August 9, 2007
Published in 1993, this is an excellent book badly in need of reissue with a commensurate updating and expansion of content. The book whets the appetite but does not fully satisfy. What is does have is useful in all respects.
The contributing editors note that the US has never really had a “grand strategy” in the sense of charting out long-term goals and then devising a strategy that uses all of the sources of national power. Instead–and President General Ike Eisenhower warned us of this–we militarized our security and privatized its execution.
The authors’ intent is to also show that realpolitik can only go so far, and that a clear integration of the domestic bases and their biases is needed. The books shows that domestic influence can stop external actions that might be otherwise inspired by foreign events; and can also inspire unwarranted actions regardless of how unrealistic the goals might be.
I especially appreciated the chapter by Michael Dole discussing the disconnect between military strategy divorced from politics, political strategy divorced from reality, and the gap-filling intellectual strategy divorced from both politics and the military (as well as commerce and other frames of reference). I am reminded of the philospher that warned that the separation of soldiers from scholars will have its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards.
Although I enjoyed the 1970’s advocacy of Richard Falk and several others seeking to inspire a systemic understanding of the world and how to adapt and sustain, this book is an early proponent for combining systemic thinking with a full grasp of domestic constituencies and their role in driving foreign policy and national security in ways one might anticipate.
The book does not address transnational actors or the global reach of corporations and elites that manufacture wars, move drugs, launder money, and otherwise threaten any traditional structures for conserving, protecting, and nurturing societies at large.
I would like very much to see the authors adopt my construct of the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers, and recreate this book looking at Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia in contrast with Europe and the US. Now that would be quite an amazing contribution, and I shall hope to see something along those lines in the future.
See also my list on strategy and my recent related reviews.