The Newsroom => International Defence and Security => Topic started by: E.R. Campbell on July 11, 2007, 19:46:30

Title: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 11, 2007, 19:46:30
Despite our varying views on Iraq and the Arab world and Afghanistan and, indeed, Burnett’s gap, which includes pretty much all of the so-called Muslim Crescent, I think we can agree that the single most important driver for the coming decade and more, for that region and the world, is US foreign policy.  Here, reproduced from Foreign Affairs (July/August 2007) under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act is a lengthy article which might provide a good jumping off point.

The authors, two distinguished American academics, offer a valuable history lesson, reminding us that what most Canadians – especially journalists and the commentariat – think of as traditional American foreign policy is only about 70 years old – dating from the Roosevelt administration.  Next they offer a six point programme which I think is worthy of debate.

While I find nothing to which I might object, I suspect that all six points will be controversial in some most almost all US political circles.  Readers who are familiar with Walter Russell Mead’s  Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (Knopf, 2001) will recognize that president Bush is, in Mead’s terms, a pure Jacksonian while Kupchan and Trubowitz are proposing a mix of Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian policies.

We are still a bit away from the day when China or India will challenge American hegemony but, as Prof Pan Wei of Peking University wrote (Harvard International Review (, Under this poor leadership [provided by President Bush], a previously “benign hegemon” is becoming an oppressive tyrant that suffers opposition almost everywhere in the world.  Prof. Pan worried that vis à vis China President Bush’s foreign policy ” will ultimately cause the decline of US power, and it may not succeed in precluding China’s emergence from a new decade of political reform. Instead, belligerent confrontation will only lead to an escalation of tensions.”  It is, in my view, likely to do the same with India, Europe and much of the rest of the world, too.

That being said, it will be hard for a Republican administration to turn its back, completely, on Bush and his policies if only because of the political power of the religious right.  It will be equally hard for Democrats to do the same.  American power needs to be rebuilt, enhanced and then maintained – cutting and running is not the best way to build power.

Anyway, here it is:

Part 1 of 2
Grand Strategy for a Divided America

By Charles A. Kupchan and Peter L. Trubowitz
From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007

Summary: Deep divisions at home about the nature of the United States' engagement with the world threaten to produce failed leadership abroad -- and possibly isolationism. To steady U.S. global leadership and restore consensus to U.S. foreign policy, U.S. commitments overseas must be scaled back to a more politically sustainable level.

Charles A. Kupchan is Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Henry A. Kissinger Scholar at the Library of Congress. Peter L. Trubowitz is Associate Professor of Government at the University of Texas, Austin, and a Senior Fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

The United States is in the midst of a polarized and bruising debate about the nature and scope of its engagement with the world. The current reassessment is only the latest of many; ever since the United States' rise as a global power, its leaders and citizens have regularly scrutinized the costs and benefits of foreign ambition. In 1943, Walter Lippmann offered a classic formulation of the issue. "In foreign relations," Lippmann wrote, "as in all other relations, a policy has been formed only when commitments and power have been brought into balance.... The nation must maintain its objectives and its power in equilibrium, its purposes within its means and its means equal to its purposes."

Although Lippmann was mindful of the economic costs of global engagement, his primary concern was the political "solvency" of U.S. foreign policy, not the adequacy of the United States' material resources. He lamented the divisive partisanship that had so often prevented the United States from finding "a settled and generally accepted foreign policy." "This is a danger to the Republic," he warned. "For when a people is divided within itself about the conduct of its foreign relations, it is unable to agree on the determination of its true interest. It is unable to prepare adequately for war or to safeguard successfully its peace.... The spectacle of this great nation which does not know its own mind is as humiliating as it is dangerous." Lippmann's worries would prove unfounded; in the face of World War II and the onset of the Cold War, the bitter partisanship of the past gave way to a broad consensus on foreign policy that was to last for the next five decades.

Today, however, Lippmann's concern with political solvency is more relevant than ever. After the demise of the Soviet Union, the shock of September 11, and the failures of the Iraq war, Republicans and Democrats share less common ground on the fundamental purposes of U.S. power than at any other time since World War II. A critical gap has opened up between the United States' global commitments and its political appetite for sustaining them. As made clear by the collision between President George W. Bush and the Democratic Congress over what to do in Iraq, the country's bipartisan consensus on foreign policy has collapsed. If left unattended, the political foundations of U.S. statecraft will continue to disintegrate, exposing the country to the dangers of an erratic and incoherent foreign policy.

The presidential candidate who understands the urgency and gravity of striking a new balance between the United States' purposes and its political means is poised to reap a double reward. He or she would likely attract strong popular support; as in the 2006 midterm elections, in the 2008 election the war in Iraq and the conduct of U.S. foreign policy are set to be decisive issues. That candidate, if elected, would also enhance U.S. security by crafting a new grand strategy that is politically sustainable, thereby steadying a global community that continues to look to the United States for leadership.

Formulating a politically solvent strategy will require scaling back U.S. commitments, bringing them into line with diminishing means. At the same time, it will be necessary to stabilize the nation's foreign policy by shoring up public support for a new vision of the United States' global responsibilities. Solvency is the path to security; it is far better for the United States to arrive at a more discriminating grand strategy that enjoys domestic backing than to continue drifting toward an intractable polarization that would be as dangerous as it would be humiliating.


For Americans who lived through the bipartisan consensus of the Cold War era, the current political warfare over foreign policy seems to be a dramatic aberration. To be sure, Bush has been a polarizing president, in no small part due to the controversial invasion of Iraq and the troubled occupation that has followed. But in fact, today's partisan wrangling over foreign policy is the historical norm; it is the bipartisanship of the Cold War that was the anomaly.

Soon after the republic's founding, political parties formed to help overcome the obstacles that federalism, the separation of powers, and sectionalism put in the way of effective statecraft. With them came partisanship. During the nation's early decades, the main line of partisan competition ran along the North-South divide, pitting the Hamiltonian Federalists of the Northeast against the Jeffersonian Republicans of the South. The two parties disagreed on matters of grand strategy -- specifically whether the United States should lean toward Great Britain or France -- as well as on matters of political economy.

The Federalists worried that the new republic might fail if it found itself in a conflict with the British; they therefore favored tilting toward Great Britain rather than extending the alliance with France that was struck during the American Revolution. On economic matters, the Federalists defended the interests of the North's aspiring entrepreneurs, arguing for tariffs to protect the region's infant industries. The Republicans, however, continued to lean toward France, hoping to balance Great Britain's power by supporting its main European rival. And as champions of the interests of the nation's farmers, the Republicans clamored for free trade and westward expansion. At George Washington's behest, the two parties found common ground on the need to avoid "entangling alliances," but they agreed on little else.

Partisan passions cooled with the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, and an era of solvency in the conduct of the nation's foreign affairs ensued. The collapse of the Federalist Party and the revival of an economy no longer disrupted by war ushered in what one Boston newspaper called "an Era of Good Feelings." For the first time, the United States enjoyed a sustained period of political consensus. Meanwhile, the peace preserved by the Concert of Europe, coupled with the tentative rapprochement with London that followed the War of 1812, made it possible for the nation's elected officials, starting with James Monroe, to turn their energies to the demands of "internal improvement." Americans focused on the consolidation and westward expansion of the union, limiting the nation's reach to what was sustainable politically and militarily.

This consensus was upended in 1846, when James Polk took the country to war against Mexico in the name of "manifest destiny." The Democrats -- the southern heirs to Jefferson's Republicans -- championed seizing Mexican territory and saw the war as an opportunity to strengthen their hold on the levers of national power. Fearing exactly that, the northeastern Whigs -- the forerunners to modern Republicans -- waged a rear-guard battle, challenging the legitimacy of Polk's land grab and the rise of southern "slave power." Polk's war, the United States' first war of choice, unleashed a new round of partisan struggle, aggravating the sectional tensions that would ultimately result in the Civil War.

An uneasy domestic calm set in after the Civil War, but it was soon brought to an end by divisions over the United States' aspirations to great-power status. Over the course of the 1890s, the United States built a world-class battle fleet, acquired foreign lands, and secured foreign markets. Republican efforts to catapult the United States into the front ranks, however, reopened sectional wounds and invited strong Democratic resistance. The Republicans prevailed due to their monopoly on power, but their geopolitical ambitions soon proved politically unsustainable. Starting with the Spanish-American War, the United States engaged in what Lippmann called "deficit diplomacy": its international commitments exceeded the public's willingness to bear the requisite burdens.

After the turn of the century, U.S. foreign policy lurched incoherently between stark alternatives. Theodore Roosevelt's imperialist adventure in the Philippines quickly outstripped the country's appetite for foreign ambition. William Taft tried "dollar diplomacy," preferring to pursue Washington's objectives abroad through what he called "peaceful and economic" means. But he triggered the ire of Democrats who viewed his strategy as little more than capitulation to the interests of big business. Woodrow Wilson embraced "collective security" and the League of Nations, investing in institutionalized partnerships that would ease the costs of the United States' deepening engagement with the world. But the Senate, virtually paralyzed by partisan rancor, would have none of it. As Henry Cabot Lodge, one of the League of Nations' staunchest opponents in the Senate, quipped, "I never expected to hate anyone in politics with the hatred I feel towards Wilson." By the interwar period, political stalemate had set in. Americans shunned both the assertive use of U.S. power and institutionalized multilateralism, instead preferring the illusory safety of isolationism advocated by Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.

One of Franklin Roosevelt's greatest achievements was overcoming this political divide and steering the United States toward a new era of bipartisanship. With World War II as a backdrop, he built a broad coalition of Democrats and Republicans behind liberal internationalism. The new course entailed a commitment to both power and partnership: the United States would project its military strength to preserve stability, but whenever possible it would exercise leadership through consensus and multilateral partnership rather than unilateral initiative. This domestic compact, although weakened by political struggles over the Vietnam War, lasted to the end of the Cold War.

The nature of the geopolitical threat facing the United States helped Roosevelt and his successors sustain this liberal internationalist compact. Washington needed allies to prevent the domination of Eurasia by a hostile power. The strategic exigencies of World War II and the Cold War also instilled discipline, encouraging Democrats and Republicans alike to unite around a common foreign policy. When partisan passions flared, as they did over the Korean War and the Vietnam War, they were contained by the imperatives of super-power rivalry.

The steadiness of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy was the product not just of strategic necessity but also of changes in the nation's political landscape. Regional divides had moderated, with the North and the South forming a political alliance for the first time in U.S. history. Anticommunism made it politically treacherous to stray too far to the left, and the public's worries about nuclear Armageddon reined in the right. The post-World War II economic boom eased the socioeconomic divides of the New Deal era, closing the ideological distance between Democrats and Republicans and making it easier to fashion a consensus behind free trade. Prosperity and affluence helped nurture the United States' political center, which served as the foundation for the liberal internationalism that lasted a half century.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 11, 2007, 19:47:41
Part 2 of 2

Reproduced from Foreign Affairs under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act


Contrary to conventional wisdom, the collapse of bipartisanship and liberal internationalism did not start with George W. Bush. Bipartisanship dropped sharply following the end of the Cold War, reaching a post-World War II low after the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994. Repeated clashes over foreign policy between the Clinton administration and Congress marked the hollowing out of the bipartisan center that had been liberal internationalism's political base. The Bush administration then dismantled what remained of the moderate center, ensuring that today's partisan divide is every bit as wide as the interwar schism that haunted Lippmann. Democratic and Republican lawmakers now hold very different views on foreign policy. On the most basic questions of U.S. grand strategy -- the sources and purposes of U.S. power, the use of force, the role of international institutions -- representatives of the two parties are on different planets.

Most Republicans in Congress contend that U.S. power depends mainly on the possession and use of military might, and they view institutionalized cooperation primarily as an impediment. They staunchly back the Bush administration's ongoing effort to pacify Iraq. When the new Congress took its first votes on the Iraq war in the beginning of this year, only 17 of the 201 Republicans in the House crossed party lines to oppose the recent surge in U.S. troops. In the Senate, only two Republicans joined the Democrats to approve a resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawal. In contrast, most Democrats maintain that U.S. power depends more on persuasion than coercion and needs to be exercised multilaterally. They want out of Iraq: 95 percent of House and Senate Democrats have voted to withdraw U.S. troops in 2008. With the Republicans opting for the use of force and the Democrats for international cooperation, the bipartisan compact between power and partnership -- the formula that brought liberal internationalism to life -- has come undone.

To be sure, the Republican Party is still home to a few committed multilateralists, such as Senators Richard Lugar (of Indiana) and Chuck Hagel (of Nebraska). But they are isolated within their own ranks. And some Democrats, especially those eyeing the presidency, are keen to demonstrate their resolve on matters of national defense. But the party leaders are being pushed to the left by increasingly powerful party activists. The ideological overlap between the two parties is thus minimal, and the areas of concord are superficial at best. Most Republicans and Democrats still believe that the United States has global responsibilities, but there is little agreement on how to match means and ends. And on the central question of power versus partnership, the two parties are moving in opposite directions -- with the growing gap evident among the public as well as political elites.

In a March 2007 Pew Research Center poll, over 70 percent of Republican voters maintained that "the best way to ensure peace is through military strength." Only 40 percent of Democratic voters shared that view. A similar poll conducted in 1999 revealed the same partisan split, making clear that the divide is not just about Bush's foreign policy but also about the broader purposes of U.S. power. The Iraq war has clearly widened and deepened ideological differences over the relative efficacy of force and diplomacy. One CNN poll recorded that after four years of occupying Iraq, only 24 percent of Republicans oppose the war, compared with more than 90 percent of Democrats. As for exporting American ideals, a June 2006 German Marshall Fund study found that only 35 percent of Democrats believed the United States should "help establish democracy in other countries," compared with 64 percent of Republicans. Similarly, a December 2006 CBS News poll found that two-thirds of Democrats believed the United States should "mind its own business internationally," whereas only one-third of Republicans held that view.

Fueled by these ideological divides, partisanship has engulfed Washington. According to one widely used index (Voteview), Congress today is more politically fractious and polarized than at any time in the last hundred years. After Democrats gained a majority in Congress in the 2006 midterm elections, many observers predicted that having one party control the White House and the other Congress would foster cooperation, as it often has in the past. Instead, the political rancor has only intensified. The White House, despite its initial pledge to work with the opposition, has continued its strident ways, dismissing the Democrats' call for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq as a "game of charades." Just after capturing the House and the Senate, the Democrats also promised to reach across the aisle. But as soon as the 110th Congress opened, they gave Republicans a taste of their own medicine by preventing the minority party from amending legislation during the initial flurry of lawmaking.

The sources of this return to partisan rancor are international as well as domestic. Abroad, the demise of the Soviet Union and the absence of a new peer competitor have loosened Cold War discipline, leaving the country's foreign policy more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of party politics. The threat posed by international terrorism has proved too elusive and sporadic to act as the new unifier. Meanwhile, the United States' deepening integration into the world economy is producing growing disparities in wealth among Americans, creating new socioeconomic cleavages and eroding support for free trade.

Within the United States, the political conditions that once encouraged centrism have weakened. Regional tensions are making a comeback; "red" America and "blue" America disagree about what the nature of the country's engagement in the world should be as well as about domestic issues such as abortion, gun control, and taxes. Moderates are in ever shorter supply, resulting in the thinning out of what Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., aptly labeled "the vital center." Congressional redistricting, the proliferation of highly partisan media outlets, and the growing power of the Internet as a source of campaign financing and partisan mobilization have all contributed to the erosion of the center. A generational change has taken its toll, too. Almost 85 percent of the House was first elected in 1988 or after. The "greatest generation" is fast retiring from political life, taking with it decades of civic-minded service.

With the presidential campaign now building up to full speed and the domestic landscape already deeply etched along regional and ideological lines, the partisan confrontation is poised to intensify -- a recipe for political stalemate at home and failed leadership abroad.


In the early twentieth century, deep partisan divisions produced unpredictable and dangerous swings in U.S. foreign policy and ultimately led to isolation from the world. A similar dynamic is unfolding at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The assertive unilateralism of the Bush administration is proving politically unsustainable. Eyeing the 2008 elections, the Democrats are readying ambitious plans to breathe new life into international institutions. But they, too, will find their preferred grand strategy politically unsustainable. The Republican Party, virtually bereft of its moderates after the 2006 elections, has little patience for cooperative multilateralism -- and will gladly deploy its power in the Senate to block any programmatic effort to bind Washington to international agreements and institutions. Especially amid the domestic acrimony spawned by the war in Iraq, partisanship and stalemate at home could once again obstruct U.S. statecraft, perhaps even provoking an unsteady retreat from abroad.

The U.S. electorate already appears to be heading in that direction. According to the December 2006 CBS News poll, 52 percent of all Americans thought the United States "should mind its own business internationally." Even in the midst of impassioned opposition to the Vietnam War, only 36 percent of Americans held such a view. Inward-looking attitudes are especially pronounced among younger Americans: 72 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds do not believe that the United States should take the lead in solving global crises. If Washington continues to pursue a grand strategy that exceeds its political means, isolationist sentiment among Americans is sure to grow.

The United States needs to pursue a new grand strategy that is politically solvent. In today's polarized landscape, with Democrats wanting less power projection and Republicans fewer international partnerships, restoring solvency means bringing U.S. commitments back in line with political means. Finding a new domestic equilibrium that guarantees responsible U.S. leadership in the world requires a strategy that is as judicious and selective as it is purposeful.

First, a solvent strategy would entail sharing more burdens with other states. Great powers have regularly closed the gap between resources and commitments by devolving strategic ties to local actors. The United States should use its power and good offices to catalyze greater self-reliance in various regions, as it has done in Europe. Washington should build on existing regional bodies by, for example, encouraging the Gulf Cooperation Council to deepen defense cooperation on the Arabian Peninsula, helping the African Union expand its capabilities, and supporting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' efforts to build an East Asian security forum. Washington should urge the European Union to forge a more collective approach to security policy and assume greater defense burdens. The United States also ought to deepen its ties to emerging regional powers, such as Brazil, China, India, and Nigeria. Washington would then be able to better influence their behavior so that it complements rather than hinders U.S. objectives.

Second, where the war on terrorism is concerned, U.S. strategy should be to target terrorists rather than to call for regime change. This would mean focusing military efforts on destroying terrorist cells and networks while using political and economic tools to address the long-term sources of instability in the Middle East. Recognizing that reform in the Arab world will be slow in coming, Washington should pursue policies that patiently support economic development, respect for human rights, and religious and political pluralism. It should also fashion working partnerships with countries prepared to fight extremism. Pursuing regime change and radical visions of transforming the Middle East will only backfire and continue to overextend U.S. military power and political will.

Third, the United States must rebuild its hard power. To do so, Congress must allocate the funds necessary to redress the devastating effect of the Iraq war on the readiness, equipment, and morale of the U.S. armed forces. The Pentagon should also husband its resources by consolidating its 750 overseas bases. Although the United States must maintain the ability to project power on a global basis, it can reduce the drain on manpower by downsizing its forward presence and relying more heavily on prepositioned assets and personnel based in the United States.

Fourth, the United States should restrain adversaries through engagement, as many great powers in the past have frequently done. In the nineteenth century, Otto von Bismarck adeptly adjusted Germany's relations with Europe's major states to ensure that his country would not face a countervailing coalition. At the turn of the twentieth century, the United Kingdom successfully engaged the United States and Japan, dramatically reducing the costs of its overseas empire and enabling it to focus on dangers closer to home. In the early 1970s, Richard Nixon's opening to China substantially lightened the burden of Cold War competition. Washington should pursue similar strategies today, using shrewd diplomacy to dampen strategic competition with China, Iran, and other potential rivals. Should U.S. efforts be reciprocated, they promise to yield the substantial benefits that accompany rapprochement. If Washington is rebuffed, it can be sure to remain on guard and thereby avoid the risk of strategic exposure.

The fifth component of this grand strategy should be greater energy independence. The United States' oil addiction is dramatically constricting its geopolitical flexibility; playing guardian of the Persian Gulf entails onerous strategic commitments and awkward political alignments. Furthermore, high oil prices are encouraging producers such as Iran, Russia, and Venezuela to challenge U.S. interests. The United States must reduce its dependence on oil by investing in the development of alternative fuels and adopting a federally mandated effort to make cars more efficient.

Finally, the United States should favor pragmatic partnerships over the formalized international institutions of the Cold War era. To be sure, international collaboration continues to be in the United States' national interest. In some areas -- fighting climate change, facilitating international development, liberalizing international trade -- institutionalized cooperation is likely to endure, if not deepen. It is already clear, however, that congressional support for the fixed alliances and robust institutions that were created after World War II is quickly waning. Grand visions of a global alliance of democracies need to be tempered by political reality. Informal groupings, such as the "contact group" for the Balkans, the Quartet, the participants in the six-party talks on North Korea, and the EU-3/U.S. coalition working to rein in Iran's nuclear program, are rapidly becoming the most effective vehicles for diplomacy. In a polarized climate, less is more: pragmatic teamwork, flexible concerts, and task-specific coalitions must become the staples of a new brand of U.S. statecraft.

Far from being isolationist, this strategy of judicious retrenchment would guard against isolationist tendencies. In contrast, pursuing a foreign policy of excessive and unsustainable ambition would risk a political backlash that could produce precisely the turn inward that neither the United States nor the world can afford. The United States must find a stable middle ground between doing too much and doing too little.


Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once claimed that 80 percent of the job of foreign policy was "management of your domestic ability to have a policy." He may have exaggerated, but he expressed an enduring truth: good policy requires good politics. Bringing ends and means back into balance would help restore the confidence of the American public in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. But implementing a strategic adjustment will require dampening polarization and building a stable consensus behind it. As Roosevelt demonstrated during World War II, sound leadership and tireless public diplomacy are prerequisites for fashioning bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy.

The next president will have to take advantage of the discrete areas in which Democrats and Republicans can find common purpose. Logrolling may be necessary to circumvent gridlock and facilitate agreement. Evangelicals on the right and social progressives on the left can close ranks on climate change, human rights, and international development. Democrats might support free trade if Republicans are willing to invest in worker retraining programs. The desire of big business to preserve access to low-wage labor may be consistent with the interests of pro-immigration constituencies; building a bridge between the two groups would reconcile corporate interests in the North with immigrant interests in the Southwest. Democrats who support multilateralism on principle can team up with Republicans who support institutions as vehicles for sharing global burdens. Although these and other political bargains will not restore the bipartisan consensus of the Cold War era, they will certainly help build political support for a new, albeit more modest, grand strategy.

So will more efforts to reach across the congressional aisle. Roosevelt overcame the Republicans' opposition to liberal internationalism by reaching out to them, appointing prominent Republicans to key international commissions and working closely with Wendell Willkie, the candidate he defeated in the 1940 election, to combat isolationism. The next administration should follow suit, appointing pragmatic members of the opposition to important foreign policy posts and establishing a high-level, bipartisan panel to provide regular and timely input into policy deliberations. Form will be as important as substance as U.S. leaders search for a grand strategy that not only meets the country's geopolitical needs but also restores political solvency at home.

Congratulations to those who read it all!

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on July 11, 2007, 22:01:55
Both authors are democrats living in their ivory tower. America in my opinion is alot more unified than the democrats/socialists want to admit. The voters are hanging tough on Iraq and illegal immigration. The democrats control Congress and 6 months into their term have passed none of the legislation that they promised the voters. The democrat strategy is to try to divide America and to pound out the theme that Bush is the great evil in the world and that if we would just communicate with the islamists then we could come to an agreement. Negotiating with bad guys from a position of weakness is a prescription for disaster. There are many modern day Neville Chamberlins but damn few Churchill's in the world. To fight an implacable enemy requires the will to win but all we hear from Washington's democrats and some republicans is doom and gloom. Iraq is a lost cause blah blah. The reality is that the democrats are invested in our defeat. If Petreaus reports in the fall real progress then the democrats lose politically.They cannot allow for a victory hence the constant efforts to defund the war. The Senate Majority leader is encouraged by some skittish republican senators and feels that he has the votes to defund the war.

Our troops are out on the frontline of the war on terror risking their lives all the while their politicians are busy undermining their efforts to protect the nation. This spectacle is disheartening and disgraceful.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: 54/102 CEF on July 12, 2007, 13:18:34
Tomahawk - well said - we too have 3 major defeatists up here

- Defeatist Number 1 - Jack Lay(down) Your Arms
- Defeatist Number 2 - Stephane (let someone else do the) Dion
- Defeatist Number 3 - Certain willfully mis informed and Spinning media channels - both electronic media and print - You'll ID them with these articles where the KIAs and the Mission are always praised then 1/3 of the way into the article "many critics say we should pull out." 
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 12, 2007, 13:39:26
... America in my opinion is alot more unified than the democrats/socialists want to admit ...

That would seem to be borne out by at least one ( opinion 'research' report which shows that:

1. Only 30% of Americans approve of President Bush's handing of the war;

2. Americans are evenly split on the question: was the decision to go to war in Iraq correct?

3. Less than 40% of Americans think things are going well in Iraq;

4. More than half of Americans want to bring the troops home now; and

5. Only 1/3 of Americans think the surge will make things better.

Maybe Americans are united, but not in the way one might wish.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on July 13, 2007, 00:16:18
I think the polls are slanted. If that many Americans opposed the war doe example where are the mass anti-war demonstrations ? If so few support the war then why are the democrats having a hard time forcing a troop withdrawal ? Finally many polls seem to show Congress with a much lower approval rating that the President. The MSN has been pounding Bush for six years now and yet the President seems to have enough political support to get his way on Iraq. It is not lost on the public that we have not had another terrorist attack - so Bush is keeping Americans safe which is really what leadership is all about.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 13, 2007, 08:03:48
I don’t think that even the modest ‘agreements’  Kupchan and Trubowitz advocate as preliminary steps in the process of developing a (much needed, in my view) bipartisan Grand Strategy are possible now or even in the first term of the next administration.

My sense, an outsider’s ‘sense’ to be sure, is that the political divisions in America are, by and large, domestic – a battle for the ‘soul of America’ to be a bit dramatic.  Foreign policy and grand strategy are peripheral issues.

If the polls and reports I have read are anything like accurate then America is very hard for outsiders to interpret.  It is, uniquely in the West, a religious society.  There are inexact parallels (how’s that for a contradiction in terms?) with Japan where some Shinto* practices strongly influence domestic politics and foreign policy.

(Some commentators have suggested that only Muslim countries mix faith and politics so thoroughly.  I don’t accept that.  I don’t believe that most (even very many) Americans believe that the bible is a better political instrument than the US Constitution; I understand that most faithful, believing Muslims must believe that the Quran provides all the political guidance any state needs.)

But, Islam aside, public morality, legislated morality is an issue in the US to a degree that is difficult for foreigners to imagine.  For example: abortion and homosexual rights (both issues of ‘privacy’) are regarded as being both legally and socially ‘settled’ in Canada, Europe, Australia/New Zealand and parts of Asia; not so in the USA where a deeply rooted conservative (not, in any way neo-liberal) element wants to legislate individual liberty.

That, I think, is the issue with which Americans must come to grips, in their own internal political debates, during the next generation.  And, absent a major war, they will not, because they cannot, develop a bipartisan foreign policy and grand strategy until the domestic political divisions are resolved – one way or the other.

I think President Bush is right: Americans are “war weary” – just like Canadians.  America’s mythology says that when the US acts, solutions (victory, etc) follow along quite quickly.  Viet Nam is a festering exception that proves the rule: a long, long war which ended poorly.  Iraq is getting longer and longer and a mix of fatigue, disillusionment and fear of another Viet Name style failure are taking hold.

That war weariness does not help the Democrats in congress.  They now have their hands near the levers of power and most understand that their options are very limited.  The current ‘pull out’ resolutions are political posturing: Democrats doing to the Republicans and President Bush what Harper did to the Liberals with the Afghanistan mission extension decision – embarrassing them by highlighting their own internal divisions.  The congress is not going to cut off funding – its only meaningful (and immensely powerful) course of action – that would be a political ‘nuclear strike’ on the White House and it is politically unacceptable to most (enough, anyway) Americans.

Anyway: I agree with Kupchan and Trubowitz that a new, bipartisan grand strategy is necessary – not just for America, either.  I doubt it is possible until sometime after 2012, maybe even later, after some key domestic, social issues are sufficiently ‘settled’ to allow the political focus to be widened.

* Shinto is, in my limited understanding, both more and less than a ‘religion’ as we tend to use that word.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: GAP on July 13, 2007, 08:09:15
I essentially agree with what ER just said, with one exception..... That sometime in the near future there is not a strike at the US from 911, it will pull everybody together temporarily, and if it is bad enough, keep them there for a long while. The best thing AQ can do now is nothing.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on July 13, 2007, 08:32:56
Interesting ER. Whenever a democrat talks about bipartisanship it is a misnomer. If you look at the way they are operating in Washington today there is very little in the way of bipartisanship. If the democrats had enough votes as they do in the House to ram legislation through without republican support they do so. The democrats are socialists trying to spread their ideology and the majority of americans are not prepared to go down that road just yet. We see the failure of socialism in Europe and its something that isnt very attractive to the average american.

Right now most americans take positions on domestic issues from a religious perspective such as abortion and gay marriage. On gun issues its a matter of a right guaranteed under the constitution. The democrats see abortion as a civil right and do not extend that view to the right to bear arms - gun ownership. The democrats when given a chance believe in higher taxes which is the opposite view of many wage earners.

For me a winning strategy for foreign policy would be this - act always in America's national interest irregardless of the view of the rest of the world. Be prepared to act with or without allies. The democrats dont like military power and prefer to negotiate away the issues of the day. Its impossible to negotiate with stateless terrorists. I believe that negotiation is possible in many instances after you have secured the peace - meaning if you have killed enough of the bad guys to the point where they dont want to fight anymore. State sponsors of terrorism cannot be ignored they must be dealt with effectively and with a wide range of tools. As they are police states to one degree or another they can be destabilized and eventually overthrown. Iran for example lacks the ability to refine oil and must import gas this would be an ideal way to apply pressure to the regime. State sponsors of terrorism is the #1 national security issue and defeating terrorism is #2.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 13, 2007, 09:00:32
I suspect that American opinion will fit rather neatly under a bell curve.  My guesstimate is that Tomahawk6 is over close to the right end – but by no means too near it, and Michael Moore, for example, is over towards the left end.

I’m  guessing that most of those Americans who voted Democrat in the last election (pretty close in number to those who voted Republican at 39.6 vs 34.7 million, respectively) do not regard the Dems as being socialists.  I’m also guessing that only a minority of Republicans see the Dems as being socialists.

Caution, off topic:  I wonder how Americans will deal with David M. Walker, the Comptroller General of the United States and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and his ‘Fiscal Wake-up Tour.’  His numbers and the implications in them are frightening, to say the least and higher taxes and reduced expectations may not be negotiable.

Edit: hyperlink to Fiscal wake-up presentation - (
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: 54/102 CEF on July 13, 2007, 11:37:08
A paper on the US National Security Strategy 2006 is attached. Prof is with DND's Strategic Policy Directorate.

Paper was part of a recently completed MA course in War Studies at Royal Military College. This is half paid by DND so here's your tax dollars coming back to you! :)


Bruce Berkowitz of the Hoover Institution  believes that in the face of a resilient threat the U.S. Government has to itself become quicker to adapt. He compares citizens of the old Soviet Union making jokes about how inept their government was but notes that the same jokes that used to be passed back to Washington are not heard from widespread support for the ideas of Islam confronting the west. He suggests there is a decades old real military limit to what the USA can bear which is on the order of 370 billion adjusted for inflation and when it gets to that level it declines by disengagement or a change of government at home. It happened with the abrupt cutoff of aid to England after the Second World War and in the mid 1970s in Vietnam. So in the end no perfect solution exists – and classic realism, means versus ends come back into vogue vs idealism – even the richest countries have limits. He offers some general principles to maintain a manageable engagement with the world:

“In sum, a strategy recognizing the need for sustainability would be developed consistent with these principles:

Know your long-term resources; aim for a concerted, sustained effort that is affordable and commands broad public support.

Be proactive in dealing with threats, even if this requires unilateral military measures; modest amounts of force now may avert the need for larger, unaffordable amounts of force later.

Be pragmatic in dealing with allies and potential coalition partners; don’t create unnecessary animosity, costs, or friction.
Yet be clear about the enduring values and goals the United States seeks. Officials need to be frank and sincere, not coy and calculating in public statements. We can trim our values from time to time when the situation demands, but officials need to be honest about it if they hope to keep public support.

Work as hard as necessary for a bipartisan consensus on long-term goals; the United States cannot maintain a predominance strategy based on 51 percent of the public as measured every four years on election day. Containment worked because it enjoyed broad support for many years.

Military power will be important, but soft power — American culture and international commerce — will, over time, have a greater effect in defeating or transforming our adversaries.

Like an expert mariner, the United States needs to ride these tides — which do run in our favor — so that we can reach our destination efficiently and assuredly. Maintaining our predominance requires a deft touch. Achieving this level of sophistication in U.S. strategy and policy may be the greatest challenge of all.”

Full paper at link
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on July 13, 2007, 15:13:06
The vote tally was Bush - 60,693,281 which was 51% of the vote. Kerry had 57,355,978 or 48% of the vote. If you look at the state by state results you see the strength of the democrats. You are right I am a conservative which to the moonbats on the left make me something akin to Atilla. ;D
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 20, 2007, 07:39:04 veterans will not be surprised to know that I agree, again, with Timothy Garton Ash (  Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail is his latest:
Iraq is over. Iraq has not yet begun
The public wants the boys to come home, but the war's consequences will still range from bad to catastrophic

From Friday's Globe and Mail
July 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM EDT

STANFORD, CALIF. — What conclusions can be drawn from the American debate about Iraq, which dominates the media here to the exclusion of almost any other foreign story?

First, that Iraq is over, in that American public has decided that most U.S. troops should leave. In a Gallup poll earlier this month, 71 per cent favoured "removing all U.S. troops from Iraq by April 1 of next year, except for a limited number that would be involved in counter-terrorism efforts." CNN's veteran political analyst Bill Schneider observes that in the latter years of the Vietnam War, the American public's attitude could be summarized as "either win or get out." He argues it's the same with Iraq. Despite President George W. Bush's increasingly desperate pleas, most Americans have concluded America is not winning. So: Get out.

Since this is a democracy, their elected representatives are following the people. Whatever the result of the latest round of congressional position play — which included an all-night marathon on the floor of the Senate from Tuesday to Wednesday, as Democrats attempted to outface a Republican filibuster — no one in Washington doubts this is the way the wind blows.

Publicly, there's still a sharp split along party lines, but leading Republicans are already breaking ranks to float their own phased troop reductions and proposals for partitioning Iraq among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

Mr. Bush says he's determined to give the commanding general in Iraq, David Petraeus, exactly the troop levels he asks for when he reports back this September, and the White House may hold the line for now against a Democrat-controlled Congress. Leading Republican contenders for the presidency are still talking tough. However, the most outspoken protagonist of hanging in there to win in Iraq, John McCain, has seen his campaign nosedive. Even if the next president is a hard-line Republican, all the current Washington betting will be confounded if he does not, at the very least, rapidly reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. After all, that's what the American people plainly say they want.

The American people's verdict is remarkably sharp on other aspects of the Iraq debacle. Asked who they blamed most for the current situation in Iraq, 40 per cent of those polled for Newsweek said the White House and another 13 per cent said Congress. In a poll for CNN, 54 per cent said the U.S. action in Iraq is not morally justified. In one for CBS, 51 per cent endorsed the assessment — shared by most of the experts — that involvement in Iraq is creating more terrorists hostile to the United States, rather than reducing their number. If once Americans were blind, they now can see. For all its plenitude of faith, this is a reality-based nation.

So Iraq is over. But the second conclusion is that Iraq has not yet begun. Not yet begun in terms of the consequences for Iraq itself, the Middle East, the United States' own foreign policy and its reputation in the world. The most probable consequence of rapid U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in its present condition is a further bloodbath, with even larger refugee flows and the effective dismemberment of the country. Already some two million Iraqis have fled across the borders and more than two million are internally displaced.

Now a pained and painstaking study from the Brookings Institution argues that what its authors call "soft partition" — involving the peaceful, voluntary transfer of an estimated two million to five million Iraqis into distinct Kurdish, Sunni and Shia regions, under close U.S. military supervision — would be the lesser evil. The lesser evil, that is, assuming that all goes according to plan and that the American public are prepared to allow their troops to stay in sufficient numbers to accomplish that thankless job: two implausible assumptions. A greater evil is more likely.

For the United States, the world is now, as a result of the Iraq war, a more dangerous and hostile place. At the end of 2002, what is sometimes tagged al-Qaeda Central in Afghanistan had been virtually destroyed and there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq. In 2007, there is an al-Qaeda in Iraq, parts of the old al-Qaeda are creeping back into Afghanistan, and there are al-Qaeda emulator-groupuscules spawning elsewhere, notably in Europe. The U.S. government's own latest national intelligence estimate, released earlier this week, suggests al-Qaeda in Iraq is now among the most significant threats to the security of the American homeland.

America has probably not yet fully woken up to the appalling fact that, after a long period in which the first motto of its military was "no more Vietnams," it faces another Vietnam. There are many important differences, of course, but the basic result is similar: The mightiest military in the world fails to achieve its strategic goals, and is, in the end, politically defeated by an economically and technologically inferior adversary. Even if there are no scenes of helicopters evacuating Americans from a flat roof of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, there will surely be some totemic image of national humiliation as the military struggles to extract its troops and all the equipment it has poured into Iraq. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have done terrible damage to America's reputation for being humane; this defeat will convince more people around the world that it is not even that powerful. And Osama bin Laden, still alive, will claim another victory over the death-fearing weaklings of the West.

In history, the most important consequences are often the unintended ones. We do not yet know the longer-term unintended consequences of Iraq. Maybe there is a silver lining hidden somewhere in this cloud. But so far as the human eye can see, the likely consequences of Iraq range from the bad to the catastrophic.

Timothy Garton Ash is a professor of European studies at St. Antony's College, Oxford

I need to begin by saying that despite my reservations about attacking Iraq at all (I would have preferred Saudi Arabia if we had to go after the good ol’ root causes) had I been prime minister of Canada we would have been ‘in’ – part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, despite Canadians’ very real opposition, because I would have valued Western solidarity higher than my (and my fellow citizens’) concerns about George W Bush’s strategic grasp.  Australia and Britain made the strategically ‘right’ choice; Canada and France did not.  Australia and Britain now regret their choices, right as they may have been, Canada and France do not.

I think the ‘meat’ is in the penultimate paragraph.  America’s soft power which is, unlike Canada’s, real and great is badly damaged.  The American military’s capability to defeat almost anyone, almost anywhere, quickly and thoroughly is mostly unimpaired.  America’s capability to ‘lead’ in the world is taking a hit.  America’s ‘strategic judgement’ is open to serious question. 

Asia, beginning with India and Japan (, is slipping, visibly, away from America – not towards China or anyone else, but, rather, into their own, regional ‘orbits,’ less tightly tied to America.  They will remain allies but more independent allies.  The so-called ‘quad’ (!4913C7C8A2EA4A30!351.entry) is necessary to ‘balance’ China’s growing soft power which is markedly enhanced by America’s current problems.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 03, 2008, 21:13:25
I’m resurrecting an old thread because I think this relates to grand strategy.

Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Ottawa Citizen, is a column by the CanWest chain’s George Jonas (
George Jonas .
The duties of empire

George Jonas, The National Post

Published: Monday, March 03, 2008

Why are western military coalitions participating in the civil wars of the Hindu Kush and the Balkans? A partial answer: Entropy. We're in Afghanistan and Kosovo because - as they used to say in the old days - nature abhors a vacuum.

Empire wasn't the direction in which the world seemed to be heading as the 19th century turned into the 20th. On the contrary, old empires were ascending their funeral pyres, with independent nations, newly created or resurrected from history, rising phoenix-like from their ashes.

The first to self-immolate was the Ottoman Empire, soon followed by the Romanov (Russian), Hohenzollern (German) and Habsburg (Austro- Hungarian) Empires. The Second World War did away with the nascent imperiums of the Japanese, the Italians and the Third Reich.

In the postwar years the sun finally set on the British Empire, along with remnants of Belgian, Dutch, Portuguese and French imperial holdings from Southeast Asia to North Africa. The last to implode was the Soviet Empire, which collapsed in 1991. The period of empires seemed to be over.

Even confederations withered. Early in the 20th century the Scandinavian attempt at union ended in the divorce of Norway and Sweden. Arab experiments fared no better - the United Arab Republic barely lasted three years, before Syria jumped ship - nor did Slavic unions survive in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, or the former Soviet Union. Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Serbians, Bosnians, Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, etc., reverted to ethnic nationhood, while elsewhere, Tamil, Basque, Chechen and Kurdish nations tried to bomb themselves into being.

But there was also a counter-trend emerging. Many post-colonial nations had trouble with self-government. Some countries couldn't get a grip on, look after, or come to terms with themselves or their neighbours. They were engaging in bloody squabbles next door and in deadly civil wars inside their own borders. The latter sometimes amounted to genocide, as in the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda. Many countries permitted themselves to be taken over by the most horrid dictators, unbalanced tyrants of the Idi Amin class, worse than their former imperial masters.

The United Nations, which was supposed to step into the breach, did not. The world body excelled only in posturing and dithering, whether under its furtive and indecisive Egyptian former secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, or his Ghanaian successor, the magisterially ineffectual Kofi Annan.

If Le Corbusier's architectural marvel in New York proved anything, it was that while being set loose in general assemblies can't turn hogs into humans, herds of swine, such as Third World dictatorships, can reduce lofty buildings to pigsties.

Strong and mature nations have had it with weak and immature nations, but more importantly, weak and immature nations have had it with themselves. The unforeseen situation that developed in the past 30 years saw the emergence of an inchoate yearning for big-power protection around the globe. Revealingly, while existing confederations (Belgium, Canada) teetered on the brink of secession, multicultural "Europe" emerged as a super-state.

By the 1980s, emergency response became essentially America's call, aided by some NATO countries. U.S. president Ronald Reagan responded in Grenada and Panama; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the Falklands; George Bush (the First) in Kuwait, the French on the Ivory Coast, the British in Sierra Leone. NATO intervened in Kosovo; George Bush (the Second) in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even President Bill Clinton, much as he disdained projecting America's power in theory, found himself obliged to intervene in Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo and Haiti. And, arguably, one of the worst blemishes on his foreign policy was his failure to intervene in Rwanda - a failure that resulted in an estimated hundreds of thousands dead.

Today, the world is crying out for big-power intervention. Paraphilia for colonization or re-colonization is the love that dare not speak its name - if anything, the rhetoric goes the other way - but the desire is plain. Countries unable to feed or govern themselves are looking to be rescued. The process accelerated in the last 18 years, with invitations to interfere, spoken or unspoken, from fratricidal Bosnia, Taliban-contested Afghanistan, war-torn Liberia, ethnically cleansed Kosovo, starving Somalia, oppressed Zimbabwe, or genocidal East Timor (where Australia found it advisable to land a small contingent only a few days ago to restore order after an attempted coup).

The collapse of the old world order created a vacuum - a black hole, really. It's a parallel universe, with all the duties of empire and none of its privileges. Riding America's coattails, Canada is being sucked into it.

George Jonas writes for the National Post.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

His seven paragraph history of the 20th century (”Empire wasn't the direction ... herds of swine, such as Third World dictatorships, can reduce lofty buildings to pigsties.”) ought to be required reading in all high-schools and ought to be committed to memory by all journalists.

Sadly, his deductions are a little weak.

It is true that “Strong and mature nations have had it with weak and immature nations, but more importantly, weak and immature nations have had it with themselves.” See, also: Robert Calderisi’s The Trouble with Africa (New York, 2006) for an insider’s view of the world from the point of view of the Weak and immature world. What is not true is that ”emergency response became essentially America's call”. What happened is that, post 1945, the world called out to America, seeking demanding help and America, usually reluctantly,* answered. 20th century America, like 18th century Britain, may have, absent-mindedly, stumbled into empire, but it, from Truman through Bush, did not seek one.

Canada is, as Jonas puts it, being sucked into a strategic black-hole, but we are not riding America’s coattails, at least not at America’s bidding. We chose to be a junior partner to the USA, in Ogdensburg, in 1940 ( About ten years later we assumed a realistic ’leading middle power’ role but we abandoned that after only twenty years. Thirty-five years later (under Prime Minister Paul Martin) Canada tried to enunciate a renewed ’leading middle power’ role ( but Mr. Martin’s government was short-lived and his successor has been less interested in such foreign policy declarations. We set our own course, in 1940 and again in 1970, and, despite our attempts to isolate ourselves from the world and its great issues, we are being sucked into the vortex, despite, not with, America.

* The Kennedy (1961-63) and Bush (2001-2009) administrations being the activist exceptions
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Greymatters on March 04, 2008, 22:28:39
It cannot be denied that the general public is likely highly confused by such insightful articles.  There have been at least three 'marketing' efforts over the past 5 years to convince the public that the US has a victory in Iraq.  Many leaders have been quoted as saying 'we are winning' or 'we have won'.  What is the public to think when articles like this come out and declare the problems are worse than when Iraq started?

It seems like the first thing to resolve, before trying to come up with solutions (good or bad as some of them may be), is whether the US leadership can agree on whether the battle has been won or lost and whether the enemy (along with which enemy) has been defeated.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 10, 2008, 08:53:34
I’m bringing an old tired thread to life because the G8 is part of our (America's and Canada's) grand strategy for the 21st century.

This opinion piece, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, by former Ambassador to NATO and Ottawa insider/heavy hitter Gordon Smith ( deserves some attention:
We either lead, or we get left


From Thursday's Globe and Mail
July 9, 2008 at 9:07 PM EDT

Canadian prime ministers have been part of the summit process now known as the G8 for two decades. This has allowed us to punch above our weight – something that may not be the case for much longer.

In an article on who should be at the summits, and who should not, the Forbes website stated: “Though it currently ranks near the top of the G8 in job growth and currency stability, the outlook for Canada as an economic world power is somewhat grim. It's losing manufacturing jobs to emerging markets in India, Mexico and Brazil, which will soon vault over Canada in the world GDP rankings. Canada's membership in the G8 makes the exclusion of those more prosperous nations even more egregious.”

Then, of course, there is China.

One of two things is likely to happen. The first is that the feeling that the wrong countries are meeting will develop to such a point that the summit will be reconstituted ab initio. Several countries will be dropped – Canada and Italy are the top candidates; others will be added, with China, India and Brazil the bare minimum.

The second possibility is that the +5 or Outreach 5 (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa) will be added as full-time members. This is the position of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain. The French President has gone one step further, suggesting that an Islamic Arab country also should be added.

Another leader who has spoken of the need to grow summit membership is President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. The group's enlargement, beyond Russia's inclusion a decade ago, has not occurred as a result of opposition by the United States, and also by Japan. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany also hasn't been enthusiastic at the prospect.

The U.S. position, however, is about to change.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain advocates dropping Russia from the G8 and creating a concert or league of democracies. While the idea of sitting only with other democracies may sound agreeable, it is hardly the way to break major global deadlocks. The countries that count must be around the table.

For his part, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama understands the need for the leaders of key countries to be at the table. He has proposed precisely this to deal with the challenges of climate change.

The heads of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa are becoming increasingly frustrated by their roles at summits. They have now taken to meeting on their own, mirroring the heads of the G8 countries. This is half the world's population. What this leads to is the G8 coming up with a position on a critical issue like climate change, then trying to sell it to the others.

It doesn't work very well. The leaders of the five countries don't want to be treated as second-class citizens.

Who can blame them?

As the world becomes increasingly interdependent, a “steering committee” is required. The G8 has been too slow to recognize the new realities of the world; we are very close to institutionalizing a G5 alongside the G8. This division is the last thing we need. Instead, we need to engage key countries in an equal manner in solving global problems.

Canada has long prided itself on being a leader in building international institutions and, more broadly, an international order. The summit in Japan is now history. The next summit in Italy will be very important. A new U.S. president will be there, probably with other new faces around the world.

President Sarkozy has said the +5 countries will be included for a full time, not just “for dessert,” as was the case. This will give Canada the opportunity to go all the way in 2010. We took a leadership role in bringing Russia in. Now, the same needs to be done for China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. As well, there probably should be an Islamic Arab country – Egypt, perhaps?

If we don't help reconstruct the summit architecture, we soon may find there's no longer space for us in the building.

Gordon Smith directs a research project on summit reform at the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria.

Canada (and the whole G7) was wrong to invite Russia in; it is neither a major economy nor a world leader in much of anything.

There are a few sensible options, including:

•   The McCain plan – limit the Gn to functioning democracies that are, also, strong, important global economies. That probably shuts Russia out (as it should be) keeps Canada in and makes room inside the wire for Australia and India and, perhaps, Brazil. This makes the Gn something akin to the Anglosphere+ that some, here on,  have advocated as a new global ‘strategic planning group;’

•   Reduce the Gn to a ‘sensible’ few: perhaps only those with GDPs above, say, $3 Trillion - America, China, Germany and Japan. This returns the Gn to its original, economic, focus;

•   Reduce the Gn to a few ‘blocks:’ the EU (GDP=$15+ Trillion), NAFTA (GDP=$15+ Trillion) and ASEAN + China, India, Japan and South Korea (GDP=$10+ Trillion) (that’s $40± Trillion out of a global GDP of $55± Trillion). This also returns the Gn to its original focus but recognizes the current realities and broadens the base.

Personally, I prefer the last but I’m guessing that the first is the more likely. In fact, I suspect that the Sarkozy plan will succeed: expel no one, ever, just enlarge and enlarge until the Gn becomes a huge, loose, amorphous and quite useless mass.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on July 10, 2008, 09:32:58
You have hit the nail on the head once again Edward. Why we are in the G8 is somewhat embarrassing to begin with, Canada wasn't invited because of our stirling properties or vast economic and military strength but mostly to provide some extra North American "weight" for the United States to counterbalance an otherwise Eurocentric organization.

If we do need a Gn, then lets focus first on what the purpose of the organization actually is, then look for suitable candidates. There is no reason to be too bent out of shape if some nation or group (or ourselves) is excluded from the Gn, our dealings with that nation or block would probably be expedited by membership in a different forum, or simply through bilateral agreements.

By this reasoning, Canada should be a member of the Anglosphere group, a mamber of the Gn bloc encompassing North America or perhaps the Americas, and NATO or whatever successor organization that arises for collective security of the West (and as Iran gets closer to gaining nuclear and long range missile capabilities, the need to refocus on the collective security of Europe and the Americas as the "West" will only grow). Large amorphus groups with no real focus (like the proposed Gn that includes an Islamic Arab country as window dressing) should be avoided as a waste of time and resources.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on July 10, 2008, 10:36:22
The surge in Iraq has clearly worked and the Iraqi security forces have made great strides.As Iraq winds down this should enable the US to deploy additional forces to Afghanistan.

American and Iraqi forces are driving Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.

After being forced from its strongholds in the west and centre of Iraq in the past two years, Al-Qaeda’s dwindling band of fighters has made a defiant “last stand” in the northern city of Mosul.

A huge operation to crush the 1,200 fighters who remained from a terrorist force once estimated at more than 12,000 began on May 10.

Operation Lion’s Roar, in which the Iraqi army combined forces with the Americans’ 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, has already resulted in the death of Abu Khalaf, the Al-Qaeda leader, and the capture of more than 1,000 suspects.

The group has been reduced to hit-and-run attacks, including one that killed two off-duty policemen yesterday, and sporadic bombings aimed at killing large numbers of officials and civilians.

Last Friday I joined the 2nd Iraqi Division as it supported local police in a house-to-house search for one such bomb after intelligence pointed to a large explosion today.

Even in the district of Zanjali, previously a hotbed of the insurgency, it was possible to accompany an Iraqi colonel on foot through streets of breeze-block houses studded with bullet holes. Hundreds of houses were searched without resistance but no bomb was found, only 60kg of explosives.

American and Iraqi leaders believe that while it would be premature to write off Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni group has lost control of its last urban base in Mosul and its remnants have been largely driven into the countryside to the south.

Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, who has also led a crackdown on the Shi’ite Mahdi Army in Basra and Baghdad in recent months, claimed yesterday that his government had “defeated” terrorism.

“They were intending to besiege Baghdad and control it,” Maliki said. “But thanks to the will of the tribes, security forces, army and all Iraqis, we defeated them.”

The number of foreign fighters coming over the border from Syria to bolster Al-Qaeda’s numbers is thought to have declined to as few as 20 a month, compared with 120 a month at its peak.

Brigadier General Abdullah Abdul, a senior Iraqi commander, said: “We’ve limited their movements with check-points. They are doing small attacks and trying big ones, but they’re mostly not succeeding.”

Major-General Mark Hertling, American commander in the north, said: “I think we’re at the irreversible point.”
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on July 17, 2008, 14:10:40
If in the long term the American political class loose their will or focus, this might forecast the outcome:

So Popular and So Spineless

Much ink has been spilled lately decrying the decline in American popularity around the world under President Bush. Polls tell us how China is now more popular in Asia than America and how few Europeans say they identify with the United States. I am sure there is truth to these polls. We should have done better in Iraq. An America that presides over Abu Ghraib, torture and Guantánamo Bay deserves a thumbs-down.

But America is not and never has been just about those things, which is why I also find some of these poll results self-indulgent, knee-jerk and borderline silly. Friday’s vote at the U.N. on Zimbabwe reminded me why.

Maybe Asians, Europeans, Latin Americans and Africans don’t like a world of too much American power — “Mr. Big” got a little too big for them. But how would they like a world of too little American power? With America’s overextended military and overextended banks, that is the world into which we may be heading.

Welcome to a world of too much Russian and Chinese power.

I am neither a Russia-basher nor a China-basher. But there was something truly filthy about Russia’s and China’s vetoes of the American-led U.N. Security Council effort to impose targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s ruling clique in Zimbabwe.

The U.S. put forward a simple Security Council resolution, calling for an arms embargo on Zimbabwe, the appointment of a U.N. mediator, plus travel and financial restrictions on the dictator Mugabe and 13 top military and government officials for stealing the Zimbabwe election and essentially mugging an entire country in broad daylight.

In the first round of Zimbabwe’s elections, on March 29, the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won nearly 48 percent of the vote compared with 42 percent for Mugabe. This prompted Mugabe and his henchmen to begin a campaign of killing and intimidation against Tsvangirai supporters that eventually forced the opposition to pull out of the second-round runoff vote just to stay alive.

Even before the runoff, Mugabe declared that he would disregard the results if his ZANU-PF party lost. Or as he put it: “We are not going to give up our country because of a mere X” on some paper ballot.

And so, of course, Mugabe “won” in one of the most blatantly stolen elections ever — in a country already mired in misrule, unemployment, hunger and inflation. Some 25 percent of Zimbabwe’s people have now taken refuge in neighboring states. (I have close friends from Zimbabwe, and one of my daughters worked there in an H.I.V.-AIDS community center in January.) The Associated Press reported in May from Zimbabwe “that annual inflation rose this month to 1,063,572 percent, based on prices of a basket of basic foodstuffs.” Zimbabwe’s currency has become so devalued, the A.P. explained, that “a loaf of bread now costs what 12 new cars did a decade ago.”

No matter. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, argued that the targeted sanctions that the U.S. and others wanted to impose on Mugabe’s clique exceeded the Security Council’s mandate. “We believe such practices to be illegitimate and dangerous,” he said, describing the resolution as one more obvious “attempt to take the Council beyond its charter prerogatives.” Veto!

Mugabe’s campaign of murder and intimidation didn’t strike Churkin as “illegitimate and dangerous” — only the U.N. resolution to bring a halt to it was “illegitimate and dangerous.” Shameful. Meanwhile, China is hosting the Olympics, a celebration of the human spirit, while defending Mugabe’s right to crush his own people’s spirit.

But when it comes to pure, rancid moral corruption, no one can top South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, and his stooge at the U.N., Dumisani Kumalo. They have done everything they can to prevent any meaningful U.N. pressure on the Mugabe dictatorship.

As The Times reported, America’s U.N. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, “accused South Africa of protecting the ‘horrible regime in Zimbabwe,’ ” calling this particularly disturbing given that it was precisely international economic sanctions that brought down South Africa’s apartheid government, which had long oppressed that country’s blacks.

So let us now coin the Mbeki Rule: When whites persecute blacks, no amount of U.N. sanctions is too much. And when blacks persecute blacks, any amount of U.N. sanctions is too much.

Which brings me back to America. Perfect we are not, but America still has some moral backbone. There are travesties we will not tolerate. The U.N. vote on Zimbabwe demonstrates that this is not true for these “popular” countries — called Russia or China or South Africa — that have no problem siding with a man who is pulverizing his own people.

So, yes, we’re not so popular in Europe and Asia anymore. I guess they would prefer a world in which America was weaker, where leaders with the values of Vladimir Putin and Thabo Mbeki had a greater say, and where the desperate voices for change in Zimbabwe would, well, just shut up.

The "Grand Strategy" need not be completely "Wilsonian" in character, and I think most Americans recognize that targetted interventions in the mode of the "Bush Doctrine" need not lead to quagmires or the Jacksonian "Terrible Swift Sword" (especially now that the American military seems to have relearned the lessons of the long ago Moro Rebellion and the "Indian Wars").  On the other hand, a retreat into Isolationism will lead to terrible results around the world, and certainly be no blessing to us (consider how authoratarian regimes view property rights and contract law, and ask if Canada can exist as a global trading nation in these shark infested waters?).

How strange this isn't the topic of much greater discussion in the United States (especially in an election year)
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on July 26, 2008, 09:07:46
More on the alternative world where autocratic and authoritarian Powers have greater sway in global affairs:

Hugs For Thugs

Russia and China don't care much about democracy and human rights. Their no-questions-asked foreign policy is drawing in some of the world's nastiest tyrants

Robert Kagan,  National Post  Published: Thursday, July 24, 2008

It is a mistake to believe that autocracy has no international appeal. Thanks to decades of remarkable growth, the Chinese today can argue that their model of economic development, which combines an increasingly open economy with a closed political system, can be a successful option for development in many nations. It certainly offers a model for successful autocracy, a blueprint for how to create wealth and stability without having to give way to political liberalization. Russia's model of "sovereign democracy" is attractive among the autocrats of Central Asia. Some Europeans worry that Russia is "emerging as an ideological alternative to the EU that offers a different approach to sovereignty, power and world order."

In the 1980s and 1990s, the autocratic model seemed like a losing proposition as dictatorships of both right and left fell before the liberal tide. Today, thanks to the success of China and Russia, it looks like a better bet.

China and Russia may no longer actively export an ideology, but they can and do offer autocrats somewhere to run when the democracies turn hostile. When Iran's relations with Europe plummeted in the 1990s after its clerics issued a fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, the influential Iranian leader Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani made a point of noting how much easier it is to maintain good relations with a nation like China. When the dictator of Uzbekistan came under criticism in 2005 from the administration of George W. Bush for violently suppressing an opposition rally, he responded by joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and moving closer to Moscow. The Chinese provide unfettered aid to dictatorships in Africa and Asia, undermining the efforts of the "international community" to press for reforms -- which in practical terms often means regime change -- in countries such as Burma and Zimbabwe.

Americans and Europeans may grumble, but autocracies are not in the business of overthrowing other autocrats at the democratic world's insistence. The Chinese, who used deadly force to crack down on student demonstrators not so long ago, will hardly help the West remove a government in Burma for doing the same thing. Nor will they impose conditions on aid to African nations to demand political and institutional reforms they have no intention of carrying out in China. In the great schism between democracy and autocracy, the autocrats share common interests and a common view of international order.

In fact, a global competition is under way. According to Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, "For the first time in many years, a real competitive environment has emerged on the market of ideas [between different] value systems and development models." And the good news, from the Russian point of view, is that "the West is losing its monopoly on the globalization process."

This comes as a surprise to a democratic world that believed such competition ended when the Berlin Wall fell. The world's democracies do not regard their own efforts to support democracy and Enlightenment principles abroad as an aspect of a geopolitical competition, because they do not see "competing truths," only "universal values." As a result, they are not always conscious of how they use their wealth and power to push others to accept their values and principles. In their own international institutions and alliances, they demand strict fidelity to liberal democratic principles. Before opening their doors to new members, and before providing the vast benefits that membership offers in terms of wealth and security, they demand that nations who want to enter the EU or NATO open up their economies and political systems. When the Georgian president called a state of emergency at the end of 2007, he damaged Georgia's chances of entering NATO and the EU anytime soon. As a result, Georgia may now live precariously in the nether region between Russian autocracy and European liberalism. Eventually, if the democracies turn their backs on Georgia, it may have no choice but to accommodate Moscow.

This competition is not quite the Cold War redux. It is more like the 19th-century redux. In the 19th century, the absolutist rulers of Russia and Austria shored up fellow autocracies in post-revolutionary France and used force to suppress liberal rebellions in Germany, Poland, Italy and Spain. Palmerston's Britain used British power to aid liberals on the continent; the United States cheered on liberal revolutions in Hungary and Germany, and expressed outrage when Russian troops suppressed liberal forces in Poland. Today, Ukraine has already been a battleground between forces supported by the West and forces supported by Russia and could well be a battleground again in the future. Georgia could be another.

It may not come to war, but the global competition between democratic and autocratic governments will become a dominant feature of the 21st-century world. The great powers are increasingly choosing up sides and identifying themselves with one camp or the other. India, which during the Cold War was proudly neutral or even pro-Soviet, has begun to identify itself as part of the democratic West. Japan in recent years has also gone out of its way to position itself as a democratic great power.

There is no perfect symmetry in international affairs. The twin realities of the present era -- great power competition and the contest between democracy and autocracy -- will not always produce the same alignments. Democratic India in its geopolitical competition with autocratic China supports the Burmese dictatorship in order to deny Beijing a strategic advantage. India's diplomats enjoy playing the other great powers off against each other, sometimes warming to Russia, sometimes to China. Democratic Greece and Cyprus pursue close relations with Russia partly out of cultural solidarity with Eastern Orthodox cousins but more out of economic interest. The United States has long allied itself to Arab dictatorships for strategic and economic reasons, as well as to successive military rulers in Pakistan. Just as during the Cold War, strategic and economic considerations, as well as cultural affinities, may often cut against ideology.

But in today's world, a nation's form of government, not its "civilization" or its geographical location, may be the best predictor of its geopolitical alignment. Asian democracies today line up with European democracies against Asian autocracies. Chinese observers see a "V-shaped belt" of pro-American democratic powers "stretching from Northeast to Central Asia." When the navies of India, the United States, Japan, Australia and Singapore exercised in the Bay of Bengal last year, Chinese and other observers referred to it as the "axis of democracy." Japan's prime minister spoke of an "Asian arc of freedom and prosperity" stretching from Japan to Indonesia to India.

Russian officials profess to be "alarmed" that NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are "reproducing a bloc policy" not unlike that of the Cold War era. But the Russians themselves refer to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an "anti-NATO" alliance and a "Warsaw Pact 2." When the Shanghai Cooperation Organization met last year, it brought together five autocracies -- China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan--as well as Iran.

The divisions between the United States and its European allies that opened wide after the invasion of Iraq are being overshadowed by these more fundamental geopolitical divisions, and especially by growing tensions between the democratic transatlantic alliance and autocratic Russia. European attitudes toward Russia are hardening. But so are European attitudes toward China: Polls show that in Britain, Germany, France and Spain, China's image has been plummeting in recent years. Only 34% of Germans had a favourable view of Beijing in 2007, which may explain why Chancellor Angela Merkel felt free to incur China's ire last year by meeting with the Dalai Lama.

This does not mean Americans and Europeans will agree on how best to handle relations with Moscow or Beijing. China is well beyond Europe's daily strategic concern, and Europeans are therefore more inclined to accommodate China's rise than are Americans, Indians or Japanese. When it comes to Russia, Europeans may want to pursue an accommodating Ostpolitik, as they did during the Cold War, rather than a more confrontational American style approach. Nevertheless, the trends in Europe are toward greater democratic solidarity.

The question is: How long will the Middle East remain the exception to this pattern? It is possible that, over time, autocracies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia may see virtue in drawing closer to their fellow autocrats in Moscow and Beijing. It is also possible that a more democratic Lebanon, a more democratic Iraq and a more democratic Morocco may form a new bloc of pro-American democracies in the region, alongside the more moderate, democratizing autocracies of Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain.

The global divisions between the club of autocrats and the axis of democracy have broad implications for the international system. Is it possible any longer to speak of an "international community"? The term implies agreement on international norms of behaviour, an international morality, even an international conscience. Today, the world's major powers lack such a common understanding. On the large strategic questions, such as whether to intervene or impose sanctions or attempt to isolate nations diplomatically, there is no longer an international community to be summoned or led. - Excerpted from The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams by Robert Kagan. Copyright 2008 by Robert Kagan. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

There actually never was an "international community" to be summoned or led, and there will not be one in the near future, fantasies about international law etc. notwithstanding.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on August 18, 2008, 09:57:14
If the world reverts to the 1930's. This is the possible result of the hoped for drawdown of American power across the world; be careful what you wish for, it may be granted:

Sunday, August 17, 2008
HANSON: Brave old world

Russia invades Georgia. China jails dissidents. China and India pollute at levels previously unimaginable. Gulf monarchies make trillions from jacked-up oil prices. Islamic terrorists keep car bombing.

Meanwhile, Europe offers moral lectures, while Japan and South Korea shrug and watch - all in a globalized world that tunes into the Olympics each night from Beijing.

"Citizens of the world" were supposed to share, in relative harmony, our new "Planet Earth," which was to have followed from an interconnected system of free trade, instantaneous electronic communications, civilized diplomacy and shared consumer capitalism. But was that ever quite true?

In reality, to the extent globalism worked, it followed from three unspoken assumptions:

(1) The U.S. economy would keep importing goods from abroad to drive international economic growth.

(2) The U.S. military would keep the sea lanes open, and trade and travel protected. After the past destruction of fascism and global communism, the Americans, as global sheriff, would continue to deal with the occasional menace like a Moammar Gadhafi, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il or the Taliban.

(3) America would ignore ankle-biting allies and remain engaged with the world - like a good, nurturing mom who at times must put up with the petulance of dependent teenagers.

But there have been a number of indications recently that globalization may soon lose its American parent, who is tiring, both materially and psychologically.

The United States may be the most free, stable and meritocratic nation in the world, but its resources and patience are not unlimited. Currently, it pays more than a half trillion dollars per year to import $115-a-barrel oil that is often pumped at a cost of about $5.

The Chinese, Japanese and Europeans hold trillions of dollars in U.S. bonds - the result of massive trade deficits. The American dollar recently has been at historic lows. We are piling up staggering national debt. More than 12 million live here illegally and freely transfer more than $50 billion annually to Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

Our military, after deposing Milosevic, the Taliban and Saddam, is tired. And Americans are increasingly becoming more sensitive to the cheap criticism of global moralists.

But as the United States turns ever so slightly inward, the new globalized world will revert to a far poorer - and more dangerous - place.

Liberals like presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama speak out against new free trade agreements and want existing accords like North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) readjusted.

More and more Americans are furious at the costs of illegal immigration - and are moving to stop it. Foreign remittances that help prop up Mexico and Latin America are threatened by any change in America's immigration attitude.

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy becomes harder to take. After all, it is easy for self-appointed global moralists to complain that terrorists don't enjoy Miranda rights at Guantanamo, but it would be hard to do much about the Russian military invading Georgia's democracy and bombing its cities.

Al Gore crisscrosses the country, pontificating about Americans' carbon footprints. But he could do far better to fly to China to convince them not to open 500 new coal-burning power plants.

It has been chic to chant "No blood for oil" about Iraq's petroleum - petroleum that, in fact, is now administered by a constitutional republic. But such sloganeering would be better directed at China's sweetheart oil deals with Sudan that enable the mass murdering in Darfur.

Due to climbing prices and high government taxes, gasoline consumption is declining in the West, but its use is rising in other places, where it is either untaxed or subsidized.

So, what a richer but more critical world has forgotten is that America largely was the model, not the villain - and that postwar globalization was always a form of engaged Americanization that enriched and protected billions.

Yet globalization, in all its manifestations, will run out of steam the moment we tire of fueling it, as the world returns instead to the mindset of the 1930s - with protectionist tariffs; weak, disarmed democracies; an isolationist America; predatory dictatorships; and a demoralized gloom-and-doom Western elite.

If America adopts the protectionist trade policies of Japan or China, global profits plummet. If our armed forces follow the European lead of demilitarization and inaction, rogue states advance. If we treat the environment as do China and India, the world quickly becomes a lost cause.

If we flee Iraq and call off the war on terror, Islamic jihadists will regroup, not disband. And when the Russians attack the next democracy, they won't listen to the United Nations, the European Union or Michael Moore.

Brace yourself -we may be on our way back to an old world, where the strong do as they will, and the weak suffer as they must.

Victor Davis Hanson is nationally syndicated columnist and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on September 11, 2008, 15:05:30
Edward Campbell found this piece, which outlines the challenges facing both America and the West:


From Thursday's Globe and Mail

September 10, 2008 at 11:14 PM EDT

STANFORD, CALIF. — The seven years since 9/11 reveal an old truth: Problems are usually not solved, just overtaken by other problems. Those of 8/8, for example. On Aug. 8, 2008, two mighty nations announced their return to world history. Russia, invading Georgia, did it with tanks. China, launching the Olympics, did it with acrobats. The message was the same: World, we're back.

Don't get me wrong. A grave jihadist threat hangs over us still. They have a faith-based ideology with proven appeal to a minority of disaffected Muslims, especially those living in the West, and the means to wreak cut-price mayhem are alarmingly easy to find. Protecting us from "another 9/11" without destroying freedom is a major challenge.

What has proved false is the neo-conservative claim that this single threat defines world politics in our time. Returning to the United States after a year's absence, I'm struck by how relatively little even the American right is talking about the "war on terror."

Beyond terrorism, two giant changes define our world. Both can, to a large extent, be traced back to globalization.

The first is the "rise of the rest," made manifest on 8/8. Non-Western powers challenge the West's economic dominance. They are beating the West at the game it invented, quietly changing the rules along the way. Goldman Sachs analysts predict that by 2040, China, India, Russia, Brazil and Mexico will have a larger combined economic output than today's G7. The date matters less than the trend.

At the same time, worldwide economic development on the basis of the free movement of goods, capital, services and people is exacerbating a whole set of problems. Climate change, mass migration, pandemics: All cry out for international, co-operative responses. The need for liberal international order has never been greater. Yet by contrast with the 1990s, when U.S. president George H. W. Bush spoke of replacing the Cold War with a "new world order," the prospects of achieving it no longer look so good. Power is diffused to too many competing states, many illiberal, as well as to networks such as al-Qaeda.

So we of the FLIO (friends of liberal international order) must now soberly confront the prospect of a new world disorder. Or rather old-new, for disorder is the more natural condition. International order - peace - is always a fragile achievement. I hardly need to repeat that in these seven lean years since the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush's administration has contributed to the erosion, rather than the building, of international order. Russia's invasion of Georgia was, among other things, payback for the invasion of Iraq.

While order is threatened, liberty is no longer self-evidently on the march. The French refer to their 30 years of growth after the Second World War as the trente glorieuses. Future historians may see the three decades from Portugal's 1974 revolution of the carnations to Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution as a trente glorieuses for the spread of liberty. But Russia and China are not just great powers challenging the West. They represent alternative versions of authoritarian capitalism, or capitalist authoritarianism - the biggest potential competitor to liberal democratic capitalism since communism.

Radical Islamism may appeal to millions, but it cannot reach beyond the faithful, except by conversion. More important, it cannot plausibly claim to be associated with economic, technological and cultural modernity. By contrast, the opening ceremony of the Olympics, like the skyscrapers of Shanghai, show authoritarian capitalism already staking that claim. In the Bird's Nest stadium, the latest audiovisual hi-tech was placed at the service of a hyper-disciplined collectivist fantasy, made possible by financial resources no democracy would have dared devote to such a purpose.

For close to 500 years, modernity has come from the West to the world. Historian Theodore von Laue called this "the world revolution of Westernization." In 20th-century Europe, liberal democracy faced two powerful versions of modernity that were Western but illiberal: fascism and communism. Part of these systems' appeal was precisely that they were modern. Liberal democracy finally saw them both off, although not without a world war, a Cold War and a lot of American help.

Now, in China, we glimpse a modernity both non-Western and illiberal. But is authoritarian capitalism a stable, durable model? That, it seems to me, is among the greatest questions of our time.

As we of the FLIO think how to respond, I have some sympathy for the notion, canvassed by U.S. policy intellectuals, of a "concert of democracies." We should look first to countries that share our governing values - but only with several vital caveats.

First, we should not kid ourselves that we can have only liberal democracies as partners. Our values may pull us that way, but our interests will necessarily push us toward illiberal states as well.

It's also not the smartest idea to identify this concert too emphatically with the West. Historically, both modernity and liberalism have come from the West. But the future of freedom now depends on the possibility of new versions of modernity, whether they evolve in India, China or the Muslim world, that are distinctly non-Western yet also recognizably liberal, in the core sense of cherishing individual freedom.

I wouldn't bet on this outcome, but working toward it is the best long-term chance we have. Pessimism of the intellect must be matched by optimism of the will.

Timothy Garton Ash is professor of European studies at St. Antony's College, Oxford.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on October 05, 2008, 02:23:31
While this is an article from 2004, it does state the fundamentals of the "Anglosphere" idea:

Explaining the 'Anglosphere'
George Bush's coalition is bound by more than a common language, writes US blogger Glenn Reynolds

American students protest outside the French embassy in Washington, DC. Photograph: Mike Krempasky/
Last week's column mentioned George Bush's "Anglosphere-heavy coalition". I think it's worth taking a moment to note the importance of the Anglosphere in today's world, and the deeper divisions it reflects.

Columnist James Bennett defines the "Anglosphere" as follows:

"This term, which can be defined briefly as the set of English-speaking, Common Law nations, implies far more than merely the sum of all persons who employ English as a first or second language. To be part of the Anglosphere requires adherence to the fundamental customs and values that form the core of English-speaking cultures. These include individualism, rule of law, honouring contracts and covenants, and the elevation of freedom to the first rank of political and cultural values.

"Nations comprising the Anglosphere share a common historical narrative in which the Magna Carta, the English and American Bills of Rights, and such Common Law principles as trial by jury, presumption of innocence, "a man's home is his castle", and "a man's word is his bond" are taken for granted. Thus persons or communities who happen to communicate or do business in English are not necessarily part of the Anglosphere, unless their cultural values have also been shaped by those values of the historical English-speaking civilisation."

(Bennett also has a forthcoming book on this topic.)

I must confess that this construction struck me as odd at first. It's a bit too reminiscent of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter's theory that freedom was fundamentally a characteristic of the "English-speaking peoples", and faced far more uncertain prospects elsewhere. On the other hand, Jacques Chirac certainly seems to think there's something there, with his frequent outbursts against "a prevailing Anglo-Saxon culture which eclipses the others".

At any rate, it has been America's experience - and you can bet that plenty of Americans have noticed it - that when the chips are down it's usually other members of the Anglosphere, and particularly Britain and Australia, who can be counted on, and who are worth standing beside in turn. (Canada has been a bit dodgy in recent decades, ever since the Pierre Trudeau era and the Quebecois ascendancy). This is, of course, the reason why Tony Blair and John Howard wield such influence, while Chirac can barely get his calls returned. As Mark Steyn observes:

"The result is that, even though he's hardly ever in the souvenir photo line-up, Howard's a more consequential figure in world affairs these days than Chirac. Indeed, he's a transformative figure. I know this, because my nation has been on the other end of the transformation. I'm Canadian and, for those who remember when the Royal Canadian Navy was once the third largest surface fleet in the world, it's sobering to hear Australia spoken of as the third pillar of the Anglosphere.

"Under Howard, Australia is a player while Canada is a global irrelevance."

France's problems go deeper, of course. Even within the European Union, it is described by some observers as "increasingly isolated" in opposition to the more dynamic nations of the East. But the extent to which French behaviour has forfeited American goodwill over the past few years is poorly appreciated among French leaders, I'm afraid. America would go to the mat to support Britain and Australia. But - though it has done so before, twice - I'm no longer sure that it would similarly exert itself on behalf of France. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in the Times last year: "I've lived in the United States for almost 20 years and have rarely heard anything but condescension towards successive French governments. But now that condescension has turned to contempt."

That seems about right to me. (There's even a new book, called Our Oldest Enemy, that takes a rather unflattering view of France's role.) This is a bit of a problem for John Kerry, whose greater-than-average admiration for French policies has received some attention. And it's also a reason why Kerry, even if elected, will find it hard to take a more France-friendly approach. There just isn't political support.

But though tensions between the United States and France are an issue, similar tensions exist within the United States, and around the world beyond France. As Bennett has observed:

"t is worth considering the possibility that the root source of anti-Americanism in the world lies in the deep-rooted anti-modern tradition of Continental Europe.

"Just as the Ba'athist movement lately of Iraq and still in power in Syria is a localised variant of European fascism, the broader anti-Americanism currently fashionable on all continents comes ultimately from what some have called the industrial counter-revolution. This is a comprehensive category for the various reactions in Europe against the programme of the industrial and democratic revolutions, or liberalism in the classical sense - individualism, free markets, and technological and social progress."

Osama bin Laden's rather backward-looking form of Islam constitutes an extreme reaction against modernity, of course. But the dirigiste statism of the traditional French approach, which has produced a political situation in which even modest adjustments to civil servants' pensions can produce widespread social unrest, is another, milder version.

Nor is this purely a matter of international relations. Within the United States - and, indeed, within all countries, even the most capitalist - the industrial revolution, and capitalism, pose a threat to those who prefer hierarchy and status to dynamism and meritocracy. (Indeed, Virginia Postrel has looked at this division in her book, The Future And Its Enemies, and concluded that the big division of the twenty-first century is between "dynamists" and "stasists".)

As both Bennett and Postrel note, the Anglosphere has been far more open to progress and change than, say, the Francosphere, such as it is. But within the Anglosphere one finds people - often academics, or government employees, or others who operate in environments where competition is less fierce, and status hierarchies more important - who are threatened by dynamism. In this regard, concerns about American power are as much a symptom of anxiety as a matter of substance. This may explain why so many such people around the world, and even within America, favour John Kerry, widely regarded as the French-leaning candidate in the American election. On the other hand, the division exists in the other direction, even on the Continent, too. Within France are activists like Sabine Herold, who are challenging the ossified structures of French society and standing up against social rigidities. (Herold, in a very un-French way, is an unabashed admirer of hard work.) And, of course, within Europe as a whole the countries of "New Europe", like Poland, are far more anxious for progress and change than the inward-looking countries of Old Europe, like France and Germany.

The good news is that the American elections will be over soon. The bad news is that the tensions they represent are not limited to America, and will continue long after George Bush, or John Kerry, is sworn in in January.

· Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, runs the US political blog.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 21, 2008, 23:15:37
If American power is drawn down through accident or design during the next administration, then we will be living in a world much like this:

The latest Global Trends report is out. Here are some of its predictions for 2025, with some comments.

A global multipolar system is emerging with the rise of China, India, and others. The relative power of nonstate actors—businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and even criminal networks—also will increase.

By 2025 a single “international community” composed of nation-states will no longer exist. Power will be more dispersed with the newer players bringing new rules of the game while risks will increase that the traditional Western alliances will weaken. Rather than emulating Western models of political and economic development, more countries may be attracted to China’s alternative development model.

International legal institutions will weaken as the power of members with diverse ideological and political goals increases relative to that of the United States and the rest of the west. Consensus-based organizations (nearly all of them) will become paralyzed. As the still wealthier west finds itself increasingly outnumbered it will pull out of or subvert majoritarian institutions such as they are. Likely victims: the UN Security Council and General Assembly, the WTO, and the International Criminal Court. A “league of democracies,” a “responsibility to protect” (civilian populations from genocide), and other fantasies that can be found in political discourse from time to time today will disappear entirely. Human rights norms, however, will expand to include prohibitions on defamation of religion and of ethnic groups.

Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could lessen if economic growth continues in the Middle East and youth unemployment is reduced. For those terrorists that are active the diffusion of technologies will put dangerous capabilities within their reach.

Opportunities for mass-casualty terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, or less likely, nuclear weapons will increase as technology diffuses and nuclear power (and possibly weapons) programs expand. The practical and psychological consequences of such attacks will intensify in an increasingly globalized world.

The early twenty-first century civil libertarian critique of government surveillance and detention activities will seem as eccentric in 2025 as the early nineteenth century critique of the national bank seems to us today.

Canadians may already be living in this world, comfortably sending 80% of our exports to the United States and studiously ignoring the rest; sheltering under the US nuclear umbrella and only doing the minimum required to advance our interests. Watching the rest of the world close into hostile or indifferent trade and political blocs won't make too much of a difference to us in the long run, we seem to have retreated into our shells a long time ago (Edward Campbell would say in the late 1960's early 1970's under PET's "inspired" leadership).

 Such a world isn't in our long term interests, however, so our grand strategy should be to engage with as many similar-minded nations as possible, extending our reach and increasing the number of friends we can count on whenever there is a crunch (and we will be feeling a lot of them). Call it the Gn, the Anglosphere or whatever other grouping makes you happy (The "Liberal Democracy Tiger Team" has a ring to it!).

The only factor which does not seem to have been accounted for in this analysis is the demographic crunch; China will have dangerously unbalanced demographics in the 2020's, Europe, Japan and Russia will start really feeling their demographic decline in the 2030's (Russia most of all) and even we will be falling into a demographic crunch starting then. Most of the "bottom billion" nations will still have positive demographic growth (into an increasingly impoverished social and economic infrastructure), only the United States seems set to maintain her population ar replacement levels through this time period (and note "Red States" with Sara Palin sized families will be the bulk of the American population then).

