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What Went Wrong? U.S.-China Relations from Tiananmen to Trump

What Went Wrong? U.S.-China Relations from Tiananmen to Trump

James Steinberg looks back at the relationship between the United States and China over the last 30 years and asks whether a better outcome could have been produced had different decisions been made.

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                                    [post_content] => This essay is adapted from the Ernest May Lecture delivered on Aug. 3, 2019, at the Aspen Strategy Group.

 

There are few things that Democrats and Republicans in Washington agree on these days — but policymakers from both parties are virtually unanimous in the view that Sino-American relations have taken a dramatic turn for the worse in recent years. In the span of just about one decade, we have seen what was once hailed as a budding strategic “partnership”[1] transformed into “a geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order.”[2] This dark view of the bilateral relationship spans the political spectrum from the Trump administration to the president’s Democratic challengers on the left. Consider, for example, this statement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren regarding America’s engagement with China: “The whole policy was misdirected. We told ourselves a happy-face story that never fit with the facts.”[3] As journalist Mark Landler recently observed, “From the White House to the boardroom, from academia to the news media, American attitudes toward China have soured to an extent unseen since Mr. Kissinger’s historic trip.”[4]

What went wrong? How did a relationship that appeared to hold such promise turn into a rivalry that more and more resembles the challenges of the Cold War? And, since this is an election year, the question quickly morphs into the all too familiar, “Who is to blame”?[5]

For some, this trajectory of Sino-American relations is not surprising. Scholars such as John Mearsheimer have long argued that conflict between the United States and China is unavoidable — a product of the inherent tensions between an established and rising power.[6] If we accept this view, then the policy question — both with regard to the past and to the future — is not how to improve Sino-American relations but rather how to prevail in the foreordained contest. Taken at face value, this view suggests that if anything “went wrong” it was the failure to understand from the outset that China and the United States were destined for what the National Bureau of Asian Research has called the “U.S.-China Competition for Global Influence” — the title of the latest in its Strategic Asia series.[7] If any mistakes were made, they were mistakes that came from wrongly believing that a better, more cooperative relationship was possible.

This is a pretty bleak assessment about the future. Even if military conflict is not inevitable, it’s hard to see how this view produces anything except a prolonged, costly, and potentially dangerous struggle between two militarily and economically powerful states across the full range of policy issues. It’s “game on” in the battle for primacy in which each side has the determination to prevail rather than submit.

But for those of us who question the premise, there is a heavy burden to show that an alternative path was possible in the past and may still be possible in the future. In this essay, I focus on the past to see whether different choices might have produced a better outcome, thus suggesting, though not guaranteeing, that choices in the future might similarly lead to a more optimistic result.

Framing the question this way naturally leads to a counterfactual exercise. If we can’t construct a plausible counterfactual story that would have led to a better outcome, then the result of the exploration will lead us back to the alternative hypothesis — namely that the current state of affairs was either inevitable or, perhaps, is even better than it might otherwise have been. This is no small challenge. Counterfactual assertions are easy to make and are often resorted to, not just in the academy, but in the world of politics. But they are inherently impossible to prove. Yet, despite the formidable methodological challenges, counterfactual analysis is an indispensable tool in the analytic tool kit. Near the end of Strange Victory, Ernest May’s magisterial study of the fall of France in 1940, he observes, “though many historians raise eyebrows at counterfactual speculation, I think it integral to any historical reconstruction. … I simply choose to say explicitly that if condition x had not obtained, the actual events probably would not have gone as they did.”[8]

[quote id="1"]

There are few tools available to assess the validity of counterfactuals. May himself often confidently offered rather definitive conclusions that might startle a political scientist: In Strange Victory, he asserted, for example, that “intelligence analysis was an integral part of German operational planning: without it the odds against Germany adopting anything like the final version of Plan Yellow would have been at least two to one.”[9] However, a number of insightful political scientists, including Jack Levy, Richard Ned Lebow, Steve Weber, Philip Tetlock, and Aaron Belkin have offered valuable suggestions on better and worse ways to apply counterfactual analysis to international relations.[10]

What different decisions might the United States and China have made over the past 30 years that would have produced a better outcome in Sino-American relations today? Before delving into that question, first I’ll clarify two things: One, by “better,” I mean a relationship that featured more cooperation across a range of issues — including security, economic, and political issues — and less risk of conflict, especially military conflict. Two, I chose 30 years because this past summer marks the 30th anniversary of the Chinese government’s suppression of the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. China’s actions — and the George H.W. Bush administration’s response — represent one of the most important decisions that shaped the course of Sino-American relations and one that I will return to in detail shortly. Moreover, the end of the Cold War arguably represents a significant inflection point in Sino-U.S. relations, as the relationship became less instrumental and more centrally focused on bilateral concerns.

My initial approach to answering the question of what might have been done differently was to look at key decisions made by each side over the past 30 years, to see whether a different choice in any of these cases might have had a significant impact on the trajectory of the relationship. Borrowing from the political science literature, the question is sometimes phrased in terms of “critical junctures” — moments in time where specific decisions have a consequential, and potentially irreversible, impact on the course of events.[11] But further reflection suggests that it was at least as likely that the “path” of U.S.-Chinese relations was the product of a sequence of accumulated decisions rather than one decisive moment. For Robert Frost, two roads might diverge in ways that have irreversible consequences, but, as critics of the critical junctures approach have pointed out, international relations are not so binary.[12] In the case of Sino-American relations, each of the individual, specific choices reflected a broader underlying policy approach that informed that choice — a policy approach sometimes called a policy of “engagement,” which was relatively consistent across the four administrations from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama. After looking at some of the key decisions that were made and the alternative decisions that could have been made, I will turn to the question of whether a different strategy based on a different set of assumptions would have produced a better result.

In this essay, I examine three decisions that many commentators have identified as the key “mistakes” of the past 30 years: the U.S. response to Tiananmen; the decision to support China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and grant China Permanent Normal Trade Relations; and the U.S. effort to broker a resolution of the Scarborough Shoal crisis in 2012. I’ve picked these three decisions for several reasons. First, at the time of each decision, some were pushing for a different approach. Although there is debate in the political science community about whether this is a necessary condition for a plausible counterfactual, it certainly helps the credibility of the analysis.[13] Second, the decisions occurred under three different administrations, one Republican and two Democratic. Finally, these decisions cover the three main areas of contention in the U.S.-Chinese relationship: values, economics, and security, respectively. Although I focus in this essay only on U.S. decisions, a more complete analysis would give comparable attention to Chinese decision-making as well, a point I’ll come back to in the conclusion.

Decision 1: Tiananmen

First, let’s consider the decisions made in Washington after China’s 1989 actions against the democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. The story of the U.S. debate on how to respond is a familiar one, although the recent publication of “The New Tiananmen Papers” in Foreign Affairs revealing the deliberations of the Communist Party of China, and the Asia Society’s re-publication of key documents from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library help revive a sense of the contemporary debate in both countries.[14] Both in its direct diplomacy with China, as well as its executive actions and negotiations over sanctions legislation, the Bush administration sought to moderate the U.S. response to limit the overall disruption in Sino-U.S. relations. There were calls at the time for tougher sanctions, including revoking China’s most favored nation status, while candidate Bill Clinton vehemently attacked the policy in his 1992 presidential campaign.[15] Nor was the critique of Bush’s policy response limited to Bush’s Democratic opponents. Writing in the World Policy Journal shortly after Tiananmen, Marie Gottschalk, the associate editor, argued,
The time for a reassessment of Sino-American relations is long overdue. China’s domestic and international conditions have changed enormously since President Nixon’s visit in 1972. … Yet US policy has remained surprisingly constant, driven by outdated sentiments and questionable assumptions. By failing to rethink this approach, the so-called realists have pursued a surreal path in Sino-American relations that has not only hurt the cause of political reform and human rights in the People’s Republic, but also America’s long-term interests in the region.[16]
The Bush administration’s decision to try to sustain U.S.-Chinese ties, rather than to adopt more punitive measures, was not based exclusively on either the strategic or the economic value of the Sino-American relationship. Bush himself argued that continued engagement with China, including through trade, would foster the values agenda as well: “As people have commercial incentives, whether it’s in China or in other totalitarian countries, the move to democracy becomes inexorable.”[17] How might things have been different had Bush adopted his critics’ approach? One could conceive of three scenarios. First, under the economic pressure of losing most favored nation status, and the political pressure of diplomatic isolation, China’s leaders might have opted to move toward political reform. This, of course, was the argument made by contemporary critics. Second, China might have resisted U.S. pressure, but at the cost of slowed or even reversed economic growth, which, over time, might have eroded support for the Communist Party of China and ultimately led to a change of regime. Third, China might have adopted a more hostile attitude toward the United States and developed a strategy to confront America more directly. The first scenario seems quite implausible. A look at the deliberations of the party leadership in “The New Tiananmen Papers” published in Foreign Affairs suggests that Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues saw political reform as an existential threat to their leadership, and their statements evinced a clear willingness to risk economic and political isolation to retain control. That conclusion is buttressed by the Chinese leaders’ strong resistance to the Clinton administration’s subsequent effort to condition most favored nation status on improving human rights. Of course, it can be argued that in the latter case, China’s leaders may have doubted Clinton’s willingness to go through with the threats. However, given the earlier congressional votes withdrawing that status in 1991 and 1992, Beijing certainly could not take that for granted.[18] The second scenario is somewhat more plausible but is also questionable. A case can be made that the technology and arms sanctions that the United States and others imposed in the aftermath of Tiananmen did impact China’s economic growth and the pace of its military modernization. At the same time, one could argue that the technology sanctions ultimately persuaded China that it would need to focus on developing its own indigenous capability, thus becoming a more formidable competitor in the long run. For the strategy of “strangulation” to have succeeded, the United States would have had to close its markets to China (overcoming opposition from U.S. businesses) and persuade China’s other key economic partners in East Asia and Europe to follow suit. Although U.S. allies generally adopted the limited sanctions imposed by the Bush administration at the time, it would have been a heavy lift to get them to willingly hurt their own economies through broader trade sanctions. And even if they had been willing, it is a further stretch to conclude that the economic pain would have undermined a communist leadership that had survived the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Indeed, one can imagine that economic sanctions might have triggered a nationalist backlash that would have reinforced the image of the communist party as the defender of China’s sovereignty — a development even more likely under the third scenario, which seems the most plausible of the three alternatives. This scenario would have led to much earlier confrontation between the United States and China and a much tenser East Asia during the first two decades following the end of the Cold War, with all the associated economic and political ramifications. One can imagine, for example, that in this case China might have actively supported North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, not to mention have taken a tougher line on Taiwan.

Decision 2: Admission to the World Trade Organization

The second case study is the Clinton administration’s decision to support China’s admission to the WTO and to grant China Permanent Normal Trade Relations.[19] Of all the China policy decisions of the last three decades, this has attracted the most criticism, both at the time and especially in hindsight. In fact, a cottage industry of sorts has emerged, epitomized by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s assertion in his 2017 report to Congress: “It seems clear that the United States erred in supporting China’s entry into the WTO on terms that have proven ineffective in securing China’s embrace of an open, market-oriented trade regime.”[20] In a piece for the Atlantic in August 2018, author Gabe Lipton asserted, “By letting [China] into the World Trade Organization back in 2001, Washington laid the groundwork for the tensions roiling relations with Beijing today.”[21] Before considering the counterfactual, it is useful to recall the arguments made in favor of the decision to support China’s entry into the WTO.[22] On the economic front, the Clinton administration argued that the agreement would enhance access for U.S. exports by reducing tariffs and eliminating barriers to investment. It also asserted that the need for China to meet WTO standards would lead to economic reform in China, including privatization and the decline of state-owned enterprises. The administration contended that subjecting China to the WTO settlement mechanisms offered a greater chance of gaining compliance with trade agreements. More broadly, it argued that admission to the WTO would make China more prosperous and stable, and that a weak China was at least as likely to be a threat as a strong China. [quote id="2"] Clinton further asserted that by supporting China’s entry to the WTO, the United States would increase its influence over Chinese decision-making: “[E]verything I have learned about human nature in over a half-century of living now convinces me that we have a far greater chance of having a positive influence on China's actions if we welcome China into the world community instead of shutting it out.”[23] Some have suggested that the Clinton administration also thought that WTO membership would lead to political reform and human rights improvements in China. I’ll come back to this point below, but for now I will simply quote Clinton’s own words: “Membership in the W.T.O., of course, will not create a free society in China overnight or guarantee that China will play by global rules. But over time, I believe it will move China faster and further in the right direction, and certainly will do that more than rejection would.”[24] Critics of the WTO decision have offered a number of complementary arguments for why the decision was a mistake. First, on the economic front, they contend that China’s entry into the WTO — at least on the terms agreed to by the United States and other WTO members — destroyed millions of jobs in America, decimated the U.S. manufacturing industry in key sectors, and created a massive trade deficit, which, at least in the view of some, had wider adverse consequences. Lighthizer, for example, has stated that “our trade deficit with China played a major role in creating the financial bubble that exploded in 2008.”[25] At the same time, China failed to open its markets to U.S. firms and U.S. exports, denying the United States the reciprocal benefits of more open trade. For some, this was a product of the specific terms of the deal — the United States did not demand enough. For others, the problem lay in insufficient enforcement.[26] And for a third group, the problem was inherent in the WTO itself. Again quoting Lighthizer: “[T]he WTO settlement system is simply not designed to deal with a legal and political system so at odds with basic premises on which the WTO was founded.”[27] James McGregor argues that “Chinese policymakers are masters of creative initiatives that slide through the loopholes of WTO and other international trade rules,”[28] including currency manipulation and forcing companies to relocate to China rather than export from domestic sources. Moreover, to the extent that WTO membership contributed to China’s economic success, it reduced the pressure for political reform, since the leadership could point to the success of its authoritarian mode of governance in producing prosperity. And the wealth generated helped underwrite China’s rapid military modernization and technological progress, both of which challenge U.S. security interests in East Asia and beyond. Many of these arguments were advanced at the time of Clinton’s decision, including by leaders in his own party. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, for example, argued, “China’s pattern of violating trade agreements behooves the US Congress to retain its authority for annual review of China’s trade record.”[29] There is no doubt that many of the more hopeful predictions — or perhaps the better word is aspirations — were unrealized. U.S. job losses to China in the past two decades have been well documented.[30] Similarly, the downward trend in political reform, political rights, and the rule of law seems incontestable, while U.S. influence over China in a range of areas is waning. But the fact that bad things happened following China’s entry into the WTO does not, by itself, prove that they were caused by that decision. Or perhaps even more important, it doesn’t prove that things would have been better had the United States blocked China’s entry into the WTO or held out for a better deal. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Philip Levy explores some of the counterfactual scenarios.[31] One option would have been for the United States to acquiesce in China’s membership but to deny China either annual or permanent status as a most favored nation.[32] Critics at the time and subsequently have argued that denying permanent normal trade relations would have had several positive consequences. First, requiring annual renewal of China’s most favored nation status would have provided the United States leverage over China’s actions, and in the meantime the United States would have retained the right to impose higher tariffs against Chinese exporters. Second, it would have created substantial uncertainty for U.S. and other foreign manufacturers considering outsourcing production to China, reducing their willingness to relocate and thus limiting job losses in the United States.[33] Some of these critiques are unpersuasive. As the Clinton administration argued at the time, were America not to extend most favored nation status it would primarily harm the United States, since other countries’ exporters would gain greater access to China than America, and, of course, it would also raise costs for U.S. consumers and businesses for products where China formed part of the supply chain.[34] Moreover, imposing higher barriers against Chinese imports might simply displace U.S. job losses to other low-cost producing countries that had already joined the WTO. There is certainly evidence to support this view, based on the impact of Obama’s 2012 tariffs on Chinese tires, which largely appear to have led to more imports from other countries at higher prices, rather than a substantial increase in U.S. jobs.[35] A second option would have been to try to block China’s admission to the WTO. Under the organization’s rules, new members are admitted by a two-thirds majority vote. Thus, this strategy would have required the United States to rally significant outside support to block China’s entry. However, many countries, especially U.S. allies like Japan and Germany, had a large stake in expanding their access to China. To be fair, in the past, most new admissions to the WTO have been by consensus, so it could be argued that the United States had a de facto, if not de jure, veto, although this is quite speculative.[36] What would have happened if China had not joined the WTO in 2001? This option offers some theoretical advantages over the first counterfactual scenario presented above. In this scenario, the United States would not be at a competitive disadvantage to other countries. Like in the previous scenario, the United States could continue annual reviews of China’s most favored nation status with the option of imposing new protections. But whether this alternative would have made a difference is debatable, since this scenario would have simply continued the status quo in U.S.-Chinese trade. Although the United States, in theory, would have had additional leverage, the experience of the previous 20 years suggests that China would not likely have made significant concessions based on the mere threat of denying it status as a most favored nation. Of course, America could have broken with previous practice and demonstrated its resolve by making good on that threat and imposing new barriers against Chinese exports. This scenario bears considerable similarity to the current U.S.-Chinese “trade war”: China has made some new concessions but at least through the fall 2019 “interim agreement” has refused dramatic change. Would China have been more willing to compromise at an earlier stage of its economic development when it was even more dependent on export-led growth? Perhaps, although many — including President Donald Trump — believe that China’s current economic difficulties make the country more susceptible to trade “hardball.”[37] [quote id="3"] Even assuming that the United States might have derived some economic benefit from denying China’s entry to the WTO in 2001, there would have been non-economic costs as well. For example, had the United States blocked China’s WTO membership in 2001, it would have also lost its leverage to insist on the simultaneous entry of Taiwan in the WTO, something that has played an important role in shoring up Taiwan’s economy as well as providing it the international stature that comes from participation in a major international institution.[38] Would the costs of blocking China’s membership have been worth it if exclusion had slowed or even halted China’s economic and military rise? It certainly would have crystallized a more adversarial relationship between China and America, since China would have seen such a decision as evidence of a broad containment strategy. As Joseph Fewsmith argued at the time, “if negotiators had failed to reach agreement [during the second round, in November 1999] Jiang would likely have been forced to play the nationalist card to defend himself.”[39] The third counterfactual scenario would have been to hold out for a better deal. This option — assuming it was possible — would appear to avoid all the downsides of the two previous scenarios, and would offer the benefit of wresting additional concessions from China. It seems almost incontrovertible that the United States might have gotten at least a somewhat better deal if it had held out for more.[40] It’s hard to make the case that Beijing had truly reached the end of its rope and would have preferred to walk away rather than continue to negotiate. This conclusion is buttressed by the fact that the United States backed off from the initial deal negotiated with Zhu Rongji in April 1999: Despite the rather public humiliation associated with the rebuff, China returned to the table.[41] China’s willingness to put new offers on the table in response to the recent Trump tariffs also suggests that China is not averse to making new concessions under pressure. Would a better trade deal in 2000 have made a significant impact on subsequent relations between the two countries? A key question is whether America could have gained enough additional concessions to alter significantly the adverse impact on U.S. jobs and manufacturing other than at the margins. Critics have argued, for example, that the United States could have negotiated strong safeguards against China’s violations of its commitments,[42] or insisted on more thorough reform of state-owned enterprises and China’s intellectual property rights practices. The “but-for” in this case is complex. U.S. manufacturing employment was already declining precipitously even before China’s entry into the WTO. There is considerable debate about whether the WTO agreement by itself had any impact on that trend.[43] Indeed, it is possible to argue that manufacturing in the United States might have been even worse off if the United States had successfully insisted on more thorough-going reforms, since it is arguably the process of reform itself that has helped stimulate China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse.[44] In the end, the question of impact of the WTO decision goes to the broader question of how the United States responded to the process of globalization, and whether other policies — either more protectionist ones, or those more focused on retraining and retooling workers and industries — would have been more effective in addressing the economic and social costs of deepening global economic integration.[45]

