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sabato 5 novembre 2011

F.W.Kagan: 'Grand Strategy fot the United States' [2008- Neocons Time]

Grand strategy is the use of all of a state’s resources
to achieve all of its objectives. It is not a plan,
but a process of evaluating the global situation;
developing clear objectives; understanding available
resources; recognizing enemies, threats, and
challenges; and then putting resources against
tasks in an iterative fashion, adjusting objectives,
approaches, and resource allocation as appropriate
to the changing situation. Since the scope
of grand strategy is global, the effects of grand
strategic decisions often take years or even decades
to become apparent. But since all human activities
are non-linear, it is impossible to predict the development
of the global situation with any accuracy
over the period covered by any particular grand
strategic approach. Balancing the long-term view
with the need to respond to changes in a dynamic
and unpredictable situation comprises the high art
of grand strategy. It is so difficult a task that very
few states or individuals have ever managed to do
it well for very long.
The development and execution of grand strategy
is thus a process of continuous adaptation. Efforts
to define a “grand strategy” to be executed over
the course of years or decades are doomed to
failure. The actual execution of grand strategy
is so immense a task that only a government can
undertake it. The most that a single thinker can
hope to do is to outline a grand strategic concept
that identifies principal objectives, offers a general
appreciation of the current global situation,
considers available resources, and suggests ways
of allocating resources to tasks. That is the limited
aim of the paper that follows.

A last caveat is in order before proceeding to the
task at hand. Humans do not make decisions
based on reality, but rather on their perceptions of
reality. No one’s perception is perfect, and almost
all are tinted by ideologies and preconceptions.
Different states observing the same situation
invariably perceive reality differently and act upon
those different perceptions rather than upon
a common reality. This banal observation is
important because it seriously undermines the
idea of “rational actors,” not because the actors
are not rational, but because their actions are not
based on a common appreciation of the world.
When developing and executing grand strategy,
therefore, it is of the utmost importance not merely
to attempt to understand reality as accurately as
possible, but to consider the ways in which other
states and actors are likely to perceive it differently.

Even in matters as superficially objective as the
availability of resources, perception normally
overwhelms reality. How many soldiers can a
given state field on a given population with a given
economic situation? There is no abstract answer.
In some eras, large populations could support only
small armies; in other times, even small states
could field mass armies. Capabilities vary for
many reasons, but a key and unpredictable factor
is national will. The history of war is replete
with examples of states and leaders who believed
that they had mobilized their states as completely
as was possible, only to realize (as war threatened
or worsened) that additional sacrifices made
additional mobilizations feasible. For this reason,
among others, it is not appropriate to take the
resources available to a state in pursuit of its grand
strategic objectives as a given, but rather one must
evaluate them as another set of variables interacting
with the global situation and the perceptions of
the leaders and people of the state.

America’s Objectives 

The principal objective of U.S. grand strategy is
to protect the American homeland and American
citizens in a way that maintains their rights and
way of life as guaranteed by the Constitution and
established by long custom. All of the essential
requirements of American grand strategy
flow from this objective and the requirements for
securing it in the world as it is today. Americans
have historically believed in the rightness of supporting
democratic developments around the
world; maintaining free markets; preventing or
mitigating large-scale atrocities, poverty, and the
effects of natural disasters; and a number of other
things. But American decision makers have almost
invariably selected specific courses of action based
upon the interaction of these and other secondary
desiderata with the core aim identified at the start
of this section. And rightly so. The fundamental
purpose of any government is to protect and
advance the interests of the people it governs,
placing all other desirable aims below that goal.

In the early days of the republic, protecting
America’s homeland, citizens, and way of life
required relatively little interaction with the world.
George Washington could warn against “entangling
alliances” because the young United States
had little need of them. As America grew more
integrated into the global economic, political,
and power structure, American leaders correctly
chose to abandon Washington’s outdated admonition
and recognize that they could not fulfill their
obligations to the American people without continuously
interacting with other states and powers
in the world. Debate on this point continued until
the Second World War, and largely ended with the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, although isolationist
tendencies continue to grow and wane in
strength among both liberals and conservatives.

The most immediate and uncontroversial requirement
of grand strategy is the protection of the state
against direct military threat. The clear and present
danger Soviet arms posed to the United States
during the Cold War made the development of a
consensus about the need to resist the Soviet Union
relatively easy, although debates about the best way
to resist remained intense. The fall of the Soviet
Union removed this easy consensus and plunged
American grand strategists into a series of more
fundamental debates about the nature and pur-
pose of American power in a world that no longer
seemed threatening. The September 11th attacks
changed the debate again, as most Americans
began to perceive the world as dangerous but
also unpredictable and difficult to understand.
Consensus about how to respond to the current
set of challenges has been elusive and is likely to
remain so.

Even at the height of the Cold War, defending
against the Soviet military threat was insufficient
to achieve America’s grand strategic aims. Close
economic and political ties entangled America
inextricably with Europe, Asia, and the Middle
East. The relatively lesser importance of such ties
with most of Latin America and Africa meant that
American attention to those continents was more
episodic and spasmodic than coherent.

In the period following World War II it became
an axiom of American grand strategy for the first
time that fundamental instability in Europe, the
Middle East, and East Asia posed a direct challenge
to American national interests because of the
economic, political, and military repercussions
of such instability in the face of the Soviet threat
and American economic interdependence with
these regions. This axiom provided the foundation
for the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of
Japan, the intervention in Korea, the formation of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
alliance, repeated efforts to limit the scope of
Arab-Israeli conflicts, support for the Shah of Iran
and Egyptian leaders, and many other actions that
defined American foreign and military policy in
this period.

The advent of nuclear-armed intercontinental
ballistic missiles added a new dimension to the
challenge of defending the American homeland.
Avoiding full-scale war with the Soviet Union
became a fundamental objective of American
grand strategy and remained so until the end of
the Cold War. The experience of World War II
and the need to sustain large armed forces in
peacetime for the first time added a new dimension
to American grand strategy as well. The
task of balancing economic power — which was
always rightly seen as the essential advantage
America held over the planned economies of the
Soviet bloc—with the need to sustain military
power over the long term became more intricate
and controversial than ever before.

The Cold War was always an ideological struggle
for America. National Security Council Paper
NSC-68, the archetype of the strategy of containment
that defined American grand strategy in this
conflict, repeatedly emphasized the goal of defending
the American way of life against Soviet attack,
the superiority of American values over Soviet
values, and the inevitability of America’s success
based on that superiority as long as a reasonable
grand strategy was pursued. The casting of the
Cold War grand strategic debate as a struggle of
the “free world” against the Communist dictators
and their slaves was simply an adaptation of
a traditional American view that our destiny and
responsibility is to spread the bounties of freedom
that we enjoy to other peoples.

