restricted access 7. Grand Strategy and Great Power Peace
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HOW SHOULD THE DECLINE of war affect the decisions of individual states? What is the best grand strategy for an era of great power peace? The next two chapters continue the thought experiment begun in the last and ask the reader to accept the notion, if just for the next few pages, that major war is indeed obsolete and perhaps even the corollary that the incidence of all kinds of warfare is decreasing. If these assertions are true, then the threats states face, and the way they define their interests, will be different than at any time in history. Foreign policy should not remain unaltered in an era of great power peace; as the security environment changes, so too should grand strategy. Indeed, for most states those adjustmentshavealreadyoccurred.Onlyonecountryactsasifwar—evenmajor war—remains a distinct possibility. That one state is also the world’s strongest and most influential. If the analysis in the preceding chapters is true and war is disappearingfromtheplanet,thenthreatsandopportunitiesextantinthesystem wouldnolongerdemandanactivist,interventionist,internationalistU.S. foreign policy. America should come home—not so much because of the dangers of internationalism, but rather because there simply is no compelling reason not to do so. The wisest grand strategy spends the least in order to gain the most; it minimizes costs and maximizes benefits. Activism is justified, therefore, only when there is clear necessity. The United States ought not be heavily involved abroad merely because it can, but only when it must (or, to the idealist, when it should). In other words, there are only two reasonable justifications for internationalism : to address threats, or to pursue opportunities. While it is true that recommendations for internationalist policies are usually based on some combination of both of these, in a world free of major war neither would be terribly compelling. This chapter is an examination of the implications of the end of major war for grand strategy. The United States will be its primary focus for a few reasons. 7 Grand Strategy and Great Power Peace Grand Strategy and Great Power Peace 155 First, as the most powerful member of the system, the behavior of the United States will have the greatest impact upon the system in the next century, for good or for ill. Even though no single state can alone determine the character of politics to come, the grand strategic choices made by the United States will have disproportionate consequences in every corner of the world. Second, and just as important, Washington seems uniquely oblivious to the titanic changes in international politics described in these pages. More than any other country, the United States acts as if another major war remains a constant, viable possibility, as if the Beltway filters out news of the world beyond. Finally, strategic flexibility is directly related to power. Weak countries often have their strategies determined for them by outside forces. Debates about the proper Polish or Mexican grand strategy would not be as interesting, since their choices are constrained by limited resources and powerful neighbors. The set of strategic options before the United States, on the other hand, has no natural limits. Only the grand strategies of the great powers are worthy of too much discussion; that of the greatest, most flexible of powers is the most worthy of all. Withgreatpowercomesbothgreatflexibilitytopursueawidevarietyofgoals and great responsibility to affect the progression of events. Some analysts believe that unipolarity (under benevolent U.S. leadership) may be responsible for the current peace, that the preponderant military and economic power of the United States provides the common good of security for the international community of states. If it is true that without the U.S. presence the world would descend into chaos, then any alteration of its grand strategy would clearly be a mistake. Thus, along the way this discussion will address the final possible explanation for the current era of great power peace: that the stability is provided by the hegemonic United States. The next section introduces grand strategy. It describes the current debate in strategic circles about the choices facing the United States and connects those choices to theories of international politics. The second section begins a rather logical approach to developing a grand strategy, the first step of which should be to assess the “security environment,” identifying the threats, challenges, and opportunities in the system of states. Next, the chapter explains the basic tenets of the grand strategy supported both by the theory of international relations that seems to best describe the way states behave and by the threats...


Subject Headings

  • Angell, Norman, 1874-1967.
  • Great powers.
  • World politics -- 21st century.
  • International relations.
  • Peace.
  • War.
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