Decision 3: Scarborough Shoal

The third example is the confrontation between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal in 2012. Critics of America’s China policy have argued that the United States has failed to respond effectively to what is seen as increasingly assertive Chinese behavior in the South and East China Seas that endanger the security of the United States and its East Asian partners and puts at risk freedom of navigation in these vital waterways.[46] The Scarborough Shoal incident is an interesting case, since U.S. policymakers were focused on defusing the crisis, rather than pursuing a policy of confronting and challenging Chinese aggressive actions. Although the story is complex and some of the facts are disputed by the participants, the basic outlines are reasonably clear.[47] In April 2012, a Philippine warship boarded several Chinese fishing boats in the waters close to Scarborough Shoal, a landform long occupied by the Philippines but claimed by China under its expansive “nine-dash line.” China dispatched two marine surveillance ships in response, blocking efforts by the Philippines to arrest the fishermen and confiscate their catch. A tense standoff ensued with both Chinese and Filipino officials insisting that the other side had to withdraw its vessels from the area. The Philippines announced that it would take the matter to international arbitration, called on ASEAN to support the Philippines, and appealed to the United States to clarify that the Scarborough Shoal fell within the terms of the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty. In response to the crisis, the United States and the Philippines conveyed their first “2+2” meeting (involving both countries’ foreign and defense ministers), during which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta broadly reaffirmed the treaty without making specific reference to Scarborough Shoal, and agreed to enhance support for Philippine maritime forces. China, in turn, imposed what amounted to economic sanctions on the Philippines. In June, the United States helped broker an understanding for a mutual withdrawal of naval vessels. In the end, the Philippines withdrew its ships and China did not, leading to China’s de facto control over Scarborough Shoal. At the time, there appears to have been little debate within the U.S. government over what course to take and a broad consensus emerged in favor of the U.S. effort to defuse the crisis. But China’s actions following the U.S. mediation effort had a profound impact on both participants and observers of the crisis that has colored the U.S.-Chinese policy debate ever since and has led to a vigorous debate about America’s approach to the crisis.[48] What might the United States have done differently? On the political level, Washington could have more clearly endorsed the Philippines’ sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal and the associated maritime rights that flow to that claim under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.[49] It could have provided more direct support to the Philippine navy and coast guard, including dispatching U.S. vessels to the area. Finally, it could have declined to mediate the crisis at all. [quote id="4"] Critics of the decision to mediate argue that if the United States had adopted a more assertive approach, China would have backed off, given the relatively dubious nature of its claim, as well as the risks of a direct confrontation with the United States. It’s hard to test this assertion, although in other cases where China has sought to assert questionable claims over international commons — for example, in declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea, or contesting U.S. freedom of navigation operations — China has, up until now, refrained from direct confrontation (although there have been close calls).[50] Assume, for the purpose of argument, that a U.S. show of resolve would have been successful in causing China to back off: The key question is whether this would have led to an improvement in relations between China and America over the longer term. Advocates of this more assertive approach would argue yes — establishing clear and enforceable red lines would have tamed China’s ambitions and moderated its policies. According to this logic, China simply has too much at stake in its own process of economic development to risk a war with the United States over its claims in the South and East China Seas. There is a certain plausibility to this argument. Consider the 1996 Taiwan Strait Missile Crisis, which bears some similarity to the Scarborough case. There, the Clinton administration dispatched two aircraft carriers to the waters off Taiwan following a series of Chinese missile firings which landed in the waters near Taiwan. The U.S. action appeared to persuade China to abandon the intimidating practice. The United States clearly won that “battle,” and for an extended period China refrained from provocative shows of force against Taiwan. But what about its impact on the broader “war,” i.e., the long-term relationship between America and China? Some people, such as Michael Cole, have argued that, while China backed off in 1996, the experience led the People’s Liberation Army, as well as China’s political leaders, to deepen their determination to match the United States militarily, so as to be in a better position to prevail in the future.[51] Similarly, in the case of Scarborough Shoal, it can be argued that even if a more assertive U.S. response had led to China backing down in the near term, the experience might have reinforced China’s conviction that the United States was and remains determined to side with China’s adversaries, thus hastening the deterioration of relations and increasing the likelihood of conflict between the United States and China. What lessons can we learn from these three decisions? First, it’s hard to make a powerful case that things would clearly have been better had different policies been in place. Second, the possibility of a better outcome seems greatest in the case of economic relations, weakest in the case of human rights and political reform in China, with the security realm lying somewhere in the middle. Third, even when there might have been short-term gains from taking a different decision, the long-term consequences might have been much different and conceivably even worse than the reality today.