We will be living in interesting times.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on November 21, 2008, 23:38:52
Dangerous times.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 24, 2008, 18:10:05
VDH on some of the issues at home. Americans will be able to prosper and thrive if they can clean up some of these messes:

Ten Random, Politically Incorrect Thoughts
Support Pajamas Media; Visit Our Advertisers

1. Four years of high-school Latin would dramatically arrest the decline in American education. In particular, such instruction would do more for minority youths than all the ‘role model’ diversity sermons on Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Montezuma, and Caesar Chavez put together. Nothing so enriches the vocabulary, so instructs about English grammar and syntax, so creates a discipline of the mind, an elegance of expression, and serves as a gateway to the thinking and values of Western civilization as mastery of a page of Virgil or Livy (except perhaps Sophocles’s Antigone in Greek or Thucydides’ dialogue at Melos). After some 20 years of teaching mostly minority youth Greek, Latin, and ancient history and literature in translation (1984-2004), I came to the unfortunate conclusion that ethnic studies, women studies—indeed, anything “studies”— were perhaps the fruits of some evil plot dreamed up by illiberal white separatists to ensure that poor minority students in the public schools and universities were offered only a third-rate education.

2. Hollywood is going the way of Detroit. The actors are programmed and pretty rather than interesting looking and unique. They, of course, are overpaid (they do to films what Lehman Brothers’ execs did to stocks), mediocre, and politicized. The producers and directors are rarely talented, mostly unoriginal—and likewise politicized. A pack-mentality rules. Do one movie on a comic superhero—and suddenly we get ten, all worse than the first. One noble lion cartoon movie earns us eagle, penguin and most of Noah’s Arc sequels. Now see poorer remakes of movies that were never good to begin with. I doubt we will ever see again a Western like Shane, the Searchers, High Noon, or the Wild Bunch. If one wishes to see a fine film, they are now usually foreign, such as Das Boot or Breaker Morant. Watching any recent war movie (e.g., Iraq as the Rape of Nanking) is as if someone put uniforms on student protestors and told them to consult their professors for the impromptu script.

3. All the old media brands of our youth have been tarnished and all but discredited. No one picks up Harpers or Atlantic expecting to read a disinterested story on politics or culture. (I pass on their inane accounts of ‘getaways’ and food.) The New York Times and Washington Post are as likely to have op-eds as news stories on the front page. Newsweek and Time became organs for paint-by-numbers Obamism, teased with People Magazine-like gossip pieces (at least, their editors still cared enough to seem hurt when charged with overt bias). NBC, ABC, and CBS would now make a Chet Huntley or Eric Sevareid turn over in his grave. A Keith Olbermann would not have been allowed to do commercials in the 1950s. Strangely, the media has offered up fashionably liberal politics coupled with metrosexual elite tastes in fashions, clothes, housing, food, and the good life, as if there were no contradictions between the two. No wonder media is so enthralled with the cool Obama and his wife. Both embody the new nexus between Eurosocialism in the abstract and the hip aristocratic life in the concrete.

4. After the junk bond meltdown, the S&L debacle, and now the financial panic, in just a few years the financial community destroyed the ancient wisdom: deal in personal trust; your word is your bond; avoid extremes; treat the money you invest for others as something sacred; don’t take any more perks than you would wish others to take; don’t borrow what you couldn’t suddenly pay back; imagine the worse case financial scenario and expect it very may well happen; the wealthier you become the more humble you should act. And for what did our new Jay Goulds do all this? A 20,000 square-foot mansion instead of the old 6,000 sq. ft. expansive house? A Gulfstream in lieu of first class commercial? You milk your company, cash in your stock bonuses, enjoy your $50 million cash pile, and then get what—a Rolex instead of a reliable Timex? A Maserati for a Mercedes, a gold bathroom spout in preference to brushed pewter? The extra splurge was marginal and hardly worth the stain of avarice on one’s immortal soul.

5. California is now a valuable touchstone to the country, a warning of what not to do. Rarely has a single generation inherited so much natural wealth and bounty from the investment and hard work of those more noble now resting in our cemeteries—and squandered that gift within a generation. Compare the vast gulf from old Governor Pat Brown to Gray Davis or Arnold Schwarzenegger. We did not invest in many dams, canals, rails, and airports (though we use them all to excess); we sued each other rather than planned; wrote impact statements rather than left behind infrastructure; we redistributed, indulged, blamed, and so managed all at once to create a state with about the highest income and sales taxes and the worst schools, roads, hospitals, and airports. A walk through downtown San Francisco, a stroll up the Fresno downtown mall, a drive along highway 101 (yes, in many places it is still a four-lane, pot-holed highway), an afternoon at LAX, a glance at the catalogue of Cal State Monterey, a visit to the park in Parlier—all that would make our forefathers weep. We can’t build a new nuclear plant; can’t drill a new offshore oil well; can’t build an all-weather road across the Sierra; can’t build a few tracts of new affordable houses in the Bay Area; can’t build a dam for a water-short state; and can’t create even a mediocre passenger rail system. Everything else—well, we do that well.

6. Something has happened to the generic American male accent. Maybe it is urbanization; perhaps it is now an affectation to sound precise and caring with a patina of intellectual authority; perhaps it is the fashion culture of the metrosexual; maybe it is the influence of the gay community in arts and popular culture. Maybe the ubiquitous new intonation comes from the scarcity of salty old jobs in construction, farming, or fishing. But increasingly to meet a young American male about 25 is to hear a particular nasal stress, a much higher tone than one heard 40 years ago, and, to be frank, to listen to a precious voice often nearly indistinguishable from the female. How indeed could one make Westerns these days, when there simply is not anyone left who sounds like John Wayne, Richard Boone, Robert Duvall, or Gary Cooper much less a Struther Martin, Jack Palance, L.Q. Jones, or Ben Johnson? I watched the movie Twelve O’clock High the other day, and Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger sounded liked they were from another planet. I confess over the last year, I have been interviewed a half-dozen times on the phone, and had no idea at first whether a male or female was asking the questions. All this sounds absurd, but I think upon reflection readers my age (55) will attest they have had the same experience. In the old days, I remember only that I first heard a variant of this accent with the old Paul Lynde character actor in one of the Flubber movies; now young men sound closer to his camp than to a Jack Palance or Alan Ladd.

7. We have given political eccentricity a bad name. There used to be all sorts of classy individualists, liberal and conservative alike, like Everett Dirksen, J. William Fulbright, Margaret Chase Smith, or Sam Ervin; today we simply see the obnoxious who claim to be eccentric like a Barbara Boxer, Al Franken, Barney Frank, or Harry Reid. The loss is detectable even in diction and manner; Dirksen was no angel, but he was witty, charming, insightful; Frank is no angel, but he merely rants and pontificates. Watch the You Tube exchange between Harvard Law Graduate Frank and Harvard Law Graduate Rains as they arrogantly dismiss their trillion-dollar Fannie/Freddie meltdown in the making. I suppose it is the difference between the Age of Belief and the Age of Nihilism.

8. Do not farm. There is only loss. To the degree that anyone makes money farming, it is a question of a vertically-integrated enterprise making more in shipping, marketing, selling, packing, and brokering than it loses on the other end in growing. No exceptions. Food prices stay high, commodity prices stay low. That is all ye need to know. Try it and see.

9. As I wrote earlier, the shrill Left is increasingly far more vicious these days than the conservative fringe, and about like the crude Right of the 1950s. Why? I am not exactly sure, other than the generic notion that utopians often believe that their anointed ends justify brutal means. Maybe it is that the Right already had its Reformation when Buckley and others purged the extremists—the Birchers, the neo-Confederates, racialists, the fluoride-in-the-water conspiracists, anti-Semites, and assorted nuts.—from the conservative ranks in a way the Left has never done with the 1960s radicals that now reappear in the form of Michael Moore, Bill Ayers, Cindy Sheehan,, the Daily Kos, etc. Not many Democrats excommunicated for its General Betray-Us ad. Most lined up to see the premier of Moore’s mythodrama. Barack Obama could subsidize a Rev. Wright or email a post-9/11 Bill Ayers in a way no conservative would even dare speak to a David Duke or Timothy McVeigh—and what Wright said was not all that different from what Duke spouts. What separated Ayers from McVeigh was chance; had the stars aligned, the Weathermen would have killed hundreds as they planned.

10. The K-12 public education system is essentially wrecked. No longer can any professor expect an incoming college freshman to know what Okinawa, John Quincy Adams, Shiloh, the Parthenon, the Reformation, John Locke, the Second Amendment, or the Pythagorean Theorem is. An entire American culture, the West itself, its ideas and experiences, have simply vanished on the altar of therapy. This upcoming generation knows instead not to judge anyone by absolute standards (but not why so); to remember to say that its own Western culture is no different from, or indeed far worse than, the alternatives; that race, class, and gender are, well, important in some vague sense; that global warming is manmade and very soon will kill us all; that we must have hope and change of some undefined sort; that AIDs is no more a homosexual- than a heterosexual-prone disease; and that the following things and people for some reason must be bad, or at least must in public company be said to be bad (in no particular order): Wal-Mart, cowboys, the Vietnam War, oil companies, coal plants, nuclear power, George Bush, chemicals, leather, guns, states like Utah and Kansas, Sarah Palin, vans and SUVs.

Well, with that done—I feel much better.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: HunterADA on November 24, 2008, 20:48:30
Mind if I add an 11th?

Failure is okay. It's what happens when you don't make the cut. Keep failing in school, and you too can become an expert hamburger-flipper with a 5th grade education. Kids who grow up with the culture that it's important to maintain their self-esteem and keep passing them through school despite the fact they can't read, speak, do basic math or anything besides shoot hoops at recess (which 99.999% aren't going to ever make anything approaching a liveable wage from), are the same kids whose employers find themselves handicapped against the competition because their workforce is dumb. Not stupid. Willfully, intentionally ignorant. Dumb. And it's holding back the nation. Give the kid a few F's when he still can't read after 3rd grade and his parent(s) will tan his butt. Do the same thing in 12th grade and you've already lost him. Don't do it at all, and you've produced an absolutely worthless drain on society. The same applies throughout the rest of life. Unemployment is a crutch, not a wheelchair to let you coast through life.

I do have a bone to pick with #9. I don't recall too many Christian Fundamentalist churches getting firebombed lately. Nor have I ever heard of any rashes of shootings of say, plastic surgeons. And despite the cute story about a college woman who claimed she was beat up and had a 'B' scratched into her face, liberal vs conservative hate crimes are darn near nonexistant. The leftist 'entertainers' rely on rhetoric about unfairness, or the wrongness of someone's actions. They've even been known to say that vital members of the American government should be impeached. More than anything else though, they whine at their listeners. Those on the other side of the isle are more pragmatic. They just say that someone should silence the opposition once and for all. Or that abominations and evil like that can not be tolerated to exist on this earth. Since they're 'entertainers', they don't actually mean anyone should actually go out and KILL anyone. But to much wringing of hands, every now and again someone takes what they're saying literally and decides to go take care of 'those (insert perjorative here) people' with a gun. They'll sadly proclaim such was never intended to happen, but nutjobs do exist... especially those trained by the liberal, communist, godless, anti-American evil bastards trying to take over your country right this very minute.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on January 23, 2009, 21:30:58
Jerry Pournell looks at one of the few examples of a functioning social democratic state (Sweden). This is always touted as the "model" that Canada, the United States, Togoland etc. should emulate, but Dr Pournell notes that Sweden's success could be attributed to Sweden's culture. In many ways this idea follows Samuel Huntington's arguments on the roots of American Civic Nationalism in "Who are We?" and VDH's arguments on the primacy of culture in the rise of the Greek polis, constitutional democracies and the growth of Western Civilization.

If these ideas are correct, then attempting to put America on a more socialist course will fail not ony because socialism is a flawed philosophy to begin with, but also because there is still a large segment of the American population that is culturally hostile to Socialism and "progressiveism" in its many forms, and will take active measures to oppose these ideas. (This does not necessarily mean violent opposition, a "John Galt" strike will rapidly cripple the economic agenda of the Obama Administration and the Democrat Congress without firing a shot).

Can Socialism Work?

Dr. Pournelle,

I am trying to fight my depression regarding the coming anointing of Barrack Obama. Since he carries a lot of our fate for the next 4 (8, 12??) years I have to wish him well, too. But, do you or the readers of your site know of areas where liberalism/socialism have actually worked? I would think that if the liberal agenda really worked well then there should not be a poor person in the Santa Clara Valley, or Boston/Cambridge, or for that matter in the area of Bellaire and Malibu. So, unless other areas are exporting their poor into these areas, I am wondering what track record Mr. Obama is running on? Please enlighten me.


First, despair is a sin; one must never forget that.

As to places where socialism and liberalism work, one needs to define what it means for a regime to "work". Sweden is very liberal to the point of socialism, and it's quite a pleasant place to live. How long that will continue is not known to me, but one of my oldest friends is a retired medical colonel from the Swedish army. When I visited Sweden I had a very pleasant time and every single one of the people I met was polite, nearly all spoke English, and all without regard to their social class seemed happy. There was a water festival going on in Stockholm and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I saw few beggars. There were street musicians hoping for donations, but that's not the same thing. The police were polite.

Whether that can last, and how much of it is due to the nature of the Swedish people and the Swedish culture is a matter for lots of discussion, of course. I am told that as the older generation brought up under the Protestant Ethic and accustomed to working without complaining dies off things change and are changing, but I don't follow the news very closely. Denmark is said to have the happiest population on Earth. The Netherlands is the most densely populated nation in the world (or was back in the 80's when I wrote about such things), certainly has a decidedly liberal government, and seems pleasant enough although there are growing problems.

Whether this kind of liberalism is exportable can be debated, and whether or not this sort of government can thrive in a very large and diverse nation -- or federation of states, or however you want to describe the American polity -- is very much a subject of debate.

As to whether liberal democracy can eliminate all poverty and raise the entire population of the United States to middle class status, and do that by government action and government fiat, probably not. Most socialist states don't work, and end up with people competing for civil service positions as the only assured way to have a career. India used to be that way and seems to be dismantling some of its socialist tendencies.

As an aside: Sweden has universal manhood conscription; I was told that the main penalty for not serving one's time in the army was that you could never get a civil service position, and employers were allowed to discriminate against you in hiring practices. This is an interesting way to deal with bureaucracies.

The main argument against socialism (other than indignation over taking from the productive to subsidize the unproductive) is that it destroys the incentive to work and work hard, or to take entrepreneurial risks. Schumpeter discusses this in his Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, and I urge all those interested in these matters to read his book.

Burke said that for a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely. I think few disagree: the question is, how to bring that about. And of course what we mean by lovely. No one thinks Detroit is lovely just now.

One note: several commentators said yesterday that this is the 44th peaceful transfer of power in these United States (Obama being the 44th President).  Oddly enough, I didn't think that through, and when I remarked on the subject I said 43rd peaceful transfer; I don't count Lincoln's accession as peaceful, given that it triggered Secession and the the Civil War.

Bob Thompson reminds me that unless one counts the accession of George Washington and the beginning of the Constitution as itself a peaceful transfer of power, this the 43rd transfer, meaning the 42nd peaceful transfer of power under the Constitution. That's still quite a record, particularly since World War II, when the President of the United States became arguably the most powerful person on Earth.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on February 23, 2009, 00:20:17
Alas, it would seem that the new Administration is unable or unwilling to mount a coherent foreign policy (the new Secretary of State has been reduced to pleading with China to continue buying US Treasury bonds only a month into the Administration's tenure), and predatory regimes are taking their cue:

Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy
BY Herschel Smith
17 minutes ago

Iran is quickly advancing towards becoming a nuclear state.  In troubling developments in air power, Iran can now deploy UAVs, and Russia may have supplied Iran with new air defense systems, including their long range S-300 surface to air missiles.  If they haven’t, the system is being used as a bargaining chip by Russia.  There are reports that they have refused to sell the missile system, but responding to the Israeli plan to sell weapons systems to Georgia by saying that Moscow expected Israel “to show the same responsibility.”  In the first case, Iran is armed with an air defense system that would make an attack against its nuclear assets much more difficult.  In the second case, Russia has used this potentiality to weaken Georgia and prime it for another invasion.

Pavel Felgenhauer at the The Jamestown Foundation has recently published a commentary entitled Russia’s Coming War with Georgia.  The commentary very smartly connects the isolated Russian base in Armenia - which in itself is further demonstration of Russian intentions of control over its “near abroad” - with the need to control Georgia.    Says Felgenhauer, “The ceasefire last August has left the strategically important Russian base in Armenia cut off with no overland military transit connections. The number of Russian soldiers in Armenia is limited to some 4000, but during 2006 and 2007 large amounts of heavy weapons and supplies were moved in under an agreement with Tbilisi from bases in Batumi and Akhalkalaki (Georgia). At present there are some 200 Russian tanks, over 300 combat armored vehicles, 250 heavy guns and lots of other military equipment in Armenia - enough to fully arm a battle force of over 20,000 (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozrenie, August 20, 2004). Forces in Armenia can be swiftly expanded by bringing in manpower by air transport from Russia. Spares to maintain the armaments may also be shipped in by air, but if a credible overland military transit link is not established within a year or two, there will be no possibility to either replace or modernize equipment. The forces will consequently degrade, undermining Russia’s commitment to defend its ally Armenia and Moscow’s ambition to reestablish its dominance in the South Caucasus.”

Concerning the timing of the potential invasion, Felgenhauer observes:

    While snow covers the Caucasian mountain passes until May, a renewed war with Georgia is impossible. There is hope in Moscow that the Georgian opposition may still overthrow Mikheil Saakashvili’s regime or that the Obama administration will somehow remove him. However, if by May, Saakashvili remains in power, a military push by Russia to oust him may be seriously contemplated. The constant ceasefire violations could escalate to involve Russian servicemen - constituting a public casus belli. The desire by the West to “reset” relations with Moscow, putting the Georgia issue aside, may be interpreted as a tacit recognition of Russia’s right to use military force.

In addition to the Biden pronouncement that the U.S. would “press the reset button” with Russia, the U.S. is now in the throes of a logistical dilemma.  On the one hand, the missile defense program for NATO states is meant as a deterrent for a potential Iranian nuclear and missile based military capability.  On the other hand, the current administration is seen as likely to jettison the whole project.

The U.S. is now beholden to Russia for logistical supply lines to Afghanistan.  General David Petraeus has visited numerous European and Central Asian countries recently, including Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.  Supplies are soon to leave Latvia bound for Afghanistan.  But the common element in all of the logistical supply lines are that they rely on Russian good will.  This good will exists as long as the missile defense doesn’t, and the missile defense was intended to be used as a deterrent for Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Alternative supply routes have been suggested, including one which wouldn’t empower Russian hegemony in the region, from the Mediterranean through the Bosporus strait, into the Black sea, and through Georgia to neighboring Azerbaijan.  From there the supplies would transit across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan, and from there South to Afghanistan.  An alternative to the air route from the recently closed Manas Air base is sea transport to India, rail or truck to the Indian-controlled Kashmir region, and then air transport to Kabul.  But none of these options has been pursued.  The current administration is locked into negotiations that empower Russia.

Pakistan President Zardari has observed, and correctly so, that Pakistan is in a state of denial concerning the threat posed by the Taliban, yet rather than eliminate the threat, the strategy has been to make peace deals with the Tehrik-i-Taliban and plead for the same financial bailout being offered across America, saying that in order to defeat the Taliban Pakistan needs a “massive program,” a “Marshall Plan” to defeat the Taliban through economic development.

Certainly, some of the foreign policy problems were present with the previous administration, from the failure to plan for logistics for Afghanistan, to support for Musharraf’s duplicitous administration, assisting the Taliban by demure on the one hand while money was received with the other.  But the currents appear to be pointing towards a revised world opinion of what the U.S. is willing to sustain on behalf of “good relations,” and the current administration’s prevarications appear to be going headlong into numerous dilemmas.

We wish to use the missile program in Europe as an bargaining chip to avoid the reality of an Iranian nuclear program, while the Iranian supreme has said that “relations with the U.S. have for the time being no benefit to the Iranian nation.”  Russia, who is assisting Iran in its military buildup, is unimpressed because we have planned for no other option for logistics for Afghanistan except as dictated by Vladimir Putin.  The best that we can come up with, so far, is to forestall the planned troop reduction in the European theater, a troop reduction that is needed to help fund and staff the war against the global insurgency.

Pakistan’s Zardari figures that if the administration is willing to give away on the order of a trillion dollars, they can play the game of “show me the money” like everyone else, from Russia over logistical lines to Afghanistan to over-leveraged homeowners in the U.S.

Israel figures that all of this points to throwing their concerns under the bus, and thus they have launched a covert war against Iran, a program that is unlikely to be successful, pointing to broader regional instability in the near term.  Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, has said that they will acquire or have acquired anti-aircraft weapons.  While they have stood down over the war in Gaza, they are apparently preparing for more of the same against Israel.

The current administration has attempted to befriend Syria, while at the same time the USS San Antonio has interdicted Iranian weapons bound by ship to Syria, intended for Hezbollah or Hamas.  Most of this has occurred within less than two months of inauguration of the current administration in Washington.  It may prove to be a difficult four years, with unintended consequences ruling the day.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on February 23, 2009, 00:56:58
Obama is more focused on his domestic agenda. Think Carter and thats where this administration is heading.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on February 28, 2009, 23:47:32
where this administration is heading.

Obama's Intelligence Blunder

By Jon Chait
Saturday, February 28, 2009; Page A13

Most of President Obama's "missteps" to date have been Washington peccadilloes of the "let's find something to complain about" sort. But Obama has made one major mistake that has attracted little public attention: his appointment of Charles Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman was attacked by pro-Israel activists, but the contretemps over Freeman's view of Israel misses the broader problem, which is that he's an ideological fanatic.

That may sound like an odd description for a respectable bureaucrat and impeccable establishmentarian such as Freeman. What's more, he's not an ideologue of the sort who draws most of the attention. When most people think of foreign policy ideology, they mean neoconservatism, which dominated the Bush administration. Broadly speaking, neoconservatism is obsessed with the moral differences between democracies and non-democracies. At its most simplistic (which, alas, it nearly always is) neoconservatism means supporting the "good guys" and fighting the "bad guys." As most of us have seen, neoconservatism has trouble recognizing that the good guys aren't perfectly good and that the bad guys aren't comic book villains.

Freeman belongs to the camp that's the mortal enemy of the neoconservatives: the realists. Realist ideology pays no attention to moral differences between states. As far as realists are concerned, there's no way to think about the way governments act except as the pursuit of self-interest. Realism has some useful insights. For instance, realists accurately predicted that Iraqis would respond to a U.S. invasion with less than unadulterated joy.

But realists are the mirror image of neoconservatives in that they are completely blind to the moral dimensions of international politics. Realists scoffed at Bill Clinton's interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, which halted mass slaughter. Realists tend not to abide the American alliance with Israel, which rests on shared values with a fellow imperfect democracy rather than on a cold analysis of America's interests.

Taken to extremes, realism's blindness to morality can lead it wildly astray. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, both staunch realists, wrote "The Israel Lobby," a hyperbolic attack on Zionist political influence. The central error of their thesis was that, since America's alliance with Israel does not advance American interests, it could be explained only by sinister lobbying influence. They seemed unable to grasp even the possibility that Americans, rightly or wrongly, have an affinity for a fellow democracy surrounded by hostile dictatorships. Consider, perhaps, if eunuchs tried to explain the way teenage boys act around girls.

Freeman praised "The Israel Lobby" while indulging in its characteristic paranoia. "No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article," he told a Saudi news service in 2006, "given the political penalties that the lobby imposes on those who criticize it." In fact, the article was printed as a book the next year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York.

The most extreme manifestation of Freeman's realist ideology came out in a leaked e-mail he sent to a foreign policy Internet mailing list. Freeman wrote that his only problem with what most of us call "the Tiananmen Square Massacre" was an excess of restraint:

"[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than -- as would have been both wise and efficacious -- to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo's response to the mob scene at 'Tian'anmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action. . . .

"I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans' 'Bonus Army' or a 'student uprising' on behalf of 'the goddess of democracy' should expect to be displaced with despatch [sic] from the ground they occupy."

This is the portrait of a mind so deep in the grip of realist ideology that it follows the premises straight through to their reductio ad absurdum. Maybe you suppose the National Intelligence Council job is so technocratic that Freeman's rigid ideology won't have any serious consequences. But think back to the neocon ideologues whom Bush appointed to such positions. That didn't work out very well, did it?

The writer is a senior editor at the New Republic.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on March 04, 2009, 18:28:01
The new administration isn't getting off to a good start:

Krauthammer's Take   [NRO Staff]

From last night's All Stars.

On President Obama’s secret letter to Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev proposing a deal on missile defense:

This is smart diplomacy? This is a debacle. The Russians dismissed it contemptuously.

Look, if we could get the Iranian nuclear program stopped with Russian's helping us in return for selling out the Poles and the Czechs on missile defense, I'm enough of a cynic and a realist to say we would do it the same way that Kissinger agreed to delegitimize and de-recognize Taiwan in return for a large strategic opening with China.

But Kissinger had it done. He had it wired. What happened here is it was leaked. The Russians have dismissed it. We end up being humiliated. We look weak in front of the Iranians, and we have left the Poles and Czechs out to dry in return for nothing.

The Czechs and the Poles went out on a limb, exposed themselves to Russian pressure, and we have shown that Eastern Europe is not as sovereign as it appears if the Russian influence is there, and we will acquiesce in what they consider their own sphere of influence.

This administration has prided itself, flattered itself on deploying smart diplomacy. "Smart diplomacy" is a meaningless idea, but if it has any meaning at all, it is not ever doing something as humiliating, amateurish, and stupid as this.

On the president’s proposed cap-and-trade plan:

It is an ill disguised tax on the production of carbon. It will be a blow to American industry, particularly in the heartland, to the American economy. Particularly in our economic distress, it makes no sense at all.

The only purpose is the reduction of global warming, which in and of itself is speculative. And even if it were not, the fact that India and China are not in on this means that any of our savings on that, which are going to add a huge expense to our economy, will be swallowed up entirely by increased pollution by India and China.

India this week has said it will not cooperate on a regime of enforced carbon reduction. We will get nowhere on this except really injuring our economy.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on March 04, 2009, 21:42:47
America will be even more divided as time goes on. Gun sales are through the roof. People want to be able to protect their family if law and order breaks down,but that could easily become a second revolution should we see a collapse of the economy. You might call it have's vs the have nots.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on March 09, 2009, 21:47:13
Top ten political risks(?):

Top Ten Political Risks of 2009 by Eurasia Group

Here is a list of the top ten political risks of 2009 by the Eurasia Group Risk consultancy.

The risks
1 Congress - The current financial crisis has created an unprecedented
space for government interference in economic affairs within developed states. Risk of wasteful and not useful over-regulation like Sarbanes Oxley. Sarbanes Oxley was implemented to prevent further Enrons. How useful was it for preventing or minimizing the current situation ?

2 South Asia security - The security environment in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan will deteriorate significantly over the coming year. Afghanistan's Taliban is mostly funded by the illegal drug's they produce. This is discussed below in the section on Mexico.

3 Iran/Israel - 2009 is the critical year for conflict (both direct and through proxies) between Iran and Israel.

4 Russia - With oil prices well below what the Russians can afford, but Putin’s (and Medvedev’s) popularity still high, the initial moves have been to consolidate power. Yet despite no organized political opposition to speak of, we’re still starting to see social unrest. For the first time in years, there have been widespread demonstrations in Russia—in 30 cities, following the imposition of import duties on used cars

5 Iraq - The real concern at this point is the politics, not the security situation. How long the United States can maintain a commitment to significant force levels. [NOTE: The recent timetable seems sufficiently long and flexible into 2010]

6 Venezuela- Chavez plans for a referendum in the coming month to reform the Venezuelan constitution and abolish term limits (which would allow Chavez to run again for the presidency in 2012) show little likelihood of success. Then the Venezuelan president will have a real political fight on his hands.

7 Mexico - The Drug Cartel security situation there has worsened and is almost certain to deteriorate further over the course of 2009. Well armed and well financed narco-criminals have effectively declared war on the state of Mexico—increasingly singling out elected government officials, bureaucrats, and the armed forces and police for their attacks.

8—Ukraine-As I mentioned, Ukraine isn’t likely to spur the kind of direct military conflict we saw last August in Georgia. But it merits a slot in our top risks because of the government’s inability to deal effectively with the severe challenges posed by the current financial crisis and economic downturn—and one certainly not helped by its volatile relationship with Moscow.

9—Turkey-Speaking of internal distractions, Turkey is essentially defining the problem. The country has all sorts of factors in its favor—a diversified economy, strong demographics, an extremely favorable trade route geography, and solid ties with both western countries and its Middle Eastern neighbors. Yet the fight pitting secularists in the judiciary, military, and industry against Islamists in government is becoming a serious obstacle to economic advancement. And the AK party leadership, feeling that it increasingly carries the weight of popular support on its side, is unwilling to compromise—instead, casting out potential dissent from within the party (and losing critical bureaucratic competence as a result). To make matters worse, the AK party has long lost its reformist spirit and has embraced a more nationalist attitude, making it more difficult to find a solution to the thorny Kurdish question.

10—South Africa-Rounding out the top risks for 2009 is South Africa. Upcoming elections will dominate the news, but it’s more political context than electoral results that will cause concern. It’s pretty clear that the African National Congress (ANC) will keep its majority in parliament, though the emergence of a new splinter party will reduce its numbers. In principal, that’s not a bad development; popular concerns over the ANC’s abuse of power should be reduced accordingly.

These are precis of the full article, read the rest on the link
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on March 11, 2009, 11:22:49
The full piece is on "Chaos Manor" as well as the FPRI site:



A Conference Report

by Michael P. Noonan

On February 12, 2009, FPRI's Program on National Security held a conference on potential "defense showstoppers" for the Obama administration--critical issues that, if not fixed, could lead to a serious deterioration of American military capabilities. The event was hosted and co-sponsored by the Reserve Officers Association in Washington, D.C. Program-affiliated scholars Michael Horowitz, Michael P. Noonan, Mackubin T. Owens, and Frank G. Hoffman served as panel moderators. More than 100 individuals from academia, government, NGOs, the media, the military, and the public participated in person, and another 300-plus individuals from around the world participated by webcast. Audio and video files of the proceedings are posted at FPRI's website: The papers presented at the conference will be published in Orbis and other outlets.

FPRI thanks W.W. Keen Butcher, Robert L. Freedman, Hon. John Hillen, Bruce H. Hooper, and Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr. for their support of the Program on National Security. The views expressed herein are those of the speakers and should not be construed to represent any agency of the U.S. government or other institution.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on April 03, 2009, 13:11:55
Thinking longer term, George Friedman lays out a case for The United States to remain the premier power for the next century. Some of the sub predictions are not immediatly obvious...

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (Hardcover)
by George Friedman (Author) Review
Amazon Best of the Month, January 2009: "Be Practical, Expect the Impossible." So declares George Friedman, chief intelligence officer and founder of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), a private intelligence agency whose clients include foreign government agencies and Fortune 500 companies. Gathering information from its global network of operatives and analysts (drawing the nickname "the Shadow CIA"), Stratfor produces thoughtful and genuinely engrossing analysis of international events daily, from possible outcomes of the latest Pakistan/India tensions to the hierarchy of Mexican drug cartels to challenges to Obama's nascent administration. In The Next 100 Years, Friedman undertakes the impossible (or improbable) challenge of forecasting world events through the 21st century. Starting with the premises that "conventional political analysis suffers from a profound failure of imagination" and "common sense will be wrong," Friedman maps what he sees as the likeliest developments of the future, some intuitive, some surprising: more (but less catastrophic) wars; Russia's re-emergence as an aggressive hegemonic power; China's diminished influence in international affairs due to traditional social and economic imbalances; and the dawn of an American "Golden Age" in the second half of the century. Friedman is well aware that much of what he predicts will be wrong--unforeseeable events are, of course, unforeseen--but through his interpretation of geopolitics, one gets the sense that Friedman's guess is better than most. --Jon Foro

From Publishers Weekly
With a unique combination of cold-eyed realism and boldly confident fortune-telling, Friedman (Americas Secret War) offers a global tour of war and peace in the upcoming century. The author asserts that the United States power is so extraordinarily overwhelming that it will dominate the coming century, brushing aside Islamic terrorist threats now, overcoming a resurgent Russia in the 2010s and 20s and eventually gaining influence over space-based missile systems that Friedman names battle stars. Friedman is the founder of Stratfor, an independent geopolitical forecasting company, and his authoritative-sounding predictions are based on such factors as natural resources and population cycles. While these concrete measures lend his short-term forecasts credence, the later years of Friedmans 100-year cycle will provoke some serious eyebrow raising. The armed border clashes between Mexico and the United States in the 2080s seem relatively plausible, but the space war pitting Japan and Turkey against the United States and allies, prognosticated to begin precisely on Thanksgiving Day 2050, reads as fantastic (and terrifying) science fiction. Whether all of the visions in Friedmans crystal ball actually materialize, they certainly make for engrossing entertainment. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on April 27, 2009, 23:08:01
Or this is how it could all end:

Left to ourselves

Posted By Richard Fernandez On April 26, 2009 @ 8:12 pm In Uncategorized | 70 Comments

Eli Saslow chronicles the slow decline of Greenwood, SC during the first 100 days of the Obama administration in the [1] Washington Post. It’s a town with unemployment over 11%, with people unable to pay their bills, pay for heating. It’s a place where old ladies have only a box of grits in the cupboard.  It’s an story centered on the efforts of a city councilwoman that is without villains; but it is also one without transcendent heroes.

It was nobody’s fault, really, that councilwoman Edith Childs had such high expectations. She followed the election of Barack Obama with mounting expectation and rode the slow trajectory of disappointment to its still-plunging depths. Slowly it dawned on her that Obama had no box of magic tricks in his repertoire; that nothing that would stave off the relentless deluge of bills in the mailboxes of her constituents and slowly shrinking job base of her community.

    Across the dark living room, one of Childs’s favorite pictures is displayed on a worn coffee table. It shows Childs with her arms wrapped around Barack Obama, his hand on her back, her eyes glowing. They met at a rally attended by 37 supporters on a rainy day in 2007, when Childs responded to Obama’s sluggishness on stage with an impromptu chant: “Fired up! Ready to go!” She repeated it, shouting louder each time, until Obama laughed and dipped his shoulders to the rhythm. The chant caught on. “Fired up!” people began saying at rallies. “Ready to go,” Obama chanted back. He told audiences about Childs, “a spirited little lady,” and invited her onstage at campaign appearances. By the day of his inauguration, when Childs led a busload of strangers bound for the Mall in her now-iconic chant, her transformation was complete. She was Edith Childs, fired up and ready to go.

    But now, as Obama nears the 100-day milestone of his presidency, Childs suffers from constant exhaustion. In a conservative Southern state that bolstered Obama’s candidacy by supporting him early in the Democratic primaries, she awakens at 2:30 a.m. with stress headaches and remains awake mulling all that’s befallen Greenwood since Obama’s swearing-in.

The unasked question in Saslow’s article is whether or not Greenwood, SC isn’t a glimpse into the future of other places across America. What happens if 11% unemployment or worse becomes the norm rather than the exception? Will they become places where people have given up on magic politics and turn to working the phones, paring the cheese more thinly and racking their brains in search of ways to make ends meet? Atheists have long imagined a world without belief God; but are we prepared for something philosophically rarer: a world without a belief in politicians? Or will the opposite occur? Will a downturn, taken far enough, result in a desperate search for extreme political solutions by a people tired of making applications without result, of making job calls without return? Men on white horses are far more common in history than nations with a belief only in themselves. Except in America, the first country in modern times to try the tides without a king are men on white horses rare. But the ocean is wide, perhaps endless; and the distant shore behind still beckons to those who imagine safety there.

Albert Camus in the Plague described a world suspended on the edge of a decision; a curiously quiet place of private struggle above which an invisible cloud hovered. It is always a world that can go one way or the other.

    “Only a few ships, detained in quarantine, were anchored in the bay. But the gaunt, idle cranes on the wharves, tip-carts lying on their sides, neglected heaps of sacks and barrels — all testified that commerce, too, had died of plague.”

    “It was the time when, acting under orders, the café-proprietors deferred as long as possible turning on their lights. Gray dusk was seeping into the room, the pink of sunset glowed in the wall mirrors, and the marble-topped tables glimmered white in the gathering darkness.”

    “They found nobody on the terrace — only three empty chairs. On one side, as far as eye could reach, was a row of terraces, the most remote of which abutted on a dark, rugged mass that they recognized as the hill nearest the town. On the other side, spanning some streets and the unseen harbor, their gaze came to rest on the horizon, where sea and sky merged in a dim, vibrant grayness. Beyond a black patch that they knew to be the cliffs a sudden glow, whose source they could not see, sprang up at regular intervals; the lighthouse at the entrance of the harbor was still functioning for the benefit of ships that, passing Oran’s unused harbor, went on to other ports along the coast. In a sky swept crystal-clear by the night wind, the stars showed like silver flakes, tarnished now and then by the yellow gleam of the revolving light. Perfumes of spice and warm stone were wafted on the breeze. Everything was very still.”

It was waiting, and still waits, for us.

Article printed from Belmont Club:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] Washington Post:
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on June 08, 2009, 12:44:56
Another huge misstep for this administration.

Mark Steyn: Obama's message of weakness
A superpower that feeds on mediocrity cannot survive for long on leftovers from the past.
Syndicated columnist
Comments | Recommend

As recently as last summer, General Motors filing for bankruptcy would have been the biggest news story of the week. But it's not such a very great step from the unthinkable to the inevitable, and by the time it actually happened the market barely noticed, and the media were focused on the president's "address to the Muslim world." As it happens, these two stories are the same story: snapshots, at home and abroad, of the hyperpower in eclipse. It's a long time since anyone touted GM as the emblematic brand of America – What's good for GM is good for America, etc. In fact, it's more emblematic than ever: Like General Motors, the U.S. government spends more than it makes, and has airily committed itself to ever more unsustainable levels of benefits. GM has about 95,000 workers but provides health benefits to a million people: It's not a business enterprise, but a vast welfare plan with a tiny loss-making commercial sector. As GM goes, so goes America?

But who cares? Overseas, the coolest president in history was giving a speech. Or, as the official press release headlined it on the State Department Web site, "President Obama Speaks To The Muslim World From Cairo."

Let's pause right there: It's interesting how easily the words "the Muslim world" roll off the tongues of liberal secular progressives who'd choke on any equivalent reference to "the Christian world." When such hyperalert policemen of the perimeter between church and state endorse the former but not the latter, they're implicitly acknowledging that Islam is not merely a faith but a political project, too. There is an "Organization of the Islamic Conference," which is already the largest single voting bloc at the United Nations and is still adding new members. Imagine if someone proposed an "Organization of the Christian Conference" that would hold summits attended by prime ministers and Presidents, and vote as a bloc in transnational bodies. But, of course, there is no "Christian world": Europe is largely post-Christian and, as President Barack Obama bizarrely asserted to a European interviewer last week, America is "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world." Perhaps we're eligible for membership in the OIC.

I suppose the benign interpretation is that, as head of state of the last superpower, Obama is indulging in a little harmless condescension. In his Cairo speech, he congratulated Muslims on inventing algebra and quoted approvingly one of the less-bloodcurdling sections of the Quran. As sociohistorical scholarship goes, I found myself recalling that moment in the long twilight of the Habsburg Empire when Crown Prince Rudolph and his mistress were found dead at the royal hunting lodge at Mayerling – either a double suicide, or something even more sinister. Happily, in the Broadway musical version, instead of being found dead, the star-crossed lovers emigrate to America and settle down on a farm in Pennsylvania. Recently, my old comrade Stephen Fry gave an amusing lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London on the popular Americanism, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade" – or, if something's bitter and hard to swallow, add sugar and sell it. That's what the president did with Islam: He added sugar and sold it.

The speech nevertheless impressed many conservatives, including Rich Lowry, my esteemed editor at National Review, "esteemed editor" being the sort of thing one says before booting the boss in the crotch. Rich thought that the president succeeded in his principal task: "Fundamentally, Obama's goal was to tell the Muslim world, 'We respect and value you, your religion and your civilization, and only ask that you don't hate us and murder us in return.'" But those terms are too narrow. You don't have to murder a guy if he preemptively surrenders. And you don't even have to hate him if you're too busy despising him. The savvier Muslim potentates have no desire to be sitting in a smelly cave in the Hindu Kush, sharing a latrine with a dozen half-witted goatherds while plotting how to blow up the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, they share key goals with the cave dwellers – including the wish to expand the boundaries of "the Muslim world" and (as in the anti-blasphemy push at the U.N.) to place Islam, globally, beyond criticism. The nonterrorist advance of Islam is a significant challenge to Western notions of liberty and pluralism.

Once Obama moved on from the more generalized Islamoschmoozing to the details, the subtext – the absence of American will – became explicit. He used the cover of multilateralism and moral equivalence to communicate, consistently, American weakness: "No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons." Perhaps by "no single nation" he means the "global community" should pick and choose, which means the U.N. Security Council, which means the Big Five, which means that Russia and China will pursue their own murky interests and that, in the absence of American leadership, Britain and France will reach their accommodations with a nuclear Iran, a nuclear North Korea and any other psychostate minded to join them.

On the other hand, a "single nation" certainly has the right to tell another nation anything it wants if that nation happens to be the Zionist Entity: As Hillary Clinton just instructed Israel regarding its West Bank communities, there has to be "a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions." No "natural growth"? You mean, if you and the missus have a kid, you've got to talk gran'ma into moving out? To Tel Aviv, or Brooklyn or wherever? At a stroke, the administration has endorsed "the Muslim world's" view of those non-Muslims who happen to find themselves within what it regards as lands belonging to Islam: the Jewish and Christian communities are free to stand still or shrink, but not to grow. Would Obama be comfortable mandating "no natural growth" to Israel's million-and-a-half Muslims? No. But the administration has embraced "the Muslim world's" commitment to one-way multiculturalism, whereby Islam expands in the West but Christianity and Judaism shrivel remorselessly in the Middle East.

And so it goes. Like General Motors, America is "too big to fail." So it won't, not immediately. It will linger on in a twilight existence, sclerotic and ineffectual, declining unto a kind of societal dementia, unable to keep pace with what's happening and with an ever more tenuous grip on its own past, but able on occasion to throw out impressive words albeit strung together without much meaning: empower, peace, justice, prosperity – just to take one windy gust from the president's Cairo speech.

There's better phrase-making in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, in a coinage of Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Committee on Foreign Relations. The president emeritus is a sober, judicious paragon of torpidly conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, musing on American decline, he writes, "The country's economy, infrastructure, public schools and political system have been allowed to deteriorate. The result has been diminished economic strength, a less-vital democracy, and a mediocrity of spirit." That last is the one to watch: A great power can survive a lot of things, but not "a mediocrity of spirit." A wealthy nation living on the accumulated cultural capital of a glorious past can dodge its rendezvous with fate, but only for a while. That sound you heard in Cairo is the tingy ping of a hollow superpower.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on July 24, 2009, 10:51:29
Probably the defining moment of the American Century was the Space Race. The spirit that drove the race seems to have become dorment, and this really bodes ill for the future of the West.

Pericles noted in the Funeral Oration that what made Athens great was Men with a spirit of adventure, men who were ashamed to fall below a certain standard.... Where are these men and women now.

The End of the Space Race

[Hans A. von Spakovsky]

Hopefully, the readers of The Corner can stand one more posting about the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. I grew up in Huntsville, Ala., the home of the Marshall Space Flight Center. My parents knew and socialized with many of the German scientists who came to Huntsville with Werner von Braun to start building our space program. Unlike most kids, who live in neighborhoods where their parents are in every kind of different profession, the parents of everyone I knew worked as a scientist or an engineer either for NASA or for the Army Missile Command out at Redstone Arsenal. One of our neighbors was the head of astronaut training at Marshall and a lot of very famous astronauts used to come over to his house for dinner. We lived 15 miles from the engine test stands out on the space flight center, but I can still remember the windows in our house rattling when they were testing the huge rocket engines they were building at Marshall. I saw many of the exhibits that you can now see if you visit the Space Museum in Huntsville, except I saw them out at the space flight center before they became exhibits when, in those pre-9/11, pre-paranoia security days, parents would take their kids (and their friends) out to show them what they were working on.

The development of our rocket program and the drive to get to the moon was one of the brightest and greatest achievements of the American spirit and of American know-how, a true showing of what we can achieve through science, engineering, a can-do attitude that comes from our unique culture, and the bravery and determination that was the common, shared trait of all of our test pilots and astronauts. The fact that we have not only not been back to the moon since the end of the Apollo program, but have not expanded our horizons in trying to reach the other planets in our solar system, is a sad indication of what may be the beginning of our decline as a great nation.

There is almost no doubt that the Chinese will be on the moon within a decade, while we will still be earthbound and potentially bankrupt as a nation with our economy, our technology, and our industrial might in ruins because of uncontrolled government spending, borrowing, and taxing. I had an exciting childhood living in the midst of the space race, but it saddens me to think that time, 40 years ago, may end up being the historical high point of our going out into space, the final frontier.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on October 11, 2009, 22:21:44
Choices are being made without the consent of many Americans. The Charles Krauthammer article is very long (too long to post, actually), but a very good read :

A little weekend reading: They still spell it 'Amerika'
By: Mark Tapscott
Editorial Page Editor
10/09/09 6:20 PM EDT

For those of us who grew up in the era when Weather Undergrounders Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn were familiar names in the news, it is always discomforting to be reminded of Barack Obama's many associations with people of the radical left - Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Van Jones, etc.

Such folks' political thought never progressed beyond the 1960s because the revolutionary New Left didn't disapear, it simply went on to graduate school and then careers, mostly in the mainstream media, academia, the non-profits, the bureaucracy of state and local social work, and Blue State politics. Many bought BMWs and flat screens who nevertheless never stopped dreaming of revolution. In their hearts, they still spell it "Amerika."

More recently, as the first year of the Obama administration has unfolded and the basic outlines of his domestic and foreign policies have emerged, that discomfort has steadily become more tangible as the radical roots of the Sixties have broken ground in the White House and now are spreading rapidly into every corner of the federal government.

Obama grew up suffused in this culture of obsessive alienation and its distempered worldview, it is his fundamental frame of reference concerning America's past and its principles. Early on in places like Harvard and Chicago, he learned to speak always in language that appears to reassure when in fact it obscures and conceals his roots and what those roots tell us about who he appoints and why he follows the policies he does. 

Whatever Barack and the people he has surrounded himself with may profess with their mouths at any particular time, their actions show they still loathe America and our standing as most powerful nation on earth, as well as our free enterprise, individual liberty, reverence for family and local communities, Main Street, the U.S. military, Christianity, and every other hallmark of the traditional culture and values of Western civilization.

And now they think they have the power and position to do what they've always wanted to do - tear it all down and remake it in their millenarian image of Leviathan. As philosopher Erik Voegelin would say, they don't merely intend the immanentization of the eschaton, they are securing the appropriations and regulations to make it happen.

Viewed from that assumption, things become so much clearer. On foreign and military policy, Obama's dominant principle is to apologize, to reverse a previous course - thus disavowing the intrinsically moral role of America in protecting freedom - and to seek rapproachment with our enemies on their terms.

Everywhere it is withdrawal, falling back, humbling of the nation that defeated Hitler and Japan, then rebuilt both as well as the rest of Europe, and engaged and won the Cold War with the Soviet Union. There can be no legitimate U.S. national interests overseas to be protected because Obama and his mentors never accepted America's legitimacy on the world stage. For them, we have always been the imperialist power and we must therefore be brought down.

On domestic policy, deficit spending as never before seen enslaves present and future generations with debt, destroys the currency and renders a crippling inflation all but inevitable. They have effectively nationalized key sectors of the formerly free economy - banking, the auto industry,  communications - and they are moving to put freedom of speech and the press under the supervision of federal bureaucrats.

They are suffocating the remainder of the productive economy with more and deeper regulation that will eventually kill the animating spirit of entreprenurial innovation and risk-taking that powers economic growth and job creation. And they are rendering the country permanently dependent on foreign oil and hamstringing its future development by forcing conversion to unproven alternative energy sources.

And no matter their promises or rationale now,  when they are finished, they will have turned the shining city on a hill into something more resembling a Third Word ant heap. No wonder Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro and Muhammar al-Ghadafi heap praise on Obama.

Obviously my ability to put these things into words falls far short of the gravity of the times, but fortunately there is Charles Krauthammer's extraordinary piece in The Weekly Standard. He brings all of these strands and more together in far more and telling detail than I can summon in this space. If you read nothing else this weekend, you must read  his "Decline is a choice." (

And then reflect on the fact that the choice is being made for us, not by us.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 08, 2010, 11:26:05
I never agree with Rick Salutin, not even when, as in this column, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, he manages to stumble on to part of the right answer:
Evasion of the body scanners
Security requires talking foreign policy, not airport screening

Rick Salutin

Published on Friday, Jan. 08, 2010

There's an earnest, high-school debating tone to the ubiquitous discussions of airport security. It has many worthy subjects like,Full body scanners: Will they work? High moral concerns such asThe invasion of privacy. There's Human rights versus racial profiling, which would be a better topic if it hadn't already been a reality for males of a certain age and hue since 9/11. There's room for witty replies, like Billy Connolly's, who'd like to say, when asked if he packed his own bags: “No, no, a big Arab guy in a hotel – a nice big man, named Mohammed, who had a flying licence – packed it for me.”

Now add Yemen. The underwear bomber got fitted there. People who couldn't spell it the day before yesterday worry about it. Doesn't Yemen make the airport debate even more urgent? No, it makes it more irrelevant. A mom at her kid's karate class this week said: “They keep applying Band-Aids, but it doesn't stop the bleeding.” Yes! All the security babble amounts to evading the key issue: why this continues and how to reverse the trend line. But that requires talking foreign policy, not airport screening.

This is what's so irritating: The security issue seems to drain scarce public discourse resources from that other topic, foreign policy. You'd think both could be talked about at once but apparently not. We hear more on security and less on the sources of the problem. Why are they angry in Yemen? Because U.S. drones invaded their space and menaced innocent people, once in 2002 and again (shhh, it's supposed to be secret) last month. They didn't like the 2003 invasion of Iraq either. The first attack on the U.S. embassy in Yemen came right after that, long before the one planned recently.

It's not an obscure subject. The U.S.'s 9/11 commission said chief planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was motivated by American Mideast policy. Osama bin Laden said he reached his decision to strike the U.S. while watching its ships bombard Beirut in 1983. The supply of terror will remain endless if you keep replenishing it with invasion, war and other such policies.

This hostile reaction isn't inherently religious, although it may go in that direction. Iraq was a secular Muslim country before the 2003 U.S. invasion. The same dynamic applies to “homegrown terror threats.” France is about to ban the burka, which is worn, according to report in this paper, by just 367 women in the whole land. If I were a young, secular Muslim woman there, I'd be tempted to put one on. As Paul Scott wrote in The Raj Quartet, “Hit a man in the face long enough and he turns to his racial memory and his tribal gods.“

But instead of this discussion on policies, we get ever more reports and debates about air travel. This week, Transport Minister John Baird, recommending another batch of screening techniques, said, “The reality of our generation is the fact we have to deal with terrorism.” Would that he'd felt as urgently about global warming when he was environment minister. It amounts to the old Cold War dualism in shabbier garb. At least the commie menace had an ideology that could be identified. The war against terror is so vague it can't be defined, and therefore may never end.

The sane approach would be to deal with the problem by dismantling and rebuilding Western policy toward the Muslim world. Well, that's unlikely. Why? Partly due to vested interests: oil companies, arms-makers, body-scanner builders. But it seems to go deeper, as if there's a human need for a permanent enemy to explain why your life didn't go quite right or your heroes didn't pan out or whatever woke you up in the middle of last night.

And if it did happen, would some people miss their fears? Probably. You might need a parallel campaign to persuade them to live without deep, irrational enemies: a sort of war on fear, to replace the war on terror.

Now, Salutin is right to suggest that the solution to our counter-terrorism problem is to revise our foreign policy, even as we take all necessary and prudent security precautions. Where he is, almost certainly, off the rails is to suggest that Muslims are not the enemy; not all Muslims are our enemies – not by a long shot – but a whole lot of our real enemies are Muslims.

The problem is not with Islam, it is with how Islam is interpreted by an intellectually and socially stunted, even retarded Arab/Persian/West Asian culture. What that Arab/Persian/West Asian culture and its ‘established’ religion need is a thoroughgoing reformation, à la 16th century Europe, and the sort of enlightenment that Europe enjoyed in the 17th and 18th centuries and South and East Asia managed more than 2,000 years ago.

Our (the American led West’s) foreign policy aims (our grand strategy) need to be, simultaneously:

1.   To contain the further spread of radical, jihadist Islam;

2.   To provoke a (maybe several) reformation and enlightenment movement(s);

3.   Restore the unity, cultural strength and spiritualnot religious – pride of the West: many of the dead white men had important things to teach us;

4.   Preach and practice free and fair trade – globally – to allow all nations to see and understand that our ‘system’ is, at least, as good and possibly better than any other. Which leads back to 2.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 12, 2010, 10:28:23
Jeffrey Simpson, the Good Grey Globe’s domestic political expert turns his less than well informed attention once again to counter-insurgency and foreign policy in this column, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail. He’s read another book and has seized upon yet another excuse to preach isolationism and moral relativity:
The ‘accidental guerrilla' is the latest jihadi threat
The key to breaking the al-Qaeda cycle is winning the support of local populations

Jeffrey Simpson

Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010

Al-Qaeda and its network of friends must be delighted these days. One foiled attack aboard an airliner and new layers of costly and inconvenient security arrangements are added. Suddenly, Yemen, a place many Americans have never heard of, has become the terror country du jour.

About 30,000 more U.S. soldiers are heading for Afghanistan, their costs all paid for with borrowed money – the U.S. being in hock way over its head, and Barack Obama having fallen for his presidential predecessor's vocabulary, describing his country's fight as a “war.”

What do the United States and its friends face almost a decade after 9/11 and the start of the “war on terror”?

At least four trends are animating the jihadi threat: a backlash against globalization, whose modernity and worldliness threaten traditional, conservative cultures; an insurgency that, because of the tools of global communications, is a global one; a civil war within Islam that takes many forms, such as conflicts between Shia and Sunni and anger by Muslim ultra-fundamentalists against regimes in Muslim countries they detest; and asymmetric warfare that renders an overwhelming U.S. military power of surprisingly limited use.

The confluence of these (and other) factors has led to the creation of “the accidental guerrilla” many times over, according to terrorism specialist David Kilcullen, an Australian who's studied insurgencies up close in many countries and whose services were used by many high-ranking U.S. military and civilian officials. His book, The Accidental Guerrilla, is as good a guide to what we are facing and how to combat it (and how not to) as is likely available.

The “accidental guerrilla” arises from a four-stage strategy of al-Qaeda and like-minded groups. First, al-Qaeda moves into a remote, ungoverned or turbulent area (border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, parts of north-central Africa). Second, it uses this haven to spread violence and ideology. Third, outside forces (read U.S. and its allies) intervene to deal with al-Qaeda. Fourth, the local population becomes an “accidental guerrilla” by rejecting the outsiders' intervention and siding with al-Qaeda, especially if it's believed that al-Qaeda might eventually win the fight.

Al-Qaeda counts on its adversaries' overreaction to win “accidental guerrillas” and, over time, to disillusion Western publics who spend all this money and treasure on a “war,” only to find the conflict(s) dragging on and on.

The key to breaking this cycle is winning the support of local populations: respecting their traditions, bringing them tangible help, ensuring their security, convincing them that al-Qaeda is a threat rather than an ally. Counterinsurgency, therefore, is not about killing al-Qaeda and other “scumbags,” as a Canadian general once said, but of winning the local population. Body counts, in other words, don't count, a lesson conventional militaries struggle to understand.

The “accidental guerrillas,” Mr. Kilcullen writes, are “people who fight us not because they hate the West and seek our overthrow but because we have invaded their space to deal with a small, extremist element that has manipulated and exploited local grievances to gain power in their societies. They fight us not because they seek our destruction but because they believe we seek theirs.”

By treating Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda as the No. 1 security threat, by throwing huge resources against them, by invading Muslim countries, and by declaring a “war” to be on offer, we have turned a “mouse into an elephant.”

This reasoning is arguably a bit naive, since Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda do pose mortal threats, both to Western societies through terrorist acts and to Muslim regimes. It's their world view, coupled with the convictions of the religiously righteous, that makes them dangerous, in and of themselves, and as an inspiration for certain people raised in the Muslim faith.

It is estimated that, for every dollar that al-Qaeda spent mounting the 9/11 attacks, terrorists inflicted $544,000 in damage (the cost in human lives and suffering, of course, cannot be measured). In response, the U.S. has spent $1.4-million for every al-Qaeda dollar.

This is not a war in any traditional sense, in which overcommitment, overreaction and misuse of the forms of conventional power risk alienating the very populations on whom the blunting of al-Qaeda and its allies depends.

There is merit in David Kilcullen’s ( ideas: we do, indeed, alienate more people than necessary and we fail to befriend as many as we might. But what is the alternative? 

The ill named and less than well managed ‘war on terror’ is, in reality, a war for civilization and modernity – our Western (and, increasingly, South and East Asian) view of secular, sophisticated, capitalistic modernity. It is a war on barbarism; it is a war on the forces of theocratic dictatorships; it is a war on going back to the bad old days.

Question: But, what should ‘we’ – the Americans, mainly, but including the American led West - ‘do about’ the Muslim Middle East, Africa and West Asia? After all, ‘they’ attacked ‘us.’

Answer: nothing. No attacks; no invasions; no aid; no trade; no nothing at all. If they want to sell oil ‘we’ will buy it, at fair market prices, FOB destination; but no ‘free trade’ deals, no ‘most favoured nation’ status and so on. Immigration from Africa, the Middle East and West Asia should be stopped. No state visits to and fro. No military exchanges. No foreign military sales deals. Isolation. Let ‘em stew in their own juices. This is quite contrary to my “preach and practice free and fair trade” mantra but it may be a necessary, interim, step to produce the internal upheaval we need in Muslim Africa, the Middle East and West Asia.

The only best solution to ‘our’ problem with the forces of medieval reaction consist of religious reformation(s) and enlightenment. Both must, can only be instigated from within those less than modern societies, cultures. They will occur if we let them. We can do a bit of provocation by using our tremendous soft power against the forces of reaction through, especially, popular culture and popular style. It – propaganda - can be a more potent weapon than bullets and bombs in the war that really matters: the war for the hearts and minds.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on April 20, 2010, 10:50:55
Finding a Grand Strategy means being able to encompass what is going on around you, conceptualizing what it all means and finding what your vital interests are (and how to acheive them) in the mix. This article suggests that sort of thinking is in perilously short supply right about now:

The Washington Monument

Mike Allen’s account* of the grievance meeting between the White House Press Corps and Secretary Robert Gibbs feels like watching a once famous profession in a sad state of decline.  At a 75 minute meeting the White House Correspondents Association begged for crumbs. They complained the administration was going direct to the Internet on everything; as in staff photographers posting Presidential pictures while the Press Corps was denied photo opportunities; of news releases being posted after the business day was closed (“full lid”); of cutbacks in travel pools on Air Force One at a time when news organizations couldn’t afford to charter their own planes. The most pathetic demand of all was for Internet access in situations when they had to file. How important could they be if the pool reporting wasn’t worth a couple of dozen megabytes of uploads? That’s less than a few minute’s action on World of Warcraft.

Where one is on the totem is everything in Washington. The idea of hierarchy permeates every situation. Behavior is a question of knowing your place; when to say ‘thank you’ and never speaking out of turn.  If you can’t understand the rules you’re a rube. Because of the default presumption that you are at Court; it follows that beneath every courteous speech ultimately you want something from the king or the duke or the duchess. And this is where Bill Clinton has got it subtly wrong.

The former President argued that political discourse had gotten so strident that certain individuals on the right have crossed the line between criticizing government officials and “demonizing them.” Things now remind him of the days preceding the Oklahoma City bombing when Clinton’s unpopular actions were unappreciated by an America lucky to have him.

CLINTON: I worry about these threats against the president and the Congress. … I just think we all have to be careful. We ought to remember after Oklahoma City. We learned something about the difference in disagreement and demonization.

TAPPER: You said that this time reminds you of — of that time. Politically does this year remind you of 1994?

CLINTON: A little bit. We passed the bill which reversed trickledown economics by one vote. Close like the healthcare bill. And it led to an enormous flowering of the economy in America. And that bill was responsible for, take is more than 90 percent of the weight of the balanced budget. But people didn’t realize its benefits.

I think the same thing is happening now with the healthcare bill. Where people are still reading into it all manner of dark things. And they haven’t felt the benefits of it yet. But America is a different country now. We are culturally a different country. We are more diverse. We’re more communitarian. That is, we understand we have to solve a lot of these problems together.

The point Bill Clinton is missing is that the danger doesn’t come from right wing ‘anger.’ The anger is just a byproduct. The voices he hears from the Tea Party crowds aren’t threats; they’re warnings. The real peril is coming from somewhere else: the demographic decline in industrial world working populations, the increasing cost of energy and the international movement in the factors of production. A whole generation of failed policy from both parties is coming to a head and it probably means that the welfare state, the European Union and by consequence the Chinese economy are heading for a cliff.

What’s driving the Tea Parties isn’t amorphous hate. It is concrete fear: worry that pensions have been devalued; medical care will become unaffordable; taxes are too high and jobs are gone, never to return. And a look around the world shows there’s no place to hide. When the wave hits it will be global. In the UK membership in political parties is at near historic lows.  In America Congress’s popularity is lower than whales**t. The Eurozone is cracking up under its weight of debt. First Greece, now Portugal are being ripped off the cliff face like a zipper — and all the climbers are roped together. Japan is like a kamikaze sub heading for the depths and tapping out a sayonara. Russia was history long ago. And China, when it has used up its flowering moment, will face the consequences of its one-child policy. And Middle Eastern potentates,  stuck in the same old, same old, are warning about a Summer War.  The Tea Parties aren’t about putting some country club Republican in the White House, though Bill can’t help hearing it like that.

The cheese-paring scene at the White House Press Corps is just as indicative of the coming storm as the Tea Parties. It is yet one more sign that the old institutions are making plans for a future that isn’t there; moving trillions of dollars in projected revenues around a five year plan like Hitler’s fictive armies were moved around a map in 1945. When you hear Gordon Brown describe the billions he’s going to spend to save the world and heal the planet; when you read news about the proposed legislation on “cap and trade”– the issue isn’t the “right wing hate” but where’s the money going to come from? The most telling fact about Bill Clinton’s speech is that 2010 reminds him of 1994. If he — or the political establishment — can’t tell the difference between the decades, that’s your problem right there.

But the average Joe can. His pocketbook talks to him as loud as his cell phone; he has to live in a world where five bucks is a lot of money.  So the man in the street can see things that are invisible from Olympian Washington. Robert McCartney of the Washington Post found to his surprise that once he tuned into the frequency that he could hear it too.

I went to the “tea party” rally at the Washington Monument on Thursday to check out just how reactionary and potentially violent the movement truly was.

Answer: Not very. …

I found that I agreed heartily with the tea partiers on what is perhaps their single biggest concern: that America’s swelling government debt seriously threatens our long-term prosperity.

A lot of people live in 1994. Time to switch the channels.

But  perhaps the most unremarked thing about the Tea Parties is that they’re not calling for a repeal of the Constitution but for its enforcement. They are the complete opposite of what Clinton thinks they are; an affirmation, not a call to create “a different country” that Clinton congratulates himself in attaining.  And that may be an advantage. If the world descends into a prolonged and tectonic crisis, the one clear advantage that America will have going into it is a clear and widely shared sense of the legitimacy of its foundational principles. That may not seem like much, but if a crisis impends a widely shared sense of legitimacy will be among the most precious things in a planet gone awry.

Yet politicians can’t see it. For perfectly natural reasons they fall into the habit of thinking everyone is a supplicant. It’s an understandable outcome of living in a world where someone is constantly asking them for something: photo opportunities, access to news releases, seats on Air Force One or Internet access. Nothing throws them for a loop more than something that doesn’t want anything they can bestow. The Tea Partiers already know the establishment is bankrupt. They don’t want to be the next Botox Queen, the next guest on Oprah or the man with Internet access on Air Force One; they only want their freedom and a chance to meet the crisis with common sense, if that’s not asking too much. It’s a novel idea which will take a little time for politicians to understand. But give them time and eventually someone will take credit for it. Tolkien understood both how power worked and its blindness.

For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning.

*I misattributed this to Jake Tapper. This was a grave error on my part for which I sincerely apologize. I’m sorry Jake, sorry Mike.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 28, 2010, 07:19:59
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail is a report on the revised US National Security Strategy:
Obama’s new national security plan distances U.S. from Bush-era emphasis on going it alone
Calls for renewing economy, expanding partnerships beyond traditional U.S. allies

Washington — Reuters

Published on Friday, May. 28, 2010

The Obama administration has unveiled a new national security doctrine that would join diplomatic engagement and economic discipline with military power to bolster America’s standing in the world.

Striking a contrast to the Bush-era emphasis on going it alone, President Barack Obama’s strategy calls for expanding partnerships beyond traditional U.S. allies to encompass rising powers such as China and India in order to share the international burden.

Faced with a struggling economy and record deficits, the administration also acknowledged that boosting economic growth and getting the U.S. fiscal house in order must be core national-security priorities.

“At the centre of our efforts is a commitment to renew our economy, which serves as the wellspring of American power,” the wide-ranging policy statement says.

Mr. Obama’s first official declaration of national security goals, pointedly omitted predecessor George W. Bush’s policy of pre-emptive war that alienated some U.S. allies.

Laying out a vision for keeping America safe as it fights wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the document formalized Mr. Obama’s intent to emphasize multilateral diplomacy over military might as he tries to reshape the world order.

The administration even reiterated Mr. Obama’s determination to try to engage with “hostile nations,” but warned nuclear-defiant Iran and North Korea it possessed “multiple means” to isolate them if they ignored international norms.

The National Security Strategy, required by law of every president, is often a dry reaffirmation of existing positions but is considered important because it can influence budgets and legislation and is closely watched internationally.

Mr. Obama, who came to office faced with the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, took a clearer stand than any of his predecessors in drawing the link between America’s economic health at home and its stature overseas.

“We must renew the foundation of America’s strength,” the document says, asserting that the sustained economic growth hinges on putting the country on a “fiscally sustainable path” and also urging reduced dependence on foreign oil sources.

There was no discussion of what has become an emerging consensus in foreign policy circles – that heavy U.S. indebtedness to countries like China poses a security problem.

But the report does reflect Washington’s enigmatic relationship with Beijing, praising it for a more active role in world affairs while insisting it must act responsibly. It also reiterates unease over China’s rapid military buildup.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States’ fiscal problems presented a long-term threat to its diplomatic clout. “We cannot sustain this level of deficit financing and debt without losing our influence, without being constrained about the tough decisions we have to make,” she said in a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Mr. Bush used his first policy statement in 2002 to stake out the right to unilateral and pre-emptive military action against countries and terrorist groups deemed threats to the United States in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Mr. Obama’s plan implicitly distanced his administration from what became known as the Bush Doctrine and underpinned the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which lacked UN authorization.

While renewing previous presidents’ commitment to preserve U.S. conventional military superiority, the new doctrine puts an official stamp on Obama’s break from what Mr. Bush’s critics called “cowboy diplomacy.”

“We need to be clear-eyed about the strengths and shortcomings of international institutions,” the document says. But it said Washington did not have the option to “walk away.”

“Instead, we must focus American engagement on strengthening international institutions and galvanizing the collective action that can serve common interests such as combatting violent extremism, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials, achieving balanced and sustainable economic growth, and forging co-operative solutions to the threat of climate change,” it says.

Mr. Obama’s insistence the United States cannot act alone in the world was also a message to current and emerging powers that they must shoulder their share of the global burden.

Mr. Obama already has been widely credited with improving the tone of U.S. foreign policy, but still is struggling with two unfinished wars, nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea and sluggish Middle East peace efforts.

Critics say some of his efforts at diplomatic outreach show U.S. weakness, and they question whether he jeopardizes American interests by relying too heavily on “soft power.”

Reuters News Agency

Obama may (accidentally, I suspect) have stumbled upon a vitally important soft power factor: America’s economic success made its military prowess possible (and, equally, limits it today) and was a key factor in making America the world’s most popular country. People want to emulate their more successful peers; it’s the same with countries. China has not copied America’s system of government but, after careful study, it copies many of America’s economic policies and methods. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The economic situation constrains Obama’s administration. It is unsound policy to borrow too much to support the Pentagon, but, similarly, it is unsound politics to deny the Pentagon its bloated budget.

The critics cited in the last paragraph do not understand the components and nature of strategic power. That’s a common failing of American politicians, officials and military people post Ronald Regan.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 28, 2010, 10:11:00
At a time that we are fighting two wars the defense budget is 5% of GDP and we cant get our allies to spend 2%. If the economy implodes it wont be because of defense spending.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 28, 2010, 10:29:55
It's "fun with numbers time." First we have to agree on what 'defence spending' means:

•   Is it the $663 Billion the Congress has appropriated for DoD? or

•   Is it the $1.03 Trillion one gets when e.g. NASA (defence related) and Veterans' Affairs and Homeland Security (defence related) are added?

In any event, even at only 5% of GDP (although it may be as much as 7%) it is, still, a very, very large programme.

But it is about 25% of the federal budget (depending upon how much non DoD spending one counts) and, far worse and potentially unsustainably, approaching or even exceeding 30% of tax revenue.

The US national debt is quickly approaching $13 Trillion against a GDP of about $14.5 Trillion (depending on whose data your accept). That is far worse than Canada’s situation when The Wall Street Journal shocked us with the “northern peso” prod.

Americans appear, to me, to be very reluctant to accept new taxes for anything, but many, many Americans still expect governments (federal, state and local) to keep providing the programmes and services they (Americans) want – that includes a strong national defence programme. In that respect they are just as fiscally irresponsible as Canadians.

At some point someone has to reconcile revenues and expenditures. It's not going to be fun.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 28, 2010, 20:30:26
Just so that we can keep the numbers in perspective. Total budget was $6.5t for FY2010. Of which .9trillion went to defense and to fight 2 wars. That is right up there with welfare .8t,education and healthcare at $1t.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 29, 2010, 11:25:30
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail is an important article about some of America’s top strategists:
Fukuyama keeps up the fight
In the 1990s he declared the ‘End of History.' Then in 2006, he put a rhetorical bullet in the backs of his neo-conservative allies. What remains for a right-wing apostate to do today?

Konrad Yakabuski

Washington — From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published on Friday, May. 28, 2010

When three American thinkers – an unbowed neo-conservative, a cheeky liberal and neo-conservatism's best-known apostate – gathered in the capital this month to discuss a young French scholar's new “biography” of the neo-con movement, they first had to settle on how to pronounce the author's name.
Francis Fukuyama, the Chicago-born former neo-con, begged the indulgence of Justin Vaïsse for pronouncing his first name à l'américaine.

Liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne nodded to his own family's Quebec roots. “I'm a French Canadian, so I love saying Joos-tin,” he jested, pursing his lips.

As for editor William Kristol, whose Weekly Standard remains a safe house for neo-conservative opinion, he was true to its precepts of U.S. supremacy and unilateralism.

“As a neo-conservative, I have to give him the American pronunciation,” Mr. Kristol quipped, before poking his former brother-in-arms: “I'm a little shocked that Frank bowed to such a hegemonic and almost nativist manner of discourse, but that's okay.”

Emotions, apparently, are still a little raw. In 1992, Prof. Fukuyama's celebrated book The End of History and the Last Man helped provide neo-conservatism's intellectual fuel. His 2004 break with the movement accelerated its descent into foreign-policy purgatory.

 Dr. Francis Fukuyama Reuters

As he wraps up his nine-year stint at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies – he's headed to Stanford in the fall – Prof. Fukuyama harbours no regrets about slamming the door on the house he helped to build. But neither has he turned his back on all of neo-conservatism's leading edicts.

The theorist, set to speak Monday in Toronto, still thinks democracy promotion should remain a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy. And he fears Barack Obama – for whom he voted – does far too little of it.


“Although he gave a speech in Cairo almost exactly a year ago about the importance of democracy and accountable government in the Middle East, as far as I can tell he has done almost nothing to actually promote this,” Prof. Fukuyama insists in his bright but cloistered office on Washington's stately Massachusetts Ave. “He occasionally makes a nod towards democracy and human rights, but you don't get the sense that it's central to what he wants to accomplish.”

Not that Mr. Obama would get far if he tried. George W. Bush's go-it-alone “freedom agenda” sullied the name of democracy – and America – in much of the world. Neo-cons justified the use of unilateral military force to “democratize” Iraq based on the conviction, expressed a few years earlier by Mr. Kristol, that “American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality.” The rest of the world could be forgiven if it didn't always see it that way.

By comparison, Mr. Obama has been deferential to multilateralism, noting in his first National Security Strategy, unveiled Thursday: “The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone – indeed our adversaries would like to see America sap our strength by overextending our power.”

Prof. Fukuyama supports the multilateral approach, but criticizes the narrowly “realist” foreign policy that appears to be favoured by many in the Obama administration, which is reminiscent of the Cold War détente of the Nixon era. If the neo-cons seem hopelessly utopian, the realists come off as overly cynical.

“American foreign policy has to be grounded in certain ideals. It's kind of in the American DNA,” argues Prof. Fukuyama, who, incidentally, was born the same year – 1952 – as Mr. Kristol and Mr. Dionne. “It's something we're hypocritical about a lot of the times because we don't live up to [our ideals].

“But creating an open, democratic world order is something that didn't begin with the Bush administration. It's been there from the beginning in terms of American objectives and the world is, on balance, better off for that.”


The fissure between Prof. Fukuyama and his fellow neo-cons arose over what he describes as their misreading of his celebrated 1992 bestseller. Its irresistible, if much-oversimplified, idea – that the fall of communism at the end of the Cold War marked the triumph of liberal democracy as humankind's political endpoint – underpinned the neo-con argument that the U.S. should use its opportunity as the world's sole superpower to spread democracy abroad, by force if necessary.

Ronald Reagan, neo-cons argued, had proved that intimidation, not détente, was key to eliminating the Soviet threat and freeing the citizenry of the “evil empire” and its satellite states. It was the failure to respond forcefully enough to Islamic terrorist attacks on Bill Clinton's watch, they reasoned, that led to 9/11.

By then, neo-con hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz had assumed pivotal positions in the Bush administration. And the Bush Doctrine – with its emphasis on pre-emptive strikes and unilateralism – became the motor of foreign policy.

“The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack,” the Bush administration asserted in its 2002 National Security Strategy (a document every president must submit to Congress).

The 2003 invasion of Iraq – to topple Saddam Hussein, destroy his (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction and install democracy – marked a neo-con high point.

But barely a year later, watching disaster unfold there, Prof. Fukuyama sent America's salon set into fits of chatter by renouncing his peers in what was then their bible, The National Interest. As he would further explain in 2006's America at the Crossroads, he faulted them for egging on the Bush administration to conclude, wrongly, that “history could be accelerated through American agency.”

The neo-cons did not take it lying down. Robert Kagan, who had helped Mr. Kristol pen the blurb about America's “unusually high degree of morality,” shot back in 2008 with the impertinently titled The Return of History and the End of Dreams. China's inexorable rise, Mr. Kagan argued, had shown that “growing national wealth and autocracy [are] compatible, after all.”

But despite robbing the neo-cons of their argument, history's return has only made democracy promotion an even greater imperative. “It may not come to war,” Mr. Kagan asserted, “but the global competition between democratic and autocratic governments will become the dominant feature of the 21st-century world.”

Prof. Fukuyama has not repudiated his own “end of history” thesis, even if he concedes that China's progress has led many thinkers to cast doubt on the inevitability, much less desirability, of democracy as the ultimate form of political organization. Even Russia, which a decade ago might have looked to the West for guidance, would now rather emulate China.

“The problem with that model is that you have to have good authoritarians,” Prof. Fukuyama counters. “They tend to produce them in East Asia for a number of reasons – historical and cultural. But in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, it's pretty hard to find Lee Kuan Yews.” (Mr. Lee is the iron-fisted ex-leader of Singapore, credited with turning his city-state into an Asian Tiger.)

Like the Soviet Union, China has its own internal contradictions, which, in time, are bound to catch up with the regime. “It is extremely hard to govern that large a country in such a top-down manner without any kind of bottom-up accountability,” Prof. Fukuyama adds. “The question I would really raise is whether, in the long run, that part of the model is sustainable.”

History should take care of China, he argues. Modernization “tends to drive demands for political participation.”


The neo-cons are not so patient. And they have a new bounce to their step. The 2007 troop surge in Iraq – which Robert Kagan's younger brother, Frederick, helped devise – worked. Even Prof. Fukuyama concedes Iraqis now have “a reasonable shot” at establishing a workable democracy.

What's more, isolationists such as Kentucky Republican candidate Rand Paul notwithstanding, the party has pretty much surrendered the formulation of its foreign policy to neo-conservatives such as Mr. Kristol, the Kagans and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“If Republicans want to oppose Obama on foreign policy to score political points, they naturally tend to gravitate around neoconservative ideas,” Mr. Vaïsse, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes in Why Neoconservatism Still Matters.

Mr. Krauthammer and Robert Kagan “both attack what they consider to be Obama's underlying assumption – America's inevitable decline – as well as his remedy – adapting to a ‘post-American world' by accommodating other great powers (most of them autocracies) at the expense of traditional allies (most of them democracies).”

If Mr. Obama falters – if his attempt to rein in Iran and North Korea by multilateral means fails, if he defers too much to China or Russia – the neo-cons are ready to pounce. Should the Republicans retake Congress this fall or (in their dreams) the White House in 2012, U.S. foreign policy could again come under their thrall.

It would not mark the end of history; just its repetition.

Francis Fukuyama addresses the Grano Salon Speakers Series in Toronto on May 31.

I think Prof. Fukuyama was, mostly, right in both The End of History and the Last Man (1992) and America at the Crossroads (2006) but (there’s always a but isn’t there?) while I agree that democracy is the likely “end state” for our modern, 21st century world it may well be that we have not yet seen the contest between democratic forms. Prof. Fukuyama, like almost all Western thinkers, says “democracy” when he really means “liberal democracy.” There is another form: conservative democracy, which is what we see, full blown, in Singapore and, largely, in Japan.

What’s the difference? Liberal democracies, our kind of democracy, has as its core value: the rights of the individual. Conservative democracies have for their central value: the rights of society. We expect our liberal democratic system to protect each of us, as individuals, from the actions of the collectives: big business, big banks, big labour, organized religion and government itself. People living in a conservative democracy expect the state to protect their fundamental rights (life, liberty, security of the person, etc) but, also, to promote and protect social harmony, possibly at the expense of some individual rights. The explicit “trust” between the citizen and the conservative state is that it will keep you, the individual you, safe, and allow you, in fact enable you, to prosper, but it will do so will maintaining social harmony amongst all citizens.

Consider Singapore: elections are free and fair but many of the rights we take for granted, including freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly are restricted to a degree that some Western observers consider anti-democratic. But every individual’s right to property is protected to a greater degree than in any other country in the world, including the USA – in fact, on matters of property rights, the USA, under either Bush or Obama, looks positively communistic and downright lawless compared to Singapore. Singapore is a full fledged democracy but it is not at all liberal and that’s why many liberals (Westerners, all) think it is some sort of dictatorship.

It is that model, conservative democracy, towards which China is, glacially slowly, moving. The Chinese centre doesn’t want democracy but it understands that the alternatives are either doomed to fail or unworkable or, as yet, invisible. They look with envy at the conservative democracy Lee Kuan Yew crafted for Singapore. They (the Chinese) lack many of the advantages he had, such as deep public trust in the institutions of the state – such as courts and the bureaucracy, legacies of British colonial administration. The Chinese people do not trust their courts or government agencies and the Chinese cannot manage a transition to a conservative democracy until they can lick their HUGE corruption problem. It was, despite a head start, Lee’s biggest challenge in Singapore and it remains a challenge in many, many (indeed most) countries including some liberal democracies and most democracies of the third sort: illiberal democracies.

But, I suspect the battle between East and West will be between conservative and liberal democratic values. I hope the two can coexist and that they can cooperate against the common foe: barbarism.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on June 02, 2010, 09:32:33
This "grand strategy" isn't going to help:

Obama’s National Security Doctrine: Naive — Frighteningly So

The administration releases a document that misidentifies threats and tells our enemies we intend to be weak.
June 2, 2010
- by Barry Rubin
Share |

Yes, children, there is an Obama Doctrine. The administration has now produced a national security strategy. Be afraid, be very afraid. And those who should be afraid are Americans and their friends, not their enemies.

The administration wants to prove, most of all, that it isn’t George W. Bush. But in doing so, it also proves it isn’t the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Bush I, or even the Clinton administration, either.

It all looks good on paper: America is not a superpower. It is limited, and this circumscribed power requires bringing in lots of partners. Obama writes in the introduction of the strategy released last Thursday:

    The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone. … Indeed, our adversaries would like to see America sap our strength by overextending our power.

Yet that point is missed. You don’t overextend precisely so you can concentrate on what’s important — say, pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq to focus on containing Iran. You don’t reduce commitments in order to abandon the remaining ones.

Much of this worldview is intended to counter what the left hates about George W. Bush. Yet while one can certainly argue Bush did not wisely use the resources of American power, that doesn’t mean American power itself isn’t there. The remedy for excessive unilateralism isn’t excessive multilateralism. And while there might be times or situations where such a response did little harm, the present day — with threats from revolutionary Islamism, an aggressive Iran-led alliance, anti-American leftists, and resurgent Russian and Chinese ambitious powers — makes the Obama Doctrine a very dangerous course indeed. While Obama argues that America faces no real military competitor and global power is increasingly diffuse, these are likely to be temporary conditions. If there’s going to be a vacuum, there are a number of candidates eager to fill it.

Obama’s doctrine calls for bringing these candidates in as partners — hiring the foxes to guard the chicken coop. China and Russia, Iran and Syria, Brazil and Turkey — among others — are naively seen as reliable buddies. Or, in the words of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes:

    We are deeply committed to broadening the circle of responsible actors.

