Does the US need a Grand StrategyJanuary 30, 2012
Although I agree with Kazianis on some of his points (in particular, on the Obama administration’s mostly deft geostrategic pivoting toward the Indian and Western Pacific oceans), I have to disagree with his conclusion that US security needs are too complex for a grand strategy (and, also, that previous editions of grand strategy were ever as simplistic as the bumper sticker slogans to which he reduces them).
In my opinion, there is no question that the US needs a grand strategy. I believe that US grand strategy has always been in the service of two American ideals: Liberty and Prosperity, which mutually reinforce one another. I also believe that the levels of Liberty and Prosperity which the US has enjoyed for the past 2 centuries are a direct result of the cyclical 500 year old, Western dominated World Economic System. That system requires a powerful leader (hegemon) in order to maintain its stability. For most of the past five centuries, those hegemons have been (in succession) the Dutch, the British and the Americans. Each, in turn, has maintained internally the wold’s most open political and economic systems as well as the world’s predominant naval power. And, each has been challenged by large, powerful land-based powers that presented relatively more closed political and economic orders. In order for the World System to keep operating – to keep providing Prosperity and protecting Liberty – the US must either remain hegemon or work to enable a similarly open successor. I do not see a successor on the near horizon (although I do believe that India can assume that role in the future), so the US must commit to maintaining global hegemony in the face of the challenge presented by China.
That, in my opinion, should be the foundation of US grand strategy. To “put it on a post it note,” as Kazianis dismissively requests, it is this: Recognize and maintain the existence and the essential qualities of the World System. Everything in support of that are just questions of operations and tactics.