Reexamining America’s China Policy

As I suggested earlier, perhaps the answer to the question “What went wrong?” is not so much bad individual decisions, but rather a misguided overall strategy. Put differently, the individual decisions were flawed because they were the product of a flawed strategy. To explore this hypothesis, we need to be a bit clearer about what the strategy was, and what the alternatives were. Many commentators have noted the broad consistency of U.S. policy toward China beginning with the Richard Nixon administration.[52] Although presidential challengers from Ronald Reagan to Clinton to George W. Bush often criticized the incumbent’s strategy, in the end, most observers have argued that the similarities in each administration’s China policy were greater than the differences.[53] So, what were the core assumptions underlying the U.S. approach? Although many have adopted the shorthand phrase “engagement,” the term is too amorphous and procedural to capture the essence of the policy. At its core, America’s China policy was based on the belief that a stable, prosperous China would serve the interests of the United States, while a weak and insecure China was at least as likely to pose risks for the United States and its allies. Therefore, the United States should welcome, rather than resist, China’s rise.[54] Implicit in this policy was a belief that a rising China would not inherently threaten the United States. Some have argued that that there was also a second belief underlying the policy — that as China became more prosperous it would come to resemble the United States and increasingly share America’s values with regard to domestic governance and the international order.[55] This convergence would then facilitate increased cooperation between the two countries. Iain Johnston’s thorough look at the historical record suggests that while most advocates for the policy hoped that liberalization would occur, the decision to support rather than oppose China’s rise was not premised on this hope.[56] Nevertheless, for the purposes of this analysis, the assumptions behind the policy are less important than whether a different strategy would have produced a better result. What alternative strategies were available to U.S. presidents from H.W. Bush to Obama, and how might adopting them have changed the course of Sino-American relations? At the risk of oversimplification, we can draw on the familiar Goldilocks paradigm. One school has argued that the strategy was too soft; another that it was too tough. However, by choosing this analytic framework, it is not my purpose to stack the deck in favor of the actual policy as “just right.” First, the “too soft school.” As the three case studies above demonstrate, critics have argued that a tougher line would serve U.S. interests by one of three mechanisms — by slowing China’s rise, by forcing the Communist Party of China to adapt its policies to meet U.S. demands, or by fostering regime change. They cite a long list of misguided accommodations that America has made for China that include, among others, the Clinton administration’s decision to drop human rights conditionality for most favored nation status in 1994 and George W. Bush’s reversal on enhancing support for Taiwan following the EP-3/Hainan Island incident. In the late 1990s, this viewpoint was pressed by the “Blue Team” — members and staff of Congress, think tanks, journalists, and others who challenged the prevailing policy of the Clinton administration.[57] Individuals associated with the Blue Team argued that the United States was underestimating the “China Threat” — the title of a 2000 book by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz — and they advocated a range of alternative strategies, including an explicit commitment to regime change.[58] More recently, this view has been picked up by the reincarnated “Committee on the Present Danger,” now called the “Committee on the Present Danger: China,” which contends that “there is no hope of coexistence with China as long as the Communist Party governs the county” and therefore the United States should adopt “a determination to reverse decades of American miscalculation, inaction and appeasement.” [59] Of course, these views represent the most extreme wing of a broader spectrum of views advocating for a policy that more forcefully challenges China. In one form or another, there is a growing conviction among U.S. politicians and policy analysts that the relationship between America and China should be seen as a zero-sum competition in which the United States should seek to “prevail” over China. For example, Ambassador Bob Blackwill and Ashley Tellis have argued that “preserving US primacy in the global system ought to remain the central objective of U.S. grand strategy in the twenty-first century.”[60] An alternative strategy is offered by the “too hard” school, which argues that the difficulties in the Sino-U.S. relationship stem from America’s reluctance to accommodate China’s rise.[61] In this view, had the United States been more accommodating, China would have felt less threatened and more willing to cooperate with America on shared economic and security interests like non-proliferation and counter-terrorism, rather than compete with the United States.[62] Proponents of this view argue that while the rhetoric of America’s China policy over the past several decades has supported China’s rise, the reality has been much more confrontational. These critics point to a long list of hostile U.S. actions: the continued ban on technology transfers to China imposed after Tiananmen and tightened after the Cox Committee Report in 1998;[63] arms sales to Taiwan beginning with the George H.W. Bush administration’s F-16 sales in 1992 despite the promise of the U.S.-China Third Communique;[64] Clinton’s carrier diplomacy during the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis; the reinforcement of U.S. security alliances with Japan and South Korea despite the end of the Cold War; George W. Bush’s use of third-party sanctions against Banco Delta Asia in 2005; and the Obama “pivot,” which included beefing up the U.S. military presence in East Asia. As a result, China had little choice but to focus its efforts on competing with the United States through strengthening its military, building up its indigenous economic and technological prowess, and enhancing ties with countries like Russia to counter U.S. power. Charles Glaser is a prominent exponent of this view, arguing specifically that accommodating China instead of Taiwan as part of a grand bargain would better serve U.S. interests.[65] [quote id="5"] How can we evaluate the likely success of these two alternative strategies? One way is to look at history. In many ways, the “too soft” argument mirrors the argument against détente made by critics of Nixon’s policy toward the Soviet Union, including the earlier incarnation of the Committee on the Present Danger.[66] Following this analogy, today’s proponents of the “soft on China argument” would argue that it was Reagan’s more confrontational approach — from human rights to security — rather than Nixon’s accommodation, that brought the Soviet Union to the bargaining table and ultimately ushered in the end of the regime. Nor is the Nixon era the only possible historical touchstone. Glaser, a critic of the “too soft school,” notes: “Reaching back further in history, the too soft argument might invoke one of the greatest warhorses of historical analogies — the Munich argument.”[67] The “too hard” argument might, in turn, invoke the history of the United States’ own rise, pointing to the early failure of European powers who sought to check U.S. expansion and the more successful approach followed by the United Kingdom, which (at least after 1812) chose to accommodate and work with a rising United States — including its acquiescence to the Monroe Doctrine and a U.S. hemispheric sphere of influence — a history so richly explored by Kori Schake.[68] But Ernest May, one of the greatest analysts of the use and misuse of historical reasoning, would be the first to caution against such superficial analogies.[69] Even if we accept the argument that Reagan’s tough line brought about the end of the Cold War — a matter of no small controversy — that doesn’t help us much in judging whether a similar approach would have a similar effect vis-à-vis China. China’s leadership is more agile and its society more dynamic than the Soviet Union of the 1980s, and thus is less vulnerable to U.S. pressure and coercion. Reagan’s success depended to some degree on the support, or at least acquiescence, of U.S. allies. Getting this support is a much more difficult challenge when it comes to China, as can be seen today in the lukewarm response of U.S. allies to the Trump administration’s strategy.[70] If China is not the Soviet Union of 1980, neither is China the United States of the 19th century. European powers, especially Europe’s monarchies, may have been wary of America’s ascendency, but for Britain, shared political values — along with Britain’s abandonment of mercantilist policies in the mid-19th century and its preoccupation with imperial interests in Africa and Asia — meant there was a degree of congruence, or at least complementarity of interest, that facilitated Britain’s decision to work with, rather than against, the United States. For these reasons, accommodating China’s rise might not turn out nearly as well for the United States as accepting America’s rise did for Britain. But this is not the only way to use history to evaluate these counterfactual strategies. A more productive approach is to look more narrowly at the U.S.-Chinese relationship, to see where the U.S. policy has been most and least successful. To use political science terminology, we can look at “within case,” rather than “cross case,” comparisons. In the years following the Nixon administration, U.S. policy toward China produced some notable successes. Normalization not only began a process of engagement that brought considerable economic benefit both to China and to the United States, it also helped build a more stable security environment in East Asia and the Western Pacific. This benefitted not just the United States but also its allies. Over time, China joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty and related arms control regimes, abandoned its policies of supporting revolutionary movements around the world, and began to support U.N. peacekeeping activities. Most notably, China acquiesced to the status quo with regard to Taiwan, despite its rhetorical commitment to unification. Domestically, while democracy failed to take hold, Chinese society became more open. And of course, China’s economic growth helped fuel global prosperity, and contributed to managing the economic crisis of 1998­–99. The achievements of this period were based on a more or less explicit shared understanding or modus vivendi about the terms of the relationship. I’m deliberately not using the term “bargain,” which has implications of an explicit quid pro quo. The United States would welcome the rise of a strong, prosperous China and not seek to overthrow the communist party’s control. China would not seek to challenge the United States’ dominant position in East Asia or the broader international economic and political order that helped facilitate China’s own economic development. But this understanding had within it the seeds of its own destruction. As long as there was a large military and economic disparity between the two countries the relationship was reasonably stable. It began to erode as China became more economically successful and militarily more capable. This, in turn, fueled U.S. anxiety about China’s long-term intentions. Critics in America began to focus on what they saw as the dark side of Deng Xiaoping’s “hide and bide” strategy,[71] while some in the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese academia began to question why China needed to continue to acquiesce to U.S. hegemony or defer key policy objectives, such as the recovery of Taiwan. These changing circumstances led the George W. Bush administration to seek to revise the shared understanding. Robert Zoellick’s concept of a “responsible stakeholder” was an effort to take into account China’s growing power and its desire for a greater international role, while deflecting Chinese pressure to replace the U.S.-led international order.[72] That effort continued into the early years of the Obama administration. It was reflected most clearly in the joint statement of Obama and President Hu Jintao following Obama’s visit to China in 2009: “The two countries reiterated that the fundamental principle of respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is at the core of the three U.S.-China joint communiqués … The two sides agreed that respecting each other’s core interests is extremely important to ensure steady progress in U.S.-China relations.”[73] It’s fair to say that these efforts to create a new shared understanding largely failed. Despite the meeting between Obama and Xi Jinping at Sunnylands in 2013,[74] and later between Trump and Xi at Mar-a-Lago in 2017,[75] there has been little meeting of the minds on the nature or future of the bilateral relationship. There are several possible explanations for this failure. Some would argue that failure was inevitable given the inherent conflicts between an established and rising power.[76] A second explanation might focus on domestic forces in each country that have made mutual accommodation difficult. As we have seen in the United States over the past two decades, Congress — including leaders from both parties — has pushed for a tougher U.S. approach to China. Presidential aspirants have repeatedly challenged the policies of incumbents, with some success: Clinton in 1992, Bush in 2000, and Trump in 2016. In China, growing nationalism and the need to shore up the communist party’s legitimacy in the absence of democratic reform have pushed China’s leaders toward a less accommodating strategy. A third explanation might emphasize each side’s judgment of the other’s intentions and of its own capabilities. The case for U.S.-Chinese cooperation in the past was based on the idea of what the Chinese call “win-win” cooperation — that both sides will gain more from cooperation than competition. But what if one concludes that the other is determined to prevail at all costs rather than cooperate?[77] In that case, the choice then becomes one of “compete or acquiesce.” And if both sides believe that they can prevail in the competition, both will choose competition over conciliation — even potentially risking war. In game theory, it’s a game of chicken where each side believes the other will swerve.[78] [quote id="6"] I would argue that both the domestic dynamics and each country’s increasingly gloomy assessment of the other’s true intentions against the backdrop of China’s rise help explain the current state of affairs. Here it is important to look at something I have not yet addressed: decision-making in China, specifically the Chinese response to the George W. Bush and Obama efforts to reshape the relationship. Although this assessment risks appearing self-serving coming from a former American policymaker, a good case can be made that the Chinese side bears significant responsibility for the failure to reach a new understanding. I come to this conclusion both from my own engagement as deputy secretary of state from 2009 to 2011, but also from conversations with Chinese interlocutors as well. Jeff Bader expressed a similar view in his book, in which he identifies “a changed quality in the writing of Chinese security analysts and Chinese official statements, and in some respects Chinese behavior.”[79] Two factors explain China’s reluctance to move in the direction of a new U.S.-Chinese strategic understanding. First, during a key period — George W. Bush’s second term and the beginning of the Obama administration — China experienced relatively weak leadership under the collective decision-making of Hu, which made any bold initiative — particularly one that involved compromise with America — difficult. The problem was compounded by a sense of hubris in some leading Chinese circles following the financial crisis of 2008–09, which led some to believe that the United States was in permanent decline while China was on the ascendancy.[80] As a result, a promising moment passed, and the failure of these two U.S. efforts to elicit a positive response from China began to harden attitudes in America. It is possible to argue that Xi’s proposal for a new form of “major power relations” was a belated effort to respond to the initiatives of Bush and Obama.[81] For a brief period, there was evidence that the Obama administration saw this as a new opening.[82] But Xi’s effort came to naught — in part, because of skepticism in the United States, in part, because China never really made clear what Xi envisioned by this concept or whether it reflected a real Chinese willingness to meaningfully accommodate U.S. concerns. Even if there was an opportunity for a new Sino-American understanding, one might reasonably ask whether that window is now closed — as a result of decisions made both in Beijing and Washington. And if the window is not closed, what form might that new understanding take? These questions are worth deep reflection before the two countries resign themselves to a costly and dangerous future of rivalry and potentially even conflict. In reflecting on the decisions leading to the Spanish-American War and the annexation of the Philippines, Ernest May wrote: “unconcernedly and almost unthinkingly, these statesman ran the risk of precipitating Europe into a coalition against the United States.”[83] The challenge for policymakers in the United States and China is to avoid this peril even as the United States adapts its policy to a more capable and assertive China. A solid understanding of the history of Sino-American relations — both what went wrong and what went right — will allow us to do just that.   Hon. James B. Steinberg is professor of social science, international affairs, and law at Syracuse University and previously served as dean of the Maxwell School, from July 2011 until June 2016, and dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin from 2005 to 2009. His government service includes deputy secretary of state (2009–11), deputy national security advisor (1996–2000) and director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff (1994–96). Recent publications include, “China-Russia Cooperation: How Should the US Respond,” in Richard J. Ellings and Robert Sutter, eds., Axis of Authoritarians (National Bureau of Asian Research 2018); “US versus China: A Technology Cold War,” Nikkei Asian Review, March 19, 2019; and A Glass Half Full? Rebalance, Reassurance and Resolve in the US-China Relationship (Brookings Institution Press, 2017) and Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: US-China Relations in the 21st Century (Princeton University Press, 2014) (both with Michael O’Hanlon).   Image: Derzsi Elekes Andor [post_title] => What Went Wrong? U.S.-China Relations from Tiananmen to Trump [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => what-went-wrong-u-s-china-relations-from-tiananmen-to-trump [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-07 12:09:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-07 17:09:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2410 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => James Steinberg looks back at the relationship between the United States and China over the last 30 years and asks whether a better outcome could have been produced had different decisions been made. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 3, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => What different decisions might the United States and China have made over the past 30 years that would have produced a better outcome in Sino-American relations today? ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Indeed, one can imagine that economic sanctions might have triggered a nationalist backlash that would have reinforced the image of the communist party as the defender of China’s sovereignty. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Would the costs of blocking China’s membership have been worth it if exclusion had slowed or even halted China’s economic and military rise? ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Advocates of this more assertive approach would argue yes — establishing clear and enforceable red lines would have tamed China’s ambitions and moderated its policies. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => In one form or another, there is a growing conviction among U.S. politicians and policy analysts that the relationship between America and China should be seen as a zero-sum competition in which the United States should seek to “prevail” over China. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Even if there was an opportunity for a new Sino-American understanding, one might reasonably ask whether that window is now closed — as a result of decisions made both in Beijing and Washington. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 20 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] See, “U.S.-China Joint Statement,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Nov. 17, 2009, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/realitycheck/the-press-office/us-china-joint-statement. “The two sides reiterated that they are committed to building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship for the 21st century, and will take concrete actions to steadily build a partnership to address common challenges.” [2] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, The White House, December 2017, 45 https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. [3] Michael Martina, “Senator Warren, in Beijing, Says U.S. Is Waking Up to Chinese Abuses,” Reuters, April 1, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-warren/senator-warren-in-beijing-says-u-s-is-waking-up-to-chinese-abuses-idUSKCN1H80X2. [4] Mark Landler “The Road to Confrontation,” New York Times, Nov. 25, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/25/world/asia/china-us-confrontation.html. Public opinion on U.S.