It introduced a level of complexity into Cold War
grand strategy, however, when the Soviet leadership
chose in the 1950s to pursue the global
struggle primarily in the Third World by supporting
Communist insurgencies. In many cases,
those insurgencies faced more or less authoritarian
governments that the United States chose to
back, despite our principled commitment to the
spread of democracy. The argument frequently
repeated was that whereas Communist dictators
almost never fell, other strongmen could be easily
removed and the benefits of democracy spread to
their people, once the danger of Communism is
relieved. But American leaders paid a continual
political and moral price for supporting despots,
and that support was usually given with reluctance
and distaste.

For much of the Cold War, Democratic leaders
were the traditional champions of internationalism
and of the need for morality to inform American
foreign policy directly. Franklin Roosevelt was the
driving force behind the creation of the United
Nations (UN). The establishment of the Peace
Corps and other internationalist efforts characterized
John F. Kennedy’s tenure as president.
Efforts to infuse American foreign policy with
American morality reached their apotheosis during
Jimmy Carter’s presidency, when military and
economic aid programs were frequently evaluated
based upon the human rights records of their
recipients. Republican presidents such as Dwight
Eisenhower and Richard Nixon tended to spurn
such approaches, arguing on the basis of realpolitik
considerations instead. Republican congressmen
and failed presidential candidates often held
anti-internationalist, sometimes even isolationist,
views, although they generally favored continuing
to resist the Soviet Union one way or another. The
great exception was Ronald Reagan, a Republican
internationalist who infused a great deal of moralism
into his approach to foreign policy while
nevertheless acting for the most part on the basis
of realpolitik.

George H. W. Bush pursued a largely pragmatic
approach to grand strategy. The invasion of
Panama and the liberation of Kuwait were almost
entirely realpolitik decisions—the one reflecting
the danger of drugs and criminality from
the Noriega regime, the other protecting a vital
American economic interest. The elder Bush
remained aloof from the collapse of Yugoslavia,
which he saw primarily as a European rather
than an American interest, and the atrocities that
developed during that conflict left him relatively
unmoved. He was drawn reluctantly into humanitarian
efforts in Somalia that did not apparently
serve core American realpolitik interests, and his
reluctance was manifested in the weak and feckless
policy developed and implemented there.

The Clinton administration evinced a high degree
of moralism in its rhetoric and doctrine, as well
as an overt belief in America’s unique power and
nature. Madeleine Albright encapsulated that
belief in her declaration that the United States had
become the “indispensable nation.” Yet the Clinton
administration at first also displayed a high degree
of realpolitik in its decision making — winding
up the American involvement in Somalia without
really achieving the objectives of the intervention,
and remaining passive for two years as the
Balkan wars gathered steam. Even the interventions
in Bosnia and Kosovo reflected realpolitik
concerns more than anything else. In the first case,
the Clinton administration came to realize that a
failure to act would lead to the humiliation of the
UN and our European allies, support of which
was a key tenet of its foreign policy. In the second,
conflict in Kosovo threatened European stability
and NATO profoundly. In both cases, however,
the administration argued for the conflict on both
humanitarian and realpolitik grounds.

George W. Bush’s grand strategy was characterized
by highly moralistic rhetoric and highly realpolitik
decision making. The “democracy agenda”
and the explicit promotion of particular strands
of American morality pervaded Bush’s speeches
and documents and captured the imagination of
administration opponents, including many who
had earlier endorsed precisely such democratizing
rhetoric. It is extremely easy, in fact, to compile a
selection of key quotations from Bush and Clinton
administration speeches about foreign policy that
would leave the casual reader unable to determine
who said what.

But the two major grand strategic decisions of the
Bush administration were based almost entirely on
realpolitik calculations. The attack on Afghanistan
was a direct response to the Taliban regime’s
continued support of the al Qaeda group that had
attacked us. The attack on Iraq was motivated
primarily by the administration’s belief (widely
shared by the international community) that
Saddam Hussein had a WMD program. The
fact that that belief was mistaken reflects the gap
between perception and reality, but not the motivation
of decision makers. A careful review of
the administration’s discussions about the war in
Iraq shows that it is extraordinarily unlikely that
Bush would even have considered attacking Iraq
if he had not been convinced that Saddam had
a weapons program. The belief that establishing
democracy in Iraq would generate a “demonstration
effect” in the Middle East, the core of the
so-called neoconservative agenda, was invariably
a second-order concern in those decisions and
discussions, just as the humanitarian justifications
for American intervention in the Balkans were secondary
to fundamental concerns about European
stability and NATO’s survival. In both cases, the
ideology and moralism were significant factors; in
neither case were they sufficient or decisive.

In almost every other major foreign policy
decision, the Bush administration has behaved
pragmatically: yielding to North Korean demands
for negotiations rather than preempting the
development of Pyongyang’s nuclear program;
delaying any attack on Iran for its violation of
international nuclear sanctions, its activities in
Iraq, or its suppression of its own people; complete
pragmatism in dealing with China, where
ideological values of many sorts might have
driven more direct confrontation; and so on.

The purpose of this historical excursion has been
to show the tremendous continuity of American
grand strategy over the past six decades, from
which it is possible to deduce a number of core
grand strategic objectives on which there has
been general consensus. American grand strategy
focuses most heavily on protecting vital interests
from perceived threats. Ideology and moralism
infuse the perception of those threats by American
decision makers (as with all decision makers), but
they rarely define them. Americans do feel moral
obligations to help the victimized, to support
democracy and oppose tyranny, and a variety of
other things, but rarely act on them on a large
scale unless doing so coincides with the defense of a
perceived vital interest. America has not intervened
in Darfur or Rwanda because the scale of the effort
required far exceeded the perception of any vital
interest in doing so, despite the horrific nature of
those conflicts. It intervened in the Balkans and
Haiti because the smaller scale of those operations
matched the perception of American interests
involved. Even if the “neocon agenda” drove the
invasion of Iraq as much as some believe, the basis
of that agenda is more realpolitik than moralistic —
proponents of that view argued that democracy
is inherently good for all human beings, but that
spreading democracy also advanced American
interests and security. 