It’s a dangerous idea — the United States cannot make these countries, or any, “responsible actors.” There’s a reason why responsible actors include countries like Britain, France, and Germany. And the fruit of this mistaken policy is the kind of thing we just saw with the Brazilian-Turkish stab in the back over Iran.

We’re going to be seeing a lot more of this.

Why is the Obama administration so concerned with engaging enemies? Because it is precisely, according to the Obama worldview, the “bad boy” powers which must be appeased. If the United States is conceived as weak and overextended, the ones threatening to disrupt everything may be too strong to oppose, and so must be coopted.

Hillary Clinton said:

    We are shifting from mostly direct application and exercise of American power to one of indirection, that requires patience and partners, and gets results more slowly. … In a world like this, American leadership isn’t needed less, it is needed more. And the simple fact is that no global problem can be solved without us.

Clinton, judging from the opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapon project, seems to be at best much too late. How much will you pay your enemies to pretend to be partners? Suppose certain countries don’t want to solve global problems, but merely to take advantage of them — do they still need the United States?

Imagine a town full of outlaws, with a weak sheriff. The sheriff can deputize the criminals in the belief that this would make them “responsible actors.” Of course, as you probably guess, they would use their badges to rob, rape, and murder even more effectively.

If Obama and his colleagues feel the United States is overextended, it is partly because they misidentify the threats and reject the best ways of dealing with them. The doctrine says that nuclear weapons are the main threat to America, followed by climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, and cyber warfare.

This is dangerous claptrap. Without denying a threat posed by any of these, one could point out that there is no big threat from nuclear weapons (especially compared to the 1950-1990 period); that climate change as a threat is not proven nor is the ability of countries to do anything about it given the realistic options they have; that a combination of drilling and technology can deal with the energy problem; and that cyber warfare is still a very speculative threat. Compare that with Iran taking over much of the Middle East; Russia rebuilding its empire; terrorism spreading in scope and intensity; and China gaining hegemony over large parts of Asia. I’m not saying those things are going to happen, but they are much greater threats than Obama’s list.

In a move that qualifies him for a Nobel Prize in chutzpah, Obama warns that the high budget deficit is a major threat to U.S. strategic power. Since his policies have been responsible for creating this problem, and his administration shows no sign of changing them, one can only gasp at such audacity.

There’s a lot more of interest. The paper says:

    While the use of force is sometimes necessary, we will exhaust other options before war whenever we can, and carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs and risks of inaction.

Sounds great. But how about the use of power politics, threats, leverage, sticks? Once you assert America is weak and overextended, how are you going to convince anyone that they better do what you want? Obama’s posture makes the idea of containing Iran, for example, unthinkable. Once you announce you have no teeth, your enemies will naturally conclude that your bark is worse than your bite:

    Indeed, our adversaries would like to see America sap our strength by overextending our power.

Yes, but those adversaries are equally happy to see you voluntarily throw away America’s strength by denying it and hiring them to run the nursing home for what you see as a pitiful, helpless giant. One day there might be another president, neither a Bush nor an Obama, who will stand up straight, get rid of the wheelchair and canes, and decide that reports of America’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition, Viking-Penguin), the paperback edition of The Truth about Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on September 09, 2010, 00:15:58
The proper use of a "Grand Strategy" is to decide where to apply limited resources:

Superbroke, Superfrugal, Superpower?

In recent years, I have often said to European friends: So, you didn’t like a world of too much American power? See how you like a world of too little American power — because it is coming to a geopolitical theater near you. Yes, America has gone from being the supreme victor of World War II, with guns and butter for all, to one of two superpowers during the cold war, to the indispensable nation after winning the cold war, to “The Frugal Superpower” of today. Get used to it. That’s our new nickname. American pacifists need not worry any more about “wars of choice.” We’re not doing that again. We can’t afford to invade Grenada today.

Ever since the onset of the Great Recession of 2008, it has been clear that the nature of being a leader — political or corporate — was changing in America. During most of the post-World War II era, being a leader meant, on balance, giving things away to people. Today, and for the next decade at least, being a leader in America will mean, on balance, taking things away from people.

And there is simply no way that America’s leaders, as they have to take more things away from their own voters, are not going to look to save money on foreign policy and foreign wars. Foreign and defense policy is a lagging indicator. A lot of other things get cut first. But the cuts are coming — you can already hear the warnings from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. And a frugal American superpower is sure to have ripple effects around the globe.

“The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era” is actually the title of a very timely new book by my tutor and friend Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert. “In 2008,” Mandelbaum notes, “all forms of government-supplied pensions and health care (including Medicaid) constituted about 4 percent of total American output.” At present rates, and with the baby boomers soon starting to draw on Social Security and Medicare, by 2050 “they will account for a full 18 percent of everything the United States produces.”

This — on top of all the costs of bailing ourselves out of this recession — “will fundamentally transform the public life of the United States and therefore the country’s foreign policy.” For the past seven decades, in both foreign affairs and domestic policy, our defining watchword was “more,” argues Mandelbaum. “The defining fact of foreign policy in the second decade of the 21st century and beyond will be ‘less.’ ”

When the world’s only superpower gets weighed down with this much debt — to itself and other nations — everyone will feel it. How? Hard to predict. But all I know is that the most unique and important feature of U.S. foreign policy over the last century has been the degree to which America’s diplomats and naval, air and ground forces provided global public goods — from open seas to open trade and from containment to counterterrorism — that benefited many others besides us. U.S. power has been the key force maintaining global stability, and providing global governance, for the last 70 years. That role will not disappear, but it will almost certainly shrink.

Great powers have retrenched before: Britain for instance. But, as Mandelbaum notes, “When Britain could no longer provide global governance, the United States stepped in to replace it. No country now stands ready to replace the United States, so the loss to international peace and prosperity has the potential to be greater as America pulls back than when Britain did.”

After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. “Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place,” Mandelbaum predicts.

How to mitigate this trend? Mandelbaum argues for three things: First, we need to get ourselves back on a sustainable path to economic growth and reindustrialization, with whatever sacrifices, hard work and political consensus that requires. Second, we need to set priorities. We have enjoyed a century in which we could have, in foreign policy terms, both what is vital and what is desirable. For instance, I presume that with infinite men and money we can succeed in Afghanistan. But is it vital? I am sure it is desirable, but vital? Finally, we need to shore up our balance sheet and weaken that of our enemies, and the best way to do that in one move is with a much higher gasoline tax.

America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.

An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.

The key prescription is to have a real and growing economic engine. Hobbling the engine with taxes and regulation is counterproductive (the call for a vastly higher fuel tax in the article, for example). Like the man said, politicians will have to operate under the rule of "taking" rather than "giving", so if political leaders are at all serious then a controlled drawdown of programs and benefits will be needed to exit this mess in an orderly fashion.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 08, 2010, 20:45:15
Here, reproduced in three parts under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act fro,m Foreign Affairs is an interesting caution from Joseph Nye ( (who always merits a our attention) for those, including me, who are too quick to speculate about America's relative decline:

The Future of American Power
Dominance and Decline in Perspective

By Joseph S. Nye Jr.
November/December 2010

The twenty-first century began with a very unequal distribution of power resources. With five percent of the world's population, the United States accounted for about a quarter of the world's economic output, was responsible for nearly half of global military expenditures, and had the most extensive cultural and educational soft-power resources. All this is still true, but the future of U.S. power is hotly debated. Many observers have interpreted the 2008 global financial crisis as the beginning of American decline. The National Intelligence Council, for example, has projected that in 2025, "the U.S. will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished."

Power is the ability to attain the outcomes one wants, and the resources that produce it vary in different contexts. Spain in the sixteenth century took advantage of its control of colonies and gold bullion, the Netherlands in the seventeenth century profited from trade and finance, France in the eighteenth century benefited from its large population and armies, and the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century derived power from its primacy in the Industrial Revolution and its navy. This century is marked by a burgeoning revolution in information technology and globalization, and to understand this revolution, certain pitfalls need to be avoided.

First, one must beware of misleading metaphors of organic decline. Nations are not like humans, with predictable life spans. Rome remained dominant for more than three centuries after the peak of its power, and even then it did not succumb to the rise of another state. For all the fashionable predictions of China, India, or Brazil surpassing the United States in the next decades, the greater threat may come from modern barbarians and nonstate actors. In an information-based world, power diffusion may pose a bigger danger than power transition. Conventional wisdom holds that the state with the largest army prevails, but in the information age, the state (or the nonstate actor) with the best story may sometimes win.

Power today is distributed in a pattern that resembles a complex three-dimensional chess game. On the top chessboard, military power is largely unipolar, and the United States is likely to retain primacy for quite some time. On the middle chessboard, economic power has been multipolar for more than a decade, with the United States, Europe, Japan, and China as the major players and others gaining in importance. The bottom chessboard is the realm of transnational relations. It includes nonstate actors as diverse as bankers who electronically transfer funds, terrorists who traffic weapons, hackers who threaten cybersecurity, and challenges such as pandemics and climate change. On this bottom board, power is widely diffused, and it makes no sense to speak of unipolarity, multipolarity, or hegemony.

In interstate politics, the most important factor will be the continuing return of Asia to the world stage. In 1750, Asia had more than half the world's population and economic output. By 1900, after the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States, Asia's share shrank to one-fifth of global economic output. By 2050, Asia will be well on its way back to its historical share. The rise of China and India may create instability, but this is a problem with precedents, and history suggests how policies can affect the outcome.


It is currently fashionable to compare the United States' power to that of the United Kingdom a century ago and to predict a similar hegemonic decline. Some Americans react emotionally to the idea of decline, but it would be counterintuitive and ahistorical to believe that the United States will have a preponderant share of power resources forever. The word "decline" mixes up two different dimensions: absolute decline, in the sense of decay, and relative decline, in which the power resources of other states grow or are used more effectively.

The analogy with British decline is misleading. The United Kingdom had naval supremacy and an empire on which the sun never set, but by World War I, the country ranked only fourth among the great powers in its share of military personnel, fourth in GDP, and third in military spending. With the rise of nationalism, protecting the empire became more of a burden than an asset. For all the talk of an American empire, the United States has more freedom of action than the United Kingdom did. And whereas the United Kingdom faced rising neighbors, Germany and Russia, the United States benefits from being surrounded by two oceans and weaker neighbors.

Despite such differences, Americans are prone to cycles of belief in their own decline. The Founding Fathers worried about comparisons to the Roman republic. Charles Dickens observed a century and a half ago, "If its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, [the United States] always is depressed, and always is stagnated, and always is at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise." In the last half century, belief in American decline rose after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, after President Richard Nixon's economic adjustments and the oil shocks in the 1970s, and after the closing of rust-belt industries and the budget deficits in the Reagan era. Ten years later, Americans believed that the United States was the sole superpower, and now polls show that many believe in decline again.

Pundits lament the inability of Washington to control states such as Afghanistan or Iran, but they allow the golden glow of the past to color their appraisals. The United States' power is not what it used to be, but it also never really was as great as assumed. After World War II, the United States had nuclear weapons and an overwhelming preponderance of economic power but nonetheless was unable to prevent the "loss" of China, to roll back communism in Eastern Europe, to overcome stalemate in the Korean War, to stop the "loss" of North Vietnam, or to dislodge the Castro regime in Cuba. Power measured in resources rarely equals power measured in preferred outcomes, and cycles of belief in decline reveal more about psychology than they do about real shifts in power resources. Unfortunately, mistaken beliefs in decline -- at home and abroad -- can lead to dangerous mistakes in policy.


For more than a decade, many have viewed China as the most likely contender to balance U.S. power or surpass it. Some draw analogies to the challenge that imperial Germany posed to the United Kingdom at the beginning of the last century. A recent book (by Martin Jacques) is even titled When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. Goldman Sachs has projected that the total size of China's economy will surpass that of the United States in 2027.

Yet China has a long way to go to equal the power resources of the United States, and it still faces many obstacles to its development. Even if overall Chinese GDP passed that of the United States around 2030, the two economies, although roughly equivalent in size, would not be equivalent in composition. China would still have a vast underdeveloped countryside, and it would have begun to face demographic problems from the delayed effects of its one-child policy. Per capita income provides a measure of the sophistication of an economy. Assuming a six percent Chinese GDP growth rate and only two percent American GDP growth rate after 2030, China would probably not equal the United States in per capita income until sometime around the middle of the century. In other words, China's impressive economic growth rate and increasing population will likely lead the Chinese economy to pass the U.S. economy in total size in a few decades, but that is not the same as equality.

Moreover, linear projections can be misleading, and growth rates generally slow as economies reach higher levels of development. China's authoritarian political system has shown an impressive capability to harness the country's power, but whether the government can maintain that capability over the longer term is a mystery both to outsiders and to Chinese leaders. Unlike India, which was born with a democratic constitution, China has not yet found a way to solve the problem of demands for political participation (if not democracy) that tend to accompany rising per capita income. Whether China can develop a formula that manages an expanding urban middle class, regional inequality, rural poverty, and resentment among ethnic minorities remains to be seen.

Some have argued that China aims to challenge the United States' position in East Asia and, eventually, the world. Even if this were an accurate assessment of China's current intentions (and even the Chinese themselves cannot know the views of future generations), it is doubtful that China will have the military capability to make this possible anytime soon. Moreover, Chinese leaders will have to contend with the reactions of other countries and the constraints created by China's need for external markets and resources. Too aggressive a Chinese military posture could produce a countervailing coalition among China's neighbors that would weaken both its hard and its soft power.

The rise of Chinese power in Asia is contested by both India and Japan (as well as other states), and that provides a major power advantage to the United States. The U.S.-Japanese alliance and the improvement in U.S.-Indian relations mean that China cannot easily expel the Americans from Asia. From that position of strength, the United States, Japan, India, Australia, and others can engage China and provide incentives for it to play a responsible role, while hedging against the possibility of aggressive behavior as China's power grows.

End of Part 1

Edit: format
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 08, 2010, 20:47:11
Part 2


Some argue that the United States suffers from "imperial overstretch," but so far, the facts do not fit that theory. On the contrary, defense and foreign affairs expenditures have declined as a share of GDP over the past several decades. Nonetheless, the United States could decline not because of imperial overstretch but because of domestic underreach. Rome rotted from within, and some observers, noting the sourness of current U.S. politics, project that the United States will lose its ability to influence world events because of domestic battles over culture, the collapse of its political institutions, and economic stagnation. This possibility cannot be ruled out, but the trends are not as clear as the current gloomy mood suggests.

Although the United States has many social problems -- and always has -- they do not seem to be getting worse in any linear manner. Some of these problems are even improving, such as rates of crime, divorce, and teenage pregnancy. Although there are culture wars over issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, polls show an overall increase in tolerance. Civil society is robust, and church attendance is high, at 42 percent. The country's past cultural battles, over immigration, slavery, evolution, temperance, McCarthyism, and civil rights, were arguably more serious than any of today's.

A graver concern would be if the country turned inward and seriously curtailed immigration. With its current levels of immigration, the United States is one of the few developed countries that may avoid demographic decline and keep its share of world population, but this could change if xenophobia or reactions to terrorism closed its borders. The percentage of foreign-born residents in the United States reached its twentieth-century peak, 14.7 percent, in 1910. Today, 11.7 percent of U.S. residents are foreign born, but in 2009, 50 percent of Americans favored decreasing immigration, up from 39 percent in 2008. The economic recession has only aggravated the problem.

Although too rapid a rate of immigration can cause social problems, over the long term, immigration strengthens U.S. power. Today, the United States is the world's third most populous country; 50 years from now, it is likely to still be third (after India and China). Not only is this relevant to economic power, but given that nearly all developed countries are aging and face the burden of providing for the older generation, immigration could help reduce the sharpness of the resulting policy problem. In addition, there is a strong correlation between the number of H-1B visas and the number of patents filed in the United States. In 1998, Chinese- and Indian-born engineers were running one-quarter of Silicon Valley's high-tech businesses, and in 2005, immigrants were found to have helped start one of every four American technology start-ups over the previous decade.

Equally important are the benefits of immigration for the United States' soft power. Attracted by the upward mobility of American immigrants, people want to come to the United States. The United States is a magnet, and many people can envisage themselves as Americans. Many successful Americans look like people in other countries. Rather than diluting hard and soft power, immigration enhances both. When Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew concludes that China will not surpass the United States as the leading power of the twenty-first century, he cites the ability of the United States to attract the best and brightest from the rest of the world and meld them into a diverse culture of creativity. China has a larger population to recruit from domestically, but in his view, its Sinocentric culture will make it less creative than the United States, which can draw on the whole world.

On the other hand, a failure in the performance of the U.S. economy would be a showstopper. Keeping in mind that macroeconomic forecasts (like weather forecasts) are notoriously unreliable, it appears that the United States will experience slower growth in the decade after the 2008 financial crisis. The International Monetary Fund expects U.S. economic growth to average about two percent in 2014. This is lower than the average over the past several decades but roughly the same as the average rate over the past ten years.

In the 1980s, many observers believed that the U.S. economy had run out of steam and that Germany and Japan were overtaking the United States. The country seemed to have lost its competitive edge. Today, however, even after the financial crisis and the ensuing recession, the World Economic Forum has ranked the United States fourth (after Switzerland, Sweden, and Singapore) in global economic competitiveness. (China, in comparison, was ranked 27th.) The U.S. economy leads in many new growth sectors, such as information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. And even though optimists tend to cite the United States' dominance in the production and use of information technology, that is not the only source of U.S. productivity. The United States has seen significant agricultural innovation, too, and its openness to globalization, if it continues, will also drive up productivity. Economic experts project that American productivity growth will be between 1.5 and 2.25 percent in the next decade.

In terms of investment in research and development, the United States was the world leader in 2007, with $369 billion, followed by all of Asia ($338 billon) and the European Union ($263 billion). The United States spent 2.7 percent of its GDP on research and development, nearly double what China spent (but slightly less than the three percent spent by Japan and South Korea). In 2007, American inventors registered about 80,000 patents in the United States, or more than the rest of the world combined. A number of reports have expressed concern about problems such as high corporate tax rates, the flight of human capital, and the growing number of overseas patents, but U.S. venture capital firms invest 70 percent of their money in domestic start-ups. A 2009 survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor ranked the United States ahead of other countries in opportunities for entrepreneurship because it has a favorable business culture, the most mature venture capital industry, close relations between universities and industry, and an open immigration policy.

Other concerns about the future of the U.S. economy focus on the current account deficit (whose current level indicates that Americans are becoming more indebted to foreigners) and the rise in government debt. In the words of the historian Niall Ferguson, "This is how empires decline. It begins with a debt explosion." Not only did the recent bank bailout and Keynesian stimulus package add to U.S. debt, but the rising costs of health care and entitlement programs such as Social Security, along with the rising cost of servicing the debt, will claim large shares of future revenue. Other observers are less alarmist. The United States, they claim, is not like Greece.

The Congressional Budget Office calculates that total government debt will reach 100 percent of GDP by 2023, and many economists begin to worry when debt levels in rich countries exceed 90 percent. But as The Economist pointed out last June, "America has two huge advantages over other countries that have allowed it to face its debt with relative equanimity: possessing both the world's reserve currency and its most liquid asset market, in Treasury bonds." And contrary to fears of a collapse of confidence in the dollar, during the financial crisis, the dollar rose and bond yields fell. A sudden crisis of confidence is less the problem than that a gradual increase in the cost of servicing the debt could affect the long-term health of the economy.

It is in this sense that the debt problem is important, and studies suggest that interest rates rise 0.03 percent for every one percent increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio over the long term. Higher interest rates mean lower private-sector investment and slower growth. These effects can be mitigated by good policies or exacerbated by bad ones. Increasing debt need not lead to the United States' decline, but it certainly raises the long-term risk.

A well-educated labor force is another key to economic success in the information age. At first glance, the United States does well in this regard. It spends twice as much on higher education as a percentage of GDP as do France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The London-based Times Higher Education's 2009 list of the top ten universities includes six in the United States, and a 2010 study by Shanghai Jiao Tong University places 17 U.S. universities -- and no Chinese universities -- among its top 20. Americans win more Nobel Prizes and publish more scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals -- three times as many as the Chinese -- than do the citizens of any other country. These accomplishments enhance both the country's economic power and its soft power.

American education at its best -- many universities and the top slice of the secondary education system -- meets or sets the global standard. But American education at its worst -- too many primary and secondary schools, especially in less affluent districts -- lags badly behind. This means that the quality of the labor force will not keep up with the rising standards needed in an information-driven economy. There is no convincing evidence that students are performing worse than in the past, but the United States' educational advantage is eroding because other countries are doing better than ever. Improvement in the country's K-12 education system will be necessary if the country is to meet the standards needed in an information-based economy.

End of Part 2

Edit: format
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 08, 2010, 20:48:21
Part 3


Despite these problems and uncertainties, it seems probable that with the right policies, the U.S. economy can continue to produce hard power for the country. But what about U.S. institutions? The journalist James Fallows, who spent years in China, came home worried less about the United States' economic performance than the gridlock in its political system. In his view, "America still has the means to address nearly any of its structural weaknesses. . . . That is the American tragedy of the early 21st century: a vital and self-renewing culture that attracts the world's talent and a governing system that increasingly looks like a joke." Although political gridlock in a period of recession looks bad, it is difficult to ascertain whether the situation today is much worse than in the past.

Power conversion -- translating power resources into desired outcomes -- is a long-standing problem for the United States. The U.S. Constitution is based on the eighteenth-century liberal view that power is best controlled by fragmentation and countervailing checks and balances. In foreign policy, the Constitution has always invited the president and Congress to compete for control. Strong economic and ethnic pressure groups struggle for their self-interested definitions of the national interest, and Congress is designed to pay attention to squeaky wheels.

Another cause for concern is the decline of public confidence in government institutions. In 2010, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of respondents thought the United States was in decline, and only 19 percent trusted the government to do what is right most of the time. In 1964, by contrast, three-quarters of the American public said they trusted the federal government to do the right thing most of the time. The numbers have varied somewhat over time, rising after 9/11 before gradually declining again.

The United States was founded in part on a mistrust of government, and its constitution was designed to resist centralized power. Moreover, when asked not about day-to-day government but about the underlying constitutional framework, Americans are very positive. If asked where the best place to live is, the overwhelming majority of them say the United States. If asked whether they like their democratic system of government, nearly everyone says yes. Few people feel the system is rotten and must be overthrown.

Some aspects of the current mood probably represent discontent with the bickering and deadlock in the political process. Compared with the recent past, party politics has become more polarized, but nasty politics is nothing new -- as John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson could attest. Part of the problem with assessing the current atmosphere is that trust in government became abnormally high among the generation that survived the Depression and won World War II. Over the long view of U.S. history, that generation may be the anomaly. Much of the evidence for a loss of trust in government comes from modern polling data, and responses are sensitive to the way questions are asked. The sharpest decline occurred more than four decades ago, during the Johnson and Nixon administrations.

This does not mean that there are no problems with declining confidence in government. If the public became unwilling to pay taxes or comply with laws, or if bright young people refused to go into public service, the government's capacity would be impaired, and people would become more dissatisfied with the government. Moreover, a climate of distrust can trigger extreme actions by deviant members of the population, such as the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City. Such results could diminish the United States' hard and soft power.

As yet, however, these fears do not seem to have materialized. The Internal Revenue Service has seen no increase in tax cheating. By many accounts, government officials have become less corrupt than in earlier decades, and the World Bank gives the United States a high score (above the 90th percentile) on "control of corruption." The voluntary return of census forms increased to 67 percent in 2000 and was slightly higher in 2010, reversing a 30-year decline. Voting rates fell from 62 percent to 50 percent over the four decades after 1960, but the decline stopped in 2000 and returned to 58 percent in 2008. In other words, the public's behavior has not changed as dramatically as its responses to poll questions indicates.

How serious are changes in social capital when it comes to the effectiveness of American institutions? The political scientist Robert Putnam notes that community bonds have not weakened steadily over the last century. On the contrary, U.S. history, carefully examined, is a story of ups and downs in civic engagement. Three-quarters of Americans, according to the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, feel connected to their communities and say that the quality of life there is excellent or good. Another of the group's polls found that 111 million Americans had volunteered their time to help solve problems in their communities in the past 12 months and that 60 million volunteer on a regular basis. Forty percent said working together with others in their community was the most important thing they could do.

In recent years, U.S. politics and political institutions have become more polarized than the actual distribution of public opinion would suggest. The situation has been exacerbated by the recent economic downturn. As The Economist noted, "America's political system was designed to make legislation at the federal level difficult, not easy. . . . So the basic system works; but that is no excuse for ignoring areas where it could be reformed." Some important reforms -- such as changing the gerrymandered safe seats in the House of Representatives or altering Senate rules about filibusters -- would not require any constitutional amendment. Whether the U.S. political system can reform itself and cope with the problems described above remains to be seen, but it is not as broken as implied by critics who draw analogies to the domestic decay of Rome or other empires.


Any net assessment of American power in the coming decades will remain uncertain, but analysis is not helped by misleading metaphors of decline. Declinists should be chastened by remembering how wildly exaggerated U.S. estimates of Soviet power in the 1970s and of Japanese power in the 1980s were. Equally misguided were those prophets of unipolarity who argued a decade ago that the United States was so powerful that it could do as it wished and others had no choice but to follow. Today, some confidently predict that the twenty-first century will see China replace the United States as the world's leading state, whereas others argue with equal confidence that the twenty-first century will be the American century. But unforeseen events often confound such projections. There is always a range of possible futures, not one.

As for the United States' power relative to China's, much will depend on the uncertainties of future political change in China. Barring any political upheaval, China's size and high rate of economic growth will almost certainly increase its relative strength vis-à-vis the United States. This will bring China closer to the United States in power resources, but it does not necessarily mean that China will surpass the United States as the most powerful country -- even if China suffers no major domestic political setbacks. Projections based on GDP growth alone are one-dimensional. They ignore U.S. advantages in military and soft power, as well as China's geopolitical disadvantages in the Asian balance of power.

Among the range of possible futures, the more likely are those in which China gives the United States a run for its money but does not surpass it in overall power in the first half of this century. Looking back at history, the British strategist Lawrence Freedman has noted that the United States has "two features which distinguish it from the dominant great powers of the past: American power is based on alliances rather than colonies and is associated with an ideology that is flexible. . . . Together they provide a core of relationships and values to which America can return even after it has overextended itself." And looking to the future, the scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter has argued that the United States' culture of openness and innovation will keep it central in a world where networks supplement, if not fully replace, hierarchical power.

The United States is well placed to benefit from such networks and alliances, if it follows smart strategies. Given Japanese concerns about the rise of Chinese power, Japan is more likely to seek U.S. support to preserve its independence than ally with China. This enhances the United States' position. Unless Americans act foolishly with regard to Japan, an allied East Asia is not a plausible candidate to displace the United States. It matters that the two entities in the world with per capita incomes and sophisticated economies similar to those of the United States -- the European Union and Japan -- both are U.S. allies. In traditional realist terms of balances of power resources, that makes a large difference for the net position of U.S. power. And in a more positive-sum view of power -- that of holding power with, rather than over, other countries -- Europe and Japan provide the largest pools of resources for dealing with common transnational problems. Although their interests are not identical to those of the United States, they share overlapping social and governmental networks with it that provide opportunities for cooperation.

On the question of absolute, rather than relative, American decline, the United States faces serious problems in areas such as debt, secondary education, and political gridlock. But they are only part of the picture. Of the multiple possible futures, stronger cases can be made for the positive ones than the negative ones. But among the negative futures, the most plausible is one in which the United States overreacts to terrorist attacks by turning inward and thus cuts itself off from the strength it obtains from openness. Barring such mistaken strategies, however, there are solutions to the major American problems of today. (Long-term debt, for example, could be solved by putting in place, after the economy recovers, spending cuts and consumption taxes that could pay for entitlements.) Of course, such solutions may forever remain out of reach. But it is important to distinguish hopeless situations for which there are no solutions from those that could in principle be solved. After all, the bipartisan reforms of the Progressive era a century ago rejuvenated a badly troubled country.


It is time for a new narrative about the future of U.S. power. Describing power transition in the twenty-first century as a traditional case of hegemonic decline is inaccurate, and it can lead to dangerous policy implications if it encourages China to engage in adventurous policies or the United States to overreact out of fear. The United States is not in absolute decline, and in relative terms, there is a reasonable probability that it will remain more powerful than any single state in the coming decades.

At the same time, the country will certainly face a rise in the power resources of many others -- both states and nonstate actors. Because globalization will spread technological capabilities and information technology will allow more people to communicate, U.S. culture and the U.S. economy will become less globally dominant than they were at the start of this century. Yet it is unlikely that the United States will decay like ancient Rome, or even that it will be surpassed by another state, including China.

The problem of American power in the twenty-first century, then, is not one of decline but what to do in light of the realization that even the largest country cannot achieve the outcomes it wants without the help of others. An increasing number of challenges will require the United States to exercise power with others as much as power over others. This, in turn, will require a deeper understanding of power, how it is changing, and how to construct "smart power" strategies that combine hard- and soft-power resources in an information age. The country's capacity to maintain alliances and create networks will be an important dimension of its hard and soft power.

Power is not good or bad per se. It is like calories in a diet: more is not always better. If a country has too few power resources, it is less likely to obtain its preferred outcomes. But too much power (in terms of resources) has often proved to be a curse when it leads to overconfidence and inappropriate strategies. David slew Goliath because Goliath's superior power resources led him to pursue an inferior strategy, which in turn led to his defeat and death. A smart-power narrative for the twenty-first century is not about maximizing power or preserving hegemony. It is about finding ways to combine resources in successful strategies in the new context of power diffusion and "the rise of the rest."

As the largest power, the United States will remain important in global affairs, but the twentieth-century narrative about an American century and American primacy -- as well as narratives of American decline -- is misleading when it is used as a guide to the type of strategy that will be necessary in the twenty-first century. The coming decades are not likely to see a post-American world, but the United States will need a smart strategy that combines hard- and soft-power resources -- and that emphasizes alliances and networks that are responsive to the new context of a global information age.

In my own defence, whenever I forecast the end of this unipolar world based on American hyperpuissance I always (at least usually) caution readers to “not count America out.”

The biggest strategic danger facing America is, as Nye says, economic. America can and might spend itself ito real strategic trouble where it, like China, will have to put domestic tranquillity (social harmony) ahead of all other interests, and that may mean borrowing recklessly without enough attention to the payback.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on January 23, 2011, 16:40:22
A new book which claims the true reason for American decline is they "ate the low hanging fruit". While the argument seems to have some surface merit, I will disagree based on the argument of culture; the Native people, French and Spanish settlers in the Americas had access to the same "low hanging fruit" of land, labour and resources yet were not able to capitalize to anywhere the same extent as the British/Americans did (and as the lineal descendants of the "British", we certainly never capitalized on our advantages to the same level as the Americans).

How we are organized, how we relate to each other, how we define and exercise our rights is far more important than what resources are at hand; Ancient Athens, Republican Venice or modern Japan had (or have) powerful economies and the ability to influence events far beyond what might be predicted on their available resources and manpower. American political culture changed through the 20th century, and the culmination of these changes took effect in the late 1960's (LBJ's "Great Society" programs), leading to today.

America is in disarray and our economy is failing us. We have been through the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, unemployment remains stubbornly high, and talk of a double-dip recession persists. Americans are not pulling the world economy out of its sluggish state -- if anything we are looking to Asia to drive a recovery.Median wages have risen only slowly since the 1970s, and this multi-decade stagnation is not yet over. By contrast, the living standards of earlier generations would double every few decades. The Democratic Party seeks to expand government spending even when the middle class feels squeezed, the public sector doesn’t always perform well, and we have no good plan for paying for forthcoming entitlement spending. To the extent Republicans have a consistent platform, it consists of unrealistic claims about how tax cuts will raise revenue and stimulate economic growth. The Republicans, when they hold power, are often a bigger fiscal disaster than the Democrats. How did we get into this mess?Imagine a tropical island where the citrus and bananas hang from the trees. Low-hanging literal fruit -- you don’t even have to cook the stuff.In a figurative sense, the American economy has enjoyed lots of low-hanging fruit since at least the seventeenth century: free land; immigrant labor; and powerful new technologies. Yet during the last forty years, that low-hanging fruit started disappearing and we started pretending it was still there. We have failed to recognize that we are at a technological plateau and the trees are barer than we would like to think. That’s it. That is what has gone wrong.The problem won’t be solved overnight, but there are reasons to be optimistic. We simply have to recognize the underlying causes of our past prosperity—low hanging fruit—and how we will come upon more of it.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on February 26, 2011, 01:50:59
Going back to basics. This is an exerpt from a much longer post (well worth reading) about how Thucydides saw how the world was organized, and what that meant for understanding the hows and whys of events:

Reading Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War this semester I’ve been reminded rather forcefully that ‘realist’ is one of those words in common discourse without any consistent or secure definition attached to it. Thucydides is often invoked as the father of realism in foreign policy, but his approach to the way the world works has little to do with the way this term is frequently used by political scientists today. . . . For Thucydides, the internal politics of a state are crucial to understanding and anticipating the policies of that state. Sparta has a set of interests that are not dictated by the nature of the international system so much as by the structure of Spartan society. The need to keep the Spartan population on a constant military footing and the need to keep the armies close at home derive from the need to keep the Helots under control. Another kind of city standing where Sparta stood, and with exactly the same powers and great powers around it, might well have had a completely different set of interests and adopted a completely different set of policies. . . . Theoretical realism would strike Thucydides as barking nonsense — the kind of idea that could only appeal to people with little experience of actual affairs. Thucydides was not a realist in this sense; he was something much smarter. He was realistic.

In the world Thucydides writes about, interests matter. State interests, personal ambition, family and clan interests, the perceived interests of piety and religion, party and factional interests, economic interests: they all matter. But Thucydides seems more agnostic about which of these matter most at any given time.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on February 26, 2011, 20:51:55
The economy and the seeming decline of the US is a direct result of Obama's policies. For example gas prices are on the rise because of the middle east,but Obama's anti-fossil fuels policies prevent the US from even tapping its own resources,as a result we will be at the mercy of the middle east for quite some time. Increasingly on the foreign affairs front Obama gets no respect from anywhere[not that he deserves respect].Pakistan holds a US citizen with a diplomatic passport and despite threats to force his release the man remains in a Pakistani jail. I wonder if Obama threatened Pakistan's foreign aid payments maybe they would deport the CIA contract employee.Meanwhile every day in Pakistani custody the contractor is at risk.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on February 27, 2011, 19:53:29
A positive assessment. In the long run, I think this is the correct assessment (remember the Reagan Administration turned things around quite quickly after the Carter administration). The issue is culture:

Long live the American dream
There are many reasons why India and China have nothing on us

Americans, hit first by outsourcing and then a recession, are becoming deeply pessimistic about their country’s ability to maintain its economic leadership. America’s Aristophanes, Jon Stewart, commented during a recent interview with the author of "India Calling," Anand Giridhardas: "The American dream is still alive — it’s just alive in India." Likewise, 20 percent of Americans in a December National Journal poll believed the U.S. economy was no longer the strongest. Nearly half picked China instead.

But there are at least five reasons why neither India nor China will knock America off its economic perch anytime soon, at least not by the only measure that matters: Offering the best life to the most people.

America wastes no talent

Conventional wisdom holds that America’s global competitiveness is driven by geniuses flocking to its shores and producing breathtaking inventions. But America’s real genius lies not in tapping just genius — but every scrap of talent up and down the scale.

A 2005 World Bank study found that the bulk of a people’s wealth comes not from tangible capital like raw resources and infrastructure. It comes from intangible wealth: effective government, secure property rights, a functioning judiciary. Such intangible factors put the equivalent of $418,000 at the disposal of every American resident. In India and China, it's $3,738 and $4,208, respectively.

America’s vast intangible wealth makes everyone more productive and successful. Personal attributes — talent, looks, smarts — matter only on the margins. Having witnessed the life trajectory of many Indian immigrants, what’s striking to me is that, with some exceptions, it doesn’t matter whether they are the best or mediocre in their profession in India: They all end up with similar standards of living here.

America does not have India’s infrastructure deficit or China’s civil society deficit

India’s gap with America extends not just to intangible capital but tangible capital as well. Basic facilities in India — roads, water, sewage — remain primitive. For example, a 2010 McKinsey Global Institute report found that India treats 30 percent of raw sewage, whereas the international norm is 100 percent. It needs to spend twice the slated expenditures over the next 10 years to deliver basic services.

China, meanwhile, has a major civil society problem. Its one-child policy has decimated the natural safety net that old people rely on in traditional societies. And China offers no public safety net to the vast majority born in villages. Worse, many Chinese have invested their nest eggs is various asset bubbles that will wipe out their only means of subsistence if they burst.

America does not have grinding poverty

Despite all the recent hoopla about China becoming the world’s second-biggest economy and India hoping to follow suit, the reality is that the per-capita GDP — even measured by purchasing power parity — in both is pathetic. America’s is about $47,000, China’s $7,500 and India’s $3,290.

Worse, both still harbor medieval levels of poverty, with 300 million people in each living on less than $1.25 a day. India’s IT boom gets big press, but it — along with all the tertiary industries it has spawned — employs 2.3 million people, or 0.2 percent of the population.

American education is vastly superior to India’s or China’s

President Obama claims America is in an "education arms race" with India and China. Rubbish.

Despite all the horror stories about American kids underperforming on standardized tests, things are worse in India and China. India’s literacy rate is 66 percent. China puts its at 93 percent, but between 2000 and 2005, China’s illiterate population grew by 30 million. The same may happen in India, thanks to last year’s Right to Education Act, the regulations of which will cripple India’s private school market. The fundamental problem is that both countries put their resources into educating elite kids — and ignoring the rest.

Unless more Indian and Chinese kids get access to a quality education, their countries won’t be able to actualize their human potential, precisely what America does so well.

America doesn’t have a culture of hype

An important reason U.S. gloom-and-doom is unjustified is that there is so much gloom-and-doom. Indians and Chinese, by contrast, have drunk their own Kool-Aid. Their moribund economies have barely kicked into action and they are entertaining dreams of being the next economic superpowers. That bespeaks a profound megalomania. There is not a culture of hope in these countries, as Giridhardas told Stewart, but a culture of hype.

By contrast, when America’s government responds ineffectually to the recession, Americans go into panic mode. Grassroots movements like the Tea Party emerge to rein in the government. Pay Pal founder Peter Theil has even given $850,000 to the Seasteading Institute to establish new countries on the sea to experiment with government. This might be wacky, but it puts an outside limit on how out-of-whack Americans will let their institutions get before they start fixing them.

This, ultimately, is the biggest reason to believe that the American dream is and will stay alive — in America.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 15, 2011, 10:08:07
Part 1 of 3

...  In the case of many of the "Tea Party" I've tried to get from them a cogent, coherent argument of what specifically they want in terms of policy directions in the United States, and I have come to realize that a good portion of them (though I have no basis to claim any specific proportion) have pretty much no idea ...

The above, from another, different page, is a common complaint. In this article, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from Foreign Affairs, distinguished historian and foreign policy analyst Walter Russell Mead ( tries to answer the question, at last in so far as it pertains to foreign policy:

The Tea Party and American Foreign Policy
What Populism Means for Globalism
By Walter Russell Mead
March/April 2011

During the night of December 16, 1773, somewhere between 30 and 130 men, a few disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded three merchant ships in Boston Harbor and destroyed 342 chests of tea to protest duties imposed by the British parliament. Samuel Adams was widely considered to be the ringleader of the demonstration. The historical record is ambiguous; he disclaimed all responsibility while doing everything possible to publicize the event. The next year, a more decorous tea party occurred in Edenton, North Carolina, when Mrs. Penelope Barker convened 51 women to support the colony's resistance to British taxation. Tea was neither destroyed nor consumed, but something even more momentous happened that day: Barker's gathering is believed to have been the first women's political meeting in British North America.

Both tea parties stirred British opinion. Although prominent Whigs, such as John Wilkes and Edmund Burke, supported the Americans against King George III and his handpicked government, the lawlessness of Boston and the unheard-of political activism of the women of Edenton seemed proof to many in the mother country that the colonials were violent and barbaric. The idea of a women's political meeting was shocking enough to merit coverage in the London press, where the resolutions taken by the Edenton activists were reprinted in full. The British writer Samuel Johnson published a pamphlet denouncing the colonials' tea parties and their arguments against imperial taxation, writing, "These antipatriotic prejudices are the abortions of folly impregnated by faction."

Today, tea parties have returned, and Johnson's objections still resonate. The modern Tea Party movement began in February 2009 as an on-air rant by a CNBC financial reporter who, from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, called for a Chicago tea party to protest the taxpayer-financed bailout of mortgage defaulters. Objecting to what they saw as the undue growth of government spending and government power under President Barack Obama, Republicans and like-minded independents (backed by wealthy sympathizers) soon built a network of organizations across the United States. Energized to some degree by persistently favorable coverage on Fox News (and perhaps equally energized by less sympathetic treatment in what the Tea Party heroine Sarah Palin has dubbed "the lamestream media"), Tea Party activists rapidly shook up American politics and contributed to the wave of anti-big-government sentiment that made the 2010 elections a significant Democratic defeat.

The rise of the Tea Party movement has been the most controversial and dramatic development in U.S. politics in many years. Supporters have hailed it as a return to core American values; opponents have seen it as a racist, reactionary, and ultimately futile protest against the emerging reality of a multicultural, multiracial United States and a new era of government activism.

The Tea Party itself may disappear, but the populist energy that powers it will not go away soon.

To some degree, this controversy is impossible to resolve. The Tea Party movement is an amorphous collection of individuals and groups that range from center right to the far fringes of American political life. It lacks a central hierarchy that can direct the movement or even declare who belongs to it and who does not. As the Tea Party label became better known, all kinds of people sought to hitch their wagons to this rising star. Affluent suburban libertarians, rural fundamentalists, ambitious pundits, unreconstructed racists, and fiscally conservative housewives all can and do claim to be Tea Party supporters.

The Fox News host Glenn Beck may be the most visible spokesperson for the Tea Party, but his religious views (extremely strong and very Mormon) hardly typify the movement, in which libertarians are often more active than social conservatives and Ayn Rand is a more influential prophet than Brigham Young. There is little evidence that the reading lists and history lessons that Beck offers on his nightly program appeal to more than a small percentage of the movement's supporters. (In a March 2010 public opinion poll, 37 percent of respondents expressed support for the Tea Party, suggesting that about 115 million Americans sympathize at least partly with the movement; Beck's audience on Fox averages 2.6 million.)

Other prominent political figures associated with the Tea Party also send a contradictory mix of messages. The Texas congressman Ron Paul and his (somewhat less doctrinaire) son, the newly elected Kentucky senator Rand Paul, come close to resurrecting isolationism. The conservative commentator Pat Buchanan echoes criticisms of the U.S.-Israeli alliance made by such scholars as John Mearsheimer. Palin, on the other hand, is a full-throated supporter of the "war on terror" and, as governor of Alaska, kept an Israeli flag in her office.

If the movement resists easy definition, its impact on the November 2010 midterm elections is also hard to state with precision. On the one hand, the excitement that Tea Party figures such as Palin brought to the Republican campaign clearly helped the party attract candidates, raise money, and get voters to the polls in an off-year election. The GOP victory in the House of Representatives, the largest gain by either major party since 1938, would likely have been much less dramatic without the energy generated by the Tea Party. On the other hand, public doubts about some Tea Party candidates, such as Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, who felt it necessary to buy advertising time to tell voters, "I am not a witch," probably cost Republicans between two and four seats in the Senate, ending any chance for a GOP takeover of that chamber.

In Alaska, Palin and the Tea Party leaders endorsed the senatorial candidate Joe Miller, who defeated the incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary. Miller went on to lose the general election, however, after Murkowski organized the first successful write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate since Strom Thurmond was elected from South Carolina in 1954. If libertarian Alaska rejects a Palin-endorsed Tea Party candidate, then there are reasons to doubt the movement's long-term ability to dominate politics across the rest of the country.

But with all its ambiguities and its uneven political record, the Tea Party movement has clearly struck a nerve in American politics, and students of American foreign policy need to think through the consequences of this populist and nationalist political insurgency. That is particularly true because the U.S. constitutional system allows minorities to block appointments and important legislation through filibusters and block the ratification of treaties with only one-third of the Senate. For a movement of "No!" like the Tea Party, those are powerful legislative tools. As is so often the case in the United States, to understand the present and future of American politics, one must begin by coming to grips with the past. The Tea Party movement taps deep roots in U.S. history, and past episodes of populist rebellion can help one think intelligently about the trajectory of the movement today.


The historian Jill Lepore's book The Whites of Their Eyes makes the point that many Tea Party activists have a crude understanding of the politics of the American Revolution. Yet however unsophisticated the Tea Party's reading of the past may be, the movement's appeal to Colonial history makes sense. From Colonial times, resentment of the well-bred, the well-connected, and the well-paid has merged with suspicion about the motives and methods of government insiders to produce populist rebellions against the established political order. This form of American populism is often called "Jacksonianism" after Andrew Jackson, the president who tapped this populist energy in the 1830s to remake the United States' party system and introduce mass electoral politics into the country for good.

Antiestablishment populism has been responsible for some of the brightest, as well as some of the darkest, moments in U.S. history. The populists who rallied to Jackson established universal white male suffrage in the United States -- and saddled the country with a crash-prone financial system for 80 years by destroying the Second Bank of the United States. Later generations of populists would rein in monopolistic corporations and legislate basic protections for workers while opposing federal protection of minorities threatened with lynching. The demand of Jacksonian America for cheap or, better, free land in the nineteenth century led to the Homestead Act, which allowed millions of immigrants and urban workers to start family farms. It also led to the systematic and sometimes genocidal removal of Native Americans from their traditional hunting grounds and a massively subsidized "farm bubble" that helped bring about the Great Depression. Populist hunger for land in the twentieth century paved the way for an era of federally subsidized home mortgages and the devastating burst of the housing bubble.

Jacksonian populism does not always have a clear-cut program. In the nineteenth century, the Jacksonians combined a strong aversion to government debt with demands that the government's most valuable asset (title to the vast public lands of the West) be transferred to homesteaders at no cost. Today's Jacksonians want the budget balanced -- but are much less enthusiastic about cutting middle-class entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Ron Paul looks for ways to avoid contact with the world, whereas Sarah Palin would rather win than withdraw.

Intellectually, Jacksonian ideas are rooted in the commonsense tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment. This philosophy -- that moral, scientific, political, and religious truths can be ascertained by the average person -- is more than an intellectual conviction in the United States; it is a cultural force. Jacksonians regard supposed experts with suspicion, believing that the credentialed and the connected are trying to advance their own class agenda. These political, economic, scientific, or cultural elites often want to assert truths that run counter to the commonsense reasoning of Jacksonian America. That federal deficits produce economic growth and that free trade with low-wage countries raises Americans' living standards are the kind of propositions that clash with the common sense of many Americans. In the not too distant past, so did the assertion that people of different races deserved equal treatment before the law.

Sometimes those elites are right, and sometimes they are wrong, but their ability to win voter approval for policies that seem counterintuitive is a critical factor in the American political system. In times like the present, when a surge of populist political energy coincides with a significant loss of popular confidence in establishment institutions -- ranging from the mainstream media and the foreign policy and intellectual establishments to the financial and corporate leadership and the government itself -- Jacksonian sentiment diminishes the ability of elite institutions and their members to shape national debates and policy. The rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change is one of many examples of populist revolt against expert consensus in the United States today.

The Tea Party movement is best understood as a contemporary revolt of Jacksonian common sense against elites perceived as both misguided and corrupt. And although the movement itself may splinter and even disappear, the populist energy that powers it will not go away soon. Jacksonianism is always an important force in American politics; at times of social and economic stress and change, like the present, its importance tends to grow. Even though it is by no means likely that the new Jacksonians will gain full control of the government anytime soon (or perhaps ever), the influence of the populist revolt against mainstream politics has become so significant that students of U.S. foreign policy must consider its consequences.

End of Part 1 of 3
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 15, 2011, 10:10:24
Part 2 of 3


In foreign policy, Jacksonians embrace a set of strongly nationalist ideas. They combine a firm belief in American exceptionalism and an American world mission with deep skepticism about the United States' ability to create a liberal world order. They draw a sharp contrast between the Lockean political order that prevails at home with what they see as a Hobbesian international system: in a competitive world, each sovereign state must place its own interests first. They intuitively accept a Westphalian view of international relations: what states do domestically may earn one's contempt, but a country should only react when states violate their international obligations or attack it. When the United States is attacked, they believe in total war leading to the unconditional surrender of the enemy. They are prepared to support wholesale violence against enemy civilians in the interest of victory; they do not like limited wars for limited goals. Although they value allies and believe that the United States must honor its word, they do not believe in institutional constraints on the United States' freedom to act, unilaterally if necessary, in self-defense. Historically, Jacksonians have never liked international economic agreements or systems that limit the U.S. government's ability to pursue loose credit policies at home.

Finding populist support for U.S. foreign policy has been the central domestic challenge for policymakers ever since President Franklin Roosevelt struggled to build domestic support for an increasingly interventionist policy vis-à-vis the Axis powers. The Japanese solved Roosevelt's problem by attacking Pearl Harbor, but his sensitivity to Jacksonian opinion did not end with the United States' entry into World War II. From his embrace of unconditional surrender as a war objective to his internment of Japanese Americans, Roosevelt always had a careful eye out for the concerns of this constituency. If he had thought Jacksonian America would have accepted the indefinite stationing of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops abroad, he might have taken a harder line with the Soviet Union on the future of Eastern Europe.

The need to attract and hold populist support also influenced Harry Truman's foreign policy, particularly his approach to Soviet expansionism and larger questions of world order. Key policymakers in the Truman administration, such as Secretary of State Dean Acheson, believed that the collapse of the United Kingdom as a world power had left a vacuum that the United States had no choice but to fill. The United Kingdom had historically served as the gyroscope of world order, managing the international economic system, keeping the sea-lanes open, and protecting the balance of power in the chief geostrategic theaters of the world. Truman administration officials agreed that the Great Depression and World War II could in large part be blamed on the United States' failure to take up the burden of global leadership as the United Kingdom declined. The Soviet disruption of the balance of power in Europe and the Middle East after World War II was, they believed, exactly the kind of challenge to world order that the United States now had to meet.

The problem, as policymakers saw it, was that Jacksonian opinion was not interested in assuming the mantle of the United Kingdom. The Jacksonians were ready to act against definite military threats and, after two world wars, were prepared to support a more active security policy overseas in the 1940s than they were in the 1920s. But to enlist their support for a far-reaching foreign policy, Truman and Acheson believed that it was necessary to define U.S. foreign policy in terms of opposing the Soviet Union and its communist ideology rather than as an effort to secure a liberal world order. Acheson's decision to be "clearer than truth" when discussing the threat of communism and Truman's decision to take Senator Arthur Vandenberg's advice and "scare [the] hell out of the country" ignited populist fears about the Soviet Union, which helped the administration get congressional support for aid to Greece and Turkey and the Marshall Plan. Political leaders at the time concluded that without such appeals, Congress would not have provided the requested support, and historians generally agree.

But having roused the sleeping dogs of anticommunism, the Truman administration would spend the rest of its time in office trying (and sometimes failing) to cope with the forces it had unleashed. Once convinced that communism was an immediate threat to national security, the Jacksonians wanted a more hawkish policy than Acheson and his planning chief, George Kennan, thought was wise. The success of Mao Zedong's revolution in China -- and the seeming indifference of the Truman administration to the fate of the world's most populous country and its network of missionary institutions and Christian converts -- inflamed Jacksonian opinion and set the stage for Senator Joseph McCarthy's politics of paranoia in the 1950s.

Communism was in many ways a perfect enemy for Jacksonian America, and for the next 40 years, public opinion sustained the high defense budgets and foreign military commitments required to fight it. The priorities of the Cold War from a Jacksonian perspective -- above all, the military containment of communism wherever communists, or left-wing nationalists willing to ally with them, were active -- did not always fit comfortably with the Hamiltonian (commercial and realist) and Wilsonian (idealist and generally multilateral) priorities held by many U.S. policymakers. But in general, the mix of policies necessary to promote a liberal world order was close enough to what was needed to wage a struggle against the Soviets that the liberal-world-order builders were able to attract enough Jacksonian support for their project. The need to compete with the Soviets provided a rationale for a whole series of U.S. initiatives -- the development of a liberal trading system under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Marshall Plan aid tied to the promotion of European economic integration, development assistance in Africa, Asia, and Latin America -- that also had the effect of building a new international system encompassing the noncommunist world.

Bobby Jindal is in every way a better governor of Louisiana than Huey Long.

This approach enabled the United States to win the Cold War and build a flexible, dynamic, and reasonably stable international system that, after 1989, gradually and for the most part peacefully absorbed the majority of the former communist states. It did, however, leave a political vulnerability at the core of the U.S. foreign policy debate, a vulnerability that threatens to become much more serious going forward: today's Jacksonians are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to defend the United States, but they do not believe that U.S. interests are best served by the creation of a liberal and cosmopolitan world order.


After the Soviet Union disobligingly collapsed in 1991, the United States endeavored to maintain and extend its efforts to build a liberal world order. On the one hand, these projects no longer faced the opposition of a single determined enemy; on the other hand, American leaders had to find domestic support for complex, risky, and expensive foreign initiatives without invoking the Soviet threat.

This did not look difficult at first. In the heady aftermath of the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe, it seemed to many as if the task would be so easy and so cheap that U.S. policymakers could cut defense and foreign aid budgets while a liberal world order largely constructed itself. No powerful states or ideologies opposed the principles of the American world order, and both the economic agenda of liberalizing trade and finance and the Wilsonian agenda of extending democracy were believed to be popular at home and abroad.

Clear domestic constraints on U.S. foreign policy began to appear during the 1990s. The Clinton administration devoted intense efforts to cultivating obstructionist legislators, such as Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, but it was increasingly unable to get the resources and support needed to carry out what it believed were important elements of the United States' agenda abroad. Congress balked at paying the country's UN dues in a timely fashion and, after the GOP congressional takeover in 1994, opposed a range of proposed and actual military interventions. The Senate recoiled from treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol and refused to join the International Criminal Court. The relentless decline in support for free trade after the bitter fights over the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and U.S. entry into the new World Trade Organization in the early 1990s left U.S. diplomats negotiating within a tightening range of constraints, which soon led to a steady deceleration in the construction of a liberal global trading regime.

September 11, 2001, changed this. The high level of perceived threat after the attacks put U.S. foreign policy back to the position it had enjoyed in 1947-48: convinced that an external threat was immediate and real, the public was ready to support enormous expenditures of treasure and blood to counter it. Jacksonians cared about foreign policy again, and the George W. Bush administration had an opportunity to repeat the accomplishment of the Truman administration by using public concern about a genuine security threat to energize public support for a far-reaching program of building a liberal world order.

Historians will be discussing for years to come why the Bush administration missed this opportunity. It may be that in the years after 9/11, the administration was so determined to satisfy domestic Jacksonian opinion that it constructed a response to terrorism -- the kind of no-holds-barred total war preferred by Jacksonians -- that would inevitably undercut its ability to engage with key partners at home and abroad. In any case, by January 2009, the United States was engaged in two wars and a variety of counterterrorism activities around the world but lacked anything like a domestic consensus on even the broadest outlines of foreign policy.

The Obama administration came into office believing that the Bush administration had been too Jacksonian and that its resulting policy choices were chaotic, incoherent, and self-defeating. Uncritically pro-Israel, unilateralist, indifferent to the requirements of international law, too quick to respond with force, contemptuous of international institutions and norms, blind to the importance of non-terrorism-related threats such as climate change, and addicted to polarizing, us-against-them rhetoric, the Bush administration was, the incoming Democrats believed, a textbook case of Jacksonianism run wild. Recognizing the enduring power of Jacksonians in U.S. politics but convinced that their ideas were wrong-headed and outdated, the Obama administration decided that it would make what it believed were the minimum necessary concessions to Jacksonian sentiments while committing itself to a set of policies intended to build a world order on a largely Wilsonian basis. Rather than embracing the "global war on terror" as an overarching strategic umbrella under which it could position a range of aid, trade, and institution-building initiatives, it has repositioned the terrorism threat as one among many threats the United States faces and has separated its world-order-building activities from its vigorous work to combat terrorism.

It is much too early to predict how this will turn out, but it is already clear that the Obama administration faces serious challenges in building support for its foreign policy in a polarized, and to some degree traumatized, domestic environment. The administration is trying to steer U.S. foreign policy away from Jacksonian approaches just as a confluence of foreign and domestic developments are creating a new Jacksonian moment in U.S. politics. The United States faces a continuing threat of terrorism involving domestic as well as foreign extremists, a threat from China that includes both international security challenges in Asia and a type of economic rivalry that Jacksonians associate with the economic woes of the middle class, and a looming federal debt crisis that endangers both the prosperity and the security of the country. The combination of these threats with the perceived cultural and social conflict between "arrogant" elites with counterintuitive ideas and "average" Americans relying on common sense creates the ideal conditions for a major Jacksonian storm in U.S. politics. The importance of the Jacksonian resurgence goes beyond the political problems of the Obama administration; the development of foreign policy strategies that can satisfy Jacksonian requirements at home while also working effectively in the international arena is likely to be the greatest single challenge facing U.S. administrations for some time to come.

End of Part 2 of 3
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 15, 2011, 10:12:09
Part 3 of 3


Forecasting how this newly energized populist movement will influence foreign policy is difficult. Public opinion is responsive to events; a terrorist attack inside U.S. borders or a crisis in East Asia or the Middle East could transform the politics of U.S. foreign policy overnight. A further worsening of the global economic situation could further polarize the politics of both domestic and foreign policy in the United States.

Nevertheless, some trends seem clear. The first is that the contest in the Tea Party between what might be called its Palinite and its Paulite wings will likely end in a victory for the Palinites. Ron Paul represents an inward-looking, neo-isolationist approach to foreign policy that has more in common with classic Jeffersonian ideas than with assertive Jacksonian nationalism. Although both wings share, for example, a visceral hostility to anything that smacks of "world government," Paul and his followers look for ways to avoid contact with the world, whereas such contemporary Jacksonians as Sarah Palin and the Fox News host Bill O'Reilly would rather win than withdraw. "We don't need to be the world's policeman," says Paul. Palin might say something similar, but she would be quick to add that we also do not want to give the bad guys any room.

Similarly, the Palinite wing of the Tea Party wants a vigorous, proactive approach to the problem of terrorism in the Middle East, one that rests on a close alliance between the United States and Israel. The Paulite wing would rather distance the United States from Israel as part of a general reduction of the United States' profile in a part of the world from which little good can be expected. The Paulites are likely to lose this contest because the commonsense reasoning of the American people now generally takes as axiomatic something that seemed much more controversial in the 1930s: that security at home cannot be protected without substantial engagement overseas. The rise of China and the sullen presence of the threat of terrorism reinforce this perception, and the more dangerous the world feels, the more Jacksonian America sees a need to prepare, to seek reliable allies, and to act. A period like that between 1989 and 2001, when Jacksonian America did not identify any serious threats from abroad, is unlikely to arise anytime soon; the great mass of Tea Party America does not seem headed toward a new isolationism.

Jacksonian support for Israel will also be a factor. Sympathetic to Israel and concerned about both energy security and terrorism, Jacksonians are likely to accept and even demand continued U.S. diplomatic, political, and military engagement in the Middle East. Not all American Jacksonians back Israel, but in general, rising Jacksonian political influence in the United States will lead to stronger support in Washington for the Jewish state. This support does not proceed simply from evangelical Christian influence. Many Jacksonians are not particularly religious, and many of the pro-Jacksonian "Reagan Democrats" are Roman Catholics. But Jacksonians admire Israeli courage and self-reliance -- and they do not believe that Arab governments are trustworthy or reliable allies. They are generally untroubled by Israeli responses to terrorist attacks, which many observers deem "disproportionate." Jacksonian common sense does not give much weight to the concept of disproportionate force, believing that if you are attacked, you have the right and even the duty to respond with overwhelming force until the enemy surrenders. That may or may not be a viable strategy in the modern Middle East, but Jacksonians generally accept Israel's right to defend itself in whatever way it chooses. They are more likely to criticize Israel for failing to act firmly in Gaza and southern Lebanon than to criticize it for overreacting to terrorist attacks. Jacksonians still believe that the use of nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945 was justified; they argue that military strength is there to be used.

Any increase in Jacksonian political strength makes a military response to the Iranian nuclear program more likely. Although the public's reaction to the progress of North Korea's nuclear program has been relatively mild, recent polls show that up to 64 percent of the U.S. public favors military strikes to end the Iranian nuclear program. Deep public concerns over oil and Israel, combined with memories of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis among older Americans, put Iran's nuclear program in Jacksonians' cross hairs. Polls show that more than 50 percent of the public believes the United States should defend Israel against Iran -- even if Israel sets off hostilities by launching the first strike. Many U.S. presidents have been dragged into war reluctantly by aroused public opinion; to the degree that Congress and the public are influenced by Jacksonian ideas, a president who allows Iran to get nuclear weapons without using military action to try to prevent it would face political trouble. (Future presidents should, however, take care. Military engagements undertaken without a clear strategy for victory can backfire disastrously. Lyndon Johnson committed himself to war in Southeast Asia because he believed, probably correctly, that Jacksonian fury at a communist victory in Vietnam would undermine his domestic goals. The story did not end well.)

On other issues, Paulites and Palinites are united in their dislike for liberal internationalism -- the attempt to conduct international relations through multilateral institutions under an ever-tightening web of international laws and treaties. From climate change to the International Criminal Court to the treatment of enemy combatants captured in unconventional conflicts, both wings of the Tea Party reject liberal internationalist ideas and will continue to do so. The U.S. Senate, in which each state is allotted two senators regardless of the state's population, heavily favors the less populated states, where Jacksonian sentiment is often strongest. The United States is unlikely to ratify many new treaties written in the spirit of liberal internationalism for some time to come.

The new era in U.S. politics could see foreign policy elites struggling to receive a hearing for their ideas from a skeptical public. "The Council on Foreign Relations," the pundit Beck said in January 2010, "was a progressive idea of, let's take media and eggheads and figure out what the idea is, what the solution is, then teach it to the media, and they'll let the masses know what should be done." Tea Partiers intend to be vigilant to insure that elites with what the movement calls their "one-world government" ideas and bureaucratic agendas of class privilege do not dominate foreign policy debates. The United States may return to a time when prominent political leaders found it helpful to avoid too public an association with institutions and ideas perceived as distant from, and even hostile to, the interests and values of Jacksonian America.

Concern about China has been growing for some time in American opinion, and the Jacksonian surge makes it more likely that the simmering anger and resentment will come to a boil. Free trade is an issue that has historically divided populists in the United States (agrarians have tended to like it; manufacturing workers have not); even though Jacksonians like to buy cheap goods at Walmart, common sense largely leads them to believe that the first job of trade negotiators ought to be to preserve U.S. jobs rather than embrace visionary "win-win" global schemes.


More broadly, across a range of issues, both wings of the Tea Party will seek to reopen the discussion about whether U.S. foreign policy should be nationalist or cosmopolitan. The Paulite wing would ideally like to end any kind of American participation in the construction of a liberal world order. The Palinite wing leans toward a more moderate position of wanting to ensure that what world-order building Washington does clearly proceeds from a consideration of specific national interests rather than the world's reliance on the United States as a kind of disinterested promoter of the global good. Acheson, no friend of grandiose institutional schemes, might find something to sympathize with here; in any event, foreign-policy makers should welcome the opportunity to hold a serious discussion on the relationship of specific U.S. interests to the requirements of a liberal world order.

There is much in the Tea Party movement to give foreign policy thinkers pause, but effective foreign policy must always begin with a realistic assessment of the facts on the ground. Today's Jacksonians are unlikely to disappear. Americans should rejoice that in many ways the Tea Party movement, warts and all, is a significantly more capable and reliable partner for the United States' world-order-building tasks than were the isolationists of 60 years ago. Compared to the Jacksonians during the Truman administration, today's are less racist, less antifeminist, less homophobic, and more open to an appreciation of other cultures and worldviews. Their starting point, that national security requires international engagement, is considerably more auspicious than the knee-jerk isolationism that Truman and Acheson faced. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was no public support for the equivalent of the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, nor has there been anything like the anticommunist hysteria of the McCarthy era. Today's southern Republican populists are far more sympathetic to core liberal capitalist concepts than were the populist supporters of William Jennings Bryan a century ago. Bobby Jindal is in every way a better governor of Louisiana than Huey Long was -- and there is simply no comparison between Senator Jim DeMint, of South Carolina, and "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman.

Foreign policy mandarins often wish the public would leave them alone so that they can get on with the serious business of statecraft. That is not going to happen in the United States. If the Tea Party movement fades away, other voices of populist protest will take its place. American policymakers and their counterparts overseas simply cannot do their jobs well without a deep understanding of what is one of the principal forces in American political life.

Now, it helps to understand the constant references to e.g. Jacksonians if one has read Mead’s Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (, but I think his broad analysis is both accurate and coherent.

The “Tea Partiers’ are not totally in the thrall of Glenn Beck et al but they are, as Mead says, ”an amorphous collection of individuals and groups that range from center right to the far fringes of American political life. [The Tea Party] lacks a central hierarchy that can direct the movement or even declare who belongs to it and who does not. As the Tea Party label became better known, all kinds of people sought to hitch their wagons to this rising star. Affluent suburban libertarians, rural fundamentalists, ambitious pundits, unreconstructed racists, and fiscally conservative housewives all can and do claim to be Tea Party supporters.” Mead gives them a voice and puts some flesh on the skeletons in their thinking.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on March 22, 2011, 11:32:45
Another three parter looking at similarities between Rome at the time of the Punic Wars and the situation today:

Strategic Lessons From Hannibal’s War
Walter Russell Mead

With the world melting down and the Bard semester heating up, I’ve fallen behind in my grand strategy posts; apologies to all and I hope to catch up with a post next week (during Bard’s spring break) on Machiavelli. But today’s business is still the Second Punic War, the conflict between Carthage and Rome that engulfed most of the Mediterranean world in what would prove to be the most important war in the history of what would, thanks to Rome’s victory, one day become western civilization.

In the last post I wrote about how Rome had a grand strategy that was bigger and deeper than tactical questions like where you put your cavalry and your Balearic slingers in the battle.  It was a strategy of state construction and institution building.  Carthage could defeat Roman armies in Italy, Gaul and Spain, massacring troops, capturing standards and killing consuls.  But Rome could always produce more — even coming up with a third Scipio after two successful generals of that family were killed in Spain.

This is clearly one of the strengths that the British and the Americans brought to the last three hundred years of world history in which we’ve established a global hegemony as strong and as influential as the great empires of old.  There was a social and an economic resilience to the two English speaking great powers of the modern world that enabled them to outlast competitors like Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler and the Soviet Union.  “England loses every battle but the last,” they used to say.  Hannibal and Napoleon (and for that matter Robert E. Lee) were brilliant commanders, but their brilliance could not overcome the deeply rooted institutional and economic disadvantages they faced.

More than resilience, there was something about the Anglo-American world that kept it at the forefront of technology and culture.  I’ve written about this in God and Gold; it’s been easier for the English speaking world to adapt to and take advantage of capitalism than for cultures like Russia’s.  Our political institutions are more flexible, our culture less threatened by change, and our people more willing to put up with the inconveniences and upheavals that rapid capitalist development entails.

There are other points of contact between the Punic War and the modern era.  One is that the Punic War came at a time when the geopolitical center of gravity was shifting.  Historically the eastern Mediterranean had been the home of civilization and therefore of civilization’s constant companion: war.  The international system of the Levant was centuries old by the time of Hannibal.  Three great empires in five hundred years — Assyria, Babylon, Persia — converted their mastery of the fertile delta into hegemonic power throughout the region.  The wars between the Greek city states and the Persian Empire that Herodotus describes, as well as the Peloponnesian War, were centered in the Aegean Sea at the far eastern end of the Mediterranean. Alexander’s conquest of Persia and Egypt, and the subsequent division of his empire into squabbling successor states,  confirmed the idea that the Levant was a kind of self contained geopolitical unit and to master this was to master the known world.

But by the time of the Punic Wars when Carthage and Rome fought for mastery of the Mediterranean world, the old power centers no longer seemed to matter.  Athens and Sparta were inconsiderable powers in the new world order of Hannibal’s war; even Macedonia’s intervention in the war was of relatively minor importance.  Syracuse was the only major Greek city to play a significant role in the Punic Wars, and even Syracuse could only choose to ally itself with one of the two leading powers — King Hiero was Rome’s loyal sidekick, not an independent actor.

The great battles of the Punic Wars were fought in places Thucydides did not know much about: Spain, Portugal, North Africa, Gaul and Italy.  Greece was an afterthought in the Punic Wars, the Levant a spectator as its fate was decided in the west.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on March 22, 2011, 11:33:32
Part 2:

Change could be quick.  After its defeat in the First Punic War, Carthage rebuilt its fortunes by developing a new economic and political base in Spain.  In 241 BC Carthage controlled a narrow strip of southern Spain; by the outbreak of the Second Punic War in 218 BC, much of modern Spain had been brought into the Carthaginian empire and both Carthaginian and Roman forces would engage in battles as far afield as modern Portugal.

The booming economic growth in the western Mediterranean created a new political situation as new trade routes, new cities and new sources of minerals transformed the region.   The East was filled with old powers and stable economies; the west would be dominated by either Carthage or Rome, and the winner would enjoy economic prosperity and security, and  those advantages would enable the dominant power in the west to play off its eastern rivals against one another.  Once Rome had defeated Carthage, it was only a matter of time before the entire Mediterranean coast fell under its sway.

At the time, this meant that whoever controlled Italy would control the Mediterranean world.  Italy faces both east and west; its cities and people had long participated in the Greek economy, but it was also well placed to participate in the economic boom associated with the opening of the west.

Hannibal understood this.  His strategy in the war was to unite everyone worried about Rome’s rising power into a grand global coalition.  He hoped that by leading an army into Italy and defeating Rome on its home ground, he could attract the Greek city states and Rome’s fallen Italian rivals into the coalition.  He reached out to the Macedonians with an offer of alliance, and sought to bring the Gallic tribes into the war.

He lost the war where he won so many victories: Italy.  The problem wasn’t, I think, as many have written: that the Carthaginians refused to resupply him by sea.  That was an obstacle.  His real problem was that he was unable to organize an effective power bloc of anti-Roman forces in Italy itself.  Once the myth of Roman invincibility had been shattered by a series of epochal Carthaginian victories from the Lombard plain down to Apulia, many of Rome’s Italian allies and subjects defected to Hannibal.

But to Hannibal’s horror, these new allies weakened rather than strengthened him.  The defection of the wealthy city state of Capua shook Rome politically, but far from providing Hannibal with reinforcements that could help him beat Rome, Capua turned into a strategic liability.  Hannibal had to protect Capua against Roman revenge or watch all his new allies return to their former allegiance.  In the same way, even the fierce Samnites –  Rome’s most determined antagonists of old — wanted Hannibal to protect them rather than help him beat Rome.

Hannibal hoped, it appears, that after the annihilating victory at Cannae, brave Italian legions would stream to his banner from all over the peninsula, and he could lead a huge army for the bitter and difficult siege of Rome itself.  And much of Italy did flock to his banners — but his new allies were seeking his protection, not adding to his strength. As the war dragged on, Hannibal lost his freedom of action.  By attacking one or another of his new allies, Rome could force Hannibal onto the defensive, on ground and at times of its choosing.  Hannibal’s military and political triumphs thrust him into a defensive struggle which he could not win.

This is what Fabius understood and seized on: Hannibal could not win a long war against Rome.  Fabius wasn’t just aiming to keep Roman armies from destruction by avoiding battle with Hannibal — he could have accomplished that much by sitting behind Rome’s walls.  The continuing presence of Roman armies shadowing Hannibal not only annoyed and harassed Hannibal and gradually degraded his army; it kept Hannibal from establishing a secure zone of power outside Rome’s control and gave the Romans a continuing ability to harass and disrupt trade and traffic from allies in revolt.

It seems that the war had a much deeper impact on the Italian economy than could be accounted for simply by the destruction of battles and the ravages of armies.  Under Roman rule, Italy had become something of a common market, with people and goods able to move freely.  Under Roman naval protection, the ports were able to trade profitably with the east and the west. The disruption of these trade patterns and the radical insecurity that resulted from the fragmentation of Italy as cities broke away from Rome surely created great hardship and reduced the revenues available for self defense or to support Hannibal’s war effort.  That the end of the Pax Romana meant insecurity and want did not do much for Hannibal’s political goals: the longer Italy experienced the miseries of Hannibal’s war, the more benign Roman rule began to seem.  It is not at all clear that more reinforcements from Carthage could have changed this basic equation.

Hannibal was two thirds right: Italy was the key to world power in the Mediterranean and many of Rome’s allies and clients would defect if they believed that Rome could be defeated.  But he was wrong that his army, even with aid from Italian city-states, could provide the security and prosperity that could build a lasting alternative to Roman control. He could win victory after victory yet never win the war.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on March 22, 2011, 11:34:53
Part 3:

The next writer in our course, Machiavelli, lived at another time when the geographical center of world political and military power was in flux.  The discoveries of Columbus, and the trade routes established around the Cape of Good Hope to Asia and across the Atlantic to the Americas, turned the Mediterranean world from the center of European culture and trade — and the major theater of war — into a sideshow.  The economies of its rich city states and empires — Venice, Genoa, Florence, the Ottoman Empire and even Spain — fell into decline.  Italy became the plaything of foreign powers, like ancient Greece in the centuries after Alexander.

Machiavelli was haunted by the contrast between old Roman times when Italy was united  and his own day when foreign armies ranged freely and murderously up and down the peninsula.  A united Italy was once able to command the destinies of the world; in Machiavelli’s time Italy could not muster the forces required to unite.

Once again today we are living through a geographical shift in the world’s center of gravity.  This time the shift is from Europe and the Atlantic toward Asia and the Pacific.  The great European powers whose exploits ring down the centuries of modern history are now secondary powers — as Athens and Sparta were at the time of Hannibal, and as Florence and Venice were in the time of Machiavelli.

The question Americans naturally ask is what does that mean for us?  Are we also sinking toward relative insignificance?

My own guess is that we aren’t.  Just as the westward shift of the Mediterranean world benefited Italy at the time of the Punic Wars, the shift to the Pacific may benefit the United States.  Our position in the western hemisphere — despite the rise of Brazil — remains very much like Rome’s position in Italy.  The decline of the European powers means that no future US president will face the problems Franklin Roosevelt did, when the US was simultaneously menaced by hostile great powers in Europe and Asia.  Even Russia is no longer capable of mounting a serious challenge to America’s alliances in Europe.

Meanwhile in Asia, any potential challenger to the American world position must worry about an unquiet back yard.  Neither India nor China wants its rival to emerge as the only great power in Asia; Japan, Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia also want the balance kept.  The United States, free from nagging concerns about great power challenges in Europe, has a relatively free hand in the Pacific.

None of this guarantees either global stability or American pre-eminence in the twenty-first century.  But it suggests that the tides of history may still be flowing in our favor, and that America will not soon be moving to a retirement community for former great powers.

Join the discussion over at StratBlog.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 22, 2011, 12:11:20
Slightly off topic, perhaps, but following Mead's idea about worthless allies, I belive (and have since I damned near failed university for proposing the idea over 40 years ago) that the biggest single blunder in the entire history of British foreign policy (including the clan Godwin 'cheating' William of Normandy) was the Entente Cordiale ( which achieved France's immediate policy objective (it gave it an ally) but probably was one of the root causes of the most unnecessary and costly war the British ever fought.

France proved to be a poor, even costly ally for the British. Britain's natural ally, if it really needed one - which I believe it did not - was Germany. In fact, and Anglo-german alliance would have, also, been in France's best interests as the Germans would, most likely, have been constrained, by their Anglo-Saxon ally, from beating the French yet again.

I blame the Irish!
Really, I do: Britain was wholly preoccupied with the question of Irish independence - so occupied that too few sound minds were put to the task of making and protecting British foreign policy. Parenthetically, the issues (World War I and Irish governance) also destroyed the British Liberal Party, but that's another issue.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on April 07, 2011, 10:12:13
Any External "Grand Strategy" is ultimately driven by domestic considerations, and those in turn by the underlying culture of the civilization and society in question. Here is a foretaste of the debates that will take place in the United States (and by extension throughout Western Civilization) as the "Welfare State" model falters and dies. What will replace the Welfare State, and how will that occur?

The End of the Social-Democratic Model: Will the Left Respond by Accepting Reality?

Posted By Ron Radosh On April 6, 2011 @ 10:22 am In Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Yesterday, the only adult among a group of congressional kindergartners, Rep. Paul Ryan, released his budget proposal [1] for the future. The Democratic establishment immediately responded with the kind of knee-jerk all-out attacks we have come to expect from them. Rep. Nancy Pelosi tweeted [2]: “The #GOP Ryan budget is a path to poverty for America’s seniors & children and a road to riches for big oil #GOPvalues.”  Not wanting to be outdone, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, said [3]: “It is not courageous to protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies and other big-money special interests while slashing our investment in education, ending the current health care guarantees for seniors on Medicare, and denying health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans.”

It is the usual reactionary Democratic talking points, all meant to scare seniors, make the public believe their access to health care will come to an end, and create a scenario for huge tax increases to make up the deficit.

That is why I almost fell off my chair when I read the very liberal Jacob Weisberg, editor of the Slate Group, respond with a thoughtful article [4] titled “Good Plan!” which states in the heading subtitle that Ryan’s budget proposal is “brave, radical and smart.” I can just see Slate’s readers scratching their heads and asking themselves what has happened to Weisberg. They must have thought for a brief moment that they had logged on to PJM or National Review Online by mistake.

Weisberg understands that there is a genuine problem, and that both Republicans and Democrats have, as he puts it, been lax in confronting “the nation’s long-term fiscal imbalance, which is driven by the projected growth in entitlement spending.” Weisberg goes on to write that “this dynamic of political evasion and reality-denial may have undergone a fundamental shift today with the release of Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget resolution.”  Hoping that Republicans will get behind it, Weisberg writes that if they do, the Republican Party “will become for the first time in modern memory an intellectually serious party — one with a coherent vision to match its rhetoric of limited government.”

Weisberg even argues that liberals, rather than respond in the fashion that they have already begun to, consider whether some of Ryan’s proposals might serve them, as well as the country. He doesn’t even reject Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher plan, and writes that “it’s hard to make a principled liberal case for the program in its current form.” And he adds that “Ryan’s alternative to Medicare hardly seems as terrible as Paul Krugman makes out.” The Ryan plan, he notes, is not one that spells an end to the social safety net. He writes:

    Eventually, cost control would require some tough decisions about end-of-life care and the rationing of high-tech treatments that have limited efficacy. But starting with a value of $15,000 per year, per senior—the amount government now spends on Medicare—Ryan’s vouchers should provide excellent coverage. His change would amount to a minor amendment to the social contract, not a fundamental revision of it.

Pointing out that Ryan’s proposal would provide “excellent coverage” for seniors is exactly the opposite of the scare tactics all other Democrats are engaging in. Failure to follow Ryan’s lead, he warns, could create a “debt-driven economic crisis” that would “cast a pall over the country’s entire future.” For a moment, Weisberg sounds like — Glenn Beck!

Of course, Weisberg is still a liberal, who favors modest tax increases, and he has some criticism of the Ryan plan. Ryan, he argues, “skirts the question of which deductions and tax subsidies he’d eliminate to pay for these lower [tax] rates.” But he concludes that “more than anyone else in politics, Rep. Ryan has made a serious attempt to grapple with the long-term fiscal issues the country faces.” So I give kudos to Weisberg. He has dared to go against the liberal grain, and has congratulated Ryan for having a “largely coherent, workable set of answers.”

All of this leads me to highly recommend one of the most important essays [5] written in many a year, by Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs. Levin’s article is the perfect companion piece to both Weisberg’s comments as well as Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. Levin has written a very long philosophical piece that carefully delineates and critiques the liberal world-view, and that reveals the difference between how conservatives and liberals perceive the world around them.  His point is stated right at the beginning:

    But these [regulatory agencies and the massive entitlement system] are mostly symptoms of our mounting unease. The most significant cause runs deeper. We have the feeling that profound and unsettling change is afoot because the vision that has dominated our political imagination for a century — the vision of the social-democratic welfare state — is drained and growing bankrupt, and it is not yet clear just what will take its place.

Levin continues to throw out his bold challenge to those who still believe in the social-democratic ideal, people such as the late Tony Judt, whose last book [6] before his death  was an impassioned defense of that very ideal.  That ideal has had great staying power. Yuval Levin writes:

    That vision was an answer to a question America must still confront: How shall we balance the competing aspirations of our society — aspirations to both  wealth and virtue, dynamism and compassion? How can we fulfill our simultaneous desires to race ahead yet leave no one behind? The answer offered by the social-democratic ideal was a technocratic welfare state that would balance these aspirations through all-encompassing programs of social insurance. We would retain a private economy, but it would be carefully managed in order to curb its ill effects, and a large portion of its output would be used by the government to address large social problems, lessen inequality, and thus also build greater social solidarity.

    Of course, this vision has never been implemented in full. But it has offered a model, for good and for ill. For the left, it provided long-term goals, criteria for distinguishing progress from retreat in making short-term compromises, and a kind of definition of the just society. For the right, it was a foil to be combated and averted — an archetype of soulless, stifling bureaucratic hubris — and it helped put objections to seemingly modest individual leftward steps into a broader, more coherent context. But both ends of our politics seemed implicitly to agree that, left to its own momentum, this is where our country was headed — where history would take us if no one stood athwart it yelling stop.

Levin’s article is of importance because we need more than the kind of proposal that Rep. Ryan is putting forth. We need, in addition, a head-on challenge to the ideological hegemony of social-democratic, socialist, and Marxist views that so many of our intellectual class stand by.  Those who will read Levin’s article knows that he does just that, and indeed acknowledges that in past years that vision had legs because it took root, not during an age of decline for America, but during the years of the economy’s expansion and a rise in the standard of living. Social-democratic activism coincided with the years of the New Deal, Fair Deal, and early Great Society. The problem is that as reality flew in the face of the assumptions behind the policies of those years, few were ready to dispense with the ideology. The result is the current entitlement system, in which, as Levin writes, “age-based wealth transfers in an aging society are obviously problematic.”