-Chinese relations, has also recently turned more negative, although positive attitudes remain higher today than in the aftermath of Tiananmen or even the late 1990s. See, Dina Smeltz et al., “Rejecting Retreat: Americans Support U.S. Engagement in Global Affairs,” Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Sept. 6, 2019, 29–30, https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/publication/rejecting-retreat. According to the Pew Research Center, unfavorable U.S. attitudes toward China increased by 13 percent from 2018 to 2019. See, Laura Silver, Kat Devlin, and Christine Huang, “U.S. Views of China Turn Sharply Negative Amid Trade Tensions,” Pew Research Center, Aug. 13, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/08/13/u-s-views-of-china-turn-sharply-negative-amid-trade-tensions/. [5] As such, the contemporary debate is beginning to take on a resemblance to the pernicious “Who lost China?” debate following the communist victory in 1949. See, for example, Robert P. Newman, Owen Lattimore and the “Loss” of China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992) [6] John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001), chap. 2; Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). [7] Ashley J. Tellis, Alison Szalwinski, and Michael Wills, eds., Strategic Asia 2020: US-China Competition for Global Influence (Washington, DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2020), https://www.nbr.org/publication/strategic-asia-2020-u-s-china-competition-for-global-influence/. [8] Ernest R. May, Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000), 452–53. [9] May, Strange Victory, 456. [10] See, e.g., Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin, eds., Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996); Philip Tetlock and Aaron Belkin, “Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological and Psychological Perspectives,” in, Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics, ed. Tetlock and Belkin; Steven Weber, “Counterfactuals, Past and Future,” in, Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics, ed. Tetlock and Belkin; Jack S. Levy, “Counterfactuals, Causal Inference, and Historical Analysis,” Security Studies 24, no. 3 (2015): 378–402, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2015.1070602; and, Richard Ned Lebow, Forbidden Fruit: Counterfactuals and International Relations, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010). See also, Daniel Nolan, “Why Historians (and Everyone Else) Should Care About Counterfactuals,” Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition 163, no. 2 (March 2013): 317–35, https://www.jstor.org/stable/41932671. [11] On critical junctures and path dependency, see, Giovanni Capoccia and R. Daniel Kelemen, “The Study of Critical Junctures: Theory, Narrative, and Counterfactuals in Historical Institutionalism,” World Politics 59, no. 3 (April 2007): 341–69, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0043887100020852. [12] There are several dimensions to the critique. First is the issue of causality: Just because a sequence of events followed a decision does not in itself imply causation; the outcome might have occurred in any event. The second is the question of “irreversibility” — the possibility that a subsequent decision might have restored events back on to the path that would have occurred had the initial decision been different. See works cited in note 11. [13] See, for example, Niall Ferguson, “Introduction,” in, Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, ed. Niall Ferguson (New York: Basic Books, 1999). [14] Andrew J. Nathan, “The New Tiananmen Papers: Inside the Secret Meeting that Changed China,” Foreign Affairs 98, no. 4 (July/August 2019); “The Other Tiananmen Papers,” Asia Society China File, July 8, 2019, http://www.chinafile.com/conversation/other-tiananmen-papers. [15] For a detailed account of the Bush administration actions and the congressional response, see, David Skidmore and William Gates, “After Tiananmen: The Struggle Over US Policy Toward China in the Bush Administration,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 27, no. 3 (Summer 1997): 514–39, https://www.jstor.org/stable/27551766. [16] Marie Gottschalk, “The Failure of American Policy,” World Policy Journal 6, no. 4 (Fall, 1989): 668, https://www.jstor.org/stable/40209129. Gottschalk’s argument prefigures many of the subsequent critiques of U.S. policy, for example: “To enable China to project power in the Pacific more effectively, Deng’s military modernization has favored the Chinese Navy. China has built new naval bases and up to date warships and missiles… . Beijing also intends to enhance its submarine fleet…beefed up its capability for long distance troop deployments and conducted naval exercises further and further afield from China.” See page 676. [17] Skidmore and Gates, “After Tiananmen,” 519. This view was echoed in Bush’s subsequent veto message with respect to the 1992 legislation withdrawing China’s most favored nation status: “my administration shares the goals and objectives of HR 2212… My objection lies strictly with the methods proposed to achieve these aims.” George H.W. Bush, “Veto Message on China MFN Status” Congressional Quarterly, March 7, 1992, 582. [18] See, Skidmore and Gates, “After Tiananmen,” 530–34. [19] Granting China permanent normal trade relations was required if the United States wanted to gain the trade benefits associated with China joining the WTO. [20] 2017 Report to Congress on China’s WTO Compliance, United States Trade Representative, January 2018, 2, https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Press/Reports/China%202017%20WTO%20Report.pdf. [21] Gabe Lipton, “The Elusive ‘Better Deal’ with China,” Atlantic, Aug. 14, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/08/china-trump-trade-united-states/567526/. [22] For a contemporary account of the Clinton’s arguments in favor of China’s WTO accession, see, Ted Osius, “The Legacy of the Clinton-Gore Administration’s China Policy,” Asian Affairs: An American Review 28, no. 3 (Fall 2001): 125–34, https://doi.org/10.1080/00927670109601490. [23] See, “Full Text of Clinton’s Speech on China Trade Bill,” New York Times, March 9, 2000, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/world/asia/030900clinton-china-text.html. [24] “Full Text of Clinton’s Speech on China Trade Bill.” [25] Robert E. Lighthizer. “Testimony Before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission: Evaluating China’s Role in the World Trade Organization Over the Past Decade,” June 9, 2010, 15. https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/6.9.10Lighthizer.pdf Lighthizer cites Ferguson’s earlier testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee in support of this assertion. Niall Ferguson, “The End of Chimerica: Amicable Divorce or Currency War,” Testimony before the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives, March 24, 2010, 4. [26] See James Bacchus, Simon Lester, and Huan Zhu, “Disciplining China’s Trade Practices at the WTO: How WTO Complaints Can Help Make China More Market-Oriented,” Cato Institute, Policy Analysis no. 856, Nov. 15, 2018, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/disciplining-chinas-trade-practices-wto-how-wto-complaints-can-help. [27] Lighthizer, “Testimony Before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission,” 16–17. See similarly, Mark Wu, “The ‘China Inc’ Challenge to Global Trade Governance,” Harvard International Law Review 57, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 261–324. [28] Cited in, Lighthizer, “Testimony Before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission,” 20. [29] See, for example, “Statement by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi on the Democratic Leader’s Decision to Oppose Permanent NTR for China,” April 19, 2000, https://pelosi.house.gov/sites/pelosi.house.gov/files/pressarchives/releases/prleader.htm. [30] See, David H. Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson, “The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade,” Annual Review of Economics, no. 8 (2016): 205–40, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-economics-080315-015041. [31] Philip Levy, “Was Letting China Into the WTO a Mistake?” Foreign Affairs, April 2, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-04-02/was-letting-china-wto-mistake. [32] The Jackson-Vanik Amendment, Sec 401 of the Trade Act of 1974, prohibits the United States from granting most favored nation status to certain countries, except by annual presidential waiver. For this reason, Congress was required to amend Sec 401 in order to grant China permanent most favored nation status in order for the United States to gain the benefits associated with China’s accession to the WTO. If the United States had failed to grant China permanent normal trade relations following China’s accession to the WTO, the WTO’s “non-application clause would allow either party to refuse to apply WTO commitments to the other.” JayEtta Z. Hecker, “China Trade: WTO Membership and Most-Favored Nation Status,” Testimony before the Subcommittee on Trade, Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives, GAO/T-NSIAD-98-209, June 17, 1998, 10. [33] China viewed achieving permanent normal trade relations (and thus escaping the uncertainties of annual review) an important benefit of U.S. support for China’s WTO accession. Hongyi Harry Lai, “Behind China's World Trade Organization Agreement with the USA,” Third World Quarterly 22, no. 2 (2001): 248, https://doi.org/10.1080/01436590120037054. [34] “important consequence of the United States invoking WTO non-application is that if China becomes a member, it does not have to grant the United States all the trade commitments it makes to other WTO members, both in the negotiated accession package or in the underlying WTO agreements. Because U.S. businesses compete with business from other WTO members for China ’s markets, this could potentially put U.S. business interests at a considerable competitive disadvantage. For example, the United States may not benefit from Chinese concessions regarding services, such as the right to establish distribution channels in China. While the United States would continue to benefit from Chinese commitments made in bilateral agreements concluded with the United States, the commitments are not as extensive as those in the WTO agreements.” JayEtta Z. Hecker, “China Trade: WTO Membership and Most-Favored Nation Status”, Testimony before the Subcommittee on Trade, Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives, GAO/T-NSIAD-98-209, June 17, 1998, 11, https://www.gao.gov/assets/90/81304.pdf. [35]“The big winners from the 2009 safeguard tariffs were alternative foreign exporters, primarily located in Asia and Mexico, selling low-end tires to the United States. Domestic tire producers were secondary beneficiaries.” Gary Clyde Hufbauer and Sean Lowry, “US Tire Tariffs: Saving Few Jobs at High Cost,” Peterson Institute of International Economics, no. PB12-9, April 2012, https://www.piie.com/system/files/documents/pb12-9.pdf. See also Levy, “Was Letting China Into the WTO a Mistake?” [36] See Hecker, “China Trade,” 7. [37] See, Sylvan Lane, “Trump Faces Dwindling Leverage with China,” The Hill, Sept. 15, 2019, https://thehill.com/policy/finance/461357-trump-faces-dwindling-leverage-with-china. Others argue that the leverage is overstated, and that Xi’s need to appear strong domestically is a more important factor than the impact on the Chinese economy. [38] See, Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, “The Taiwan Factor in the Vote on PNTR for China and its WTO Accession,” NBR Analysis 11, no. 2 (July 2000): 33–45, https://www.nbr.org/publication/the-taiwan-factor-in-the-vote-on-pntr-for-china-and-its-wto-accession/. [39] See, Joseph Fewsmith, “China and the WTO: The Politics Behind the Agreement,” NBR Analysis 10, no. 5 (December 1999): 227, https://www.nbr.org/publication/china-and-the-wto-the-politics-behind-the-agreement/. Fewsmith’s article provides a valuable account of the Chinese deliberations over the negotiations with the United States in connection with the WTO. [40] There is some support for the belief that China would have to make even greater concessions if it had waited to conclude the WTO negotiations rather than agreeing in 1999. See Lai, “Behind China's World Trade Organization Agreement with the USA,” 249. [41] See Fewsmith, “China and the WTO,” 218–27. [42] For example, Lighthizer argues that the United States effectively gave up the option of section 301 actions in favor of the WTO dispute resolution mechanism. “By contrast to Section 301 — which was a powerful tool with which to influence our trading partners — the dispute settlement process is simply not designed to deal with a country like China.” Lighthizer, “Testimony Before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission,” 23–24. [43] See, for example, Bob Davis, “When the World Opened the Gates of China,” Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-the-world-opened-the-gates-of-china-1532701482. Indeed, in the 15 years before China’s entry into the WTO, U.S. imports from China grew at a faster rate than in the 15 years after, albeit from a much lower base. [44] The desire to accelerate reform was a major impetus for Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongzhi’s determination to get a WTO agreement. See, Lai, “Behind China's World Trade Organization Agreement with the USA,” 249–50. [45] For this reason, former Democratic Congressman David Bonior, a strong critic of the WTO agreement, later stated: “I don’t know that [a defeat for the WTO agreement] would have made a difference.” Davis, “When the World Opened the Gates of China.” [46] See, for example, Hal Brands and Zack Cooper, “Getting Serious About Strategy in the South China Sea,” Naval War College Review 71, no. 1 (2018): 17, https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/nwc-review/vol71/iss1/3/: “there was a growing perception in the region—and even among some senior American policy makers—that the [Obama] administration had drawn redlines that it ultimately had not upheld, and that too often it had failed to slow, let alone halt, China’s drive for primacy.” See also, Mira Rapp-Hooper and Charles Edel, “Adrift in the South China Sea,” Foreign Affairs, May 18, 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/2017-05-18/adrift-south-china-sea. [47] For a detailed account of the crisis, as well as background on the competing claims, see, “Case 3: Scarborough Shoal Standoff (2012),” in, Michael Green et al., Countering Coercion in Maritime Asia: The Theory and Practice of Gray Zone Deterrence, Center for Strategic and International Studies, (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017) https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/170505_GreenM_CounteringCoercionAsia_Web.pdf. [48] See, for example, Greg Poling and Eric Sayers, “Time to Make Good on the U.S.-Philippine Alliance,” War on the Rocks, Jan. 21, 2019, https://warontherocks.com/2019/01/time-to-make-good-on-the-u-s-philippine-alliance/. [49] In this case, like all of the disputed sovereignty claims in the area, the United States has declined to take sides, while insisting on a peaceful resolution of the disputes and upholding freedom of navigation under applicable international law. [50] Most recently the Chinese Luyang destroyer sailed within 45 yards of the USS Decatur on Sept. 30, 2018. See, John Power and Catherine Wong, “Exclusive Details and Footage Emerge of Near Collision Between Warships in South China Sea,” South China Morning Post, Nov. 4, 2018, https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2171596/exclusive-details-and-footage-emerge-near-collision-between. [51] See, J. Michael Cole, “The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis: The Forgotten Showdown Between China and America,” National Interest, March 10, 2017, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-third-taiwan-strait-crisis-the-forgotten-showdown-19742. “[I]njury to Chinese pride…convinced Beijing of the need to modernize its military. The result was an intensive program of double-digit investment, foreign acquisitions…and indigenous resourcing to turn the PLA into a force capable of imposing Beijing’s will within its immediate neighborhood and eventually beyond.” [52] See, for example, Jeffrey Bader, “U.S.-China Relations: Is It time to End the Engagement?” Brookings Institution, Policy Brief, September 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/FP_20180925_us_china_relations.pdf. [53] See, Richard Baum, “From ‘Strategic Partners’ to ‘Strategic Competitors’: George W. Bush and the Politics of U.S. China Policy,” Journal of East Asia Policy Studies 1, no. 2 (August 2001): 191–220, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1598240800000497. [54] See, for example, Robert D. Blackwill and Ashley J. Tellis, “Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China,” Council on Foreign Relations Special Report No. 72, March 2015: “a series of administrations have continued to implement policies that have actually enabled the rise of new competitors, such as China.” See page 4. [55] See, Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner, “The China Reckoning: How Beijing Defied American Expectations,” Foreign Affairs (March/April 2018), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-02-13/china-reckoning. [56] Alastair Iain Johnston, “The Failures of the ‘Failure of Engagement’ with China,” Washington Quarterly 42, no. 2 (Summer 2019): 99–114, https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2019.1626688. [57] See, Robert G. Kaiser and Steven Mufson, “‘Blue Team’ Draws a Hard Line on Beijing,” Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2000, A1, https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/2000-02/22/004r-022200-idx.html. See also Baum, “From ‘Strategic Partners’ to ‘Strategic Competitors,’” 199–200. [58] The view was not limited to politicians, University of Pennsylvania Professor Arthur Waldron advocated a similar approach: “I agree with people who think that regime change is key a to a really stable peace.” Kaiser and Mufson, “’Blue Team’ Draws a Hard Line on Beijing.” [59] “Guiding Principles of the Committee,” Committee on the Present Danger: China, https://presentdangerchina.org/guiding-principles/. [60] Blackwill and Tellis, “Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China,” 4. See, Ana Swanson, “A New Red Scare is Reshaping Washington,” New York Times, July 20, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/20/us/politics/china-red-scare-washington.html. [61] See, Hugh White, “The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power,” Lowy Institute, http://www.lowyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/lowy_institute_extract_-_the_china_choice.pdf; and Charles L. Glaser, “Time for a U.S.-China Grand Bargain” Policy Brief, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, July 2015, https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/time-us-china-grand-bargain. [62] For the classic argument about the importance of accommodation among great powers, see, Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948). [63] See, “Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China,” H.R. Rept 105-851, Jan. 3, 1999, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-CRPT-105hrpt851/pdf/GPO-CRPT-105hrpt851.pdf. In the wake of the report, Congress enacted a number of new restrictions on the transfer of satellite and missile related technology to China. See, “China: Possible Missile Technology Transfers from U.S. Satellite Export Policy — Actions and Chronology,” Congressional Research Service, Report 98-485 F, updated Oct. 6, 2003, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/98-485.pdf. [64] The communique reads: “[T]he United States Government states that it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those supplied in recent years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, and that it intends to reduce gradually its sales of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution.” “Joint Communique of the United States of America and the Peoples Republic of China,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Aug. 17, 1982, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP83B00551R000200010003-4.pdf. [65] Glaser, “Time for a U.S.-China Grand Bargain.” [66] For the classic statement, see, Norman Podhoretz, “The Present Danger,” Commentary, March 1980, https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-present-danger/. [67] Charles Glaser take on the analogy: “The 1938 Munich agreement gave accommodation a bad name. But under certain circumstances, territorial concessions can help a state protect vital interests… the U.S. commitment to Taiwan feeds Chinese concerns about motives in the region and fuels competition over the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) in East Asia.” Glaser, “Time for a U.S.-China Grand Bargain.” Hugh White offers a similar argument. Hugh White, The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). [68] Kori Schake, Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017). [69] See, Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers (New York: The Free Press, 1988). [70] See, for example, Arjun Kharpal, “U.S. Allies Defy Trump Administration’s Plea to Ban Huawei from 5G Networks,” CNBC, March 21, 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/21/future-of-5g-us-allies-defy-washingtons-please-to-ban-huawei.html. [71] See, Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016). Pillsbury argues that the hide and bide strategy was really intended as a plan to “prepare for revenge.” Also see, Liu Zhen, “War of Words: How the United States Got Lost in Chinese Translation,” South China Morning Post, Oct. 24, 2018, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/2169899/ambiguity-chinese-words-sparks-charges-distortion-us-china. [72] Robert B. Zoellick, “Whither China: From Membership to Responsibility,” Remarks to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, Sept. 21, 2005, https://2001-2009.state.gov/s/d/former/zoellick/rem/53682.htm. “It is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership in the international system: We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system.” [73] “U.S.-China Joint Statement,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Nov. 17, 2009, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/realitycheck/the-press-office/us-china-joint-statement. [74] During the press conference after the Sunnylands meeting, Xi stated, “we had an in-depth, sincere and candid discussion…on our joint work to build a new model of major country relations.” Obama then described progress on improving U.S.-China military-to-military communication and observed, “that’s an example of concrete progress that can advance this new model of relations between the United States and China.” “Remarks by President Obama and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China After Bilateral Meeting,” The White House Office of the Press Secretary, June 8, 2013, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/08/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-jinping-peoples-republic-china-. In a subsequent speech at Georgetown University, National Security Advisor Susan Rice stated, “When it comes to China, we seek to operationalize a new model of major power relations.” “Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice,” The White House Office of the Press Secretary, Nov. 21, 2013, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/21/remarks-prepared-delivery-national-security-advisor-susan-e-rice. Soon after, however the Obama administration stopped using the phrase. [75] Following the Mar-a-Lago meeting, the White House press secretary stated: “President Trump and President Xi agreed to work in concert to expand areas of cooperation while managing differences based on mutual respect. The two presidents reviewed the state of the bilateral relationship and noted the importance of working together to generate positive outcomes that would benefit the citizens of both countries.” “Statement from the Press Secretary on the United States-China Visit,” The White House, April 17, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-united-states-china-visit/. [76] See, Allison, Destined for War. [77] In game theory terms, the parties believe the highest “payoff” is from prevailing and competing and losing is better than compromise. [78] This discussion draws on the insights of Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge, MA: President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1960) and Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (New Edition) (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2017). [79] Jeffrey Bader, Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2012), 79–80. [80] See, Minnie Chan, “We Don’t Want to Replace US, Says Dai Bingguo,” South China Morning Post, Dec. 8, 2010, https://www.scmp.com/article/732710/we-dont-want-replace-us-says-dai-bingguo. (Dai at the time was a state councilor, the highest ranking foreign policy official). “The notion that China want to replace the United States and dominant the world is a myth.” The article quotes Professor Shi Yinhong, a well-connected international scholar, noting that Dai’s comments indicated that Beijing “was trying to amend some senior officials’ ‘improper commentaries’ on Sino-US issues.” For the full version of Dai’s remarks, see, Dai Bingguo, “Stick to the Path of Peaceful Development,” Beijing Review, no. 51, Dec. 23, 2010, http://www.bjreview.com.cn/document/txt/2010-12/24/content_320851.htm. [81]Although the phrase appears to have originated under Hu Jintao (see, Hideya Kurata, “Xi Jinping’s ‘New Model of Major-Power Relations and South Korea,” International Circumstances in the Asia-Pacific Series (China), Japan Digital Library (March 2016), https://www2.jiia.or.jp/en/pdf/digital_library/china/160331_Hideya_Kurata.pdf; Ren Xiao, “Modeling a ‘New Type of Major Power Relations’ A Chinese Viewpoint,” ASAN Open Forum, October 4, 2013, http://www.theasanforum.org/modeling-a-new-type-of-great-power-relations-a-chinese-viewpoint/), it is most closely associated with Xi. For a rich history of the concept, see, Jinghan Zeng, “Constructing a ‘New Type of Great Power Relations’: The State of Debate in China (1998-2014),” British Journal of International Relations, 18, no. 2 (2016): 422–42, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1369148115620991. China’s leaders now appear to have moved beyond the expression. See, David Wertime, “China Quietly Abandoning Bid for ‘New Model of Great Power Relations’ with U.S.,” Foreign Policy, March 2, 2017, https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/02/china-quietly-abandoning-bid-for-new-model-of-great-power-relations-with-u-s/. [82] See, Susan E. Rice, “America’s Future in Asia,” Speech, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., Nov. 20, 2013, found at, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/21/remarks-prepared-delivery-national-security-advisor-susan-e-rice. [83] Ernest R. May, Imperial Democracy: The Emergence of America as a Great Power (Chicago: Imprint Publications, 1991), 270. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) [thumb] => medium [heading] => h1 [widget] => main [show_download] => 1 ) ) [1] => Array ( [acf_fc_layout] => wgt_featured_articles [wgt_type] => manual [qty] => 3 [posts] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2301 [post_author] => 341 [post_date] => 2019-12-18 13:08:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-18 18:08:55 [post_content] =>