The key tenets of American grand strategy over the 
past 60 years are thus both clear and widely embraced: 
• The United States must protect its homeland and 

citizens from attack.
• American political and economic interests are
fundamentally threatened by serious instability
in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
• Maintaining global free trade is critical to the
wellbeing of the American economy. 
• The promotion of democracy in non-democratic 
states is generally seen as both morally right and
as supporting American interests.
• Helping the helpless and stopping bloodshed have
broad support in general, but usually motivate
American action only when they coincide with
other vital interests.
• The United States desires no increase in territory
and aims for no particular gain in relative
economic power beyond that which it believes
will accrue naturally from the superiority of
its system. 

• Americans want to preserve their civil liberties
and way of life.
• Americans desire the support of allies, alliances,
and international organizations, although they do
not feel constrained to inaction by the absence of
such support.
• Americans like the idea of international law and
the peaceful resolution of conflicts, but also see
themselves as holding a unique position that
transcends both. This view has been shared equally
by Democratic and Republican internationalists.
NATO operations in Kosovo were conducted
without international sanction or support and
were thus technically violations of international
law despite the fact that our European allies joined
us in the endeavor. In addition, both Democratic
and Republican administrations have insisted
upon provisions in many treaties giving the United
States special status.
• The United States aims to maintain its current
relative advantage in military power and fears the
rise of “peer competitors,” hostile alliances, or the
development of “asymmetric” threats that might
erode that relative advantage.
• The United States seeks actively to deter the proliferation
and use of weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) of all varieties.
• Many Americans see expanding gender equality
and eliminating racial and religious discrimination
as positive goals.
• Americans increasingly believe that the United
States must act unilaterally and in conjunction
with the international community to address
climate change.

These goals and desires, which have had broad
bipartisan support for decades, define around
90 percent of America’s grand strategic requirements
when examined within any particular
international context. Debates about American
grand strategy have generally focused on the
relative priorities and, above all, means used
to achieve these aims rather than on the aims
themselves. Confusion about the nature of those
debates, particularly over the past seven years,
has led many to see a much greater divide over

U.S. grand strategy than exists, and to see a much
larger gap between the basic goal of the Bush
administration and those of its predecessors and
likely successors.
The crux of the debate over the invasion of Iraq
never lay in the broad grand strategic principles
that underlay that decision. The Bush administration
defined a doctrine of preemption, but acted
under the valid legal authorities of numerous United
Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs).
Some administration officials and allies heavily
emphasized the “democracy agenda,” but the decision
to go to war did not flow from that rationale.
War critics who argued that the containment
program of economic sanctions would have been
sufficient were not generally arguing that containment
and sanctions were always and in every
case better than military action — simply that
it was so in this case. The entire debate over the
future of American grand strategy would benefit
enormously from the recognition that the controversy
surrounding the 2003 invasion arose from
a particular decision in particular circumstances
much more than from any fundamental innovation
in American strategic thought.

The Global Context 


America remains the preeminent economic,
political, cultural, and military power in the
world today. At nearly $14 trillion, American gross
domestic product (GDP) is roughly equal to that
of the entire European Union (EU), and twice
that of China — the next single-state competitor.
Put another way, it is more than one-fifth of the
global total. Politically, the United States remains
the indispensable nation. It is virtually impossible
to build a regional or global consensus on any
significant issue without American involvement.
American international “isolation” following the
Iraq war led not to American irrelevance but rather
to dysfunction in an international system that had
come to rely on American involvement. Culturally,
the United States remains dominant (for good or
for ill). American styles, music, tastes, and attitudes
are broadly copied around the world. Despite
the fact that European mores are generally more
relaxed than in America, the United States remains
the focus of hatred for conservative societies that
resent the intrusion of modernity. There is considerably
more sex on European television than on
American television and European popular music
is virtually indistinguishable from its American
counterpart, but conservatives resent the United
States more because of the perceived supremacy
of American culture. There is great irony in the
fact that the United States is seen as the epitome
of secular and anti-religious culture, considering
that many more Americans identify themselves
as religious than do Europeans, for instance. This
phenomenon reflects the global perception that the
United States is the origin and arbiter of international

America also remains preeminent militarily, the
strains on the U.S. armed forces resulting from the
Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts notwithstanding.
No other state can project combat power — air,
land, and sea — over global distances on anything
like the scale that America can. In truth, only
France and Britain retain independent force projection
capabilities on a global scale, but the size
and staying power of the forces they can project
is a fraction of America’s capability. American
air and sea power faces challenges only in certain
scenarios against China and possibly Russia. The
fact that most of the world’s advanced militaries
belong to America’s allies further enhances
America’s relative military strength. The current
strains on the American military, finally, reflect
conscious decisions not to mobilize for war rather
than inherent limitations on American military
power. The United States spends around four percent
of its GDP on defense — 28 states in the world
(including China) spend a greater proportion than
that; Russia follows closely at around 3.9 percent.
The size of the U.S. military remains considerably
below that of 1980s levels despite the significant
increase in the number of troops deployed to active
combat operations since that time. American
military advantages in technology and human
capital are so great that virtually no state can even
hope to compete, even though the United States
remains at a fundamentally peacetime level of
mobilization. American dominance in most
fields, and the global perception thereof (as
distinct from U.S. “favorability” ratings), has
not meaningfully slipped as a result of the 9/11
attacks or the war in Iraq.

As a result, no state or reasonable combination
of states poses a serious threat to the American
homeland or to America’s global position. The EU
is roughly equal to the United States in population
and economy, but the strong alliance between
the United States and the EU eliminates military
competition; there is no reason as yet to imagine
that the European economy will fluctuate less than
America’s or perform significantly better over
the long term, and the inherent limitations in the
EU’s manner of governance are likely to continue
to hinder any efforts by Brussels to take the lead
in international affairs. China, India, and Russia
all have large populations, territories, and natural
wealth; and all seek to challenge the United States
economically. China and Russia seek to challenge
the United States militarily and politically
as well. But large Chinese and Indian populations
are as much a burden as an advantage economically,
and inefficient systems of governance and
economics place additional restrictions on the
Chinese and Indian economies. The loss of Russia’s
“near abroad” places sharp limits on Russian
economic, military, and political potential unless
Moscow moves toward an even more authoritarian
regime aimed at mobilization. In terms of direct
economic or military competition, only extraordinarily
unlikely alliances could manifest serious
challenges to America’s global position over the
coming decades, absent some dramatic shift in the
relative performance of the American economy or
the decision by one or more competitors to begin
an all-out military race against the United States.
The United States thus remains considerably more
secure and more predominant globally than it
was during the Cold War or at any previous time
in our history.

