partnership.”

Making room for the rising rest: “While perhaps emotionally satisfying, the neoconservative preference for regime change is a recipe for self-defeating adventurism; America’s recent forays into nation-building have produced scant benefits at enormous costs. The assumption that illiberal regimes yield only when forced into submission also flies in the face of history. The most notable geopolitical breakthroughs of the twentieth century came not through coercion, but bold diplomacy—Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin in Jerusalem, Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in Beijing, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik. Moreover, stabilizing the global economy, ensuring energy supplies, combating nuclear proliferation and terrorism—these and many other international challenges require working with, not isolating, non-democracies.”

Reviving the Atlantic Community. “Although conservatives are often dismissive of Europe due to its lack of hard power, they generally appreciate the importance of a transatlantic community that rests on common values and interests. While neoconservatives tended to denigrate the Atlantic partnership during George W. Bush’s first term—particularly because many Europeans opposed the Iraq War—Bush changed course during his second term and worked hard to repair the Atlantic link.”

Kupchan’s piece is nicely balanced in terms of accessibility and comprehensiveness. It’s a clear blueprint for how to integrate the domestic with the international, the political with the economic and military components of power--and turn the whole mix into a coherent approach to the world. Go and read the whole thing.

Photo: CFR


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