The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world — and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.

 –Harry Truman, 1947[1]

 

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

 –Donald Trump, 2017[2]

 

I. Introduction

While there has been ample scholarly debate on the Trump administration’s grand strategy, there is one factor that deserves far more attention than it has received: Donald Trump’s rejection of American exceptionalism.[3] Trump breaks with all U.S. presidents since 1945 not just because he challenges the postwar “liberal international order,” as many scholars have argued,[4] but because he rejects its underlying master narrative. A master narrative is the enduring narrative of a nation, which, according to Ronald Krebs, constitutes the discursive playing field upon which voters and policymakers debate more discrete national security narratives.[5] Whether it was to promote “the four freedoms,” to be “a shining city on a hill,” or to be an “indispensable nation,” presidents of both parties have based their arguments for U.S. leadership on a belief in American exceptionalism.[6] Significantly, this master narrative has influenced not only presidential statements and rhetoric, but also actual foreign policy. Constructivist and liberal scholars of U.S. foreign policy argue that there exists a powerful national agreement on what role the United States is supposed to play in world history because of what kind of nation the United States is believed to be.[7] This is not to say there has not been disagreement over U.S. foreign policy since 1945 — take, for example, the profound disagreement over the Vietnam War. But there has been a fundamental agreement that the United States should have a leading role in the international institutions it set up in the 1940s. One important reason for this was the powerful meta-narrative of American exceptionalism. Ironically, realist scholars have repeatedly confirmed the importance of exceptionalism by lamenting its effect on American politics.[8] Unlike the disagreement over how ideas of American exceptionalism influenced earlier U.S. foreign policy, then, scholars actually agree that, since World War II, the makers of U.S. foreign policy have operated under the assumption that the world needs U.S. leadership not just because of American military might or the dollar, but because the United States is exceptional.[9] This elite agreement deepened, rather than weakened, after the end of the Cold War. In fact, Barack Obama invoked American exceptionalism in 31 percent more speeches than the average of all other presidents combined since 1945.[10] The contrast with Obama’s successor is stark. While Trump’s attack on the “liberal world order” has received ample attention from scholars of U.S. foreign policy,[11] the analysis of Trump’s puzzling rejection of American exceptionalism has only just begun.[12] Perhaps this is because Trump is often incoherent and self-contradictory and frequently tells lies and falsehoods,[13] making an analysis of his statements and policies challenging.[14] Yet, as Charlie Laderman and Brandon Simms show, there are important consistencies in Trump’s worldview, such as his critiques of NATO and China, as well as the general critique of U.S. leaders as fools taken advantage of by “wily foreigners.”[15] Another such consistency is the glaring absence of the narrative of American exceptionalism from his worldview. Indeed, Trump’s rate of invoking American exceptionalism in his first year as president was less than half of the overall average across all presidents since World War II.[16] Of course, in arguing that putting “America First” would make America “great again,” one might think that Trump, in fact, is promoting American exceptionalism. The idea of American exceptionalism is certainly connected to “greatness.” Republican voters might think Trump is embracing exceptionalism — understood as American superiority and even a sense of national mission — because the “America First” agenda is, to some degree, reminiscent of the Republican Party’s foreign policy agenda.[17] This article argues against this view. Trump’s grand strategy is different in kind, and not just in degree, from U.S. postwar foreign policy because it rejects the underlying master narrative of American exceptionalism.[18] The competing narrative Trump has adopted underscores this: The United States is not morally or ideationally superior to other countries — it is not an “exemplar.”[19] In fact, according to Trump’s worldview, it is remarkably similar to countries that define themselves by materialist national interests and an ethnic national identity. Specifically, Trump’s embrace of an “America First” foreign policy entails a rejection of the moral mission that has been central to modern U.S. foreign policy: promoting (in theory, anyway) liberal internationalism through democratization, free-market economics, and human rights.[20] Trump’s master narrative views the world somewhat similarly to realists: as a competitive, anarchic place where it is every state for itself, where alliances are temporary, and only the fittest survive.[21] In this worldview, making America “great” means making America economically wealthy, militarily powerful, and safeguarding the white, Christian cultural heritage of the United States. In other words, Trump’s America First foreign policy platform is grounded in a master narrative perhaps best thought of as what Walter Russell Mead calls “Jacksonian” nationalism.[22] [quote id="1"] At the heart of Trump’s rejection of the U.S. post-World War II grand strategy of international leadership, therefore, is a confrontation between two master narratives: that of American exceptionalism and Jacksonian nationalism. American exceptionalism is an ideational master narrative. It is a story about an ethnically and religiously diverse nation united in adherence to liberal ideas and institutions both at home and abroad. In contrast, the Trump administration’s story of America is ascriptive: It is the story of a white, Christian race with materialist interests to pursue abroad.[23] To be clear: In labeling the two narratives ideational and ascriptive (or even materialist), I am not making an ontological distinction between the world of ideas and the world of matter. Rather, I am analyzing two different narratives that stress different ideas. It is, as such, an analysis based in constructivist theory. Furthermore, I am not arguing that the exceptionalist narrative has only led to good foreign policy outcomes and that America therefore ought to return to the pre-Trump era. In fact, the sense of moral superiority inherent in the exceptionalist narrative has demonstrably led the United States astray numerous times.[24] Rather than endorse one narrative over the other, this article analyzes the current foreign policy debate as a conflict between two master narratives, and contributes to a better understanding of what is at stake at this pivotal moment in American history: the meaning of “America” in the world.[25] This article is structured as follows: In section two, I define American exceptionalism and discuss its influence throughout U.S. history. In section three, I examine the political history of America First and Jacksonian nationalism, and compare each to Trump’s own version of America First. I argue that Trump’s America First platform is closely related to its historical predecessors in the 1940s and the 1990s, especially its focus on economic and cultural protectionism. However, Trump’s America First breaks with the historic focus on non-interventionism as Trump’s version is more militaristic and interventionist. In the final section, I conclude by posing two questions: Can the United States simply “snap back” after Trump, and, if not, have we finally arrived at the “end of American exceptionalism”?