So it is up to us to change course. To do that, we must have the kind of intellectual ammunition given to us by writers such as Yuval Levin. He understands that means developing serious answers to the questions that made the social-democratic ideal seem a good one. Levin knows that to develop that, conservatives cannot be made to appear to be enemies of those who need a social safety net, and who believe in making America’s wealth accessible to all in our society. He writes that it is not enough to yell “stop!” What has to be done is focus on the purposes of government itself, helping to show where it must go.

In our current age, Levin stresses as well that we need a change in nomenclature, as Roger L. Simon has argued in these very PJM pages. We must point out that liberals and most Democrats are “the reactionary party” that has its “head in the sand and its mind adrift in false nostalgia,” and is content with minor tinkering at the edges of our welfare state. Conservatives must do more than fight old enemies; they must do more than simply repeat that we have too much government.  What they must do is develop real alternatives that the public can grasp and adopt, and to work so that others, not just the wealthy, gain access to capitalism’s benefits. To me, he makes the point well in this key sentence: “It would seek to help the poor not with an empty promise of material equality but with a fervent commitment to upward mobility.”

Most social-democratic programs and arguments, as we know, seek mechanisms they believe will promote material equality, such as a continuing increase of the minimum wage. They do not realize that such policies make things worse for the poor, force businesses to higher fewer people, and in states which had followed suit, force them to shut down or leave for other states that have not mandated such foolish social policies. So, I heartily endorse Levin’s call for a new “policy-oriented conservatism,”  whose proponents will work to achieve its ends gradually, through both persuasion and proof, and in accord with the ways in which conservatives know that change can take place.

America, Yuval Levin warns, cannot be allowed to fail along with the social-democratic model. So read his article and pass it on. What he offers is precisely the kind of medicine we have long been in need of. We ignore his arguments at our own peril.

Article printed from Ron Radosh:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] proposal:

[2] tweeted:

[3] said:

[4] article:

[5] essays:

[6] book:
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on June 05, 2011, 00:13:51
Paul Ryan:

Paul Ryan’s Strategic Vision

On Thursday evening at the St. Regis Hotel three blocks from the White House. Paul Ryan was the featured speaker at a meeting of the Alexander Hamilton Society. I think it telling that his subject was not the fiscal crisis besetting our country. It was, as Michael Warren makes clear in a detailed report on the website of The Weekly Standard, the conduct of American foreign policy. If you have even a passing interest in the current Presidential race, you should read Warren’s report in its entirety. In it, he reprints Ryan’s every word. Here is how the Congressman began:

    Some of you might be wondering why the House Budget Committee chairman is standing here addressing a room full of national security experts about American foreign policy. What can I tell you that you don’t already know?

    The short answer is, not much. But if there’s one thing I could say with complete confidence about American foreign policy, it is this: Our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course; and if we fail to put our budget on a sustainable path, then we are choosing decline as a world power.

Ryan’s main point was that decline is not inevitable. It is a choice – a choice that we can make, a choice that we can resolutely refuse.

    If we continue on our current path, the rapid rise of health care costs will crowd out all areas of the budget, including defense.

    This course is simply unsustainable. If we continue down our current path, then a debt-fueled economic crisis is not a probability. It is a mathematical certainty.

    Some hear these facts and conclude that the sun is setting on America… that our problems are bigger than we are… that our competitors will soon outrun us… and that the choice we face is over how, not whether, to manage our nation’s decline.

    It’s inevitable, they seem to say, so let’s just get on with it. I’m reminded of that Woody Allen line: “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

In his speech, Ryan considered the consequences of making the wrong choice in this regard. It is, he insisted, a matter of paramount importance.

    In The Weary Titan, Aaron Friedberg − one of the founders of the Hamilton Society − has shown us what happened when Britain made the wrong choice at the turn of the 20th century.

    At that time, Britain’s governing class took the view that it would be better to cede leadership of the Western world to the United States. Unfortunately, the United States was not yet ready to assume the burden of leadership. The result was 40 years of Great Power rivalry and two World Wars.

    The stakes are even higher today. Unlike Britain, which handed leadership to a power that shared its fundamental values, today’s most dynamic and growing powers do not embrace the basic principles that should be at the core of the international system.

    A world without U.S. leadership will be a more chaotic place, a place where we have less influence, and a place where our citizens face more dangers and fewer opportunities. Take a moment and imagine a world led by China or by Russia.

    Choosing decline would have consequences that I doubt many Americans would be comfortable with.

Ryan is persuaded that “we must lead,” and he is also convinced that “a central element of maintaining American leadership is the promotion of our moral principles – consistently and energetically.” We must, however, he continues, not be “unrealistic about what is possible for us to achieve.”

    America is an idea. And it was the first nation founded as such. The idea is rather simple. Our rights come to us from God and nature. They occur naturally, before government. The Declaration of Independence says it best: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    There are very good people who are uncomfortable with the idea that America is an “exceptional” nation. But it happens that America was the first in the world to make the universal principle of human freedom into a “credo,” a commitment to all mankind, and it has been our honor to be freedom’s beacon for millions around the world.

    America’s “exceptionalism” is just this – while most nations at most times have claimed their own history or culture to be exclusive, America’s foundations are not our own – they belong equally to every person everywhere. The truth that all human beings are created equal in their natural rights is the most “inclusive” social truth ever discovered as a foundation for a free society. “All” means “all”! You can’t get more “inclusive” than that!

    Now, if you believe these rights are universal human rights, then that clearly forms the basis of your views on foreign policy. It leads you to reject moral relativism. It causes you to recoil at the idea of persistent moral indifference toward any nation that stifles and denies liberty, no matter how friendly and accommodating its rulers are to American interests.

The real question, of course, is the practical one: “What do we do when our principles are in conflict with our interests? How do we resolve the tension between morality and reality?” And here is Ryan’s answer:

    According to some, we will never be able to resolve this tension, and we must occasionally suspend our principles in pursuit of our interests. I don’t see it that way. We have to be consistent and clear in the promotion of our principles, while recognizing that different situations will require different tools for achieving that end.

    An expanding community of nations that shares our economic values as well as our political values would ensure a more prosperous world … a world with more opportunity for mutually beneficial trade … and a world with fewer economic disruptions caused by violent conflict.

Here, too, Ryan urges prudence and caution. “In promoting our principles,” he argues, “American policy should be tempered by a healthy humility about the extent of our power to control events in other regions.” Then, he turns to Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran, Afghanistan, and China – where you can see a bit more clearly what he has in mind when he speaks of limits and where you can also see just how much care he has given to considering our strategic situation.

Read Warren’s report. Run it off, and read it again. I think that, if you do, you will see why I think it right that this country do something almost unthinkable that it has not done in more than a century: elevate a mere Congressman to the Presidency.

There are many reasons why we need to get our fiscal house in order. Perhaps in the long run the most important is that, if we do not, we as a people will lose the hard-won capacity to shape the strategic environment within which we, as individuals, live our daily lives. The political liberty we treasure depends upon our independence -- and ultimately that cannot be sustained if ours is an entitlements state.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on October 14, 2011, 22:48:39
Long article with many interesting points to consider. A Part II is promised for next month:

BEATING DECLINE: Miltech and the Survival of the U.S. (section one of three)

by J.R. Dunn

Part I

Dangerous times await the United States in the international arena. We are facing a period of relative decline in respect to other nations and the global community as a whole. Many are aggressive states with little reason to be friendly to us or to defer to our interests. Our status as leading nation will be challenged, imperiled, and disregarded. This circumstance is locked in and we cannot avoid it. Debt, inflation, overextension, and defense cuts, not to mention a strange national diffidence toward acting as world leader, guarantee this state of affairs.

On the occasion of his retirement in June, defense secretary Robert Gates warned against further defense cuts. “Frankly,” he was quoted as saying, ”I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government … that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.” Extraordinary words from a man who initiated more cuts than any previous secretary: over 30 programs, including the F-22 Raptor, the Army's Future Combat System, and the AF-1 airborne laser. In other words, some of the programs most crucial to maintaining American military capability in the 21st century.

Even as Gates made his departure, the Obama administration was ordering cuts of $400 billion over a period of twelve years. Leading liberal politicians such as Rep. Barney Frank have gone even further, calling for up to $1 trillion in cuts. And this is not to overlook the recent debt ceiling deal, in which automatic cuts to defense, amounting to $500 billion over and above the amounts already mentioned, will occur if a formal bipartisan budget agreement is not achieved.

At risk is the USAF’s B-3 bomber, the Navy's CG(X) cruiser and EPX intelligence plane, the Marine’s Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle, and the Navy’s new TAOX tanker and the next generation ballistic missile submarine. Talk has also been heard of cutting Army battalions, reducing the number of fleet aircraft carriers, basing fleet units in the continental U.S. rather than at forward bases, dismantling most of our nuclear arsenal, and axing that perennial target, abandoning U.S. Marine Corps aviation.

The reasons for this impasse, while interesting in themselves, do not really concern us as much as the simple reality of what we face. It’s in the cards and we will have to deal with it. How do we go about doing that?

Other dominant states have undergone the same ordeal. The United Kingdom and the Soviet Union can serve as examples. Following its magnificent WW II stand against fascism, the UK suffered a lengthy period of political decline in which its global empire, one of the best-ordered and in many ways admirable of all imperial systems, was stripped away in less than twenty years. The Soviet Union, a much less admirable state, suffered an explosive collapse in the early 1990s following its failure to implement socialism on a national scale while simultaneously challenging the West in the Cold War. Both nations benefited from the existence of an even more powerful national entity that ensured global stability while they adapted to their new status—the United States itself. Countries that might have contemplated taking advantage of the suddenly weakened superstates were held off by the American presence, allowing the UK and USSR to make their transition in relative security. (Only one nation attempted to throw the dice—Argentina in the 1983 Falklands conflict A shrunken Royal Navy succeeded in straightening out the Argentines with assistance from the U.S.)

No guarantor of international stability exists today. The United States will go through its period of readjustment very much on its own. As for challenges from lawless and predatory powers, the question is not if but when. What is in store for us is not conquest, not humiliation, not even necessarily defeat, but a slow erosion of influence and power that will limit our ability to meet crises and make our national will felt. We are already experiencing that erosion, and it will continue for some time to come.

Emerging Threats

Expansionist states on the cusp of becoming major regional powers will wish to exercise their newfound capabilities. Most see the U.S. as an obstacle. There can be little doubt that each of them views America’s current difficulties as a clear opportunity.

   China—Looks forward to taking back the rogue “province” of Taiwan while at the same time extending its control over the Western Pacific. An internal faction of unknown size and influence involving senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would not at all mind giving the U.S. a black eye in the process.
   Iran—Wishes to gain control over the Persian Gulf and the surrounding states in hopes of establishing something on the order of a Shi’ite caliphate. Its current nuclear weapons program is troubled (it suffered a serious setback as the target of the first tailored cyberweapon), but continuing. Further concern arises over extensive governmental influence from a Shi’ite apocalyptic cult comprised of believers in the imminent return of an Islamic messiah, the Twelfth Imam.

   North Korea—After nearly seventy years, still the personal domain of the world’s sole communist dynasty. Unstable and run by a family of doubtful sanity, North Korea is a perpetual irritant. With its arsenal of crude atomic weapons, it is in the peculiar position of being too weak to fully assert itself yet too well-armed to be ignored. Eventually this conundrum will be resolved through some kind of action.

   Russia—Interested in reestablishing military dominance over Eurasia while also clawing back a few strayed remnants of the old USSR. Important sections of the military and security organs are subject to feelings of anti-American revanchism over the results of the Cold War.

   Venezuela—Has eagerly adapted the mantle of spearhead of Latin Marxism from Cuba, with some success among neighboring states. Has also established close military ties with China and Iran, which include agreements for basing rights and emplacement of advanced strategic weapons systems.

   Pakistan—About to explode thanks to an evil synergy involving a totally corrupt military, an effectively unrestrained Islamist element, and seething ethnic rivalries. The problem lies in its possession of up to 110 nuclear weapons. (Nearly as many as the UK.) 1

   There also exist wild cards—threats that while perhaps unlikely, are within the realm of possibility.
   Europe—Union has not proven as easy or as popular as anticipated. It has long been pointed out that the EU has all the trappings of a neofascist state without the controlling ideology. That could change, and not necessarily for the better. Consider the UK or Ireland attempting to secede from the EU under such circumstances. The technical name for this is “civil war.” (Interestingly, one of the few novels to deal with the concept of European union, Angus Wilson’s satirical SF novel The Old Men at the Zoo, climaxes with exactly such a scenario.)
   Mexico—A potential government takeover by one of the cartels, or alternately a front politician under their control, would turn our southern border into even more of a war zone than it is already. We have been ignoring the Mexican drug war for several years now. We may not have this luxury for much longer.

   A Revived United Arab Republic—The “Arab Spring” has not turned out to be as happy an event as many of us hoped. The most powerful political group in the Arab states is the Muslim Brotherhood, a secret society with fascist antecedents considered to be the grandfather of all Islamic terrorist and Jihadi organizations. Any or all of the “liberated” Arab nations could fall prey to this outfit. (It appears that Egypt is doing so now.) The ramifications will be nothing but ugly.

   And let’s not forget the jihadis while we’re at it. That’s a fifty-year war and we are only one-fifth of the way through it.

Beyond these, we have the “unknown unknowns”—potential threats that we simply cannot foresee. An informed European of 1910 would never have guessed at fascism, Nazism, or communism, which dominated much of the 20th century and came close to destroying Europe. What awaits us in the next half-century is anybody’s guess. (How about a combination of the Singularity and neofascism?) Keeping in mind the words of a great statesman (Calvin Coolidge): “If you see ten troubles comin’ down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into a ditch before they get to you,” one or more of these will confront the U.S. while we are at the same time repairing the ravages of recent excesses, maintaining our standing in the international community, and fulfilling our obligations to our allies and treaty partners. There have been easier periods for this country.

We are no longer a hyperpower, and the status of superpower is slipping from our grasp. Within a decade, the U.S. will be merely one great power among a rising cohort of powers. We no longer possess the forces that defeated the Soviet Union, twice humiliated the armies of Saddam Hussein, and that for decades have guaranteed peaceful commerce across the oceans of the world. While much can be accomplished through diplomacy and alliances with other powers, situations will arise in which military force is the sole option. We must find alternatives to the vast resources that are no longer available to us.

We will not, for the foreseeable future, have access to the traditional American method of spending more money to buy more guns than anyone else on earth can afford. What does that leave us? With yet another traditional American method, one that used to be called “Yankee ingenuity”: using technology to solve problems that cannot be addressed in any other way.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on October 14, 2011, 22:51:03
Section 2 of 3:

The RMA and the American Dilemma

The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)2 is the formal name for changes in warfare brought about by technological innovation in the post-Vietnam period. Originally a Soviet concept, the RMA involves advances in such fields as computers, sensor technology, guidance systems, and communications which together hold the potential to increase the destructive capabilities of weaponry by an order of magnitude. Examples include precision-guided munitions (PGMs), stealth aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Considerable debate has occurred concerning the RMA’s effect on operations, strategy, tactics, and doctrine.

The RMA fell into disrepute after defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld utilized it as the basis of his “transformational” doctrine for the U.S. military. It was the source of the infamous “light footprint,” in which small, technologically advanced forces would destroy much larger conventional armies, requireing reduced outlay in time, resources, and finances. Rumsfeld was not completely mistaken—the forces that defeated Saddam Hussein in 2003 were much smaller than those dispatched to the Gulf in 1990. Technology made up the difference. What Rumsfeld overlooked was the fact that occupation and combat are two different things. Occupation requires large numbers of boots on the ground to assure security, control, and a smooth transition of power. The failure to meet those requirements in the wake of the Second Gulf War resulted in a lengthy guerilla conflict which sapped American resolve and nearly cost us the victory.

Over the past few years, military thinkers have begun to acknowledge that the RMA, far from being discredited, will continue to influence military affairs for the foreseeable future. Technology remains a major driver of military innovation and despite everything the United States remains the forerunner in technology. A 2008 RAND study, “U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology”3 found that the U.S. spends 40 percent of the world’s budget for research, produces 38 percent of new patents, and 63 percent of cited research papers. We also lead in application. The U.S. is the sole nation to have fielded a fleet of stealth fighters and bombers, the sole nation to have made the transition to combat drones, the first adaptor of battlefield robotics, and is very likely the first nation (along with its junior partner Israel) to have created and utilized a cyberwarhead. Technology will enable the United States to endure the challenges to come, and to put the fear of Uncle Sam anew into the world’s bandits, fanatics, and would-be Napoleons.

Maritime Power

Naval power is the most important aspect of American military strength. The seapower thesis of Alfred Thayer Mahan4— that the United States comprises a “continental island” closer in nature to maritime states such as Japan and the UK than to the continental powers of Eurasia—has proven far more durable than most 19th-century geopolitical theories.

Since the destruction of the Japanese Imperial Fleet in 1944, the U.S. Navy has had no serious rival for control of the seas. For a short period in the 1980s the development of a Soviet blue-water navy caused some worries, but those ended along with the USSR. It is no coincidence that international trade based on maritime shipping underwent a boom during the postwar period. Security provided by U.S. naval dominance of the world’s oceans was a major factor in economic globalization. The vast amounts spent on America’s fleets have repaid themselves many times over.

In the early 21st century, U.S. maritime power faces its first major challenge in nearly seventy years. The fleet is steadily shrinking. In August 2011 it stood at 284 ships, less than half the 575 in commission twenty years ago. At the same time, several foreign fleets are in the process of establishing themselves as serious competitors. The Indian Navy is friendly. The Chinese and Iranian navies, not so much. In addition, piracy has undergone a dramatic rebirth, in Somalia in particular but also in areas such as the Indonesian archipelago. The 21st century sailor will have his hands full.

The Navy’s plan to meet these challenges is embodied in a doctrine called “AirSea Battle.” While little is known about this new strategy, it can be assumed to be a maritime version of AirLand Battle, the U.S. Army’s extremely effective late 20th century ground-combat strategy. AirLand Battle was based on the theories of the eccentric but brilliant USAF officer Col. John Boyd5, who spent a lifetime attempting to create a universal theory of warfare. AirLand Battle is a complex strategy of maneuver utilizing Boyd’s “decision cycle” (also known as the “OODA Cycle”)6, in which actions carried out at an accelerated pace deny the enemy any opportunity to respond. Large-scale disruptive aerial attacks are followed with swift flank attacks by mechanized units, assaulting not fixed geographic targets such as cities or bases, or even distinct military formations, but any enemy force within reach. The goal is to confuse and disrupt the enemy until utter collapse ensues. AirLand Battle is a strategy by which small, outnumbered forces can defeat much larger opponents through speed, maneuver, and initiative.

AirLand Battle never saw action against the Warsaw Pact, its original target, but found its moment in the two campaigns against the Iraqi Army. These were virtual textbook operations, with the U.S.-led Coalition dominating the battlespace from the start and swiftly subduing the Iraqis with very few direct engagements.

AirSea Battle7 is a combined-services strategy in which the USAF and Navy will act as a single offensive force. Working from the AirLand Battle template, we can assume that USAF long-range air assets will strike first, disrupting and demoralizing enemy maritime forces. They will be followed by naval air, surface, and submarine elements, striking with PGMs, cruise missiles, and long-range torpedoes. If carried out with the same ferocity as AirLand Battle, this strategy would climax with surviving enemy units fleeing the battlespace, leaving it dominated by U.S. naval forces.

Two major questions arise: can such a strategy be carried out by a steadily shrinking Navy? And can a strategy so dependent on the ever more vulnerable aircraft carrier remain viable into the 21st century?

Fleet carriers are among the most impressive warships ever to take to sea. But all things move toward their end, and carriers of the Nimitz and Ford class may have seen their day. The Chinese, the most serious maritime challenge facing our Navy, are doing their best to make the carrier obsolete. China considers the South China Sea as its territory, going so far as to refer to it as “blue soil,” an inherent part of the Chinese heritage. It has laid claim to the Spratleys, the Paracels, and other small island chains in defiance of Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. It has never given up its claim to Taiwan. It has suggested that other states—specifically the U.S.—abandon all interest in the area, in clear disregard of current treaties and the traditional law of the sea. (The U.S. is responding by sending its first three operational Littoral Combat Ships8 into the South China Sea. This is a carefully calibrated riposte: while not strategic assets, these shallow-water vessels—which the media have taken to calling “stealth ships”—are capable of a variety of missions including shore assault, reconnaissance and surveillance, special warfare, and deep-water combat. The message is easily read: we’re ready for anything.)

Whatever Chinese plans may be, one element that can upset them is the aircraft carrier. Each possesses the combat power of a medium-sized nation, unmatched versatility, and the moral force of a weapon that has never been adequately countered. The Chinese have worried about them for a long time, and have put a lot of work into countermeasures. These include:

   Cruise Missiles—Entire families of sea-launched cruise missiles are deployed on both surface ships—including fast patrol craft—and submarines.
   Song Class Diesel Submarines, —quite capable and very difficult to detect9. In 2006, a Song-class sub surfaced without warning only a short distance from the USS Kitty Hawk.

   The J-20 Stealth Fighter——from its size clearly not an air-superiority aircraft, but most likely intended as a strike aircraft10. It would be surprising if it wasn’t used against carriers.

   The DF-21D Ballistic Missile—over the past year, a new version of the DF-21 MRBM with anti-ship capabilities has been fielded11. The Chinese can deploy hundreds of these missiles in a short time frame.
   Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons (EMP)—China has apparently modified a number of nuclear warheads to trigger a high-altitude EMP pulse capable of damaging or destroying nearby electronic equipment12. While some are intended for use against Taiwan, others may target aircraft carriers. The code names of these weapons are “Assassin’s Mace” for older warheads and “Trump Card” for warheads using newer technology. (This is a good opportunity to kill the “EMP as national threat” myth. There’s been a lot of rhetoric expended claiming that the pulse from a single nuclear warhead set off 200 miles above the U.S. could fry all electronics gear across the country and plunge us into a new dark age. Well maybe, under perfect laboratory conditions, but even that’s doubtful. As a physicist pointed out to me, for this to work, you need to have more energy coming out than the original explosion put in. A little thing called the First Law of Thermodynamics forbids this.)

It would be a difficult trick to carry out a warfighting strategy with one of its central elements at the bottom of the briny deep. Potential defenses exist, chief among them directed-energy weapons. High-energy lasers would defeat most anti-ship threats, in particular missiles of all varieties. Unfortunately, the free-electron laser (FEL), the most well-adapted for naval use (FELs are tunable and can be fired at the best wavelengths to cut through sea haze, salt spray, fog, and other maritime commonplaces), was canceled by Congress last June13. (The Navy’s primary new offensive weapon, the electromagnetic railgun, was canceled at the same time.) Nothing less than such a universal defense will do. The Kamikaze campaign of 1945 clearly demonstrated how difficult it is to defend ships from determined attack. It won’t require the loss of very many $15 billion carriers along with their air wings to drive the U.S. out of the South China Sea or the Persian Gulf more or less permanently.

While the Chinese launched their first carrier—formerly the Ukrainian Varyag—this past summer, and are constructing at least two domestic carriers, they possess no support craft or escorts to sail with them. They’re unlikely to play a major role in the time-span we’re considering here.

But the fleet carrier is by no means the ultimate evolution of the aircraft carrier. The Navy has already studied the feasibility of smaller carriers14. In fact, future carriers may not resemble our current models, with their vast and crowded flight decks, in any fashion at all.

The key to this development is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle—the combat drone. The Navy came late to the drone revolution, but in recent years has gone all out to catch up. Last February marked the debut of the Northrop Grumman X-47B, a drone designed to take off and land on a carrier15. The Navy wants drones operating with carrier forces by 2018. Subsequent development of drones is likely to transform the carrier itself. There is no reason why drones need to operate exactly like manned aircraft, requiring a flight deck, arrestor gear, and the entire panoply of traditional naval aviation. Properly designed drones could be launched from any type of surface ship, or, for that matter, from submarines running underwater. It’s possible to foresee a time when every naval vessel, including support ships, operates a unit of drones, from a dozen aboard a support vessel such as a tanker to fifty or more aboard a guided missile cruiser.

Such drones would be very different birds from today’s pioneer models—nearly autonomous, cheap, and far more capable. They could well be expendable, with no recovery necessary. (The USAF has already fielded such a design, the MALD. See below.) It’s possible that they wouldn’t even be armed, instead destroying their targets by kinetic kill. Consider a swarm of hundreds of small, fast, maneuverable drones suddenly appearing out of nowhere, with no obvious source (and target) like a conventional aircraft carrier in sight. Such a capability would complicate enemy strategy immeasurably. It would also go a long way toward lowering the cost of a fleet and increasing the number of available combat vessels.

The drone revolution is by no means limited to aerial platforms. Application of drone technology to both surface and submersible craft is in process. Former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead initiated development of a long-range UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle), a robot submarine capable of operating independently for long periods on missions covering thousands of miles16. Roughead envisioned a basic guidance system and power plant module that can be reconfigured with weapon and sensor suites tailored for each particular mission. Such UUVs would patrol independently, report in by satellite linkage, and return to port on their own. Smaller versions could act as drone torpedoes, maintaining station on a semi-permanent basis and launching themselves at enemy shipping when the war signal arrives.

Necessary technology such as advanced AI algorithms and compact power plants remains enticingly out of reach. But less complex versions of such UUVs could very likely be launched today. These drones could accompany a fleet, acting as a first line of defense against enemy subs, be monitored constantly and rendezvous with surface vessels for maintenance and refueling. Such drones would be relatively cheap and expendable where manned submarines would not be.

Preliminary work has also been done on surface drones by the Navy in cooperation with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the DoD’s in-house research department, particularly involving an unmanned frigate, the Anti-submarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV)17. An ACTUV could patrol vast areas of ocean for months with no human input. On encountering a sub, it would notify its naval HQ, and perhaps also latch onto the sub’s signal and follow it wherever it went, rendering the crew’s life incredibly nerve-wracking. One interesting development involves the Navy’s creation of an online game, ACTUV Tactics, where outside players compete as ACTUV’s or sub skippers, in order to work out the best tactics to encode as operational algorithms18. (What’s that you say? Potential enemy sub skippers can log on too, and learn all the tricks? I guess nothing’s perfect.)

Another weapon overdue for technological enhancement is the sea mine, an often underrated asset. During the last months of WW II, mines dropped from USAAF B-29 Superfortresses into the Inland Sea and coastal areas brought Japanese maritime activity to a standstill, completely isolating the Home Islands.

The 21st century mine will be a far cry from the anchored “dumb” mines of WW II. They will have limited autonomous capability, be able to detect and target individual ships, avoid minesweepers, and maneuver into optimal attack positions. Several warheads could be fitted with programmable fuses to suit the targets. Networks of these mines would communicate and coordinate their attacks. Enemy fleets and merchant marine vessels might well be locked into their ports, unable to emerge for fear of hordes of “smart mines.” When hostilities end, the mines would be signaled to surface and wait for pickup.

A picture of the fleet to come begins to take form, surrounded by a cloud of undetectable drones, preceded by a shield of small unmanned submarines, with robot frigates patrolling the fringes, and the manned ships on the center. Small in numbers, and nowhere near as impressive as a Nimitz-class carrier and its escorts, but with a potential combat power orders of magnitude greater than any current fleet. Stealthed, laser and railgun armed (we can assume that these programs are on “zombie” status, with current work carefully preserved and waiting for funding), integrated into satellite weather, detection, and communication systems, capable of tracking targets at the other side of the ocean and engaging them at half that distance. Such a fleet would possess capabilities unknown up to this point in time, and perhaps unguessable even today.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on October 14, 2011, 22:52:42
Section 3:

Maintaining Air Superiority

For several decades, the U.S. Air Force has carried the banner of military technological innovation. Working with DARPA, the “Pentagon’s mad scientists,” the USAF has been responsible for the most spectacular and effective technological breakthroughs of recent years, including stealth aircraft and the combat drone. Can this partnership prevail into the 21st century?

Since WW II, the U.S. has possessed effective air superiority over other combatants. Except for short periods over Korea in 1950-51 and Vietnam in 1966-67, American superiority was so overwhelming that at times opponents didn’t even dare challenge it. During the First Gulf War (1991), Iraqi Air Force units defected en masse to Iran to avoid destruction by Coalition air assets. After the Hussein regime was overthrown in 2003, pathetic little monuments were found in the desert where Iraqi MiGs had been buried in sand to protect them.

Technology was the leading reason for American superiority in the air. Following the Korean War, John Boyd discovered that the USAF had gained ascendancy over Communist air forces when the F-86E Sabre was introduced to combat in 1952. Unlike earlier models, the E Sabre featured hydraulic controls, enabling it to shift from one maneuver to the next before enemy MiG-15s could react. This created an extraordinary situation in which the USAF was provided with the winning edge without even realizing it. (This insight formed the basis of Boyd’s “decision cycle” thesis.)

While the U.S. currently retains this edge, there’s no guarantee it will keep it. Aviation technology is a fast-changing field, sensitive to breakthroughs in many technical disciplines. Both Russia and China have tested stealth fighters, with the Russians claiming their Sukhoi PAK TA T-50 as fully equal to the USAF’s F-22 Raptor, the premier U.S. air superiority aircraft19. Production of the Raptor was capped at 187 planes by Secretary Gates over the protests of Air Force staff. While Gates claimed that the less-capable F-35 Lightning II would take up the slack, questions about program costs and delays have arisen over the past year. (Both the F-22 and F-35 have experienced serious systemic flaws over the past year that led to some aircraft being grounded. These should be viewed as shakedown problems not uncommon among new high-performance aircraft. The B-29, the bomber that defeated Japan, had numerous failings including uncontrollable engine fires and windows popping out at high altitude. The F-86 killed so many pilots that it was called the “lieutenant eater.” The B-47, the first strategic jet bomber, had a particularly stark drawback—in the early models, the wings tended to fall off during sharp turns.) The Marine Corps S/VTOL version is currently “on probation” and may well be cancelled. We could end up with far fewer than the 2,400 F-35s planned.
Another threat lies in advances in radar. It is possible to design a radar system that can detect, if not track, stealth aircraft. Australia’s JORN (Jindalee Operational Radar Network) system detects the turbulence created by an aircraft’s passage and is claimed to have a range of several thousand miles20. The Chinese are known to be working on an ultra-high frequency radar for the purpose of defeating stealth. It is easily possible that further advances could negate the stealth advantage, leaving the U.S. without air superiority for the first time since 1944.
The answer to this dilemma may well lie in the UAV. It’s remarkable to consider that the drone revolution that has transformed so many aspects of warfare was a matter of pure inadvertence. The original MQ-1 Predator drones were unarmed and were retrofitted with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles only after it was realized that the time lag between drones detecting a target and a fighter-bomber response was unnecessary. Since that time, drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper have been designed for weapons carriage from the first. We can assume that all drones from this point on will possess at least the capability of being armed.
It has been understood since 1972, when a Ryan Firebee operated by remote control easily outmaneuvered an F-4 Phantom in a series of dogfights, that drones could operate in the air-superiority role. It would be a simple matter to fit Predators or Reapers with AIM-9 Sidewinder or AIM-120 AMRAAM missile kits to enable them to operate as fighters. But both lack necessary speed and maneuverability, although the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” drone, with its stealthy features and swept wings, appears to be approaching that level.

There’s little reason to doubt that DARPA, in its thorough way, is working on such aircraft and that prototypes may be flying at this moment at Groom Lake or a similar test base.

On the other hand, the future may already have arrived in the form of the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD), a small, expendable drone designed to confuse and overwhelm air defense radars21. MALDs can be programmed to maneuver precisely like manned aircraft, and can be launched by the hundreds from transports, hopelessly saturating any current air-defense system. Raytheon has begun developing versions of the MALD fitted with sensors and warheads, transforming them into armed fighter drones.

A MALD air-superiority system could be deployed in a number of ways. They could be launched from transports or AWACs (launch racks have been developed for this purpose), goading an opponent into sending up his aircraft, which would then be downed en masse by the drones. Range could be extended by shutting off the engine and gliding, or alternately by zooming up to high altitude, deploying a balloon or parachute, and drifting until a threat appears. (A USAF anti-radiation missile, the AGM-136 Tacit Rainbow, operates on this principle.)

Manned fighters carrying MALDs in lieu of bombs or external fuel tanks could launch them just before coming into enemy radar range. After the first wave of drones engaged the enemy, the F-15s and F-22s would fly in to mop up.

Whatever the technique (and experienced pilots and weapons officers will no doubt come up with far more intricate and effective tactics), it is clear that cheap drones can make up for shortfalls in manned air-superiority aircraft. With its current head start in UAV technology, the U.S. need not drop into second place (and in air combat, anything below number one is the loser) anytime soon. It’s also clear that drones will not “replace” so much as supplement manned fighter aircraft for the foreseeable future. There will always be a need for conscious mentalities, if only to figure out when the battle’s over.

A Bomber Revival?

The USAF has traditionally been a bomber service, its major mission that of strategic bombing, its legendary figures—Mitchell, Arnold, Spaatz, LeMay—bomber pilots and commanders. It was only in recent years that fighter pilots were granted the same lofty status as the bomber aristocracy.

But the manned bomber has had a rough time in recent decades, squeezed between improved air defenses and the titanic expense required to overcome them. Of the last three proposed strategic bombers, the B-70 Valkyrie was cancelled outright in the early 1960s, the B-1 Lancer was cancelled and then resurrected in the 1980s, and the B-2 Spirit, the storied “stealth bomber,” was limited by its cost of over $1 billion apiece to only 21 aircraft (20 of which are still flying, one having crashed at Guam in February 2008). The Air Force currently possesses under 200 strategic bombers, a derisory number compared the thousands deployed during the Cold War, much less the tens of thousands that fought WW II.

But drone technology may, paradoxically, rescue the manned bomber. Secretary Gates cancelled a bomber scheduled to be fielded by 2018. Apparently having second thoughts, Gates green-lighted a new bomber project just before his retirement. This Deep Strike Aircraft will be a stealth model that can fly either manned or unmanned, depending on mission requirements. While little is known about the B-3’s actual configuration, the bomber would possess both conventional and nuclear capability, carrying PGMs, bunker-busters, or air-to-ground rockets. Defense could be provided by high-energy lasers and also by versions of the MALD with the B-3 in effect carrying its own escort force, deployed upon entering hostile airspace and accompanying the bomber on its run against a target. (Aviation buffs will recognize this as the millennial version of the XF-85 Goblin, a late 1940s fighter designed for carriage by the B-36 as an escort plane. If you wait long enough, every technical gimmick comes around for a second run.) Over $4 billion has been budgeted for strike aircraft development. If all goes according to schedule, 80 to 100 B-3s will join the inventory sometime in the mid 2020s22.

Another revival is the Prompt Global Strike system, a weapon that could hit targets at intercontinental distances from CONUS (the Continental United States) within two hours. This weapon could strike high-value targets of temporary nature (say, a conference of terrorist leaders) without the diplomatic complications that might arise from launching an attack from a third-party state.

Several attempts have been made to develop such an asset, including a proposal to utilize surplus ICBMs or submarine-launched missiles in the role that was abandoned after it became apparent that there was no plausible way to assure bystander nations that they weren’t packed full of nuclear warheads. Attention shifted to hypersonic aircraft, with several projects initiated, including the Falcon (Force Application and Launch from CONUS), a reusable hypersonic cruise vehicle launched by rocket and capable of carrying a 12,000 lb. payload up to 9,000 miles, and the Blackswift, a Mach 6 multimission aircraft developed by DARPA for use as a spy plane, bomber, or satellite launcher23. Although funding of $1 billion was authorized, the Blackswift was cancelled in 2009.

But the hypersonic aircraft concept proved too tough to kill. The past year has seen some promising developments, including a successful test of the USAF’s X-51 hypersonic missile and flights by the Falcon HTV-2 which, though not flawless (the Falcons lost telemetry links with the ground and shut themselves down), produced valuable data. It was further revealed that yet another hypersonic bomber project, dubbed “Son of Blackswift” is under development. It appears that the U.S. will have an intercontinental fist to add to its conventional arsenal.

The United States need not relinquish its superiority as regards air power. The crucial question involves funding. Aerospace technology is expensive and often the first to be cut, as shown by the B-70, the B-1, and the Blackswift. But such cuts often represent false economies. Early in WW II, American pilots were forced to fight in sturdy but obsolescent aircraft such as the Bell P-39 and the Curtiss P-40 that simply could not stand up to the Luftwaffe’s Me-109s and Fw-190s, much less the superb Mitsubishi A6M Zero. It required two years for adequate American designs to appear. It would take far longer today, and wars in the millennial era simply don’t last that long. (The UK, on the other hand, spent large amounts during the mid-1930s developing fast, maneuverable eight-gun fighters, the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire. These aircraft saved the country during the Battle of Britain.)
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on October 24, 2011, 22:03:54
An interesting response. I would not be quite so sanguine, many nations like the former USSR/todays Russia sit on a treasure trove of resources yet cannot benefit from it. Politics and culture have a great deal to do with this. Consider in our case, Saskatchewan was an NDP stronghold for decades, and had a very small and stunted economy as a result (especially compared to Alberta, right next door). The emergence of the Saskatchewan Party and its small "c" conservative style of governance threw off the shackles, and now Saskatchewan is flourishing.

World power swings back to America

The American phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labour gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor5:53PM BST 23 Oct 20111231 Comments

Assumptions that the Great Republic must inevitably spiral into economic and strategic decline - so like the chatter of the late 1980s, when Japan was in vogue - will seem wildly off the mark by then.

Telegraph readers already know about the "shale gas revolution" that has turned America into the world’s number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia.

Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing - breaking rocks with jets of water - will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West.

"The US was the single largest contributor to global oil supply growth last year, with a net 395,000 barrels per day (b/d)," said Francisco Blanch from Bank of America, comparing the Dakota fields to a new North Sea.

Total US shale output is "set to expand dramatically" as fresh sources come on stream, possibly reaching 5.5m b/d by mid-decade. This is a tenfold rise since 2009.

The US already meets 72pc of its own oil needs, up from around 50pc a decade ago.

"The implications of this shift are very large for geopolitics, energy security, historical military alliances and economic activity. As US reliance on the Middle East continues to drop, Europe is turning more dependent and will likely become more exposed to rent-seeking behaviour from oligopolistic players," said Mr Blanch.

Meanwhile, the China-US seesaw is about to swing the other way. Offshoring is out, 're-inshoring' is the new fashion.
"Made in America, Again" - a report this month by Boston Consulting Group - said Chinese wage inflation running at 16pc a year for a decade has closed much of the cost gap. China is no longer the "default location" for cheap plants supplying the US.
A "tipping point" is near in computers, electrical equipment, machinery, autos and motor parts, plastics and rubber, fabricated metals, and even furniture.

"A surprising amount of work that rushed to China over the past decade could soon start to come back," said BCG's Harold Sirkin.
The gap in "productivity-adjusted wages" will narrow from 22pc of US levels in 2005 to 43pc (61pc for the US South) by 2015. Add in shipping costs, reliability woes, technology piracy, and the advantage shifts back to the US.

The list of "repatriates" is growing. Farouk Systems is bringing back assembly of hair dryers to Texas after counterfeiting problems; ET Water Systems has switched its irrigation products to California; Master Lock is returning to Milwaukee, and NCR is bringing back its ATM output to Georgia. NatLabs is coming home to Florida.

Boston Consulting expects up to 800,000 manufacturing jobs to return to the US by mid-decade, with a multiplier effect creating 3.2m in total. This would take some sting out of the Long Slump.

As Philadelphia Fed chief Sandra Pianalto said last week, US manufacturing is "very competitive" at the current dollar exchange rate. Whether intended or not, the Fed's zero rates and $2.3 trillion printing blitz have brought matters to an abrupt head for China.

Fed actions confronted Beijing with a Morton's Fork of ugly choices: revalue the yuan, or hang onto the mercantilist dollar peg and import a US monetary policy that is far too loose for a red-hot economy at the top of the cycle. Either choice erodes China's wage advantage. The Communist Party chose inflation.

Foreign exchange effects are subtle. They take a long to time play out as old plant slowly runs down, and fresh investment goes elsewhere. Yet you can see the damage to Europe from an over-strong euro in foreign direct investment (FDI) data.

Flows into the EU collapsed by 63p from 2007 to 2010 (UNCTAD data), and fell by 77pc in Italy. Flows into the US rose by 5pc.
Volkswagen is investing $4bn in America, led by its Chattanooga Passat plant. Korea's Samsung has begun a $20bn US investment blitz. Meanwhile, Intel, GM, and Caterpillar and other US firms are opting to stay at home rather than invest abroad.

Europe has only itself to blame for the current “hollowing out” of its industrial base. It craved its own reserve currency, without understanding how costly this “exorbitant burden” might prove to be.

China and the rising reserve powers have rotated a large chunk of their $10 trillion stash into EMU bonds to reduce their dollar weighting. The result is a euro too strong for half of EMU.

The European Central Bank has since made matters worse (for Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France) by keeping rates above those of the US, UK, and Japan. That has been a deliberate policy choice. It let real M1 deposits in Italy contract at a 7pc annual rate over the summer. May it live with the consequences.

The trade-weighted dollar has been sliding for a decade, falling 37pc since 2001. This roughly replicates the post-Plaza slide in the late 1980s, which was followed - with a lag - by 3pc of GDP shrinkage in the current account deficit. The US had a surplus by 1991.

Charles Dumas and Diana Choyleva from Lombard Street Research argue that this may happen again in their new book "The American Phoenix".
The switch in advantage to the US is relative. It does not imply a healthy US recovery. The global depression will grind on as much of the Western world tightens fiscal policy and slowly purges debt, and as China deflates its credit bubble.

Yet America retains a pack of trump cards, and not just in sixteen of the world’s top twenty universities.

It is almost the only economic power with a fertility rate above 2.0 - and therefore the ability to outgrow debt - in sharp contrast to the demographic decay awaiting Japan, China, Korea, Germany, Italy, and Russia.

Europe's EMU soap opera has shown why it matters that America is a genuine nation, forged by shared language and the ancestral chords of memory over two centuries, with institutions that ultimately work and a real central bank able to back-stop the system.

The 21st Century may be American after all, just like the last.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: daftandbarmy on October 25, 2011, 19:23:30
Deleted because I didn't apply think check.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 17, 2011, 13:59:32
J.R. Dunn on the future of American power on the ground. (It is interesting to note that while AirLand Battle was the premier response to the 20th century threat of Soviet military power, the emerging strategy seems to be AirSea Battle; to maximise the maritime power of the United States against enemies around the world):


by J.R. Dunn


Land warfare will change most under America’s new circumstances. Since 1918, when the U.S. came to the support of the beleaguered Western Allies with two and half million troops, the massive American expeditionary force has been an international fact of life. For nearly a century, vast armadas carrying hundreds of thousands of American troops have played a critical role on battlefields as far-flung as North Africa, Italy, Normandy, the Solomons, the Philippines, Korea, and Kuwait. No potential opponent could afford to overlook the possibility of America deploying unmatchable military resources to any spot on the globe in defense of an ally or its own interests.

For the time being, that is over. We simply cannot afford that level of outlay in any situation not involving national survival. The world will be a colder, crueler, and more dangerous place for it. Until at least mid-century, American foreign interventions will be limited and brief. They are likely to follow the model of Afghanistan 2001, with U.S. skill and firepower coming to the assistance of friendly native forces. (But not Libya 2011, which was not an intervention as much as a performance art interpretation of what an intervention might be like.) Larger interventions – though still minor compared to the world wars and the Gulf campaigns – will be restricted to supporting close allies.

It follows that if the U.S. is limited to dispatching battalions rather than divisions or armies, then those battalions will need to have a bigger impact when they reach the battlefield. This is where technology, acting as a force multiplier, will prove crucial.

One promising development involves utilizing information technology to increase a small unit’s C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence) capabilities. A unit in which all troops are in communication, officers have a universal view of the battlespace, everyone knows where everyone else is, and all personnel are continually updated, would have an insurmountable advantage over less well-equipped adversaries. Clausewitz’s “fog of war” would be largely a thing of the past.

That was the thinking behind Secretary Rumsfeld’s plan for a “net-centric Army,” built around a program called Land Warrior. Fifteen years of development and half a billion dollars resulted in a system that was expensive, heavy, fragile, and loathed by many soldiers. A battery-powered CPU ran the system. Communications through a helmet headphone system transmitted encrypted signals up to a kilometer. A screen in front of one eye provided data input, including GPS positions. (Among other things, the screen could show a soldier what was around the next corner. Extending his rifle barrel enabled a digital sight to send a clear picture to the screen. The old dodge of putting a helmet on a stick could be dropped at last.)

But at sixteen pounds the system was too heavy in addition to the standard pack load, and the cost was edging up toward 80K per soldier. In a final attempt to save the program, the Army replaced military spec equipment with off-the-shelf commercial gear. This cut both weight and cost, but proved too fragile for rough military usage. The Army reluctantly canceled the program.

Redesignated the “Ground Soldier Ensemble,” remaining Land Warrior units were sent to Iraq for testing with the 4/9 Infantry Battalion, the “Manchus”. In Iraq, the Army learned a trick known to IT pros worldwide: give it to the kids and let them tinker with it. Within weeks, the Manchus had the Land Warrior equipment stripped down, reworked, and improved (e.g. chemlights were added to the screen to denote friendlies and targets). The new system worked so well that it equipped a full brigade shipping out for Afghanistan, the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry. Results there were mixed – the system had been optimized for the Iraqi urban environment as opposed to rural Afghanistan -- but were still promising enough to revive the program.

The new program, called Nett Warrior, retained the improvements worked out in Iraq and Afghanistan. The weight was only 7.6 lbs., the cost roughly 48K per soldier. Three companies were competing for the final contract, with limited production scheduled to begin this year, when at the last minute, confusion enveloped the entire effort. In late July industry sources claimed that Nett Warrior had been canceled. The Army insisted that it had simply been placed on “hold.” Other sources reported that the program was being replaced with a smart phone using Android technology.

It’s difficult to imagine a smart phone providing all the functionality of the Nett Warrior system. Eventually something similar will be required on the 21st-century battlefield. Whether it will be introduced by U.S. forces is anyone’s guess.

Millennial Weaponry

Infotech has only begun to influence the evolution of infantry weapons. The most impressive result so far is the XM-25 “smartgun,” a 25 mm grenade launcher that fires programmable rounds in several different varieties – airburst fragmentation, high-explosive, and shaped-charge anti-armor.1 The frag rounds drew the greatest interest. The XM-25’s laser sight provides the exact distance to a target – say, a concrete wall. The round is then programmed to explode a meter beyond the wall – that is, directly above hidden enemy forces.

The XM-25 was tested in Afghanistan beginning in December 2010, to great enthusiasm from the troops, who christened it “the Punisher.” The gun destroyed at least two Taliban machine gun nests (a favorite Taliban tactic is to open up on patrols with heavy PAK machine guns from beyond the range of a squad’s organic weapons, then flee before air support arrives), and broke up four ambushes. So pleased were the troops that they were allowed to continue using the XM-25 after field tests were completed. The gun’s manufacturer ATK was awarded a $65 million contract to begin production.

DARPA has produced a similar item, a cybernetic gunsight that enables snipers to hit a target with the first shot. An internal CPU calculates distance, wind velocity, humidity, and other variables, and adjusts the sight accordingly. Several operational prototypes are being tested in Afghanistan.

Yet another DARPA program hopes to provide small units with their own air support in the form of drones. The USAF has never been happy with the ground support role, involving as it does low and slow approaches against dug-in enemy forces. Infantry, for their part, are often less than delighted with the amount of time required for an aerial response. DARPA would overcome this by providing a soldier – a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) -- with a data link to an accompanying drone (either hovering overhead or in a nearby vehicle) which could be called in immediately in case of trouble. Raytheon is working on armaments for such drones in the form of the Small Tactical Munition (STM), a 13-pound GPS-guided bomb. It’s very likely that these will see combat in Afghanistan, if they haven’t already.

I, Warbot

More than 2,000 robots have been employed in combat in Afghanistan, making it in a sense the first robot conflict. A third of these are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) machines such as the Talon and the PackBot, which are deployed under remote control to detonate or defuse bombs and IEDs. (Technically, these aren’t actually robots but telefactors, but who knows the difference?) Others include mine-clearing machines such as the M-160, a “flail” that clears ground by slamming chains as it passes. These machines have performed valuable work and have saved no small number of lives.

What we don’t find are actual fighting machines – the “warbots” of SF lore. (At this point, it’s mandatory that Terminator be mentioned. Okay –Terminator.) The problem lies in autonomy. Groundbots, as opposed to aerial drones, are simply incapable, at this point in development, of operating without close human supervision. In the early days of AI research, it was assumed that abstract problem-solving would be the major roadblock to creating useful machine intelligence. But problem-solving through sheer data-crunching presents little difficulty. The real challenge turned out to be everyday matters that we accomplish without a second thought thanks to countless subroutines developed over millions of years of evolution, things on the order of stepping over a rock or climbing stairs. Encountering the smallest distraction or obstacle can trigger what amounts to a cybernetic breakdown – not something you want in an armed machine. So while robot manufacturers such as Foster-Miller have armed their bomb-disposal units with shotguns, machine guns, and grenade launchers, these SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action System) units are operated only by remote control. The same is true of more advanced systems such as MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System), an anti-personnel robot that can fire anything from pepper spray to 40 mm grenades2. MAARS features both a mechanical fan to prevent it from swinging its gun toward friendly forces and software delineating no-fire zones. (These are strictly necessary. Robot weapons have already killed innocent victims. In 2007, a computerized Oerlikon antiaircraft gun belonging to the South African Defense Forces suffered a software glitch that caused it to fire wildly in all directions. The gun killed nine soldiers and wounded fourteen others before it ran out of ammunition.)

So it’ll be a long time before we see actual combat robots. But there are other roles that robots can play. One example is Big Dog, a quadraped robotic mule (I don’t know where they got “dog” either) designed to carry heavy loads over rough ground. Big Dog is another DARPA project, built by Boston Dynamics with assistance from other robotics manufacturers. It can carry over 300 pounds at five miles an hour (slightly faster than walking speed), and is capable of climbing hills. Films of the beast in action reveal disturbingly lifelike activity3. A larger model, Alpha Dog, with a hundred pounds greater payload, is also being tested.

Even more disturbing is a second DARPA/Boston Dynamics program, the Cheetah, another four-legged robot featuring a head and a flexible spine4. The Cheetah is designed to run faster than any human and operate in a semi-autonomous mode as it stalks and runs down enemy forces. The possibilities of these things accompanying troops into battle are not difficult to envision.

Getting There

“I get there first with the most men.” That was how Nathan Bedford Forrest explained his Civil War cavalry victories. Getting there first has been standard American policy ever since, whether it involved railroads, trucks, mechanized units, or helicopters. Maintaining this advantage will provide a necessary edge in decades to come.

One innovative means is the military exoskeleton. DARPA has spent over $50 million in recent years developing an exoskeleton, the XOS, that will enable infantry to carry heavy loads over long distances at high speeds without arriving exhausted. Such suits could provide troops with ballistic protection and would certainly solve the Nett Warrior weight problem. Videos of the system reveal troops moving with surprising agility5. The sole drawback is the lack of a compact power source. (Another design, the HULC, supports only the soldier’s legs while leaving the arms free. HULC has much lower power requirements.) While it might be impractical and too expensive to fit out all Army soldiers with exoskeletons, it would certainly benefit specialized troops such as mountain units.

A key element of American strategy for the past half-century has been vertical envelopment – the use of helicopter-borne air assault forces to spearhead attacks. While it has unquestionably proven itself, the helicopter does have drawbacks, including vulnerability, fragility, and a relatively slow airspeed. Helicopters have proven the Achilles heel of many operations, including the 1980 Iran hostage rescue mission (nearly half the choppers involved turned back due to mechanical failures), and this year’s Osama bin Laden raid. The recent deaths of thirty members of Seal Team Six in Afghanistan when their Chinook transport was shot down in what may have been a prearranged ambush underlines these shortcomings.

The military has attempted to supplement or replace the helicopter since the 1950s with little success. The Marine Corp’s V-22 Osprey is one example6. Despite years of development and billions in costs the Osprey’s introduction to operations has been mixed. One serious shortcoming involves the fact that most Ospreys are unarmed. A version fitted with a chin turret was cancelled. A handful instead feature belly-mounted miniguns. Since the aircraft is simply too fast for helicopter escort, it is generally restricted to noncombat operations, quite a limitation for a military aircraft.

A partial solution to the helicopter dilemma has been offered by veteran manufacturer Sikorsky, which achieved a long-sought breakthrough in helicopter technology with its X-2 program7. The X-2 mates a coaxial rotor system, in which two separate rotors turn in opposite directions on the same mast, with a rear propeller that can push the chopper up to 250 mph, almost twice as fast as conventional helicopters. The X-2 nearly matches the Osprey in performance without the heavy, sensitive mechanical linkages used in the Osprey’s flip-rotor system. The company is developing a military version, the S-97. Introduction of this helicopter may well revolutionize air assault tactics.

Even more innovative vehicles are in the works. DARPA has been bitten by the ancient aircar bug on behalf of the Marines in the form of the unfortunately named Transformer (TX) program, an effort to design a Humvee-class vehicle that can drive on roads and cross-country but in rough terrain take off and fly over obstacles much the same as a light helicopter8. The Transformer (TX) will be operated by a cybernetic “autonomous flying system” being developed at Carnegie-Mellon that would enable even the most unskilled driver to take to the air without extensive training.

The Israeli company Urban Aeronautics has developed a vehicle it calls the AirMule (not the AirDog, fortunately), a ducted-fan lifter intended to carry wounded soldiers off the battlefield swiftly and in comfort9. The AirMule is pilotless, guided solely by an onboard computer system. Such a vehicle could also carry supplies and weapons. Flight tests have been successful, with the Defense Department expressing considerable interest.

Will these designs go anywhere? Similar vehicles with various arrangements of fans, turbines, and so forth have been investigated for decades with few worthwhile results. But designers can take heart in the success of the new Martin Aircraft “jetpack.”10 The jetpack has been a reality since the 1960s, although its flight duration of roughly 30 seconds rendered it essentially useless. But the new model – not a rocket-propelled system at all but a man-sized ducted-fan vehicle – has overcome that drawback. Tethered manned tests and a computer-guided unmanned distance flight have revealed no basic problems. These vehicles would come in quite handy on future Abbotabad-type missions.

Yet another old dream has a chance of becoming reality. Ithacus was a 1960s proposal for an intercontinental rocket transport carrying several hundred infantrymen to any spot on earth on a few hours notice11. Our lack of rocket-dispatched troops has gnawed at DARPA, and serious thought has gone into a solution. A program called Sustain (Small Unit Space Transportation and Insertion) overseen by the National Security Space Office has defined the mission and outlined a concept of operations for such a system. Picture something along the lines of an upgraded White Knight/Spaceship One system, a small suborbital module launched by a mother craft with effectively global range. Such a vehicle might carry as few as a dozen troops, which suggests special operations as the chief mission. An active Sustain system is probably decades down the line, but it will come. Imagine what the Seals would do with a capability like that.

Not even military field uniforms will remain untransformed. Research has begun on the creation of “biometric” fatigues that will monitor a soldier’s vital signs and immediately signal a medic if he is hit. With use of electrically active materials, these fatigues could tighten at the joints to form a tourniquet. Advanced models might even give injections.

Camouflage is another element aching to be upgraded. Camo gear custom-tailored for a particular area is already in the works. Photos of the area would be used as a pattern, to create a perfect site-specific camouflage that would be printed out using “direct to garment” technology.

It’s even possible that camouflage as such would no longer be necessary. Consider the “invisibility cloak” invented by researchers at the University of Tokyo12. Microprocessors project the view on either side of the garment on the surface of the opposite side, with the wearer fading into the surroundings. While less than convincing close up, from a distance in a dim environment it might work rather well. Such “optical camouflage” would have no end of military uses.

We can picture the American soldier on a future battlefield – so speak; he’s a little hard to see. He is in direct contact with the rest of his unit, with a bird’s-eye view in his helmet visor of exactly what lies ahead, armed with a gun that doesn’t miss. He is accompanied by one, and perhaps more, four-legged robots moving eerily through the brush, transmitting imagery as they go. Overhead a barely-visible wraith glides in near-silence, providing recon and air support.

It’s tempting to think of such a figure as being invincible. But we need to keep in mind that his opponents, whether terrorists or legitimate troops, will have access to many of the same technological advances. Our soldiers have not yet encountered enemies armed with weaponry of that class, but that day is coming. We will need to work at it to remain ahead.

end part one

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 17, 2011, 14:02:23
Part two:

Orbital Encounters

Space is the sad story of the 21st century. The idea that the U.S. would be moving into the millennial epoch with no manned program at all would have been unimaginable as little as ten years ago. No other single development so clearly reveals how much we have declined in power and expertise.

Does the collapse of American manned spaceflight threaten U.S. security interests? Not directly – US warfighting capabilities are based on orbital satellite assets, mostly in geosynchronous orbit but to a lesser extent in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). These include communications, GPS, reconnaissance and surveillance, and strategic early warning satellites. The U.S. could not mount even the most basic military campaign without its satellite network.

None of these systems is related to any manned program. But the fact that the U.S. has abandoned manned spaceflight for the foreseeable future (and let’s not kid ourselves about planned “asteroid missions.” That program will last only as long as the next federal budget crunch) will only serve to encourage our rivals in exploiting the “new high ground” of near-earth space.

This is certainly true of China. The Chinese manned program is going great guns, and they fully intend to carry out a Lunar mission in the early 2020s, long before the U.S. can mount a return to space. More to the point, they have shown no hesitation about engaging in orbital warfare. On January 11, 2007, a Chinese ballistic missile destroyed a defunct weather satellite in polar orbit at an altitude of 500 miles13. This strike generated something on the order of 300,000 pieces of debris, rendering that particular orbital plane unusable and threatening satellites at other altitudes. The Chinese simply shrugged off what was generally viewed as an act of thuggery matching the Soviet Union at its worst.

This newly-revealed satellite vulnerability may well have influenced the development of the USAF’s X-37B, a reusable unmanned “Space Maneuver Vehicle” operational since April 201014.

The X-37B has a convoluted development history, beginning as the USAF’s X-40A before being melded with NASA’s X-37 program. When that program was cancelled in 2006 (which seems to be the fate of most NASA programs these days), the Air Force in cooperation with the ever-dependable DARPA came to the rescue, adapting it as the X-37B. The premature shutdown of the STS Space Shuttle program left the X-37B as America’s only operational reusable spacecraft. (There has been no end of rumors about “black” spaceplanes operating out of Groom Lake under code names such as “Aurora” and “Senior Citizen.” These should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s difficult to see why valuable funding would be spent on the X-37B – much less the X-51 or Falcon HTV – if they actually existed.)

The X-37B is basically a mini-shuttle, roughly 29 feet long, with a wingspan of just under 15 feet and an operational weight of 11,000 pounds. Its launch vehicle is the Atlas V. It can remain in LEO for up to 270 days. It is a multimission vehicle, capable of placing small payloads in orbit, examining satellites, or reconnaissance. It has flown several missions since its introduction, their nature remaining secret, and their execution more than a little confusing to skywatchers.

The X-37B represents at a least a partial solution to satellite vulnerability. While payload is limited, DARPA is known to be developing a series of “minisatellites” of very small dimensions and weight. It is probable that at least some of these can act as emergency replacements for satellites damaged or destroyed during wartime. Apart from this, the X-37B can also act in the same role, using equipment within its payload bay.

The X-37B is the model for U.S. military space operations for the near future. Upgraded versions likely under development today will increase payload, time in orbit, and operational altitudes. Armed versions are not out of the question. It is probable that the first orbital strikes will involve combat drones. Since the U.S. has a dramatic head start in drone technology, it is unlikely that China or anyone else will be able to sweep us from orbit.

Space, of course, is crucial to any workable nuclear defense system in the form of projectile or laser satellites of the type researched as part of the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The U.S. has low-keyed such systems for years, largely for political reasons. We have chosen to rely instead on 1960s era technology, a limited number of ABM missiles stationed at Fort Greely, Alaska. We may yet pay an ungodly price for this oversight. Both nuclear weapon and ballistic missile technology are becoming cheaper and more widespread. It is by no means difficult to picture a vicious dictator of the Saddam or Qaddafi type utilizing such weapons under any number of circumstances. At the moment, a defense is out of our hands. It will be decades before we will be able to afford a space-based defensive system. Until then, we must depend on luck to protect us. I’m sure that everyone feels as secure about that as I do.


Cyberwarfare is pure novelty, with everyone feeling their way across a bizarre and unknown landscape. The problem for the U.S. is that we tend to view such developments with a little more equanimity than we should, on the grounds that nobody handles new tech quite as well as we do. This attitude has turned around to bite us on several previous occasions. (See “Pearl Harbor.”)

There’s a distinct contradiction in the U.S. stance toward cyberwarfare: the U.S. is the leading state in offensive cyberwarfare, while our defensive preparations are pitiable.

Stuxnet Rules

American offensive cyberwarfare capabilities are embodied in the Stuxnet worm, which most experts view as a collaboration between the U.S. and Israel15. Stuxnet was not so much an example of malware as a new order of cybernetic weapon, an extremely complex program with numerous capabilities, some of them never before seen in a virus16.

Stuxnet was first detected in July 2010, although it had been active for at least six months previously. At first it was treated like any other malware outbreak, but in short order IT security experts realized they were dealing with something extraordinary. Stuxnet targeted not only one particular model of equipment – Seimens SCADA industrial control systems – but only those operating in a certain frequency range and sold by two particular vendors that had defied sanctions placed on Iran. It utilized not just one but four distinct “zero-day exploits” (previously unknown software vulnerabilities). It was able to hide in a computer’s rootkit while also propagating throughout any internal network it was introduced into. It was apparently able to communicate with outside servers while also being modified in situ.

All this was aimed at the Iranian nuclear program, transparently devoted to the development of nuclear weapons. Iran refined weapons-grade uranium at its Natanz site utilizing a gas centrifuge array run by a Windows network driving Seimens SCADA units. Stuxnet caused the centrifuges, whirling at several thousand rpms, to first speed up and then, some weeks later, drastically slow down while at the same time assuring watching techs that all was well. This treatment not only destroyed the centrifuges but also contaminated the uranium being processed at the time. Although an Iranian disinformation campaign claims that little damage was done, a large number of centrifuges were wrecked – the Federation of American Scientists puts the number at 1,000. Further damage was caused to the Bushehr reactor, setting back its ignition by some months. Rumors of a “serious nuclear accident” at Natanz have also circulated.

Effects are still being felt, with tens of thousands of Iranian computers still infected. An assassination campaign targeting Iranian nuclear scientists has further battered the program, which staggers on, awaiting the appearance of Son of Stuxnet.

Defenses: Cyberstooges!

At some point in September (if not earlier) somebody planted a virus in a supposedly secure computer system at Creech Air Force Base, home of one of the most critical – and successful – contemporary American military assets. Creech is the control center for America’s drone fleet, where the Predators and Reapers are flown (through satellite linkages) against our country’s Jihadi enemies. It’s the last place anyone would want to find a virus. But find it they did17.

The virus in question is a keylogger, malware that saves every keystroke made on an infected computer. By such means an interested party can reconstruct the instruction stream for the system in question. Somebody is really interested in how our drone fleet is operated.

How did this virus get into the network? Like many critical IT systems, the Creech network is isolated from the Internet through “air gap.” There are no connections, either by pipeline or broadband, between the Creech infranet and the Net at large. So somebody used the Bradley Manning method. They walked in with an infected flash drive or disk, popped it in, and that was all she wrote. Whether it was deliberate or accidental remains unknown. Whatever the case, it indicates a seriously flawed infotech security protocol.

To make things even worse, the security staff attempted to flush the virus without informing anyone in the armed forces cybersecurity hierarchy, either the 24th Air Force or Cyber Command. The Pentagon’s cybersecurity experts were kept in the dark for two weeks while the Creech team stumbled around fruitlessly. The 24th Air Force had to read about the virus in Wired.18

At last report, the virus was still infesting the system. But, we’re assured, nobody’s really worried about it. Isn’t that a relief?

With such unparalleled success in the offensive mode, how do we explain the pathetic state of American cyberdefenses? The record of successful hacking sprees directed against U.S. government and military targets leaves the impression that anyone can break in, take whatever they want, and saunter off at their leisure, much the same as a member of flash mob hitting a convenience store. In addition to the Creech exploit, during only the past year:

    * In March, a defense industry computer network suffered the loss of files containing 24,000 documents19. Many involved classified programs. At least one weapons system under development had to be totally redesigned after the specs and plans were hacked from the contractor’s database.
    * In May, Lockheed Martin and several smaller defense contractors were hacked, with an unknown amount of information on secret projects lifted20.
    * In June, Google revealed that attempts had been made to hack hundreds of Gmail passwords of government officials in the Pentagon, the Department of State, and even the White House21.
    * In early August, IT security firm McAfee revealed that a five-year hacking campaign, which the company dubbed “Operation Shady RAT” (for “Remote Access Tool”, a type of software used to access offsite computers), had compromised 72 different targets worldwide22. Of these, 49 were American. The others included the UN and the International Olympic Committee. Although McAfee was unwilling to state it outright, the guilty party was China. (Dell SecureWorks traced a connection to several Chinese command computers.)

This is only the tip of the iceberg. U.S. defense-related computer systems were attacked 6 million times in 2006. By 2010, this had grown to 6 million attacks a day. How many of these are successful is unknown. Obviously, someone is deliberately targeting American military cybernetic assets.

“Someone” could be any number of potential enemies or even allies. Some attacks originate from Russia or other former Soviet states. But in the vast majority of cases, “someone” is Chinese.

China possesses the largest and most organized cyberwarfare force in the world. While not capable of the sophistication of a Stuxnet-type attack, what the Chinese can accomplish through massed numbers and brute force beggars the imagination. On April 8, 2010, the state-owned China Telecom rerouted 15 percent of the world's Internet traffic through Chinese servers for 18 minutes23. What they did with all that data remains unknown. Last July, China hacked every last member of South Korea's Cyber World social network – 35 million people, virtually every Internet user in the country24.

The Chinese have accomplished these feats through a state-sponsored hacker militia called the “blue army.”25 In truth, it is probably no militia at all but instead a full-fledged military command. The size and composition of the blue army remain unknown. It is headquartered in Jinan, where many of the most egregious hacking attempts have been traced. China is the sole nation to possess such a cybernetic military force.

The Chinese inadvertently raised the curtain on the blue army this past August in a propaganda documentary on the glories of the Chinese military. At one point background footage revealed a military computer screen actually set up to carry out a cyberattack by way of a subverted University of Alabama IP address. The screen displayed the name of the software and a window saying “Choose Attack Target” along with a list of addresses. What was the actual target? The Falun Gong, the spiritual sect that the Chinese Politburo for obscure reasons has chosen to persecute as a national enemy. (The footage also reveals that the blue army is not very sophisticated, more or less operating on the level of what we call “script kids,” newbies using prewritten code, as opposed to actual hackers.)

What is the blue army up to? Reconnaissance, probing, data theft, spying, recruiting for botnets (they had taken over as many as 750,000 zombie computers even five years ago), and loading viruses and logic bombs for later use.

End Part 2
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 17, 2011, 14:04:13
Part 3

Targeting the Infrastructure

A major target exists in the U.S. utilities infrastructure. The control systems of much of America’s technical infrastructure, including power, electricity, water, and sewage, has been made Internet accessible to save money and time on maintenance and operations. Since anything on the Internet can be hacked by one means or another, we have effectively handed a switch to our foreign enemies marked, “Flick this to shut down America.”

The indispensable McAfee released a report last April prepared by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and titled "In the Dark: Crucial Industries Confront Cyberattacks."26 The CSIS interviewed 200 IT security execs for utility companies handling oil, gas, electricity, water, and sewage in 14 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, and South Korea. Over 70 percent of the security chiefs reported that they had discovered malware introduced into their networks during 2010, nearly double the number for 2009. Over 40 percent considered their companies vulnerable, and 30% did not think their security was sufficient. Another 40 percent expected a major attack within the next year.

This threat is about to grow exponentially worse with the introduction by many utilities of smart grid technology. A smart grid is an Internet-based system that enables remote monitoring and regulation of home, office, or building utilities by either the owner or the utility company itself. Many of these will allow customer Internet access of a company’s systems, which will transform security against hackers from “very difficult” to “absolutely impossible.” Three-quarters of America’s electrical companies are using, installing, or planning smart grids.

Imagine trying to carry out a military campaign with your country’s utilities flatlined, rioting and violence rampant in what used to be your cities, starvation beginning, and epidemic disease about to swoop in. Enemy strategy writes itself: slip a “blue stuxnet” worm into the U.S. utility net, watch the country dissolve into chaos, wait until American military assets head for home to confront the catastrophe, then take over Taiwan, the Spratleys, and whatever else catches your eye. Afterward, you offer your assistance to the U.S. in purging its systems in exchange for a promise to abandon the Western Pacific. Or just sit back and enjoy the spectacle, whichever you prefer.

This is not as farfetched as it seems. In 2007 Estonia was crippled by a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack by a group calling itself the Nastri. (A DDoS attack overwhelms a network by sending large numbers of information packets (requests, e-mails, messages, etc.) until the network’s capacity to handle them is exceeded. It has nothing directly to do with MS-DOS connections with the outside world.) The attack shut down government websites along with public news sites and came close to bringing down the entire Estonian net. The Nastri was almost certainly supported by Russian military and security assets. (The reason for the strike? The Estonians had dared to move a Soviet-era war memorial. )

The same thing occurred when the Russian Federation came to the assistance of its oppressed Ossetian brothers in the swift and brutal Georgia invasion of August 2008. The Georgian net was brought down completely, crippling the government response to Russian aggression and cutting off Georgian connections with the outside world.

It’s not out of the question that such strikes have already occurred in the U.S. The Cleveland blackout of 2003 affected over 50 million people in both the U.S. and Canada. At the time it was explained away as tree branches falling on power lines. Today many IT security professionals believe it was a Net-based utility strike, a beta test of a new app, originating nowhere else but from China. (The first elements to go were power company computers, which had their alarm systems shut off while local power systems were methodically sabotaged.) Much the same has been said about the 2008 Florida blackout.

(Ironically, it was the U.S. that kicked off this style of cybersabotage with a 1982 CIA attack on the Siberian natural gas pipeline that the Soviets were using to gain precious foreign currency and also influence potential Western European customers27. A “logic bomb” inserted into the control system wrecked the pumps, caused the pipeline to back up, and at last blew it up in an explosion visible from orbit.)

The Bogus Chip Problem

If all this wasn’t bad enough, we also have the subverted chip problem, which finally caught the attention of government security agencies only a quarter-century after it was first proposed in a novel by a pair of Frenchmen (Softwar [Le Guerre Douce] by Thierry Breton and Denis Beneich). An unknown but large number of chips and other hardware utilized in military and security devices were produced under contract by companies located within the borders of our friend China. The implications are appalling. Any one of tens of thousands of such chips could be hardwired to short out, shut down the system, send everything in the files to Jinan, or order the weapon it’s operating to attack the White House one dark night. Homeland Security does not even want to talk about this (their spokesman admitted to the problem at Congressional hearings this summer only after furious prodding)28. While it’s theoretically possible to sort out subverted chips (a chip with an extra logic circuit will show a minute but detectable difference in impedance, for one thing), the only practical solution is to replace every last suspect chip with one made in a secure U.S. facility. This will be slow, expensive, and, by the very nature of things, incomplete.

It’s not merely Junior hacking on a basement PC. So what is the response of the authorities, military and otherwise? The National Security Agency’s (NSA) plans are of course unknown but likely to be potent and well considered. Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) appears to have taken on the role of an über-McAfee or Norton, issuing detailed alerts that will be carefully read after an attack occurs. The FBI has established InfraGard, billed as an “industry-Bureau partnership” intended to protect the country’s infrastructure networks29. But InfraGard depends on voluntary industry reportage and does not seem particularly well staffed or funded.

As for the military, U.S. Cyber Command’s primary mission was to defend military systems from foreign attack – not government or domestic networks. So it was a relief when last spring the Pentagon released its long-awaited cybersecurity plan30. The Defense Department for the first time declared cyberspace to be “a domain of war,” in which cyberattacks breaching a certain threshold of damage or destruction equivalent to that of a real-world military action would trigger a full response from the U.S. military. This represented a long-overdue shift from the law-enforcement paradigm, in which cybersecurity was a problem for the FBI and the Justice Department, to a matter of national defense, with matching levels of resources and urgency. It also expanded military cybernetic responsibilities from defense of military systems to defense of all systems, government, business, and civilian, on a national level.

The plan climaxes with a statement of a frankness that would never be found in any civilian governmental document: “The department and the nation have vulnerabilities in cyberspace. Our reliance on cyberspace stands in stark contrast to the inadequacy of our cybersecurity.”

While we can’t be certain this plan caused any sleepless nights in Jinan, it does represent a useful step toward a doctrine of cyberwarfare, which the U.S. still lacks. And who knows? It may well bring to an end such probes and tests as those that caused the Cleveland blackout.

In the realm of practical solutions, a number of actions suggest themselves, most of them simply adapting standard IT security practice to the national level.

Air Gaps Work; Use Them – every critical or secret network, whether governmental, military, or industry, must be isolated from the Internet. No exceptions.

Personnel Discipline – no more Bradley Mannings wandering in and out of secure facilities with CD-Roms labeled “Lady Gaga.” If someone is carrying a diskette, a CD, a flash drive, a memory stick, or anything else capable of holding data, sooner or later it will be plugged in.

No Smart Grids – these systems have been promoted to save money. How much in the way of savings makes up for a national catastrophe? The air defense system around New York City was shut down in large part to save money too. Smart grids need to be reexamined in light of the threat they embody. The concept must be reworked to remove any possibility of manipulation by hackers or foreign powers. Otherwise, it needs to be thrown onto the “attractive but dangerous tech” pile, along with dirigibles, the (original) Orion spacecraft, and light-water nuclear reactors.

Dump Subverted Hardware – immediate replacement is required. The entire inventory needs to be destroyed and all devices and circuits that could even possibly have utilized such a part must be replaced in toto. This is the only method of obtaining security in this case.

B Team Analysis – we require a “B Team” to examine, analyze, and report on the entire American IT system on a national security basis. This team should not only comprise government personnel, but also military officers, representatives of the staffs of Microsoft, McAfee, the Register, and the computer department of Carnegie-Mellon, the kids who walk around wearing Guy Fawkes masks, and if possible, the ghost of Colonel Boyd.

Establish a Cybermilitia –We require an independent cyberservice comprised of network defenders in large numbers. Perhaps the best solution would be an actual civilian militia after the model of the old Civil Air Patrol (CAP). The Net has to be guarded actively and constantly. One problem lies in the neo-anarchist posturing common among the IT community, but not everybody acts that way and even fewer actually believe it. Our IT strength lies with wild kids all across the country. We need to think about using them.

A Full Military Doctrine – not only to defend the U.S. and its cybernetic assets, both military and civilian, but to destroy, if necessary, any cybernetic threat to the nation’s well-being whether national or rogue. Cybersecurity needs to be transferred to military control -- unless we’re satisfied to have it handled by the same type of mentality that paws two-year-olds in airports.

This is only the beginning. We are at about the same point with cyberwarfare as was reached by air power in 1940 – before the huge raids of WW II, before supersonic jets, intercontinental bombers, radar networks, SAMs, or nuclear weapons. Cyberwarfare is leaving its infancy and is just out of the silk scarf and leather helmet stage. What awaits us is hidden within the bright glare of future days, but we can be sure at the very least that it will be fascinating, unexpected, and very deadly.

End Part 3
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 17, 2011, 14:04:50
Part 4

The Long Run

We’ve established that it’s possible, with some thought, effort, and money well spent, for the U.S. to get through its upcoming trials in relatively good shape. We must also rely to some extent on luck and the bottom not falling out completely. There are truly catastrophic scenarios in which a technological edge would provide us with little or nothing – a full-scale nuclear strike, an attack with tailored microorganisms (I’ve often wondered why most scenarios dealing with biowar, whether fictional or otherwise, are limited to one bug. Surely there would be two or three, one picking up where the other left off?), the destruction of the American – or global – Internet (this has been established as at least theoretically possible), a technological singularity gone wrong (or, for that matter gone right)31. But these are events for which no preparation would ever be enough. We make rational plans for plausible contingencies, and apart from that, we hope.

One other point relates to how we got into this sorry mess, which was easily foreseeable, and subject to some level of prevention –yet no such effort was made by anyone on any part of the political spectrum.

Why are we surprised by so many crises and stumble into useless wars that do not support our national interests and gain us nothing? Why do we tend to act too late, why we are so often unprepared? Why does the most powerful national entity in recorded history consistently look like eight kinds of jackass on the international stage? The reason is simple: the U.S. lacks, and has always lacked, a grand strategy.

The concept of grand strategy is often overlooked. It is the strategy of the long term, the strategy of nations rather than armies, the strategy that sets the overall goals and tells everyday military and diplomatic strategy how to reach them. The most successful states possess a grand strategy worked out and tested over generations that protects the nation and pushes forward its interests. It is usually very simple and can be stated in sentence or perhaps two. The grand strategy of Rome was: keep the barbarians on the other side of the Rhine, the Parthians on the other side of the Euphrates. The grand strategy of the British Empire was: do not allow any single power to gain total control of Europe. Both empires maintained these strategies throughout their peak periods, Rome for close to four centuries, the British even longer, if we count the Anglo-French wars of the 13th and 14th centuries.

When at last the Romans gave up, and began letting in barbarian tribes as a reward for acting as allies, the end was plainly coming. The British held on until the last ditch, going into what amounted to national bankruptcy in the 20th century to twice prevent Germany from controlling Europe.

An American grand strategy is a necessity for this century. We could do without it during the splendid isolation of our early years, when the Monroe Doctrine was our sole strategic necessity. Our entry into world affairs with WWI was not accompanied by any reconsideration of national priorities in response to new strategic realities. We have spent much of the past century trying to skitter back into isolation rather than face up to our global responsibilities. After WWII we did have a strategy against the USSR – containment – but it was situational, not universally accepted, and failed when applied in other parts of the world.

A grand strategy will guarantee this country’s status into the 21st century and beyond. We need to consider what such a thing would look like – how it would serve our national interests, how it would utilize our technological advantages, how it would express the American character, American hopes, and American ideas.

Because the U.S. will be back. Our decline will not be permanent. Our enemies are deeply flawed and skating ever closer to the edge. Iran has an imploding population, a vanishing resource base, and a government of madmen (as the recently Quds Force assassination conspiracy reveals clearly enough). It will not be the same place in twenty years. China also faces a population crash thanks to its grotesque birth-control policies, centripetal tendencies involving abused minorities, and the inevitable showdown between political tyranny and economic freedom. The Russians will eventually learn the lesson of Al Capone: that blatant gangsterism will take you only so far. They are all facing problems the U.S. has already overcome or simply does not have.

We are demographically healthy, with an expanding but not exploding population. Our economy will return to full health once the mania for federal intervention is left behind. We will benefit from recent trade agreements that create a Greater American free-trade zone that encompasses every nation on the Pacific coast of the Americas, an 8,000-mile-long chain that is likely to become the richest trade bloc in the world32. Also acting in our favor is the beginning of a resource boom perhaps without parallel in our history. One example will suffice: the Marcellus Shale formation of the Northeast contains from 84 trillion to 410 trillion cubic feet of natural gas33. That’s trillion with a “t.” (It also contains billions of gallons of liquid natural gas and ethane.)That alone makes the U.S. the natural gas equivalent of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Iran combined, and there’s more where that came from. We will begin to see the impact of our new resource base over the next twenty years, with full expression by mid-century.

It is not yet twilight for the United States. Our current drift is an interlude and not an epilogue. We are an old nation (with the second-oldest government on earth, behind the UK) but we are a young country. It is customary for the young to make mistakes, pick themselves up, and go on. We have made a lot of mistakes, but none of them are fatal. We are coming into our maturity, when we will do things differently. The American Century is dead and gone –bring on the American Millennium.

# # # # # # #



































Copyright © 2011 by J.R. Dunn

J.R. Dunn is a novelist, editor, and political commentator active both in print and online. His SF novels include This Side of Judgment, Days of Cain, a powerful time travel novel dealing with the the Holocaust, and Full Tide of Night. He is the associate editor of The International Military Encyclopedia and is a contributing editor on military affairs to the American Thinker. His latest nonfiction book is Death by Liberlism, from Broadside.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on December 04, 2011, 03:29:45
America (and by extension we) need to consider competing "Grand Strategies" and how they affect us:

The Rise of the Fifth Reich?

Over at the always interesting Small Wars Journal, Tony Corn has a stimulating piece on the implications of the European crisis for world politics.  He sees a clueless German policy establishment recklessly moving toward an unsustainable quest for power reminiscent in too many ways of problems Germany has had in its past.

Germany, warns Corn, is planning to use its financial domination of Europe to remake the EU into an extension of German power — more or less the way that Prussia used the Zollverein to bring northern Germany under its control and then dominated the Bismarckian Reich through a rigged constitutional system.  Once that is in place, he writes, the Germans will continue their policy of deepening relations with Russia at the expense of NATO and transatlantic ties, and end Europe’s embargo on arms sales to China.

As an analyst, Corn sometimes goes to what we more placid types at VM consider overexcited conclusions about Eurasian power realignments.  Safely ensconced among the storied oaks and elms, gazebos, pergolas, ha-has, follies and deer parks surrounding the stately Mead manor in glamorous Queens, we tend to take a wait-and-see attitude toward organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which Russia and China have sometimes posited as a kind of embryonic counter-NATO.  Corn, in our perhaps excessively complacent view, can be too quick to take vague Eurasian fantasies and aspirations about diplomatic revolutions as accomplished facts; it is easier to dream about firm Russian and Chinese anti-US cooperation than for those two countries to make it work.  But that said, there is no doubt that Corn’s industry, historical grounding and sensitive, even over-sensitive nerve endings give him the ability to produce original and striking ideas.

