Posted by: cousindampier | 3 October 2009

Grand Strategy

Grand strategy is the outward face of the state. Because a state is limited in its capabilities and powers, but has goals it wants to achieve, a set strategy is a guiding light of foreign policy.

What makes the topic interesting is the United States and the lack of grand strategy – or at least the lack of perception of one. The hurried reactions to world events is a failure in two ways – one, in that it reveals a lack of guiding light or influence, and two in that it removes the white space needed to make an accurate judgment of a situation, understand the story that brought us and them to this point, and understand the best course to avoid and solve the problem in the future.

“With singularity of purpose, the successive governments which managed the war were motivated by the fact that the nation’s strategic problem was to maintain the balance of power in Europe. This was the best practical arrangement through which England could maintain her national security, political independence, and commercial growth.” So writes John B. Hattendorf in speaking of the War of Spanish Succession (see Paul Kennedy, ed. Grand Strategies in War and Peace), and this continuously helps clarify the matter. It is a statement of best interests and the method in which to achieve them, and how military assets and diplomatic abilities will be deployed to accomplish them.

There are many days when I doubt the United States even has the ability to identify interests, but I think one of the positive results of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq will be the death of the rapid response, avoid-reality-and-wait-to-fight-China approach to the world and force the thinkers of this nation to identify where American interests lie. I am of no ability to speak of that, outside of the fact that America has the ability to be good.

Good is a pretty relative term – as Barney Frank said on the Daily Show a while back, whenever you are asked a question nowadays it has to be followed with, “compared to what?” But there is, within this country, the recognition of the limits of power, and once these limits are more or less agreed upon, two results follow. First, the United States better understands its best interests and how to pursue those – in the most logical case, it will be to maintain some semblance of stability in the world and avoid any major upheaval. Second, the search and efforts to ask and build assistance follow closely behind as limits are hit and efforts to help others stops until other nations fill the gap.


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