II. American Exceptionalism and U.S. Foreign Policy: Superiority, Mission, and Resisting the Laws of History

American exceptionalism is a set of ideas, not a set of observable facts.[26] As Richard Hofstadter famously observed, the United States does not have an ideology, rather, it is one.[27] These ideas define the United States as “an extraordinary nation with a special role to play in human history; not only unique but also superior among nations.”[28] The belief in American exceptionalism is an “enduring identity narrative” in the United States,[29] and sets the parameters for how political leaders can and will narrate the story of “America” and its place in the world.[30] It is a narrative with a long pedigree. In the colonial era, British ideas of exceptionalism, which included a religious as well as a racial component, contributed to what would later become American exceptionalism, with specific claims to political exceptionalism made during the founding era.[31] Today, this narrative defines the United States not as a country like many others, built on a blood-and-soil identity, but rather as an exceptional Enlightenment invention built on liberal ideas and ideals.[32] It is a narrative so strong and so pervasive it would be fitting to argue, as Anatol Lieven does, that “‘American exceptionalism’ is just another way of saying American civic nationalism without using the word nationalism.”[33] Significantly, historians as well as constructivist and liberal scholars of international relations see this narrative as not only influencing rhetoric, but also having played an important role in influencing U.S. foreign policy throughout U.S. history.[34] American exceptionalism, however, is a malleable concept and has been taken to mean different things throughout its history.[35] This is especially clear when considering the role race has played in the definitional struggle over the meaning of “America.” There are three ideas that contribute to the master narrative of American exceptionalism.[36] The first is that the United States is superior to the rest of the world. The second is that, because of this superiority, the United States has a special role to play in world history — it has a moral mission to pursue abroad. The third is that where other great nations and indeed empires have risen to power only to fall, the United States will not — it will resist this law of history. American Exceptionalism: Superiority and Mission Below, I discuss how superiority and mission have manifested themselves throughout U.S. history. I will show, among other things, that American exceptionalism has been a rather malleable concept, used to advocate for almost opposite foreign policy approaches. Superiority “America” has a long tradition of being seen as “superior” by its own people. This idea does not connote mere difference or uniqueness. Rather, the distinction is hierarchical: It classifies the United States as superior in both ideas and institutions and therefore it promotes an idea that America has a mission to fulfill.[37] This is different from patriotism,[38] as it implies more than just love of country. The belief that America is superior has had a first-order effect on how the United States views itself and its role in the world: Because it is superior, it has a mission to pursue, and in this mission, it shall not fail because its superiority enables the circumventing of the laws of history. The idea of superiority has also influenced the framing of American foreign policy. U.S. presidents often use exceptionalist rhetoric in their speeches both at home and abroad, setting the country apart from or above its international counterparts.[39] This indicates a broad and deep acceptance of the idea of American exceptionalism among the American public.[40] A typical expression of this broad acceptance can be found in an article by commentators Richard Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru, who write that the United States “is freer, more individualistic, more democratic, and more open and dynamic than any other nation on earth.” This they attribute to “our Founding and our cultural heritage.”[41] This is, of course, not something that one can ascertain objectively. If one tried to measure levels of freedom and dynamism, one might find that the United States did not, in fact, top these rankings.[42] This is immaterial, however. What matters are not the rankings, but rather the belief Lowry and Ponnuru (and most Americans with them) hold. American exceptionalism is the master narrative of the United States, not a fact to be measured. The belief that the United States is superior to the rest of the world because of its ideals and institutions has been powerful, persistent, and pervasive throughout U.S. history. In fact, this self-perception is so well established in U.S. political discourse that American polling firms such as Gallup and the Pew Research Center actually poll Americans on their belief in American exceptionalism. Defined in various manners in such polls, American exceptionalism can be operationalized as a belief that the United States is the “greatest country in the world because of its history and Constitution” or that “American culture is superior to others.” In 2010, Gallup reported that a huge majority of Americans (80 percent) agreed with the statement, “The United States has a unique character because of its history and Constitution that sets it apart from other nations as the greatest in the world.” The fact that U.S. polling bureaus regularly ask Americans such questions speaks volumes about the pervasive belief in American exceptionalism (and, relatedly, the persistent fear that it is dwindling).[43] While the poll numbers vary, the exceptionalist master narrative has held for over two centuries.[44] If one questions American exceptionalism, and the idea that it connotes superiority rather than simply difference, one’s Americanness may itself be questioned. It means one does not sufficiently believe in the idea of “America,” which is inherently suspicious. This became clear amid the harsh criticism of Obama’s answer to a question posed to him in Strasbourg, France in 2009 on whether he believed in American exceptionalism or not. Obama’s answer seemed to convey an understanding of American exceptionalism as a relative phenomenon — a narrative, if you will. Contrasting American exceptionalism with narratives found in other nations such as Britain and Greece, Obama’s answer — “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism” — was seen as rejecting the idea that American exceptionalism implies moral superiority. It set off a heated debate in the American media,[45] possibly because reports ignored the rest of Obama’s answer. Obama, in the tradition of previous presidents, went on to say that he was enormously proud of his country “and its role and history in the world.”[46] [quote id="2"] Research on social and national identity indicates why Obama’s initial qualifier would upset many Americans. As Jason Gilmore and Charles M. Rowling argue, messages that enhance the “standing of one’s own national group” feed citizens’ self-esteem and pride “because their own personal identity is tied to the image of that national group.”[47] Messages that counter this source of self-esteem naturally meet with resistance, as Obama’s comments did.[48] Constantly invoking American exceptionalism is therefore not only a proven way that American presidents can bolster their community’s feelings of self-esteem, but in fact is a vital part of nation-building in a country made up of many different ethnicities and religions. Of course, the idea that America is exceptional because of its superior civic ideals rather than its ascriptive characteristics is not something there has been agreement about in American history. If seen as a battle between civic and ethnic nationalism, American exceptionalism has represented both at various times, again testifying to the malleability of the concept itself.[49] Originally, American exceptionalism stemmed from British exceptionalism, which entailed the promotion of a white, Protestant civilizational mission against the Catholic colonialism of the Spanish empire, as they competed over territory and influence in the “New World.”[50] Up until the American Civil War and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, it was not clear whether a racialized definition of American exceptionalism or a civic kind of nationalism would prevail. While the civic nationalism of the “last, best hope on earth” won the Civil War, what civic nationalism actually meant was still under development. Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, allowed for a kind of melting-pot definition of the nation, but one that only included “races” from Europe, entirely excluding black Americans.[51] Liberal ideals have been an important — yet contested — part of modern, post-Civil War, U.S. nation-building, but they have not been the only ones.[52] Rogers Smith divides American identity into three equal strands: a “liberal” strand composed of classical liberal rights and liberties; a “democratic republican” strand composed of civic-minded participation by citizens who are motivated by a defense of the common good; and an “ascriptive inegalitarian” strand composed of nativist, xenophobic, and racial hierarchies. The contestation between ascriptive and civic definitions of “America” is why the narrative of American exceptionalism has been useful in the ongoing effort to create a nation out of an ethnically and religiously diverse population.[53] The Mission In addition to being viewed as a “superior” republic, the United States is also on a world historic “mission” according to the narrative of American exceptionalism. What this mission consists of has been the source of constant and fierce debate throughout U.S. history, and has evolved over time.[54] What is clear is that this belief in a mission has influenced not just the framing, but also the content of U.S. foreign policy. Throughout American history, prominent groups have used exceptionalism to argue for both an interventionist foreign policy (i.e., a “missionary” version of exceptionalism) and a non-interventionist foreign policy (i.e., an “exemplarist” version of exceptionalism), attesting to how ideas of exceptionalism can be used for different — indeed contravening — political purposes.[55] Proponents of an exemplarist worldview have often defined the United States’ role as “standing apart from the world and serving merely as a model of social and political possibility.”[56] Creating a “more perfect union” is the meaning of the United States, which is why “meddling in the affairs of other states could cause irreparable harm to the U.S. body politic.”[57] Summarizing the exemplarist sentiment, H. W. Brands warned, “in attempting to save the world, and probably failing, America could risk losing its democratic soul.”[58] For a long time, most historians of U.S. foreign policy argued that as American exceptionalism cycled between exemplarism and missionary expressions, U.S. foreign policy was concomitantly isolationist or internationalist.[59] But this view was highly problematic, as it required categorizing U.S. foreign policy before World War II — or at least up until 1898 — as isolationist.[60] Viewing early U.S. foreign policy up through the 1800s as an expression of exemplarism required categorizing “manifest destiny” as a form of domestic politics. The manifest destiny of the United States, as journalist John O’Sullivan wrote in 1845, was “to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.”[61] Testifying to the strength of the American self-conception as superior to the Old World, historians did not begin to compare “westward expansion” to European colonialism until the early 20th century.[62] And yet, much like European great powers, U.S. foreign policy in the 19th century often consisted of wars of aggression and “civilizing” “inferior” races. Indeed, a constant feature of the U.S. debate over expansion and territorial conquest — whether on the continent or across the seas — was marked by the problem of race: who could be part of “America” and whether non-whites could truly become Americans.[63] For example, Thomas Jefferson associated Native Americans with the “earliest stages of civilization” and expected them to civilize or perish. This was certainly a “self-serving logic” that “provided the ideological rationale for an expansive republican empire,” as Peter Onuf writes.[64] Later, Andrew Jackson engineered the forcible removal of Native Americans from their lands southeast of the Mississippi River in order to make way for white settlers. While the tensions leading up to the Civil War slowed down U.S. settlement of the western part of the continent,[65] its potential as a civilizing power was finally reached when the United States entered the Spanish-American War in order to, in the words of President William McKinley, “uplift and civilize” the savages languishing in the Spanish empire in Cuba and the Philippines.”[66] William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt made similar arguments for the superiority of the nation, encouraging it to take upon itself the “white man’s burden” of civilizing “backwards” peoples.[67] The mission in U.S. foreign policy — whether directed at Mexicans, Native Americans, the Spanish Empire, or Prussian militarism — historically mixed elements of ethno-nationalism with Enlightenment ideals of democracy and capitalism, executed with religious zeal. Various presidents as different as Jefferson, Jackson, James Polk, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson have endeavored to teach the world what to do and how to do it — to execute the “white man’s burden.”[68] [quote id="3"] While it is correct to divide the narrative of American exceptionalism into two foreign policy articulations — one missionary and one exemplarist — it is wholly inaccurate to argue these two articulations have been reflected in actual U.S. foreign policy history. In fact, while the missionary foreign policy — which is active, international, and sometimes aggressive — appears throughout U.S. history, there is very little evidence of an exemplarist foreign policy being employed. This is a common misconception, and, one might add, a consequence of having bought into the manifest destiny narrative of U.S. expansion in the 19th century, which argues that the United States was simply taking control of territory God always meant for them.[69] Arguing that the United States was exemplarist during its first century because it was “geographically isolated,”[70] when it competed with European imperial powers for territory, ethnically cleansed Native Americans, and indeed fought a war of aggression against Mexico, renders the term “isolationist” meaningless.[71] In fact, as revisionist historians of the Wisconsin School, led by William Appleman Williams, began arguing in the mid-20th century, rather than a cyclical U.S. foreign policy (where U.S. foreign policy was seen as “cycling” between internationalism and isolationism), the United States has always been interventionist.[72] The territories not already owned by the United States in 1783 were not some mythical region waiting to be “civilized” by the United States. Rather, “westward expansion” was itself a settler colonial project.[73] Indeed, how could a supposedly isolationist country go from 13 colonies to controlling an entire continent without an interventionist foreign policy? Unfortunately, the isolationist thesis is still argued today.[74] As the United States grew in size and diversity, its impending great power status led to fierce debates over the white, Christian emphasis of its foreign policy mission. The racial aspect of “America” was toned down. Following World War II, U.S. presidents focused on the liberal ideas of exceptionalism, rather than the civilizational aspect of the “white man’s burden,” as the source of America’s uniqueness and the reason for its mission in the world. Thus, American exceptionalism separated out its earlier racial components. Obama’s understanding of American exceptionalism can be seen as the culmination of this evolving civic version of the concept: “Obama offered an inclusive vision of patriotism,” writes Greg Gardin, “using his own success to celebrate the country’s meritocracy and as proof that racial division could be overcome through the gradual extension of liberal political equality.”[75] As Obama said in 2007 as a presidential candidate, “Our exceptionalism must be based on our Constitution, our principles, our values, and our ideals.”[76] It is with this modern, post-World War II master narrative that Trump has broken. Resisting the Laws of History: Exceptionalism and Modern Foreign Policy from 1945 to 2015 With each historical era, the United States has proven itself resistant to the laws of history. Rather than rise and fall, it has only risen — vanquishing powerful enemies along the way.[77] After conquering an entire continent, the United States went about conquering the seas, and ultimately defeated two iterations of the worst the Old World had to offer: German militarism and fascism. Significantly, upon defining itself in contravention to Soviet Communism, the promotion of American exceptionalism became an important tool for U.S. presidents, especially in the era of what Jeffrey Tulis has labeled the “rhetorical presidency.”[78] Against these ideologies American exceptionalism, understood as the adherence to liberal ideals, flourished. In foreign policy, the narrative of American exceptionalism has been used by presidents to communicate the purpose of U.S. foreign policy and therein garner support for their preferred policies, because what “America” means conditions what it can and should do in the world. In fact, argue Gilmore and Rowling, “The concept of American exceptionalism has become one of the most common features in U.S. political discourse.”[79] The assumption that the United States has a “uniquely moral national mission has shaped debates over foreign affairs since the nation’s founding.”[80] The narratives American presidents communicate about foreign policy exist on different levels: Any discrete national security narrative — such as that of “primacy” in the 1990s or the “Global War on Terror” in the 2000s — must operate within and adhere to the discursive landscape of the master narrative of exceptionalism.[81] Over the years, presidents and political parties have disagreed on discrete national security narratives but not on the exceptionalist master narrative that has underpinned U.S. foreign policy since 1945, and which builds on a story about an exceptional America that dates to before the founding. Until Trump became president, this story constrained not only how U.S. presidential candidates and presidents framed the discourse on the United States and its role in the world, but policies themselves. All U.S. presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have taken pains to narrate foreign policy as a moral mission based in American exceptionalism, understood as an adherence to “superior” liberal ideals.[82] Since then, the United States has presented itself as a beacon to the world, standing for “a vibrant, forward-looking Americanism that presented itself as the highest expression of liberal universalism.”[83] Many studies show how and why the idea of American exceptionalism has come to be so prominent in American politics, whether from the field of communications,[84] presidential studies,[85] or, more recently, international relations.[86] By promoting the idea of American exceptionalism, U.S. presidents have justified why the United States should play such an active role in international politics: because the world needs this exceptional nation and its benevolent influence. From this perspective, it was quite natural to conclude that what was right for America was right for the world. An eloquent example of how presidents have framed U.S. foreign policy as a moral mission comes from John F. Kennedy, whose rhetoric frequently played on American exceptionalism. Indeed, as president-elect he gave a speech simply referred to as the “city upon a hill” speech:
I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. “We must always consider,” he said, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill — the eyes of all people are upon us.” Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us — and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill — constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities.[87]
Using American exceptionalism to frame U.S. grand strategy has not been a partisan phenomenon, even though the Republican Party associates itself more with overt statements of patriotic sentiment.[88] In fact, Gilmore and Rowling find that Democratic presidents have been more fervent in their invocation of American exceptionalism in global contexts (44 percent of speeches given by Democrats versus 17 percent given by Republicans).[89] This is not to say that presidents have agreed on how the United States should best advance its moral mission, but there has been a post-World War II consensus on whether the United States is so obligated. There has also been bipartisan agreement on the reason why — namely that the United States has a special role to play in world history.[90] As scholars have shown, U.S. presidents since 1945 have repeatedly turned to the reliable rhetorical strategy of emphasizing American exceptionalism to “reinforce mythic notions of America as the unquestioned leader of a stable world order.”[91] Indeed, the superiority of the United States and the special role it is supposed to play as a leader of other nations has been ubiquitous in modern presidential rhetoric. A quantitative content analysis of State of the Union addresses from 1934 to 2008 found only three mentions of other countries as worthy of serving as examples for the United States to follow.[92] The United States has always been the shining city on the hill, as no other country can be. Post-Cold War Triumphalism The influence of American exceptionalism on the framing and content of U.S. foreign policy took on a new force after the Cold War ended.[93] Indeed, Americans interpreted the Cold War’s end as a reaffirmation of American exceptionalism: “By the grace of God,” President George H. W. Bush said in his State of the Union speech in 1992, “we have won the Cold War.”[94] Whatever the questions had been — what were the best political systems, economic theories, or civic ideals? — the only answer left in international politics was the United States and its example to the world. The end of ideological history was here, comfortably parked in an oversized American driveway.[95] This exceptionalist interpretation of why the Cold War had ended set the stage for a triumphalist decade, or a “holiday from history,” as George Will called it.[96] In arguing for why the United States should continue its deep involvement in world affairs even without a clear enemy, President Bill Clinton and his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, looked inward to the peculiar genius of the American body politic for the answer. The United States was “the indispensable nation,” Clinton stated in 1996 while defending the U.S. intervention in Bosnia.[97] That became the Clinton administration’s go-to phrase for conveying American exceptionalism in an age of primacy. In making the case for a possible strike against Saddam Hussein in 1998 on “The Today Show” Albright said,
[I]f we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us. I know that the American men and women in uniform are always prepared to sacrifice for freedom, democracy and the American way of life.[98]
And yet, Republicans viewed Clinton’s vision as too timid. In 2000, future George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen wrote in the Weekly Standard that there were two competing visions of internationalism in the 21st century: the “‘global multilateralism’ of the Clinton-Gore Democrats” versus the “‘American exceptionalism’ of the Reagan-Bush Republicans.”[99] Nevertheless, this disagreement belied a fundamental foreign policy agreement: All post-Cold War presidents have promoted a strategy of primacy, which essentially argued that the United States should seek world hegemony because of its exceptional mission.[100] Although they all used the rhetoric of American exceptionalism, this was not merely a discursive tactic. There was strong bipartisan belief in American exceptionalism and America’s mission: to convince the rest of the world to join in the “end of history” with the one nation that had already reached history’s destination. The Republican and Democratic views on the international order in the 1990s — and America’s role in it — were more similar than perhaps many recognized at the time. Indeed, Hans Morgenthau’s description of Wilsonian liberals at the beginning of the 20th century applies equally to neoconservatives and liberal internationalists at its end — they all believed that a new world order of peace would eventually “end” history once all countries adopted liberal democracy.[101] [quote id="4"] After 9/11, President George W. Bush’s communication of a clear, black-and-white story of good versus evil was a natural extension of the triumphalism of the 1990s and fit perfectly within the master narrative of American exceptionalism. This became what Krebs calls “the national security narrative” of the post-9/11 era — the “Global War on Terror.”[102] This narrative organized how the administration promoted its policies, how the media framed these policies, and how the American public thought about the new “war” they were now in.[103] As Krebs writes, “The War on Terror was more than a slogan: it was shorthand for a post-9/11 narrative that not only placed that day’s horrific events in a meaningful context, but also set the terms of national security debate in the United States for the next decade.”[104] This narrative would not have resonated or received such widespread bipartisan acceptance from the American public had it not overlapped with the master narrative of U.S. foreign policy: that the United States is an exceptional nation with moral intentions, bound to make the world a better place. The Bush administration’s story of what had happened and why cast the United States as the innocent victim, attacked out of the blue not for its policies in the Middle East, but for its very exceptional nature: “Why do they hate us? They hate us because of what they see in this very Chamber,” Bush told Congress on Sept. 20, 2001. “They hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”[105] In his second inaugural, Bush essentially argued that fighting the “war on terror” was a continuation of the eternal American mission:
From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation.[106]
Returning to the question of whether Obama rejected American exceptionalism, as his critics charged, this article builds on the theoretical assumption that there is a meaningful and important distinction between a nation’s master narrative and its various foreign policies. One can have a variety of grand strategies all based in the exceptionalist master narrative, but one must distinguish, as Krebs does, between master narratives and discrete national security narratives. One could argue about whether Obama’s counter-terrorism policies diverged more in rhetoric than in practice from his predecessor, or about whether Obama actually moved in a non-interventionist direction. However, his discrete national security narrative of modest retrenchment did not reject the master narrative of American exceptionalism. Indeed, at Strasbourg, Obama said,
If you think about the site of this summit [Strasbourg] and what it means, I don’t think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that… . And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality that, though imperfect, are exceptional.[107]
Lest one think this was pandering to the press, this was a belief Obama had long held. As he said in his speech to the Democratic national convention in 2004,
I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.[108]