It would be truly foolish to ignore the reality that in many world capitals there are intelligent people who are not in love with the American world system that now exists, and who spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about how to cripple it.  Russia’s shrewd decision to invade Georgia in 2008 is an example of how, taking advantage of American preoccupation and Georgian overreach, a swift and limited Russian move was able to shift the regional power balance in its favor and catch the US off-guard.

Corn’s sensitivity to the possibility that actions Americans do not anticipate based on the very different priorities of policy makers in other parts of the world could radically reshape the global picture animates his article on Germany.  He begins provocatively:

    “If Clausewitz is right that “war is the continuation of policy by other means”, then Germany is again at war with Europe, at least in the sense that German policy is trying to achieve in Europe the characteristic objectives of war: the redrawing of international boundaries and the subjugation of foreign peoples….

Germany’s goal?

    A constitutionalization of the EU treaties, which would irreversibly institutionalize the current “correlation of forces,” and allow German hegemony in the 27-member European Union to approximate Prussian hegemony in the 27-member Bismarckian Reich.

This is much more exciting than the usual bland pap about European politics one reads in the US, and Corn’s analysis is deeply grounded in what serious people are thinking and writing in Paris, London and Berlin.

Corn goes on to analyze what this German Europe would mean for Russia and NATO:

    In a not-too-subtle way, German pundits are today hinting that Germany would be better disposed economically toward Europe if Europe, in turn, was better disposed politically toward Germany’s Russia policy – more specifically toward the Meseberg process initiated (without prior consultation with the EU or NATO) by Angela Merkel in May 2010.  The problem is, once you read the fine print, you discover that the Meseberg Memorandum calls for an EU-Russia Committee which would have greater powers than the NATO-Russia Council, would give Russia access to the EU decision-making process and, ultimately, would make NATO altogether irrelevant.

And on China?

    Or take EU-China relations. Since Germany is responsible for 47 percent of EU exports to China, German pundits are now arguing, the rest of Europe should give Germany the lead in the formulation of the EU’s China policy. The problem is, for all the rhetoric about Berlin having long forsaken military power and become a “civilian power” (Zivilmacht), Germany in the past decade has overtaken Britain and France as Europe’s main arms exporter. Since the Berlin Republic now defines itself almost exclusively as a “geo-economic power,” there is no doubt that the first priority of a German-dominated EU China policy would be to lift the arms embargo in place since 1989.  American taxpayers would thus continue to provide for the defense of the “civilianized” Germans (who spend only 1.3 percent of their GDP on defense) while Germany would be making money selling advanced military technology to America’s peer competitor.

So: is Germany planning to take over Europe, stab the US in the back and enter an entente with China and Russia?

Via Meadia thinks not, or at least not yet, though we don’t rule out some thoughts by some serious people in this general direction.  Certainly former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder occasionally seems to have let his mind drift towards vague and ambitious eastern visions even before Gazprom bought him.

In any case it is clear that too many American policy makers and opinion makers live in a bubble of conventional wisdom, comfortable assumptions and complacent ignorance.  Articles like this one are a useful corrective to that complacency, and even readers who end up thinking Corn goes a little over the top will appreciate the guided tour of European strategic analysis he provides.

The article also serves as a timely reminder that even in the Age of Asia, Europe still counts.  The euro crisis is a foreign policy crisis and not just a financial headache.  The future of the European Union matters deeply to the United States, and the level of US discussion about the implications of this crisis for the future evolution of the European project is depressingly low.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 04, 2011, 11:09:54
The EU was an interesting experiment,but I think deserves failed state status.The economic policies of its members I think doom the EU to collapse.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Fishbone Jones on December 04, 2011, 13:50:18
I think it failed the second that France and Germany decided that they would be the only two top dogs in the kennel and everyone else would follow their direction.

In other words, it was doomed to failure from the start.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on December 07, 2011, 15:45:50
American exceptionalism. The tools are there, but is the will?

'Exceptional' America
by Victor Davis Hanson (Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow)
Is the United States simply one nation among many—or is it the leader of the world?

Accepting inevitable national decline is the new pastime of both the media and government elite. Some of the pessimism revolves around current federal financial insolvency. In response to the Bush administration’s borrowing of $4 trillion in eight years, Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate, called such profligacy “irresponsible” and even “unpatriotic”—only as president to trump Bush’s debt in three years.

Democrats now talk grandly of going back to the Clinton-era income tax schedules to balance budgets as was done between 1998 and 2000. Republicans counter that, since 2001, spending has soared to such levels that even a return to the old income tax rates would not come close to ending the serial annual deficits of $1.5  trillion without massive budget cuts—deemed intolerable by Democrats. The worried public senses that sometime very soon there are going to be either massive new taxes or historic cutbacks in federal spending, and most likely both.

Most sharp recessions lead to robust recoveries. But unemployment continues to be above 9 percent. GDP growth remains anemic. The old “misery index” is at an all-time high—as if this chronic downturn was somehow different from past post-war recessions. Near zero interest rates, unchecked borrowing, and record numbers on food stamps and unemployment insurance—all that “stimulus” has not jumpstarted a stalled economy.

Then there are the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are still fighting the Taliban, a decade after the September 11 attacks. The United States went into the heart of the ancient caliphate, removed Saddam Hussein, and established a consensual government, which survives to this day. And yet, Iraq is still considered an American tragedy given that a brilliant three-week removal of a dictator was followed by five years of insurgent violence that cost nearly 4,500 American lives. The acceptance that Americans have a massive military and yet cannot win wars quickly and permanently against outmatched enemies contributes to the growing sense of American paralysis.

The fiscal meltdown of September 2008 shattered American confidence in Wall Street. The sense of despair was heightened as conservatives blamed the disaster on profligate and politicized government mortgage agencies like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae; liberals countered that the real culprit was the incomprehensible greed of speculators and grandees at firms like Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. The public agreed with both analyses—and grew further disheartened as their 401k retirement accounts continued to shrink. That the panic occurred amid the unraveling of the European Union only intensified the sense of Western despair.

Despair, anxiety, and paralysis define the current public mood.

Amid such a depressing landscape, there are also the usual warnings of long-term pathologies. American K-12 students score far behind their counterparts in most industrial nations on math and science tests. Asian countries like South Korea and Taiwan have both longer work and school weeks, and greater labor productivity. Americans spend far more per capita on healthcare than other Westernized nations and yet do not enjoy greater longevity. The China chimera is raised constantly—as if its more impressive rate of economic growth will soon doom America to permanent second-tier status.

In reaction to this assorted bad news, President Obama sought to condition Americans to their newly perceived reduced role. In the trivial sense, Obama bowed to foreign monarchs, apologized for the supposed sins of America’s past, and once quipped, in relativist fashion, that America was now only exceptional to the degree that all peoples—such as the Greeks and the British—share such self-perceptions. More fundamentally, abroad a new “reset” foreign policy seeks to “lead from behind”—outsourcing military and diplomatic leadership to allies, while predicating U.S. intervention in Libya not on authorization from the U.S. Congress, but on a vote from the United Nations. Old enemies now seem to be neutrals—and so do our old allies as well. Sloganeering from the Obama administration—“multilateralism,” “reset,” and the “international community” —often seems aimed at conditioning now “soft” and “lazy” Americans who have lost “their competitive edge” to a new subservient role overseas.

Yet throughout history, national decline is rarely a result of uncontrollable external factors. It is usually a choice, not a fate. But if America’s future is well within our hands, should we be optimistic that we can still shape our own destiny to ensure continual American preeminence?

The building blocks of any civilization—demography, political cohesion and transparency, natural resources, social stability, military power, technological innovation, and scientific advancement—still weigh heavily in America’s favor. America is the third most populous country in the world; its fertility rate, with immigration, is about 2.1 children per woman far ahead of Russia (1.5), China (1.4), and the aggregate European Union (1.6). America is aging like all post-industrial nations, but at a far slower rate than its competitors.

The old misery index is at an all-time high.

Throughout 2008–2011, the world was plagued by costly riots, demonstrations, and strikes, from the so-called Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa, to the furor in Southern Europe over austerity measures, to little reported disturbances in China over everything from censorship and government confiscation of property to shoddy construction and government indifference to natural catastrophe. In contrast, the Occupy Wall Street protests were minuscule in numbers and, in many instances, peaceful. The Tea Party protests were likewise orderly and almost immediately led to peaceful political change in the 2010 midterm election.

In truth, the unique American Constitution and the two-party system grant America a degree of political stability simply unknown abroad. We lack the chaos of dozens of small parties and shaky political coalitions found in Europe, the brutality of Middle East dictatorship, and the authoritarianism of Russia and China. A multi-racial, multi-ethnic America suffers little of the religious strife found from the Middle East to the Balkans. There is little of the ethnic factionalism in America that is so common in Arab and African countries. And the aristocratic and class impediments to upward mobility that plague India and still bother the European Union are largely absent in the United States. American stability reminds investors that their money is safer in the United States, and translates into fewer economic losses due to social unrest.

The United States still possesses vast timber, agriculture, and mineral resources. In the last five years, its known fossil fuel reserves—petroleum, natural gas, coal, tar sands, and shale—and the ability to exploit them seem to have expanded twofold. Some forecasts suggest that should the United States develop all of its new known sources of energy in the American West, Alaska, the Dakotas, and offshore, it might have the ability to produce two-thirds of its daily carbon-based requirements within five years—a stunning and largely unforeseen development that will create millions of new jobs and cut drastically the current half-trillion-dollar cost of importing petroleum.

The recent nine-month-long Libyan War illustrated that NATO’s two most significant military powers—France and Great Britain—remain light-years behind the United States armed forces. True, China is developing an aircraft carrier, but it lacks the expertise and wartime experience of American carrier forces. We currently deploy 11 carrier battle groups, each one far more powerful than all the commensurate carrier groups of all the nations in the world put together.

It was common to suggest that the American military was “broken” in Iraq; in fact, enlistments are currently at record numbers, as all four branches of the military in 2010 met or exceeded their recruitment goals. The American military has trained an entire generation of officers in Afghanistan and Iraq, whose knowledge of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism is unmatched elsewhere in the world. In every category of military technology—armor, artillery, aircraft, ships, missiles, drones, robotics, small arms, and space—America remains far ahead of both its allies and rivals.

National decline is rarely the result of uncontrollable factors.

Recent surveys of higher education place American universities overwhelmingly in the top twenty internationally. In many surveys, California alone—Cal Tech, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UCLA—has more of the twenty top-ranked universities than any other nation in the world. Even during the supposed American downturn, most of the world’s largest corporations—Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobile, Chevron—remain American. It is unlikely that an Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Google could have originated in Germany, Russia, China, or Japan, given their more highly regulated economies, less vibrant popular cultures, and less impressive universities.

All of this good news is not to deny that America does not have serious problems of an aging population, unsustainable entitlements, a clumsy tax system, growing regulations and impediments to business, disturbing ethnic and racial tribalism, and uncompetitive K-12 public schools. But we must interpret our current crises in two contexts: the manner in which the American political and social system can identify and address such challenges and the degree to which these same problems challenge our competitors.

By those standards, our recent history suggests that Americans can react quickly to serious threats. Bipartisan efforts piled up three consecutive budget surpluses from 1998 to 2000. Federal protocols prevented another massive terrorist attack in the decade following 9/11. High-tech corridors and idiosyncratic entrepreneurs have provided the world with innovative products like the iPhone, Google searches,  and discount shopping, whether of the Wal-Mart, EBay, or Amazon sort. Surging in 2008 saved a lost war in Iraq. America’s new drone forces can kill terrorists almost anywhere in the world. American engineering developed petroleum fracking that can vastly expand recoverable oil and gas. And the U.S. government helped save the financial system after the 2008 meltdown in a way that the European Union seems still incapable of doing.

This characteristic ability of the United States to respond to challenges, reinvent itself, and rebound is not to suggest that American preeminence is guaranteed in the coming decades. Rather, it means only that our destiny is in our own hands, should we have leadership that is intent on ensuring American predominance. The current rise of world hegemons like India and China recall similar warnings of a Nazi Germany in the 1930s, a postwar Soviet colossus of the 1950s and 1960s, a supposedly dominant Japan, Inc. during the 1970s, and a purportedly more moral and vibrant E.U. of the 1990s and 2000s. In every instance, the new ascendant rival eventually proved wanting in comparison to the United States. In other words, it is our decision whether China becomes our master or recedes, as did former twentieth-century competitors to the United States such as Germany, Russia, Japan, and the European Union.

In 2012, the public should ask the presidential candidates whether they believe America should accept a new role as merely one of many, or will they take the necessary steps to ensure our country’s traditional preeminence—as our perennially rebounding nation has done so often in the last seventy years.

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a classicist and an expert on the history of war. A regular contributor to National Review Online and many other national and international publications, he has written or edited twenty books, including the New York Times best seller Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power. His book The End of Sparta will appear in 2011. He was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Bush in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 07, 2011, 16:26:46
Everything Victor Davis Hanson says, in the article posted just above by Thucydides, is true but I suggest that America is in in need of a broad "grand strategy" to define its aims for the next half century - something akin to what Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower enunciated in the 1940s and 50s. I see nothing of the kind from any of the major political parties, the emerging movements nor the commentariat.

A "grand strategy" is variously described as:

1. The purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community (Colin Gray (; or, better

2. The co-ordination and direction of all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object of the war – the goal defined by fundamental policy (B.H. Liddell Hart (; or, better still

3. Using the collection of plans and policies that comprise the state's deliberate effort to harness political, military, diplomatic, and economic tools together to advance that state's national interest. Grand strategy is the art of reconciling ends and means. It involves purposive action -- what leaders think and want. (Peter Feaver (

Feaver goes on to say, correctly, that Grand Strategy is "constrained by factors leaders explicitly recognize (for instance, budget constraints and the limitations inherent in the tools of statecraft) and by those they might only implicitly feel (cultural or cognitive screens that shape worldviews)" and "Grand strategy blends the disciplines of history (what happened and why?), political science (what underlying patterns and causal mechanisms are at work?), public policy (how well did it work and how could it be done better?), and economics (how are national resources produced and protected?)."

In my view, Grand Strategy is, roughly as Feaver describes it, a a clear statement of a nation's aims presented within a sensible framework composed of that nations history, geography, culture and geo-political/economic situation in the world. America's geo-political and economic situations have changed, are, indeed, constantly changing; it is constrained by its history and culture but emboldened by geography. It is time for an American leader to enunciate the "vision" that lies at the core of Grand Strategy by telling America where she or he wants to lead it and, by implication, the West, including Canada.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 20, 2011, 11:20:54
On the surface and given its headline, this article, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail, belongs in the Canadian Politics area but after reading it over a few times I decided that there is, really, little about the Liberal Party of Canada and lots about Grand Strategy and, in the final paragraph a sensible prescription for America, divided or not:
Are Liberals up to challenge of total strategic overhaul?


Globe and Mail Update
Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Strategy is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and defined too little. Often, it is confused with the challenges of problem solving, optimizing efficiency or issue management.

The word comes from the Greek, meaning the commanding role of a general in a war. The conduct of individual engagements is tactics; the marshalling of the individual engagements into a co-ordinated, war-winning effort is strategy.

Texts from The Art of War to Clausewitz, added to the general understanding of military strategic thinking with concepts like positioning and the culminating point. Military strategy emphasizes work beyond simple planning to the adaptations that take place in response to enemy movements and changing conditions.

However, the military applications of strategy themselves define war as a subset of Grand Strategy or the organizing principals of nations, reducing even their own work to a tactic in the overall national strategy. Examples of Grand Strategy are the “Germany First” decision the Allies made in 1942, or the concept of containment during the Cold War.

While Grand Strategy is a fascinating topic, the academic work around it is not generally applicable. Study of grand strategy often focuses on the historical choices or current options facing international relations, rather than how to theoretically optimize strategy at its highest level.

One of the best definitions of strategy comes from business theory, and Harvard Professor Michael Porter. He argued that the essence of strategy was “choosing to perform activities differently than rivals do. Otherwise, a strategy is nothing more than a marketing slogan that will not withstand competition.”

The argument he makes is that strategy is about building a sustainable competitive advantage, ideally one that is virtuous and builds on itself constantly.

It must be something that competitors cannot mimic easily, otherwise it is not sustainable. It must be something that provides a real edge in differentiating your offering from others, or it is not a sufficient advantage to matter.

Perhaps most importantly, a good strategy is about trade-offs, and picking what you will and will not do. There will be excellent tactics offered up that could bring temporary gains, even great ones, but if they do not reinforce your sustainable competitive advantage, they may not be the right tactics.

A great example is Wal-Mart. Their low prices lead to market share, which gives them the ability to squeeze suppliers, which leads to lower prices, and so on. Each move Wal-Mart makes a decision increases its virtuous circle, whether it is a new IT system to link suppliers directly to their inventory system or an advertising campaign. The clarity of their strategic vision makes decision making more simple at a tactical level, and it makes it very difficult for rivals to catch up to their low price-market share-squeezed suppliers advantage.

Strategy as sustainable competitive advantage is a definition that can be translated to different settings. Just as there is no one “perfect” strategy for a nation state, the realities of a political campaign or business must be grounded in the resources available, the position of the organization on the competitive terrain, and the actions of the competitors themselves, finding a niche that builds and sustains a competitive advantage.

Applying this definition to politics, you can see that federal Liberals received a catastrophic thumping in this year’s election due to the loss of any sustainable competitive advantage.

Liberals are foremost the “party of power,” an organization whose ability to broker consensus among competing interests keeps them in office for long periods of time. However, the advantages of ideological flexibility, incrementalism and moderation become disadvantages in opposition, where clarity, boldness of vision and consistency are typical virtues.

As such, the Liberal positioning in opposition is a non-ideological “natural alternative government.” The Grits will wait, generally aligned with government orthodoxy but opposing the Conservatives on some symbolic issues, and then wait for the Tories to implode and the country to come back to them. They hold their position of alternative government by virtue of history, shouting down other challengers with claims of inevitability and strategic voting, and resting on a base of past clients of their brokerage politics.

However, this last election saw the Liberals eclipsed not just by the governing Tories but the traditional third party, erasing not just their government advantage but their opposition differentiation as well. At the same time, the Conservatives may have developed the skills and patience to recreate the strategic advantage over the past few years, adopting a more flexible and incremental approach compared to the Mulroney, Diefenbaker or Bennett eras.

As such, the Liberals will be hard pressed to use their past strategies to regain power, and will have to rebuild an entirely new strategy different from their typical “wait for the Tories to blow up” approach.

Canada as a nation has a strategy as well. I wrote a long piece for The Globe last summer on Canada's  Grand Strategy (, which I won’t repeat here.

The Journal of Military and Strategic Studies includes some of the most interesting relevant work on Canada’s strategy. Jack Granatstein argues that Canada cannot actually have a grand strategy akin to great powers, because we lack the resources to sustain them.

What is intriguing about strategy in the national sense is the difficulty in identifying all but the most obvious examples. China, for instance, clearly has a strategy, but defining it is a difficult effort, far more complex than the classic “Germany First” strategy of the Allies.

But what is certain is that the United States has failed to develop a coherent national strategy since the end of the Cold War, and that absence can be directly attributed to the scattered and incoherent responses to international challenges like 9/11 and the Arab Spring, but also domestic failures in political consensus building.

Like the Liberals, the current struggles of the United States are strategic, and require the hard work and decisiveness to decide what they will do differently from competitors and – perhaps most importantly – to make the trade-offs of what they will no longer do.

The "trade-offs," what America will decide not to do, will have a real impact in the world. There are few nations able, much less willing to pick up all the pieces. China, for example, recognizes its dependence upon maritime trade and has begun, partially to combat piracy - even as it conveniently ignores the problem of Chinese pirates based in Fujian province and operating in the South China Seas, but it is not interested in becoming a global policeman. If, actually when America decides to make essential trade-offs who will pick up the tasks it "trades" away?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Chris Pook on December 20, 2011, 13:14:07
There is something to be said for Principle #1:

To wit - Selection and Maintenance of the Aim.

Harper’s flat-tire federalism (

Missing Bush (
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 20, 2011, 14:12:34
There is something to be said for Principle #1:

To wit - Selection and Maintenance of the Aim.

Harper’s flat-tire federalism (

Missing Bush (

Paul Wells (Haper's flat-tire federalism) might be taken more seriously if he wasn't innumerate - like 90% of his journalistic colleagues.

The Canada First Defence Strategy does indeed promise to raise defence spending from $18 Billion to $30+ Billion BUT it also promises to cut defence spending as a percentage of GDP (a much, much more meaningful measure of the government's policy) - assuming any sort of reasonable GDP growth above, about, 1.5% per year. When, not if, the Great Recession ends (in, say, 2015/16) there is still 12 or 13 years during which the economy will likely grow by 2+ then 3+ and even 4+% per year making a sustained average growth rate of 2.5% per year from 2008 to 2018 a likely model and making the Canada First Defence Strategy a recipe for disarmament.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on May 21, 2012, 10:27:36
VDH discusses the idea that there is no "Grand Strategy" being followed by the United States:

Winning Battles, Losing Wars

Posted By Victor Davis Hanson On May 20, 2012 @ 1:43 pm In Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Can We Still Win Wars?

Given that the United States fields the costliest, most sophisticated, and most lethal military in the history of civilization, that should be a silly question. We have enough conventional and nuclear power to crush any of our enemies many times over. Why then did we seem to bog down in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? The question is important since recently we do not seem able to translate tactical victories into long-term strategic resolutions. Why is that? What follows are some possible answers.

No—We Really Do Win Wars

Perhaps this is a poorly framed question: the United States does win its wars—if the public understands our implicit, limited strategic goals. In 1950 we wanted to push the North Koreans back across the 38th parallel and succeeded; problems arose when Gen. MacArthur and others redefined the mission as on to the Yalu in order to unite the entire Korean peninsula, a sort of Roman effort to go beyond the Rhine or Danube. Once we redefined our mission in 1951 as one more limited, we clearly won in Korea by preserving the South.

In Vietnam, the goal of establishing a viable South was achieved by 1974. Congress, not the president or the military, felt the subsequent peace-keeping commitments and air support were too costly. They allowed a renewed Northern invasion that led to a second and lost war, and then were surprised that the North Vietnamese proved to be not campus radicals but hardcore Stalinists.

Panama, Grenada, and Serbia were successful small enterprises. In the first Gulf War, the strategic aim was to oust Saddam from Kuwait—or so we said. That succeeded, though it did not solve the problem of what Saddam would in the future do with his vast oil revenues. In the second war, the mission was to remove him, birth a democracy, and then leave Iraq better than before. That more ambitious aim too succeeded—not, however, without enormous costs.

Our strategic objective in Afghanistan was to oust the Taliban and ensure that it did not return to host terrorists on Afghan soil. The former mission was done over a decade ago, the latter hinges on the Afghans themselves after we leave. We vowed to rid Libya of Gaddafi and we did—and did not exactly promise that what followed would be immediately better than what we removed. In such special pleading, the U.S. has won its wars as it has defined them. Note the great success of the Cold War that ended with the destruction of the Soviet Empire.

Not So Fast

But wait—North Korea was on the ropes and now over a half-century later still threatens our interests, and with nukes no less. Should not the destruction of that system have been the real aim of the Korean War? North Vietnam united the country under a communist government, whatever way you cut it. Iraq was a mess, and its democracy may in time prove no more than an Iran-backed Shiite autocracy. In Afghanistan, does anyone think our Afghan partners will keep out the Taliban after our departure? Are the Libyan riffraff that took over all that better than Gaddafi as they kill tribal rivals, hunt down blacks, and desecrate military cemeteries? What exactly were we doing in Lebanon and what did we do after terrorists killed 241 of our people?

Strategy, What Strategy?

Why, then, does the use of American military forces not guarantee sure victory? The most obvious answer ib why we argue over the results of our interventions is an inability to articulate our strategic objectives—what exactly do wish to see follow from our use of force and for how long and at what cost? Do we wish to rid the world of Bashar al-Assad? We could do that quite easily and probably without ground troops. But would the region be more or less stable? Would Iran suffer a blow or find ways to fund more terrorists? Would the collateral damage from funding insurgents or bombing be worse or not as bad as the current Assad toll? Would the insurgents prove reasonable, or more like those in Egypt and Libya—or even worse? Many of our problems seem to hinge on explaining to the public what we wish to do, why so, how, at what cost it is to be accomplished, and what we want things to look like when we’re through.

Off the Table

Then there is the question of restraint—the inability to use our full forces to their full effect, in the manner that we did in World War I or World War II. From 1945 to 1989 the Cold War defined and limited the rules of engagement, given the nuclear arsenal of the Soviet Union and its various trouble-causing clients who hid behind it. In Vietnam and North Korea there were certain options that were off the table because of fear the Soviets or Chinese might strike elsewhere or the fighting could descend into a nuclear exchange. “Limited” wars are now the new normal when so many countries can claim a nuclear patron.

Law, not War

But in the last twenty years there is an even greater restraint to operations—a moral, if not smug, self-restraint that has turned fighting from a quest for victory into a matter of jurisprudence in which how we fight a war is more important than what we actually achieve. The old Neanderthal formula — we will level your cities, defeat and humiliate your military, impose our system of government upon you, and then give you our aid and friendship as you reinvent yourself as a free-market capitalist democracy — certainly worked with Germany, Japan, and Italy.

But does anyone believe that we could have bombed Saddam as we did those in Hamburg? The country that tore itself apart over waterboarding three confessed terrorists who had an indirect hand in the murder of 3,000 Americans seems ill-equipped to inflict the sort of damage on enemies that in the past made them accept both defeat and redemption. War is now a matter of legality, or nation-building before, not after, the enemy is fully defeated, and that means, given the unchanging nature of man, that it is very difficult to win a war as in the past. Note, in this context, Obama’s drone campaign, which he expanded seven- or eight-fold upon inheriting it from Bush. Is it not the perfect liberal way of war? There is no media hand-wringing over collateral damage; no burned faces, charred limbs, headless torsos on the evening news; no U.S. losses; no prisoners at Guantanamo. There is only a postmodern murderous video game and a brief administration chest-thump that “we’ve take out 20 of the top 30 al-Qaeda operatives.”

Wars of Choice

We are forgetting yet another wild card: since World War II, all our serial fighting in Asia, Central America, the Pacific, and Africa has involved optional wars—fighting that did not question the very existence of the U.S. Other than a few stand-offs with the Cold War Soviets at places like Berlin or Cuba, the United States had not faced an existential threat since the end of World War II. September 11 might have posted such a challenge, since had bin Laden or his epigones been able to repeat the initial attacks, then air travel as we know it would have ceased, along with the idea of an open, modern commercial economy.

But other than the efforts to go after al-Qaeda, most of our fighting has been optional—whether in Somalia or Libya—and that makes it hard to galvanize the American public. (Which also explains why administrations try to hype WMD, or Saddam, or al-Qaeda, or Gaddafi, or the monstrous Assad in order to turn these peripheral threats into existential enemies.) In optional wars, the public can disconnect, as fighting can be conducted without disruption of the civilian economy. Victory or defeat does not immediately either please or endanger the public at home. And the result is that our leaders do not necessarily wage these wars all out, with the prime directive of winning them. (Note how the monster-in-rehab Gaddafi, whose children were buying off Western academics and putting on art shows in London, by 2011 was back in our imaginations to the 1986 troll, and how the Assads of Vogue magazine are once again venomous killers.)

Too Rich to Fight?

Then there are classical symptoms of Catullan otium: societies that become leisured like ours grow complacent (otium et reges prius et beatas perdidit urbes). They see military activity of all sorts coming at the expense of social redistributive programs: each dollar in aid campaigning abroad comes at the loss of one less new expansion in Medicare or Medicaid. Why then spend money overseas, when we could redistribute it for bread and circuses at home? A cruise missile is not seen as a wise investment in deterrence, but as a boondoggle that means one less Head Start center.

In postmodern America, we are all removed from mayhem, the killing of game for dinner, the sight of blood altogether. War is something “they” do, not our far more sophisticated selves, who have far greater claims on the federal treasury. Given that the therapeutic society of iPhones and Facebook believes that human nature has transcended violence, and no longer is prone to Thucydidean irrationality like fear, honor, or perceived self-interest, we believe that Libyan rebels are sort of like errant protestors of Occupy Wall Street, or the sometimes corrupt Chinese communist apparat that can be persuaded to be nice to Tibetans. That means war no longer involves good and evil, much less the elemental dirty means of using the former to destroy the latter.

Or Too Poor to Fight?

But wait, we are $16 trillion in debt, with serial $1 trillion budget deficits. Indeed, we are $9 trillion more in debt than when we went into Afghanistan. Any intervention now requires us to borrow the money from someone else. The truth is that for years we have been like Rome around AD 300 or Britain circa 1950—lots of supposed responsibilities, not enough money budgeted to fulfill them. The idea of a nation gearing up to smash an enemy when it has borrowed over $16 trillion on mostly social entitlements and pay-outs makes war a bad, if not absurd, investment.

On to Syria—or not?

With all this in mind, consider Bashar al-Assad. There is a growing movement in the press and Congress to go into Syria—either by arming the rebels, training them, or providing them air cover. But while we know that we have the power to do so (or rather can borrow the money from the Chinese to do so), do we have a strategic aim? What should Syria look like after the war (a constitutional state that would not support Iran, fund Hezbollah, undermine Lebanon, start a war with Israel, or build another reactor)?

Are U.S. arms and influence without ground troops able to see those laudable aims realized, or would a post-Assad Syria end up like Libya or Egypt—and would that still be better or worse than the present-day Syria, for us, for Christians and other minorities, for Israel, etc.? It is not enough to state the obvious: Assad is a U.S. enemy and a monster who is killing his own; we have the ability to take him out; ergo, we should.

Yet the same calculus applies to dozens of renegade states. If some advisor, pundit, general, or senator wants to go into Syria, then he must explain why Syria is more important than, say, the Congo or Somalia or the Sudan (or that we are following strategic self-interest in the Middle East, not humanitarianism)—and why we can leave the nation a far better place than under Assad, and how that is possible, given the nature of the dissidents and the fact it is the Middle East.

Remember, there is also an ironclad law about the Middle East, one we keep forgetting: Arab intellectuals (many of them educated or residing in Western universities) hate the U.S. for backing dictators; they hate the U.S. for intervening to remove them; they hate the U.S. for trying to impose postbellum democracy upon them; and they hate the U.S. for staying clear and letting Arabs be Arabs on their own.

Take out Saddam—”you created him in the first place”; stay to rebuild the country—”a neo-imperial enterprise to impose your values on a traditional society”; stay away and let him kill his own, or allow his successors to kill each other—”a callous disregard for the suffering of innocent others.”

Remember the critiques of Gulf War I and Gulf War II:

    Gulf War I: a needlessly large coalition that curbed our options, a hyped-up war that did not warrant the huge forces we deployed, a shake-down of our allies to turn war into a money-making enterprise, a cynical disregard for the Shia and Kurds who yearned for democracy, a video-game war in which we slaughtered the inept without incurring much risk or danger;

    Gulf War II: a too-small coalition that did not win international respect, too few forces deployed for the mission, a wasteful enterprise that did not demand monetary contributions from our allies, a naïve romance that Arabs could craft their own democracy, a dirty war in which we needlessly exposed our troops to mayhem and death.

Common denominator: whatever a Bush was for, critics were against.

We should posit one simple rule about intervening in the Middle East from now on. Please some honesty: we intervene for strategic advantage (no apologies for that), not humanitarianism. If those who advocate taking out Assad claim that it is to stop the bloodshed, then they must explain why there—and not where far more are slaughtered in Africa.

Again, state the proposed mission, debate the need and envisioned cost, articulate the strategic outcome, and then obtain it with overwhelming force—or otherwise forget it.

Article printed from Works and Days:

URL to article:
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on May 23, 2012, 12:32:13
Without articulating the "Grand Strategy", everything could be lost due to indifference and domestic politics:

Shock Poll: 51% of Voters Want US Troops Out of Europe

The Rasmussen polling organization is out with a shock poll that the entire Washington establishment needs to study: 51 percent of voters surveyed said they wanted all US troops out of Europe, now. Only 29 percent favored keeping the troops where they are.

US troops have been in Europe since World War Two. In the Cold War, they not only kept the Russians out; they gave the rest of the Old World the confidence that Germany would not come storming back for a rematch. The presence of US troops helped give western Europe its longest era of peace since Roman times.

Since the end of the Cold War the US presence in Europe has made much less sense to the average American, but foreign policy junkies like yours truly think that it still serves a purpose. Not only do those troops provide security in new NATO countries like Poland and the Baltic republics; US bases in Europe are important in dealing with terror and other problems in the Middle East and without the US presence in Europe it is unlikely that NATO in its present form can survive.

The Rasmussen poll notes that 29 percent of the public still supports the US presence in Europe and that 20 percent is undecided. My guess is that with strong presidential leadership those numbers would change. The arguments for the US presence in Europe are credible, clear and compelling.

Unfortunately the current White House doesn’t like to talk about the pointy end of American foreign policy. It uses troops and sends them into battle around the world, but the President doesn’t often use the bully pulpit to explain why we must fight, why we need a strong military, why we need to deploy, and why sometimes it is cheaper and safer to have our first line of defense thousands of miles from our shores.

My guess is that if President Obama went to leading Democratic and Republican officials, they would join him in an effort to explain the importance of the NATO alliance and our European bases — and that this effort would turn those numbers around.

But foreign policy in a democracy isn’t a chess game for elites. If you don’t build support for your policies and your commitments, the support ebbs away. It is very natural for Americans to wonder why we still have troops in Europe almost seventy years after World War Two and a generation after the end of the Cold War. And it’s reasonable for people to ask why we should spend so much of our money to provide a security shield for countries who refuse to carry their fair share of the common burden.

These are reasonable questions — and they have reasonable answers. But this administration hasn’t done nearly enough to lay out the facts and the ideas behind America’s grand strategy in Europe to the public. (To be fair, the same criticism could be made of its predecessor.) Our national leadership is taking the national commitment to Europe and to NATO for granted, and this is a major mistake.

Americans over a certain age don’t really need to be told why we built NATO and why we are so determined to keep it strong, but every new generation needs to reach its own understanding of the pillars of our foreign policy. Given that many colleges fail to teach much about American foreign policy (beyond, perhaps, some references to the horrors of Vietnam and the dangers of Islamophobia), and that the national leadership is largely silent on the subject of America’s strategy, it’s not surprising that support for our European deployments is weak.

My guess is that while Governor Romney and President Obama differ on some details about our NATO policy, they are in fundamental agreement on the main lines of our European strategy.  It would be nice to hear some of that during this campaign, but whether or not that happens, the Washington establishment needs to stop taking the public for granted. There is a certain arrogance at work here — a belief that public opinion can be ignored for decades and that the peasants will pay taxes and do what they are told without asking questions.

That isn’t how it works anymore, and unless the establishment figures this out, much more than the NATO alliance could be at risk.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 24, 2012, 01:26:15
Looking at the poll numbers its pretty clear that this poll is worthless.According to the poll 51% said they wanted US forces out of Europe.Some 29% were opposed and 20% were undecided.The margin of error is 3%. ::)
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on June 24, 2012, 13:24:32
While this blog post is initially about Syria, the destruction of the Westphalian system of states is of much greater concern. Doctrines like R2P explicitly negate the sovereinity of State actors, and other assaults like the proliferation of NGO's essentially claiming State powers or the ability to interfere with and regulate State power continue as well. How the international system will remain workable under these conditions is a good question, (one of the other points this author makes is may nations are not "States" in any real sense of the word). Much to ponder:

The end of the Westphalian state system: “responsibility to protect” and other nostrums
June 24, 2012 12:17 am Oban Uncategorized

The Thirty Years’ war was so catastrophic that the system which ended it, called the Peace of Westphalia, insisted that whatever went on inside some Prince’s state was his business. There would be no interference in someone else’s domestic affairs. The principle holds true today, despite the fact that we are no longer ruled by hereditary princes [Kennedy pretensions notwithstanding]. It is thought bad manners, and a breach of diplomatic courtesy, for a foreign leader so much as to comment on the internal arrangements of a foreign state.

Richard Rodriguez, writing in the Belmont Club, cites the problem of interference in the affairs of other states.

Nations — and those who formerly controlled them through the vote in countries where they voted — ain’t what they used to be. They’re in the way now. In place of Merkel’s “it’s for the Euro” the principle “it’s for the children” is substituted for a reason everywhere else. But the problem, as Kissinger points out, is that having abolished the Westphalian principle in one country after another where does it stop?

“If adopted as a principle of foreign policy, this form of intervention raises broader questions for U.S. strategy. Does America consider itself obliged to support every popular uprising against any non-democratic government, including those heretofore considered important in sustaining the international system? Is, for example, Saudi Arabia an ally only until public demonstrations develop on its territory? Are we prepared to concede to other states the right to intervene elsewhere on behalf of coreligionists or ethnic kin?”

This brought Oban out of his silence.

“I agree that D2P (duty to protect) is both doomed to fail as too selective and arbitrary to serve as a basis for settled policy. It is only possible where there is no overriding interests of a principal actor at play or where the particular regime is too heinous for even its allies to watch. But we are never going to intervene if Russia or China or the USA decides to slaughter its citizens. I am also under no illusions that the regimes that are emerging from the Arab spring are likely to be sustainable, nor friendly to the West and its values. The suppression of middle class politics has gone on too long and so debased civil society and its institutions that it is unlikely that we will see anything resembling the rule of law, democracy, or anything other than crony capitalism in our lifetimes or those of our children.

“As Kissinger himself points out, the mid-east never had Westfalian style states or doctrines of non-intervention. It is actually hard to say that there were states there of any description: it always came down to clanship systems of the devision of spoils. The families divided up government posts, industrial jobs etc on a conveyor belt of patronage and personal obligation. Remove that and you get Lebanon. The Egyptian army is intent to protect its spoils system and so is the Assad regime.

“As I see it, the biggest thing that is going on in the middle east is the reemergence of Turkey as a regional power. It is the most likely power to counteract Iranian interests, and it is closer to the scene to make Russian meddling ineffective in the long run. Iran is also unlikely to to share long term interests with Russia, except to the extent the Mullahs can divert the attention of the Turks from their customary role as liege of the petty dynasties of the Levant.

“I rather suspect that it will be the Turks who deploy force to stabilize Syria and Lebanon, and in doing so will crush the Iranian puppets and keep the Sunni successors to Assad and his hangmen on a shortish leash.

“It is too bad that Israel has so badly missed the opportunity to deal with the Palestine issue, as that is the essential element for peace with Turkey in the long term. Netanyahu is not playing a long game in strategic terms. He sees settlement in the West Bank as a key to Israeli security. It is an illusion. Security will come from being able to count Turkey, Saudi Arabia (for the next 20 years or so), and Egypt as unwilling to intervene or upset the status quo in Israel. The settlements issue is destabilizing to any status quo and hence tendentially encouraging of intervention or support for the next intifada.

“Meantime, with all due deference to Mr. Kissinger, the Westphalian system was destroyed by Napoleon. The result of that was the emergence of Prussian state Germany (Kleindeutschland), which destroyed the state remnants of the Westphalian system, and set in place the race to nation states that destabilized the European state system completely and led to the emergence of a string of pseudo-states in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. We are now seeing the play out of WWII with the emergence of Germany as again the principal glue to European cohesion, France busy squandering its European role on a frolic of its own, the destruction of the Brussels system, and the end of pretence that the European institutions have any meaning without a European state.

“As it happens, only Germany can be the centre of a European state, and France may again, to the destruction of all that has been built, serve to undermine the European mission. Many won’t regret its passing, but it not be without consequences that will be felt by us all, most likely in a negative way. Bring on the Trans Pacific Partnership!
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on September 23, 2012, 12:54:22
Robert Kaplan's new book. Kaplan has always been an exponent of the idea that "History is Geography"; emphasizing how the landscape defines human affairs in his books and articles.  This has been a theme since "Balken Ghosts", and he has explored the concept in depth and in many contexts (read "The Ends of the Earth", "An Empire Wilderness" or "Monsoon" to get the full flavour of this idea).

While History is not always Geography, Kaplan's insights should be read and understood by anyone thinking about policy, foreign affairs or strategy as a foundational grounding.

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate ( is next on my reading list.

In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts, offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.
In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past to look back at critical pivots in history and then to look forward at the evolving global scene. Kaplan traces the history of the world’s hot spots by examining their climates, topographies, and proximities to other embattled lands. The Russian steppe’s pitiless climate and limited vegetation bred hard and cruel men bent on destruction, for example, while Nazi geopoliticians distorted geopolitics entirely, calculating that space on the globe used by the British Empire and the Soviet Union could be swallowed by a greater German homeland.
Kaplan then applies the lessons learned to the present crises in Europe, Russia, China, the Indian subcontinent, Turkey, Iran, and the Arab Middle East. The result is a holistic interpretation of the next cycle of conflict throughout Eurasia. Remarkably, the future can be understood in the context of temperature, land allotment, and other physical certainties: China, able to feed only 23 percent of its people from land that is only 7 percent arable, has sought energy, minerals, and metals from such brutal regimes as Burma, Iran, and Zimbabwe, putting it in moral conflict with the United States. Afghanistan’s porous borders will keep it the principal invasion route into India, and a vital rear base for Pakistan, India’s main enemy. Iran will exploit the advantage of being the only country that straddles both energy-producing areas of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Finally, Kaplan posits that the United States might rue engaging in far-flung conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan rather than tending to its direct neighbor Mexico, which is on the verge of becoming a semifailed state due to drug cartel carnage.
A brilliant rebuttal to thinkers who suggest that globalism will trump geography, this indispensable work shows how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century’s looming cataclysms.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 24, 2012, 15:02:20
Despite our varying views on Iraq and the Arab world and Afghanistan and, indeed, Burnett’s gap, which includes pretty much all of the so-called Muslim Crescent, I think we can agree that the single most important driver for the coming decade and more, for that region and the world, is US foreign policy.  Here, reproduced from Foreign Affairs (July/August 2007) under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act is a lengthy article which might provide a good jumping off point.

The authors, two distinguished American academics, offer a valuable history lesson, reminding us that what most Canadians – especially journalists and the commentariat – think of as traditional American foreign policy is only about 70 years old – dating from the Roosevelt administration.  Next they offer a six point programme which I think is worthy of debate.

While I find nothing to which I might object, I suspect that all six points will be controversial in some most almost all US political circles.  Readers who are familiar with Walter Russell Mead’s  Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (Knopf, 2001) will recognize that president Bush is, in Mead’s terms, a pure Jacksonian while Kupchan and Trubowitz are proposing a mix of Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian policies.

We are still a bit away from the day when China or India will challenge American hegemony but, as Prof Pan Wei of Peking University wrote (Harvard International Review (, Under this poor leadership [provided by President Bush], a previously “benign hegemon” is becoming an oppressive tyrant that suffers opposition almost everywhere in the world.  Prof. Pan worried that vis à vis China President Bush’s foreign policy ” will ultimately cause the decline of US power, and it may not succeed in precluding China’s emergence from a new decade of political reform. Instead, belligerent confrontation will only lead to an escalation of tensions.”  It is, in my view, likely to do the same with India, Europe and much of the rest of the world, too.

That being said, it will be hard for a Republican administration to turn its back, completely, on Bush and his policies if only because of the political power of the religious right.  It will be equally hard for Democrats to do the same.  American power needs to be rebuilt, enhanced and then maintained – cutting and running is not the best way to build power.

Anyway, here it is:

Part 1 of 2

Going all the way back to P.1 of this thread (and five years in time) I still think US foreign policy is vitally important to Canada and the world. With that in mind, here is a view of foreign policy and presidential politics by Christopher Preble ( of the (libertarian inclined) Cato Institute. It is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisons of the Copyright Act from the Cato Institute's website:
When Obama and Romney Talk Foreign Policy, Who Wins?

Posted by Christopher Preble

The presidential campaign will focus on foreign policy for a few hours on Tuesday when President Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York City while his Republican challenger Mitt Romney will address the Clinton Global Initiative just a few miles away. Each will try to wring some political advantage from speeches that are generally directed at foreign audiences.

Neither candidate is likely to come out a winner, although for different reasons. It will be difficult for President Obama to convince the electorate and the world that U.S. policies, particularly in the volatile Greater Middle East, are succeeding. But Mitt Romney’s challenge is greater. He must convince voters that his policies would result in tangible gains. It isn’t clear that they would, however, nor that his policies are sufficiently different from the president’s to convince voters to change horses in mid-stream.

The president is likely to call for staying the course. Echoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks from last week, he will try to convince the people of the Middle East that the United States remains their friend and partner, and he will tell skeptical Americans that the feeling is mutual. He may point to the large quantities of aid that U.S. taxpayers have sent to the region to win points with foreign audiences, but this risks alienating the voters here at home.

Obama may also emphasize that the United States intends to maintain a large military presence in the region so as to, as Secretary Clinton said last week, “help bring security to these nations so that the promise of the revolutions that they experienced can be realized.” But foreign listeners aren’t convinced that the United States has helped bring security to anyone, and they certainly don’t want U.S. help now.

Obama’s message to Americans, delivered between the lines of his UN speech, is that the United States cannot afford to disengage from the region. Be patient, Obama will say. Many decades of trying to manage the political affairs of other countries, often with the heavy hand of the U.S. military, has carried high costs and delivered few clear benefits, but it could have been worse.

Not so, says Romney and the Republicans. President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world has clearly failed, they claim. The Cairo speech in 2009, followed by the belated support for anti-Mubarak protesters in Egypt in 2011, and finally the decision to use U.S. military power to topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, don’t appear to have purchased us much good will. On the contrary, anti-American sentiment is running high, higher even than when Obama took office, according to some polls. The violence against U.S. officials and property merely punctuates the grim statistics, and invites ominous parallels to 1979.

But while Obama’s task will be difficult, Mitt Romney has an even higher hill to climb. He must differentiate his policies from the president’s and persuade U.S. voters, especially, but also the skeptics abroad, that his policies would be much better. His surrogates have implied that the events of the past fortnight certainly would not have occurred had Romney been in the Oval Office, but they haven’t explained how or why that is true.

Meanwhile, the few concrete policies that Romney champions are deeply unpopular in the region, and not much more popular with U.S. voters. His calls to add nearly $2 trillion in military spending over the next decade suggest a willingness to increase the U.S. military presence around the world, but especially in the Greater Middle East. Most Americans want U.S. troops to be brought home. His leading foreign policy adviser has criticized the Obama administration for refusing to intervene in the Syrian civil war. This suggests that the problem with U.S. policy has been too little meddling in the internal affairs of foreign countries, whereas most Americans believe that there has been too much. And Romney did not endorse Sen. Rand Paul’s effort to tie U.S. aid to conditions, so it is hard to see how he can score points against President Obama by promising to stick with the status quo.

However, all of these other issues pale in comparison to the most visible U.S. policy in the region of the past decade: the Iraq war. That disastrous conflict will hang heavily over Romney’s speech, as it has over his entire campaign, and over the GOP for several election cycles. Although most Americans now believe that the war never should have been fought, and most non-Americans never thought that it should have been, Romney refuses to repudiate it. On the contrary, he has staffed his campaign with some of the war’s leading advocates. Given his famous aversion to anything that might be construed as an apology, Romney is unlikely to evince any doubts about the war in his speech on Tuesday. But if he wants to convince voters that he will be a more capable steward of U.S. foreign policy than Obama has been, he must at least explain what lessons he takes away from an unpopular war. Otherwise, his implicit assertion that it couldn’t get any worse will fall flat with those who believe that it certainly could.

Christopher Preble • September 24, 2012


In my view, Preble has it about right: American foreign policy has drifted farther and farther off any constructive course since the 1950s. Eisenhower, and especially the Dulles brothers, gets some of the blame; Kennedy gets a whole lot more, he and people like McGeorge Bundy and Robert McNamara really screwed the pooch but it kept going downhill, except for a brief Nixon interlude when enlightened self interest regained pride of place, until now it makes no sense at all.

Rogues gallery:

(  (  (  (
John Foster Dulles                                Allen Dulles                                  McGeorge Bundy                 Robert McNamara
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on September 24, 2012, 22:27:40
Too right. I cheated a bit and read the penultimate chapter on Americnan destiny in Kaplan's new book, and he makes the rather obvious point that while the Us spends blood and treasure in the Middle East, the American elites tend to ignore the very massive problems on their own borders; especially the southern one.

In Kaplan's view, the American destiny will be fulfilled by embracing a North-South vision rather than an East West one (Kaplan is speaking of the parochial "sea to shining sea" East-West), and expending much of her time and effort to making the North South effort work. (Note, some of his other ideas along these lines flow more from "An Empire Wilderness", seeing the future more as a series of "city states" based on urban and exurban economies linked by local geography and continental trade).

American Foreign Policy seems to be informed by a McKindererite view of the world; preventing anyone from occupying the "heartland" in order to dominate the "World Island" might be the underlying "Grand Strategic" idea; but as any player of Risk will tell you; it is danmed hard to do and most people canot carry it off.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on September 25, 2012, 01:17:52
I am of the school of thought that evil must be confronted. German and Japanese expansion had to be stopped and the US reluctantly was dragged into WW2. The need to confront communism resulted in two regional wars Korea and Vietnam. Now the fight is against radical islamists who see their calling to force islam on the rest of the world. Were it not for the US and its allies they might be successful. The problem with radicals is that want change now. Whereas if they simply bided their time and worked within the western democracies they might achieve in time the quiet islamization of the west.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on September 25, 2012, 10:09:14
Evil must be confronted, but given limits of time and resources, you need to pick your battles and utilize your resources to the best effect.

Radical Islam in the "heartland" is probably best dealt with through "containment"; the United States was quite successful using this strategy against the USSR, and the supposed membership of the Caliphate is even less able to project power than the Soviet Union. Develop and export Fracking technology will undercut the one main reason the Middle East is interesting at all; collapsing the world price of oil will do wonders  for economic growth and political stability throughout the world
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on September 25, 2012, 10:28:09
Containment doesnt work.Sanctions dont work. The bad guys take and take until finally they have taken everything. Some things are not negotiable. Freedom and our way of life are the biggies for me. All of us have lost friends and loved one's in this fight and we do them a disservice not to confront evil until it is no more.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 25, 2012, 11:30:53
Containment doesnt work ...

Yes it does! See USSR 1946 to 1991 ~ for 45 years we, the American led West, contained the USSR until, finally, it collapsed. It tested us a few time - most notably in Korea, where it used proxies to actually engage us - but it never managed to meet us, face-to-face in battle because it knew it could not win.

George F. Kennan
Author of the Containment idea, and
an American hero in his own right
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Journeyman on September 25, 2012, 11:44:47
Containment doesnt work.Sanctions dont work.
I would suggest now is a good time to re-read Gaddis' Strategies of Containment. While pre-dating the Cold War's end by two decades, it still provides some relevant lessons. In particular, I'd look at the differences between George Kennan's "long telegram" and what played out due to NSC-68.

Kennan argued that the source of Russia's insecurity [read Islamist insecurity] was internal and could not be alleviated through diplomacy. Because the Kremlin [Ayatolas] could not govern by any means other than repression, portraying the outside world as being "evil, hostile, and menacing" was a boon to Soviet [Islamist] legitimacy.

Unfortunately NSC-68 committed the US to defending everywhere. Kennan's containment vision was one of attacking specific weaknesses, arguing for a strategy of "patience and firmness" that recognized disputes but maintained "a calculated relationship of resources to objectives."

I suspect that containment will work, letting the "internal contradictions" of the modernizing Persian/Arab world play themselves out. We just need to be rational about how we play out our containment policy, avoiding knee-jerk reactions.

All of us have lost friends and loved one's in this fight and we do them a disservice not to confront evil until it is no more.
Sorry T6, but the emotional grab actually detracts from any argument's logic. I also suspect that a policy of complete annihilation can only strengthen the Islamists' determination, adding fuel to their argument about the intentions of the "evil west." Containing them as they struggle through their own Reformation is neither appeasement nor a disservice to our fallen.

Edit: Obviously, ERC types faster than I.   ;)
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 25, 2012, 11:50:42
I would suggest now is a good time to re-read Gaddis' Strategies of Containment. While pre-dating the Cold War's end by two decades, it still provides some relevant lessons. In particular, I'd look at the differences between George Kennan's "long telegram" and what played out due to NSC-68.

Kennan argued that the source of Russia's insecurity [read Islamist insecurity] was internal and could not be alleviated through diplomacy. Because the Kremlin [Ayatolas] could not govern by any means other than repression, portraying the outside world as being "evil, hostile, and menacing" was a boon to Soviet [Islamist] legitimacy.

Unfortunately NSC-68 committed the US to defending everywhere. Kennan's containment vision was one of attacking specific weaknesses, arguing for a strategy of "patience and firmness" that recognized disputes but maintained "a calculated relationship of resources to objectives."

I suspect that containment will work, letting the "internal contradictions" of the modernizing Persian/Arab world play themselves out. We just need to be rational about how we play out our containment policy, avoiding knee-jerk reactions.

Sorry T6, but the emotional grab actually detracts from any argument's logic. I also suspect that a policy of complete annihilation can only strengthen the Islamists' determination, adding fuel to their argument about the intentions of the "evil west." Containing them as they struggle through their own Reformation is neither appeasement nor a disservice to our fallen.

Edit: Obviously, ERC types faster than I.   ;)

I guess I do type faster than JM, but I wish I had said the highlighted parts.  :salute: and +300 Milpoints
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Journeyman on September 25, 2012, 11:56:24
.. but I wish I had said the highlighted parts. applied liberally stolen insights from John Lewis Gaddis to our current situation   ;D
   Sometimes "wisdom" is just knowing who to quote.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on September 25, 2012, 12:13:02
Don't think that containment is a passive process T6 (even if our historical example wasn't particularly "activist").

Using communications to implant memes, disrupting their trade (by suppressing oil prices) and judiciously supporting elements within such as the Kurds will keep the self styled Caliphate busy for decades, and given the shape of the Islamic Crescent along the shores of Africa, through the Levant, Iran, across the north of India and south into Indonesia we can employ a maritime strategy, positioning ourselves in the Indian Ocean and using the "interior" position to strike at the times and places of our choosing, should that be the desired strategic response to some provocation or other.

The prohibition against land wars in Asia are fully in force here, especially given the demographic imbalance over a long war, but we also have allies in the containment policy; Russia in the Caucus and Trans Caucus regions and the 'Stans, China in the East and India in the center of the crescent. They mostly do not share our values or even goals, but all have a pressing interest in keeping Radical Islam contained, so will be working more or less in concert with the West on containment.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Old Sweat on September 25, 2012, 12:20:28
Let me ask a couple of questions. If we accept that a campaign strategy that worked in one theatre will probably fail given a different set of circumstances, how would you apply containment that was successful against the Soviets to the Islamist crescent with its fairly wide variations in culture and the contradictions caused by various branches of creed and tribal/ethnic background? It may be that frontier soldiering like we practiced in NATO for 40 years would be counter-productive.

On another tack, given that appeasement and apologies can be treated with suspicion and/or considered a sign of weakness, how do we convince them restraint on the part of the west is not a sign of fear?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on September 25, 2012, 13:33:52
How do you contain a religion ?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: GAP on September 25, 2012, 13:57:05
Maybe we should take a page out of the Soviet doctrine. They were brutal when it came to them being hit by got the message out quickly and effectively.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 25, 2012, 16:02:46
Let me ask a couple of questions. If we accept that a campaign strategy that worked in one theatre will probably fail given a different set of circumstances, how would you apply containment that was successful against the Soviets to the Islamist crescent with its fairly wide variations in culture and the contradictions caused by various branches of creed and tribal/ethnic background? It may be that frontier soldiering like we practiced in NATO for 40 years would be counter-productive.

On another tack, given that appeasement and apologies can be treated with suspicion and/or considered a sign of weakness, how do we convince them restraint on the part of the west is not a sign of fear?

Interesting question ... which I do not propose to answer but which caused me to revisit The Sources of Soviet Conduct which was published in Foreign Affairs in 1947. It was 'signed' by X but it as open secret that X was George Kennan.

I have highlighted some parts of The Sources of Soviet Conduct that I guess Kennan might have used had he been writing 60+ years later about the Islamic Crescent.

Emphasis and edits are mine
The Sources of Soviet Conduct

By "X" (George F. Kennan)

July 1947

The political personality of Soviet Islamist power as we know it today is the product of ideology and circumstances: ideology inherited by the present Soviet Islamist leaders from the movement in which they had their political origin, and circumstances of the power which they now have exercised for nearly three decades in Russia the Islamic regions. There can be few tasks of psychological analysis more difficult than to try to trace the interaction of these two forces and the relative role of each in the determination of official Soviet conduct. Yet the attempt must be made if that conduct is to be understood and effectively countered.

It is difficult to summarize the set of ideological concepts with which the Soviet leaders came into power. Marxian ideology, in its Russian-Communist projection, has always been in process of subtle evolution. The materials on which it bases itself are extensive and complex. But the outstanding features of Communist thought as it existed in 1916 may perhaps be summarized as follows: (a) that the central factor in the life of man, the factor which determines the character of public life and the "physiognomy of society," is the system by which material goods are produced and exchanged their god's will as handed down to them in their Quran; (b) that the capitalist system of production is a nefarious one which inevitably leads to the exploitation of the working class by the capital-owning class and is incapable of developing adequately the economic resources of society or of distributing fairly the material goods produced by human labor; (c) that Wetern capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction and must, in view of the inability of the capital-owning class to adjust itself to economic change, result eventually and inescapably in a revolutionary transfer of power to the working class the Muslim god's will; and (d) that imperialism, the final phase of capitalism, leads directly to war and revolution.

The rest may be outlined in Lenin's own words: "Unevenness of economic and political development is the inflexible law of capitalism. It follows from this that the victory of Socialism may come originally in a few capitalist countries or even in a single capitalist country. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and having organized Socialist production at home, would rise against the remaining capitalist world, drawing to itself in the process the oppressed classes of other countries." [see endnote 1] It must be noted that there was no assumption that capitalism would perish without proletarian revolution. A final push was needed from a revolutionary proletariat movement in order to tip over the tottering structure. But it was regarded as inevitable that sooner or later that push be given.

For 50 years prior to the outbreak of the Revolution, this pattern of thought had exercised great fascination for the members of the Russian revolutionary movement. Frustrated, discontented, hopeless of finding self-expression -- or too impatient to seek it -- in the confining limits of the Tsarist existing political system, yet lacking wide popular support for their choice of bloody revolution as a means of social betterment, these revolutionists found in Marxist fundamentalist Islamic theory dogma a highly convenient rationalization for their own instinctive desires. It afforded pseudo-scientific religious justification for their impatience, for their categorical denial of all value in the Tsarist existing system, for their yearning for power and revenge and for their inclination to cut corners in the pursuit of it. It is therefore no wonder that they had come to believe implicitly in the truth and soundness of the Marxian-Leninist teachings, so congenial to their own impulses and emotions. Their sincerity need not be impugned. This is a phenomenon as old as human nature itself. It has never been more aptly described than by Edward Gibbon, who wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: "From enthusiasm to imposture the step is perilous and slippery; the demon of Socrates affords a memorable instance how a wise man may deceive himself, how a good man may deceive others, how the conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud." And it was with this set of conceptions that the members of the Bolshevik Party entered into power.

Now it must be noted that through all the years of preparation for revolution, the attention of these men, as indeed of Marx himself, had been centered less on the future form which Socialism [see endnote 2] would take than on the necessary overthrow of rival power which, in their view, had to precede the introduction of Socialism. Their views, therefore, on the positive program to be put into effect, once power was attained, were for the most part nebulous, visionary and impractical. Beyond the nationalization of industry and the expropriation of large private capital holdings there was no agreed program. The treatment of the peasantry, which according to the Marxist formulation was not of the proletariat, had always been a vague spot in the pattern of Communist thought; and it remained an object of controversy and vacillation for the first ten years of Communist power.

The circumstances of the immediate post-revolution period -- the existence in Russia of civil war and foreign intervention, together with the obvious fact that the Communists represented only a tiny minority of the Russian people -- made the establishment of dictatorial power a necessity. The experiment with "war Communism" and the abrupt attempt to eliminate private production and trade had unfortunate economic consequences and caused further bitterness against the new revolutionary regime. While the temporary relaxation of the effort to communize Russia, represented by the New Economic Policy, alleviated some of this economic distress and thereby served its purpose, it also made it evident that the "capitalistic sector of society" was still prepared to profit at once from any relaxation of governmental pressure, and would, if permitted to continue to exist, always constitute a powerful opposing element to the Soviet regime and a serious rival for influence in the country. Somewhat the same situation prevailed with respect to the individual peasant who, in his own small way, was also a private producer.

Lenin, had he lived, might have proved a great enough man to reconcile these conflicting forces to the ultimate benefit of Russian society, though this is questionable. But be that as it may, Stalin, and those whom he led in the struggle for succession to Lenin's position of leadership, were not the men to tolerate rival political forces in the sphere of power which they coveted. Their sense of insecurity was too great. Their particular brand of fanaticism, unmodified by any of the Anglo-Saxon traditions of compromise, was too fierce and too jealous to envisage any permanent sharing of power. From the Russian-Asiatic world out of which they had emerged they carried with them a skepticism as to the possibilities of permanent and peaceful coexistence of rival forces. Easily persuaded of their own doctrinaire "rightness," they insisted on the submission or destruction of all competing power. Outside of the Communist Party, Russian society was to have no rigidity. There were to be no forms of collective human activity or association which would not be dominated by the Party. No other force in Russian society was to be permitted to achieve vitality or integrity. Only the Party was to have structure. All else was to be an amorphous mass.

And within the Party the same principle was to apply. The mass of Party members might go through the motions of election, deliberation, decision and action; but in these motions they were to be animated not by their own individual wills but by the awesome breath of the Party leadership and the over-brooding presence of "the word."

Let it be stressed again that subjectively these men probably did not seek absolutism for its own sake. They doubtless believed -- and found it easy to believe -- that they alone knew what was good for society and that they would accomplish that good once their power was secure and unchallengeable. But in seeking that security of their own rule they were prepared to recognize no restrictions, either of God or man, on the character of their methods. And until such time as that security might be achieved, they placed far down on their scale of operational priorities the comforts and happiness of the peoples entrusted to their care.

Now the outstanding circumstance concerning the Soviet regime is that down to the present day this process of political consolidation has never been completed and the men in the Kremlin have continued to be predominantly absorbed with the struggle to secure and make absolute the power which they seized in November 1917. They have endeavored to secure it primarily against forces at home, within Soviet society itself. But they have also endeavored to secure it against the outside world. For ideology, as we have seen, taught them that the outside world was hostile and that it was their duty eventually to overthrow the political forces beyond their borders. The powerful hands of Russian history and tradition reached up to sustain them in this feeling. Finally, their own aggressive intransigence with respect to the outside world began to find its own reaction; and they were soon forced, to use another Gibbonesque phrase, "to chastise the contumacy" which they themselves had provoked. It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.

Now it lies in the nature of the mental world of the Soviet leaders, as well as in the character of their ideology, that no opposition to them can be officially recognized as having any merit or justification whatsoever. Such opposition can flow, in theory, only from the hostile and incorrigible forces of dying capitalism. As long as remnants of capitalism were officially recognized as existing in Russia, it was possible to place on them, as an internal element, part of the blame for the maintenance of a dictatorial form of society. But as these remnants were liquidated, little by little, this justification fell away; and when it was indicated officially that they had been finally destroyed, it disappeared altogether. And this fact created one of the most basic of the compulsions which came to act upon the Soviet regime: since capitalism no longer existed in Russia and since it could not be admitted that there could be serious or widespread opposition to the Kremlin springing spontaneously from the liberated masses under its authority, it became necessary to justify the retention of the dictatorship by stressing the menace of capitalism abroad.

This began at an early date. In 1924 Stalin specifically defended the retention of the "organs of suppression," meaning, among others, the army and the secret police, on the ground that "as long as there is a capitalist encirclement there will be danger of intervention with all the consequences that flow from that danger." In accordance with that theory, and from that time on, all internal opposition forces in Russia have consistently been portrayed as the agents of foreign forces of reaction antagonistic to Soviet power.

By the same token, tremendous emphasis has been placed on the original Communist thesis of a basic antagonism between the capitalist and Socialist worlds. It is clear, from many indications, that this emphasis is not founded in reality. The real facts concerning it have been confused by the existence abroad of genuine resentment provoked by Soviet philosophy and tactics and occasionally by the existence of great centers of military power, notably the Nazi regime in Germany and the Japanese Government of the late 1930s, which did indeed have aggressive designs against the Soviet Union. But there is ample evidence that the stress laid in Moscow on the menace confronting Soviet society from the world outside its borders is founded not in the realities of foreign antagonism but in the necessity of explaining away the maintenance of dictatorial authority at home.

Now the maintenance of this pattern of Soviet Islamist power, namely, the pursuit of unlimited authority domestically, accompanied by the cultivation of the semi-myth of implacable foreign hostility, has gone far to shape the actual machinery of Soviet power as we know it today in some countries where fundamentalist Islamist regimes have taken power. Internal organs of administration which did not serve this purpose withered on the vine. Organs which did serve this purpose became vastly swollen. The security of Soviet Islamist power came to rest on the iron discipline of the Party, on the severity and ubiquity of the secret police, and on the uncompromising economic monopolism of the state. The "organs of suppression," in which the Soviet leaders had sought security from rival forces, became in large measure the masters of those whom they were designed to serve. Today the major part of the structure of Soviet power is committed to the perfection of the dictatorship and to the maintenance of the concept of Russia as in a state of siege, with the enemy lowering beyond the walls. And the millions of human beings who form that part of the structure of power must defend at all costs this concept of Russia's position, for without it they are themselves superfluous.

As things stand today, the rulers can no longer dream of parting with these organs of suppression. The quest for absolute power, pursued now for nearly three decades with a ruthlessness unparalleled (in scope at least) in modern times, has again produced internally, as it did externally, its own reaction. The excesses of the police apparatus have fanned the potential opposition to the regime into something far greater and more dangerous than it could have been before those excesses began.

But least of all can the rulers dispense with the fiction by which the maintenance of dictatorial power has been defended. For this fiction has been canonized in Soviet philosophy by the excesses already committed in its name; and it is now anchored in the Soviet structure of thought by bonds far greater than those of mere ideology.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Old Sweat on September 25, 2012, 16:25:31
This could lead to the somewhat inappropriate self-licking ice cream cone analogy where the ramifications not so serious. Unlike Communism, where the system came to exist for the benefit of the party, and not the masses, Islam as a guide for life could appeal to the population as a whole. The disparities in rewards found in some Gulf states may lead to their replacement by more radical but economically egalitarian regimes. However, some of the more radical groups such as the Taliban, by their excesses may not enjoy as wide spread support as they believe. They certainly were prone to imposing their will by draconian measures. This lack of widespread rewards and the need to enforce the doctrine also ultimately was one of the great weaknesses of Communism. It still remains that Islamist indoctrination could prove to be more successful as a popular movement than Communism ever was, which brings me back to my original question - re how to contain it until it ultimately falters of its own contradictions?

It seems to me that as a principle to appease or to condone outrages against the greater world community outside the cresecent can not be allowed. At the same time, the application of economic power to force them into a race they cannot would seem fruitful, even if it is a long term goal.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 25, 2012, 16:25:45
Continuing with The Sources of Soviet Conduct:

So much for the historical background. What does it spell in terms of the political personality of Soviet power as we know it today?

Of the original ideology, nothing has been officially junked. Belief is maintained in the basic badness of capitalism, in the inevitability of its destruction, in the obligation of the proletariat to assist in that destruction and to take power into its own hands. But stress has come to be laid primarily on those concepts which relate most specifically to the Soviet regime itself: to its position as the sole truly Socialist regime in a dark and misguided world, and to the relationships of power within it.

The first of these concepts is that of the innate antagonism between capitalism and Socialism secularism and Islamist beliefs. We have seen how deeply that concept has become imbedded in foundations of Soviet power in several Muslim states. It has profound implications for Russia's their conduct as a members of international society. It means that there can never be on Moscow's their side any sincere assumption of a community of aims between the Soviet Union them and powers which are regarded as capitalist secular - including China. It must invariably be assumed in Moscow Muslim capitals that the aims of the capitalist secular world are antagonistic to the Soviet Muslim regime, and therefore to the interests of the peoples it controls. If the Soviet Muslim government occasionally sets its signature to documents which would indicate the contrary, this is to be regarded as a tactical maneuver permissible in dealing with the enemy (who is without honor) and should be taken in the spirit of caveat emptor. Basically, the antagonism remains. It is postulated. And from it flow many of the phenomena which we find disturbing in the Kremlin's many Muslim countries' conduct of foreign policy: the secretiveness, the lack of frankness, the duplicity, the wary suspiciousness and the basic unfriendliness of purpose. These phenomena are there to stay, for the foreseeable future. There can be variations of degree and of emphasis. When there is something the Russians want from us, one or the other of these features of their policy may be thrust temporarily into the background; and when that happens there will always be Americans who will leap forward with gleeful announcements that "the Russians have changed," and some who will even try to take credit for having brought about such "changes." But we should not be misled by tactical maneuvers. These characteristics of Soviet policy, like the postulate from which they flow, are basic to the internal nature of Soviet power, and will be with us, whether in the foreground or the background, until the internal nature of Soviet power is changed.

This means that we are going to continue for a long time to find the Russians Muslims difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of capitalism secularism has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of progress can take their time in preparing the final coup de gráce. Meanwhile, what is vital is that the "Socialist fatherland" "umma" -- that oasis of power which has been already won for Socialism Islam in the person of the Soviet Union -- should be cherished and defended by all good color=orange]Communists Muslims at home and abroad, its fortunes promoted, its enemies badgered and confounded.[/color] The promotion of premature, "adventuristic" revolutionary projects abroad which might embarrass Soviet power in any way would be an inexcusable, even a counterrevolutionary act. The cause of Socialism is the support and promotion of Soviet power, as defined in Moscow.

This brings us to the second of the concepts important to contemporary Soviet outlook. That is the infallibility of the Kremlin Quran. The Soviet concept of power, which permits no focal points of organization outside the Party itself, requires that the Party leadership remain in theory the sole repository of truth. For if truth were to be found elsewhere, there would be justification for its expression in organized activity. But it is precisely that which the Kremlin cannot and will not permit.

The leadership of the Communist Party is therefore always right, and has been always right ever since in 1929 Stalin formalized his personal power by announcing that decisions of the Politburo were being taken unanimously.

On the principle of infallibility there rests the iron discipline of the Communist Party Islamaist revolutionary movements. In fact, the two concepts are mutually self-supporting. Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility. Infallibility requires the observance of discipline. And the two together go far to determine the behaviorism of the entire Soviet Islamist apparatus of power. But their effect cannot be understood unless a third factor be taken into account: namely, the fact that the leadership is at liberty to put forward for tactical purposes any particular thesis which it finds useful to the cause at any particular moment and to require the faithful and unquestioning acceptance of the thesis by the members of the movement as a whole. This means that truth is not a constant but is actually created, for all intents and purposes, by the Soviet fundamentalist Islamist leaders themselves. It may vary from week to week, month to month. It is nothing absolute and immutable -- nothing which flows from objective reality. It is only the most recent manifestation of the wisdom of those in whom the ultimate wisdom is supposed to reside, because they represent the logic of history world of god. The accumulative effect of these factors is to give to the whole subordinate apparatus of Soviet Islamist power an unshakable stubbornness and steadfastness in its orientation. This orientation can be changed at will by the Kremlin but by no other power. Once a given party line has been laid down on a given issue of current policy, the whole Soviet governmental machine, including the mechanism of diplomacy, moves inexorably along the prescribed path, like a persistent toy automobile wound up and headed in a given direction, stopping only when it meets with some unanswerable force. The individuals who are the components of this machine are unamenable to argument or reason which comes to them from outside sources. Their whole training has taught them to mistrust and discount the glib persuasiveness of the outside world. Like the white dog before the phonograph, they hear only the "master's voice." And if they are to be called off from the purposes last dictated to them, it is the master who must call them off. Thus the foreign representative cannot hope that his words will make any impression on them. The most that he can hope is that they will be transmitted to those at the top, who are capable of changing the party line. But even those are not likely to be swayed by any normal logic in the words of the bourgeois representative. Since there can be no appeal to common purposes, there can be no appeal to common mental approaches. For this reason, facts speak louder than words to the ears of the Kremlin; and words carry the greatest weight when they have the ring of reflecting, or being backed up by, facts of unchallengeable validity.

But we have seen that the Kremlin Islamist leadership is under no ideological compulsion to accomplish its purposes in a hurry. Like the Christian Church, it is dealing in ideological concepts which are of long-term validity, and it can afford to be patient. It has no right to risk the existing achievements of the revolution for the sake of vain baubles of the future. The very teachings of Lenin the prophet Mohamed  himself require great caution and flexibility in the pursuit of Communist Islamist purposes. Again, these precepts are fortified by the lessons of Russian history: of centuries of obscure battles between nomadic forces over the stretches of a vast unfortified plain. Here caution, circumspection, flexibility and deception are the valuable qualities; and their value finds natural appreciation in the Russian or the oriental North  African, Middle Eastern and West Asian mind. Thus the Kremlin Islamist leadership has no compunction about retreating in the face of superior force. And being under the compulsion of no timetable, it does not get panicky under the necessity for such retreat. Its political action is a fluid stream which moves constantly, wherever it is permitted to move, toward a given goal. Its main concern is to make sure that it has filled every nook and cranny available to it in the basin of world power. But if it finds unassailable barriers in its path, it accepts these philosophically and accommodates itself to them. The main thing is that there should always be pressure, unceasing constant pressure, toward the desired goal.[/color] There is no trace of any feeling in Soviet psychology that that goal must be reached at any given time.

These considerations make Soviet diplomacy at once easier and more difficult to deal with than the diplomacy of individual aggressive leaders like Napoleon and Hitler. On the one hand it is more sensitive to contrary force, more ready to yield on individual sectors of the diplomatic front when that force is felt to be too strong, and thus more rational in the logic and rhetoric of power. On the other hand it cannot be easily defeated or discouraged by a single victory on the part of its opponents. And the patient persistence by which it is animated means that it can be effectively countered not by sporadic acts which represent the momentary whims of democratic opinion but only by intelligent long-range policies on the part of Russia's adversaries -- policies no less steady in their purpose, and no less variegated and resourceful in their application, than those of the Soviet Union itself.

In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian Islamist expansive tendencies. It is important to note, however, that such a policy has nothing to do with outward histrionics: with threats or blustering or superfluous gestures of outward "toughness." While the Kremlin Islamist leadership is basically flexible in its reaction to political realities, it is by no means unamenable to considerations of prestige. Like almost any other government, it can be placed by tactless and threatening gestures in a position where it cannot afford to yield even though this might be dictated by its sense of realism. The Russian Islamist leaders are keen judges of human psychology, and as such they are highly conscious that loss of temper and of self-control is never a source of strength in political affairs. They are quick to exploit such evidences of weakness. For these reasons, it is a sine qua non of successful dealing with Russia Muslim states that the foreign government in question should remain at all times cool and collected and that its demands on Russian policy should be put forward in such a manner as to leave the way open for a compliance not too detrimental to Russian their prestige.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 25, 2012, 16:37:13
The 3rd of 4 parts of The Sources of Soviet Conduct (which deals, mainly, with the internal contradictions in the USSR's system):

In the light of the above, it will be clearly seen that the Soviet Islamist pressure against the free institutions of the Western world is something that can be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy the Islamist threat, but which cannot be charmed or talked out of existence. The Russians Islamist look forward to a duel of infinite duration, and they see that already they have scored great successes. It must be borne in mind that there was a time when the Communist Party represented far more of a minority in the sphere of Russian national life than Soviet power today represents in the world community.

But if ideology convinces the rulers of Russia that truth is on their side and that they can therefore afford to wait, those of us on whom that ideology has no claim are free to examine objectively the validity of that premise. The Soviet thesis not only implies complete lack of control by the west over its own economic destiny, it likewise assumes Russian unity, discipline and patience over an infinite period. Let us bring this apocalyptic vision down to earth, and suppose that the western world finds the strength and resourcefulness to contain Soviet power over a period of ten to fifteen years. What does that spell for Russia itself?

The Soviet leaders, taking advantage of the contributions of modern technique to the arts of despotism, have solved the question of obedience within the confines of their power. Few challenge their authority; and even those who do are unable to make that challenge valid as against the organs of suppression of the state.

The Kremlin has also proved able to accomplish its purpose of building up in Russia, regardless of the interests of the inhabitants, an industrial foundation of heavy metallurgy, which is, to be sure, not yet complete but which is nevertheless continuing to grow and is approaching those of the other major industrial countries. All of this, however, both the maintenance of internal political security and the building of heavy industry, has been carried out at a terrible cost in human life and in human hopes and energies. It has necessitated the use of forced labor on a scale unprecedented in modern times under conditions of peace. It has involved the neglect or abuse of other phases of Soviet economic life, particularly agriculture, consumers' goods production, housing and transportation.

To all that, the war has added its tremendous toll of destruction, death and human exhaustion. In consequence of this, we have in Russia today a population which is physically and spiritually tired. The mass of the people are disillusioned, skeptical and no longer as accessible as they once were to the magical attraction which Soviet power still radiates to its followers abroad. The avidity with which people seized upon the slight respite accorded to the Church for tactical reasons during the war was eloquent testimony to the fact that their capacity for faith and devotion found little expression in the purposes of the regime.

In these circumstances, there are limits to the physical and nervous strength of people themselves. These limits are absolute ones, and are binding even for the cruelest dictatorship, because beyond them people cannot be driven. The forced labor camps and the other agencies of constraint provide temporary means of compelling people to work longer hours than their own volition or mere economic pressure would dictate; but if people survive them at all they become old before their time and must be considered as human casualties to the demands of dictatorship. In either case their best powers are no longer available to society and can no longer be enlisted in the service of the state.

Here only the younger generation can help. The younger generation, despite all vicissitudes and sufferings, is numerous and vigorous; and the Russians are a talented people. But it still remains to be seen what will be the effects on mature performance of the abnormal emotional strains of childhood which Soviet dictatorship created and which were enormously increased by the war. Such things as normal security and placidity of home environment have practically ceased to exist in the Soviet Union outside of the most remote farms and villages. And observers are not yet sure whether that is not going to leave its mark on the overall capacity of the generation now coming into maturity.

In addition to this, we have the fact that Soviet economic development, while it can list certain formidable achievements, has been precariously spotty and uneven. Russian Communists who speak of the "uneven development of capitalism" should blush at the contemplation of their own national economy. Here certain branches of economic life, such as the metallurgical and machine industries, have been pushed out of all proportion to other sectors of economy. Here is a nation striving to become in a short period one of the great industrial nations of the world while it still has no highway network worthy of the name and only a relatively primitive network of railways. Much has been done to increase efficiency of labor and to teach primitive peasants something about the operation of machines. But maintenance is still a crying deficiency of all Soviet economy. Construction is hasty and poor in quality. Depreciation must be enormous. And in vast sectors of economic life it has not yet been possible to instill into labor anything like that general culture of production and technical self-respect which characterizes the skilled worker of the west.

It is difficult to see how these deficiencies can be corrected at an early date by a tired and dispirited population working largely under the shadow of fear and compulsion. And as long as they are not overcome, Russia will remain economically a vulnerable, and in a certain sense an impotent, nation, capable of exporting its enthusiasm and of radiating the strange charm of its primitive political vitality but unable to back up those articles of export by the real evidences of material power and prosperity.

Meanwhile, a great uncertainty hangs over the political life of the Soviet Union. That is the uncertainty involved in the transfer of power from one individual or group of individuals to others.

This is, of course, outstandingly the problem of the personal position of Stalin. We must remember that his succession to Lenin's pinnacle of preeminence in the Communist movement was the only such transfer of individual authority which the Soviet Union has experienced. That transfer took 12 years to consolidate. It cost the lives of millions of people and shook the state to its foundations. The attendant tremors were felt all through the international revolutionary movement, to the disadvantage of the Kremlin itself.

It is always possible that another transfer of preeminent power may take place quietly and inconspicuously, with no repercussions anywhere. But again, it is possible that the questions involved may unleash, to use some of Lenin's words, one of those "incredibly swift transitions" from "delicate deceit" to "wild violence" which characterize Russian history, and may shake Soviet power to its foundations.

But this is not only a question of Stalin himself. There has been, since 1938, a dangerous congealment of political life in the higher circles of Soviet power. The All-Union Congress of Soviets, in theory the supreme body of the Party, is supposed to meet not less often than once in three years. It will soon be eight full years since its last meeting. During this period membership in the Party has numerically doubled. Party mortality during the war was enormous; and today well over half of the Party members are persons who have entered since the last Party congress was held. Meanwhile, the same small group of men has carried on at the top through an amazing series of national vicissitudes. Surely there is some reason why the experiences of the war brought basic political changes to every one of the great governments of the west. Surely the causes of that phenomenon are basic enough to be present somewhere in the obscurity of Soviet political life, as well. And yet no recognition has been given to these causes in Russia.

It must be surmised from this that even within so highly disciplined an organization as the Communist Party there must be a growing divergence in age, outlook and interest between the great mass of Party members, only so recently recruited into the movement, and the little self-perpetuating clique of men at the top, whom most of these Party members have never met, with whom they have never conversed, and with whom they can have no political intimacy.

Who can say whether, in these circumstances, the eventual rejuvenation of the higher spheres of authority (which can only be a matter of time) can take place smoothly and peacefully, or whether rivals in the quest for higher power will not eventually reach down into these politically immature and inexperienced masses in order to find support for their respective claims? If this were ever to happen, strange consequences could flow for the Communist Party Islamist leaders: for the membership at large has been exercised only in the practices of iron discipline and obedience and not in the arts of compromise and accommodation. And if disunity were ever to seize and paralyze the Party, the chaos and weakness of Russian society would be revealed in forms beyond description. For we have seen that Soviet power is only a crust concealing an amorphous mass of human beings among whom no independent organizational structure is tolerated. In Russia there is not even such a thing as local government. The present generation of Russians have never known spontaneity of collective action. If, consequently, anything were ever to occur to disrupt the unity and efficacy of the Party as a political instrument, Soviet Russia might be changed overnight from one of the strongest to one of the weakest and most pitiable of national societies.