The 9/11 attacks, U.S. current account deficits, large
holdings of American debt by foreign countries,
and other factors are often evinced as evidence
of increasing American vulnerability. The 9/11
attacks caused enormous economic damage — at
least $50 billion in direct damages and many times
that in indirect costs — but they did not fundamentally
derange the U.S. economy or prevent a
recovery from the recession caused by the bursting
of the internet bubble at the end of the 1990s. One
could certainly imagine future terrorist attacks
doing considerably more damage — particularly
if they included WMD. This threat remains the
most immediate and significant danger, although
the likelihood of a terrorist group succeeding in
an attack sufficiently large and well coordinated to
do basic and irreparable harm to the U.S. economy
is relatively low. The economic threats posed by
America’s debt and its foreign holders are generally
more imaginary than real. The major foreign
holders of U.S. debt are so intimately connected
with the American economy that any large-scale
assault on American credit worthiness would do
them enormous direct harm as well. Individual
actors could nevertheless choose to accept such
damage in the interests of some other gain, but it is
unlikely that any could do so on a scale that would
fundamentally alter America’s economic position
over the long term.

In recent years it has become clear that the problem
of climate change will play an increasing role
in the formulation and execution of American
economic strategy, a key part of U.S. grand strategy.
The relative priority given to climate change
in Europe, the United States, China, and elsewhere
has introduced new strains into international
relations and added further complexity to the
problems of modernizing developing states. The
challenge of climate change in the coming decades
is likely to be indirect — global weather trends are
unlikely to affect the United States dramatically
and directly in any time frame appropriate for
developing grand strategy, nor is it likely that any
conceivable combination of American and global
policies will affect such trends very much in the
coming decades. The determination to address
climate change, however, will place additional burdens
on the American (and the global) economy,
add distortions to the market, and contribute to
international tensions. Climate change is not, as
many Europeans would have it, the preeminent
security challenge of our era, but neither can it be
left out of consideration in the development and
execution of grand strategy.

As a result of all of these factors, the principal
challenges to American grand strategy in the
coming years are likely to stem from the dynamics
of core regions of central interest to the United
States, rather than from direct threats to America’s
security or place in the world. Discussions of the
“end of unipolarity” or the inevitable decline of
America’s position in the world are generally wide
of the mark, at least in the time frame of current
grand strategy. From the standpoint of formulating
grand strategy, that is almost unfortunate —
existential threats concentrate the mind and often
simplify the task of policy formulation. The task
of developing and executing grand strategy in the
coming decades is thus likely to be enormously
challenging intellectually, not susceptible to reduction
to a single overarching concept, and difficult
to form any long-term political consensus behind.
The absence of an existential threat, moreover, will
continue to complexify the problem of mobilizing
American resources in support of any strategy.
Most individual grand strategic decisions and
initiatives will appear to be optional and thus it
will be difficult to maintain widespread support
in favor or resourcing them. Educating the
American people and decision makers about
the importance of consistency, of developing and
applying a coherent approach to regional policies
over the long term, and of the need to provide the
necessary resources to succeed in each particular
policy is an enormous challenge but a prerequisite
for success. 

America now has important interests in all regions
of the world. Venezuelan oil, Latin American
narco-trafficking, African genocide, and many
other issues of concern require our attention. The
dynamics of the EU, stability within Europe, and
the future of NATO are likely to have extremely
important consequences for the United States in the
long term. The rise of an increasingly hostile Russia
imperils European stability primarily through the
danger of economic power (natural gas supplies)
and political influence derived from that power.
But the rise of Russia also gives new life to old
tensions in Russia’s “near abroad,” where NATO
influence has also been rising. Direct conflict
between Russia and NATO is highly unlikely in
the near future, but increasing competition, both
political and economic, is very likely. All of these
issues require the careful attention of the grand
strategist. They are presented summarily here
only in the interest of brevity and because they are
unlikely to require more than reasonably adroit
political and economic policies for now.

East Asia presents a different set of problems.
China’s rise presents military, economic, and
political challenges within the region and beyond.
Although the Chinese military is a long way from
being able to undertake offensive operations
against the United States, Beijing has no such need
or aim. China has focused instead on the balance
across the Taiwan Strait and on the ability to
defend its territory from U.S. attack. The Chinese
military has made significant progress in both
areas and continues to advance. Although there
is little likelihood that China will succeed in the
near term in establishing the capability to ward off
the full force of the U.S. armed forces, it is by no
means out of Beijing’s reach to design a force that
could act opportunistically when U.S. forces were
heavily engaged elsewhere or American will was
perceived to be weak.

China has been increasingly aggressive beyond
East Asia, moreover, underwriting Iranian military
and economic developments, and engaging
militarily and economically throughout Africa
and in Pakistan. China’s support flows disproportionately
to regimes and actors hostile to the
United States, possibly simply because those offer
the best opportunities rather than out of any desire
to form an anti-American mini-bloc. Whatever
the intention, Chinese involvement beyond East
Asia is generally negative and destabilizing. It also
raises the possibility of conflict between the United
States or an American ally and a Chinese proxy to
which Beijing feels the need or desire to respond.
Over time, it is quite possible that the U.S.-China
tension will move beyond the Taiwan Strait into
areas that have seemed, until recently, far beyond
Beijing’s sphere of interest, let alone influence.
South and Central Asia and Iran are particularly
likely as flashpoints that might involve not only
U.S.-Chinese tensions, but Russian and Indian
interests as well. The possibility of a new “Great
Game” developing, which involves most of the
world’s great powers, is quite real, and the stakes
could be the enormous energy resources of Central
Asia and Iran. China’s rise could pose grand strategic
challenges on many fronts, and it would be a mistake
to focus entirely on the problem of defending Taiwan,
important though that requirement is.

North Korea presents a series of different challenges.
The danger of a Northern attack on South
Korea seems minimal now, but the nature of the
problem is shifting. The proliferation of North
Korea’s nuclear and missile technology remains a
serious concern. The mere existence of the North
Korean nuclear program is a destabilizing factor in
the region. Pyongyang is unlikely to maintain its
grip on power indefinitely, moreover, and the collapse
of North Korea could become the trigger for
regional destabilization if it is not handled properly.
American economic interests in Japan, Taiwan, and
South Korea create enormous American equities
in the outcome on the Korean peninsula — to
say nothing of treaty obligations to Seoul and
Tokyo and the presence of U.S. military forces in
Korea and Japan. It is as certain as anything can be
that Korea will once again capture the attention of
American strategists in the coming decades, quite
possibly in ways that will surprise us.