III. Donald Trump, American Exceptionalism, and America First

Prior to Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination, the Republican Party promoted a grand strategy of leading the liberal international order, grounded in the master narrative of American exceptionalism. This had been the case since Dwight D. Eisenhower won the foreign policy battle inside the Republican Party in 1952, defeating non-interventionist proponent Robert Taft. With Eisenhower, the GOP embraced the view “that America had a moral obligation as well as a national interest in transforming the victory of World War II into a lasting global peace by building strong alliances and expanding military readiness around the world to counter the Communist threat.”[109] It was, in David Farber’s words, the “Willkie-Dewey-Eisenhower — and then Goldwater-Reagan-Bush-Bush — wing of the Republican Party” that won out in the GOP in the post-World War II era.[110] The American exceptionalist narrative constituted the foundation of U.S. foreign policy debate in both political parties, influencing their views on foreign policy and constraining presidential candidates’ rhetorical choices.[111] The 2012 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney arguably built its foreign policy platform on this very idea.[112] That same year, the Republican Party included the concept in its party platform, stating that American exceptionalism is “the conviction that our country holds a unique place in human history.”[113] In 2016, all Republican presidential candidates save one took pains to use exceptionalist rhetoric.[114] In April 2015, two months before he announced his candidacy for president, Trump broke with the Republican Party and stated that he did “not like” the term American exceptionalism.[115] He ironically said this at an event called “Celebrating the American Dream,” hosted in Houston by the Texas Patriots PAC. At the event, Trump was asked to define American exceptionalism, whether it still existed, and what should be done to help grow it. Trump answered,
Look, if I’m a Russian, or I’m a German, or I’m a person we do business with, why, you know, I don’t think it’s a very nice term. We’re exceptional; you’re not. First of all, Germany is eating our lunch. So they say, ‘Why are you exceptional. We’re doing a lot better than you.’[116]
Trump stated that those who refer to American exceptionalism were “insulting the world” and offending people in other countries, such as Russia, China, Germany, and Japan.  Contravening common talking points for any presidential candidate regardless of party, Trump said, rather, that it is “not a nice term,” showing unusual foreign policy flair. He did suggest that were he to become president, he would make the United States exceptional, but even then Trump said he would not use the term because he would not want to “rub it in.”[117] But Trump has not only rejected American exceptionalism in his rhetoric — that is, when he talks about it at all — he has also rejected it in his policies.[118] His America First platform shows that he rejects American exceptionalism on two fronts: He does not view the United States as morally superior to other countries and, therefore, he does not view the United States as having a mission to pursue abroad. Trump’s definition of American “greatness” is ascriptive and material, rather than ideational and aspirational. In this section, I examine Trump’s views on American exceptionalism along with his grand strategy in order to show how Trump rejects both the American exceptionalism master narrative and its policy implications. In so doing, I argue that Trump relies on a competing master narrative, Jacksonian nationalism. Trump’s grounding in Jacksonian nationalism leads him to embrace parts of the traditional America First platform, which in its two previous iterations has promoted ethnic nationalism and economic protectionism. However, Trump rejects non-interventionism, opting instead for unilateral militarism abroad. Here, Trump is more in line with original Jacksonianism than with America First. America First in U.S. History What does “America First” mean? Is it a concept, a slogan, or a foreign policy agenda? Or perhaps just a refreshingly honest brand of realism?[119] “America First” is in fact several things. It was most famously the name of an organization founded in 1940 in order to lobby against U.S. intervention in World War II. As historian Melvyn P. Leffler writes, “For me, America First was associated with the insularity, isolationism, unilateralism, nativism, anti-Semitism, and appeasement policies that President Franklin D. Roosevelt struggled to overcome in 1940 and 1941.”[120] It was also a slogan used by Pat Buchanan in the 1990s to argue against free trade, immigration, military alliances, and interventions.[121] Today, it is the shorthand for Trump’s foreign policy platform. Let us examine each in turn, their connections, and the master narrative on which they all rely. America First Before World War II The phrase “America First” is most strongly associated with its use during World War II. According to Susan Dunn, America First was the name of the “isolationist, defeatist, anti-Semitic national organization that urged the United States to appease Adolf Hitler.”[122] This summary is somewhat unfair to the organization’s varied membership. The interwar America First was composed of all kinds of people who were skeptical of America entering into another European war. They included future president Gerald Ford, future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter, and Sargent Shriver, who would go on to lead the U.S. Peace Corps. Ford and Potter, students at Yale at the time, founded the “Committee to Defend America First.” Its establishment in 1940 was “in direct opposition to progressive journalist William Allen White’s Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies.”[123] It grew quickly from a group started by anti-war students to a large movement with hundreds of chapters and almost a million members. Some notable members were Walt Disney, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Gore Vidal. The committee would come to be associated with fascists and anti-Semites, and most famously, Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh argued in 1940, during the blitzkrieg in Europe, that the United States should not interfere because “the white race” was not under threat.[124] Lindbergh joined America First in April 1941, drawing big crowds at its rallies. Despite the varied membership and commendable aim of avoiding yet another war, the committee’s main historical legacy has been that of a disgraced organization that was on the wrong side of history both in terms of advocating against intervention in World War II and in terms of anti-Semitism. [quote id="5"] The phrase “America First” predates 1940, however. It was a Republican campaign slogan in the 1880s.[125] As Christopher McKnight Nichols writes, “the cry of America First emerged in the nineteenth century’s era of rapid industrialization, modernization, and urbanization,” and its foreign policy agenda was “non-entanglement, nonintervention, neutrality, and unilateralism.”[126] It was the latest discussion in a historic debate on why, how much, and in what ways the United States should be involved outside its borders.[127] The slogan did not quite catch on until Wilson popularized it in a speech in 1915, however, declaring, “Our whole duty for the present, at any rate, is summed up in the motto: America First.”[128] Although he was arguing for U.S. neutrality in the Great War, not isolationism, the phrase nonetheless became the motto of those who wanted the United States to stay out of European politics and indeed stay isolated from it. Wilson’s goal was to keep a diverse nation with people whose heritage stemmed from all over the world firmly pro-American. This topic would become tense as the patriotism of “hyphenated” Americans of Irish, German, and Italian descent became increasingly questioned. Indeed, at this time, the U.S. Bureau of Education was mounting an America First campaign in order to promote the assimilation of immigrants. The purpose was to encourage immigrants to put America first, before their old countries, all the while signaling that immigrants did not need to reject their culture, language, or history of origin.[129] After Wilson, the motto caught on. As presidential candidates in 1916, both Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes used America First as part of their election slogans.[130] After the debate over the League of Nations and the future role of the United States in the world, Warren G. Harding, the Republican presidential nominee of 1920, similarly thought it useful to employ America First as part of his campaign:
Call it the selfishness of nationality if you will, I think it an inspiration to patriotic devotion — To safeguard America first, to stabilize America first, to prosper America first, to think of America first, to exalt America first, to live for and revere America first.[131]
The second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan, which reasserted itself in the early 20th century, taking aim at Catholics and Jews in addition to African-Americans, also used “America First” as a motto.[132] In evidence submitted to Congress, at a hearing on the activities on the Klan in 1921, the Klan’s “Imperial Proclamation” was entered into the record. Here, it said: “[The Klan] stands for America first – first in thought, first in affections, and first in the galaxy of nations.”[133] With the attack on Pearl Harbor and eventual Allied victory in World War II, “America First” became synonymous with having been on the wrong side of history. The disbandment of the Committee to Defend America First four days after Pearl Harbor conceded the point. The 1990s: Pat Buchanan’s Revival of “America First” When Pat Buchanan resurrected the motto “America First” in the 1990s, the New York Times labeled his agenda “fearful isolationism, nativism and protectionism.”[134] His version of America First was focused on the economy and culture. In the post-Cold War era, this meant making “America first again in manufacturing,” including proposing deep tax cuts in order to prevent U.S. industries from moving abroad.[135] Buchanan’s economic platform was nationalist and protectionist, as was his cultural platform: He wanted to keep the United States a white, Christian country. Arguing against the effects of globalization, Buchanan said that “our Western heritage is going to be handed down to future generations, not dumped onto some landfill called multiculturalism.” He argued for “a new patriotism, where Americans begin to put the needs of Americans first.”[136] This was “a new nationalism” meant to divide and conquer.[137] Campaigning in Georgia in 1992, Buchanan argued that the Voting Rights Act was “an act of regional discrimination against the South,” and told unemployed (presumably white) Georgians that, “anti-discrimination laws caused their jobs to be given to blacks.”[138] In his famous “culture war” speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, Buchanan said, “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.” He labeled Bill Clinton’s agenda “radical feminism,” and accused the Democratic Party of not respecting the “Judeo-Christian values” the country was founded upon.[139] His speech ended by recounting his visit to the Army compound in south Los Angeles, from which law enforcement had been dispatched to quell the riots. “And as they took back the streets of LA, block by block, so we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.”[140] Buchanan ran for the Republican nomination again in 1996, this time against Bob Dole, then for the Reform Party nomination in 2000. In 2000, he revived “America First” as a campaign slogan. Interestingly, Trump, who was also seeking the Reform Party nomination at the time, called Buchanan “a Hitler lover,” alluding to the controversy about Buchanan’s view that Adolf Hitler had initially presented no serious threat to the United States, a view that was consistent with the original America First Committee’s stance in 1940.[141] Jacksonian Nationalism “America First” is a slogan that would resonate with what Walter Russell Mead calls the “Jacksonian tradition” in U.S. foreign policy. This populist tradition is one of four traditions found in U.S. history, according to Mead: the “American realist” or Hamiltonian tradition; the exemplary Jeffersonian tradition; and missionary Wilsonianism.[142] Named after President Andrew Jackson (1829–1837) the Jacksonian tradition refers to a populist foreign policy outlook originating in the era of white, male mass politics that Jackson brought forth. Prior to the era of Jackson, politics — whether foreign or domestic — belonged to “silk stocking”-wearing statesmen like Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.[143] Jackson, however, was a Revolutionary War veteran and the heroic victor of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.[144] When the “elite establishment” — in the form of John Quincy Adams, son of second president John Adams — entered into a “corrupt bargain” and stole the election from Jackson in 1824, Jackson’s persona as a man of the people standing up to the entitled elite was cemented.[145] His revanche over Adams in the 1828 presidential election inaugurated the era of “the people’s president” where Jackson “spoke in plain and powerful language to the people at large.”[146] Jacksonian political philosophy is an instinct, rather than an ideology.[147] Because it is “less an intellectual movement than it is an expression of the social, cultural, and religious values of a large portion of the American public,” Mead argues Jacksonianism is “obscure” to academics and the media.[148] In other words: In true populist fashion, Jacksonians and the elite have mutual disregard for one another.[149] Jacksonians are suspicious of what the elites might do with their tax money both at home and abroad. They worry about “untrammeled federal power” and are “skeptical about the prospects of domestic and foreign do-gooding.”[150] When it comes to the military, though, Jacksonians are looser with the purse strings and are more trusting of the military establishment. “For Jacksonians, spending money on the military is one of the best things government can do,” Mead argues.[151] So far, Jacksonians and America Firsters can agree — elites should not be trusted with one’s tax dollars, but military preparedness is important and is worth paying for. Were Jacksonians an early expression of the non-interventionism of America First, then? Not at all, according to Mead. Indeed, Jacksonians were consistently the most hawkish during the Cold War. Mead argues the Jacksonian tradition does not embrace isolationism. Rather, it is an interest-based foreign policy.[152] Jacksonians are not eager to sit at home if there is a worthy fight to be fought. But for what cause are Jacksonians willing to go abroad and fight? According to Mead, Jacksonians are not that concerned with defending American values across the globe, but rather are focused on “national honor” on behalf of their community:
Jacksonians see American exceptionalism not as a function of the universal appeal of American ideas, or even as a function of a unique American vocation to transform the world, but rather as rooted in the country’s singular commitment to the equality and dignity of individual American citizens.[153]
How does the Jacksonian tradition define the American community, on whose behalf it conducts foreign policy? Is it defined by adherence to liberal ideals, or by ethno-cultural boundaries? In fact, the answer to the question, “who counts as American citizens” in the quote above unites Jacksonians, traditional America Firsters, and Trump. Jacksonians are historically associated with “white Protestant males of the lower and middle classes”[154] whom Mead refers to as making up a “folk community.” This is a “folk” that is “Christian in religious background, if not always in practice. They are European in origin — but largely without strong ties to a specific country other than the United States — and self-identify with American society from the colonial era until today.”[155] Mead contrasts this group with “believers in a multicultural United States” who define the United States as a “nation based on ideology rather than ethnicity.”[156] These are two very different things: Jacksonianism is based on the community values and sense of identity that stem from the British colonizers, specifically a subgroup whom historian David Hacket Fischer defined as the Scotch-Irish settlers.[157] The Scotch-Irish Americans were “formed by centuries of bitter warfare before they came to the United States,” an experience that informed their warrior ethos and non-isolationist attitudes in foreign policy.[158] This ethno-cultural definition of the American nation is distinctly different from the other three foreign policy traditions Mead identifies — Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, and Wilsonian — as they all identify the United States as built on an idea, not a people.[159] Thus, ethnic nationalism is where Jacksonianism diverges fundamentally from the other three foreign policy traditions. [quote id="6"] Jackson was the first populist president, commencing a tradition carried on by presidential candidates in both political parties such as William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt.[160] Mead identifies Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as modern presidents who managed to connect with Jacksonian voters. He also lists George Wallace, Ross Perot, Jesse Ventura, Pat Buchanan, and John McCain as political figures that have successfully tapped into this populist energy.[161] Of course, these politicians advocated quite different grand strategies, with Buchanan overtly promoting non-interventionism. Further complicating the picture, the Jacksonian “folk community” is no longer ethnically homogeneous. Rather, Jacksonianism is a tradition with a long, bipartisan pedigree in U.S. history that attracts those Americans who feel unrepresented by the “elites.” Because Jacksonianism is more of an “instinct” than a political ideology, and no longer exclusively represents a specific ethno-cultural group in U.S. society, general arguments and comparisons — such as the one I am making in this article — are inherently imperfect.[162] The point is not to argue that Trump is a perfect replica of Andrew Jackson the president, but rather that there are important similarities between the Jacksonian tradition and Trump’s worldview. Donald Trump’s America First Economic Protectionism In Trump’s first inaugural speech, he accused the world of having swindled the United States: “We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.”[164] Trump added, “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”[165] The speech was, as Jim Goldgeier has noted, “a far cry from Morgenthau’s articulation of the purpose of Bretton Woods.”[166] Upon entering office, Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that had taken seven years to negotiate, in favor of bilateral deals that he argued would “promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.”[167] He also renegotiated the North America Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, an agreement he had repeatedly criticized on the campaign trail.[168] The hallmark of Trump’s protectionist agenda, however, has been commencing a trade war with China. Many economic experts share his complaints — that China engages in unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property.[169] Trump’s remedy is highly controversial, however: Trump has increased tariffs on Chinese exports to the United States in several rounds since 2018.[170] Former Bank of England governor Mervyn King has argued that the trade war with China threatens to undermine global economic growth, causing a “great stagnation.”[171] In wanting to “protect” American consumers, Trump is echoing one of the most familiar aspects of the nationalism of the 1920s and 1930s (on which America First relied)  — economic protectionism.[172] This motto resonated with the protectionist Republicans in Congress after the Great War, who in the 1920s passed “two of the most protectionist tariff bills in history,” the Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922 and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930. Although, as Thomas W. Zeiler writes, the United States should have learned from the “Smoot-Hawley debacle” in the 1930s what “America First demagoguery” can lead to,[173] Trump has revived economic protectionism. During the presidential campaign of 2016, he presented trade as a zero-sum game. Trump, argues Zeiler, “went Hoover.”[174] Here, Trump is in line with the original America First Committee, which also questioned whether foreign trade was all that important to the United States.[175] Since World War II, both the Republican and Democratic parties have argued that being a responsible leader of the liberal world order involves not only enforcing the rules of an open international economy but also participating fully in it.[176] Trump essentially rejects the economic pillar of the “liberal world order” and has repeatedly argued for a much more conditional role for America, insisting that the United States is being taken advantage of by other countries.[177] This assumes that being the leader of the liberal international order is not currently economically beneficial to the United States, and leaves out entirely the ideational aspect. Returning to Trump’s discussion of what makes America exceptional, the United States is not exceptional as long as it is losing money to trading competitors such as China and Germany. It can only regain its exceptional status by renegotiating its trade deals to give the United States a higher return.[178] In other words, there is nothing about the United States that is inherently exceptional, rather, exceptionalism is a function of being the richest country in the world. In 2015, according to Trump, the United States was less exceptional than other countries because other countries were “eating” its “lunch.”[179] To be sure, past presidents have communicated the idea of American exceptionalism in different ways, sometimes taking pains to be sensitive to the interests and identities of foreign actors. Indeed, American presidents face a dilemma when speaking to foreign audiences. According to Gilmore and Rowling, “[T]hey must be ever mindful of a domestic audience that expects its leaders to champion American exceptionalism on the world stage but also sensitive to the interests and identities of other global actors.”[180] As a result, some presidents have framed American exceptionalism in a more diplomatic manner when speaking in different foreign contexts. Perhaps this is what Obama was attempting to do in Strasbourg in 2009, and what Trump has been doing — taking pains not to insult foreign leaders, as he hinted at in his 2015 interview. However, Trump’s comments were not made on foreign soil or directed at a foreign audience. Rather, they were made in a domestic, even local, context. The absence of a values-based definition of American exceptionalism in Trump’s rhetoric is as striking as it is unprecedented.[181] To be clear, Trump does believe in some kind of American superiority — that is what his slogan “Make America Great Again” seems to be all about. However, he does not define greatness in terms of exceptional ideals and values, but in terms of economic wealth, military strength, and cultural identity. Echoing Buchanan, who started his 2000 presidential run for the Reform Party by championing West Virginia steel workers, Trump’s economic definition of what would make America great entails a revival of the U.S. industrial economy: “buy American; hire American.”[182] Ethnic Nationalism The second important component of Trump’s America First platform is ethnic nationalism. This worldview builds on the tradition Smith and Gerstle have documented extensively in their work.[183] This kind of ethnic nationalism represents a commonality between the Jacksonian tradition and the America First Committee, as well as Buchanan’s revival of the America First political brand. Ethnic nationalism is foundational to Trump’s worldview, and that of his administration. Trump has called for fewer immigrants from “shithole countries”[184] and a ban on Muslims entering the United States[185] in order to preserve its white, Christian culture. From promoting the “birther” conspiracy theory (which accused the first black president of not being American partly because he was accused of not being Christian),[186] to launching his presidential campaign by accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists and drug-dealers,[187] to telling members of the House of Representatives to “go back” to their supposed homelands,[188] the list of exclusionary rhetoric based on race, ethnicity, and religion is long. [quote id="7"] Implicitly endorsing the thesis that Trump’s campaign was built on ethnic nationalism, some observers argued in 2016 that his appeal to non-white voters would be historically low, thereby dooming his chances at the ballot box.[189] When Trump did win, some assumed his presidency would pivot to more inclusive rhetoric (and perhaps even policies) in order to bring on board more voters.[190] Rather than broaden his appeal in an increasingly diverse country, Trump has continued to promote his ascriptive vision of the United States.[191] The first prominent policy example of this was the “travel ban” (called the “Muslim Ban” by political opponents), the third iteration of which was found legal by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.[192] It excludes immigrants from seven countries, five of them Muslim-majority countries.[193] The second notable signal was when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency responsible for issuing visas and green cards and for naturalizing immigrants as U.S. citizens, released its new mission statement. As of February 2018 that statement no longer contains references to immigrants themselves — including taking out a line that called the United States a “nation of immigrants.”[194] In fact, the Trump administration has racialized the issue of immigration.[195] Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting director of USCIS, has argued that the famous Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus,” which appears on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, refers to “people coming from Europe,”[196] while Trump himself has expressed hope of more immigrants from countries like Norway.[197] Trump’s comment, which included the “shithole” remark, prompted U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, Rupert Colville, to call Trump’s remarks “racist.”[198] Most prominently, however, might be the symbolism — presumably intended — of wanting to build a physical wall along the southern border of the United States, but not along its northern border.[199] The public announcement by Trump in the fall of 2018 — just before the midterm elections — that he would seek to end birthright citizenship (as defined in the 14th amendment) showed that rather than pivot toward inclusion, Trump would embrace ethnic nationalism, which was indeed an important part of his political platform. This is why it is not quite right when Abram van Engen writes,
Trump never talks about Americans as descendants from those who came here long ago. He offers no story. There is no rise from immigration, no fleeing from oppression in the American past, no historical movement from one land to another. There is only the present day, only sovereignty and self-interest here and now.[200]
On the contrary, Trump does offer a narrative of the United States, but it is not the familiar story of a “nation of immigrants.” Rather, it is that of white, Christian America, a narrative compatible with Gerstle’s “racial nationalism,” Smith’s ascriptive tradition, and Mead’s Jacksonian nationalism.[201] It explicitly rejects the inclusive narrative of a diverse nation unified by civic ideals. It builds, as this article has shown, on an important competing strand in American political history in which Americans have identified membership in their political community not with adherence to a set of classically liberal ideas and ideals, but rather with ethno-cultural origins and customs “strongly linked to North European ancestry, Protestantism, belief in the superiority of the ‘white race,’ and patriarchal familial leadership.”[202] Mead, writing in 2002, acknowledged the “deeply regrettable Jacksonian record of racism,” but argued that Jacksonian America was evolving rapidly.[203] Here, Mead might have been mistaken. In November 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center published leaked emails from Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s most important advisers on immigration, showing his support for and utilization of white nationalist literature and websites.[204] Non-Intervention Abroad? Does Trump’s “America First” imply a resurrection of an older U.S. foreign policy tradition labeled non-interventionism, exemplarism, or even “isolationism”? Or, is he simply a more extreme version of previous Republican presidents, many of whom were strong critics of the constraints emanating from international alliances, institutions, and traditions? I argue that when it comes to military intervention abroad, Trump differs from both historic America First positions as well as Republican presidents since World War II. Previous America Firsters argued for non-intervention on exceptionalist grounds. Trump, however, rejects the non-interventionist view that the United States is too special to get involved in the “corrupt old world.” Rather, Trump’s grand strategy is more similar to the classical realist tradition in international relations, in sharp contrast to the ideational tradition of exceptionalism.[205] Indeed, in the 2017 National Security Strategy, the administration labels its strategy one “of principled realism that is guided by outcomes, not ideology.”[206] Trump’s version of America First strips out all the focus on ideals and norms, something realists often argue U.S. foreign policy focuses too much on. Nor is Trump simply a more extreme version of existing Republican foreign policy. Previous Republican presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush argued that the United States was too exceptional to be constrained by the rules of the liberal world order.[207] Rather than principled exemplarism (America First) or exceptional unilateralism (Reagan and George W. Bush), then, Trump’s grand strategy is a “contradictory combination of hawkish militarism and strategic retrenchment,”[208] relying on unilateralism, militarism, aggressive threats, and the strategic support from authoritarian leaders abroad. Trump’s record is evidence that he is an interventionist.[209] After promising to end the war in Afghanistan on the campaign trail, Trump increased the number of U.S. troops on the ground as president.[210] President Trump dramatically increased the number of lethal drone strikes compared to the number launched during the Obama administration.[211] He also sanctioned cruise missile strikes against targets controlled by President Bashar al-Assad in Syria in April 2017 as a response to a chemical weapons attack against the inhabitants of Idlib province earlier that month.[212] Similarly, in April 2017, Trump declared he had ordered an aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan to serve as a deterrent to North Korean aggression. “We’re sending an armada,” Trump told Fox News.[213] A year later, the United States, in cooperation with Great Britain and France, again carried out strikes against Syrian government targets in response to a chemical weapons attack in Douma.[214] Former Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk, sees Trump’s national security policy as not one of retrenchment, but rather as “revisionist and interventionist” because it seeks regime change in Syria, Iran, and Venezuela.[215] Scholars such as Charles A. Kupchan and Graham Allison therefore gravely misunderstand not just the history of U.S. foreign relations but Trump’s foreign policy when they assert that Trump’s America First is a revival of isolationism. Prior to World War II, Kupchan argues,
American exceptionalism meant insulating the American experiment from foreign threats, shunning international entanglements, spreading democracy through example rather than intrusion, embracing protectionism and fair (not free) trade, and preserving a relatively homogeneous citizenry through racist and anti-immigrant policies. In short, it was about America first.[216]
Not only is Kupchan wrong that Trump is embracing isolationism, he is also mistaken in thinking that America has a history of isolationism to revive.[217] As this article has shown, isolationism as a 19th century U.S. foreign policy tradition is a myth.[218] It certainly does not have anything in common with Mead’s Jacksonianism, as seen earlier. [quote id="8"] Historical accuracy aside, Kupchan’s argument also gets Trump’s contemporary policies wrong when he argues that, “Trump has cloaked himself in isolationist garb, repeatedly questioning the value of core U.S. alliances in Europe and Asia.”[219] Trump did seemingly promise retrenchment — if not isolationism — on the campaign trail.[220] Rather than retrench however, President Trump has increased troop deployments in Afghanistan, threatened war with North Korea, supported the Saudi-led war in Yemen, threatened war with Iran, and consistently promoted a military power build-up including the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and the launching of a “Space Force.”[221] While Trump’s strategy for the use of U.S. military power is unilateral — e.g., his strike against Syria in 2017 and his general approach to North Korea and Iran — it is not isolationist nor a strategy of retrenchment.[222] What separates Trump from those in U.S. history who are often labeled isolationists is the same thing that separates him from the foreign policy establishment in general: his material, as opposed to ideational, definition of “American exceptionalism.”[223] As Trump put it on Twitter, “I will make our Military so big, powerful & strong that no one will mess with us.”[224] Trump’s foreign policy represents the Jacksonian skepticism “about the United States’ policy of global engagement and liberal order building,” a skepticism that comes “more from a lack of trust in the people shaping foreign policy than from a desire for a specific alternative vision.”[225] It is not principled non-interventionism, rather it is a rejection of the liberal part of the world order. It is a materialist, militarist, unilateral kind of internationalism, not isolationism.