Thus the future of Soviet power may not be by any means as secure as Russian capacity for self-delusion would make it appear to the men in the Kremlin. That they can keep power themselves, they have demonstrated. That they can quietly and easily turn it over to others remains to be proved. Meanwhile, the hardships of their rule and the vicissitudes of international life have taken a heavy toll of the strength and hopes of the great people on whom their power rests. It is curious to note that the ideological power of Soviet authority is strongest today in areas beyond the frontiers of Russia, beyond the reach of its police power. This phenomenon brings to mind a comparison used by Thomas Mann in his great novel Buddenbrooks. Observing that human institutions often show the greatest outward brilliance at a moment when inner decay is in reality farthest advanced, he compared the Buddenbrook family, in the days of its greatest glamour, to one of those stars whose light shines most brightly on this world when in reality it has long since ceased to exist. And who can say with assurance that the strong light still cast by the Kremlin on the dissatisfied peoples of the western world is not the powerful afterglow of a constellation which is in actuality on the wane? This cannot be proved. And it cannot be disproved. But the possibility remains (and in the opinion of this writer it is a strong one) that Soviet power, like the capitalist world of its conception, bears within it the seeds of its own decay, and that the sprouting of these seeds is well advanced.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 25, 2012, 16:52:38
And the conclusion to The Sources of Soviet Conduct:

It is clear that the United States cannot expect in the foreseeable future to enjoy political intimacy with the Soviet any Muslim regime. It must continue to regard the Soviet Union each as a rival, not a partner, in the political arena. It must continue to expect that Soviet their policies will reflect no abstract love of peace and stability, no real faith in the possibility of a permanent happy coexistence of the Socialist and capitalist Muslim and secular worlds, but rather a cautious, persistent pressure toward the disruption and weakening of all rival influence and rival power.

Balanced against this are the facts that Russia the Islamic crescent, as opposed to the western world in general, is still by far the weaker party, that Soviet policy is highly flexible, and that Soviet society may well contain deficiencies which will eventually weaken its own total potential. This would of itself warrant the United States entering with reasonable confidence upon a policy of firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counterforce at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interest of a peaceful and stable world.

But in actuality the possibilities for American policy are by no means limited to holding the line and hoping for the best. It is entirely possible for the United States to influence by its actions the internal developments, both within Russia any Muslim state and throughout the international Communist Islamist movement, by which Russian Islamist policy is largely determined. This is not only a question of the modest measure of informational activity which this government can conduct in the Soviet Union Islamic crescent and elsewhere, although that, too, is important. It is rather a question of the degree to which the United States can create among the peoples of the world generally the impression of a country which knows what it wants, which is coping successfully with the problems of its internal life and with the responsibilities of a world power, and which has a spiritual vitality capable of holding its own among the major ideological currents of the time. To the extent that such an impression can be created and maintained, the aims of Russian Communism Islamism must appear sterile and quixotic, the hopes and enthusiasm of Moscow's its supporters must wane, and added strain must be imposed on the Kremlin's Islamists' foreign policies. For the palsied decrepitude of the capitalist secular world is the keystone of Communist Islamist philosophy. Even the failure of the United States to experience the early economic depression which the ravens of the Red Square have been predicting with such complacent confidence since hostilities ceased would have deep and important repercussions throughout the Communist world.

By the same token, exhibitions of indecision, disunity and internal disintegration within this country have an exhilarating effect on the whole Communist movement. At each evidence of these tendencies, a thrill of hope and excitement goes through the Communist world; a new jauntiness can be noted in the Moscow tread; new groups of foreign supporters climb on to what they can only view as the bandwagon of international politics; and Russian pressure increases all along the line in international affairs.

In would be an exaggeration to say that American behavior unassisted and alone could exercise a power of life and death over the Communist Islamist movement and bring about the early fall of Soviet Islamist power in Russia. But the United States has it in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy Islamism must operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and circumspection than it has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the breakup or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power. For no mystical, messianic movement -- and particularly not that of the Kremlin -- can face frustration indefinitely without eventually adjusting itself in one way or another to the logic of that state of affairs.

Thus the decision will really fall in large measure on this country itself. The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.

Surely, there was never a fairer test of national quality than this. In the light of these circumstances, the thoughtful observer of Russian-American relations will find no cause for complaint in the Kremlin's challenge to American society. He will rather experience a certain gratitude to a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear.

All in all, I think many of Kennan's observations about the USSR and Russo-American relations in the world are equally applicable to Islam and the secular West in the 21st century ... smart fellow that Kennen.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on September 25, 2012, 20:54:51
No one as yet has addressed my question. How do you contain a religion ? Containing Iran has worked so well that they are very close to nuclear weapons. Containing a country is a waste of time if you arent able to offer the threat of force and do so in a way that the other side rethinks its policy.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 25, 2012, 21:25:46
Islam, in and of itself, is NOT our enemy and it doesn't need containing; many, many Muslims, however, live in weak, I dare even to say retarded, cultures that exploit the parts of Islam which, like many parts of Judaism and Christianity, give support to customs and traditions that make it hard, maybe even impossible, to coexist with us in a sophisticated, modern, secular world.

In my opinion Islam - at least as it is practiced in North Africa, the Middle East and West Asia, is in great need of a reformation ( because I believe that it, the reformation, is an essential precursor to an Africa/Arab/Persian/West Asian enlightenment ( without which I am fairly certain that North African/Middle Eastern/West Asian region will dissolve into bloody, murderous chaos.

I think we should try to contain the Islamic world for a couple or three generations while they get on with the difficult business of reformation/enlightenment. I also think that part of our containment programme should be to separate the Asian Muslims (mostly in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, and Malaysia) from the Arabs and Persians who are trying to impose an alien, Arab/Persian, culture on them.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on September 25, 2012, 21:27:15
T6; you cannot contain a religion, but rather you can use multiple tools to keep religious extremists from creating havoc.

The Islamic "world" is criss crossed by multiple ethnic and religious subdivisions, a far graver degree of economic inequality that the "99%" even conceive of as well as horrific abuses of human rights. Empowering selected groups with aid or information, and promoting ideas like equality for women or turning other branches of Islam such a Sufism into the "acknowledged" brand of Islam in the West (and always using Sufi Imans to publicly address issues related to Islam and beaming that back into the Islamic world) are some of the ways that the energies of the radicals can be dissipated. Couple that to an aggressive policy of containment and Western oil import substitution to cripple their economies and they will have more people fighting with (and over) fewer resources.

Now Edward may be right in the idea that current events are leading to a regional "30 years war" which will eventually lead to some sort of Islamic "reformation", so the other reason for containment is to keep this war from spilling over the various borders into the metropoles of Europe, Russia, India or China, and snuffing out any home grown responses in the Americas.

So I don't see containment as simply patrolling the perimeter of the Islamic world, but more like putting a lid on a pressure cooker and then turning up the heat, but applying the heat without using vast quantities of blood and treasure. President George W Bush may have set the process in motion by invading Iraq and evicting the Ba'athist party from power (much like removing a stone at the bottom of a large pile of rocks), but now all the pieces are shifting under their own momentum, so let's step aside and watch the heap collapse and see what remains when the dust settles.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: GAP on September 25, 2012, 23:38:53
so let's step aside and watch the heap collapse and see what remains when the dust settles.

A whole bunch of wacky theocracies......
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Journeyman on September 26, 2012, 00:30:39
To attempt an answer for T6, I would say that you physically contain the more rabid Islamists through passport and immigration sanctions -- physical border security.

You'd then "contain" (for purposes of framing this in Cold War terms) the lesser religious animosity through attempting to expose those populations to differing interpretations of the faiths. Not in any "my god can beat your god nyaa nyaa" way; think Radio Free Europe broadcasting "On Broadway" into East Berlin (I know you remember the commercial and are humming it in your head  ;) ). Let them see the lifestyle differences and judge for themselves -- much like some Libyans recently did to some hardline Islamists.

By saying, repeatedly, that "we should just go in there and kill them all" is providing magnificent fuel for the Islamists. There is no need for them to come up with a justification for their hatred; you're doing it for them. It's hard for the moderates to sell a counter-argument.

You would also want to contain the secondary sources of hatred by eliminating some of the low-hanging fruit that they can point to as justification. As but one example, Gitmo has done more damage than it has assuaged; close it down.

I'm not suggesting we contain a religion; we have Muslims amongst us who are free to practice their faith as they see fit. Mind you, I'm not religious so they don't threaten me any more than Baptists or Buddhists. I suggest only that we contain the violent aspects while they sort themselves out. Dictating their faith to them only makes it easier for the extremists.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on September 26, 2012, 09:31:09
Thanks Journeyman. My point is that you cannot contain a religion in the normal sense. Restricting immigration is an important aspect. We see in the result of open immigration in the UK,Britain is in danger of losing its identity. The French on the other hand are not shy about protecting their cultural identity,yet they have large muslim communities that have not been assimilated and pose a risk for internal disorder. We already see calls for Sharia law for muslims in the place of the laws of the host country. The police have done a good job of tracking and neutralizing  the home grown jihadists. The so called arab spring has seen our friendly dictators who kept a lid on their nut jobs,swept aside and replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood - the father of modern terrorist movements. The fox running the hen house.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Old Sweat on September 26, 2012, 10:00:33
I do wonder if hoping for an European-style reformation is a viable option. One may come, but perhaps only after an even more hardlined interpretation of Islam takes root. By its very struture and doctrine the religion has proven very resistant to change, at least among certain population groups along the crescent. I recall seeing something young Winston Churchill wrote in the closing years of Queen Victoria's reign - perhaps after seeing active service in the Sudan - to the effect that Islam was destined to remain mired in the distant past and that attempts to reform it in any meaningful way were doomed. That probably is the case for a sizable minority, but how does the rest of the population adapt. It may be that mass communications and social media is our most effective took, but this can also be subverted and/or banned and controlled.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 26, 2012, 10:08:22
I do wonder if hoping for an European-style reformation is a viable option. One may come, but perhaps only after an even more hardlined interpretation of Islam takes root. By its very struture and doctrine the religion has proven very resistant to change, at least among certain population groups along the crescent. I recall seeing something young Winston Churchill wrote in the closing years of Queen Victoria's reign - perhaps after seeing active service in the Sudan - to the effect that Islam was destined to remain mired in the distant past and that attempts to reform it in any meaningful way were doomed. That probably is the case for a sizable minority, but how does the rest of the population adapt. It may be that mass communications and social media is our most effective took, but this can also be subverted and/or banned and controlled.

I suspect you right. We need to remember that our, Western, protestant reformation was precipitated by the moral decline of the papacy which resulted, finally, in the late 14th and early 15th centuries in two popes each 'representing' secular power blocks rather than the Christian's god. It, the reformation, was sped on its way by the invention of the printing press.

I have no idea how Islam will develop, and, as you say, it is a religion that brings certainty to unsophisticated people. But the explosion of media in the 21st century suggests that opposition will be easy to mobilize.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 28, 2012, 11:06:46
This ( is interesting/BS/entertaining/thought provoking/true/rubbish/a challenge (delete which not applicable).
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 03, 2012, 17:52:50
Ian Bremmer ( gives us his take on Obama's not so grand strategy, focused on three current troublespots in this opinion piece which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Reuters US Edition:
Getting away with it while the world’s cop is off duty

By Ian Bremmer

OCTOBER 1, 2012

As the world convened at the U.N. General Assembly last week, the willingness of the Obama administration to risk blood and treasure promoting democracy abroad was on full display: Barack Obama gave a stirring speech defending American values and asking other democracies to adopt them. But Obama’s rhetoric doesn’t tell the whole story. He didn’t deliver his speech until after an appearance on a daytime chat show, in obvious support of his re-election campaign.

Many foreign policy experts have criticized Obama for wasting time with Barbara and Whoopi on The View when he could’ve been engaging with foreign leaders on the East Side of Manhattan. But the experts’ takeaway from Obama’s priorities last week is no different than it has been from the administration’s response to months of civil war in Syria, the teeter-tottering of Libya, the reluctance to pose a credible military threat for Iran and the refusal to engage in the Middle East peace process.

The U.S. is willing to do less on the world stage than it has since the onset of World War Two. In the long term, this reset of foreign policy and military initiatives may yield the country a peace dividend. In the short term, there are three international issues where the situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly and where, in the past, a U.S. president might have intervened. Let’s look at them:

1. Syria. The Assad regime has engaged in deplorable behavior. But the U.S. has been extremely reluctant to support the opposition without a clear identity, leader or mission beyond overthrowing the regime. Furthermore, nothing about the Libya experience has given the U.S. any reason to do anything differently. It’s completely unclear that U.S. intervention in Syria would put U.S. interests in any better shape in that country, or outside of it. The Iraq lesson was simple – that democracy building is very expensive. And Libya taught us more: Regime change itself hurts and can’t be done on the cheap. Furthermore, when it came time for the U.S. to garner international support for its limited Libya mission, Russia could not ignore Gaddafi’s bombast and promise to exterminate the rebels, and therefore could not block the necessary U.N. resolution. When it comes to Syria, Russia won’t provide international cover for a U.S. intervention. Assad gets a pass, despite his brutal war and the fact that it is beginning to reach into bordering states as well. The knock-on effect is more instability in the Middle East – but that seems to be something the Obama administration has decided it can live with.

2. Iran. Here, the U.S. has actually been doing a good job eliciting international pressure on the regime over its quest for nuclear weapons. Rightly so: This is a bigger, global problem. But how much pressure can be brought to bear on Iran, given what’s going on across the region? The Obama administration can say, “Iran, you can’t develop nuclear weapons, or else,” but the question becomes, “or else, what?” Setting out a thick red line is a big problem in this environment. The U.S., according to reports, is running a rather effective sabotage operation on Iran’s labs, but Israel’s current government is apoplectic that Uncle Sam is not sending in the cavalry. Israel, here, is at great risk of appearing to cry wolf, losing the support it has in the international community should the situation in Iran become worse. And Tehran would, it seems, be more willing to declare itself at war with the U.S. to distract the Iranian public from the pain of economic sanctions.

3. Israel and Palestine. While Israel might look like a loser when it comes to Iran, it’s a winner when it comes to its own territorial dispute, no matter who wins the U.S. election in November. Mitt Romney is on the record as saying the Palestinians don’t seem to want peace. When, if ever, has a major party presidential candidate uttered a statement like that? Neither he nor Obama, in other words, intend to use any political capital on another meaningless accord. The message from U.S. politicians to Jerusalem: “We’re done trying to fix this. No more pressure on settlements, or anything else. Good luck.” Israel gets a nearly free hand to deal with Palestine, because there are enough crises in the world that set off anti-American demonstrations, and there’s little need to create another. What that means for Palestinians, though, is the end of American support for their claims, and possibly the end of restraint by Israel.

What all three situations come back to is that the foreign policy implications of the 2012 election are virtually nil. Americans are consumed by domestic issues like the economy and unemployment. Despite the fact that Romney paints Obama as an apologist, a declinist, an unpatriotic leader-from-behind, both are peddling roughly the same foreign policy. Romney is setting a theme and a tone to attack Obama, but it’s mere background music. Whichever candidate is elected will, for different reasons, tell the military “you’re not going to bomb that.” All the rest is posturing.

This essay is based on a transcribed interview with Bremmer.

Bremmer's key point is: "this reset of foreign policy and military initiatives may yield the country a peace dividend." That's it, that's President Obama's grand strategy: a peace dividend rather than, say, retrenchment and a renewed focus on the Americas and more traditional concerns. Proponents of both George W Bush and Barack Obama may argue that the current focus on the Middle East and West Asia is the equivalent of a new Marshall Plan, aiming to bring peace, prosperity and democracy to a whole region, but I don't think that flies.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 20, 2012, 19:24:40
More, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the New York Times, on the debate over American military strategy:
The Debatable World


Published: October 20, 2012


OVER a long campaign, it’s become maddeningly difficult to tease out concrete differences in how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would deal with an angry, unmanageable world that at once craves and resents American intervention.

Iran? Mr. Romney promises toughness, decries the administration’s naïveté that it could talk with the mullahs and declares, when pressed, that he would bring about “crippling sanctions.” An amused Mr. Obama says he’s already checked that one off, leaving unsaid the cybersabotage that was directed toward Iran’s nuclear program out of the Situation Room. Afghanistan? It’s a race for the exits, with Mr. Obama at a fast trot and Mr. Romney at a brisk walk, now that he has discarded his primary-season vow that we stay around to kill the Taliban. Mr. Obama is helping funnel light arms to the Syrian rebels; Mr. Romney would send heavy arms, and neither can explain how they would separate secular rebels from jihadists.

These fine gradations — exaggerated for effect two weeks before Election Day — will presumably be on display Monday night at the final presidential debate. But with luck, viewers will get a glimpse of the real, gut-level difference in how these two men perceive the future of American power.

In Mr. Romney’s telling, America can — and must — restore itself to the glory days when it had unquestioned pre-eminence in the world. It was a brief, shining moment — that decade bracketed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the World Trade Center, when the United States was what the French called, with some derision, a “hyperpower.” A longing for that era lurks in Mr. Romney’s critique of what has gone wrong in the Obama years, which he describes as a messy age of jihadist revivals, new nuclear worries and a looming threat from Beijing, and an era in which, he wrote recently, “our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them.”

For his part, Mr. Obama is a man who tends to live in the moment, reacting to the world’s problems while trying to define an emerging Obama doctrine, though it is a phrase the president never utters. To Mr. Obama, that unipolar moment is a gauzy memory. Those longing for it are pining for a global order that cannot exist again. The essence of Mr. Obama’s approach has been that the United States will act unilaterally whenever its direct interests are threatened — think of the Osama bin Laden raid or of the drone strikes and cyberattacks. But he has hesitated to act in cases where he believes others have greater interests at stake than we do: thus America’s halfhearted commitment to the military effort to oust Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, and its refusal to take a major role in ousting President Bashar al-Assad from Syria.

If there is a lesson of the past decade, in Mr. Obama’s mind, it is that we can no longer afford to fight every war, insert ourselves in the middle of every dispute and get stuck in the muck of occupying nations whose fates are not central to our national interest. Nor can we stop rising powers from ... well, rising.

“The United States does not seek to contain China,” Mr. Obama was quick to tell the Chinese on his first visit to Beijing, in November 2009, when he was less than a year into his term. “On the contrary, the rise of a strong and prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations.” Old cold warriors cringed, but so did many in the president’s own party, whose biggest concerns about China focus on jobs and economic influence. It is a view Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave voice to when she whispered to the prime minister of Australia on her way to Beijing in 2009: “How do you deal toughly with your banker?”

Mr. Obama has a tough task. It is a lot easier to go on the trail arguing for America as No. 1 than it is making a case that America’s leverage comes in its ability to work with allies. “It’s an incredibly difficult balance, especially for anyone running for president,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who spent nearly three decades as one of America’s top diplomats before he left his post as George W. Bush’s under secretary of state for political affairs to teach at Harvard. “Governor Romney is right to say America must lead, and we are still the indispensable power and must remain a strong and active world leader. But President Obama has developed a modern and effective view of leadership that I think resonates with anyone who has done this kind of work for a living: that in places like Libya, you have to challenge the NATO allies and the Arab states to be in the front lines, and that Americans know we can no longer be everywhere and do everything.”

Mr. Romney’s aides say he, too, will use American power sparingly. But the core of Mr. Romney’s argument is that the Obama approach is a sure recipe for slow decline.

Maybe these are the differences to be expected between a president who spent his elementary-school years in a yearning middle power in the Pacific — Indonesia — and a candidate who was raised in the glory days of industrial America, before the humbling of America’s auto industry became a symbol of things to come. Mr. Obama’s writings about his youth openly questioned whether American power was used wisely in the cold war years. Mr. Romney’s candidacy has been tinged with Eisenhower envy and almost pretends the Bush years never happened. Mr. Obama’s starts with the gritty reality that the response to the Sept. 11 attacks cost America $3.3 trillion and counting. One line kept coming back in his speeches on Afghanistan: “So we can’t simply afford to ignore the price of these wars,” he said at West Point, in late 2009, when he announced the “surge” that just ended, with a whimper, last month. “The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”

If that difference flares up anywhere on Monday night, it may be over the defense budget. This is the only part of the federal budget that Mr. Romney views as sacrosanct: he wants a bigger Army, and a Navy that builds 15 new ships a year, a 50 percent increase. It is part of his call for a more muscular America, one that can take on Russia if it ever lives up to Mr. Romney’s description of it as America’s “greatest geopolitical threat” (which Mr. Obama mocked in the first debate) and can keep China from pushing us back toward the middle of the Pacific.

But he has not, at least in his public comments, aligned that with a strategy of when and how he would have the United States intervene around the world. Would we re-enter Afghanistan if the Taliban tried to retake Kabul? Finish the job with American troops in Syria if it looked as if Mr. Assad would hang on, killing thousands more? Join in a military strike against Iran on the theory that America’s national interest must be identical to Israel’s?

So far, we don’t know.

MR. Obama, in contrast, has made clear that the era of sending 100,000 troops to occupy countries for years on end, only to leave amid fuming resentments, is over. His budgets reflect his doctrine: more for cybertechnology like the kind used against Iran, more for drones and Special Forces, and less for keeping a large armed force on hand. That became clear last December, when he gathered the nation’s combat commanders into the State Dining Room at the White House and, under the gaze of Abraham Lincoln’s portrait, told his audience the party was over. The defense budget had grown 67 percent, in real terms, in the decade since the Sept. 11 attacks, and was wildly higher than it was during the cold war.

So after the Pentagon asked for funding last year to keep 100,000 troops ready for “stability operations” around the world — the kind of operation the United States ran in Iraq and Afghanistan — the White House suggested they hadn’t read the memo: Mr. Obama is out of the occupation business. He seemed to take to heart the parting warning of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the Republican who served under the last two presidents. On his way out the door, Mr. Gates said that anyone in his job “who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

Mr. Gates’s view certainly seems to be in tune with the electorate these days. That explains why Mr. Romney has been so tentative about translating his call for a more muscular American approach to the world into specifics. He is trapped, to some degree, by the legacy of George W. Bush — while he wants to reject the Obama doctrine as too weak and unprincipled, he cannot bring himself to embrace Mr. Bush’s first-term enthusiasm for pre-emptive action, or his second-term argument that the United States has a moral obligation to rewire societies that can give rise to despotism or terrorism.

The question of when America should intervene around the world — and when to leave it to others — has been the subtext of most major national security debates here for the last decade. Syria is the crisis du jour, but it will not be the last weak state that threatens to devolve into chaotic, violent collapse — and become new territory for extremists. What we have not decided, as a country, is how much risk we are willing to live with as those states crack, collapse and are reborn. Mr. Obama has put together a nuanced approach that worked in Libya and has frozen in place in Syria. It will be up to Mr. Romney to explain if he has found a third way.

The chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

I make no effort to hide my views that:

1. America is overextended - it simply cannot afford to act like a hyper-power any more;

2. Intervention has, broadly, failed since about 1960;

3. South and East Asia, mainly but not exclusively, China and India, matter more than any three of Europe, Latin America, Africa, Russia, the Middle East, and/or West Asia;

4. China or India, on their own, matter more than any one of the above and, generally, more than any pair; and

5. Mexico, as currently governed (or not governed) poses a serious security threat to the USA.

Based on those five points I suspect that most of the ongoing debate in the USA is "a tale told by an idiot, (two teams of them, actually) full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on October 20, 2012, 21:20:19
A Republican administration will be far more proactive in dealing with matters of national interest.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 20, 2012, 21:35:07
A Republican administration will be far more proactive in dealing with matters of national interest.

First of all, any US administration must define its national interests and that requires rational thought, so I wouldn't hold your breath.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on October 20, 2012, 22:14:01
Treaty obligations are well obligations that require some form of response. :camo:
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 22, 2012, 08:15:19
I think that strategy is (sometimes? often? usually?) driven by economics - not by seeking any specific economic advantage, per se, but, rather, by the constant ebbs and flows of economic power and economic needs. Thus, I think this opinion piece, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Project Syndicate, belongs here rather than in other appropriate threads, because I think coping with the emerging Great Convergence is a serious strategic issue:
Megatrend: China's GDP Will Exceed U.S. GDP in the 21st Century -- Deal With It

Steven Strauss, former Managing Director at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), is an advanced leadership fellow at Harvard University. He has worked for McKinsey & Company and the World Economic Forum.

Oct 22, 2012

Welcome to the Great Convergence -- The Developing World is Converging to Developed Country GDP Per Capita Levels -- The Alternative Would Be Worse(1)

This is an election season, so all hope of intelligent policy discourse has been abandoned in favor of the partisan soundbite. One side, uniquely brilliant, will magically solve our nation's problems (all caused, of course, by the incompetent opposing candidate/party). An example is Professor Niall Ferguson's recent article "Hit The Road, Barack":

          "The failures of leadership on economic and fiscal policy over the past four years have had geopolitical consequences. The World Bank expects the U.S. to grow by just 2 percent in 2012.
            China will grow four times faster than that; ... By 2017, the International Monetary Fund predicts, the GDP of China will overtake that of the United States.(2)"

Professor Ferguson ascribes China's growing, at a rate four times faster than the US, to a "failure of leadership" by the Obama administration. Clearly, a case of Romnesia (the inability to remember facts which ruin the Romney narrative). Under President George W. Bush (Bush II), China's economy grew over five times faster than that of the U.S. (Source: World Bank; China's real GDP growth rate for 2001-2008 was 10.7 percent vs 2.0 percent for the U.S.). In fact, China's out-performance of the U.S. over the past 30 years has been bipartisan (see Chart 1).

Chart 1:

China's been growing very rapidly, because it started with very low per capita income. We're experiencing the Great Convergence -- where countries globally converge to similar levels of economic productivity. China's income per capita is still only a fraction of the U.S. level, leaving plenty of room for its continued high growth rates.

The U.S.' best growth decade (the 1950s, when marginal Federal income tax rates were 90 percent) produced about 4 percent/year sustained real GDP growth. As noted above, during Bush II's Presidency (2001-2008, when marginal Federal income tax rates were reduced to 35 percent), the U.S. averaged only 2.0 percent/year real GDP growth.

Supporters of 'Romney-Ryan as economic saviors' believe they'll miraculously produce the hyper-economic growth we failed to achieve -- under Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama -- by lowering marginal tax rates, repealing and replacing Obamacare, and increasing military spending. And, if you believe Romney-Ryan will produce this miracle, you probably also believe in the Tooth Fairy.

An economic miracle seems especially unlikely since Romney's economic team and policies closely resemble Bush II's - the team and policies that wrecked our economy and produced a global financial crisis. Even assuming a Romney presidency produces growth at the upper end of the US post-WWII range, China's GDP (under current trends) will still surpass that of the US within our lifetimes.

What about the prospects of China stumbling? As Professor Ferguson himself pointed out in his excellent book Civilization, the reasons China might not surpass the US relate mainly to failures inside China. First, China could prematurely plateau in a manner analogous to Japan. Second, China might succumb to social unrest (e.g., due to a surplus of males caused by the 1-child policy). Third, a rising Chinese middle class might demand more power than the system can accommodate. Fourth, China could antagonize and alienate its neighbors and trading partners. While these scenarios might preserve America's preeminent role, it could be at the cost of an unstable nuclear-armed China -- hardly a desirable outcome.

Whoever wins the election, our president in 2013 will face the economic and political challenges presented by the Great Convergence. We need to begin a serious national dialogue -- about what we want America's role to be as our relative economic importance declines -- and end the competition to produce the most quotable soundbite.

I don't agree with Steven Strauss that George W Bush's "team and policies ... wrecked our economy and produced a global financial crisis" - they helped but it wasn't exclusively their fault. But who to blame for America's problems is not an important issue; China would be rising no matter what America did or did not do in the 1970s, '80s, '90s and beyond, right up until 2012.

The strategic problem is not that America is declining, because it isn't - not badly - it is that others, especially China, are catching up, just as Japan and Europe did in the 1960s and beyond. The real problem is, as Strauss says, that America's relative economic importance IS declining and that particular decline, in one aspect of soft power, puts strains on all other components of strategic power.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on October 22, 2012, 09:28:49
As soon as I saw where Strauss was from I thought Mayor Bloomberg clone.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 22, 2012, 10:45:13
And I agree, mostly, with this analysis, by Chinese born, US citizen, Ting Xu (, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The Diplomat; I think she has correctly identified the symptoms of America's problem: deep cultural divisions and the necessary treatment: unity around a pragmatic approach:
The Road to Decline: America’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

By Ting Xu

October 19, 2012

It is alarming to read the campaign advice that Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman orator, received. Cicero was encouraged to inflame his opponents with scandals, pay special attention to the wealthy and powerful, keep up the hope of the zealous and devoted, put on good shows and “promise them anything” they want and forget about it. His successful campaign mirrors today’s political theater in America. But Cicero’s devotion to political maneuvering did not protect him (he was murdered by Mark Antony during his pursuit to become dictator of the country), nor the Roman republic. The sad story of the blunt calculating brilliance of Cicero and the fall of the great Republic should serve warn America: freedom and democracy are not free.

America’s greatness was very much a function of the visionary pragmatism of its founding fathers. The common sense decision to pursue liberty, equality and individual well-being was achieved through creativity, openness and consensus based on compromise.  American leadership internationally is based on not only its economic prosperity, but also the sense of hope it brings to those who seek peace and development. The country has achieved great things and the American dream stays alive in a society that offers all the possibilities that are created because America is a leader in the pursuit  of open markets, technological innovation, and equal opportunity.

Unfortunately, this sense of hope will wane if America continues on its current path. Inadequate regulation of the financial sector among other factors has dragged the country into one of its worst recessions ever, yielding historically high unemployment and an expansion of people (over 46 million in 2010) living below the poverty level. Undisciplined public spending pushed the total debt to GDP ratio over 100 percent this year. A recent Congressional Budget Office report points to the increasing likelihood of a double-dip recession caused by the impending “fiscal cliff” in 2013. This reflects failures by Congress to agree on an orderly alternative method to address the budget deficit.

Not only is the U.S. digging its own grave domestically, it is also doing so internationally as well. After entering a decade-long war in Iraq, the legitimacy of which is still being debated, the U.S. is seen by many as more of a bully than a leader for global peace. The most disturbing fact from an American perspective is that the more than $3 trillion war bill and the 4,487 casualties have overstretched America’s resources and diminished the public’s tolerance for legitimate military interventions.

The World Economic Forum attributes the decline in American competitiveness to the business community’s extreme skepticism that politicians will avoid wasting resources, reduce spending and stabilize regulations. A recent CNN poll found that only 15 percent of Americans trust the federal government to do what’s right; in February of this year more Americans reported holding favorable views of North Korea than of Congress’s job performance . This is not entirely surprising. One only needs to look at the shameful congressional show down in 2011 over the U.S. debt ceiling to get a sense of the senselessness of America’s political environment.  As two leading experts on American political institutions titled their latest book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. Instead of finding agreement to increase revenue and cut spending, politicians blame each other for bankrupting America and run for office on platforms proudly championing “no compromise.” Instead of supporting cutting-edge climate-friendly industries that will keep America’s competitive in industrial science and technology, numerous politicians deny the very existence of climate change. Instead of defining a new role for American leadership in a changing world, politicians instead blame China for posing economic and security threats.

There are many issues to be sorted out, including: tax reform to keep the country solvent, fixing a defunct immigration system to attract and retain talent, and revamping the education system to stop the decline in the quality of American schools. As these critical issues continue to receive short shift, politicians and pundits endlessly debate matters like the fate of “Big Bird,” the electoral consequences of politicians’ facial expressions and water consumption habits during televised debates, and whether female reproductive systems respond differently in cases of “legitimate rape.” The $6.6 billion in TV ads this season could be better used in many other ways, instead, voters are entertained by ideologically driven campaign bashing.

America became and maintained its status as world leader because of its prosperity, the resilience of its society, its pursuit of freedom and the sense of global responsibility. These qualities enabled our World War II generations to devote their lives to protecting the country which liberated and led the world; these qualities created the American dream and attract new citizens to take the oath. The vision of the founding fathers, along with the prosperity of future Americans and the world would be delt a fatal blow if American values are replaced with political cynicism, short sightedness, and a lack of courage and sacrifice.

We are in desperate need of leaders with a vision for America. Today pragmatism is visionary. The country suffers from self-inflicted wounds the most critical of which is polarizing partisan politics. To heal the divide in society and put the nation back on a healthy track , we need to start to work on problems at home. In this election season, Americans need to follow those who can provide a clear and pragmatic path. They need to lead from the middle and work together based on issues instead of party lines. They need to provide a healthy environment for business and care for the disadvantaged. They need to resist ideologically driven movements and bring the focus of the U.S. public back to long-term competitiveness and prosperity. They need to speak the truth even when it does not please the public. These kinds of leaders need the courage to compromise even if it costs them the next election.

The world will not wait for American leadership forever, now is the time to act.

Ting Xu is a recently naturalized American citizen. She is a Handa Fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and Senior Fellow at Bertelsmann Foundation.

The strategic terrain has changed since Ronald Reagan ushered in a brief era of American hyperpuissance; the USSR is gone, despite its nuclear arsenal Russia doesn't really matter; Japan took a 20 year "time out" and now, like Russia, faces enormous demographic challenges; Europe is on the skids but China is rising. America's grand strategy just deal with that condition - not with a bunch of medievally minded Arab terrorists. But, as Ms Xu says, before it can refocus its military strategy it needs to get its economic house in order and that, too, requires pragmatic, not ideological solutions.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on October 24, 2012, 13:59:29
Walter Russel Mead (among others) have postulated that one of the reasons we are in such difficulty is the social, political and economic models of the past are no longer working, and we are evolving a new "post progressive" model for our economy and institutions. This means that while we can argue about which "red" or "blue" model should be emphasized to relieve or solve problems, the actual answer is entirely different. I don't entirely buy the conclusion (Classical Liberalism [in the US best represented by the Red State model] has a long and very successful track record over an extended period of time covering several of the social and economic periods described, and across multiple societies in different nations and continents), but it is interesting to contemplate never the less. Some of the points about the huge size of polities creating conditions for plutocracy to flourish or effectively disenfranchising voters are well taken; I would suggest looking at the Swiss model, where most issues are effectively decided at the municipal level through referendums and direct voting:

Long conversation between Walter Russel Mead and Francis Fukuyama:

From the November/December 2012 issue: None of the Above Francis Fukuyama and Walter Russell Mead

Francis Fukuyama: Walter, let’s do a broader analysis rather than a blow-by-blow of the upcoming election. Nobody seems to be happy with the nature of the American system right now, whether on the Left or the Right. One of the big, fundamental questions is, what are the real sources of dysfunction? I’ll define “dysfunction” simply as the inability of our political system to make any tough choices. Whether you think we need a smaller government or think we should fix the larger government and expand it, neither of those directions is being pursued. And I would almost guarantee that, regardless of the results in November, a solution will not be forthcoming afterward. This will not prove to be one of those realigning elections that turn the country onto a different course.

I’ll also add that we all recognize that the long-term, unsustainable fiscal mess we’re in is the central problem right now, and that it’s gone unaddressed due to the polarization that has paralyzed the political system. My colleague at Stanford, Mo Fiorina, has argued that the problem doesn’t lie with American society, which is not terribly polarized on many issues; rather, it plagues the political class, by which he means the media, professional politicians, pundits and anyone who participates in the larger system as an activist, like an employee of a lobbying group for an NGO or logging corporation. He therefore thinks the problem lies in the system rather than the society.

You could pick another source of dysfunction that has to do with neither the society nor the political system: We’ve primarily been driven by the unanticipated and not well-understood exigencies of advancing technology and globalization, which have given us fits by making usual ways of doing business obsolete. So I’m wondering about your views on this. What do you see as the fundamentals of our current problems?

Walter Russell Mead: Frank, I would go with the explanation that the American political system is having a rough time because the country is having a rough time. That is, these transformational changes and the social and economic changes that accompany them, are posing budget questions we don’t know the answers to. I think our society is in the process of moving from what you might call a late-stage industrial society to an early-stage informational society. No other society has done this before, so it’s no surprise that we don’t quite know how to do it yet.

If I were looking for periods in American history to which I could compare this, I would point to the years between the Civil War and, say, 1900. At that time, as today, Americans experienced growing inequality and bitter cultural and regional wars. The Gilded Age produced a very corrupt and dysfunctional political system. The financial markets then were tumultuous, and a small group of people made enormous fortunes by learning to harness and manipulate the new system. If you look at people like Rockefeller and Carnegie, their wealth as a percentage of GDP was higher than that of today’s plutocrats.

This transition angered many people, and the social institutions and ideas that came from an earlier period lost influence. But there was no cultural physician one could go to in order to learn how to bring health to this new kind of society. I think our situation today is analogous to that time.

FF: I agree with that. That period, up until the first decade of the 20th century, is comparable to our time in many ways, particularly the rising inequality. The other element was the inability, up until the election of 1896, of the political establishment to make up its mind about what to do, because control of Congress turned around about every two years between Republicans and Democrats in the years prior to that. It was only the big Republican victory in 1896—which gave the GOP majorities in both the Senate and the House and put William McKinley in the White House—that created a basis for the Progressive Era to congeal and in time provide the country with a new set of institutions.

What strikes me, though, about that analogy is that I don’t see a realignment coming. Obama thought that the 2008 election marked such a realignment, but he was swiftly disabused of that idea when the healthcare initiative that was supposed to be its main ratification turned out to be incredibly controversial. Do you see a realignment in the works, where the country wakes up and agrees to go either with the big government solution, the small government solution, or some new government solution? I don’t see it anywhere.

WRM: No, I don’t see a quick answer coming, and certainly not this November. Looking back at the Gilded Age, we had a political system nearly as bad as it’s possible for a political system to be, yet amazing things were happening in the country. For instance, there was the Victorian equivalent of the internet—railroads and telegraph lines and the beginnings of telephones—and all sorts of related revolutions in retail and distribution. The American middle class of the Civil War period was defined as owner-occupied farms. The majority lived and worked on family farms and achieved a standard of living that was the envy of the world. But by the 1890s, the industrialization of agriculture and falling food prices relative to other goods were destroying the economic foundation of the American middle class. That problem, however, couldn’t have been answered by a policy initiative, because the industrial economy wasn’t yet big enough in the 1870s or even the 1880s to absorb those people. So these transitional historical periods have to be suffered through, it seems, and the way forward generally is not to place a group of wise people at the helm of government and set a course. Rather, changes in society itself create conditions from which a path forward gradually emerges.

It’s interesting, for instance, that Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson hated each other as individuals but had a lot in common in how they wanted to steer the country. Perhaps as we get ourselves to a stage where the answers begin to appear, some of the partisan rancor and polarization may gradually leach out of the system.

FF: I hope so. If you look back at that period, the premonitions of what was to come were there. For example, with the transition into an industrial economy and with the growth of the railroads we suddenly had a national system that could no longer be effectively regulated at the state level. So the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), the first national regulator, was born to prevent beggar-thy-neighbor behavior among the states. I think the American healthcare system today is a little bit like the railroads during the 1880s: a patchwork, in each state a different policy. Like today, there was a need then for a national policy, but society’s inherent anti-statism and the courts at the time resisted a greater exercise of Federal power. Had the Supreme Court struck down the core of Obamacare I would have had a great time writing about precedents from the 1890s of opposition to various ICC decisions, since the courts at the time denied the Federal government that kind of authority.

Where I get stuck, though, is the way forward. By 1883, you already had the growth of a different kind of national government. Society was organizing to end patronage and professionalize the civil service. Today, though, I doubt we can solve many of our problems at the national level because so many of them stem from our interaction with the global economy. And at the global level it’s obvious, I think, that institutional reform is far more difficult than the reform of institutions at a national level. You say that glimmers of a solution will become evident, but just how, for example, we can harness technology to make the government deliver services more effectively is not obvious to me.

end of part 1
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on October 24, 2012, 14:02:18
And part 2:

WRM: I think the transformation this time around is more complicated and far-reaching even than the Gilded Age transformation. The nature of change itself is becoming bigger, deeper, harder to fathom. We’ve got more resources now, politically and even economically, but history has sent us a much harder problem.

I do see some green shoots. This week I was going crazy because I finally figured out that my car registration expired. Twenty years ago this would have been an agonizing problem, involving multiple trips to the DMV and possibly having to take the car off the road while the paperwork was being processed. But I was able to download the temporary registration certificate and do the whole thing online. So there’s a sense—even in a state like New York, which isn’t notorious for being on the cutting edge of innovation and reform—that government is adapting. More internet-based transactions and fewer wrangles with the angry lady behind the counter represent, in my book, a real step forward.

FF: My experience with the California DMV has been positive, too, but getting your car squared away is child’s play compared, say, to dealing with the completely unsustainable path we’re on with regard to healthcare costs. So much of the expenditure effectively goes toward keeping people who are 85 or ninety alive for another six months. We’re going to bankrupt ourselves if government continues funding this level and kind of services. But changing course requires extremely difficult political decisions about rationing healthcare at the end of life. When I think about the “death panels” fracas, and how both parties were so eager to launch demagogic attacks on the subject, I don’t see how we solve this. I don’t think technology will help us much, because this is a deeply political choice that must be made.

WRM: Well, still, if I compare where we are now to where we were twenty years ago, I see a lot of good movement in this area. It’s not that people welcome the idea of the government or some outside group telling you or your grandma what to do, but when you talk to older people you don’t hear many of them saying, “I want to be hooked up to tubes until the last possible second, no matter how much pain I’m in or what I’m putting everyone else through.” You usually hear them say instead something to the effect, “I know death is coming, and I hope to die in a way that’s consonant with how I lived and the values I expressed.”

FF: That seems like wishful thinking to me. When I was on the President’s Bioethics Council in the early 2000s, we spent a lot of time on these end-of-life and caregiving questions. People will say they don’t want a certain kind of invasive care and would choose to terminate it earlier if given the option, but they say that when they’re relatively young and healthy. When the crucial moment comes, almost no one makes that choice; nor do the family members, who don’t want to live with the burden of having pulled the plug. The institutions don’t want to make that choice either, because they don’t want to be blamed for the outcome. So I don’t think this problem will be solved simply by society changing its norms and embracing a more mature acceptance of death.

WRM: Well, polling on these questions may be scarce or unreliable given the emotional difficulty, but I do see many family members and friends making the decision to forgo intensive care after a certain point. We also see a lot of growth in hospice care; it’s a much bigger industry than it used to be. Changes in healthcare technology and delivery systems can also make the system less unaffordable. And if we can get a solution to those things, then almost everything else we’re looking at in terms of deficits becomes much more manageable.

FF: Getting solutions won’t be easy for political reasons, I suspect. To continue with healthcare for a moment, one of the central cost-drivers is the fee-for-service model, which makes for a tremendous overprescription of testing and procedures and the like, because doctors and hospitals make money off of it. But it’s almost impossible to bring up in Congress any proposal to restrict or somehow channel fee-for-service, because all the entrenched interest groups are committed to that particular model.

The larger question here, of course, is plutocracy. Wealth brings political influence. Any honest reading of history testifies to the phenomenon of sclerotic political systems in which the already rich and powerful get hold of the system in order to protect their positions. You can multiply this through the entire American economy. It’s not necessarily a partisan issue, because on the Left there are also powerful interest groups, like public-sector unions and trial lawyers, that have an effective veto over changes to public policy. But corporate America has most of the money, and most of the distortions in the tax code come from there. My perception is that you’re not as exercised about this issue as some are, but it seems to be an issue we’re completely incapable of addressing. Take the Supreme Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo (forget about Citizens United; this has been a position of the Court since the 1970s): This decision amounts to the notion that you can’t restrict money in politics because of the First Amendment. I would be interested in your views on this.

WRM: I think that a lot of the problems in our political system now are the result of failed campaign finance reforms from the past, and other failed reforms that have dismantled party structures and have essentially turned every candidate into a fund-seeking missile. This has shifted power away from organizations and structures that were at least nominally accountable to voters and put it into the hands of interest groups and individuals.

I’d like to have a conversation about campaign finance involving three smart people: a really good political operative, a really good campaign finance reform advocate, and a really good constitutional lawyer. I’d want the advocate to give us a proposal; the operative to tell us whether it really would dilute the influence of money in politics; and then the lawyer could tell us whether it’s possible. My guess is that the intersection of the three gives you a null set. There isn’t anything substantive that could constitutionally be done that would really change the way hacks make politics run.

FF: Yes, but the key word there is “constitutional.” The way our courts have interpreted the Constitution makes it correct to say there’s nothing that can be done. In other democratic countries, however, few suffer from an electoral process that is as out of control as ours is right now. Just consider the amount of time candidates spend campaigning to be President: at least two years, and more than that in many cases. In Japan and Britain there’s a six-week campaigning window, and that’s it. I think there are some institutional fixes that would be relatively simple were it not for this constitutional straitjacket we’ve gotten ourselves into, a straitjacket tightened considerably by the moneyed interests that want to keep things as they are.

WRM: I think we’re going to adopt the metric system before we ever revise the First Amendment, or our basic interpretations of it. That’s one reason, Frank, I may seem less exercised about this. It’s the serenity prayer: This is one of those things I need to learn to accept so I can start thinking instead about the things I can change.

FF: Well, you’ve already accepted the fact that you’re going to die, which is an important coming to terms with a difficult issue, and now you’ve accepted the fact that we can’t fix money in politics.

WRM: At least not through this sort of strategy. I think some things can be done. One reason I advocate, for example, breaking up states like California into smaller units is that they’ve grown to such a degree that their size magnifies the role of money in politics and minimizes the combined grassroots clout of individuals. To run on a statewide campaign in California, you have to raise insane amounts of money. And because the state is so diverse, and because the different parts of the state have so little in common culturally and historically, media and impressions based on political ads often dominate the way that politics goes. Just consider: The constitution was developed for a country with about three million inhabitants, and perhaps only about a tenth of those could vote. The city of Los Angeles alone is larger today than the entire United States was then. I think federalism works, but there are places where the states have gotten so gargantuan that money takes over politics and people live in districts where their ability to change things has eroded. I think there are fixes that don’t require changes in the First Amendment.

FF: When I moved from Virginia, a swing state, to California two years ago I was effectively disenfranchised. If you actually break California up into four or five smaller units—which I’d be perfectly happy to see happen—you would then have a permanent Democratic majority, certainly in the Senate. But the general point is right, that the political system there is completely out of control. It was created in the early 20th century in order to get around the influence of railroad interests in the state legislature. The whole idea was that citizens should be able to mobilize to counter these special interests. But what’s happened, given the size of the state and the amount of money needed to mount a referendum campaign, is that it has become completely professionalized and taken over by consulting firms that do nothing but hatch ballot initiatives. There are highly automated procedures for collecting the necessary number of signatures, and of course they’re only won by massive television advertising campaigns. It’s also striking that a 50 percent vote on the initiative—which does not represent 50 percent of voters—can put in place a measure that can only be undone by a two-thirds vote in the legislature. That’s an interesting theory of democracy, in which a minority can bind a super-majority.

WRM: Right. Once you have a political system that doesn’t fit the population, things start going wrong and start adding up. I can think of another change that might help, too. In the old days, every ten years when we did the census reapportionment, the size of the House would increase to match population growth. This meant that district boundaries changed less from census to census. If we can get back to that and permit a slightly greater population differential among districts in order to maintain those boundaries, politicians will need more than media appeal. They’ll need to have people at the grassroots level invest in them and build grassroots support in their district.

FF: Don’t get me started on redistricting. One of the bad outcomes of the Supreme Court decision that required decennial redistricting is that the authority for it was handed over to the political parties. Of course, they redistrict in a way that ensures their hold on power. A lot of the increasing homogeneity of the parties and the fact that they overlap very little is that there are very few House districts that are competitive anymore. That’s not an accident. Having just dumped on California’s referendum system, I’ll note one interesting example that may actually do some good. Redistricting power was taken away from the state legislature and given not to a bipartisan, but to a strictly non-partisan, committee, which has been slicing up districts deliberately to make them more heterogeneous. The hope is that more Congressmen will have to appeal to a wider variety of constituents. None of the political consultants know how this will play out, but this year’s election is the first under this new system. In general, though, more states ought to hand over redistricting to some independent group rather than let the incumbents use it to feather their own nests.

WRM: That makes perfect sense. I also think increasing the size of the House with the census may be a good thing if it allows us to keep districts as small as possible. That way voters have more of a sense that they can influence the choices of their representatives. There’s a trend where all layers of government are getting further removed from the people. Not only do you get a political class that floats above people and is less connected to them, but also the power of money is magnified. The more politicians are dealing with “the masses”, and the less with groups of voters making decisions about issues they know a lot about, the nastier and messier politics gets—and the more powerful money is.

At the state level, I’m a great believer in getting rid of bicameral legislatures and having larger Houses of Representatives with smaller districts whose boundaries don’t change much. What I’m saying, Frank, is that given the constitutional roadblock, there are other ways to deal with money in politics—not to ban money from politics, but rather to nurture counterforces like public opinion and grassroots organizations.

FF: Another possible change that wouldn’t require constitutional modification is for a large group of states to agree to move to proportional allocation of electoral votes. The current system, in which votes are allocated on a winner-take-all basis, means that only six states actually matter in a presidential election, like Ohio and Virginia, and everyone else is disenfranchised. But no single state will unilaterally do this. It would make no sense for, say, the Democratic majority in California to agree to proportional allocation because it would simply hand over a third of their votes to the Republicans. It would have to be a package deal, one in which all or nearly all fifty states agree to act together. Even if that were possible, would it decrease the role of money in American politics? I don’t know.
WRM: I like the idea of keeping the presidential election to a race in states.

FF: This idea would do that, but would just make all fifty states matter. Otherwise we might as well just turn it over to Iowa.

WRM: I disagree. I think the idea of a candidate’s trying to carry individual states is important. Given the growth of population, and the remoteness of institutions and leaders from people’s daily lives, it’s dangerous to weaken the intermediary units. Yes, as you say, there are certain problems, particularly economic ones, that require solutions at the national or international level. But that’s all the more reason to hold on tightly to the places where you have the option to keep things more locally tied.

FF: The proportional allocation of electoral votes wouldn’t affect that very much…

WRM: I think it would. Right now it matters intensely who “carries” a state. Under proportional allocation, it wouldn’t matter if a candidate carried, say, Ohio, with its whole spate of local, regional concerns, any more or less than any other state.

FF: Well, it wouldn’t make Ohio matter any more than California, but it would make California matter in a way it can’t under the present system. It would make politicians compete for California votes in national elections much more intensely. We’ve not seen a single presidential ad in California for weeks, but if you live in Virginia or Florida, that’s all you’re seeing on television.

WRM: I think Californians’ grief about not seeing those ads is quite limited. I hope, Frank, that’s the worst curse in your life, to be cut off from campaign advertising.

FF: You’re right, I should count it as a blessing. Walter, this has been fun. We’ll have to have a conversation about the rest of the world at some later date.

WRM: Yes, let’s.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 13, 2012, 09:43:53
For want of a better place to put this ... the Secretary of State is charged with implementing America's grand strategy in the wider world so the person who will hold that job matters. This article, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the New York Times, discusses two front runners:
Top Candidates for State Dept. Are Both Facing Possible Hurdles


Published: November 12, 2012

WASHINGTON — For months, the Beltway parlor game about who will succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state has revolved around two names: Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

But now that President Obama’s re-election has made the exercise real rather than hypothetical, both front-runners for the most coveted job in his cabinet are dogged by issues that could complicate their path to Mrs. Clinton’s State Department office.

Of the two, Ms. Rice, an outspoken, ambitious diplomat with close ties to Mr. Obama, has emerged as the clear favorite. But she would face stiff resistance on Capitol Hill, where she has come under withering criticism from Republicans for asserting that the deadly attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya, might have been a spontaneous protest rather than a terrorist attack.

Mr. Kerry, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and prepped Mr. Obama for his debates with Mitt Romney, holds a Senate seat that the White House worries could fall into Republican hands if he gave it up for a cabinet post.

Both Ms. Rice and Mr. Kerry have a reservoir of good will in the Oval Office, and if she gets the nod, officials said, Mr. Kerry could be considered for defense secretary. But politics will inevitably play a part in Mr. Obama’s decision, especially in the wake of the sex scandal that brought down David H. Petraeus as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The decision, administration officials said, will likely hinge on whether Mr. Obama would rather risk a bruising confirmation battle for Ms. Rice or the loss of Mr. Kerry’s seat, which could be picked up by Scott P. Brown after the loss of his own seat last week.

“The question is, does the president want to launch a major fight with Congress over his choice of secretary of state?” said Aaron David Miller, a longtime diplomat who is vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The Senate and House have scheduled hearings on Benghazi this week, which will keep the heat on Ms. Rice as the White House begins its deliberations. At least one influential Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has already come out against her. “I’m not entertaining promoting anybody that I think was involved with the Benghazi debacle,” Mr. Graham said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “Susan Rice needs to be held accountable.”

The White House stoutly defends Ms. Rice, noting that in her remarks on Benghazi, she was reading from a briefing prepared by the intelligence agencies. The administration, citing new evidence, subsequently confirmed that the attack was an act of terrorism.

“Anyone who opposes Susan, based on one day’s comments, will have to reconcile that with what the intelligence said on that day,” said an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In the unforgiving climate of Washington, though, Mr. Kerry might profit from Ms. Rice’s misfortune. He would likely breeze through a confirmation hearing with his Senate colleagues. And he has been a loyal soldier for the administration on a variety of issues. In 2009, the White House dispatched Mr. Kerry to Afghanistan, where he helped talk President Hamid Karzai into accepting a runoff election. In the Senate, Mr. Kerry has pushed for Obama initiatives like the New Start treaty with Russia.

With his patrician bearing and Massachusetts roots, he was an obvious stand-in for Mr. Romney during debate preparation. While the president’s lackluster first debate almost capsized his campaign, his aides said they did not blame Mr. Kerry.

Nor does the loss of his Senate seat appear quite as problematic as it did before last Tuesday. Senator Brown, who was defeated by Elizabeth Warren, left the door open to another run. But some political analysts in Massachusetts say he might be more inclined to run for governor, given that the state once elected a fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican — Mr. Romney — to that post. Even if he did run for the Senate, Mr. Brown would face a robust bench of Democrats.

Among the potential candidates for Mr. Kerry’s seat is Gov. Deval Patrick, who is close to Mr. Obama. On Friday, Mr. Patrick and his wife, Diane, flew to Washington for a private dinner with Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, at the White House.

Mr. Patrick may have his eye on a cabinet post like attorney general. But there are other formidable Democrats, like Representative Michael E. Capuano and Martha Coakley, who lost to Mr. Brown but has since rehabilitated her image as the state attorney general.

“I think the administration could feel relatively confident that they will hold on to the seat,” said Thomas Whalen, a political historian at Boston University. “When you look back on Brown, it was a special election against an exceptionally weak Democratic opponent.”

Weighing against Mr. Kerry, officials said, is that he would be replaced as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. With his Cuban roots and hostility toward the Castro regime, Mr. Menendez would likely impede any diplomatic overture by Mr. Obama.

Representatives of Mr. Kerry and Ambassador Rice declined to comment on their prospects, while the White House said it would not comment on personnel deliberations.

Mrs. Clinton has long insisted that she would not serve during a second term, but she recently left open the possibility of staying on the job long enough for a successor to win confirmation. That could allow the White House to delay Ms. Rice’s nomination to allow the passions over Benghazi to subside.

Mr. Kerry and Ms. Rice are not the only names in circulation. Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, is been mentioned, though officials said he would prefer to stay put.

There has even been speculation in foreign-policy circles that the messy departure of Mr. Petraeus might prod Mr. Obama to consider nominating a Republican, like former Senator Chuck Hagel; a hawkish independent, like Senator Joseph I. Lieberman; or even Jon M. Huntsman Jr., who was Mr. Obama’s envoy to Beijing before running for the Republican presidential nomination. Mr. Huntsman dismissed the rumors of his candidacy as “idle hallway gossip.”

For all the political static around Ms. Rice, however, she shares many of Mr. Obama’s instincts on foreign policy. She was among those who lobbied successfully for the United States to intervene during the civil war in Libya. Her ties to Mr. Obama — she advised him during the 2008 campaign — could also enable her to hold her own in an administration where foreign policy has been tightly centralized at the White House.

“You’ve got a guy in the White House who is the most withholding president in memory,” said Mr. Miller, of the Woodrow Wilson Center. “She has the best chance of breaking that withholding pattern.”

A version of this article appeared in print on November 13, 2012, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Top Candidates For State Dept. Are Both Facing Possible Hurdles.

In my opinion, worth what you're paying for it: Kerry is the liberal favourite but Rice is the better choice.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: GAP on November 13, 2012, 10:26:26
Mrs. Clinton taking the hit for Obama took massive heat off of Rice.....Clinton can probably out wait the issue, but Rice comes across as acting under her direction...and that's the issue of the day.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 14, 2012, 13:46:03
For want of a better place to put this ... the Secretary of State is charged with implementing America's grand strategy in the wider world so the person who will hold that job matters. This article, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the New York Times, discusses two front runners:

In my opinion, worth what you're paying for it: Kerry is the liberal favourite but Rice is the better choice.

Evidently, Michele Malkin ( doesn't share my views on the acceptability of Susan Rice. She tweets: "Susan Rice? Perfect. A lying, dhimmi* Secretary of State for the lying, dhimmi POTUS."

* Wikipedia says that: "A dhimmī (Arabic: ذمي‎ ḏimmī IPA: [ˈðɪmmiː]), (collectively أهل الذمة ahl al-ḏimmah/dhimmah, "the people of the dhimma") is a historical term referring to non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state. Dhimma allows rights of residence in return for taxes. According to scholars, dhimmis had their rights fully protected in their communities, but as citizens in the Islamic state, had certain restrictions.[3] They were excused or excluded from specific duties assigned to Muslims, and otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract and obligation."
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 15, 2012, 08:15:25
The Los Angeles Times is reporting (,0,4742752.story) that, "Obama reassessing sensitive foreign issues now that election is over." The report says President Obama is reviewing "whether to deepen U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war, accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan, and offer Iran a compromise deal to curb enrichment of uranium ... they also are considering ways to work out new cooperation with China, an undertaking that Obama campaign operatives had feared might alienate swing state voters anxious about Chinese trade policies and competition."

But ongoing events in and around Israel may put reconsideration of Syria or overtures towards Iran on hold.

Evidently America's Grand Strategy is no longer a "defence" or "security" issue.  ::)
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: on November 15, 2012, 10:39:34
The Los Angeles Times Evidently America's Grand Strategy is no longer a "defence" or "security" issue.  ::)
It is once again - my error. Staff
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 17, 2012, 23:39:01
Not sure what happened with the US economy thread, but since this is about foreign money flowing into America (and targeted flows at that), then it will impact on both American domestic and foreign policy, and by extension, their Grand Strategy (since securing their domestic economy and preventing deastabilization by foreign "hot" money should be one of the main pillars of their economic policy) Large number of charts and graphs on the link:

Following the herd of foreign money into US real estate markets
Submitted by drhousingbubble on 11/16/2012 13:55 -0500

China Commercial Real Estate CRE CRE Detroit Federal Reserve Gross Domestic Product Hong Kong Housing Bubble Japan Krugman National Debt Nikkei Paul Krugman Real estate

Foreign money is flowing heavily into US real estate markets. Now some think that foreign money is going to prop up the entire market but this is simply not the case. The money flowing in from abroad is going specifically into targeted markets. This isn’t necessarily a US trend only. Canada is experiencing a massive housing bubble from money flowing in from China in particular. Here in Southern California many cities are seeing solid money flowing in from Asian countries. You have this occurring while big fund domestic investors are buying up low priced real estate cross the country as investments. What occurs then is the crowding out of your typical home buyer. I get e-mails from local families looking to buy saying they were outbid by $50,000 or $100,000 for properties that had nothing special. Even after the crash, why does it seem hard for domestic buyers to purchase a home?

Higher net worth group jumping ahead while middle and lower class grows in size

The below chart is an interesting look at net worth by percentiles:

Most Americans are still in a worse economic condition than they were over a decade ago. The numbers in terms of net worth, the true measure of wealth, highlight this very clearly. There are two primary drivers for this:

-90 percent of households have negligible holdings of actual stocks
-Most households derive their wealth from real estate
This explains why after the near non-stop run-up of the stock market since early 2009, most families are still in a tight financial pinch. High net-worth households with higher stock holdings rode this boom and bust much nicer. Part of this has to do with the fact that real estate is a small part of their portfolio and the massive stock market run has aided in boosting net worth back up.

This has implications on purchasing homes. Those in SoCal making $100,000+ think they should reasonably afford a “nice” home in a prime city. Well those are the places currently being targeted heavily by flippers, investors, and foreign money. This group is part of the net worth group that is in much better shape relative to the other 90 percent of households. So in essence, what was once viewed as affordable just doesn’t match anymore in a more uneven market of wealth.

People talk about simply picking up and leaving yet this trend is tiny.

"(The Atlantic) There's a connection between certain places and certain jobs. Silicon Valley is to tech what New York is to finance what Detroit is to cars. Call it the Synecdoche Economy. It's what Paul Krugman dubbed the new economics of geography: small differences beget more differences that become big differences. Regions specialize -- or do they still?
Maybe not quite as much. Silicon Valley still does computers, New York still does trading, and Detroit still does automobiles, but all of us do a whole lot less of one big thing -- moving. Consider that gross interstate migration has halved in just the past two decades, as the chart below shows."



Overall, people for the most part tend to stay where they are. Our cities copy one another so there no longer is the one city hub of say automobiles (i.e., Detroit) so you have tech jobs in Austin, Silicon Valley, or even Utah. In California, those trying to cope and stay are simply using up the easy money from the Federal Reserve and going into massive debt. These families typically also have large auto loans and other luxury expenses that they consider essential. This is why many are willing to take out a $500,000 mortgage for a shack. All debt and no cattle.

Japan and CRE bubble

In the late 1980s and early 1990s money was flowing into Hawaii and California heavily from Japan. This was during their real estate and stock bubble. Back then the fears were similar and that somehow, all of California was going to go to Japanese investors. That bubble was mostly focused on commercial real estate however. Of course that bubble ended and Japan finds itself in a stagnation of over two decades.

China is experiencing a massive real estate bubble. We recently discussed how Hong Kong instituted a 15 percent tax on foreign investors to cool the market down. Yet these actions are merely methods of slowing down the inevitable. People forget that money is flowing here because it largely wants to opt out or hedge against internal risks. Think about this clearly. If things were so fantastic domestically why is so much money eagerly looking to get out? Don’t you think that these local investors in China know what is going on domestically more than some Bloomberg report from New York? Whenever I see money escaping a country with a passion I think of two things:

-1. Domestic investments are looking weak
-2. Long-term growth is slowing down which is likely to bring economic and political instability
Just look at global stock markets since the lows in 2009:

While the S&P 500 is only off by 5.86 percent from its peak, the Shanghai index is off by a whopping 40 percent. The Hang Seng index is off by 14 percent. Even the Nikkei is off another 22 percent from its recent high. Again, when you see money flowing out of a country in epic fashion you have to ask what is going on internally. You don’t see European investors coming over with suitcases looking to buy properties in large droves. Yet you see this literally happening in California and Canada.

Supply is low

So you have this flood of money coming in competing with the Federal Reserve pushing interest rates to record lows. Add to the mix record low inventory and you can see why prices are jumping in some areas:

It isn’t that sales are back to bubble day levels. Not even close. Yet what is happening is inventory is incredibly low and the mix of foreign money, big domestic funds, and folks moving off the fence is causing some markets to move up in price. Take California for example. The share of foreclosure re-sales are moving lower and lower:

Foreclosure resales as a share of all sales is now back to levels last seen in 2007. So the sales that do occur, non-distressed sales are pushing the median price up giving the impression that we are in some sort of large appreciation movement. This is why the median price of a California home is now up 15 percent from last year even though incomes are stagnant.

I’m always weary about home prices rising so fast while incomes remain stagnant. This is a hot money scenario. Congress is likely to do nothing substantive this year but we have some major challenges in 2013. $16+ trillion in national debt is enormous and bigger than our actual GDP. As we have stated before, something needs to give and something will need to be done. The public of course is now accustomed to low interest rates, high levels of services, and a political machine that runs more like a corporation with large advertising arms. Those thinking they can buy homes in certain markets at rock bottom prices are now contending with the above trends. Hey, you can still get deals in probably 40+ states of the nation or even in places like the Central Valley or Inland Empire in California. Yet most want to live where the foreign and big money is. Following the herd is usually not a good long-term investment strategy.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 18, 2012, 12:23:35
For want of a better place to put this ... the Secretary of State is charged with implementing America's grand strategy in the wider world so the person who will hold that job matters. This article, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the New York Times, discusses two front runners:

In my opinion, worth what you're paying for it: Kerry is the liberal favourite but Rice is the better choice.

The mainstream liberal media (led by the New York Times and the Washington Post) have come out against Ms. Ruice and now I read that Sen John McCain says he will support John Kerry.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 21, 2012, 07:00:21
Mixed luck for President Obama's Asian pivot strategy: his keynote trip to Asia has been overshadowed by Gaza (Secretary Clinton is getting more and "better" media exposure) but this is, partially, a good thing because his visit to ASEAN was overshadowed, there, by internal dissent over China and the islands dispute, and he appears to have flubbed his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi so, maybe, he's glad the world's attention is focused elsewhere.

I'm having difficulty understanding why this particular trip was planned the way it was ~ the diplomatic objectives are elusive to me.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 21, 2012, 07:30:30
And here, in an opinion piece by Robert Kagan, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Washington Post, is why the Asian pivot strategy is problematic, regardless of how well it is (or is not) implemented:
United States can’t pivot away from Middle East

By Robert Kagan

Published: November 20

Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a monthly columnist for The Post, is most recently the author of “The World America Made.”


The recurrent theme at the Sir Bani Yas Forum, hosted by the United Arab Emirates and Chatham House here last weekend, was, Where is the United States? As the conference opened, Israel had just begun launching strikes in Gaza in response to the missile attacks from Hamas; Syria’s civil war raged with no end in sight; answers to the growing challenge of Iran remained elusive; and the course of Egypt’s political evolution had many concerned.

No one was suggesting the United States could or ought to have all the answers, but among this gathering of Arab, North African, South Asian and European diplomats and international civil servants, the overwhelming consensus was that the superpower is AWOL. The only question was whether the absence is temporary or permanent.

It was impressive to see how much desire there is for a more active U.S. role in the Middle East. There was little talk here of America’s decline as the world’s preeminent power. No one is preparing for a Chinese, Indian or Turkish ascendancy. Not even the Europeans claim that the European Union has the will or capacity to take on a bigger role in the region. The United States remains by far the most important player.

What has people concerned and despairing is not American decline but America’s declining interest — the sense that the Obama administration, and the American people, have about washed their hands of the Middle East.

President Obama was setting off on the first trip after his reelection, and it was to Southeast Asia, a fitting symbol of his proclaimed “pivot.” No one begrudges the United States paying more attention to Asia, but in the Middle East the pivot is seen as an attempt to turn away from this region’s difficult problems. People here believe Obama got burned on the Middle East peace process three years ago and is reluctant to engage again. They see how reticent the United States is to do anything in Syria. Veteran America-watchers complain that neither the White House nor the State Department has a Middle East hand with real clout focusing full-time on the region.

And it’s hard to deny: Many in the United States, not just inside the Obama administration, seem to think American policy needs to be “rebalanced.” The strategic importance of the Middle East is declining, they argue, as the United States grows independent of the region’s oil supply. Obama does little to push back against a growing public perception that there is nothing but trouble for the United States brewing in the Middle East.

When the Arab revolutions first erupted, the Obama White House promised to focus great attention and resources on these world-transforming events. That enthusiasm faded long ago. The administration used to trumpet its success in Libya. But lack of attention and follow-through has damaged even that once-bright spot. The Obama campaign boasted about getting U.S. troops out of Iraq. Beyond that, however, administration officials have little to say about one of the most important nations in the Middle East, still engaged in a historic struggle for democratic change.

The irony, of course, is that every time the Obama administration tries to turn toward Asia, the Middle East drags it back — literally, in the case of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It’s an illusion to think we will not continue to be drawn into Middle East affairs. The world is no longer neatly divided by distinct regions, if it ever was. Events in the Middle East affect the world, just as events in Asia do. Wherever the United States gets its oil, global energy prices are affected by whether oil flows freely from the Middle East, and U.S. allies in Europe and Asia still depend on that as a main source. If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, it will affect not just the Middle East but the global non-proliferation regime. The success or failure of the experiment to marry Islamism and democracy that is playing out in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere will affect politics across the Islamic world, from Morocco to Pakistan to Southeast Asia as well as in Europe. And if Syria collapses, the chances are high that well-armed terrorist groups will gain a foothold in a nation with the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpiles.

The present world order is seamless, and so is the global strategy necessary to sustain it. As one prominent statesman expressed the general puzzlement here, “Can’t the United States walk and chew gum at the same time?” For decades the United States has been able to provide security and remain engaged in three major theaters at once: Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Today those theaters are more interconnected, economically and strategically, than ever.

So let’s by all means give Asia the attention it deserves. But the world won’t afford us the luxury of downgrading the importance of the other two regions. That’s what it means to be a global superpower: We can pivot, but we can’t leave.

I agree with Robert Kagan that: "The present world order is seamless, and so is the global strategy necessary to sustain it."

The Asian pivot threatens to:

1. Persuade the Chinese that America intends to encircle and contain it. In my opinion neither is the case, for this administration, anyway; but either would be a serious strategic blunder unless and until the USA is willing and able to go to war with China; and

2. Weaken American influence elsewhere without a concomitant strengthening of America's influence in Asia.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 21, 2012, 08:08:36
To illustrate what wrong with the implementation of the the Asian pivot strategy:

1. China almost got what it wanted ("back burner" treatement) last week at the ASEAN meeting; but

2. It, China, settled for less (public disunity), but only because of ASEAN internal disagreements, not as a result of any US influence; and

3. Now the Philippines, a not inconsequential Asian power, has called a separate meeting ( (with Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam) to deal with China's island claims without US (or ASEAN) involvement.

It looks to me as though some Asians are less than convinced that the US "here to stay": or, for that matter, even "here."
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 21, 2012, 08:20:25
I hate to keep banging on about this, but Reuters reports, datelined Phnom Penh, 1 Nov 12, that (

"When U.S. President Barack Obama and more than a dozen leaders arrived in Cambodia for a regional summit meeting this week, only one of them was feted with banners strung from the venue gates.

"Welcome Prime Minister Wen Jiabao!" one proclaimed. "Long live the People's Republic of China!" read another.

As the leaders left, the green-and-white banners were still festooned outside Phnom Penh's Peace Palace, a fitting reminder of China's powerful and growing clout as Beijing uses its influence - and money - to win friends and frustrate those uneasy about its sweeping territorial claims and rising military strength."

I guess the Asian pivot needs more money and military strength, both of which are in short supply in Washington, to win in East Asia.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 24, 2012, 01:54:34
A sort of string from Instapundit earlier today. The US economy is facing huge hurdles and the looming "fiscal cliff" is just one of them. On economic threads I have pointed out the importance of incentives, since this Administration is viciously disincentivizing wealth creation we will see sluggish growth and massively expanded debt for years to come:


    I have noticed a theme running through a lot of your posts. From tax policy, to health care, to federal criminal laws, it is a constantly changing landscape that is impossible for companies and individuals to navigate. I am working with a company that is looking to start a whole new business program in the healthcare field, but they were holding off until after the election because of all the changes that will of course occur regardless of who won. Now they aren’t even sure if they will proceed with it.

    Politicians will talk about helping American manufacturers, small businesses, etc. But instead they constantly change the rules of the game to “help” (of course it only seems to help big contributors who can navigate the rules or get special waivers). Businesses can handle all sorts of challenges, but they need to know that the time, money and effort they put in wont be undermined by a constantly changing rule book. Why would I sacrifice and risk if some politician is going to decide some day that I was too successful and take what I earned, or some competitor will pay enough to get an unfair advantage bestowed upon them by a politician.

    At this point, most of the business people I know are truly disgusted with politicians from both parties. They go around making policies, rules and laws as if this is some game. This is my business, my family and my life, and it is constantly under attack by an army of bureaucrats.

Yes, it’s important to have good policies, but it’s also important — perhaps more important — to have stable ones. When things are constantly changing, the problem is called “regime uncertainty.” It can be quite destructive, especially if you want innovation and investment.

The problem is, stable policies offer fewer opportunities for graft and electioneering.

UPDATE: Reader Janet Shagam writes:

    The email reminded me of this bit from Federalist No. 62 – “It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow.”


Posted at 2:30 pm by Glenn Reynolds 

SO YESTERDAY’S DISCUSSION OF MARGINAL TAX RATES raises a thought: In today’s freelance economy, will the impact of marginal rates on how hard people work be greater than in the past? I mean, if you have an old-fashioned full-time “job” paying X-dollars a year, you can’t easily cut back and lower your income. But if you’re a freelancer of some kind, it’s easy to say that once you’re paying 50% (or 40%) tax on your income you’d rather cut back and substitute more leisure time. With more people earning their living that way, and fewer in full-time jobs, I assume we’ll see a lot more of that than we would have, say, 20 or 30 years ago.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

    With regard to your last comment on marginal tax rates, I really think that the Collins (the chiropractors mentioned in the articles lambasted on HuffPo, Slate and Mother Jones) are getting a very raw deal. There is no reason to suspect that they don’t know how marginal rates work. Given that they’re pretty much fee-for-service workers, the main way that they’ll make more money is to see more patients. If they see more patients, they have less leisure time. Hence, once they hit the higher bracket, every marginal patient is less profit to them, and the option of going on vacation is more attractive.

    Weigel, Drum and Linkins all assume that the Collins don’t understand marginal tax rates because every patient brings in addition profit, simply not as much–the embedded assumption being that expansion is great marginal revenue is greater than zero. They don’t seem to understand that every hour worked (and thus taken from leisure) has an opportunity cost (and, indeed, a rising marginal cost). The Collins seem to have a perfectly good grasp of economics, and the journalists appear both clueless and, worse, cruel.

    Of course, what’s odd is that they all make the same mistake.

Groupthink abounds. But yes, the more you work, the greater the value of your remaining leisure time. Set that against a declining return on additional hours worked, and it’s easy to see why people might stop working sooner than purely profit-oriented models suggest.

And another reader emails:

    Please keep me anonymous if you use this.

    I work in commission sales. I’ve earned a very nice income right below that $250K “threshold”. I’ve spent all of 2011 and 2012 in downsizing my expenses, paying off all debts, and conversing with my wife about how to best enjoy our now empty-nest status. A big part of our consideration is how much various taxing entities will be taking a piece of my hard-earned dollars. As a result, we will significantly reduce my income in 2013 so that I have a LOT more time to enjoy life. We’ll be very comfortable and my employer is very comfortable with me since I’m dependable and will reach my production goals that we’ve mutually agreed to. Could I earn a lot more? Yes. But I won’t because I don’t need to send any more dollars to Washington DC.

And reader Paul Stueck emails:

    If I am the marginal consultant, the answer is yes.

    My plan is to either raise my rates, so that there is less demand for my services (resulting in more leisure time between assignments), and\or to not take overlapping contracts as I’ve done previously.

    (This from someone who worked from 3:00 AM to 11:30 PM to help out a client on Thanksgiving…)

I think we’ll see a lot more of this than many anticipate.

UPDATE: Reader Roger Bogh writes:

    Regarding your discussion on the effect of increasing marginal tax rates on a consultant economy ( I have a point to be made on we salaried slugs. Namely, that many of us have spent the last four or five years getting out of debt and increasing cash flow. I was going to enjoy my new financial clout and freedom. Now I have to assume that various government entities will be grabbing at my new found assets. What is one to do? Well, I am number crunching the various tax increases I am about to be challenged by. My goal is to absolutely Zero Out those tax increases by increasing my 401(k) contributions, increasing my Health Flexible Savings Account, donating more to charity, and grinding on all of my potential deductions.

    The end result is that I will have a backup Winnebago and a boat in my golden years. Maybe I’ll hire a couple of drivers for my Winnebagos rather than a boat and captain. I really don’t want all that stuff in my golden years but you have to do what you have to do.

    Right now, I have mathed out the increase in my 401(k) required to zero out Kalefornea’s Proposition 30 and Proposition Z. Since I am not in the upper crust I am only going to have to zero out $150. I will time that for my first paycheck in January. The bummer is that zeroing out Governor Moonbeam’s tax increase will result in the Feds taking a cut in their revenue. Hope our Economic Black Swan President doesn’t let us fall of the cliff. If he does Kalefornea will wonder where all their money went.

    Bring it on. If nobody on Capitol Hill will starve the beast I will…

Funny, I’m now reading James Scott’s new book, and he says (on page 14):

    One need not have an actual conspiracy to achieve the practical effects of a conspiracy. More regimes have been brought, piecemeal, to their knees by what was once called “Irish Democracy,” the silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal, and truculence of millions of ordinary people, than by revolutionary vanguards or rioting mobs.

This response seems to me to be something like that — with the added aspect that it is actually encouraged by the regime’s own policy approaches.

The two takeaways are the constant "churning" of regulations and laws is replicating the conditions that caused the Capital Strike of 1937-38 (the single worst year of the Great Depression) and that people are making plans to "go Galt" without any sort of coordination. The Administration and the Blue States might believe they are under some sort of coordinated economic attack, but none exist. They will try to impliment new rules and taxes to "boost the economy", but only push more people past the threshold where they will "go Galt", setting up a new cycle until the system implodes. The end result will not be pretty.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on November 30, 2012, 23:28:37
It seems that the rest of the world can recognize that the US is currently not a serious player, and the TPP has been sidelined by a much larger, "all Asian" trading partnership group. This may also have some consequences for us (and probably not good ones). Lots of charts in the article, follow link:

Post-US world born in Phnom Penh
By Spengler

It is symptomatic of the national condition of the United States that the worst humiliation ever suffered by it as a nation, and by a US president personally, passed almost without comment last week. I refer to the November 20 announcement at a summit meeting in Phnom Penh that 15 Asian nations, comprising half the world's population, would form a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership excluding the United States.

President Barack Obama attended the summit to sell a US-based Trans-Pacific Partnership excluding China. He didn't. The American led-partnership became a party to which no-one came.

Instead, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, will form a club and leave out the United States. As 3 billion Asians become prosperous, interest fades in the prospective contribution of 300 million Americans - especially when those Americans decline to take risks on new technologies. America's great economic strength, namely its capacity to innovate, exists mainly in memory four years after the 2008 economic crisis.

A minor issue in the election campaign, the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative was the object of enormous hype on the policy circuit. enthused on October 23,

    This agreement is a core part of the "Asia pivot" that has occupied the activities of think tanks and policymakers in Washington but remained hidden by the tinsel and confetti of the election. But more than any other policy, the trends the TPP represents could restructure American foreign relations, and potentially the economy itself.

As it happened, this grand, game-changing vision mattered only to the sad, strange people who concoct policy in the bowels of the Obama administration. America's relative importance is fading.

To put these matters in context: the exports of Asian countries have risen more than 20% from their peak before the 2008 economic crisis, while Europe's exports have fallen by more than 20%. American exports have risen marginally (by about 4%) from their pre-2008 peak.

Exhibit 1: Asian, European and US exports

China's exports to Asia, meanwhile, have jumped 50% since their pre-crisis peak, while exports to the United States have risen by about 15%. At US$90 billion, Chinese exports to Asia are three times the country's exports to the United States.

After months and dire (and entirely wrong) predictions that China's economy faces a hard landing, it is evident that China will have no hard landing, nor indeed any landing at all. Domestic consumption as well as exports to Asia are both running nearly 20% ahead of last year's levels, compensating for weakness in certain export markets and the construction sector. Exports to the moribund American economy are stagnant.

Exhibit 2: China's exports to Asia vs USA

Source: Bloomberg

In 2002, China imported five times as much from Asia as it did from the United States. Now it imports 10 times as much from Asia as from the US.

Exhibit 3: Chinese imports from the US and Asia

Source: Bloomberg

Following the trade patterns, Asian currencies began trading more closely with China's renminbi than with the American dollar. Arvind Subramanian and Martin Kessler wrote in an October 2012 study for the Peterson Institute:

    A country's rise to economic dominance tends to be accompanied by its currency becoming a reference point, with other currencies tracking it implicitly or explicitly. For a sample comprising emerging market economies, we show that in the last two years, the renminbi (RMB/yuan) has increasingly become a reference currency which we define as one which exhibits a high degree of co-movement (CMC) with other currencies.

    In East Asia, there is already a RMB bloc, because the RMB has become the dominant reference currency, eclipsing the dollar, which is a historic development. In this region, 7 currencies out of 10 co-move more closely with the RMB than with the dollar, with the average value of the CMC relative to the RMB being 40% greater than that for the dollar. We find that co-movements with a reference currency, especially for the RMB, are associated with trade integration.

    We draw some lessons for the prospects for the RMB bloc to move beyond Asia based on a comparison of the RMB's situation today and that of the Japanese yen in the early 1990s. If trade were the sole driver, a more global RMB bloc could emerge by the mid-2030s but complementary reforms of the financial and external sector could considerably expedite the process.

All of this is well known and exhaustively discussed. The question is what, if anything, the United States will do about it.

Where does the United States have a competitive advantage? Apart from commercial aircraft, power-generating equipment, and agriculture, it has few areas of real industrial pre-eminence. Cheap natural gas helps low-value-added industries such as fertilizer, but the US is lagging in the industrial space.

Four years ago, when Francesco Sisci and I proposed a Sino-American monetary agreement as an anchor for trade integration, the US still dominated the nuclear power plant industry. With the sale of the Westinghouse nuclear power business to Toshiba, and Toshiba's joint ventures with China to build power plants locally, that advantage has evaporated.