The most obvious and important grand strategic
challenge facing the United States is the series of
struggles now underway in the Muslim world.
Whereas describing the challenges in East Asia or
Europe is a relatively straightforward exercise in
geostrategy, capturing the essence of the struggles
in the Muslim world is a more elusive goal. We
must start by asking why we care about those
struggles. To begin with, a small number of groups
have a program of attacking and destroying the
United States and its allies, and some of them have
acted on that program. A larger number of groups
are working actively to overturn the status quo
in the Muslim world through more or less violent
revolutionary programs. The states that rule the
Muslim world are by and large non-representative
and authoritarian. They have been hemorrhaging
legitimacy and stoking the flames of this
insurgency. American support for many of those
regimes, among other factors, contributes to widespread
anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.
And since the Muslim world includes large minority
populations in Europe and the United States,
all of these sentiments are naturally of concern to
U.S. policy makers. There are, finally, around 1.5
billion Muslims in the world. Any movement
that threatens the stability of such an enormous
global community is an imminent threat to
American security.
All of this would be true if there were no oil in
the Middle East at all, if Israel did not exist or if
the United States did not support it. American
interests in the outcome of intra-Islamic struggles
flow primarily from the enormous direct impact
those struggles can have on a quarter of humanity,
which will inevitably have enormous indirect
impacts on the other three-quarters. Direct
economic concerns stemming from the supply of
oil are important enough in themselves to warrant
serious attention, of course, but are secondary to
the greater problem. Put another way, even if the
Western world weaned itself from Middle Eastern
oil tomorrow and Israel fell into the ocean, we
would still be intimately and vitally concerned
with the stability and welfare of the Muslim world. 

The systemic problems in the Muslim world are
enormous. Vast disparities of wealth and tremendous
poverty, dysfunctional governments, weak
civil societies, poor educational systems, and many
other socioeconomic challenges create instability
in a region still struggling to come to terms with
modernity. On the other hand, those systemic
problems exist in almost every modernizing state
in the world in a greater or lesser degree, and most
Muslim states are by no means the worst off in
almost any area. Attempts to treat instability in the
Muslim world as a byproduct of socioeconomic
dysfunction or poverty are intellectually sterile and
doomed to fail because they do not explain why
in the Umma alone these dysfunctions have led
to a coherent global network of insurgent terrorists
that threaten the existence of Muslim regimes
and the wellbeing of the West. Poverty and, even
more, state illegitimacy and dysfunction, provide
opportunities for these terrorists that must be
eliminated over time, but they are not the cause of
the problem.

We can dismiss relatively easily a few other factors
frequently adduced as the cause of the violence
and disorder that threatens us. Anti-Americanism
is not the problem. It is quite true that polls show
that 78 percent of Egyptians and Jordanians,
68 percent of Pakistanis, 83 percent of Turks and
86 percent of Palestinians have unfavorable views
of the United States. On the other hand, 66 percent of
Germans, 72 percent of Argentinians, 60 percent of
French and Spanish and even 50 percent of Czechs
also have unfavorable views of America.1 The number
of German, French, Spanish, Argentinian, and
Czech terrorists attacking American targets (or
any targets, for that matter) is vanishingly small.
It’s a long way from disliking America to killing
Americans and their allies, and “fixing our image
in the Muslim world,” even if it were possible, is
unlikely to address the real issue.

Islam itself is not the problem either. Islam is not
by nature any more or less warlike than Judaism
or Christianity. Muslims have lived alongside
Jews and Christians for centuries and engaged
in no more fighting against them than all three
communities have engaged in among themselves.
The Ottoman Sultan declared a jihad against
the Russian Empire in 1826 — and was soundly
defeated in the war that followed with little support
from his own people, let alone the Muslim
community at large. The appeals of Muslim rulers
to resist the “Crusaders” and defend the true faith
have varied widely in effect and generally led to little
mobilization of the Muslim community. There
is nothing inherent in Islam that would explain
the current struggle in the context of centuries of
normal coexistence of religions.

America’s support for Israel and the failure of
the Arab-Israeli peace process is, finally, almost
irrelevant to this issue. Anti-Zionism is certainly
a powerful rhetorical point for America’s Muslim
foes, and it certainly does motivate some insurgent
terrorists. The question is: what would the United
States have to do to eliminate that motivation?
Would halving our aid to Israel help? Pushing the
Israelis to concede some but not all of the occupied
territories? It is hard to see how any compromise
solution would satisfy radicals whose complaint
is not the size of Israel but its existence; not the
scale of American support but its persistence. The
nature of extremists is that they are not satisfied
by compromises, and insurgent terrorists who take
up arms against us because of Israel are extremists.

1 Pew Global Attitudes Project, Spring Survey 2007: Global Unease with Major World Powers (27 June 2007), at

There is no conceivable solution to the Arab-Israeli
conflict that would satisfy those for whom that
conflict is justification for terrorism, no possible
level of American support to Israel that would
liberate us from the label of Zionist supporters.
Overt anti-Semitism in the United States did not
prevent either Communists or Nazis from labeling
America the leader of a vast Zionist conspiracy
even before the foundation of the state of Israel.
The United States could probably affect public
attitudes on these issues on the margins, but no
feasible American policy will eliminate them as a
source of anti-Americanism or violence. 


All of these systemic and global issues have
clouded our thinking about the problems of the
Muslim world. It is not that they are not valid
or relevant studies in themselves, but rather that
they offer no usable solutions. We are not going
to cure poverty and governmental dysfunction in
the Muslim world, fix whatever we think is broken
within Islam, jettison Israel, or make everyone like
Americans. U.S. grand strategy must focus instead
on the specific problems that we actually face
today and that we can actually hope to address. Of
those, the most important are the persistence of a
Leninist revolutionary ideology grafted onto a distorted
version of Islam, Iranian ambitions within
the Greater Middle East, and Pakistan’s instability.
Socioeconomic and cultural problems of Muslim
minorities in Britain, France, and Germany are
also significant and can even produce direct
threats to the United States, but there is a real limit
to what American grand strategy can do to address
those problems directly. Tensions within Muslim
communities in India, China, Indonesia, and
Africa also hold the potential to produce serious
problems down the road, but for now they remain
secondary challenges.