The problem is that Americans have stopped investing in the sort of high-tech, high-value-added industries that produce the manufactures that Asia requires. Manufacturers' capital goods orders are 38% below the 1999 peak after taking inflation into account. And venture capital allocations for high-tech manufacturing have dried up.

Exhibit 4: Venture capital allocations for export-related industries collapse
(March 2003=100)

Source: National Venture Capital Association

Exhibit 5: US capital goods orders nearly 40% below 1999 peak in real terms

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Without innovation and investment, all the trade agreements that the Washington policy circuit can devise won't help. Neither, it should be added, will an adjustment in exchange rates.

It is hard to fathom just what President Obama had in mind when he arrived in Asia bearing a Trans-Pacific Partnership designed to keep China out. What does the United States have to offer Asians?

It is borrowing $600 billion a year from the rest of the world to finance a $1.2 trillion government debt, most prominently from Japan (China has been a net seller of Treasury securities during the past year).
It is a taker of capital rather than a provider of capital.

It is a major import market but rapidly diminishing in relative importance as intra-Asian trade expands far more rapidly than trade with the United States.

And America's strength as an innovator and incubator of entrepreneurs has diminished drastically since the 2008 crisis, no thanks to the Obama administration, which imposed a steep task on start-up businesses in the form of its healthcare program.

Washington might want to pivot towards Asia. At Phnom Penh, though, Asian leaders in effect invited Obama to pivot the full 360 degrees and go home.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It's Not the End of the World - It's Just the End of You, also appeared last fall, from Van Praag Press.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Old Sweat on December 02, 2012, 09:35:48
In this column reproduced from The National Review Online under the Fair Dealing provision of the Copyright Act Mark Steyn makes the point, which should be obvious to policy makers and the people in the street alike, that the Americans voted for a European-type welfare state but are not willing to pay for it.

Kindly Note the Impending Bankruptcy
You can’t have American-sized taxes and European-sized government.
By Mark Steyn

Previously on The Perils of Pauline:
Last year, our plucky heroine, the wholesome apple-cheeked American republic, was trapped in an express elevator hurtling out of control toward the debt ceiling. Would she crash into it? Or would she make some miraculous escape?
Yes! At the very last minute of her white-knuckle thrill ride to her rendezvous with destiny, she was rescued by Congress’s decision to set up . . . a Super Committee! Those who can, do. Those who can’t, form a committee. Those who really can’t, form a Super Committee — and then put John Kerry on it for good measure. The bipartisan Super Committee of Super Friends was supposed to find $1.2 trillion dollars of deficit reduction by last Thanksgiving, or plucky little America would wind up trussed like a turkey and carved up by “automatic sequestration.”
Sequestration sounds like castration, only more so: It would chop off everything in sight. It would be so savage in its dismemberment of poor helpless America that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the course of a decade the sequestration cuts would reduce the federal debt by $153 billion. Sorry, I meant to put on my Dr. Evil voice for that: ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE BILLION DOLLARS!!! Which is about what the United States government currently borrows every month. No sane person could willingly countenance brutally saving a month’s worth of debt over the course of a decade.
So now we have the latest cliffhanger: the Fiscal Cliff, below which lies a bottomless abyss of sequestration, tax-cut-extension expiries, Alternative Minimum Tax adjustments, new Obamacare taxes, the expiry of the deferment of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, as well as the expiry of the deferment of the implementation of the adjustment of the correction of the extension of the reduction to the proposed increase of the Alternative Minimum Growth Sustainability Reduction Rate. They don’t call it a yawning chasm for nothing.
As America hangs by its fingernails wiggling its toesies over the vertiginous plummet to oblivion, what can save her now? An Even More Super Committee? A bipartisan agreement in which Republicans agree to cave and Democrats agree not to laugh at them too much? That could be just the kind of farsighted reach-across-the-aisle compromise that rescues the nation until next week’s thrill-packed episode when America’s strapped into the driver’s seat of a runaway Chevy Volt careering round the hairpin bends on full charge, or trapped in an abandoned subdivision overrun by foreclosure zombies.
I suppose it’s possible to take this recurring melodrama seriously, but there’s no reason to. The problem facing the United States government is that it spends over a trillion dollars a year that it doesn’t have. If you want to make that number go away, you need either to reduce spending or to increase revenue. With the best will in the world, you can’t interpret the election result as a spectacular victory for less spending. Indeed, if nothing else, the unfortunate events of November 6 should have performed the useful task of disabusing us poor conservatives that America is any kind of “center-right nation.” A few months ago, I dined with a (pardon my English) French intellectual who, apropos Mitt Romney’s stump-speech warnings that we were on a one-way ticket to Continental-sized dependency, chortled to me, “Americans love Big Government as much as Europeans. The only difference is that Americans refuse to admit it.”
My Gallic charmer is on to something. According to the most recent (2009) OECD statistics: government expenditures per person in France, $18,866.00; in the United States, $19,266.00. That’s adjusted for purchasing-power parity, and yes, no comparison is perfect, but did you ever think the difference between America and the cheese-eating surrender monkeys would come down to quibbling over the fine print? In that sense, the federal debt might be better understood as an American Self-Delusion Index, measuring the ever widening gap between the national mythology (a republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens) and the reality (a 21st-century cradle-to-grave nanny state in which, as the Democrats’ convention boasted, “government is the only thing we do together”).
Generally speaking, functioning societies make good-faith efforts to raise what they spend, subject to fluctuations in economic fortune: Government spending in Australia is 33.1 percent of GDP, and tax revenues are 27.1 percent. Likewise, government spending in Norway is 46.4 percent and revenues are 41 percent — a shortfall but in the ballpark. Government spending in the United States is 42.2 percent, but revenues are 24 percent — the widest spending/taxing gulf in any major economy.
So all the agonizing over our annual trillion-plus deficits overlooks the obvious solution: Given that we’re spending like Norwegians, why don’t we just pay Norwegian tax rates?
No danger of that. If (in Milton Himmelfarb’s famous formulation) Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans, Americans are taxed like Puerto Ricans but vote like Scandinavians. We already have a more severely redistributive taxation system than Europe in which the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans pay 70 percent of income tax while the poorest 20 percent shoulder just three-fifths of one percent. By comparison, the Norwegian tax burden is relatively equitably distributed. Yet Obama now wishes “the rich” to pay their “fair share” — presumably 80 or 90 percent. After all, as Warren Buffett pointed out in the New York Times this week, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion. That sounds a lot, and once upon a time it was. But today, if you confiscated every penny the Forbes 400 have, it would be enough to cover just over one year’s federal deficit. And after that you’re back to square one. It’s not that “the rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” it’s that America isn’t. A majority of the electorate has voted itself a size of government it’s not willing to pay for.
A couple of years back, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calculated that, if Washington were to increase every single tax by 30 percent, it would be enough to balance the books — in 25 years. If you were to raise taxes by 50 percent, it would be enough to fund our entitlement liabilities — just our current ones, not our future liabilities, which would require further increases. This is the scale of course correction needed.
If you don’t want that, you need to cut spending — like Harry Reid’s been doing. “Now remember, we’ve already done more than a billion dollars’ worth of cuts,” he bragged the other day. “So we need to get some credit for that.”
Wow! A billion dollars’ worth of cuts! Washington borrows $188 million every hour. So, if Reid took over five hours to negotiate those “cuts,” it was a complete waste of time. So are most of the “plans.” Any “debt-reduction plan” that doesn’t address at least $1.3 trillion a year is, in fact, a debt-increase plan.
So given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I’d say: “Clearly there’s no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it’s time to pony up.”
Okay, he might want to focus-group it first. But that fundamental dishonesty is the heart of the crisis. You cannot simultaneously enjoy American-sized taxes and European-sized government. One or the other has to go.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 02, 2012, 10:40:14
Susan Rice under fire from the left.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on December 13, 2012, 15:01:48
Devaluing the US currency seems to be the only goal this policy has in mind, but the secondary effects of inflation and Hayekian credit bubbles will wreak havoc on the American economy for years to come. Of course, since many metrics coming from the US are suspect anyway (consider the constant use of the BLS unemployment statistics, rather than the more accurate and inclusive U3 figure) the "targets" that are being aimed for are little more than mirages.

The other problem is this is simply more fun with Keynesian economics. Back when I was learning the IS/LM theory of trading inflation for unemployment I was forces to wonder why Stagflation existed outside the classroom window (something totally impossible under the Keynesian model), or how the Reagan revolution was crushing inflation and generating huge inceases in empoyment despite the vehement assertation of my instructors and leading pundits that this could not be happening. Years of "stimulus", low interest rates and flooding the economy with "liquidity" has failed to move unemployment or economic growth much, so suggesting that supercharging the process will work so much better is madness:

Terence Corcoran: Bernanke steers Fed’s monetary machine into uncharted waters

Terence Corcoran | Dec 12, 2012 8:34 PM ET | Last Updated: Dec 13, 2012 11:41 AM ET
More from Terence Corcoran | @terencecorcoran

The problem with the policy is that the cause-and-effect link between zero interest rates and the unemployment rate does not exist

In a stunning and history-making policy departure that challenges some basic tenets of economic theory, Ben Bernanke is taking the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary machine where it has never been before. It may even be where no central banker has ever been before.

Using the printing presses and control over interest rates, Mr. Bernanke’s Fed said Wednesday it will hold interest rates at near zero and continue to buy up to $1-trillion a year in bond and mortgage securities at a rate of $85-billion a month until the cows come home.

Targets imply that rock-bottom interest rates will prevail through to 2015 and beyond
In this case, the cows are measured by the U.S. unemployment rate and inflation. Specifically, the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said it will remain in super-stimulist mode “at least as long” as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5% and inflation is projected to be below 2.5%.

U.S. Fed announces fresh stimulus in new approach to support growth
Fed announces new round of stimulus: What the analysts say
The targets imply — for Americans and likely Canadians as well — that rock-bottom interest rates will prevail through to 2015 and beyond.

The appearance of a specific unemployment rate objective — well below the current rate of 7.5%— is a radical departure in economic and monetary theory. The idea, however, has been high on the agenda of monetary liberals for some time and is not a total surprise.

When Chicago Fed president Charles Evans delivered a keynote lecture to the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto two weeks ago, he outlined the rationale for the jobless target. With inflation low, he said, “a number of macro-model simulations … indicate that we can keep the funds rate near zero until the unemployment rate hits at least 6.5% and still generate only minimal inflation risks.”

Joblessness is determined by a range of economic and policy forces, all of which are beyond the reach of monetary policy
Mr. Evans implied that his Fed colleagues were mostly in agreement. An even lower unemployment target might be doable. “Even a 6% threshold doesn’t look threatening in many of these [macro-model] scenarios. But for now, I am ready to say that 6.5% looks like a better unemployment marker than the 7% rate I had called for earlier.”

And so 6.5% it is, as of Wednesday announcement. The policy — already widely referred to as “the Evans rule”— is an easy sell to politicians, the public, interventionist economists and unions. Use fast money and zero interest rates to create jobs and reduce the high-profile unemployment rate. Of course! Simple, graspable, clear.

The problem with the policy is that the cause-and-effect link between zero interest rates and the unemployment rate does not exist. Joblessness is determined by a range of economic and policy forces, all of which are beyond the reach of monetary policy.

The $1-trillion-a-year U.S. fiscal mess, for example, creates the threat of massive tax increases, spending disruptions and uncertainty that kills growth and investment. New financial regulations and government policies disrupt and distort economic behaviour. If unemployment stays high due to bad policies and economic change, no amount of monetary stimulus can bring down the rate.

It could, however, create inflation. The Fed claims to reject the idea of using inflation to boost job creation, although more than a few economists think that tradeoff is worth the risk. Mr. Evans once thought 3% inflation might be acceptable. On Wednesday, the Fed sawed it off at 2.5%, above its official target of 2% but below a possible 3%.

The idea that central banks can target the narrow statistic of unemployment, rather than stick to inflation while keeping an eye on some broader measure of economic performance, is relatively new. So is the companion idea that the Fed and other central banks should begin broadcasting the fact that they will continue to stimulate the economy even after economic recovery has set in.

To again quote Mr. Evans, the new approach is to “make it clear that the highly accommodative stance of monetary policy would remain in place for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens,” which the Fed has said will take it to 2015.

So the question, asked by Mr. Evans: “Why should policy remain accommodative even after we have a stronger recovery? The delay is a feature of what modern macroeconomic theory tells us is the optimal policy response to the extraordinary circumstances we have faced over the past four years.”

Another way of reading the central bank policy shifts, however, is as outright admissions that the past four years of unprecedented monetary expansionism and experimentation have been a failure.

In America, Canada and around the world, central banks have taken risky bets on their new interventions — now estimated to include nearly $15-trillion in asset purchases along with zero interest rates over almost five years. But still there are no signs of real sustained recovery. Instead, there are widespread predictions of fresh recessions.

As for the “modern macroeconomic theory” Mr. Evens refers to, it turns out to be a couple of papers by other economists, including one by Michael Woodford at Columbia University delivered to the annual meeting of central bankers in Wyoming in August. Mr. Woodford, over about 100 pages, attempts to figure out what should be done when economies are still stagnant and interest rates have been at zero for years.

His answer: Central banks should use “forward guidance” to announce how long they intend to keep rates low. If the Fed can’t lower interest rates to below zero, then maybe it can generate growth by telling people it will keep rates low until the cows come home.

Finn Poschmann, vice-president, research, at the C.D.Howe Institute, says the Woodford paper is essentially a concession. “Roughly,” he said, Mr. Woodford has concluded that “it’s not working, so we have to promise to do it for a really long time and, not only that, promise to keep doing it long after.”

Mr. Woodford credits Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney with having been a bit of a pioneer in the forward-guidance business. In a speech this week, Mr. Carney — clearly anticipating the FOMC action Wednesday — warned however that “this forward guidance is never a promise.” Actual policy will always “respond to the economic and financial outlook as it evolves. Expectations of policy should do the same.” Mr. Carney also said central banks should adopt precise numerical “thresholds” for inflation and unemployment. He didn’t set any thresholds for Canada, but maybe Canada is next in the great global central banking experiment/gamble/big bet that monetary policy can save us all.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 13, 2012, 15:31:08
The Twitterverse is suggesting that Chuck Hagel will the the next Secretary of Defence ( in Washington.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 13, 2012, 16:47:16
Online rumour mill now says that Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from consideration as Secretary of State.

Edit to add: and it is confirmed by NBC News (
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 21, 2012, 13:48:14
To illustrate what wrong with the implementation of the the Asian pivot strategy:

1. China almost got what it wanted ("back burner" treatement) last week at the ASEAN meeting; but

2. It, China, settled for less (public disunity), but only because of ASEAN internal disagreements, not as a result of any US influence; and

3. Now the Philippines, a not inconsequential Asian power, has called a separate meeting ( (with Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam) to deal with China's island claims without US (or ASEAN) involvement.

It looks to me as though some Asians are less than convinced that the US "here to stay": or, for that matter, even "here."

More on the Asian Pivot in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Global Asia (A journal of the East Asia Foundation ([i), a Korea based think-tank):
America’s New Security Strategy and Its Military Dimension

By Michael McDevitt

December 2012

Much has been made of the military implications of America’s pivot to Asia, especially in the context of perceptions that the US is engaged in an effort to contain China.

Retired US Navy Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt argues that while China is an important factor in the US strategic shift, the pivot is about much more than China. It is about shaping the environment so that a US-China conflict never becomes necessary, and perhaps someday is even inconceivable.

In November 2011 the administration of US President Barack Obama announced a rebalancing of its strategic focus away from the wars of the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific. It also announced that this new strategic rebalancing, or pivot, included an integrated mix of diplomatic, economic, budgetary and security-related initiatives.

The strategy was widely interpreted in the Western media as being all about China, which the administration denies, while in China, the strategy was widely perceived as being one more step in a Washington containment strategy. The truth, of course, is that China is a significant consideration, but it is also true that the rebalance is not all about China, nor is it an attempt to contain China. In fact, anyone who knows anything about Asia realizes that none of China’s neighbors would support a containment strategy. While they may be nervous about China’s growing power, they are also, in one way or another, historically, culturally and economically linked with China. After all, China is every Asian nation’s largest trading partner. They also recognize that China is always going to be their largest neighbor.

The rebalance, to be sure, is not officially blind to China’s rise. In a Foreign Policy article that provides the most comprehensive written description of the administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote: “China represents one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage. This calls for careful, steady, dynamic stewardship, an approach to China on our part that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests.”1

The rebalance strategy is really about the fact that over the past 10 years Washington has poured immense resources into Iraq and Afghanistan. In effect, America’s strategic focus was “out of balance.” It was much too heavily weighted toward fighting wars in the Persian Gulf region and Afghanistan—at the expense of America’s more traditional security focus, which was more balanced among regions.

Thus, the administration’s strategy is more accurately understood as an attempt to restore the traditional balance of interests and focus to American security policy, which since 1898 has always had a strong Asia-Pacific orientation, and at the same time to reassure friends and allies that the US remains committed to the Asia-Pacific and to stability in East Asia. The rebalance is intended to counter the regional narrative of American decline in the face of Chinese growth; hence, the real diplomatic and informational focus of the strategy is reassurance.

The Evolving Strategic Setting: China Moves to Sea

In those 10 years of US involvement in the wars of the Middle East, the strategic balance in Asia has been changing. For half a century, the military balance of power in East Asia was unchanged. The continental powers of East Asia, the Soviet Union and “Red” China were effectively balanced by the offshore presence of the US and its island and archipelagic allies. This balance began to change about 16 years ago, when China had the political motivation and economic resources to begin to address a historic strategic weakness — its vulnerability to military intervention from the sea. The incentive for Beijing was the fear that newly democratic Taiwan was moving toward de jure independence and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), short of nuclear escalation, was essentially powerless to prevent it, particularly if the US elected militarily to support such a course of action.

Beijing also had plenty of historical motivations. China’s “Century of Humiliation” started in the mid-19th century with its defeat in the Opium War by the British, who came from the sea. Over the decades, China was repeatedly humiliated by foreign powers that exploited China’s weakness along its maritime approaches.2

As a result, the combination of economic and geo-strategic factors related to security merge to form the strategic motivation for a historically unique Chinese defense perimeter that extends hundreds of miles to sea. The strategic drivers for Beijing are: the issue of Taiwan itself; the fact that the vast majority of China’s unresolved security issues are maritime in nature; the reality that its economic development depends upon imports of raw materials and exports of finished goods that travel mainly by sea; and, perhaps most importantly, the fact that China’s economic center of gravity is located along its eastern seaboard, exposed to attack from the sea.

If China is only defending its interests, is this a problem?

By moving its defenses far to sea, China is effectively undermining the traditional maritime-continental balance that has provided the security and stability that have enabled the Asian economic miracle of the last 30 years. As China improves its defenses, it is making the security situation of the countries that live in the shadow of China worse. It is creating what academics call a “security dilemma” — one country’s defenses become so effective that its neighbors fear for their own security.

In 2001, the US Department of Defense began publicly to fret about this situation, characterizing the military problem as “anti-access” and “area denial.”3 The Chinese have also coined a term to describe what they are trying to achieve militarily: PLA strategists refer to it as “counter-intervention operations.” In practical terms, this refers to the knitting together of a large submarine force, land-based aircraft carrying anti-ship cruise missiles, and in the near future, ballistic missiles that have the ability to hit moving ships. All these capabilities depend on a very effective ocean surveillance system that can detect and accurately locate approaching naval forces.

No matter what one calls this concept, the desired military outcome is the same — to keep US naval and air forces as far away from China as possible. The strategic implications of this for China’s neighbors, many of whom depend upon the US to underwrite their security as alliance or strategic partners, are obvious. If “we” get into a confrontation with China, can “we” depend upon the United States to be able to support us?

Beijing argues that its strategic intentions are clear: China is on a path of peaceful development and is not a threat to its neighbors. I believe that China’s leaders believe this. The trouble is that, as any strategist will argue, intentions can change in an instant; what really matters are the military capabilities that China will possess when its counter-intervention force is completed. Will China be able to defeat US forward-deployed forces and prevent additional forces from the US from reaching East Asia in the event of a conflict? Addressing this worry over American staying power in Asia in the face of a rising China is a key issue that the Obama rebalance strategy intends to address.


The long term US response

The US response to the challenge posed by the PLA’s “counter-intervention operation” was actually unveiled in the US’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report. It announced that the US Air Force and US Navy had combined to develop a new operational concept known as Air-Sea Battle (ASB). ASB aims to counter any anti-access threat in the world, including that posed by China. Details of this concept have for understandable reasons remained highly classified, but recent statements by the heads of the Navy and Air Force have indicated that ASB will focus on three lines of effort: 1) disrupting enemy surveillance systems, as surveillance is the backbone of any anti-access system. If you can’t locate an approaching naval force, you can’t attack it; 2) destroying enemy launching systems so that precision weapons cannot be launched (during the Cold War, this was known as shooting at archers not at arrows); 3) defeating enemy missiles and other weapons. This means shooting them down, or decoying them away.4

Near-term actions

During his November 2011 trip to Asia, Obama announced the creation of a US Marine Corps presence in Australia. Today only 250-strong, it is planned to grow to 2,500, a full Marine Expeditionary Unit. This is likely to trigger an increase in amphibious ships that rotate to the Western Pacific so that these Marines have the lift necessary to be employed within the region. The Obama announcement built upon the statement made earlier in 2011 by then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, that several of the US Navy’s newest surface combatants, known as the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), would be permanently stationed in Singapore. Finally, the US Navy Chief of Naval Operations also addressed re-establishing some sort of rotation presence in the Philippines.5 Collectively, these posture announcements are intended to signal that the rebalance strategy includes improving the US presence in Southeast Asia, an area that had been neglected when compared to the US presence in Northeast Asia.

Also announced were specific force posture changes that build on initiatives launched during the second term of former US President George W. Bush. Specifically, the US said that over the next seven years it intends to gradually increase the overall percentage of US Navy ships assigned to the Pacific Fleet to 60 percent. Today, according to the Secretary of the Navy, the fleet is already home to about 55 percent of the US Navy. Since the US Navy currently has 287 ships, that means about 158 are in the Pacific Fleet. Plans are to gradually increase the numbers to the 60 percent target, not by transferring ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but by adding newly built ships to the Pacific Fleet. Building plans for the future indicate that by 2019 the Navy hopes to have between 295 to 300 ships. So, to reach the target of 60 percent of this fleet size suggests that by the end of this decade, the Pacific Fleet will be between 177 to 180 ships strong. So, the rebalance will gradually grow the Pacific Fleet by around 20 ships.6

Until recently, there had been no public announcements regarding US Army and Air Force posture changes associated with the rebalance strategy. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter broke this silence in August 2012. In a speech in New York, he indicated that the Air Force intends to shift very important surveillance capacity from Afghanistan to the Asia-Pacific, to include the MQ-9 Reaper, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, and the Global Hawk, a high-altitude, unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. The Air Force will also be able to allocate space, cyber and bomber forces from the US to the Asia-Pacific region with little new investment. As operations in Afghanistan end, for example, B-1s will become available, augmenting the B-52s already on continuous rotational presence in the region. Carter also indicated that Washington was working with Australia to establish a rotational bomber presence, building on the success of bomber rotations to Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. 

The Army’s presence in South Korea will be protected from any budget changes, according to Carter. He opined that the Asia-Pacific region will see more Army and Marine Corps presence for the simple reason that they will not be in Iraq and Afghanistan any more.7

Thoughts on the future

It is unlikely that China will halt development of what it considers necessary for its defenses. It is also clear that the US does not intend to sit idly by and permit the introduction of military capabilities that could deny it access to East Asia in a time of conflict, and in peacetime undermine its credibility as a capable ally. Thus, it seems likely that for the foreseeable future the region will witness a “military capabilities competition” in which China introduces capabilities that could deny access, while the US military, especially the Navy and Air Force, introduces capabilities that will assure access. It will be a period of competing strategic concepts, assured access vs. denied access, manifested by the introduction of military capabilities by both sides to accomplish these ends.

Importantly, however, as the recent CSIS report on the US posture in Asia advises,8 the top priority is not to prepare for a conflict with China; rather, it is to shape the environment so that such a conflict is never necessary and perhaps someday inconceivable. The military posture changes that Washington and its allies are pursuing are intended to achieve this objective.

Michael McDevitt, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.), is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) in Alexandria, Virginia. This paper reflects the views of the author, and not necessarily those of the US Department of Defense or of the CNA.

1 Hillary Clinton, “America’s Pacific Century,” Foreign Policy, Nov. 2011, www.foreign
2 See Robert Bickers, The Scramble of China: Foreign Devils and the Qing Empire, 1832-1913, Penguin paperback, 2012, for a recent well-researched assessment.
3 US Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report 2001, Sept. 30, 2001, p.25. It describes anti-access and area-denial as relating to a fundamental US strategic concept, deterring forward. Specifically, it adds, “Deterrence in the future will continue to depend heavily upon the capability resident in forward stationed and forward deployed combat and expeditionary forces.”
4 Norton Swartz and Jonathan Greenert, “Air-Sea Battle: Promoting Stability in an Era of Uncertainty,” The American Interest, Feb. 2012,
5 Christain Le Miere, “America’s Pivot to Asia: The Naval Dimension,” Survival, Vol. 54, No 3, pp81-94
6 Mike McCarthy, “New Ships Will Account for Asia-Pacific Buildup, SECNAV Says,” Defense Daily, Mar. 9, 2012.
7 Ashton Carter, “The US Strategic Rebalance to Asia: A Defense Perspective,” Asia Society speech, August 1, 2012,
8 David Bertau, Michael Green et al., “US Force Posture Strategy in Asia-Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment,” CSIS, Washington DC, Aug. 2012,

I agree with the three main conclusions:

1. China will not halt development of necessary defences;

2. The US aims to not allow China to dominate East Asia; and

3. The US plans aim to prevent rather than provoke confrontation.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 21, 2012, 15:21:34
And the Globe and Mail reports ( that President Obama has, formally, nominated Senator John Kerry to be Secretary of State, a job, the report suggests, that Sen Kerry has long coveted.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Retired AF Guy on December 21, 2012, 18:43:49
And the Globe and Mail reports ( that President Obama has, formally, nominated Senator John Kerry to be Secretary of State, a job, the report suggests, that Sen Kerry has long coveted.

Lord help us all.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Jed on December 21, 2012, 19:10:36
Lord help us all.

Why? What is the story behind your comment? Just asking and I don't have an opinion one way or another.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 21, 2012, 22:17:56
At least he wont be Secretary of Defense.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on December 22, 2012, 07:52:51
Why? What is the story behind your comment? Just asking and I don't have an opinion one way or another.

Perhaps you should look at his history. A lot of very unsavoury stuff came to the surface when he ran for President, much of which suggests he does not have a very good sense of judgement (to say the least). He is a first class hypocrite as well, he might mouth class warfare rhetoric like the rest of the Dems, but docks his yacht in a different State to avoid paying taxes in Massachusetts, to use a very open source example.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 22, 2012, 10:49:29
Here (, posted under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the National Defense University (NDU) Prism, is a wide ranging interview with Richard N Hass ( who has some qualifications to speak on American strategy.

If you read nothing else, please take note of the last paragraph re: how to formulate strategy:

"The government has its own formal process because of Goldwater-Nichols [Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986], and that’s of some limited utility. But by and large, governments aren’t good, or groups aren’t good, at “big think.” That’s actually a role for outsiders to government. that’s what think tanks, people who think strategically, ought to be doing. It’s what people do in war colleges. It’s what people do on planning staffs. The idea that an interagency committee is going to think of a grand strategy—no, that’s not going to happen. Containment didn’t come out of a committee. Containment came out of an individual, an extraordinarily talented individual. Ultimately, ideas have to be vetted by governments and internalized by governments. Policies have to be designed and then implemented by governments. But ideas don’t by and large come out of governments. Ideas come to governments. That is, from individuals. It could be an individual in government, but more likely an individual outside of government. that’s a much more realistic creative process."
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 22, 2012, 11:10:55
Perhaps you should look at his history. A lot of very unsavoury stuff came to the surface when he ran for President, much of which suggests he does not have a very good sense of judgement (to say the least). He is a first class hypocrite as well, he might mouth class warfare rhetoric like the rest of the Dems, but docks his yacht in a different State to avoid paying taxes in Massachusetts, to use a very open source example.

But here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The Washington Times is a fairly well known conservative's view of Sen Kerry ~ the best liberal choice:
[size=14ptA better choice for Obama’s secretary of state[/size]
Kerry more qualified than Rice for top position

By Michael Taube

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recently withdrew her name from consideration as President Obama’s next secretary of state. This paves the way for Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry to assume the role.

This probably is the best scenario that could have happened.

Regardless of your political affiliation, it boils down to a choice of the lesser of two liberal evils: Who is better suited for this role, and who would provide stronger leadership on the international stage? Using those criteria, Mr. Kerry is more qualified than Mrs. Rice ever could dream of being.

Certainly, Mrs. Rice has solid experience. She worked in the White House under President Clinton in various roles, including on the National Security Council and as assistant secretary of state for African affairs. She was a senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. She also served as a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign and to Mr. Kerry during his 2004 presidential run.

Those are impressive credentials. That being said, they haven’t translated into strong political acumen or a proper balance between leadership and diplomacy.

In 2008, Mrs. Rice attacked then-GOP presidential candidate John McCain for being “reckless” on foreign policy matters, claiming “his tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later.” When Mr. McCain went to Iraq, she mocked his fact-finding mission as one in which he strolled “around the market in a flak jacket.”

Mrs. Rice also used colorful language to publicly criticize foreign policy positions held by President George W. Bush and her former boss, Mr. Clinton. As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote, she also “appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department.”

The worst was yet to come, in the form of Mrs. Rice’s troubling comments about the attack in Benghazi, Libya. First she told CBS‘ “Face the Nation” on Sept. 16, “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude” that the attack “was premeditated or preplanned.” Then she went on ABC’s “This Week” the same day and proclaimed the attack was “hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons.” As the motives for Benghazi became clearer, many prominent Republicans, including Mr. McCain, correctly claimed Mrs. Rice had misled the American people.

In spite of all this, Mr. Obama fiercely defended Mrs. Rice as his top choice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It quickly became obvious, however, that a Senate confirmation would have been very messy. While the White House publicly expressed disappointment when Mrs. Rice withdrew her name, I would guess the president breathed a heavy sigh of relief in private.

This brings us to Mr. Kerry. He has an extensive military background, having served in the U.S. Navy, including in Vietnam. (Alas, he joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War upon his return to civilian life.) He has served in the U.S. Senate since 1985 and ran for president in 2004. He played an active role in the Iran-Contra hearings, served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and called for a no-fly zone in Libya last year.

Most important, he was an envoy in Afghanistan and Pakistan during heightened periods of tension in that part of the world.

Mr. Kerry was a visible and confident presence on the scene. He used his political skills to sell the Obama administration’s message after the assassination of al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden. He told The Washington Post, “We are at a moment where we have to resolve some very serious issues. This is not a moment for anything except very sober, serious discussion with an understanding that there’s a lot at stake. There’s no other way to put it.”

Sure, Republicans don’t care for Mr. Kerry’s political ideas. Yet they know they can work with him when it comes to war, terrorism and international relations. Unlike Mrs. Rice, he’s a person who knows how to work properly with people across party lines and what it takes to get things done.

That’s why Mr. Kerry is a better choice than Mrs. Rice to be the next secretary of state. In time, Mr. Obama may come to realize this, too.

Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a columnist with The Washington Times.

The US has had some great (or, at least, famous) Secretaries of State: Jefferson, Webster, Seward, Stimson, Marshall, Acheson and Kissinger come to mind; and some pretty poor ones, too. I would assess Clinton as "fair to middling" and I expect Kerry to do about as well for the reasons Michael Taube mentioned.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: cupper on December 22, 2012, 12:41:45
Diplomacy has just become a bigger ordeal than it was.

Seriously, the man can bore a statue to tears with his speeches. :facepalm:
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Fishbone Jones on December 22, 2012, 12:55:00
Any bets on how fast the Swift boat controversy gets started again if Kerry's nomination starts gaining traction?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 22, 2012, 13:57:22
Any bets on how fast the Swift boat controversy gets started again if Kerry's nomination starts gaining traction?

I'm sure it will, but it was a controversy in 2004, not a proven, factual case and it is totally irrelevant now. To remind everyone: Barack Obama won the presidential 2012 election; the Senate is, more or less duty bound to approve a qualified nominee for a cabinet appointment. Controversial ≠ unqualified; unpopular views (with some senators and some political factions) ≠ unqualified; even boring ≠ unqualified. If the GOP tries to deny President Obama his choice of a qualified appointee then it will just prove what I said above: the conservative movement is broken, driven only by hate of liberals in general and Obama in particular, and in need of a long "rest" in the political wilderness.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Brad Sallows on December 22, 2012, 16:47:26
All that ERC wrote.

Plus, it's good to have a wealthy tax-avoiding ex-nominee for the office of president occupying a high position in this administration.  He will demarcate the difference between promises and statements of intent, and reality.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: GAP on December 22, 2012, 20:03:51
All that ERC wrote.

Plus, it's good to have a wealthy tax-avoiding ex-nominee for the office of president occupying a high position in this administration.  He will demarcate the difference between promises and statements of intent, and reality.

Until he gets his hinny in a sling, get a concussion so he can't testify, and moves on to greater things...... ::)
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: cupper on December 22, 2012, 20:52:31
Kerry gets a free ride through the nomination process.

The GOP has an agenda here. They want to put one of their own in his senate seat. Many want Scott Brown back in, but that could change if he continues to go against the herd like he did recently after the Sandy Hook shootings.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 22, 2012, 23:20:00
Kerry gets a free ride through the nomination process.

The GOP has an agenda here. They want to put one of their own in his senate seat. Many want Scott Brown back in, but that could change if he continues to go against the herd like he did recently after the Sandy Hook shootings.

Scott Brown will not be selected to fill the Senate seat vacated by Kerry. Deval Patrick is a democrat and would most likely select the wife of Ted Kennedy Vicki or Dukakis or some other Kennendy. A new election would occur in the spring.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 22, 2012, 23:27:39
The democrats have a majority in the Senate thats why Kerry has a lock on the nomination. In fact his nomination has to first get enough votes in the Senate Foreign Affairs committee.Guess who the chairman is ? If you guessed John Kerry then you would be right.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: cupper on December 23, 2012, 00:14:27
Scott Brown will not be selected to fill the Senate seat vacated by Kerry. Deval Patrick is a democrat and would most likely select the wife of Ted Kennedy Vicki or Dukakis or some other Kennendy. A new election would occur in the spring.
The democrats have a majority in the Senate thats why Kerry has a lock on the nomination. In fact his nomination has to first get enough votes in the Senate Foreign Affairs committee.Guess who the chairman is ? If you guessed John Kerry then you would be right.

The seat will be temporarily filled by an appointment by Deval Patrick, but they need to hold a special election within a specific period of time to fill the seat until Kerry's full term ends.

All during the Rice speculative period any GOP senator interviewed said Rice was a not starter, but they would welcome and recommend Kerry for the position.

The GOP has been all but drooling over the prospect of regaining the lost senate seat from Mass. I suspect that Kerry will get an all but unanimous vote of approval from the committee (one symbolic vote against) and will win several GOP votes in the senate vote as well.

The problem for the GOP though is do they renominate Brown to run against the Dems or do they find someone else?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 23, 2012, 01:41:10
Its a blue state and the likelihood of another Republican RINO taking the seat is a stretch. Brown should have won re-election but he couldnt even beat wannabe Indian Warren.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: cupper on December 23, 2012, 01:44:56
Its a blue state and the likelihood of another Republican RINO taking the seat is a stretch. Brown should have won re-election but he couldnt even beat wannabe Indian Warren.

Aren't all Mass Republicans RINO's?  ;)
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 23, 2012, 17:37:05
I suspect that you are right cupper. ;D
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 29, 2012, 08:44:11
Part 1 of 3

Going back to the original theme, here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Foreign Affairs, is a "modest proposal" by Prof Barry R Posen (, a guy to whom the Pentagon's top brass listens, for the US strategic posture in the early 21st century:
Pull Back
The Case for a Less Activist Foreign Policy

By Barry R. Posen

January/February 2013

The United States' undisciplined, expensive, and bloody grand strategy has done untold harm to U.S. national security. It is time to abandon this hegemonic approach and replace it with one of restraint -- giving up on global reform and sticking to protecting narrow national security interests.

Despite a decade of costly and indecisive warfare and mounting fiscal pressures, the long-standing consensus among American policymakers about U.S. grand strategy has remained remarkably intact. As the presidential campaign made clear, Republicans and Democrats may quibble over foreign policy at the margins, but they agree on the big picture: that the United States should dominate the world militarily, economically, and politically, as it has since the final years of the Cold War, a strategy of liberal hegemony. The country, they hold, needs to preserve its massive lead in the global balance of power, consolidate its economic preeminence, enlarge the community of market democracies, and maintain its outsized influence in the international institutions it helped create.

To this end, the U.S. government has expanded its sprawling Cold War-era network of security commitments and military bases. It has reinforced its existing alliances, adding new members to NATO and enhancing its security agreement with Japan. In the Persian Gulf, it has sought to protect the flow of oil with a full panoply of air, sea, and land forces, a goal that consumes at least 15 percent of the U.S. defense budget. Washington has put China on a watch list, ringing it in with a network of alliances, less formal relationships, and military bases.

The United States' activism has entailed a long list of ambitious foreign policy projects. Washington has tried to rescue failing states, intervening militarily in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya, variously attempting to defend human rights, suppress undesirable nationalist movements, and install democratic regimes. It has also tried to contain so-called rogue states that oppose the United States, such as Iran, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, North Korea, and, to a lesser degree, Syria. After 9/11, the struggle against al Qaeda and its allies dominated the agenda, but the George W. Bush administration defined this enterprise broadly and led the country into the painful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although the United States has long sought to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons, the prospect of nuclear-armed terrorists has added urgency to this objective, leading to constant tension with Iran and North Korea.

In pursuit of this ambitious agenda, the United States has consistently spent hundreds of billions of dollars per year on its military -- far more than the sum of the defense budgets of its friends and far more than the sum of those of its potential adversaries. It has kept that military busy: U.S. troops have spent roughly twice as many months in combat after the Cold War as they did during it. Today, roughly 180,000 U.S. soldiers remain stationed on foreign soil, not counting the tens of thousands more who have rotated through the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands of American and allied soldiers have lost their lives, not to mention the countless civilians caught in the crossfire.

This undisciplined, expensive, and bloody strategy has done untold harm to U.S. national security. It makes enemies almost as fast as it slays them, discourages allies from paying for their own defense, and convinces powerful states to band together and oppose Washington's plans, further raising the costs of carrying out its foreign policy. During the 1990s, these consequences were manageable because the United States enjoyed such a favorable power position and chose its wars carefully. Over the last decade, however, the country's relative power has deteriorated, and policymakers have made dreadful choices concerning which wars to fight and how to fight them. What's more, the Pentagon has come to depend on continuous infusions of cash simply to retain its current force structure -- levels of spending that the Great Recession and the United States' ballooning debt have rendered unsustainable.

It is time to abandon the United States' hegemonic strategy and replace it with one of restraint. This approach would mean giving up on global reform and sticking to protecting narrow national security interests. It would mean transforming the military into a smaller force that goes to war only when it truly must. It would mean removing large numbers of U.S. troops from forward bases, creating incentives for allies to provide for their own security. And because such a shift would allow the United States to spend its resources on only the most pressing international threats, it would help preserve the country's prosperity and security over the long run.


The United States emerged from the Cold War as the single most powerful state in modern times, a position that its diversified and immensely productive economy supports. Although its share of world economic output will inevitably shrink as other countries catch up, the United States will continue for many years to rank as one of the top two or three economies in the world. The United States' per capita GDP stands at $48,000, more than five times as large as China's, which means that the U.S. economy can produce cutting-edge products for a steady domestic market. North America is blessed with enviable quantities of raw materials, and about 29 percent of U.S. trade flows to and from its immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico. The fortuitous geostrategic position of the United States compounds these economic advantages. Its neighbors to the north and south possess only miniscule militaries. Vast oceans to the west and east separate it from potential rivals. And its thousands of nuclear weapons deter other countries from ever entertaining an invasion.

Ironically, however, instead of relying on these inherent advantages for its security, the United States has acted with a profound sense of insecurity, adopting an unnecessarily militarized and forward-leaning foreign policy. That strategy has generated predictable pushback. Since the 1990s, rivals have resorted to what scholars call "soft balancing" -- low-grade diplomatic opposition. China and Russia regularly use the rules of liberal international institutions to delegitimize the United States' actions. In the UN Security Council, they wielded their veto power to deny the West resolutions supporting the bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1999 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and more recently, they have slowed the effort to isolate Syria. They occasionally work together in other venues, too, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Although the Beijing-Moscow relationship is unimpressive compared with military alliances such as NATO, it's remarkable that it exists at all given the long history of border friction and hostility between the two countries. As has happened so often in history, the common threat posed by a greater power has driven unnatural partners to cooperate.

American activism has also generated harder forms of balancing. China has worked assiduously to improve its military, and Russia has sold it modern weapons, such as fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, and diesel-electric submarines. Iran and North Korea, meanwhile, have pursued nuclear programs in part to neutralize the United States' overwhelming advantages in conventional fighting power. Some of this pushback would have occurred no matter what; in an anarchic global system, states acquire the allies and military power that help them look after themselves. But a country as large and as active as the United States intensifies these responses.

Such reactions will only grow stronger as emerging economies convert their wealth into military power. Even though the economic and technological capacities of China and India may never equal those of the United States, the gap is destined to narrow. China already has the potential to be a serious competitor. At the peak of the Cold War, in the mid-1970s, Soviet GDP, in terms of purchasing power parity, amounted to 57 percent of U.S. GDP. China reached 75 percent of the U.S. level in 2011, and according to the International Monetary Fund, it is projected to match it by 2017. Of course, Chinese output must support four times as many people, which limits what the country can extract for military purposes, but it still provides enough resources to hinder U.S. foreign policy. Meanwhile, Russia, although a shadow of its former Soviet self, is no longer the hapless weakling it was in the 1990s. Its economy is roughly the size of the United Kingdom's or France's, it has plenty of energy resources to export, and it still produces some impressive weapons systems.


Just as emerging powers have gotten stronger, so, too, have the small states and violent substate entities that the United States has attempted to discipline, democratize, or eliminate. Whether in Somalia, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya, the U.S. military seems to find itself fighting enemies that prove tougher than expected. (Consider the fact that Washington spent as much in real terms on the war in Iraq as it did on the war in Vietnam, even though the Iraqi insurgents enjoyed little external support, whereas China and the Soviet Union lent major support to the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese.) Yet Washington seems unable to stay out of conflicts involving substate entities, in part because their elemental nature assaults the internationalist values that U.S. grand strategy is committed to preserving. Having trumpeted the United States' military superiority, U.S. policymakers have a hard time saying no to those who argue that the country's prestige will suffer gravely if the world's leader lets wars great and small run their course.

The enduring strength of these substate groups should give American policymakers pause, since the United States' current grand strategy entails open-ended confrontation with nationalism and other forms of identity politics that insurgents and terrorists feed off of. These forces provide the organizing energy for groups competing for power within countries (as in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq), for secessionist movements (as in Kosovo), and for terrorists who oppose the liberal world order (mainly al Qaeda). Officials in Washington, however, have acted as if they can easily undercut the power of identity through democratic processes, freedom of information, and economic development, helped along by the judicious application of military power. In fact, identity is resilient, and foreign peoples react with hostility to outsiders trying to control their lives.

End of Part 1 of 3
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 29, 2012, 08:48:47
Part 2 of 3

The Iraq war has been a costly case in point. Officials in the Bush administration convinced themselves that a quick application of overwhelming military power would bring democracy to Iraq, produce a subsequent wave of democratization across the Arab world, marginalize al Qaeda, and secure U.S. influence in the region. Instead, Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds stoked the violence that the United States labored to suppress, and Shiite and Sunni factions fought not only each other but also the U.S. military. Today's Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad has proved neither democratic nor effective. Sunni terrorists have continued to carry out attacks. The Kurdish parts of Iraq barely acknowledge their membership in the larger state.

By now, it is clear that the United States has worn out its welcome in Afghanistan, too. The Taliban continue to resist the U.S. presence, drawing their strength largely from Pashtun nationalism, and members of the Afghan security forces have, in growing numbers, murdered U.S. and other NATO soldiers who were there to assist them. Instead of simply punishing the Taliban for their indirect role in 9/11 and hitting al Qaeda as hard as possible, true to its global agenda, the Bush administration pursued a costly and futile effort to transform Afghanistan, and the Obama administration continued it.


Another problematic response to the United States' grand strategy comes from its friends: free-riding. The Cold War alliances that the country has worked so hard to maintain -- namely, NATO and the U.S.-Japanese security agreement -- have provided U.S. partners in Europe and Asia with such a high level of insurance that they have been able to steadily shrink their militaries and outsource their defense to Washington.[i/] European nations have cut their military spending by roughly 15 percent in real terms since the end of the Cold War, with the exception of the United Kingdom, which will soon join the rest as it carries out its austerity policy. Depending on how one counts, Japanese defense spending has been cut, or at best has remained stable, over the past decade. The government has unwisely devoted too much spending to ground forces, even as its leaders have expressed alarm at the rise of Chinese military power -- an air, missile, and naval threat.

Although these regions have avoided major wars, the United States has had to bear more and more of the burden of keeping the peace. It now spends 4.6 percent of its GDP on defense, whereas its European NATO allies collectively spend 1.6 percent and Japan spends 1.0 percent. With their high per capita GDPs, these allies can afford to devote more money to their militaries, yet they have no incentive to do so. And so while the U.S. government considers draconian cuts in social spending to restore the United States' fiscal health, it continues to subsidize the security of Germany and Japan. This is welfare for the rich.

U.S. security guarantees also encourage plucky allies to challenge more powerful states, confident that Washington will save them in the end -- a classic case of moral hazard. This phenomenon has caused the United States to incur political costs, antagonizing powers great and small for no gain and encouraging them to seek opportunities to provoke the United States in return. So far, the United States has escaped getting sucked into unnecessary wars, although Washington dodged a bullet in Taiwan when the Democratic Progressive Party of Chen Shui-bian governed the island, from 2000 to 2008. His frequent allusions to independence, which ran counter to U.S. policy but which some Bush administration officials reportedly encouraged, unnecessarily provoked the Chinese government; had he proceeded, he would have surely triggered a dangerous crisis. Chen would never have entertained such reckless rhetoric absent the long-standing backing of the U.S. government.

The Philippines and Vietnam (the latter of which has no formal defense treaty with Washington) also seem to have figured out that they can needle China over maritime boundary disputes and then seek shelter under the U.S. umbrella when China inevitably reacts. Not only do these disputes make it harder for Washington to cooperate with Beijing on issues of global importance; they also risk roping the United States into conflicts over strategically marginal territory.

Georgia is another state that has played this game to the United States' detriment. Overly confident of Washington's affection for it, the tiny republic deliberately challenged Russia over control of the disputed region of South Ossetia in August 2008. Regardless of how exactly the fighting began, Georgia acted far too adventurously given its size, proximity to Russia, and distance from any plausible source of military help. This needless war ironically made Russia look tough and the United States unreliable.

This dynamic is at play in the Middle East, too. Although U.S. officials have communicated time and again to leaders in Jerusalem their discomfort with Israeli settlements on the territory occupied during the 1967 war, Israel regularly increases the population and dimensions of those settlements. The United States' military largess and regular affirmations of support for Israel have convinced Israeli hawks that they will suffer no consequences for ignoring U.S. advice. It takes two to make peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the creation of humiliating facts on the ground will not bring a negotiated settlement any closer. And Israel's policies toward the Palestinians are a serious impediment to improved U.S. relations with the Arab world.


The United States should replace its unnecessary, ineffective, and expensive hegemonic quest with a more restrained grand strategy. Washington should not retreat into isolationism but refocus its efforts on its three biggest security challenges: preventing a powerful rival from upending the global balance of power, fighting terrorists, and limiting nuclear proliferation. These challenges are not new, but the United States must develop more carefully calculated and discriminating policies to address them.

For roughly a century, American strategists have striven to ensure that no single state dominated the giant landmass of Eurasia, since such a power could then muster the resources to threaten the United States directly. To prevent this outcome, the United States rightly went to war against Germany and Japan and contained the Soviet Union. Although China may ultimately try to assume the mantle of Eurasian hegemon, this outcome is neither imminent nor inevitable. China's economy still faces many pitfalls, and the country is surrounded by powerful states that could and would check its expansion, including India and Russia, both of which have nuclear weapons. Japan, although it underspends on defense today, is rich and technologically advanced enough to contribute to a coalition of states that could balance against China. Other maritime Asian countries, even without the United States as a backstop, could also make common cause against China. The United States should maintain the capability to assist them if need be. But it should proceed cautiously in order to ensure that its efforts do not unnecessarily threaten China and thus encourage the very ambitions Washington hopes to deter or prompt a new round of free-riding or reckless driving by others in Asia.

The United States must also defend itself against al Qaeda and any similar successor groups. Since such terrorists can threaten Americans' lives, the U.S. government should keep in place the prudent defensive measures that have helped lower the risk of attacks, such as more energetic intelligence efforts and better airport security. (A less interventionist foreign policy will help, too: it was partly the U.S. military's presence in Saudi Arabia that radicalized Osama bin Laden and his followers in the first place.) When it comes to offense, the United States must still pursue terrorists operating abroad, so that they spend their scarce resources trying to stay alive rather than plotting new attacks. It will need to continue cooperating with other vulnerable governments and help them develop their own police and military forces. Occasionally, the U.S. military will have to supplement these efforts with air strikes, drone attacks, and special operations raids.

But Washington should keep the threat in perspective. Terrorists are too weak to threaten the country's sovereignty, territorial integrity, or power position. Because the threat is modest, and because trying to reform other societies by force is too costly, the United States must fight terrorism with carefully applied force, rather than through wholesale nation-building efforts such as that in Afghanistan.

Finally, a restrained grand strategy would also pay close attention to the spread of nuclear weapons, while relying less on the threat of military force to stop it. Thanks to the deterrence provided by its own massive nuclear forces, the United States faces little risk of a direct nuclear attack by another state. But Washington does need to keep nonstate actors from obtaining nuclear weapons or material. To prevent them from taking advantage of lax safeguards at nuclear facilities, the U.S. government should share best practices regarding nuclear security with other countries, even ones that it would prefer did not possess nuclear weapons in the first place. The United States does already cooperate somewhat with Pakistan on this issue, but it must stand ready to do more and ultimately to undertake such efforts with others.

The loss of a government's control over its nuclear weapons during a coup, revolution, or civil war is a far harder problem to forestall. It may be possible for U.S. forces to secure weapons in a period of instability, with the help of local actors who see the dangers for their own country if the weapons get loose. Conditions may lend themselves to a preventive military attack, to seize or disable the weapons. In some cases, however, the United States might have to make do with less sure-fire responses. It could warn those who seized the nuclear weapons in a period of upheaval that they would make themselves targets for retaliation if the weapons were ever used by terrorists. And it could better surveil international sea and air routes and more intensively monitor both its own borders for nuclear smuggling and those of the potential source countries.

These measures may seem incommensurate with the terrible toll of a nuclear blast. But the alternative strategy -- fighting preventive conventional wars against nascent nuclear powers -- is an expensive and uncertain solution to proliferation. The Obama administration's oft-repeated warning that deterrence and containment of a nuclear Iran is unacceptable makes little sense given the many ways a preventive war could go wrong and in light of the redundant deterrent capability the United States already possesses. Indeed, the more Washington relies on military force to halt proliferation, the more likely it is that countries will decide to acquire the ultimate deterrent.

End of Part 2 of 3
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 29, 2012, 08:55:43
Part 3 of 3

A more restrained America would also have to head off nuclear arms races. In retrospect, the size, composition, doctrine, and highly alert posture of U.S. and Soviet nuclear forces during the Cold War seem unduly risky relative to the strategic problem those weapons were supposed to solve. Nuclear weapons act as potent deterrents to aggression, but significantly smaller forces than those the United States now possesses, carefully managed, should do the job. To avoid a replay of Cold War-style nuclear competition, the United States should pursue a new multilateral arms control regime that places ceilings on nuclear inventories and avoids hair-trigger force postures.


A grand strategy of restraint would narrow U.S. foreign policy to focus on those three larger objectives. What would it look like in practice? First, the United States would recast its alliances so that other countries shared actual responsibility for their own defense. NATO is the easiest case; the United States should withdraw from the military command structure and return the alliance to the primarily political organization it once was. The Europeans can decide for themselves whether they want to retain the military command structure under the auspices of the European Union or dismantle it altogether. Most U.S. troops should come home from Europe, although by mutual agreement, the United States could keep a small number of naval and air bases on the continent.

The security treaty with Japan is a more difficult problem; it needs to be renegotiated but not abandoned. As the treaty stands now, the United States shoulders most of the burden of defending Japan, and the Japanese government agrees to help. The roles should be reversed, so that Japan assumes responsibility for its own defense, with Washington offering backup. Given concerns about China's rising power, not all U.S. forces should leave the region. But the Pentagon should pare down its presence in Japan to those relevant to the most immediate military problems. All U.S. marines could be withdrawn from the country, bringing to an end the thorny negotiations about their future on the island of Okinawa. The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force should keep the bulk of their forces stationed in and around Japan in place, but with appropriate reductions. Elsewhere in Asia, the U.S. military can cooperate with other states to ensure access to the region should future crises arise, but it should not seek new permanent bases.

The military should also reassess its commitments in the Persian Gulf: the United States should help protect states in the region against external attacks, but it cannot take responsibility for defending them against internal dissent. Washington still needs to reassure those governments that fear that a regional power such as Iran will attack them and hijack their oil wealth, since a single oil-rich hegemon in the region would no doubt be a source of mischief. The U.S. military has proved adept at preventing such an outcome in the past, as it did when it defended Saudi Arabia and repelled Saddam's forces from Kuwait in 1991. Ground forces bent on invasion make easy targets for air attacks. The aircraft and cruise missiles aboard U.S. naval forces stationed in the region could provide immediate assistance. With a little advance notice, U.S. Air Force aircraft could quickly reinforce land bases maintained by the Arab states of the Gulf, as they did during the Gulf War when the regional powers opposed to Saddam's aggression prepared the way for reinforcement from the U.S. military by maintaining extra base capacity and fuel.

But U.S. soldiers no longer need to live onshore in Gulf countries, where they incite anti-Americanism and tie the U.S. government to autocratic regimes of dubious legitimacy. For example, Bahrain is suffering considerable internal unrest, which raises questions about the future viability of the United States' growing military presence there. The Iraq war proved that trying to install new regimes in Arab countries is a fool's errand; defending existing regimes facing internal rebellion will be no easier.

Under a restrained grand strategy, U.S. military forces could shrink significantly, both to save money and to send allies the message that it's time they did more for themselves. Because the Pentagon would, under this new strategy, swear off counterinsurgency, it could cut the number of ground forces in half. The navy and the air force, meanwhile, should be cut by only a quarter to a third, since their assets take a long time to produce and would still be needed for any effort to maintain the global balance of power. Naval and air forces are also well suited to solving the security problems of Asia and the Persian Gulf. Because these forces are highly mobile, only some need be present in key regions. The rest can be kept at home, as a powerful strategic reserve.

The overall size and quality of U.S. military forces should be determined by the critical contingency that they must address: the defense of key resources and allies against direct attack. Too often in the past, Washington has overused its expensive military to send messages that ought to be left to diplomats. That must change. Although the Pentagon should continue leading joint exercises with the militaries of other countries in key regions, it should stop overloading the calendar with pointless exercises the world over. Making that change would save wear and tear on troops and equipment and avoid creating the impression that the United States will solve all the world's security problems.


Shifting to a more restrained global stance would yield meaningful benefits for the United States, saving lives and resources and preventing pushback, provided Washington makes deliberate and prudent moves now to prepare its allies to take on the responsibility for their own defense. Scaling down the U.S. military's presence over a decade would give partners plenty of time to fortify their own militaries and develop the political and diplomatic machinery to look after their own affairs. Gradual disengagement would also reduce the chances of creating security vacuums, which opportunistic regional powers might try to fill.

U.S. allies, of course, will do everything they can to persuade Washington to keep its current policies in place. Some will promise improvements to their military forces that they will then abandon when it is convenient. Some will claim there is nothing more they can contribute, that their domestic political and economic constraints matter more than America's. Others will try to divert the discussion to shared values and principles. Still others will hint that they will bandwagon with strong neighbors rather than balance against them. A few may even threaten to turn belligerent.

U.S. policymakers will need to remain cool in the face of such tactics and keep in mind that these wealthy allies are unlikely to surrender their sovereignty to regional powers. Indeed, history has shown that states more often balance against the powerful than bandwagon with them. As for potential adversaries, the United States can continue to deter actions that threaten its vital interests by defining those interests narrowly, stating them clearly, and maintaining enough military power to protect them.

Of course, the United States could do none of these things and instead continue on its present track, wasting resources and earning the enmity of some states and peoples while infantilizing others. Perhaps current economic and geopolitical trends will reverse themselves, and the existing strategy will leave Washington comfortably in the driver's seat, with others eager to live according to its rules. But if the U.S. debt keeps growing and power continues to shift to other countries, some future economic or political crisis could force Washington to switch course abruptly, compelling friendly and not-so-friendly countries to adapt suddenly. That seems like the more dangerous path.

Although not named, Canada is one of the countries that "freeloads" on America's military/strategic largesse.

Although this will be highly unpopular in many (predictable) circles ~ mainly in Ike's military industrial complex ~ it represents a sound, realistic strategy for America.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Journeyman on December 29, 2012, 11:38:55
Going back to the original theme, here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Foreign Affairs, is a "modest proposal" by Prof Barry R Posen....
I've been following Barry Posen's writing for a while, and tend to agree with much of his work.

The same edition of Foreign Affairs however, also contains a counter-point perspective by some equally well-known US political academics, Stephen Brooks, John Ikenberry, and William Wohlforth, entitled "Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement."

The editorial synopsis is:
Since the end of World War II, the United States has pursued a single grand strategy: deep engagement. In an effort to protect its security and prosperity, the country has promoted a liberal economic order and established close defense ties with partners in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East. Its military bases cover the map, its ships patrol transit routes across the globe, and tens of thousands of its troops stand guard in allied countries such as Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

The details of U.S. foreign policy have differed from administration to administration, including the emphasis placed on democracy promotion and humanitarian goals, but for over 60 years, every president has agreed on the fundamental decision to remain deeply engaged in the world, even as the rationale for that strategy has shifted. During the Cold War, the United States' security commitments to Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East served primarily to prevent Soviet encroachment into the world's wealthiest and most resource-rich regions. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the aim has become to make these same regions more secure, and thus less threatening to the United States, and to use these security partnerships to foster the cooperation necessary for a stable and open international order.

Now, more than ever, Washington might be tempted to abandon this grand strategy and pull back from the world. The rise of China is chipping away at the United States' preponderance of power, a budget crisis has put defense spending on the chopping block, and two long wars have left the U.S. military and public exhausted. Indeed, even as most politicians continue to assert their commitment to global leadership, a very different view has taken hold among scholars of international relations over the past decade: that the United States should minimize its overseas military presence, shed its security ties, and give up its efforts to lead the liberal international order
The gist of their argument is that it's those "pesky academics" who are to blame for this wrong-headed retrenchment; America needs to be involved in the world for the world's sake, given that it's been a successful strategy for the past 60 years.

I tend to agree with them on the intrinsic value of US forward engagement.....EXCEPT....such a policy as implemented over the past six decades, and as noted by Posen, is no longer fiscally viable; the US has no rational option but to withdraw. Will that lead to more conflict? Quite possibly. That, of course, will lead to the inevitable "ounce of prevention/pound of cure" analogies.

The counter-point presented is a much reduced version of their earlier article from International Security entitled, "Don’t Come Home, America: The Case against Retrenchment." If interested, the complete article is available as a .pdf file here (  Naturally, it provides a more complete perspective.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 29, 2012, 12:22:10
As you know, JM, I tend to see the world through a lens in which economics is the dominant factor and, thus, I think Prof Posen is, simply, talking good, common sense.

I'm not so sure that America's active (vs. restrained) strategy since, say, 1960, has been all that successful: Indo China, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Iraq (several times), Haiti, etc, etc, etc have not, it seems to me, done a lot to enhance America's (or anyone's) position ... but they have cost a lot of money and stimulated a military industrial complex that, finally, looks to be living up top Ike's warning. President Eisenhower wasn't against "the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together," what he opposed was a system that, for its own selfish purposes, drove policy and politics with inevitable damage to both. The Cold War, on the other hand, did work: it had a clear strategic objective, it was pursued with consistent vigor and good sense and, almost inevitably, it succeeded.

Thus, I see restraint, as you suggest, as the "only rational option" for the 21st century But that doesn't mean that:

1. It's going to be a popular option; or

2. It is going to occur ... voluntarily, i.e. in a planned, coherent manner.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Journeyman on December 29, 2012, 12:49:22
Agreed, and it's the very cost of the products from that military-industrial complex that will increasingly limit US engagement -- the inability to afford risking high-priced/high-valued personnel and equipment for objectives that are seen as increasingly distant from strategic imperatives. There will be (should be?) fewer "discretionary-spending conflicts."

As noted though, restraint may not be popular. Rapid, wide-spread media images of any number of crises -- faster than the speed of thought or context -- cannot help but evoke a hand-wringing response, which may be influenced more by looming election cycles than any strategic calculus.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 29, 2012, 13:42:24
Agreed, and it's the very cost of the products from that military-industrial complex that will increasingly limit US engagement -- the inability to afford risking high-priced/high-valued personnel and equipment for objectives that are seen as increasingly distant from strategic imperatives. There will be (should be?) fewer "discretionary-spending conflicts."

Canada is an example of this already,albeit on a smaller scale. A small defense budget that limits the size and scope of defense policy. As the cost of major weapons systems increase the quantity that can be purchased is limited. The USN is already facing this. The Navy can no longer replace aging ships on a one for one basis. The once 800 ship Navy is hard pressed to keep 200 ships. The USAF's fighter fleet continues to decline. What's the solution that can be utilized that wont have a negative impact on the defense of the homeland ? Funding during tight budgets will see a constant tug of war between the services. In peacetime the US Army will lose that battle in favor of jets and ships.This is nothing new.What is new is the replacement cost $2b destroyers.+$200m combat aircraft,+$200m cargo aircraft and so on. In a future conflict with say China quantity may well win out over quality.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Infanteer on December 29, 2012, 13:44:25
In a future conflict with say China quantity may well win out over quality.

Especially when one considers lead times for replacements should quality get shot out of the sky.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 29, 2012, 14:04:55
Agreed. Today you go to war with what you have. Maybe this would be to save money in the future ? Design and  field a program in less than 2 years ?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 29, 2012, 15:39:05
If you're seriously planning to go to war witha peer ~ if such a peer even exists ~ then you must match or best him in men* and machines.

If your most likely enemy is less than a military-industrial/technological peer then you should consider another discussion (,108778.msg1197672.html#msg1197672) wherein the example was used of Apache attack helicopters suppressing enemy air defences so that bombers could do their work unobstructed. Maybe if you have systems (the plural matters, I think) that can give you tactical superiority in one doman then less sophisticated systems can do their business in it or another. Consider, for example, the utility of a large number of affordable F-5 (or F-17 or F-20) type aircraft when air supremacy can be secured and maintained by a small number of e.g. F-22s.

America needs to decide if it plans to fight China. If such a war is deemed inevitable then the American people must sacrifice - a lot - for a generation while the military-industrial complex builds the necessary forces. If such a war is deemed preventable then those same resources can be applied elsewhere.

Defence spending is, by and large,** unproductive and productivity tends to be a zero-sum game: money 'wasted' on the defence establishment cannot be spent, productively, on e.g. critical infrastructure or education.

*   And women
** There are exceptions, of course, defence R&D can and does "trickle down" to the broader industrial/commercial sector and there are useful "spin oiff" jobs from defence production but, as a general rule, defence spending is a "waste."

Edit: typo
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Haligonian on December 29, 2012, 20:09:32
America needs to decide if it plans to fight China. If such a war is deemed inevitable then the American people must sacrifice - a lot - for a generation while the military-industrial complex builds the necessary forces. If susuch a war is deemed preventable then those same resources can be applied elsewhere.

Assuming the US decided to follow the authors advice and decided to prepare for war with China what would be its cassus belli? Would Taiwan continue to be seen as an ally that had to be protected? Access to resources in the South China sea between China and other SE Asian states or free movement of oil through the straits of Malacca demand that the US go to war with China?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 29, 2012, 20:26:08
I don't thing the excuse is important: the decision will be taken long before the war ~ in fact pressing economics might force the USA to decide that a war with China is impossible because America cannot prepare for it - cannot afford to hire the soldiers or build the ships, tanks and aircraft. Everything costs money, even fleshing out pipe dreams.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on December 29, 2012, 20:56:52
Why not take the U-boat approach ? Flood the sea lanes with submarines and deny China oil. With submarines you have deniability.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on January 04, 2013, 14:07:21
Oddly enough, Robert Kaplan's latest book The Revenge of Geography ( has several interesting things to say about the possible evolution of both US and Chinese "power".

The prospect of strangling Chinese raw material and energy supplies drives Chinese policy, and explains such things as their investments to build railways and pipelines in central Asia, the "String of Pearls" naval bases in the Indian Ocean and attempts by diplomacy and sabre rattling to break past the "First Island Chain" that Chinese strategists see as blocking their access to the Pacific.

American policy is both restrained by economics, but also the need to stay engaged without being overly provocative. US involvment in the First Island Chain is already diminishing, even as they creat their own "String of Pearls" in Oceana and Australia, just out of sight of the Chinese, but still able to project power across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In some ways this represents a more "Roman" approach (or at least the approach during the Res Publica Roma), having many allies and "tributary states" that will act in concert with the Americans, while retaining the bulk of the Legions in a ring around "Rome", ready to move out and project power where needed. (This debate has actually been ongoing with increasing vigour since the late 1990's, with discussions about how to project American power directly from the CONUS).

The other thing which Kaplan highlights is the almost total neglect by US policy and political elites to Mexico and Central America, when many of America's economic, energy, cultural and Demographic issues lie south of the border and along the North-South axis rather than the traditional "Sea to shining Sea" approach. While this is only the briefest of paraphrases, the book is well worth reading and contemplating.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 24, 2013, 08:20:54
In the realm of military strategy, defence spending is a key indicator of strategic intentions. In this short (4:00 min) video ( the Financial Times explains some of the dilemmas facing the USA.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: 57Chevy on January 24, 2013, 08:47:48
In the realm of military strategy, defence spending is a key indicator of strategic intentions. In this short (4:00 min) video ( the Financial Times explains some of the dilemmas facing the USA.

Your link will only work if paid for.
This link which includes a video and shared with provisions of The Copyright Act may help.

America’s debt dilemma: A looming crisis
By Robin Harding dated 21 Jan

* You may have to google the title (my link doesn't seem to work either)
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 24, 2013, 08:54:56
In the realm of military strategy, defence spending is a key indicator of strategic intentions. In this short (4:00 min) video ( the Financial Times explains some of the dilemmas facing the USA.

Let me summarize:

1. US defence spending is HUGE - including some "non defence items" like nuclear (Dept of Energy) it is about $1 Trillion/year;

2. But while still dominant, US defence spending is already declining when measured against emerging competitors;

3. But it is too big to ignore in Washington and cuts will come.

The question is: how will those cuts be managed - strategically oir politically?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: cupper on January 24, 2013, 16:02:33
The question is: how will those cuts be managed - strategically oir politically?

I trust this was rhetorical.

But in response  ;)  I think we all know that it will be mostly political and minimally strategic. Even with the driven members of the Tea Party Caucus pushing for slash and burn, members will move to protect programs and policies that would, if cut, effect their chances at re-election. There is a history of useless equipment development programs living on like zombies even though the military side of the bureaucracy show time and time again that there is no need, or the concept doesn't work.

It's no accident that major weapon systems have individual components manufactured in many different locations. Cheaper prices through competition for manufacturing contracts? Maybe. Employ more people in economically depressed areas? Perhaps. Make it less palatable for more congress members to cut  knowing their constituencies will be effected (share the wealth, share the pain)? DING DING DING! WE HAVE A WINNER!.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on February 05, 2013, 20:27:09
The US Navy prepares for an uncertain future. The best way to get around this is to get more out ofthe Allied navies (the Japanese navy has a multitude of very modern ships, including several pocket helicopter/aircraft carriers and Aegis fleet defense ships). Technology might also come to the rescue, increasing capabilities of existing ships (hypersonic anti ship missiles, rail guns or laser weapons) or putting new capabilities in different platforms (unmanned ships, UCAVs and UUV's,for example). The USN is the premier arm of the US military,being the prime force projection arm and keeping the seas clear for US and allied trade:

Navy Plans to Build Fewer Ships, Right as It’s About to Get Busier
By David Axe
    4:15 PM

The U.S.S. Stockdale steams in formation as part of the Nimitz Strike Group Surface Action Group as they transit the Western Pacific. Photo: Navy

The U.S. Navy has finally and officially given up on long-standing plans to expand the fleet from today’s 285 major warships to 313 sometime in the next couple decades. Instead, the expansion will halt at 306 large ships, according to the latest Navy planning document, obtained by Defense News.

Officially, the lower goal is a result of careful analysis of U.S. strategy, the needs of regional commanders, ship service-life and the capabilities of the shipbuilding industry. (Navy officials anticipated the shrinkage last year.) “A 306-ship combatant force [is] the current requirement to enable [the] Navy to deter and respond to crises and war,” the sailing branch asserted. As the Navy sees it, it can do that by buying fewer surface warfare ships and more logistics vessels, as well as by pre-positioning warships in allied ports.

Unofficially, there is another huge factor: money. For all the talk inside the Pentagon about strategy driving budgets and not the other way around, the Navy is anticipating shrinkage right as it also anticipates playing a larger role in U.S. national security.

The seven-ship reduction is a “reflection of budget realities,” Eric Wertheim, author of the definitive Combat Fleets of the World, tells Danger Room. Pentagon budgets have been steadily flattening for two years. And automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration and mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, could slice another 10 percent off the military’s top-line starting in March — assuming the White House and lawmakers don’t reach a deficit-reduction agreement to avert sequestration.

Any way you cut it, there’s not a lot of extra cash padding the Pentagon’s wallet.

Ships ain’t cheap. A single aircraft carrier can cost $12 billion — and the Navy intends to keep 11 of them. Destroyers, the workhorses of the fleet, range in price from $2 billion to $4 billion. The Navy projects keeping more than 80 of them in service. Even the Littoral Combat Ship, the much-maligned “inexpensive” near-shore fighter, sets back taxpayers around $600 million each for more than 50 copies.

To build all these ships at a pace of between seven and a dozen per year, the Navy gets only $15 billion or so annually from Congress. With unpredictable labor and materials costs, ship prices can rise unexpectedly. The Congressional Budget Office predicted the Navy’s shipbuilding plan would end up costing 19 percent more than the Pentagon’s own rosy estimates.

The small decrease in the fleet’s future growth could help close the budgetary gap — assuming budgets don’t fall further. That reflects more realistic planning on the part of the Pentagon.

What the cuts do not reflect are any expectations of a more peaceful world or a reduced demand for Navy patrols near Iran, off the pirate-infested African coast or in the tense China Seas. The world’s not really getting any less dangerous, Wertheim adds. “I don’t see much on the global scene that has suddenly changed in the past five years so that now we need 306 instead of 313 [ships].”

In other words, the new, smaller future fleet is budget-driven, not strategy-driven. Wertheim calls that “the tail wagging the dog.”

The tail’s been wagging for some time. After sticking with the 313-ship goal since 2005, a year ago the Navy began signalling a smaller expansion. The sailing branch’s 30-year shipbuilding plan released last March projected a long-term fleet of 310-316 major warships, including aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, submarines and Marine-hauling amphibious ships. And within a couple months, Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert was making vague references to maintaining a fleet of “approximately 300″ ships.

The overall reduction in planned warship numbers is not surprising. What’s more surprising is the precise mix of ships the Navy is now anticipating. As expected, aircraft carriers and submarines are left untouched, but the new planning document does cut gun- and missile-armed surface warships while adding a fairly large number of support ships. Usually, the military branches protect their most glamorous weaponry, instead trimming the less sexy support forces whenever there’s a cash shortfall.

This time, the desired number of destroyers and cruisers drops from 94 to 88, mitigated somewhat by the forward basing of four destroyers in Rota, Spain. Homeporting ships overseas means they don’t have to spend time sailing to and from deployment zones, allowing fewer ships to cover the same territory.

The planned fleet of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) drops only slightly from 55 to 52, despite analysts’ predictions that production of the smaller ships might be halved, and Pentagon testing projections that the ship can’t survive combat. Wertheim chalks up the LCS force’s survival to the personal advocacy of Navy undersecretary Bob Work and other senior leaders who are ardent defender of the speedy, relatively lightweight vessel. Work “believes in LCS,” Wertheim says.

While armed ships get cut under the new plan, logistics vessels enjoy a big boost, going from 46 to 52. The expanded support force includes more cargo ships, electronic surveillance vessels and the Navy’s planned new fleet of oilers — a type of sailing gas station for other ships. An extra spy ship allows for “sustained operations and crisis response in the Pacific,” the Navy explains.

Other extra logistics ships are part of the sailing branch’s new requirement for so-called “Afloat Forward Staging Bases,” essentially barges carrying boats, helicopters and special operations forces. The first one, the retrofitted USS Ponce, is currently in the Persian Gulf supporting minesweepers.

This is a gamble. Right as the Navy’s lowering its shipbuilding sights, it’s about to get a whole lot busier. The anticipated “rebalancing” to Asia and the western Pacific places the Navy at the center of U.S. defense strategy. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are already questioning whether impending budget cuts render that strategy a non-starter. Even if they don’t happen, it remains to be seen if the Navy can shoulder that greater burden with fewer ships.

All these projections are tentative, of course. The Navy’s new plan is no more set in stone than the previous one, and could change as budgets and strategy do. And the year-on-year shifts mask two important truths: the Navy still expects to get bigger in the near future, if not as big as it anticipated. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still by far the largest and most powerful maritime force on the planet.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 15, 2013, 13:51:56
Part 1 of 2

Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Foreign Affairs, is a thought provoking article which posits that the Republican Party needs "a renegotiated modus vivendi between the two competing camps, each of which has valuable things to teach the other:"
Getting the GOP's Groove Back
How to Bridge the Republican Foreign Policy Divide
By Bret Stephens (Deputy Editorial Page Editor and Foreign Affairs Columnist at The Wall Street Journal)

March/April 2013

It is the healthy habit of partisans on the losing side of a U.S. presidential election to spend some time reflecting on the reasons for their defeat. And it is the grating habit of partisans on the winning side to tell the losers how they might have done better. Most of their advice is self-serving, none of it is solicited, and little of it is ever heeded. Yet still people pile on.

So it has been following Mitt Romney's defeat by President Barack Obama in last November's election. On domestic policy, pundits have instructed Republicans to moderate their positions on social issues and overcome their traditional opposition to higher taxes. On foreign policy, they are telling them to abandon their alleged preference for military solutions over diplomatic ones, as well as their reflexive hostility to multilateral institutions, their Cold War mentality toward Russia, their "denialism" on climate change, their excessive deference to right-wing Israelis, and so on. Much of this advice is based on caricature, and the likelihood of any of it having the slightest impact on the GOP's leadership or rank and file is minimal: the United States does not have a competitive two-party system so that one party can define for the other the terms of reasonable disagreement.

Put aside, then, fantasies about saving the GOP from itself or restoring the statesmanlike ways of George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, or Dwight Eisenhower (all of whom were derided as foreign policy dunces or extremists when they held office). Instead, take note of the more consequential foreign policy debate now taking shape within the heart of the conservative movement itself. This is the debate between small-government and big-military conservatives. Until recently, the two camps had few problems traveling together. Yet faced with the concrete political choices raised by last year's budget sequester -- which made large cuts in nondefense discretionary spending contingent on equally large cuts in the Pentagon's budget -- the coalition has begun to show signs of strain.

On the one side, Republican leaders such as Senator John McCain of Arizona have effectively conceded that higher tax rates are a price worth paying to avoid further defense cuts. On the other, one finds politicians such as Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who, when asked in 2010 about what government programs should get cut, said, "There's not a government program that shouldn't be under scrutiny, and that begins with the Department of Defense." However one may feel about these differences, it is important to understand each side as it understands itself. Then, perhaps, it might be possible to see how the differences can be bridged.


For big-military conservatives, a supremely powerful U.S. military isn't just vital to the national interest; it defines what the United States is. Part of this stance might owe to circumstantial factors, such as a politician's military background or large military constituency. But it is also based on an understanding of the United States as a liberator -- a country that won its own freedom and then, through the possession and application of overwhelming military might, won and defended the freedom of others, from Checkpoint Charlie to the demilitarized zone on the Korean Peninsula.

This is a heroic view of the United States' purpose in the world -- and an expensive one. It implies that if freedom isn't being actively advanced in the world, it risks wobbling to a standstill and even falling down, like a rider peddling a bicycle too slowly. It is also a view that is not unfriendly to at least some parts of a big-government agenda and certainly not to the de facto industrial policy that is the Pentagon's procurement system.

On the other side are those conservatives who, while not deprecating the United States' historic role as a liberator, mainly cherish its domestic tradition of liberty -- above all, liberty from the burdens of excessive federal debt, taxation, regulation, and intrusion. These Republicans are by no means hostile to the military, and most believe it constitutes one of the few truly legitimate functions of government. Still, they tend to view the Pentagon as another overgrown and wasteful government bureaucracy. Some have also drawn the lesson from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that well-meaning attempts to reengineer foreign societies will succumb to the law of unintended consequences just as frequently as well-meaning attempts to use government to improve American society do. Far from being a heroic view of the United States' role, theirs is a more prudential, and perhaps more parochial, one. It also contains a sneaking sympathy for Obama's refrain that the United States needs to do less nation building abroad and more at home, even if these conservatives differ sharply with the president on the matter of means.

The differences between these two groups are ones that most Republicans would gladly paper over for the party's long-term political good. Republicans fear that Obama's ultimate political ambition is to break the back of the modern GOP, and the defense budget is the ultimate wedge issue to do the job. Republican leaders understand this and will do what they can to hold their party together. Small-government conservatives don't want to turn the Republican Party into a rump faction, capable of winning elections at the congressional or state level but locked out of the presidency. And big-military conservatives aren't eager to become an appendage of big-government liberalism, in the way that Blue Dog Democrats were instruments of the Reagan agenda in the 1980s.

Yet the philosophical differences between the two camps run deep -- and may soon run deeper. Ask a big-military conservative to name the gravest long-term threat to U.S. security, and his likely answer will be Iran, or perhaps China. These countries are classic strategic adversaries, for which military calculations inevitably play a large role. By contrast, ask a small-government conservative to name the chief threat, and he will probably say Europe, which has now become a byword among conservatives for everything they fear may yet beset the United States: too much unionization, low employment rates, permanently high taxes, politically entrenched beneficiaries of state largess, ever-rising public debts, and so on.

In the ideal conservative universe, avoiding a European destiny and facing up to the threat of Iran and other states would not be an either-or proposition. As most conservatives see it, supply-side tax cuts spur economic growth, reduce the overall burden of debt, increase federal tax revenues, and thus fund defense budgets adequate for the United States' global strategic requirements. This policy prescription may look like a fantasy, but it has worked before. "Our true choice is not between tax reduction, on the one hand, and the avoidance of large federal deficits on the other. It is increasingly clear that no matter what party is in power, so long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget -- just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits." That was President John F. Kennedy speaking to the Economic Club of New York in 1962. Following the Kennedy tax cut (enacted in 1964), federal tax receipts roughly doubled over six years and military spending rose by some 25 percent, yet defense spending as a share of GDP rose only modestly and never went above ten percent.

Kennedy's words could have just as easily been spoken by Reagan. The problem for conservatives, however, is that neither Kennedy nor Reagan is president today. In the world as it is, Obama has been handily reelected, Democrats maintain control of the Senate, tax rates are going up on higher incomes, and the Supreme Court has turned back the central legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act. What Republicans might be able to achieve politically remains to be seen, although it will be limited. But it is not too soon for the party to start thinking about how it might resolve some of its internal policy tensions, including on foreign policy.

Henry Kissinger once observed that U.S. foreign policy in the twentieth century was characterized by "disastrous oscillations between overcommitment and isolation." The oscillation was especially pronounced for Republicans in the first half of the century -- from President Theodore Roosevelt's Great White Fleet of 1907-9 to Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes' Washington Naval Treaty in 1922 and from Senator Robert Taft's isolationism before World War II to Senator Arthur Vandenberg's 1945 conversion to internationalism -- although the internal differences became much less pronounced in the second half. Now that the pendulum appears to be swinging again, Republicans have an interest in seeing that it doesn't do so wildly.

How to do that? Every type of persuasion -- moral, political, policy -- carries with it the temptation of extremes. Contrary to the stereotype, big-military conservatives (along with neoconservatives) do not want to bomb every troublesome country into submission, or rebuild the U.S. armed forces to their 1960s proportions, or resume the Cold War with Russia. Nor is the problem that big-military conservatives somehow fail to appreciate the limits of American power. Of course they appreciate the limits -- but they also understand that the United States is nowhere near reaching them. Even at the height of the Iraq war, U.S. military spending constituted a smaller percentage of GDP (5.1 percent in 2008) than it did during the final full year of the Carter administration (six percent in 1980). The real limits of American power haven't been seriously tested since World War II.

Instead, the problem with big-military conservatives is that they fail to appreciate the limits of American will -- of Washington's capacity to generate broad political support for military endeavors that since 9/11 have proved not only bloody and costly but also exceedingly lengthy. Taking a heroic view of America's purpose, these conservatives are tempted by a heroic view of the American public, emphasizing its willingness to pay any price and bear any burden. Yet there is a wide gap between what the United States can achieve abroad, given unlimited political support, and what Americans want to achieve, as determined by the ebb and flow of the political tides in a democracy innately reluctant to wage war.