It is tempting and not entirely unreasonable to
try to bring all three challenges together: Iran is
a threat to regional stability because its regime
pursues a variant of the same ideology that
motivates al Qaeda, while Pakistani instability
worries us mainly because of the proximity of
al Qaeda bases to Islamabad’s nuclear weapons.2
These commonalities, among other things, have
led to a focus on the ideology itself as the center
of gravity of the problem, leading to fruitless
arguments about whether to call the enemy
“jihadis,” “Islamofascists,” “Islamists,” “militant
Islamists,” or just terrorists. I have argued elsewhere
that “takfiris” is the best term, since it is
both doctrinally accurate and carries a pejorative
connotation to most Sunni Muslims, but almost
any other term is acceptable (with the exception
of Islamofascism, whose connotations of a thisworldly
hero worship are entirely out of key with
the nature of takfiri ideology).

But the problem is not simply the ideology.
Takfirism in its present form has existed since
Sayyed Qutb outlined it in the 1950s and 1960s.
It is a Leninist variant on a Kharajite school of
thought dating back to the earliest days of Islam
(although modern-day takfiris hotly resent being
called Kharajites). When takfirism is rejected, the
way of thinking it manifests will continue to exist
and will someday form the basis for some other
ideology, just as radical interpretations of Judaism
and Christianity periodically throw up ideological
innovations that lead to violence such as the
Ku Klux Klan and David Koresh or the terrorist
elements of the Zionist movement before the

2 Limitations of space prevent the elaboration of this assertion in this context. The core idea is that both the Khomeini regime and Qutbist movements assert that they can determine
whether or not someone is a true Muslim by his behavior — and that those who do not conform are infidels or, worse, apostates, who can (and some say should) be killed. The Sunni
term for the process of declaring someone an infidel is “takfir.” Although the word has a very different meaning in Shiism, the principle is nevertheless part of the Khomeini ideology,
hence the license used here in misapplying the term to a Shiite context.

formation of the Israeli state. This is not to say that
“defeating” or, at least, discrediting this particular
variant of the ideology is not important — it is
very important. But the way to succeed is not by
persuading Muslims that takfirism is a heretical
distortion of their religion (which it is), but rather
by defeating those who claim that it will lead them
to victory.

From the early days of the Cold War, policy makers
and scholars debated whether the enemy was
Communism or the Soviet Union. In the end,
the distinction was meaningless. Communism
became so intimately entwined with the Soviet
Union that the U.S.S.R.’s fall discredited the ideology
almost completely. But Communism also
informed and directed the behavior of Moscow’s
rulers sufficiently that defeating the Soviet Union
required understanding and overcoming the
ideology. The same is true of the struggle today.
Defeating takfirism requires defeating al Qaeda
and the current Iranian regime.3 It is not possible
to discredit the ideology in the eyes of Muslims
and yet allow al Qaeda or the current Iranian government
to succeed.

The conflict cannot, therefore, be seen as primarily
ideological. Our goal should not be to convince
Muslims that democracy is preferable to takfirism.
Judging from the reaction of Muslim populations
subjected to takfiri rule, the overwhelming majority
of Muslims is already convinced. The problem
is to defeat the specific states and organizations
that use various forms of force and leverage to
impose their views on populations that are largely
hostile to them while also working to convince the
Muslim world that there is a legitimate and feasible
alternative. It is a daunting challenge that requires
both the skillful blending of all instruments of
national and international power and the mobilization
of the resources necessary to succeed. But the
stakes of the conflict are too high to ignore — the
stability of a large portion of the world’s population
is not something that America or any world
power can abandon in safety. 


It is beyond the scope of a paper on grand strategy
to evaluate the specific approaches necessary to
defeat particular enemies. Such considerations
belong more properly to the realm of regional
strategy. The debate over the best ways of combating
takfirism, either in its state-based Iranian
form or in its non-state al Qaeda form, however,
has sufficient impact on considerations of grand
strategic resources and approaches that a few
words about it are required.

The United States has three overarching objectives
in the Muslim world that should define our
basic approach to the problem: preventing takfiri
groups from attacking America or American
citizens, defeating those groups, and helping the
region establish a new stability — different from
the current unstable stasis — that secures our other
core grand strategic interests. The problem is that
these objectives often conflict with one another.
Measures required to preempt takfiri attacks or
defeat takfiri groups can increase instability locally
or even regionally for a time. And any region
transitioning from one form of quasi-stability to
another offers opportunities for insurgent terrorists
to establish themselves. The United States can easily
trap itself into inaction through constant fears of
stoking instability by attacking takfiris on the one
hand, or stoking takfirism by supporting authoritarian
regimes in the name of stability on the other.
No course is safe. The region is now unstable and
under threat from takfiri groups. There is no reason
to imagine that either problem will solve itself
without outside intervention — and many reasons

3 This statement should not be construed as a call either to invade or to overthrow the Iranian regime — simply as a call to prevent it from succeeding in its larger regional aims.

to imagine that neither will do so. The challenge is
to abandon the search for the perfect, safe solution
that does not exist and choose wisely among various
dangers and risks.

The United States has attempted several strategies
for dealing with both the takfiri challenge and
the problem of instability in the Muslim world.
We have used targeted military strikes against
individual leaders of takfiri networks, minimizing
American presence on the ground in sensitive areas
(Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa). We have also used
large conventional forces in counterinsurgency/
counterterrorism campaigns (Iraq, Afghanistan).
Against state-based actors, we have used massive
conventional attacks (Iraq) and economic
and political sanctions regimes (Iran and Syria).
In some areas we have used our own forces (Iraq,
Afghanistan); in others we have supported proxies
(Ethiopians in Somalia, Northern Alliance in
Afghanistan in 2001).

The results of these various experiments offer no
clear pattern. The badly-conducted invasion of
Iraq in 2003 clearly led to greater regional instability
and the initial growth of takfirism. The
well conducted counterinsurgency campaign of
2007 did tremendous damage to takfirism and
is reestablishing stability. Supporting Northern
Alliance proxies in Afghanistan in 2001 was
partially successful, but inadequate follow up has
led to a drift toward instability and regrowth of
takfirism in the region. The jury is still out on the
success of the Ethiopian proxy effort in Somalia,
but the long-term indicators are not positive there.
Takfiri groups have repeatedly demonstrated (Iraq,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa) that they can reconstitute
faster than pinpoint military attacks can
disaggregate them — the Special Forces’ counternetwork
approach to the problem by itself has
pretty clearly proven unable to do more than attrit
and inhibit takfiri groups without defeating them.
Political and economic sanctions regimes have also
had limited utility. The sanctions regime against
Iraq in the 1990s did, it seems, persuade Saddam
to abandon his WMD programs — but it did not
persuade him actually to comply with the various
UNSCRs to prove that he had done so. The sanctions
also created an intense hatred for America
that had not been present in Iraq to the same
extent previously, as economic sanctions regimes
often do. Sanctions against North Korea have not
prevented that state from developing a nuclear
capability, although they have done it enormous
economic harm. The consequences of that
approach remain to be seen. Similarly, it is unclear
how the use of economic and political sanctions
against Iran will turn out — they have certainly
not convinced the Islamic Republic to abandon its
efforts to destabilize Iraq, Afghanistan, and the
Levant by supporting takfiri and other militant terrorist
groups throughout the region.