Small-government conservatives have their own temptations when it comes to foreign policy. At the far extreme, there is the insipid libertarianism of Ron Paul, the former Texas representative, who has claimed that Marine detachments guarding U.S. embassies count as examples of military overstretch. Paul showed remarkable strength in the last GOP presidential primary and has, in his son Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, a politically potent heir.

Most small-government conservatives aren't about to jump off the libertarian cliff: they may want to reduce the United States' footprint in the world, at least for the time being, but they don't want to erase it completely. Yet the purism that tends to drive the small-government view of the world also has a way of obscuring its vision. "If we don't take defense spending seriously, it undermines our credibility on other spending issues," Mick Mulvaney, the conservative South Carolina congressman, told Politico in December.

The heart of the United States' spending issue, however, has increasingly little to do with the defense budget (which constituted 19 percent of overall federal outlays in 2012, down from 49 percent in 1962) and increasingly more to do with entitlement programs (62 percent in 2012, up from 31 percent half a century ago). Just as the Obama administration cannot hope to erase the federal deficit by raising taxes on the rich but wants to do so anyway out of a notion of social justice, small-government conservatives cannot hope to contain runaway spending through large cuts to the defense budget. But ideological blinders get in the way.

More broadly, small-government conservatives are too often tempted to treat small government as an end in itself, not as a means to achieve greater opportunity and freedom. They make a fetish of thrift at the expense of prosperity. They fancy that a retreat from the United States' global commitments could save lives without storing trouble. The record of the twentieth century tells a different story. Republicans should not wish to again become the party of such isolationists as Taft and Charles Lindbergh.

End of Part 1
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 15, 2013, 13:53:14

Part 2 of 2


Fortunately, there is a happy medium. It's not what goes today under the name "realism" -- a term of considerable self-flattery and negligible popular appeal. Republicans, in particular, will never stand for any kind of foreign policy that lacks a clear moral anchor. And Americans would not take well to a would-be Richelieu at the State Department. As it is, the GOP does not need a total makeover; what it needs is a refurbished modus vivendi between small-government and big-military conservatives, two sides that need not become antagonists and have valuable things to teach each other.

Small-government conservatives, for their part, can teach their big-military friends that the Pentagon doesn't need more money. What it needs desperately is a functional procurement system. The costs of U.S. jet fighters, for example, have skyrocketed: the F-4 Phantom, introduced in 1960, cost $16 million (in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars) per plane, excluding research and development, whereas the equivalent figure for the F-35 Lightning II, in development now, is $120 million. The result is an underequipped air force that invests billions of dollars for the research-and-development costs of planes, such as the B-2 bomber and the F-22 fighter, that it can afford to procure only in inadequate numbers. The result is not just the ordinary waste, fraud, and abuse of any bureaucracy but also deep and lasting damage to the country's ability to project power and wage war.

Another lesson small-government conservatives have to offer is that nobody hates a benefactor as much as his beneficiary. From Somalia to Afghanistan, conservatives should look far more skeptically at military ventures in which the anticipated payoff is gratitude. Americans should go to war for the sake of their security, interests, and values. But they should never enter a popularity contest they are destined to lose.

Small-government conservatives also realize that Americans will stomach long wars only when national survival is clearly at stake. Since modern counterinsurgency is time-intensive by nature, the public should look askance at future counterinsurgency operations. Although he later disavowed his own words, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was largely right when he told West Point cadets in 2011 that "any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it." That's not because the wars are unwinnable from a military standpoint. It's because they are unfinishable from a political one.

Finally, those in the small-government camp understand that unlike authoritarian states, democratic ones will not indefinitely sustain large militaries in the face of prolonged economic stagnation or contraction. Except in moments of supreme emergency, when it comes to a choice, butter always beats guns. Big-military conservatives, therefore, cannot stay indifferent to issues of long-term economic competitiveness and the things that sustain it, not least of which is a government that facilitates wealth creation at home, promotes free trade globally, is fundamentally friendly to immigrants, and seeks to live within its means.

Then there are the things big-military conservatives can teach their small-government friends. First, they should make clear that a robust military is a net economic asset to the United States. A peaceful, trading, and increasingly free and prosperous world has been sustained for over six decades thanks in large part to a U.S. military with the power to make good on U.S. guarantees and deter real (or would-be) aggressors. And although the small-government purist might dismiss as corporate welfare the jobs, skills, and technology base that the so-called military-industrial complex supports, there are some industries that no great power can allow to wither or move offshore.

Big-military conservatives also correctly argue that a substantially weaker U.S. military will ultimately incur its own long-term economic costs. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was right when he said that "weakness is provocative." China's ambition to establish what amounts to a modern-day Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere may ultimately succeed unless places such as Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines can be reasonably sure that the United States will serve as a regional military counterweight to China's growing navy. Much the same may go for Iran's efforts to become the Middle East's dominant player, especially if its neighbors -- not just Afghanistan and Iraq but also small states such as Bahrain and Kuwait -- lose their remaining faith in U.S. security guarantees. That would go double should Iran acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

As big-military conservatives also know, shrinking the defense budget is a costly short-term solution to a difficult long-term problem. Small-government conservatives imagine that the United States can stomach steep temporary defense cuts to help bring deficits into line. But as European countries have belatedly discovered, without structural reforms, the overspending problem remains even after defense budgets have been slashed. The result is a continent that is nearly bankrupt and nearly defenseless at the same time.

Finally, small-government conservatives need to remember that there is no reliable guarantor of global order besides the United States. When the United Kingdom realized in 1947 that it could no longer afford to honor its security commitments to Greece and Turkey, it could at least look westward to the United States, which was prepared to shoulder those responsibilities. But when the United States looks westward, it sees only China. President Abraham Lincoln's "last, best hope" remains what it always was -- perhaps more so, given the deep economic disarray in other corners of the developed world.

These observations ought to remind Republicans about the necessity of preponderant U.S. power. But they also ought to remind them that U.S. power will be squandered when it isn't used decisively, something that in turn requires great discrimination given Americans' reluctance to support protracted military actions. Ultimately, there are few things so damaging to countries as large and wasted efforts.


In retooling its foreign policy, the Republican Party should heed lessons from both types of conservatives. What does this mean in practice? Consider China, where an atavistic nationalism, emboldened by an increasingly modern military, threatens to overtake the rational economic decision-making that largely characterized the tenures of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. U.S. policymakers need to restrain the former and encourage the latter.

But labeling Beijing a "currency manipulator" and raising trade barriers against it, as Romney proposed to do from day one of his administration, will have the opposite effect. Modern China is often compared with Wilhelmine Germany because of its regional ambitions, and in many ways the comparison is apt. But for now, China remains more of a competitor than an outright adversary, and one that is increasingly aware of its political brittleness and economic vulnerability.

That status means that the United States can create a policy that is a genuine synthesis between small-government and big-military conservatism. Big-military conservatives are right to worry about China's growing military adventurism and right to advocate a larger overall U.S. naval presence in the region and arms sales to skittish allies such as Taiwan. But that is only one side of the coin. The other is the opportunity to demonstrate to Beijing that an adversarial relationship is not inevitable: that the United States will desist from constantly thwarting efforts by Chinese companies to expand overseas and that Washington is interested in deepening economic cooperation with China, not fighting endless trade skirmishes. The United States should want China to become an economic colossus -- so long as it doesn't also become a regional bully. That differs from the Obama administration's policy, which has been mostly a muddle: a military "pivot" that so far has been more rhetorical than substantive, as well as a pattern of engaging in unhelpful, albeit relatively minor, trade skirmishes with Beijing.

Now take Iran, where the Obama administration has combined two feckless policy options -- diplomacy and sanctions -- to produce the most undesirable outcome possible: diminished U.S. regional credibility, a greater likelihood of U.S. or Israeli military action, and an Iran that has more incentive to accelerate its nuclear program than to stop it. Along with most left-leaning liberals, many small-government conservatives instinctively look askance at the thought of military action against Iran. More broadly, they would like to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East as much as possible, something the discovery of vast domestic U.S. energy reserves has made conceivable for the first time in decades.

Yet the surest way to embroil the United States in intractable Middle Eastern problems for another generation is to acquiesce to an Iranian nuclear capability. Among the many reasons why it's a bad idea to try to contain a nuclear Iran is that containment entails two things most Americans don't like: long-term effort and high cost. The United States has a strong stake in a Middle East that is no longer the focus of its security concerns. But getting there depends on reducing the region's centrality as a source of both energy and terrorism. A nuclear Iran would make that goal far less achievable, which means that a credible policy of prevention is essential. Obama also claims to believe in prevention, but the administration's mixed messages on the viability of military strikes have undercut its credibility.

Finally, there is the Arab Spring, which seemed at its outset to be a vindication of President George W. Bush's "freedom agenda" but has, after two years, come to seem more like a rebuke of it. The results of elections in Gaza, Tunis, Rabat, and Cairo are powerful reminders that the words "liberal" and "democracy" don't always travel together, that the essence of freedom is the right to choose political and social options radically different from the standard American ones. In this sense, small-government conservatives, with their innate suspicion of any grand Washington project to reengineer the moral priorities of a society, are being proved right.

But like it or not, the United States will still have to deal with the consequences of the upheavals in the Middle East. It would be a fool's gambit for Washington to attempt, for example, to steer political outcomes in Cairo or once again roll the boulder up the hill of an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. At the same time, the United States maintains a powerful interest in making sure certain things do not happen. Among them: chemical munitions getting loose in Syria, the abrupt collapse of the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan, a direct confrontation between Israel and Egypt over the Sinai, and (further afield) the Taliban's return to Kabul.

Preventing those outcomes means taking on the negative task of keeping nightmare scenarios at bay, not the positive one of realizing a more progressive and tolerant world. Yet if conservatives of any stripe can agree on anything, it's that utopianism has no place in policymaking. And when it comes to foreign policy, the American people will ultimately reward not the party with the most ambitious vision but the party with the most sober and realistic one.

Were I an American I would be a Republican of the small government variety but I agree with Bret Stephens that precipitous cuts to defence spending are unwise. That the Pentagon overspends is undeniable; why it overspends is a bit more complex. Yes, as in Canada, the procurement system is broken. Yes, as in Canada, there are too many non-defence fingers in the defence spending pie. But: the USA is overextended and it is making mischief in areas where it has few, if any, vital interests.

All US spending must be on the table, the DoD is neither an efficient nor an effective agent of the people of the United States. But cutting it requires careful, far-sighted surgery, not hacking and hewing.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 04, 2013, 17:31:03
Veteran Anglo-American journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave ( gives a reasoned review of Richard Haass' new book Foreign Policy Begins at Home ( in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from United Press International:
'Beyond the last war'
Where next for the United States? Foreign policy begins at home, says the head of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass.


Published: May 3, 2013

WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- Topic A among geostrategic thinkers is how to avoid getting sucked in to another war while taking on the biggest threats to U.S. security and prosperity.

It is not rocket science. Richard N. Haass, president of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, writes in his latest book, "Foreign Policy Begins at Home," and "the biggest threats to U.S. security and prosperity come not from abroad but from within."

Better late than never.

After the two most recent bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, and the expenditure of $2 trillion, Haass argues "for a new foreign policy doctrine of Restoration, in which the United States limits its engagement in foreign wars and humanitarian interventions and instead focuses on restoring the economic foundations of its power."

While engaged in unpopular foreign wars, opposed by the overwhelming majority of Americans, U.S. President George W. Bush and his planners and advisers failed to notice we were sapping the sinews of American power.

Notwithstanding Haass's warning against foreign military entanglements, the same visionaries that gave us Iraq and Afghanistan are agitating for action against the Assad regime in Syria. President Bashar Assad is using chemical weapons against his own people. And this, they say, demands retaliatory action by the United States.

Robotic bombing by drones, they suggest. The only problem with hastening Assad's downfall is al-Qaida and its Associated Movements. It is a major factor in the anti-Assad resistance.

U.S. bombing would enhance AQAM's image and credibility -- against the United States even though fighting the same enemy.

U.S. President Barack Obama hesitates because everything he has read or heard reeks of mission creep.

China, meanwhile, has been building the foundations of a 21st-century economy. It has also deployed more than 5 million workers in developing economies, mostly in what was once the Third World, to build future markets for their burgeoning industries.

In the Bahamas, 20 minutes by cab from Nassau airport, and a 45-minute flight from Palm Beach, Fla., some 6,000 Chinese workers are erecting a casino complex that will dwarf any gambling emporium in the Caribbean.

There are even serious predictions that China's gross domestic product will surpass the United States' by 2016 (the International Monetary Fund says) or 2019 (says The Economist).

If China's economy is growing 8 percent a year and the United States by less than 3 percent, some tasseographers -- tea leaf readers -- conclude China's leaders will soon rule the global roost.

Coffee grind readings, a tad more accurate, show the American giant reassessing priorities and making Haass' prescription a national priority.

Several books are out predicting an historic shift in the world balance of power.

Last month, China disclosed plans to build several more aircraft carriers after commissioning its first flat-top, the Liaoning, originally an unfinished Soviet carrier, now undergoing sea trials.

The petty antics on Capitol Hill, projected as a dysfunctional system of government by global, round-the-clock television news (e.g., al-Jazeera, BBC, A2 France in English) don't enhance the image of American democracy.

Haass's latest tome argues brilliantly "for a new foreign policy doctrine of Restoration, in which the United States limits its engagement in foreign wars and humanitarian interventions and instead focuses on restoring the economic foundations of its power."

The United States, busy fighting non-essential foreign wars, barely noticed that its crumbling infrastructure, in many areas, is slip-sliding into nationwide obsolescence.

America's burgeoning deficit and debt, says Haass, second-class schools and outdated immigration system, all say it's time for a refit.

Haass rejects any thought of isolationism and firmly believes global leadership is critically important for the United States in the 21st century. But this, he writes, can only be "anchored" in restoration on the home front.

On the defense front, "Beyond the Last War" is the title of a major study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on "Balancing Ground Forces and Future Challenges Risk in USCENTCOM and USPACOM," abbreviations for the Middle East and the Pacific theaters.

A former U.S. Army chief of Staff said privately, "the hardest thing in Washington is turning the Pentagon around to face the wars of the future."

By the "future," he made clear he had robotic and cyber warfare in mind. But the Pentagon is yet to decide what to do with 9,000 tanks as major tank battles recede into a glorious past.

The CSIS study is the penultimate phase that bridges "five pacing archtypes: humanitarian response, distributed security enabling and support activities, peace operations and limited conventional campaigns."

Not exactly a recipe for global imperialism.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged as much when he noted in his farewell address at West Point:

"When it comes to predicting the nature and location of our net military engagements since Vietnam, our record has been perfect. We have never once gotten it right. From the Mayaguez to Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Kuwait, Iraq, and more -- we had no idea a year before any of these missions that we would be so engaged."

To complete the list one should add Korea 1950-54 (a draw); Vietnam 1959-1975 (a defeat); Dominican Republic 1965 (win); Beirut 1989 (defeat and withdrawal after 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French soldiers killed by terrorist bombs); Grenada 1989 (win three days after Beirut defeat); Gulf War I 1991 (win); Somalia 1993 (defeat); Haiti 1994 (win); Bosnia 1994-95 (win); Kosovo 1999 (win); Afghanistan 2001 (ongoing); Iraq 2003-11 (lose).

CSIS' "Beyond the Last War" says if this century "is to be another American century ... then this nation must possess a land force -- Army. Marines and Special Forces – of sufficient capacity to meet numerous challenges, as well as opportunities, an uncertain future will present."

Haass' prescription says charity starts at home.

I haven't gotten to "Foreign Policy Begins at Home," yet - it's on the Spring reading list - but if what Arnaud de Borchgrave says is correct then I suspect I shall agree with Richard Haass prescriptions.

That America's post World War II strategic vision has been cloudy, to be charitable, is beyond question but America's strategic capacity is now in question, too.

If we want American strategic leadership - and I think we do - then we must hope for a new generation of leaders very, very unlike pretty much everyone from John F. Kennedy through to Barack Hussein Obama, all of whom, including Ronald Reagan, in my opinion, have been second rate. America does need to restore is social and economic base before it can assert itself as a global leader. The social base is still ruptured by the silly, destructive culture wars for which both the (misnamed) liberals and conservatives are equally to blame. The economic base has been destroyed by two generations of misguided social engineers. the US military is, in my opinion, poorly led - and has been ever since about 1960, badly managed, and aimless. US strategy ... well,the lack of one is what this thread is all about.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 05, 2013, 22:00:26
If we want American strategic leadership - and I think we do - then we must hope for a new generation of leaders very, very unlike pretty much everyone from John F. Kennedy through to Barack Hussein Obama, all of whom, including Ronald Reagan, in my opinion, have been second rate. America does need to restore is social and economic base before it can assert itself as a global leader. The social base is still ruptured by the silly, destructive culture wars for which both the (misnamed) liberals and conservatives are equally to blame. The economic base has been destroyed by two generations of misguided social engineers. the US military is, in my opinion, poorly led - and has been ever since about 1960, badly managed, and aimless. US strategy ... well,the lack of one is what this thread is all about.

Quite an indictment Edward.Unfortunately I cannot agree with your assessment. Overall the military leadership has been better than some of the civilian leadership.From a standpoint of success,we didnt have a nuclear war and we essentially outspent the Russians until their economy collapsed.Pretty good strategy. :camo:
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 05, 2013, 22:12:14
Quite an indictment Edward.Unfortunately I cannot agree with your assessment. Overall the military leadership has been better than some of the civilian leadership.From a standpoint of success,we didnt have a nuclear war and we essentially outspent the Russians until their economy collapsed. Pretty good strategy. :camo:

A pretty good strategy, indeed ... one put in place by Dwight Eisenhower* in the 1950s, back when America, like the boy scouts, had adult leadership.

* See e.g. Evan Thomas (Princeton University) "Ike's Bluff," new York, 2012
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on May 05, 2013, 22:21:53
While the strategy to defeat the USSR was both effective and correct (the USSR collapsed without triggering a major conventional or nuclear war), the strategy of containment created a lot of stress both within the United States (as people argued about the morality of supporting authoritarian regimes which were nominally on the side of the West) and without (many of these regimes were troublesome not only to the American body politic, but also to their own neighbours).

Post Cold War, the United States has been essentially aimless, which is what Edward is alluding to.

Now Thomas Friedman laid out an implicit "Grand Strategy" in his book "The Next 100 Years", paraphrased in a G&M article below:

In his book, The Next 100 Years, realist thinker George Friedman lays out what he calls the "Grand Strategy" of the United States. This is the overriding series of goals that must be achieved to maintain American power, domestic peace and high standards of living. It is a strong example of Realist thinking that coldly calculates the factors necessary in national security, rather than what would be nice.

The list can summarized as:

1. U.S. Army controls the continental United States.

2. Naval control of the approaches to the continental United States.

3. No rivals in the Western Hemisphere.

4. Control of ocean trade routes in the rest of the world.

5. Preventing the rise of a rival hegemonic power, particularly in Eurasia.

The first step is an absolute necessity to U.S. security: control of the heartland itself. Each step builds off of the first other in sequence. So military control of the continental United States allows control of the naval approaches to prevent a foreign invasion. Control of the approaches to the United States allows the containing and destabilizing of hemispheric rivals. And so on.

Friedman describes the U.S. grand strategy a bit on his website:

"The United States operates with a grand strategy derived from the British strategy in Europe - maintaining the balance of power. For the United Kingdom, maintaining the balance of power in Europe protected any one power from emerging that could unite Europe and build a fleet to invade the United Kingdom or block its access to its empire. British strategy was to help create coalitions to block emerging hegemons such as Spain, France or Germany. Using overt and covert means, the United Kingdom aimed to ensure that no hegemonic power could emerge.

The Americans inherited that grand strategy from the British but elevated it to a global rather than regional level. Having blocked the Soviet Union from hegemony over Europe and Asia, the United States proceeded with a strategy whose goal, like that of the United Kingdom, was to nip potential regional hegemons in the bud. The U.S. war with Iraq in 1990-91 and the war with Serbia/Yugoslavia in 1999 were examples of this strategy. It involved coalition warfare, shifting America's weight from side to side and using minimal force to disrupt the plans of regional aspirants to gain power. This U.S. strategy also was cloaked in the ideology of global liberalism and human rights.

The key to this strategy was its global nature. The emergence of a hegemonic contender that could challenge the United States globally, as the Soviet Union had done, was the worst-case scenario. Therefore, the containment of emerging powers wherever they might emerge was the centerpiece of American balance of power strategy."

Friedman states that all countries have a grand strategy, verbalized or unacknowledged, achieved or impossible. Many actors in the state, even at a high level, can ignore or remain unaware of this analytical framework, but it is there nonetheless, guiding decisions that may otherwise be perplexing to understand.

Now I suspect much of the problem in the United States comes from the fact the "Grand Strategy" is not consciously recognized by most Americans, hence is unarticulated and largely fulfilled by accident. (While readers may not agree that this is, indeed, the "Grand Strategy" of the United States, it flows from certain assumptions and is logically based on what really is part of the Grand Strategy of any nation: the security and control of the national homeland).

If American politicians were to articulate this or any other logical and coherent "Grand Strategy", and begin organizing American institutions to support and fulfill these goals, then things would become at least more logical, if not necessarily "better".
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Chris Pook on May 06, 2013, 15:05:12

If we want American strategic leadership - and I think we do - then we must hope for a new generation of leaders very, very unlike pretty much everyone from John F. Kennedy through to Barack Hussein Obama, all of whom, including Ronald Reagan, in my opinion, have been second rate. America does need to restore is social and economic base before it can assert itself as a global leader. The social base is still ruptured by the silly, destructive culture wars for which both the (misnamed) liberals and conservatives are equally to blame. The economic base has been destroyed by two generations of misguided social engineers. the US military is, in my opinion, poorly led - and has been ever since about 1960, badly managed, and aimless. US strategy ... well,the lack of one is what this thread is all about.


Aren't you arguing for the exceptional?

If the average is second rate should we not plan for the second rate rather than the exceptional?  Or, putting it another way, shouldn't we plan for chaos?

By the way, I am a fan of chaos.  It creates more opportunities for everyone.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 06, 2013, 16:13:54

Aren't you arguing for the exceptional?

If the average is second rate should we not plan for the second rate rather than the exceptional?  Or, putting it another way, shouldn't we plan for chaos?

By the way, I am a fan of chaos.  It creates more opportunities for everyone.

Oh, you're right ... it is a perfect illustration of the triumph of hope over experience, isn't it?

But I admire Truman as much as I admire Eisenhower; was Truman "exceptional?" Not as a man, I don't think, but he was smart enough to spot "exceptional" people and, despite their politics, invite them into his inner circle to serve their country. Truman was involved in sharp, highly partisan political contests with the Congress and the states but he, and most of his friends and some of his opponents, were, broadly but certainly not universally, able to put aside partisanship and serve the utilitarian common good:

(,_official_military_photo,_1946.JPEG/250px-General_George_C._Marshall,_official_military_photo,_1946.JPEG)   (          (   (
                  Two exceptional men who served Truman                                                                 Two equally "exceptional" men who opposed Truman
           George C Matrshall                                     Dean Acheson                                           Joseph McCarthy                                  Joseph Kennedy

I don't think Barack Obama is exceptional, either, but I also don't think he's much good at spotting talent or, if he is - and people like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner are exceptional - he seems unable to help them to help him. But I think the same thing applied to George W Bush, Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson or John Kennedy, they weren't exceptional either. But unexceptional Harry Truman rose to the needs of the office and the time, so what not the others?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Chris Pook on May 06, 2013, 17:13:24
Perhaps there is a problem with the personal versus the institutional?

Obama - for all his 1960s hippie-speak about community - epitomizes in my mind the selfish individualism that arose out of that era.
Truman and Eisenhower, and I suggest their predecessors, were much more creatures of the institutions in which they grew up.

Perhaps it isn't surprising that your list of mediocrity begins with Kennedy: wasn't he elected despite the institutions that supported his predecessors?

Caesar triumphed over the Senate by going direct to the people.  Kennedy used TV to trump the US "Senate" and appealed directly to the people.  His successors have followed the same path.

Now it is all about the man and his coat-tails.  Not the institution's man.

Parties are one form of institution but I believe that parties generally were reflective of other, broader, institutions.

Truman and Eisenhower grew from the Kiwanis, Kinsmen, Rotary, Lions, Masons, Knights of Columbus, Eagles, Elks, Scouts, Guides, Chambers of Commerce, School boards and PTAs.   All of those institutions are shadows of themselves.  The participatory, and representative form of democracy that they represented is gone.  They aligned behind parties and put their representatives forward.

Now, it seems to me, it is all about the man at the top and how he can manipulate his way to power. 

There are no pyramids of power.  There is only a thin web of finely drawn threads.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Jed on May 06, 2013, 22:12:55
Perhaps there is a problem with the personal versus the institutional?

Obama - for all his 1960s hippie-speak about community - epitomizes in my mind the selfish individualism that arose out of that era.
Truman and Eisenhower, and I suggest their predecessors, were much more creatures of the institutions in which they grew up.

Perhaps it isn't surprising that your list of mediocrity begins with Kennedy: wasn't he elected despite the institutions that supported his predecessors?

Caesar triumphed over the Senate by going direct to the people.  Kennedy used TV to trump the US "Senate" and appealed directly to the people.  His successors have followed the same path.

Now it is all about the man and his coat-tails.  Not the institution's man.

Parties are one form of institution but I believe that parties generally were reflective of other, broader, institutions.

Truman and Eisenhower grew from the Kiwanis, Kinsmen, Rotary, Lions, Masons, Knights of Columbus, Eagles, Elks, Scouts, Guides, Chambers of Commerce, School boards and PTAs.   All of those institutions are shadows of themselves.  The participatory, and representative form of democracy that they represented is gone.  They aligned behind parties and put their representatives forward.

Now, it seems to me, it is all about the man at the top and how he can manipulate his way to power. 

There are no pyramids of power.  There is only a thin web of finely drawn threads.

I think you are on to something with this line of thought. So how do we as a society, somehow adjust our course for the greater good?

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on May 07, 2013, 22:35:48
I think that is exactly right. Edmond Burke spoke of being part of "small platoons" and Alexis de Tocqueville described America as a "Nation of associations". Civic participation is to be encouraged and supported in order to raise and train civic leaders (people who might, like Truman, not be very smart or talented themselves but can recognize an bring the smart and talented people aboard to help them reach common goals).

Now in the age of Big Government, many of the functions of the small platoons has been crowded out and taken over by the State. Local church charities don't take on the burden of caring for the poor the way they used to, and even the DIY solutions of yeateryear have been actively discouraged by the State (you don't see rooming houses anymore, the poor are stuffed into "assisted housing"). Now you can argue that a patchwork of small, mostly local initiatives is less effective at helping than the vast, well funded bureaucracy of the State, but I think most people can agree that , as a minimum the State isn't very effective at helping peope and in some cases counterproductive.

The small platoons will come back in many of our lifetimes as the welfare state goes bankrupt, the trick is going to be to make the transition smooth and relatively painless. The future small platoons are also not going to resemble the old Kiwanas or Rotary clubs anymore than these clubs resembled a Masonic lodge or Medeival Guild, given the massive amount of information they will have access to and the ability to rapidly link and delink with other like minded people and groupd according to the task they want to accomplish and the resources they need to achieve these goals.

Think of social media + crowdfunding for a possibe model.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 11, 2013, 22:04:14
The current POTUS and his administration are on thin ice with two separate investigations,Benghazi and  the IRS targeting conservative groups. The latter smacks of the Nixon administration.

AP has the latest on the IRS scandal.

AP Exclusive: Watchdog report says senior IRS officials knew tea party groups targeted in 2011

WASHINGTON — Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general’s report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner.

The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.

But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog’s report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with “Tea Party,” ‘’Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.

The 9-12 Project is a group started by conservative TV personality Glenn Beck.

Lerner instructed agents to change the criteria for flagging groups “immediately,” the report says.

The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration is expected to release the results of a nearly yearlong investigation in the coming week. The AP obtained part of the draft report, which has been shared with congressional aides.

Among the other revelations, on Aug. 4, 2011, staffers in the IRS’ Rulings and Agreements office “held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”

On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to, “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,” the report says.

While this was happening, several committees in Congress were writing numerous letters IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman to express concern because tea party groups were complaining of IRS harassment.

In Shulman’s responses, he did not acknowledge targeting of tea party groups. At a congressional hearing March 22, 2012, Shulman was adamant in his denials.

 “There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said at the House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing.

The portion of the draft report reviewed by the AP does not say whether Shulman or anyone else in the Obama administration outside the IRS was informed of the targeting. It is standard procedure for agency heads to consult with staff before responding to congressional inquiries, but it is unclear how much information Shulman sought.

The IRS has not said when Shulman found out that Tea Party groups were targeted.

Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush, a Republican. His 6-year term ended in November. President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a successor. The agency is now run by an acting commissioner, Steven Miller.

The IRS said in a statement Saturday that the agency believes the timeline in the IG’s report is correct, and supports what officials said Friday.

“IRS senior leadership was not aware of this level of specific details at the time of the March 2012 hearing,” the statement said. “The timeline does not contradict the commissioner’s testimony. While exempt organizations officials knew of the situation earlier, the timeline reflects that IRS senior leadership did not have this level of detail.”

Lerner’s position is three levels below the commissioner.

“The timeline supports what the IRS acknowledged on Friday that mistakes were made,” the statement continued. “There were not partisan reasons behind this.”

Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s oversight subcommittee, said the report “raises serious questions as to who at IRS, Treasury and in the administration knew about this, why this practice was allowed to continue for as long as it did, and how widespread it was.”

 “This timeline reveals at least two extremely unethical actions by the IRS. One, as early as 2010, they targeted groups for political purposes. Two, they willfully and knowingly lied to Congress for years despite being aware that Congress was investigating this practice,” Boustany said.

 “This is an outrageous abuse of power. Going after organizations for referencing the Bill of Rights or expressing the intent to make this country a better place is repugnant,” Boustany added. “There is no excuse for this behavior.”

Several congressional committees have promised investigations, including the Ways and Means Committee, which plans to hold a hearing.

 “The admission by the agency that it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both shocking and disappointing,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “We will hold the IRS accountable for its actions.”

The group Tea Party Patriots said the revelation was proof that the IRS had lied to Congress and the public when Schulman said there had been no targeting of tea party groups.

 “We must know how many more lies they have been telling and how high up the chain the cover-up goes,” Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for the group Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement Saturday.

 “It appears the IRS committed crimes and violated our ability to exercise our First Amendment right to free speech. A simple apology is not sufficient reparation for violating the constitutional rights of United States citizens. Therefore, Tea Party Patriots rejects the apology from the Internal Revenue Service,” Martin said. “We are, however, encouraged to hear that Congress plans to investigate. Those responsible must be held accountable and resign or be terminated for their actions.”

On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration expected the inspector general to conduct a thorough investigation, but he brushed aside calls for the White House itself to investigate.

Many conservative groups complained during the 2012 election that they were being harassed by the IRS. They accused the agency of frustrating their attempts to become tax exempt by sending them lengthy, intrusive questionnaires.

The forms, which the groups have made available, sought information about group members’ political activities, including details of their postings on social networking websites and about family members.

In some cases, the IRS acknowledged, agents inappropriately asked for lists of donors.

There has been a surge of politically active groups claiming tax-exempt status in recent elections — conservative and liberal. Among the highest profile are Republican Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS and the liberal

These groups claim tax-exempt status under section 501 (c) (4) of the federal tax code, which is for social welfare groups. Unlike other charitable groups, these organizations are allowed to participate in political activities, but their primary activity must be social welfare.

That determination is up to the IRS.

The number of groups filing for this tax-exempt status more than doubled from 2010 to 2012, to more than 3,400. To handle the influx, the IRS centralized its review of these applications in an office in Cincinnati.

Lerner said on Friday this was done to develop expertise among staffers and consistency in their reviews. As part of the review, staffers look for signs that groups are participating in political activity. If so, IRS agents take a closer look to make sure that politics isn’t the group’s primary activity.

As part of this process, agents in Cincinnati came up with a list of things to look for in an application. As part of the list, they included the words “tea party” and “patriot,” Lerner said.

 “It’s the line people that did it without talking to managers,” Lerner told the AP on Friday. “They’re IRS workers, they’re revenue agents.”

In all, about 300 groups were singled out for additional review, Lerner said. Of those, about a quarter were singled out because they had “tea party” or “patriot” somewhere in their applications.

Lerner said 150 of the cases have been closed and no group had its tax-exempt status revoked, though some withdrew their applications.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: cupper on May 12, 2013, 22:52:10
 :boring: Is it 2016 already?

My how time flies.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on May 13, 2013, 00:31:29
While T6 may have posted in the wrong thread(?), there is an essential point that American politics is driven by domestic considerations to a far greater extent than most outsiders realize. The Cuban embargo has far more to do with the votes of Cuban exiles in Miami than it has to do with overthrowing Castro.

The Administration attempted to sweep the events of 9/11/12 under the rug in order to minimize the impact on the election, a cynical and effective ploy. (Why the Republicans did not revive the "3 AM phone call" meme is perhaps the great mystery of the election). However the questions raised by events like Benghazi, the abuse of IRS power, "Fast and Furious", not to mention the continuing impact of high unemployment and sluggish economic growth will force the Administration into a largely reactive mode, if not paralysis or even savage infighting as people attempt to avoid being thrown under the bus.

US foreign policy, which is largely a continuation of the Bush Administration policy, will continue due to inertia without a guiding hand at the wheel. No coherent "Grand Strategy" will emerge, and if we take the Freidman "Grand Strategy" as an organic extention of the need to secure the American homeland, then we could continue to interpret the event of the next few years in that light.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 13, 2013, 01:46:34
I didnt want to strt a new thread and since this thread essentially is about US politics I threw the Benghazi/IRS scandals into the mix.Who was the last US President that used the IRS against his enemies ? Could it be Richard Nixon ?We all know how that turned out.Unfortunately for Nixon he didnt have a compliant news media.Obama does,at least for the moment.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Rifleman62 on May 13, 2013, 11:50:59
When a US Service person is killed in the line of duty, their family eventually gets a flag and a note conveying sympathy and respect from the United States Government.
When a pro basketball player announces he is gay, he immediately gets a personal phone call from President Obama congratulating him for his courage.
Am I missing something?
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 13, 2013, 12:21:16
While I acknowledge that "all politics is local," as former US House of Representatives Speaker Tip O'Neil said, and, therefore, that even "grand strategy" is determined by partisan politics, I  fear that if we let this thread devolve into a broad, general, US domestic politics discussion it will circle the drain and, as with other international political threads (late last year), end up as Radio Chatter.

I would invite members to consider the definition of grand strategy, as I suggested nearly 18 months ago (,64040.msg1096361.html#msg1096361) and try to keep our discussion focused on that.

Edit: typo ~ tired old eyes!  :-[
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Chris Pook on May 13, 2013, 13:29:37
While I acknowledge that "all politics is local," as former US House of Representatives Speaker Tip O'Neil said, and, therefore, that even "grand strategy" is determined by partisan politics, I  fear that if we let this thread devolve into a broad, general, US domestic politics discussion it will circle the drain and, as with other international political threads (late last year), end up as Radio Chatter.

I would invite members to consider the definition of grand strategy, as I suggested nearly 18 months ago (,64040.msg1096361.html#msg1096361) and try to keep our discussion focused on hat.

I'd like to second that.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: cupper on May 13, 2013, 19:23:17
Me third.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 13, 2013, 21:17:54
Better change the title.You cannot discuss grand strategy in a domestic context without discussing politics.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 13, 2013, 21:57:37
Better change the title.You cannot discuss grand strategy in a domestic context without discussing politics.

I accepted, nearly six years ago (,64040.msg588549.html#msg588549), that domestic politics would decide grand strategy but the original post was about grand strategy ~ why and how America comports itself in the world ~ and while I agree that domestic politics will decide the issues they, domestic political issues, are not components of a grand strategy.

This thread was not intended to be a platform for debating the American culture wars nor Pres Obama's conduct; it was meant to be about grand strategy. If we drift too far from that then I am confident that this thread, too, will become radio chatter.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 13, 2013, 22:49:29
Perhaps I don't understand the premise "Grand Strategy for a divided America". Who's grand strategy ? How is America divided  except maybe in the political context that you don't want discussed ? Don't worry Edward I won't clutter your thread with politics.Although it would be an ideal venue to discuss the Nixonian bent of this administration.Anyway keep an eye on the Congressional hearings.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 13, 2013, 23:11:51
Perhaps I don't understand the premise "Grand Strategy for a divided America". Who's grand strategy ? How is America divided  except maybe in the political context that you don't want discussed ? Don't worry Edward I won't clutter your thread with politics.Although it would be an ideal venue to discuss the Nixonian bent of this administration.Anyway keep an eye on the Congressional hearings.

The title, and the premise that a) America needs a grand strategy and b) that ongoing political divisions make it difficult to enunciate, are found in the first post (,64040.msg587893.html#msg587893) from nearly six years ago.

It seems to me that a) a grand strategy is still to be hoped for and b) the divisions are still deep and are still preventing official Washington from focusing on strategic issues.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 13, 2013, 23:31:30
America required a grand strategy during the cold war. Post cold war a grand strategy isnt possible or desirable.Today we are fighting islamists beyond that world peace may break out or it will be back to a policy to contain the PRC.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 13, 2013, 23:38:23
I think that deciding how to engage China is a key element of a grand strategy: classic containment, à la George Kennan or something else?

Ditto: the Muslims: low level war or something else?

What about how to deal with a shaky, maybe failing Europe?

And there is always Latin America, with its own traditional challenges.

Where does India fit in all this?



Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 13, 2013, 23:44:01
National interest has its ebbs and flows.During the cold war India aligned itself with the Russians.Now they seem to have aligned themselves with the West.
Europe may be shaky but they havent collapsed economically yet.Of all the NATO nations the one country with the strongest economy IMO is Canada.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Brad Sallows on May 14, 2013, 21:07:04
The US didn't really have a grand strategy shared across the political divide during the Cold War, except by convenience.  The Republicans chiefly wanted to contain the Soviets and the Democrats chiefly wanted to expand the welfare state.  Each went along with the other as the cost of meeting respective aims.  Post-USSR, there is no external threat equal to the Soviets.  Republican attention has turned partly inward (source of friction added) and Democrat support is no longer needed "at any price" (source of cooperation removed).
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Nemo888 on May 14, 2013, 21:19:02
The strategy seems to be assisting global capital create a single free market.  The lack of democratic oversight is already revealing the flaws of capitalism without moral or ethical constraints. It's an ideological experiment that I think is fundamentally flawed.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 14, 2013, 21:22:51
The US didn't really have a grand strategy shared across the political divide during the Cold War, except by convenience.  The Republicans chiefly wanted to contain the Soviets and the Democrats chiefly wanted to expand the welfare state.  Each went along with the other as the cost of meeting respective aims.  Post-USSR, there is no external threat equal to the Soviets.  Republican attention has turned partly inward (source of friction added) and Democrat support is no longer needed "at any price" (source of cooperation removed).

Containment, which was a grand strategy, was a Democratic policy adopted by the GOP. Kennedy, another Democrat was the author of interventionism which is, today, largely associated with the GOP. Nixon was a realist, a strategic posture that appealed to George HW Bush and Bill Clinton, while George H Bush, like Ronald Reagan and LBJ, was a Kennedyesque interventionist.

My  :2c: anyway.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Rifleman62 on May 16, 2013, 12:09:56

New York Post

O’s scandals take nation by storm


Last Updated: 2:49 AM, May 15, 2013

As a metaphor for big government, it is hard to top the Justice Department’s seizing of journalists’ phone records from The Associated Press.

Unless, of course, you think the best example is the Internal Revenue Service turning the screws on groups it viewed as conservative and, therefore, unworthy of fair treatment.

Or maybe the winner is the sneaky spreading of ObamaCare’s tentacles, with insurance companies now predicting the law will drive up the cost of individual premiums by as much as 400 percent.

There are no losers in this race to the bottom — except the American people. It is tempting to ask whether they’ve had enough Hope & Change, but the question is premature. With 44 months to go in the reign of the Great Mistake, the gods are not done punishing us.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, the growing cloud of trouble must have the bunker boys longing for the good old days. You know, those idyllic days of yesteryear, a k a early last week, when Benghazi was the only scandal on the horizon.

Everything was much simpler then. All the president had to do was cry “Politics!” and the Pavlovian media mutts declared Benghazi a “partisan witch hunt” and started digging into really important things, such as whether Republicans are evil or just stupid.

Then the dam broke. First, it was the sensational Benghazi hearing, where previously muzzled whistleblowers detailed the administration’s bungles before, during and after the terror attack. Throw in reports showing the infamous Susan Rice talking points were rewritten 11 times, going from fact to fiction, and Benghazi suddenly became the important story it should have been all along.

If that were all, it would have been enough. But the near-simultaneous revelations in recent days about the IRS playing political favorites, the massive phone grab at the AP news operation, and ObamaCare’s cost impact combined to demonstrate something I believed for a long time.

The Obama administration is both corrupt and incompetent. It is a double whammy that spells trouble for the nation, at home and abroad.

The corruption is not like that in Albany, where officials stuff their pockets with taxpayer cash. The corruption in Obama-Land is the selective use of government power to reward friends and punish opponents. Or, as the president calls them, enemies.

Political allies — think Solyndra and unions — get special goodies, while those who oppose the regime’s agenda are demonized and singled out for scrutiny. The IRS targeting of groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names and those that advocate less spending smacks of the tactics of banana republic strongmen. Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro would be proud.

But America is a nation of laws and not of men, of individual liberty and not of centralized power. And that national dynamic explains the firestorm of anger aimed at the White House. The headlines have sparked a wide and genuine outcry over Obama’s push against the nation’s roots.

He’s been doing it for four years, and mostly getting away with it, but suddenly, there is a critical mass of evidence against him. Maybe the AP case made the media realize they were not exempt from Obama’s overreach.

Whatever the reason, what we see so far is certainly not the end of it. You can bet other nasty, intrusive surprises are hiding in the vast deep of the expanding bureaucracy.

The ultimate danger is a lack of accountability. The idea that ordinary citizens hold the power has no meaning when the political class circles the wagons and the press looks the other way while the president accumulates more power and control.

That is where we have been, but hopefully, not where we are going. Their liberty DNA kicking in, more and more citizens, including some in the media, finally are expressing shock and anger at how big, clumsy and crooked our government is. They are welcome to the discovery, belated though it is.

For those of us not shocked by the inevitable, there is vindication but no satisfaction. Each example of Obama’s chickens coming home to roost just makes more obvious how much damage he’s already done.

The repair begins by throwing open the doors and windows of Washington. We’ll need a lot of sunshine to disinfect this rot.

Read more: Goodwin: Storm clouds brewing in Obama-Land over Benghazi, IRS, AP scandals -
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 16, 2013, 15:55:06

New York Post

O’s scandals take nation by storm


Last Updated: 2:49 AM, May 15, 2013

As a metaphor for big government, it is hard to top the Justice Department’s seizing of journalists’ phone records from The Associated Press.

Unless, of course, you think the best example is the Internal Revenue Service turning the screws on groups it viewed as conservative and, therefore, unworthy of fair treatment.

Or maybe the winner is the sneaky spreading of ObamaCare’s tentacles, with insurance companies now predicting the law will drive up the cost of individual premiums by as much as 400 percent.

There are no losers in this race to the bottom — except the American people. It is tempting to ask whether they’ve had enough Hope & Change, but the question is premature. With 44 months to go in the reign of the Great Mistake, the gods are not done punishing us.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, the growing cloud of trouble must have the bunker boys longing for the good old days. You know, those idyllic days of yesteryear, a k a early last week, when Benghazi was the only scandal on the horizon.

Everything was much simpler then. All the president had to do was cry “Politics!” and the Pavlovian media mutts declared Benghazi a “partisan witch hunt” and started digging into really important things, such as whether Republicans are evil or just stupid.

Then the dam broke. First, it was the sensational Benghazi hearing, where previously muzzled whistleblowers detailed the administration’s bungles before, during and after the terror attack. Throw in reports showing the infamous Susan Rice talking points were rewritten 11 times, going from fact to fiction, and Benghazi suddenly became the important story it should have been all along.

If that were all, it would have been enough. But the near-simultaneous revelations in recent days about the IRS playing political favorites, the massive phone grab at the AP news operation, and ObamaCare’s cost impact combined to demonstrate something I believed for a long time.

The Obama administration is both corrupt and incompetent. It is a double whammy that spells trouble for the nation, at home and abroad.

The corruption is not like that in Albany, where officials stuff their pockets with taxpayer cash. The corruption in Obama-Land is the selective use of government power to reward friends and punish opponents. Or, as the president calls them, enemies.

Political allies — think Solyndra and unions — get special goodies, while those who oppose the regime’s agenda are demonized and singled out for scrutiny. The IRS targeting of groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names and those that advocate less spending smacks of the tactics of banana republic strongmen. Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro would be proud.

But America is a nation of laws and not of men, of individual liberty and not of centralized power. And that national dynamic explains the firestorm of anger aimed at the White House. The headlines have sparked a wide and genuine outcry over Obama’s push against the nation’s roots.

He’s been doing it for four years, and mostly getting away with it, but suddenly, there is a critical mass of evidence against him. Maybe the AP case made the media realize they were not exempt from Obama’s overreach.

Whatever the reason, what we see so far is certainly not the end of it. You can bet other nasty, intrusive surprises are hiding in the vast deep of the expanding bureaucracy.

The ultimate danger is a lack of accountability. The idea that ordinary citizens hold the power has no meaning when the political class circles the wagons and the press looks the other way while the president accumulates more power and control.

That is where we have been, but hopefully, not where we are going. Their liberty DNA kicking in, more and more citizens, including some in the media, finally are expressing shock and anger at how big, clumsy and crooked our government is. They are welcome to the discovery, belated though it is.

For those of us not shocked by the inevitable, there is vindication but no satisfaction. Each example of Obama’s chickens coming home to roost just makes more obvious how much damage he’s already done.

The repair begins by throwing open the doors and windows of Washington. We’ll need a lot of sunshine to disinfect this rot.

Read more: Goodwin: Storm clouds brewing in Obama-Land over Benghazi, IRS, AP scandals -

I think that about half of Americans (and maybe fewer than half of Canadians) think that the Obama administration is a mess, but what does the "growing cloud of trouble" have to do with America's grand strategy? Do you think that the domestic political problems will paralyze the national security and foreign policy apparatus? Will the Asian Pivot (which is a strategy, like it or not) fall apart because the IRS went after the Tea Party or the FBI looked up lists of reporters?

I'm happy to concede that the domestic political situation makes the kind of bipartisan strategic consensus that some observers think is required more and more difficult. But Truman managed to build a bipartisan consensus for containment and the Marshal Plan despite a resoundingly hostile Republican establishment, one which actually overrode his vetoes on several important issues. Now, maybe Obama is no Truman and maybe Americans do not see the kind of strategic threat today that they saw in the late 1940s, but domestic political problems do not always prevent foreign policy cooperation.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 18, 2013, 08:13:57
I will have a go at Conrad Black's Flight of the Eagle ( as soon as it arrives (well not quite then, but it's in line for early summer reading); I am a great fan of his life of FDR, I think he saw trhough all the clutter and got down to the very focused grand strategist. I admire FDR because he set the real grand strategy and them left e.g. the military strategy to Stimson and Marshall (who shared some of that responsibility Knox, Forrestal and King in a very complex bit of inside the beltway politics that saw Stimson and Marshall having overall control so long as they left the entire Pacific war (less the Manhattan project) to Knox, Forrestal and King).

In any event, Conrad Black holds forth on why, in his opinion, America's grand strategic vision is clouded in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:
Why Conrad Black thinks the United States is in decline

The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, May. 17 2013

For someone who vowed to keep a low profile now that he is back in Canada, Conrad Black has been extremely visible.

Although he is still dealing with the messy legal aftermath of the crash of his newspaper empire, he is a popular fixture on Toronto’s social circuit, continues to write a weekly newspaper column and is active in various business ventures (“only non-public companies,” he stresses). He is also set to launch a weekly talk show on Vision TV this summer (his old friend Moses Znaimer talked him into it, he says).

What Mr. Black most likes to talk about, though, is serious history.

A close student of grand strategists and strategy (his 2003 biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was widely praised), he is about to release a new book next week: Flight of the Eagle, he says, is meant to correct a common misconception that the United States stumbled into greatness; instead, America’s destiny was shaped in large part by a series of exceptional leaders.

You write about America. And you’ve often held it up as a country that Canada ought to emulate.

     I used to.

Yes, that seems to have changed quite dramatically. You describe the U.S. now, not without affection, as vulgar, banal, slovenly and complacent.

     There are those aspects to it, yes.

     I certainly don’t take any pleasure in what I would say is the comparative decline of the U.S. – or at least the trajectory of that country – but it does have an advantage for Canadians. I detest the spirit of envy
     and I never gloat over anyone’s difficulties (although I cannot say that I’ve always myself been received in that manner), but Canadians should at least now be cured of the subconscious feeling that we are, in fact,
     inferior to Americans.

     It hasn’t always been so – I think [Ronald] Reagan ran a better administration than [Pierre] Trudeau did – but this is a better-governed country than the U.S. now and it has been for some time.

Your book seems to suggest the high-water mark for the U.S. – for American power and prestige in the world – was 1989.

     In fairness, its vocation for greatness had been realized before. The U.S. dealt with a succession of challenges very effectively: the prevention of a German victory in the First World War, the containment strategy
     against the Soviet Union, even Vietnam – and I don’t make light of it, that war was a serious mistake – led to a complete victory. But then it wasn’t clear what the goal was, so George Bush Sr. talked about a new
     order in the world. But what did it mean? It’s like “a thousand points of light.” You could never say what it actually meant. I guess countries, like people, respond better to a challenge than they do when there
     isn’t one.

America has also undermined itself in terrible ways.

     Ah, but that, in a way, is the development of the challenge – the challenge within. There are lots of things inside the U.S. that are now a real challenge to that society: The education system isn’t competitive,
     the whole wealth distribution/welfare system, broadly stated, is responsible for wasting staggering and horrifying quantities of human resources. The justice system is simply an outrage. The problem of corruption
     in government and in public life generally, the excesses of the pecuniary society…

So what happened to American leadership after the people you mention in your book – the Madisons and the Washingtons?

     This is a terribly serious question. You’re younger than I am, but you remember that horrible year of 1968 when there were assassinations and riots everywhere, 550,000 draftees in Vietnam, undeclared war,
     no one knew what they were doing and 200 to 400 young men were coming back dead every week. But at one time or another Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan
     and Nelson Rockefeller were all running for president – and they were all qualified to be president, they were all very substantial people. In this last election, the best Republicans didn’t run. [Barack] Obama was
     a vulnerable candidate…

He should have lost.

     He was actually not a bad president. He wasn’t a good political leader, but he wasn’t a bad president. Still, he didn’t lose. The strongest candidates didn’t run. At the time, I remember writing that this was a very
     worrisome signal of how things were; normally it’s such a great office and Americans are such a patriotic people and you’re automatically going to be a famous person in history if you’re the president. And yet the
     candidates who could have won didn’t run.

You said something pretty controversial about President Obama. You said the main reason he was elected in 2008 was “white guilt.”

     That was the campaign he ran. I didn’t say it critically of him, I thought it was a genius campaign.

     It wasn’t explicit, but not subliminal either. The message was: You Americans – non-black Americans or white Americans – the great majority of you are decent, fair-minded people and you are naturally troubled
     by the aspect of our country’s history that consists of, in Mr. Lincoln’s phrase, “the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil,” followed by 100 years of segregation. Now you can be rid of that. As an added bonus,
     you will never have to listen to charlatans like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton again. The African-American community will have a respectable leader that doesn’t grate on your nerves when you hear him speak –
     and all you have to do is vote for me.

     Now, he never quite said that, but if you had interviewed the average white Obama voter and said, “Do you feel that this would be the consequence of voting for him?” they all would have said yes.

So vote for me and you can feel good about yourself…

     I’d put it more respectfully than that: Vote for me and we can turn the page on that terribly difficult time. And he’s right.

What about Canada: Are you able to stay?

     My temporary permit has been renewed.

Do you have to get it renewed year by year?

     Yes, at some time I would be eligible to apply to make it permanent. One step at a time.

At this point, do you think you’re a historian or a businessman first?

     Well, because of the horrible onslaught I had to endure for most of the last 10 years, I sort of cranked up my writing career. It was something I could do while I was trying to conduct my defence. And of course
     for three years I was a guest of the great American people and you can’t run a business from prison. Some people did, but I couldn’t.

     But now I am focused on a commercial relaunch – not large public companies and not in a way that’s controversial, but completely under the radar, which is how I started. I have some aptitude for that.

Do you ever wish you’d done history from the start and forgotten about business?

     I live quite well and I couldn’t live the way I do on what you earn as a writer, even if I was a much more successful writer. It’s not a terrific career in income terms, as you know.

What do you think is the most indispensable history book on America, apart from your own?

     Can’t I have one per century?

All right, one per century.

     I would say Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life. I suppose Carl Sandburg’s life of Lincoln, and this is a terribly self-serving thing to say, but holding one hand over my eyes and repenting as I very tentatively
     put it forward, my life of FDR.

I disagree with Conrad Black that America's zenith was 1989; I think it was about 1950, for the same reasons that I maintain that Britain's peak was around 1830, not 70 years later.

I think grand strategy fell out of favour with John F Kennedy who, it appears to me, was more fascinated with the exercise of power than with the management of it, and I don't think anyone - maybe Richard Nixon is the exception - really wanted to bring it back to the centre of the presidency.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Rifleman62 on May 25, 2013, 12:51:58

National Post - 25 May 13  Rex Murphy

The IRS vs. American Liberty

Our long national Senatorial nightmare is far from over. Even as the red Chamber’s expenses scandal receives severe competition from Toronto’s bizarre City Hall drug farce, there is promise of new Ottawa inquiries. The Senate scandal’s epicenter, Mike Duffy, is proving to be more famous off-camera than he was on.
Douglas Shulman

It’s all both sad and ridiculous. Sad, because — on an ideal formulation — the Senate is where we should send (and in some cases have sent) those Canadians we are most proud of, those who are an embodiment of Canadiana. Indeed, some good and great people have been and are Senators. Those folks, especially, must be ashamed to see the Senate’s reputation being dragged around like this.

But some context is necessary: For Canadians, our senatorial melodrama has partly obscured a more ominous series of scandals currently unfolding south of the border, threatening the reputation and agenda of Barack Obama in his second term. The u.S. scandals are, in my judgment, far more worrisome — they go to the very heart of democratic politics — than ours.

There are a trinity of them. The first two, to cite the shorthand, are (1) the Benghazi coverup; and (2) the Justice department’s spying on the press, including the seizure of phone records and emails from Associated Press and Fox News reporters.

But it is the third scandal that is by far the most devastating: the discovery that the Internal revenue Service — the fearsome, bullying, virtually unchallengable IRS — has been deliberately intruding into the political process: picking which groups to favour, and which to harass and distress, by targeting groups self-identified as “Tea Party” or “patriot.”

There is not yet evidence that such actions were performed at the order of elected officials. But even without that connection, the idea that the U.S. tax-collecting agency, with all its powers and investigative reach, has turned “political,” is horrifying. It has shocked even democrats.

In hundreds of cases — more than 500 according to one report — the IRS applied additional scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. And in doing so, the IRS demanded all sorts of private information from the applicants, effectively intimidating and harassing them on the basis of their political beliefs.

This is the very nullification of the American idea: It is the long arm of the tax authority targeting the citizenry. All this in a country founded on a tax revolt.

This week, Congress offered the edifying spectacle of a high IRS official in charge of these filings appearing before its Finance Committee — in one breath sourly proclaiming her innocence, and in another taking the Fifth. Let us put it this way: When a high IRS official pleads the Fifth amendment before Congress, there is something very rotten in the state.

Initially, there were assurances that all was well, then that it was merely a rogue agent or two in a single city (Cincinnati). It’s beyond that now. It has ramified to the point where officials in the White House are saying that they knew of the IRS scandal but did not tell (which itself is very telling) the President.

Much like our Senate story, no one is stepping up and either telling all or taking responsibility.

When he appeared before Congress, former Commissioner of the IRS Douglas Shulman was as sleek as a seal in his dives and evasions. despite a proven 118 visits to the White House (including one for the “Easter egg hunt” — perhaps “find the republican”) he blandly proclaims that he never discussed the issue with “anyone” in that bastion of power.

Canada’s scandals are bad, but the American ones are frightening. What the IRS has done is twist the system into a partisan persecutory instrument of the party in power.

The IRS is mighty: When federal and state police could not nail Al Capone, remember, they went to the IRS — who did get him. In the land of the free, it’s terrible to imagine the same tactics being used on political activists.

"Commissioner of the IRS Douglas Shulman was as sleek as a seal in his dives and evasions, despite a proven 118 visits to the White House".

More visits than the Secretary of Defence, the head of the CIA and FBI combined.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Jed on May 25, 2013, 13:10:27

More visits than the Secretary of Defence, the head of the CIA and FBI combined.

At last, some MSM showing some perspective.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: cupper on May 25, 2013, 18:46:11
At last, some MSM showing some perspective.

No. One Canadian commentator making observations from what he has seen from other media sources.

Let's not make more of Rex Murphy than he really is.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 06, 2013, 07:32:45
The appointment of Susan Rice as US National Security Advisor might help explain US foreign policy to the world according to this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Washington Post:
Susan Rice, a provocateur in the West Wing

By David Ignatius

Published: June 5

Think of Susan Rice as the president’s assertive kid sister. Where he’s cool and deferential, she’s boisterous and sometimes abrasive. Where he avoids public confrontation, she often relishes it. They have different styles, but make no mistake: What Rice says out loud is often what Obama is thinking privately.

In appointing Rice to become national security adviser in place of Tom Donilon, Obama is trading a reliable gray sedan for a flashier but more temperamental sports car. He’s exchanging a private political dealmaker for a public provocateur. He’s replacing a man who dislikes taking risks, and has generally been good at avoiding them, with one of the more adventurous people in government.

And then there’s Benghazi: Obama is swapping a man who generally avoided the Sunday talk shows for someone who nearly committed career suicide for delivering the famous talking points (for which she was otherwise blameless). Enough, already, about Benghazi.

For an Obama administration that is struggling to find its voice in the second term, Rice’s elevation should be helpful. She will give the White House a compelling new focal point on foreign policy. People may not always agree with her, but they’ll know what she thinks. And perhaps she will galvanize sharper policy thinking from Obama himself, especially on Syria.

But the Rice nomination brings some obvious risks: She is not a quiet inside player in the tradition of Brent Scowcroft, who was Donilon’s role model as national security adviser. She’s more in the tradition of extroverted policy intellectuals such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger, who used the media and other channels to shape events.

It will be interesting to see how Rice shares the foreign-policy platform with Secretary of State John Kerry. White House officials say that Kerry will own the diplomatic space and that there shouldn’t be much overlap. But this pairing of ambitious policymakers conjures memories of past feuds between Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers, or Brze­zin­ski and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.

Obama’s personal relationship with Rice will allow her to speak with special authority when she’s dealing with foreign leaders. But it could undercut Kerry, who is otherwise off to a strong start. The White House doesn’t envision Rice as a secret emissary, a la Kissinger. But foreign leaders may try to use her as a back channel anyway.

Rice will have trouble matching Donilon’s success as a process manager. Critics argue that he has been overly organized and top-down, but he has run a smooth interagency process: Paperwork is delivered on time to the Oval Office; decisions are made and implemented (or fuzzed because the president wants it that way). Donilon has been a firm and sometimes controlling presence, and he’s known as a hard taskmaster. But he gets the job done, in a way that Cabinet officials generally feel is fair. This won’t be easy for Rice to replicate.

“Tom is not given enough credit for running the process. He did that masterfully,” says Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense who sometimes butted heads with Donilon.

Rice’s biggest challenge is to help Obama project a more strategic view of foreign policy. Donilon took on the big issue of rebalancing U.S. diplomatic and military power toward Asia — culminating in this weekend’s summit between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. But beyond the pivot to Asia, policymaking during the Donilon years sometimes seemed reactive and event-driven — closer to crisis management than systematic strategy. Obama said Wednesday that Donilon combined the strategic and tactical, but the world saw more of the latter.

Obama has some visionary ideas about the United States’ role in a changing world. They’re articulated in his speeches, penned by deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, but there’s often a lack of follow-through. That’s the first thing journalists often hear from foreign leaders: Where is your president on big issues? Why don’t we hear more from him? Perhaps Rice can help the White House send clearer policy messages to a world that is drifting without active and engaged U.S. leadership.

Rice has star power. She is smart, funny, profane and passionate. She can also be her own worst enemy — using sharp words or elbows when a softer touch would work better. In that sense, she and Obama are well-matched: The cool and cautious chief executive may benefit from a more hot-tempered national security adviser, and vice versa.

I am a (tepid) admirer of Ambassador Rice; I agree with David Ignatius that she is "smart, funny, profane and passionate," - all good attributes in a grand strategist. But: President Obama, like his predecessors, Bush (43), Clinton and Bush (41), doesn't like grand strategy ~ he's a dilettante, unlike, say, Nixon, and he's a good example of Isaiah Berlin's fox mentality, in contrast to, say, Ronald Reagan's hedgehog like focus on defeating the "evil empire." I think/hope she can explain American strategy, such as it is, to friends and foes alike; I doubt she can do much to make grand strategy matter, even if she is so inclined.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 06, 2013, 07:48:36
Veteran Anglo-American journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave ( gives a reasoned review of Richard Haass' new book Foreign Policy Begins at Home ( in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from United Press International:

I haven't gotten to "Foreign Policy Begins at Home," yet - it's on the Spring reading list - but if what Arnaud de Borchgrave says is correct then I suspect I shall agree with Richard Haass prescriptions.

That America's post World War II strategic vision has been cloudy, to be charitable, is beyond question but America's strategic capacity is now in question, too.

If we want American strategic leadership - and I think we do - then we must hope for a new generation of leaders very, very unlike pretty much everyone from John F. Kennedy through to Barack Hussein Obama, all of whom, including Ronald Reagan, in my opinion, have been second rate. America does need to restore is social and economic base before it can assert itself as a global leader. The social base is still ruptured by the silly, destructive culture wars for which both the (misnamed) liberals and conservatives are equally to blame. The economic base has been destroyed by two generations of misguided social engineers. the US military is, in my opinion, poorly led - and has been ever since about 1960, badly managed, and aimless. US strategy ... well,the lack of one is what this thread is all about.

I have finished Richard Haass' "Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order" and I am in broad agreement with Arnaud de Borchgrave (that shouldn't surprise anyone) but not everyone is. here is a well thought out but quite contrary opinion which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Wall Street Journal:
A Noble Responsibility
At a time when jihadists have proven capable of conquering Mali, a country roughly the size of Texas, the U.S. can't afford to turn inward.


May 6, 2013

In 1944, amid the carnage of World War II, the German-American banker James Warburg published a book titled "Foreign Policy Begins at Home." In it, he hailed "Anglo-American-Soviet solidarity" and expressed hope that it would achieve a "durable peace" at war's end. He railed against America's "runaway capitalism" and predicted that, unless "economic democracy" was established, "some form of fascist dictatorship" would soon arise in the U.S. The book was squarely in the tradition of influential men—Warburg was FDR's personal financial adviser—pondering the geopolitical landscape as it is reflected in the editorial columns of the day and offering grand prescriptions for the betterment of the nation.

Richard Haass's "Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order" borrows more than its title from Warburg's tract. Mr. Haass's basic claim is that the U.S. overcommitted itself abroad in the years following 9/11 and neglected the "domestic foundations of its power." If this sounds like a more sophisticated version of one of President Obama's campaign slogans—"America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home!"—that's because it is. The author says the slogan could serve as a "bumper sticker" for his own foreign-policy doctrine.

Mr. Haass, who serves as president of the Council on Foreign Relations, knows that the U.S.'s combination of military supremacy and decent values makes our leadership essential to global order. But he says that to maintain primacy, America must downsize its international footprint and attend to its spiraling debt crisis, broken education system, crumbling infrastructure and other domestic concerns. He calls this program a doctrine of "Restoration." In the first half of the book, Mr. Haass sketches the state of the world in broad brush strokes, and in the second half he offers more specific recommendations.

It's hard to argue with his insistence that, without economic and cultural vitality at home, the U.S. won't be able to defend its interests or project its values abroad—not for long anyway. Mr. Haass correctly warns, "American profligacy at home threatens American power and security." Many of his suggestions for reversing course domestically are sensible (if also unoriginal): solving the entitlements crisis through a combination of raising the retirement age and means testing; attracting jobs and investment by slashing the country's corporate tax rate; enhancing energy independence by building new nuclear power plants. When he steps away from conventional wisdom—calling for the abolishment of the Electoral College to "strengthen the center" or having unelected expert commissions draw up congressional districts—he tends toward the unrealistic and unconstitutional rather than the innovative.

It's the national-security implications of his doctrine, though, that are the most troubling. The author says the U.S. should "increase the resources devoted to internal as opposed to international challenges"; shift away from the Middle East toward East Asia, "the part of the world most likely to influence the course of this century"; and supplant military power with "economic and diplomatic tools."

The doctrine's resemblances to Mr. Obama's foreign policy—with its "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region and emphasis on "smart power"—are striking. Its appeal to war-weary Americans is obvious. Yet Mr. Haass puts far too much stock in the fashionable certainties of the think-tank and journalistic echo chamber, where it's now an article of faith that regime change in Iraq and the broader war on terror were irredeemable catastrophes. Indeed, the pages where Mr. Haass lays out the global state of play add up to a compendium of foreign-policy clichés.

"History," he proclaims early on, "has returned if in fact it ever departed." And in case you hadn't heard, "globalization is a defining feature of this era, differentiating it from previous ones." Oh, and "China's rise is one of the defining features of this era," too. Welcome to the Arab "Winter," the "Brave New World," the "post-European world," the "nonpolar world," where "individuals and groups are empowered as never before" and where "all politics is local."

Some of these platitudes contain kernels of truth. But the author's casual reliance upon them is an indication of lazy thinking. If "the era of peacemaking between leaders is over," as Mr. Haass flatly declares, then why must "national leaders . . . be able and willing to take political risks and compromise" to achieve peace, as he says three sentences later? And if "the paramount feature of the twenty-first century is nonpolarity," as he says, then why is "the question for today . . . whether the world is becoming bipolar"?

The author also never makes it clear why he believes defense cuts are necessary for the economic health of the country. As he repeatedly concedes, defense spending isn't a structural cause of our ballooning national debt (Social Security and Medicare are the real causes). Nor does he consider the contributions that assertive foreign and defense policies have made to U.S. economic growth and technological development in the decades since James Warburg thought he saw the future.

Mr. Haass's doctrine is premised on the notion that the U.S. is currently experiencing a "strategic respite." The global order today, he thinks, is "relatively forgiving; that is, presenting no existential threat," and therefore the U.S. can afford to turn inward. At a time when North Korea's psychopathic rulers issue daily threats of nuclear war against the U.S.—and jihadists have proven capable of conquering Mali, a country roughly the size of Texas, within a matter of days—such confidence may be seriously misplaced. Yet even granting that the U.S. is benefiting from a "respite," a problem remains that the author never pauses to consider: Isn't it possible that the relatively peaceful state of many regions of the world is a product of precisely the muscular policies and hegemonic posture Mr. Haass would do away with?

History, after all, is full of great powers forgetting that vigilance is the price for peace of mind; the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001, was one such nation.

Mr. Ahmari is an assistant books editor at the Journal.

While I agree with some of Mr. Ahmari's criticism, especially of some of Mr. Haass' prescriptions, I think that "the U.S. should "increase the resources devoted to internal as opposed to international challenges"; shift away from the Middle East toward East Asia, "the part of the world most likely to influence the course of this century"; and supplant military power with "economic and diplomatic tools."" I believe the US is challenged, internally, by a horrid series of culture wars, for which I blame the Democratic and Republican "bases" equally and by rising tide of domestic political violence ~ some of it inspired by e.g. al Qaeda and some inspired by nativist tendencies which have been part of American culture from 200 years.

I believe that the facts are:

     1. America's capacity to lead the West has been badly damaged by America, itself;

     2. There is no other suitable leader for the West;

     3. China, even though constrained by India, is rising rapidly and confidently to the role of leader of the East; and

     4. The Islamic Crescent IS a strategic problem but it is one which we can, and should, watch, with interest, while it explodes dues to its own internal contradictions.

Thus, I believe Richard Haass prescriptions for America are helpful.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on June 07, 2013, 15:13:58
Looking at it from a different angle, I see one of the key reasons for the difficulty in defining, articulating and asserting American power and the "culture wars" that are paralyzing American political culture (and ours too, make no mistake) is because we are entering a period of transition. Russel Walter Mead has written extensively about it in Via Media on the collapse of the "Blue Model", and many other writers have taken aim at various aspects of the end of the Progressive model as well.

Since the structures and political systems that have worked since roughly the 1930's are now failing due to financial, political and (i9n some cases) moral bankruptcy and the sources of power, economic growth and even demographic footprint have changed radically, new structures need to be created and implemented in order to carry on the business of governance. Since no one knows which models will be successful, we have a situation where the old guard is fanatically fighting to save their vested interests in the existing systems, while various movements are rising around different organizational, political and economic models.

In terms of "Grand Strategy" this also leads to the conclusion that the defining and exercise of "Grand Strategy" may also change, depending on the dominant political, economic and social model that emerges.

I still think George Freidman's model is a good starting point; all "Grand Strategies" need to begin with the security and preservation of the Homeland, and most "Grand Strategies" then fall out of the specific requirements based on the unique geographical and geopolitical situation the Homeland is embedded in. Robert Kaplan's book "Revenge of Geography" goes into this point in some detail.

If you want a prediction from me; the American Grand Strategy will begin with a realignment and reconstruction of institutions "at home" in response to mounting fiscal pressures, followed by a true pivot from "East-West" to "North-South" as Mexico becomes economically more important, demographically ascendant and exerts more and more influence on her former territories in the American Southwest.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 07, 2013, 15:22:15
Looking at it from a different angle, I see one of the key reasons for the difficulty in defining, articulating and asserting American power and the "culture wars" that are paralyzing American political culture (and ours too, make no mistake) is because we are entering a period of transition. Russel Walter Mead has written extensively about it in Via Media on the collapse of the "Blue Model", and many other writers have taken aim at various aspects of the end of the Progressive model as well.

Since the structures and political systems that have worked since roughly the 1930's are now failing due to financial, political and (i9n some cases) moral bankruptcy and the sources of power, economic growth and even demographic footprint have changed radically, new structures need to be created and implemented in order to carry on the business of governance. Since no one knows which models will be successful, we have a situation where the old guard is fanatically fighting to save their vested interests in the existing systems, while various movements are rising around different organizational, political and economic models.

In terms of "Grand Strategy" this also leads to the conclusion that the defining and exercise of "Grand Strategy" may also change, depending on the dominant political, economic and social model that emerges.

I still think George Freidman's model is a good starting point; all "Grand Strategies" need to begin with the security and preservation of the Homeland, and most "Grand Strategies" then fall out of the specific requirements based on the unique geographical and geopolitical situation the Homeland is embedded in. Robert Kaplan's book "Revenge of Geography" goes into this point in some detail.

If you want a prediction from me; the American Grand Strategy will begin with a realignment and reconstruction of institutions "at home" in response to mounting fiscal pressures, followed by a true pivot from "East-West" to "North-South" as Mexico becomes economically more important, demographically ascendant and exerts more and more influence on her former territories in the American Southwest.

That's a good analysis, Thucydides, and Richard Haass would agree with most of it: reconstruction, as Bank of Canada Governor Poloz puts it, is ongoing but the Americans are behind us; issues (and countries) that actually threaten America matter - and Mexico does, indeed, fall into that category; but that doesn't address how America deals with China and India and Russia and Iran and the Arabs, and, and, and ... and a real grand strategy has to provide a framework for that, too.

Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: Thucydides on June 07, 2013, 22:40:51
Not to say that a US pivot "North-South" would leave the rest of the world out in the cold, but I suspect that the Americans need to focus a lot more on issues closer to home than they are today.

Once again, I look to George Freidman and Robert Kaplan as perhaps the best people to outline the two aspects of the problem:

George Freidman's "The Next 100 years" outlines some of the demographic and political changes that might happen (based around his analysis of what American "Grand Strategy" is) while Kaplan outlines the various geopolitical factors that define and constrain the various nation states and regional actors in the world.

This seems to be a reversion to "'The Geographical Pivot of History"  by Halford Mackinder
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 08, 2013, 06:59:40
Not to say that a US pivot "North-South" would leave the rest of the world out in the cold, but I suspect that the Americans need to focus a lot more on issues closer to home than they are today.

Once again, I look to George Freidman and Robert Kaplan as perhaps the best people to outline the two aspects of the problem:

George Freidman's "The Next 100 years" outlines some of the demographic and political changes that might happen (based around his analysis of what American "Grand Strategy" is) while Kaplan outlines the various geopolitical factors that define and constrain the various nation states and regional actors in the world.

This seems to be a reversion to "'The Geographical Pivot of History"  by Halford Mackinder

I think Robert Kaplan makes it pretty clear that he doesn't accept the popularly perceived whole of Mackinder's theory; in fact he suggests that Mackinder might not have believed it, either - just posited it as one possible "outcome." There is no doubt that geography and demographics do matter: there is no solution to the first, but science - everything from the capacity, range and speed of vessels (sea, land, air and space) to how to detect and exploit e.g. oil and minerals - offers ways to mitigate geography's effects, while history and observation tell us that all one needs to do to change population data is raise the standard of living and simple economics tells us how to do that.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 21, 2013, 12:21:28
And here is another view on Richard Haass' prescription of "America heal thyself," in an article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Atlantic Council's New Atlanticist blog:

Julian Lindley–French

June 21, 2013

Winston Churchill once famously said, “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, but only after they have exhausted all the other possibilities”.  Sadly, having just arrived in Washington I am not so sure. Dear old Johnny Yank seems to have invented an entirely new form of non-government called ’C-Castration’, or something such.  Now, I thought we British had a particular talent for electing the politically incompetent and willfully  impotent but C-Castration is incompetence bigger and better than anything we have thought up for a while. Whatever happened to government of the people, for the people and by the people?  So, for those of you non-Yanks out there let me try and explain C-Castration.
It seems to involve a lot of American politicians of all persuasions who know they have to make budget cuts (because technically the US is broke) but who do not want to be actually caught in the Act. They are like those ‘perps’ beloved of American cop shows such as CSI who are compelled to return to the scene of their crimes and yet deny any involvement.
The scene of the crime is Congress, hence C-Castration, which on 1 March applied a particularly sharp knife to a particularly sensitive part of the American body politic.  Known as the Budget Castration Act funding was automatically cut to most of the bits of government that made America virile.  However, as neither Democrats nor Republicans could agree just what parts of government are virile it was NOT decided to cut all of it.  Still with me?
So, Congress created a mechanism whereby cuts would happen but for which they would not be responsible.  George Washington must be spinning in his grave.  No wonder we British had to kick Johnny Yank out of the Empire for being silly.  Old George might now understand why in 1812 we had to burn down the White House and the Capitol (and to be honest much of the rest of Washington but the lads got a bit carried away – you know the British squaddy - er, sorry).
However, that is not the funny bit.  Apparently Congress having NOT decided to cut federal spending by $85.4bn in fiscal year 2013 and will continue to NOT decide to cut federal spending by about the same amount until 2021.  However, because of the Harry Potter politics here in Hogwarts, sorry Washington, overall federal outlays will actually INCREASE over the same period by some $238.6bn.  Cutting budgets and increasing expenditure?  It is a 'cunning plan' as Baldrick would say.  George ‘Blackadder’ Osborne, the British Finance Minister, will be over here in a shot when he gets wind of this as it is just the sort of financial alchemy he loves.
Anyway, I digress.  The best bit is that the castration is to be shared ‘equally’ between ‘defense’ (why can’t the Yanks spell) and ‘non-defense’.  In other words for every dollar that Congress has NOT decided to cut in defence it will NOT decide to cut another dollar across the rest of government. 
This also means President Barack Obama gets to talk a lot about shared values and good ideas as he has been doing this week at British taxpayer's expense at the G-Complete Waste of Time and Money. However, because no-one in Congress has NOT cut the federal budget he cannot actually do anything because the amount of US taxpayer’s money ‘invested’ (good one that) in government is  actually going up.   Got it?  Good, because it makes no sense to me.
In fact sequestration is no joke precisely because Washington is bringing America - the most inspirational of political adventures into very deep disrepute.  Sadly, the impact on American leadership is becoming all too apparent.  As America untangles itself from Afghanistan and the fog of Afghan dust clears Washington is beginning to realise the sheer scale and complexity of the challenges this country faces – both at home and abroad.  One can argue about whether facing those challenges demands big or small government. However, at this tipping point in international affairs, in which the world could either go east or west Washington has gone AWOL.
Which brings me to the real tragedy of sequestration.  Americans are constantly and rightly complaining to me about the inability of Europeans to think and act strategically.  And yet what is happening in this town is the very antithesis of responsible strategy or politics. Indeed, it is little politics at its very worst.
At the end of the day the US cannot expect to lead the rest of us abroad when its politicians abrogate leadership and responsibility at home simply to score self-defeating, utterly narrow and strategically pointless own goals (soccer).   
Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote, “Though much is taken much abides, and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved heaven and earth; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will, To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”
The world is changing dangerously and rapidly and we need you America…but not like this.
Julian Lindley-French is a member of the Atlantic Council's Strategic Advisory Group. This essay first appeared on his personal blog, Lindley-French's Blog Blast (

So, it's the "same old same old:" we, the US led West need US leadership but the US is losing the capacity to lead because it has no grand strategic vision and even if it did it hasn't the means to execute it. But, see the Star Spangled Recovery (,110966.0.html) thread - despite yesterday's panic on Wall and bay Streets, Ben Bernanke is right: the American economy is recovering. Not even an institution as deeply flawed as the US Government (Executive and Legislatures) can hold America back.
Title: Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 21, 2013, 16:30:35
More from the same source ~ the Atlantic Council ~ this time directly on the point of why America doesn't have, and likely will not have until post 2016, a grand strategy in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the New Atlanticist:
Nostalgia Is Not Strategy

Robert A. Manning

June 21, 2013

President Obama’s Berlin speech and trip to Europe came at a historical inflection point: The European Union (EU) has been in recession and financial crisis for more than four years. Youth unemployment is a staggering 25 percent. The very idea of Europe is being called into question. Moreover, NATO’s purpose leaves many scratching their heads, and transatlantic relations are floundering.

It is clearly a time for inspirational leadership. One might have hoped for a Berlin speech that encouraged a European Germany to take EU economic and political integration to a new level. The president might have called for bold German leadership. He might have used the occasion to trumpet the strategic virtues of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a potential game changer that could rejuvenate transatlantic ties, bolstering the leverage of half the world’s economy in shaping the international system of the twenty-first century, not to mention breathing new life in a sagging world trade regime.

But no. Instead, we got a nostalgic walk through memory lane, a playing to the gallery with yet another Cold War victory lap. Obama dusted off Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” line. Of course, it was Obama at his poetic best, recounting the “yearnings for peace that burns in the human heart,” and Berlin as the “city of hope.”

But it was also a transparent quest for a legacy. Five years after his “zero nukes” Prague speech, the global nuclear reality has become, if anything, more dangerous and complex: it is going in the opposite direction of nuclear zero. So Obama pulled a U.S.-Russian arms-control proposal out of his hat: reductions down to one thousand warheads each.

To give the administration its due, further undoing the legacy of the Cold War is not a bad thing. But whether the United States and Russia have 1300 or 1000 nukes each makes only a marginal difference in a brave new world where problems like Pakistani battlefield nukes, the spectre of North Korean nuclear entrepreneurship, and Iranian proliferation are the contemporary nuclear nightmares.

Indeed, how much does it matter if Russia has 1300 or 1000 nukes, anymore than it matters that France has 300? The main purpose of nuclear weapons (since we can’t uninvent them) is to deter their use by others. Not discounting what a Soprano-state Russian president Vladimir Putin runs, it still strains the imagination to conceive a scenario of major conflict with Russia, let alone one that would escalate to nuclear war.

The bipolar world of a U.S.-Soviet balance of terror is thankfully history. The biggest threat is that of nuclear security, the risk that terrorists obtain a loose or stolen nuclear weapon or nuclear material. To his credit, Obama has made nuclear security one of his signature issues.

What Legacy?

But if you were a second-term president contemplating the fullness of your legacy, would reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arms (that have already been reduced 80 percent from Cold War levels) by a few hundred more be more significant than the future of Europe? The president seems to have forgotten that there is potential a role for the United States in facilitating a more unified Europe, whole and free. This includes a U.S.-EU economic pact that rejuvenates the relationship, creates a transatlantic bond that provides strategic leverage by enhancing Western power to shape the future of the global trade regime and, more broadly, the rules for an international system transforming in a world of diffusing power. Would this not be be a more important legacy? How about reassuring our European allies that his “pivot” to Asia is not coming at their expense?

Why Obama chose nostalgia over using his Berlin speech and Europe visit to stump for meeting the serious challenges facing both Europe and the transatlantic relationship is something that only he can truly answer. But one wonders where the sense of strategy lies in this White House. Berlin was the performance of a politician more than a statesman.

Yet Obama is only six months into his second term. What sort of world will he leave his successor in 2017? It is difficult to see any denouement in a Middle East transformation that is likely to continue unfolding over the course of a generation. In the meantime, the Syrian conflict appears to be threatening to unravel the post-Ottoman state system in the region. A deepening Sunni-Shia sectarian proxy war spilling over its borders appears more likely than a Geneva-negotiated peaceful transition. If you can discern a U.S. Middle East strategy, I would love to hear it.

In Asia, China’s ass