The most serious damage to takfiri groups has
resulted from conventional military counterinsurgency
and counterterrorism operations — such
operations defeated the Taliban and routed al
Qaeda (initially) in Afghanistan; defeated al Qaeda
in Iraq in 2007; (as conducted by the Ethiopians)
defeated the Islamic Courts in Somalia; and (conducted
by the Lebanese) defeated Fatah al-Islam
in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon. Al Qaeda
itself recognizes setbacks in Lebanon and Iraq,
resulting from these conventional operations,
as major defeats. But success in these particular
theaters does not mean that such operations
are the model of how to defeat takfirism everywhere.
The likelihood of regional destabilization
resulting from a conventional attack on Iran or a
unilateral intervention in Pakistan is far higher
than the likely benefits we might gain from such
operations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution
to this problem, and each challenge must be
taken on its own merits.

There is near-unanimous consensus on one point
in this struggle, however — the United States needs
to find, support, encourage, and work closely
with allies and partners in the region that oppose
takfiris and seek to contribute to regional stability.
Hitherto, we have had few options. States that
opposed takfirism, such as Egypt, have also been
notoriously autocratic and have contributed to
instability through their repressive nature. Some
strategic partners, such as Saudi Arabia, are
extremely ambivalent about takfirism. Others,
such as Pakistan, claim to be anti-takfiri but have
generally found accommodating takfiri groups
more advantageous than attacking them. There are
only two states in the region now that combine a
serious commitment to combating takfirism, the
desire for close relations and cooperation with
the United States, and the beginnings of political
structures that could become legitimate, stable,
non-authoritarian states: Iraq and Afghanistan.
Coincidentally, these states occupy critical strategic
positions — they straddle Iran, and while Iraq is
at the heart of the Arab Middle East, Afghanistan
occupies a critical nexus between Central Asia,
South Asia, the Middle East, and China.

One clear element of U.S. strategy in the Muslim
world thus emerges: America should do everything
in its power to support the establishment of stable,
legitimate regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan with
the hope of shifting its reliance away from regional
partners such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to
these new states that are far more committed to
the struggle against takfirism and to containing
Iranian ambitions. In the short term, this
policy will require the continued deployment of
American combat forces in counterinsurgency
and armed mediation strategies in both countries
for some time. In the longer term, it will require
serious bilateral and multilateral security commitments,
significant economic investment, assistance
with capacity-building and democracy-building
efforts, and a solid strategic partnership with both
Baghdad and Kabul. Fortunately, there is good reason
to think that both states desire such a partnership.

If the military component of U.S. strategy in the
Muslim world has been ill thought out and poorly
executed, the non-military components have been
even worse. Vast amounts of aid to states like
Egypt and Pakistan have purchased some stability,
but at a very high price — and have done very
little to help in the struggle against takfirism of any
variety. American reluctance to provide economic
aid to oil-rich states has also created opportunities
for Iran and China to move in and work to
establish their own economic-dependency zones
that are generally oriented against the United
States and its allies. Part of the problem lies in the
fact that the international development community
does not see development as a tool of strategy
except in the very basic sense that modernizing
states are thought to be more likely to produce
stability (an extremely tenuous assumption). The
relative coherence of economic aid with strategic
requirements and goals that characterized the
containment strategy of the Cold War is entirely
lacking in our approach to the Muslim world
today, and that must change.

It is in America’s interest to outbid Iran in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey, and the Levant. It does
not matter that Iraq has large potential income
or that Afghanistan is hopelessly poor. The aim
should not be simply to build economic or political
capacity for its own sake, but to encourage the
development of stable economies and polities that
are oriented to the United States and its Western
allies and not to Iran or China. This approach was
a key element of America’s success in the Cold
War, and it will be essential in the current world
situation as well. Shifting the strategic focus in
the region away from traditional partners toward
the nascent democracies we have helped create
will require a fundamental reexamination of all
of our aid and political programs. The result will
not necessarily be the elimination or reduction
of assistance to Egypt and Pakistan or dramatic
changes in our relations with Saudi Arabia, but all
options should be on the table as we reevaluate our
equities in light of the changing circumstances.

Developing such a coherent political-militaryeconomic
strategy of containment toward Iran is
far preferable to moving toward direct military
conflict with that state. Finding ways to press
Pakistan toward liberalization and a more serious
commitment to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism
is far more attractive than direct
Western military intervention there. Containing
Iran requires solid relationships with Iraq and
Afghanistan; pressing Pakistan requires liberating
ourselves from dependence on Islamabad for
help in Afghanistan. In every way, U.S. strategy
in the Muslim world must undergo a fundamental
paradigm shift that puts priority on building
stable relations with stable governments in
Baghdad and Kabul as a way of gaining strategic
flexibility to deal more gracefully with other
regional challenges. 

The rise of China and the resurgence of Russia
are clearly issues that require close attention. It
is difficult to see a path toward military conflict
with Russia in the near or even medium term, but
it is quite possible that relations between Moscow
and the West will continue to deteriorate steadily,
particularly if Russia takes military action against
Georgia, seriously threatens military or major
economic action against Ukraine, or creates intolerable
economic pressure on the Baltic states or
Western Europe. The United States has very little
leverage over Russia as long as oil prices remain
high and Moscow’s aims remain relatively limited.
The art of strategy in this region will lie in finding
ways to establish, communicate, and enforce “red
lines” without moving to overt conflict. A Russian
attack on Georgia is quite possible, and would be
intolerable. But the West would hardly move to
intervene to defend Georgia militarily. Economic
and political levers are unlikely to be very useful.
The best approaches probably lie in helping and
encouraging Western Europe to emancipate itself
from Russian energy resources (the key leverage
point Moscow holds over our allies), strengthening
ties with Poland, the Baltic States, and
Ukraine, and generally making Russian adventurism
as unattractive to Moscow as possible. But if
Moscow continues to pursue a cautious adventurism
abroad, it will be difficult to prevent it
from doing so.

The grand strategic problem with China is in
principle easier to resolve. The United States must
continue to maintain sufficient military force and
a sufficiently credible commitment to defend its
allies in East Asia that can continue to deter any
adventurist tendencies that may arise in Beijing.
Since China can only reach our most important
allies either by crossing straits or passing through
North Korea, the military challenge of maintaining
such deterrence is fairly straightforward, if
expensive. Addressing the problem of Chinese
political and economic expansion into the Middle
East and Africa is more difficult. In Iran, we are
caught on the horns of a dilemma — the more we
pursue punitive economic sanctions as a preferred
option, the more we lay Iran open to dependency
on China. One of the virtues of establishing a real
containment regime that includes actively bidding
against Iran (and China) in the Middle East, rather
than simply punitive sanctions, is that it may
create new policy levers that do not push our foes
more closely into dependence on Beijing. Nor is it
entirely clear what the Chinese are buying for their
investments anyway — the states they support tend
to be weak and unstable (apart from Iran), and
likely to prove unreliable partners on any level.

The United States must pursue a grand strategy
that aims to reestablish and maintain stability in
key regions, that defeats al Qaeda while doing our
best to prevent any further terrorist attacks, that
contains Iranian and Chinese ambitions without
leading to full-scale conflict with either state, and
that addresses instability in Pakistan and other
critical states. Success in such a grand strategy
will require active American involvement in key
regions around the world, supporting our allies,
deterring or defeating our foes, and assisting key
states in transitions from less to more stable political
and economic configurations. Such a grand
strategy is in no material way different from what
the United States has been trying to do for the past
six decades or more and is in line with, and in support
of, American interests and objectives about
which there is broad bipartisan consensus. Defense
of the American homeland is important, and more
challenging now than it has been since the fall of
the Soviet Union, but it is not all-important. We
could theoretically prevent, preempt, or deter all
future attacks on the United States but nevertheless
allow key regions of the world to be so disrupted
as to generate greater harm to the American
economy and way of life than any likely terrorist
attack would do. American wellbeing and our way
of life are too closely connected with the welfare
of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for anyone
to imagine that we could continue to live in peace
and prosperity while any of those regions collapsed
in flames.

Pursuing such a grand strategy will be expensive.
The American military is too small to shoulder
the burden, and current defense spending is
inadequate to rectify the problem. The United
States must place the highest priority on winning
the wars it is fighting now — which are also
struggles for critical geostrategic terrain in the
most important and most highly contested region
of the world today — but it must also maintain the
forward-looking capability to deter China, Iran,
and any other regional or possible global competitor.
In addition, we must rethink the way we
provide military and economic assistance to other
states. Recalibrating that effort to support the
grand strategy outlined above will probably also be
expensive. It will also be bureaucratically difficult,
as the U.S. government is not now configured to
develop and execute a coherent political-militaryeconomic
grand strategy, and individual agencies
will continue to resist efforts to do so.

Paying for all of this may require tradeoffs. It is
almost a platitude in Washington now that rising
“entitlement” costs will, in fact, force reductions
in defense and foreign aid programs in the coming
years. One might argue that this is as it should
be — the purpose of our grand strategy, after all,
is to preserve our way of life, and reducing entitlements
will seem to erode that way of life to many.
But this is short-term thinking. The harm to the
American economy of state collapse and war in
the Middle East; of a Chinese bid for hegemony in
either East Asia or Central Asia; of a resurgent and
hostile Russia pressing Western Europe for all it’s
worth — any of these things will cost considerably
more than any proposed increases in defense or
foreign policy budgets.

The argument for preserving entitlements at the
expense of maintaining an appropriate foreign
policy assumes that the world will tick along
peacefully regardless of our activities, or that we
can axiomatically accomplish whatever we need
to accomplish in the world on a pre-set budget, or
that there is no real connection between stability
in key regions of the world and American prosperity.
Since none of these assumptions is true, it
follows that we must keep an open mind about the
relative priority of domestic spending versus
foreign and defense spending simply for the
purpose of optimizing our way of life over the
long term. It does not follow, of course, that we
should bankrupt ourselves maintaining vast
armies and fleets or subsidizing every state in
the world. We will have to pick our battles and
accept risk in low-probability scenarios or areas
in which we can really afford to lose.

The risks we are currently accepting overall,
however, are far too high. As such challenges go,
Iraq is by no means at the high end of the difficulty
spectrum. The strain on our military forces
in fighting that war cannot be taken as evidence
that we should never again fight such a war—that
was the lesson we learned from Vietnam, and it
served us extremely ill in the years that followed.
The signs of strain should instead be taken as a
warning. It is of course better not to fight wars, and
of course better to fight short, decisive wars than
long, drawn-out ones. But history is clear about
one thing—states do not always get to choose
which wars they fight, and frequently don’t get to
choose how those wars will be fought. Having the
capability to handle a post-conflict reconstruction/
effort does not make doing so attractive or
desirable, but not having that capability measurably
increases the likelihood of disaster.

The key thing moving forward is that we must
put our recent disagreements in context. Most
of the heat about the decision to invade Iraq in
2003 reflected a disagreement about that specific
decision, but much of it was cloaked in the
language of ideology and grand strategic difference.
The ideology was important, to be sure:
belief in the inevitable triumph of democracy
once the dictator was removed certainly did
short circuit necessary thinking and planning for
post-war operations within the administration.

Fundamental misconceptions about the nature of
war also contributed to post-conflict failures, as I
have argued elsewhere. But substituting the “multilateralist”
agenda for the “democracy” agenda by
claiming that a preference for diplomacy and the
use of international organizations will always necessarily
lead to success is as dangerous as anything
the Bush administration has ever done.

The only agenda underpinning American grand
strategy should be the pursuit of our goals and
interests through all of the means of American
state power, skillfully integrated and suitably
adapted to continuously changing circumstances.
It is far easier to demand and even describe such an
agenda than to execute it, of course, but there is no
real alternative. True students of Clausewitz know
that anyone who provides a list of his “principles of
war” fundamentally missed the point of an entire
treatise devoted to proving that there are no such
principles. Advocates of one or another sort of
foreign policy “doctrine” similarly miss the point.
America will not be well served by a “McCain,”
“Obama,” “Clinton,” or “Kagan Doctrine,” for that
matter, which reduces the grand strategic challenges
to a set of aphorisms and preferred methods.
Grand strategy is a process, not a plan. 

                    [Transmodernità, globalizzazione, ecumene (a proposito di un saggio di R.M. Rodríguez Magda)]
On 'Pure War', by Virilio and Lotringer: 'CONFLICT OF INTEREST' [JANINE ARMIN, 2008]

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