IV. Conclusion: “The End of American Exceptionalism”?

Trump’s foreign policy approach raises important questions about the future of American exceptionalism as a national narrative and its role in U.S. foreign policy. First, regarding foreign policy: Does the Trump era really matter all that much, if the next president can simply reverse course? In other words, is it possible for the next U.S. administration to snap back to a pre-Trump era when there was bipartisan consensus that the United States should play a leadership role in the liberal international order, even if there were disagreements about what that leadership style should look like? Second, regarding the American national narrative: If a snap-back is not possible, does that mean we have finally arrived at the “end of American exceptionalism”?[226] I argue that a snap-back is unlikely because it is increasingly unwanted by important voices in both parties. Ultimately, the future of U.S. foreign policy depends on how thoughtfully American politicians approach this fork in the road. Rethinking U.S. grand strategy in the post-Trump era will require a more nuanced reflection about what American exceptionalism means than has been the norm in American political history up until this point. Trump and the Liberal International Order: Can the United States Snap Back? Is it possible for the first post-Trump president to “‘snap back’ to the status quo ante” and pretend that the Trump presidency never happened?[227] Given all of the benefits the United States has accrued from its hegemonic position in the world, it would be natural to assume American elites in both parties will try. In terms of the Republican Party, I argue that Trump’s wholesale rejection of the master narrative underlying the U.S. commitment to the liberal international order makes this a difficult task. Having embraced America First — despite some important policy disagreements on issues such as Syria[228] — any attempt at a snap back from the Trump presidency by the GOP faces the risk of being seen as non-credible by both domestic and foreign audiences.[229] Furthermore, because of the growing dissatisfaction in both parties with the prior foreign policy consensus,[230] it is entirely possible that another populist nationalist — perhaps next time from the left — will win an election in the future and further remove the United States from its leadership role abroad. For allies, therefore, the United States is a less reliable partner, and will continue to be so unless it produces a new and credible internationalist foreign policy alternative to Trumpism that appeals to important actors in both parties.[231] This alternative must be rooted in a credible and unifying national narrative. Trump vs. American Exceptionalism: A Republican Walk-Over? According to Leffler, America First means
minimizing obligations to allies, treating everyone as a competitor, freeing the United States from the restrictions imposed by multilateral institutions, seeking trade advantages through bilateral negotiations, building up military power, befriending dictators if they support him, and acting unilaterally in a zero-sum framework of international politics.[232]
The goal is to get ahead, and getting ahead means leaving others behind. This means America First is, in important respects, a significant departure from neoconservatism, the heretofore paradigmatic Republican ideals-based foreign policy as defined in the post-Cold War years, particularly those of George W. Bush. More than anything else, the America First agenda and its rejection of American exceptionalism was why neoconservatives rebelled against the Trump candidacy and formed the NeverTrump movement.[233] Given what we know of Bush’s faith and his strong belief in American exceptionalism, his view of the missionary role the United States could and should play in world history arguably influenced how he viewed Iraq and the “Global War on Terror.”[234] As the invasion of Iraq was underway, in a televised address, Bush said, “To all the men and women of the United States armed forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you.”[235] That is not to say that material factors such as oil have not been an important goal of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East since before World War II, or that such concerns have not eclipsed liberal democratic goals on many occasions. But, allowing for a complex interplay of material interests and liberal ideals guiding U.S. foreign policy, there is still quite a distance between the rhetoric and policy of Bush, and Trump’s statement that “we want to keep the oil” in Iraq “to reimburse ourselves.”[236] Rex Tillerson made explicit the divorcing of ideals from interests in his second speech as secretary of state: “I think it is really important that all of us understand the difference between policy and values… . Our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated — those are our values. Those are not our policies.”[237] The late Sen. John McCain immediately criticized the speech in an op-ed, defending the traditional bipartisan consensus on U.S. foreign policy: “Our values are our strength and greatest treasure. We are distinguished from other countries because we are not made from a land or tribe or particular race or creed, but from an ideal that liberty is the inalienable right of mankind and in accord with nature and nature’s Creator.”[238] Allies appreciated McCain’s efforts.[239] Indeed, McCain seemed at times to serve as “shadow secretary of state” when he disagreed with the president’s foreign policies.[240] Yet although there are Republican Party members who disagree with Trump’s foreign policy,[241] McCain’s vocal opposition to Trump was rather unique in his party. Those Republican lawmakers who disagree with Trumpism either stay quiet and vote with the party, or find themselves retiring — whether willingly or not.[242] Thus, despite a few internationalist voices, allies are having a hard time recognizing the Republican Party they thought they knew.[243] The explanation for all this might be that the Republican Party itself has changed. Indeed, despite many Republicans disagreeing with Trump, he has still managed to successfully take over the party: First, by attaining its nomination, and second by winning over many important conservatives who initially were skeptical.[244] The Republican journey from condemning Buchanan’s radical rhetoric in the 1990s to first, tacitly accepting and then, mainstreaming Trump is an important part of this development. “Over the last two and a half decades,” write Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, “the GOP has mutated from a traditional conservative party into an insurgent force that threatens the norms and institutions of American democracy.”[245] Trump did not cause this populist, nationalist moment as much as reap the benefits of the long-term trajectory of the GOP and its narrowing voter base. As Lilliana Mason shows, the Republican Party has increasingly come to represent “the white, Christian, male and rural elements of the U.S. electorate.”[246] Trump’s version of “America First” is devoid of historic mission or religious election, but it is not “primacy without a purpose,” as Barry Posen has labeled it.[247] Rather, it has a nationalist, protectionist, and populist purpose, rooted in an ascriptive master narrative. Future paeans to American exceptionalism of the sort that Marco Rubio made in the 2016 campaign would ironically be a rebuke of Trump’s presidency.[248] At best, the current Republican Party is unsure of what “America” should mean at home and abroad. At worst, it has changed its mind entirely. In short, while the GOP may try to return to the status quo ante in a post-Trump future, they still have to fill a significant credibility gap in order to do so successfully. Bipartisan Re-evaluation of “The Blob” Significantly, both political parties are rethinking what the United States’ role in the world should be, which is why it is unlikely that there will be a wholesale return to the previous bipartisan consensus regarding U.S. primacy and leadership in the international order, no matter who wins the next presidential election.[249] Trump is not the only person who is severely dissatisfied with America’s post-Cold War foreign policy.[250] Nor is he the only one who thinks “exceptionalism is not a nice term.”[251] Obama’s answer to the Strasbourg question in 2009 was a clear rebuke of his predecessor’s moralistic exceptionalism. Trump’s less eloquent response in April 2015 was, in a way, communicating the same idea as Obama: It is offensive to say to the world, “we are superior to you.” [quote id="9"] Obama’s struggle with American power and ideals was an early sign of the re-evaluation and recalibration of U.S. grand strategy that was underway. Obama consciously distanced himself from the D.C. foreign-policy elites his adviser Ben Rhodes derisively nicknamed “the Blob.”[252] In the end, many liberals were disappointed in the limited amount of “change,” but the Obama era was a sign of a dissolving foreign policy consensus.[253] This was especially evident in the complex and tragic case of Syria, where reasonable people could disagree on whether and how much the United States should have intervened. After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on the people of Ghouta in August 2013, Obama stated,
America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong, but when with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer in the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.[254]
To many European allies, this was refreshingly different from the perceived moralism and arrogance of the George W. Bush administration. Obama’s more constrained view of what the United States should represent in the world signaled a growing internal debate in the Democratic Party that somewhat mirrors the one found in the Republican Party:[255] Does American exceptionalism entail endless U.S. military engagement around the world? Americans — and many others — are understandably skeptical about such a proposition. According to a national survey by the Eurasia Group Foundation,
A plurality of Republicans and Independents believe America’s focus should be on building a healthy democracy at home and avoiding foreign conflicts. Democrats believe peace is best achieved through economic integration and free trade. “Peace through military strength,” associated with neoconservative hawks, and the “democracy promotion” approach associated with liberal interventionism received significantly less support.[256]
There is an important generational profile to this debate. In the 2017 Chicago Council Survey on generational attitudes toward U.S. foreign policy, Millennials were less inclined than Generation X-ers, Boomers, and the Silent Generation to embrace the idea that the United States is “the greatest country in the world.” Only one-quarter of Millenials saw the need for the United States to be “the dominant world leader.”[257] In other words, no matter who wins the presidency in 2020, an attempt at a snap-back might be unwanted by significant groups of voters in both parties. Does This Mean the End of American Exceptionalism? When Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell argued for the “end” of American exceptionalism after the Watergate scandal and Vietnam War in 1975, he did so because he found that the “belief in American exceptionalism has vanished with the end of empire, the weakening of power, the loss of faith in the nation’s future.”[258] As it happens, this sentiment is strikingly similar to the disillusionment Peter Beinart finds when reviewing the memoirs of three Obama-era foreign policy officials. Indeed, writes Beinart, “it’s possible to read their books not only as tales of tempered idealism but also as chronicles of America’s declining exceptionalism.”[259] Could it be that after several exaggerated reports of its death, the end of American exceptionalism is here? Let us look at what happened last time: Bell failed to predict the rise of Reagan and the strong comeback of American exceptionalism. If history is any guide, perhaps the next president will restore America’s sense of exceptionalism and purpose in the world like Reagan did in the 1980s. The counterpoint is that this time it might actually be different — and that it should be different. Jimmy Carter — the president Reagan was reacting to — never negated American exceptionalism. He instead rebuked previous American foreign policy from the viewpoint of exceptionalism itself: “we can be better, if we try.” It was a familiar American rhetorical tradition — the lament of having fallen short of American exceptional ideals. No president or presidential candidate between 1945 and 2012 argued that the United States is unexceptional and has no role to play in the fight for liberal values around the globe. That powerful national agreement on what role the United States is supposed to play in world history because of what kind of nation the United States is believed to be held, in the end, for a rather short American century. The United States has thus arrived at a fork in the road. There is still strong support for continued international engagement among Americans,[260] but there is also an undeniable weakening of the U.S. foreign policy consensus. This dissolving consensus “reflects a failure to adjust effectively to changes at home and abroad, with resulting confusion and dismay about the nation’s direction and role.”[261] At the heart of this moment of confusion and dismay is the confrontation between two master narratives: that of American exceptionalism and Jacksonian nationalism. American exceptionalism is an ideational master narrative. It is a story about an ethnically and religiously diverse nation united in adherence to liberal ideas and institutions both at home and abroad. In contrast, the Trump administration’s story of America is ascriptive: It is the story of a white, Christian folk community with materialist interests to pursue abroad. Yet, Trump did not create this moment. Before Trump’s presidential campaign, in 2014, the American National Election Study found that only 45 percent of Millennials “consider their American identity as extremely important.”[262] The narrative contestation currently underway must be addressed properly because the United States — and its foreign policy — needs a master narrative. Americans need a story about who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. American exceptionalism has proven to be a very useful civic narrative for a nation that cannot unite around shared ethnicity or religion. Indeed, it might be the only possible narrative going forward for a country whose ethnic and cultural identities are increasingly diverse, yet increasingly divided along party lines.[263] Leadership based on liberal ideals and institutions — rather than ascriptive characteristics — is also still the most attractive vision any great power in history has had to offer. According to Bell, American exceptionalism in foreign policy was supposed to be about the belief that the United States would be different from previous world empires in the exercise of power because it was democratic.[264] Given the imperfect execution of the liberal part of the order in the past,[265] however, if the United States wants to reclaim the leadership position Trump is currently forfeiting, it will need more than formulaic invocations of America as a “city on a Hill” or nostalgic paeans to a liberal world order that never quite was.[266] It will need an updated story of “America” in the world, a story that acknowledges the problems with the “liberal world order” to address the concerns of the next generation of Americans, allies, and adversaries.[267] A fresh discussion of what the United States can contribute to the world would entail leaving behind exceptionalist ideas of U.S. superiority and rather focus on securing a future that global advocates of liberal democracy can work together to achieve.[268] After Trump comes a moment of opportunity: not to simply put the U.S. ship in reverse, but rather, to plot out a new course.   Hilde Eliassen Restad is associate professor of international studies at Bjørknes University College in Oslo, Norway. A Fulbright alumna, she has a Ph.D. in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and is the author of American Exceptionalism: An Idea that Made a Nation and Remade the World (Routledge, 2015).   Acknowledgements: I would like to thank the following colleagues for their valuable feedback on the various stages of this manuscript: Melvyn P. Leffler, Nadim Khoury, Stephen Pampinella, panelists at the 2018 ISSS-IS conference, panelists at the 2018 BISA U.S. Foreign Policy Working Group Conference, Chris White and my colleagues at Bjørknes University College. A sincere thank you to the thorough and highly efficient editors Galen Jackson, Doyle Hodges, and Megan Oprea at TNSR as well as to the anonymous reviewers.   Image: Patrick Kelley [post_title] => Whither the “City Upon a Hill”? Donald Trump, America First, and American Exceptionalism [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => whither-the-city-upon-a-hill-donald-trump-america-first-and-american-exceptionalism [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-18 13:09:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-18 18:09:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2301 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => In order to understand Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda, we must examine the master narrative that underpins it. Trump breaks with all modern presidents not just because he challenges the postwar “liberal international order,” but because he rejects its underlying master narrative — American exceptionalism. America First relies instead on the narrative of Jacksonian nationalism. What makes America great, according to this narrative, is not a diverse nation unified in its adherence to certain liberal ideals, but rather ethnocultural homogeneity, material wealth, and military prowess. In this view, the United States is unexceptional, and therefore has no mission to pursue abroad. By shedding light on this alternative master narrative, we can better understand Trump’s presidency, his grand strategy, and why a return to the status quo ante after Trump is unlikely. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 3, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Trump’s grand strategy is different in kind, and not just in degree, from U.S. postwar foreign policy because it rejects the underlying master narrative of American exceptionalism. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => If one questions American exceptionalism, and the idea that it connotes superiority rather than simply difference, one’s Americanness may itself be questioned.  ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => In addition to being viewed as a “superior” republic, the United States is also on a world historic “mission” according to the narrative of American exceptionalism. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The influence of American exceptionalism on the framing and content of U.S. foreign policy took on a new force after the Cold War ended. Indeed, Americans interpreted the Cold War’s end as a reaffirmation of American exceptionalism. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => With the attack on Pearl Harbor and eventual Allied victory in World War II, “America First” became synonymous with having been on the wrong side of history. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => When it comes to the military, though, Jacksonians are looser with the purse strings and are more trusting of the military establishment. ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => This kind of ethnic nationalism represents a commonality between the Jacksonian tradition and the America First Committee, as well as Buchanan’s revival of the America First political brand. ) [7] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => While Trump’s strategy for the use of U.S. military power is unilateral — e.g., his strike against Syria in 2017 and his general approach to North Korea and Iran — it is not isolationist nor a strategy of retrenchment. ) [8] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => In short, while the GOP may try to return to the status quo ante in a post-Trump future, they still have to fill a significant credibility gap in order to do so successfully. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 341 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] “President Harry S. Truman’s Address before a Joint Session of Congress, March 12, 1947,” The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/trudoc.asp; also known as the “Truman Doctrine.” [2] Donald J. Trump “The Inaugural Address,” The White House, Jan. 20, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/the-inaugural-address/. [3] Peter Feaver, “What Is Grand Strategy and Why Do We Need It?” Foreign Policy, April 8, 2009, https://foreignpolicy.com/2009/04/08/what-is-grand-strategy-and-why-do-we-need-it/. [4] See, e.g., the special issue on the liberal order by Foreign Affairs: “Out of Order? The Future of the International System,” Foreign Affairs 96, no. 1 (January/February 2017), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/issues/2017/96/1; Doug Stokes, “Trump, American Hegemony, and the Future of the Liberal International Order,” International Affairs 94, no. 1 (January 2018): 133–50, https://doi.org/10.1093/ia/iix238; and Robert L. Jervis, Francis Gavin, Joshua Rovner, and Diane Labrosse, eds., Chaos in the Liberal Order: The Trump Presidency and International Politics in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018). [5] See, Ronald R. Krebs, Narrative and the Making of US National Security (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 13–15. [6] Jason A. Edwards and David Weiss, eds., The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2011). [7] See, e.g., John Gerard Ruggie, “The Past as Prologue? Interests, Identity, and American Foreign Policy,” International Security 21, no. 4 (Spring 1997): 89–125, https://doi.org/10.1162/isec.21.4.89; G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Henry R. Nau, At Home Abroad: Identity and Power in American Foreign Policy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002); Jeffrey W. Legro, Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005); Karl K. Schonberg, Constructing 21st Century U.S. Foreign Policy: Identity, Ideology, and America's World Role in a New Era (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Michael C. Desch, “America’s Liberal Illiberalism: The Ideological Origins of Overreaction in U.S. Foreign Policy,” International Security 32 no. 3 (Winter 2007/08): 7–43,https://www.jstor.org/stable/30130517; Krebs, Narratives and the Making of US National Security; and Hilde Eliassen Restad, American Exceptionalism: An Idea that Made a Nation and Remade the World (Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2015). [8] See, for instance, Robert Osgood, Ideals and Self-Interest in America’s Foreign Relations (Chicago: Phoenix Books, 1953/1964); Stephen M. Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2018); John J. Mearsheimer, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018). [9] For the ongoing debate over the scope and nature of the “liberal international order,” see, for example, James Goldgeier, “The Misunderstood Roots of International Order — and Why They Matter Again,” Washington Quarterly 41, no. 3 (2018): 7–20, https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2018.1519339; Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry, “Liberal World: The Resilient Order,” Foreign Affairs 97, no. 4 (July/August 2018), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2018-06-14/liberal-world; Patrick Porter, “A World Imagined: Nostalgia and Liberal Order,” CATO Institute, Policy Analysis No. 843, June 5, 2018, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/world-imagined-nostalgia-liberal-order. [10] Jason Gilmore, Penelope Sheets, and Charles Rowling, “Make No Exception, Save One: American Exceptionalism, the American Presidency, and the Age of Obama,” Communication Monographs 83, no. 4 (2016): 10, https://doi.org/10.1080/03637751.2016.1182638. [11] Walter Russell Mead, “The Jacksonian Revolt: American Populism and the Liberal Order,” Foreign Affairs 96, no. 2 (March/April 2017), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-01-20/jacksonian-revolt. For a counterargument, see, Elliot Abrams, “Trump the Traditionalist: A Surprisingly Standard Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs 96, no. 4 (July/August 2017), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-06-13/trump-traditionalist. [12] Media attention has so far been more attuned to this than scholars have. Some journalists laud this development, such as Janan Ganesh, who argues Trump has merely dropped the “pretense” in favor of “interest-driven statecraft.” See, “Donald Trump Drops the Pretense on American Exceptionalism,” Financial Times, Nov. 28, 2018, https://www.ft.com/content/e292150a-f270-11e8-ae55-df4bf40f9d0d. Daniel Sargent, on the other hand, laments that Trump has ended American exceptionalism by suggesting it is no better than Russia. See, “RIP American Exceptionalism, 1776-2018,” Foreign Policy, July 23, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/07/23/rip-american-exceptionalism-1776-2018/. Scholarship on how American exceptionalism, understood as a narrative, influences Trump’s foreign policy approach has so far been scarce, but see, Stephen Wertheim, “Trump and American Exceptionalism: Why a Crippled America Is Something New,” Foreign Affairs, Jan. 3, 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-01-03/trump-and-american-exceptionalism; Stephen Wertheim “Policy Series: Donald Trump Versus American Exceptionalism: Toward the Sources of Trumpian Conduct,” H-Diplo | ISSF POLICY Series America and the World – 2017 and Beyond, Feb. 1, 2017, https://issforum.org/roundtables/policy/1-5k-trump-exceptionalism. For an early article, published before the presidential election, see, Anatol Lieven, “Clinton and Trump: Two Faces of American Nationalism,” Survival 58, no. 5 (2016): 7­–22, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2016.1231526. For scholarly work examining Trump’s rhetoric on American exceptionalism, see, Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Doron Taussig, “Disruption, Demonization, Deliverance, and Norm Destruction: The Rhetorical Signature of Donald J. Trump,” Political Science Quarterly 132, no. 4 (Winter 2017-2018): 619–50; Jason A. Edwards, “Make America Great Again: Donald Trump and Redefining the U.S. Role in the World,” Communication Quarterly 66, no. 2 (2018): 176–95, https://doi.org/10.1080/01463373.2018.1438485. [13] Pete Vernon, “Lie? Falsehood? What to Call the President’s Words,” Columbia Journalism Review May 29, 2018, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/trump-lie-falsehood.php. [14]  Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly, “President Trump Has Made 10, 796 False or Misleading Claims Over 869 Days,” Washington Post, June 10, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/06/10/president-trump-has-made-false-or-misleading-claims-over-days/. [15] Charlie Laderman and Brendan Simms, Donald Trump: The Making of a World View, rev. ed. (London: I.B. Tauris, 2017), 98–99. See also, Colin Kahl and Hal Brands, “Trump’s Grand Strategic Train Wreck,” Foreign Policy, Jan. 31, 2017, https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/31/trumps-grand-strategic-train-wreck/. [16] See, Jason Gilmore and Charles M. Rowling, “Partisan Patriotism in the American Presidency: American Exceptionalism, Issue Ownership, and the Age of Trump,” Mass Communication and Society 22, no. 3 (2019): 389–416, https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2018.1559334. [17] I thank Reviewer 1 for pointing this out. General skepticism of international institutions and multilateralism is as American as apple pie in both parties, but has been more pronounced in the Republican party since Woodrow Wilson. However, economic protectionism has never before in the post-World War II era been promoted by a Republican president to the extent seen with Trump. See also Part III of this article. [18] David Corn, “Donald Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe in ‘American Exceptionalism,’” Mother Jones, June 7, 2016, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/donald-trump-american-exceptionalism/. For a different view, see, Edwards, “Make America Great Again,” 177. [19] See Part II for a discussion of what “exemplar” means in regard to U.S. foreign policy and American exceptionalism. [20] Donald Trump, “The Inaugural Address.” [21] I am indebted to Melvyn P. Leffler for discussing this with me. [22] See Mead, “The Jacksonian Revolt.” See also, Taesuh Cha, “The Return of Jacksonianism: The International Implications of the Trump Phenomenon,” Washington Quarterly 39, no. 4 (2016): 83–97, https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2016.1261562. [23] For a discussion of the ascriptive tradition, see, Rogers M. Smith, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999); and see also, Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century, rev. ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2017). [24] Restad, American Exceptionalism. [25] A note on terminology: Any study of national identity in the United States has to deal with the issue of what to call the United States of America. Americans themselves often refer to their country as “America.” This terminology is problematic, however, especially to inhabitants of other countries located in the Americas. When writing on American exceptionalism, however, the term “America” has specific meaning. It is an expression of the national tendency to elevate the United States above others (such as those neighboring countries in the Americas). I thank Trevor McCrisken for these insights. [26] See, Hilde Eliassen Restad, “American Exceptionalism,” in, The SAGE Encyclopedia of Political Behavior, ed. Fathali M. Moghaddam (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2017), 24–27. For a contrary view, see, Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996). [27] Quoted in, Hans Kohn, American Nationalism: An Interpretative Essay (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1957), 13. [28] Trevor McCrisken, American Exceptionalism and the Legacy of Vietnam: U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1974 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003), 1. [29] See, Krebs, Narratives and the Making of US National Security, 13–15. [30] Krebs, Narratives and the Making of US National Security. See also, Michael H. Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987); Deborah Madsen, American Exceptionalism (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 1998); and Nadim Khoury, “Plotting Stories After War: Toward a Methodology for Negotiating Identity,” European Journal of International Relations 24, no. 2 (2018), 367–90, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1354066117711743. [31] See, for instance, Jack P. Greene, The Intellectual Construction of America: Exceptionalism and Identity from 1492 to 1800 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993). [32] Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955). [33] Lieven, “Clinton and Trump,” 11. [34] Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy; Madsen, American Exceptionalism; McCrisken, American Exceptionalism and the Legacy of Vietnam; Walter A. McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997); Anders Stephanson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of Right (New York: Hill & Wang, 1995); Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World (New York: Routledge, 2002); Restad, American Exceptionalism. [35] The Puritans are often credited with an early version of an exceptionalist narrative. See, for instance, Stephanson, Manifest Destiny; and Sacvan Bercovitch, “The Typology of America’s Mission, American Quarterly 30, no. 2 (Summer 1978): 135–55, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2712320. That is not to say they created a kind of homogeneous, constant national identity seamlessly kept through history. See, Richard M. Gamble, In Search for the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth (New York: Continuum Books, 2012). The exceptionalist narrative was, however, present throughout the 1800s. When Alexis de Tocqueville observed that, “[t]he position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one,” he pointed back to their “strictly Puritanical origin,” as the first factor explaining this exceptionalism. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, volume II, chapter IX, “The Example of the Americans Does Not Prove That A Democratic People Can Have No Aptitude and No Taste for Science, Literature, Or Art.” Access at, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/toc_indx.html. See also, Rahul Sharma, American Civil Religion and the Puritan Antecedents of American Foreign Policy, PhD Thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (2019). [36] This definition builds on McCrisken, “Exceptionalism,” in, Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy Vol. 2, 2nd ed., ed. Alexander DeConde et al. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002), 64–65. I develop this more in detail in, Restad, American Exceptionalism. [37] McCrisken, American Exceptionalism and the Legacy of Vietnam; Daniel T. Rodgers, “American Exceptionalism Revisited,” Raritan Review 24, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 21–47; Restad, American Exceptionalism. [38] See, Tom W. Smith and Seokho Kim, “National Pride in Comparative Perspective: 1995/96 and 2003/04,” International Journal of Public Opinion Research 18, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 127–36, https://doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/edk007. [39] Jason A. Edwards, Navigating the Post-Cold War World: President Clinton’s Foreign Policy Rhetoric (Washington, DC: Lexington Books, 2008); Gilmore and Rowling, “Lighting the Beacon”; Rico Neumann and Kevin Coe, “The Rhetoric in Modern Presidency: A Quantitative Assessment,” 11–31, in, The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism. [40] Jason Gilmore, “American Exceptionalism in the American Mind: Presidential Discourse, National Identity, and U.S. Public Opinion,” Communication Studies 66, no. 3 (2015): 301–20, https://doi.org/10.1080/10510974.2014.991044. [41] Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry, “An Exceptional Debate: The Obama Administration’s Assault on American identity,” National Review, March 8, 2010, https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2010/03/08/exceptional-debate/. [42] See, for example, Ian Vásquez and Tania Porčnik, “The Human Freedom Index 2017: A Global Measurement of Personal, Civil, and Economic Freedom,” Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/human-freedom-index-files/2017-human-freedom-index-2.pdf. [43] See Restad, “Conclusion,” in, American Exceptionalism. [44] Greene, The Intellectual Construction of America. [45] Monica Crowley, “American Exceptionalism…” Washington Times, July 1, 2009, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jul/1/american-exceptionalism/. [46] Robert Schlesinger, “Obama Has Mentioned ‘American Exceptionalism’ More than Bush,” U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 31, 2011, http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/robert-schlesinger/2011/01/31/obama-has-mentioned-american-exceptionalism-more-than-bush. [47] From, Gilmore and Rowling, “Lighting the Beacon,” 275. Also see, Henri Tajfel, Social Identity and Intergroup Relations (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982). [48] Crowley, “American Exceptionalism”; Restad, American Exceptionalism, chap. 1. [49] The seminal work here is Gerstle’s American Crucible. [50] Robert Kagan, Dangerous Nation: America’s Foreign Policy from Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the 20th Century (New York: Knopf, 2006), 12. [51] Because of Roosevelt’s understanding of European nations as themselves mixed, and of (white) Americans as a result of this mix, Gerstle did not label Roosevelt’s view “ethnic nationalism,” because Gerstle defined this as a European-style ethnic nationalism viewing a Volk as “pure biological entities” as with the Ku Klux Klan. Gerstle, American Crucible, 14–43; 44–45. [52] See, Rogers Brubaker, “The Manichean Myth: Rethinking the Distinction Between ‘Civic’ and ‘Ethnic’ Nationalism,” in, Nation and National Identity: The European Experience in Perspective, ed. Hanspeter Kriesl et al. (Zurich: Ruegger, 1999), 55–73. [53] Smith, Civic Ideals; Gerstle, American Crucible, 59. [54] For a detailed discussion of this debate in various eras in U.S. history, see, Restad, American Exceptionalism. For an overview of the debates at the turn of the century, when the United States is widely seen as becoming a world power, see, Christopher McKnight Nichols, Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011). [55] Restad, American Exceptionalism, chap. 3. [56] Paul T. McCartney, “Power and Progress: American National Identity, the War of 1898, and the Rise of American Imperialism” Communication Quarterly, no. 191 (2006): 401, quoted in, Jason A. Edwards, “Make America Great Again: Donald Trump and Redefining the U.S. Role in the World,” Communication Quarterly 66, no. 2, (2018): 178, https://doi.org/10.1080/01463373.2018.1438485. [57] Edwards, “Make America Great Again,” 178. [58] H. W. Brands, What America Owes the World: The Struggle for the Soul of American Foreign Policy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), viii, quoted in, Edwards, “Make America Great Again,” 178. [59] See, Dexter Perkins, The American Approach to Foreign Policy rev. ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962); Stanley Hoffmann, Gulliver’s Troubles, Or the Setting of American Foreign Policy (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968); Frank L. Klingberg, Cyclical Trends in American Foreign Policy Moods (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983); Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994); Ruggie, “The Past as Prologue?” [60] Some scholars might ask why use the term at all in this article. I agree that it is an unfortunate term that serves to confuse rather than enlighten debates over U.S. foreign policy. Because it is still — despite much scholarly effort — ubiquitous in popular and scholarly works on U.S. foreign policy, and has been used specifically about Trump, however, I use it in this article. Substituting it for other terms like “nationalism” does not quite work, since nationalism is an ideology and isolationism is a (mythical) foreign policy tradition. I thank Reviewer 1 for asking me to address this. Michael Hunt, “Isolationism: Behind the myth, a usable past,” UNC Press Blog, June 29, 2011, https://uncpressblog.com/2011/06/29/michael-h-hunt-isolationism-behind-the-myth-a-usable-past/. But see also, Nichols, Promise and Peril. [61] Albert Katz Weinberg, Manifest Destiny. A Study in Nationalist Expansionism in American History, 6th ed. (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1935), 122. [62] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (Cleveland, Ohio: World Pub. Co., 1959); Alexander DeConde, Entangling Alliance: Politics and Diplomacy Under George Washington (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1958). For more recent works, see, Peter Onuf and Nicholas G. Onuf, Federal Union, Modern World: The Law of Nations in an Age of Revolutions, 1776-1814 (Indianapolis, IN: Madison House: 1993); McDougall, Promised land, Crusader State; Manfred Jonas, “Isolationism,” in, Alexander DeConde et al., eds., Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, Vol. II, 2nd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002). [63] See, for example, Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); and, Matthew Karp, This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016). [64] Peter S. Onuf, Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 2000), 13–14; also chap. 1. [65] Thomas R. Hietala, Manifest Design: American Exceptionalism and Empire (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003); Ernest N. Paolino, The Foundations of the American Empire: William Henry Seward and U.S. Foreign Policy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973); William Earl Weeks, John Quincy Adams and American Global Empire (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1992); and William Earl Weeks, Building the Continental Empire: American Expansion from the Revolution to the Civil War (Chicago, Ill.: Ivan R. Dee, 1996). [66] Thomas A. Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People (New York: F. S. Crofts and Co., 1950), 520, cited in, Edward McNall Burns, America’s Idea of Mission: Concepts of National Purpose and Destiny (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1957), 8. [67] “The White Man’s Burden” was a poem written by Rudyard Kipling originally published in the popular magazine McClure’s in 1899, with the subtitle “The United States and the Philippine Islands.[68] See, Weinberg, Manifest Destiny, esp. chaps. 1, 2, and 4. [69] Stephanson, Manifest Destiny. [70] Charles A. Kupchan, “The Clash of Exceptionalisms: A New Fight Over an Old Idea,” Foreign Affairs 97, no. 2 (March/April 2018), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2018-02-13/clash-exceptionalisms. [71] Bear F. Braumoeller, “The Myth of American Isolationism,” Foreign Policy Analysis 6, no. 4 (October 2010): 349–71, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-8594.2010.00117.x; Restad, American Exceptionalism, chap. 3. [72] Williams, The Tragedy of American Foreign Policy; DeConde, Entangling Alliance. [73] In addition to the classic revisionist historians, see also, Richard W. Van Alstyne, The Rising American Empire (Chicago, Ill: Quadrangle Books, 1965); Paolino, The Foundations of the American Empire; Hietala, Manifest Design. [74] See, for example, Charles Kupchan, who argues that the only exception to the isolationism of the 1800s was 1898, when the United States “did experiment” with “broader imperialism,” which then supposedly caused an isolationist backlash. Kupchan, “The Clash of Exceptionalisms.” [75] Greg Grandin, “The Strange Career of American Exceptionalism,” The Nation, Dec. 6, 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/the-strange-career-of-american-exceptionalism/. [76] Roger Cohen, “Obama’s American Idea,” New York Times, Dec. 10, 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/10/opinion/10cohen.html. [77] Restad, American Exceptionalism, 6. [78] Jeffrey K. Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987); Rob P. Saldin, “William McKinley and the Rhetorical Presidency,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 41, no. 1 (March 2011): 119–34, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-5705.2010.03833.x. [79] Gilmore and Rowling, “Lighting the Beacon,” 273. [80] Krebs, Narratives and the Making of US National Security, 14. [81] Krebs, Narratives and the Making of US National Security. [82] Neumann and Coe, “The Rhetoric in Modern Presidency,” 18. [83] Gardin, “The Strange Career of American Exceptionalism.” [84] Edwards, Navigating the Post-Cold War World; Edwards and Weiss, The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism; Pease, The New American Exceptionalism; Megan D. McFarlane, “Visualizing the Rhetorical Presidency: Barack Obama in the Situation Room,” Visual Communication Quarterly 23, no. 1 (2016): 3–13, https://doi.org/10.1080/15551393.2015.1105105; Gilmore and Rowling, “Lighting the Beacon.” [85] James W. Ceaser, Glen E. Thuerow, Jeffrey K. Tulis, and Joseph M. Bessette, “The Rise of the Rhetorical Presidency,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 11, no. 2 (Spring 1981): 158–71; Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency; Saldin, “William McKinley and the Rhetorical Presidency.” [86] McCrisken, American Exceptionalism; Nau, At Home Abroad; Legro, Rethinking the World; Krebs, Narrative and the Making of US National Security; Restad, American Exceptionalism. [87] “The City Upon a Hill Speech,” Address of President-Elect John F. Kennedy Delivered to a Joint Convention of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The State House, Boston, Jan. 9, 1961, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/OYhUZE2Qo0-ogdV7ok900A.aspx. [88] Neumann and Coe, “The Rhetoric in Modern Presidency,” 18. [89] Gilmore and Rowling, “Lighting the Beacon,” 288. [90] Krebs, Narrative and the Making of US National Security, 14. [91] Neumann and Coe, “The Rhetoric in Modern Presidency,” 26. [92] Neumann and Coe, “The Rhetoric in Modern Presidency,” 23. [93] See, for example, Heather Hulbert, “More Diplomacy, Less Intervention, But for What? Making Sense of the Grand Strategy Debate,” Lawfare, June 7, 2019, https://www.lawfareblog.com/more-diplomacy-less-intervention-what-making-sense-grand-strategy-debate. [94] George Bush, “Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union,” Jan. 28, 1992, The American Presidency Project, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-before-joint-session-the-congress-the-state-the-union-0, emphasis mine. [95] Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” National Interest, no. 16 (Summer 1989): 3–18, https://www.jstor.org/stable/24027184. [96] George F. Will, “The End of Our Holiday from History,” Washington Post, Sept. 12, 2001, https://wapo.st/2BkTVIb. [97] Uri Friedman, “Democratic Platform Swaps ‘American Exceptionalism’ for ‘Indispensable Nation,’” Sept. 4, 2012, https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/09/04/democratic-platform-swaps-american-exceptionalism-for-indispensable-nation/. [98] Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, “Interview on NBC-TV ‘The Today Show’ with Matt Lauer, Columbus, Ohio,” U.S. Department of State, Feb. 19, 1998, https://1997-2001.state.gov/statements/1998/980219a.html. [99] Quoted in, Uri Friedman, “‘American Exceptionalism’: A Short History,” Foreign Policy, June 18, 2012, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/18/american_exceptionalism. [100] Hal Brands, “Choosing Primacy: U.S. Strategy and Global Order at the Dawn of the Post-Cold War Era,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 2 (February 2018): 8–33, http://hdl.handle.net/2152/63941; Restad, American Exceptionalism, chap. 7. [101] Hans J. Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946), cited in, Lloyd E. Ambrosius, Wilsonianism: Woodrow Wilson and His Legacy in American Foreign Relations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 16. [102] Krebs, Narrative and the Making of US National Security, 13. [103] Goddard and Krebs, “Rhetoric, Legitimation, and Grand Strategy.” [104] Krebs, Narrative and the Making of US National Security, 3. [105] “President George W. Bush Addressed a Joint Session of Congress on the Subject of the War on Terrorism,” Sept. 20, 2001, https://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/2000-/President-George-W--Bush-addressed-a-Joint-Session-of-Congress-on-the-subject-of-the-war-on-terrorism/. [106] “President George W. Bush’s Second Inaugural Address,” Jan. 20, 2005, emphasis added, quoted in, Daniel W. Drezner, “The Realist Tradition in American Public Opinion,” Perspectives on Politics 6, no. 1 (March 2008): 53, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592708080067. [107] Quoted in, Schlesinger, “Obama Has Mentioned ‘American Exceptionalism’ More than Bush.” See, for example, Trevor McCrisken, “Obama’s Drone War,” Survival 55, no. 2 (2013): 97–122, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2013.784469. [108] “Barack Obama's Remarks to the Democratic National Convention,” New York Times, July 27, 2004, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/27/politics/campaign/barack-obamas-remarks-to-the-democratic-national.html, emphasis mine. [109] William I. Hitchcock, “How the GOP Embraced the World — and then Turned Away,” Politico Magazine, July 13, 2018, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/07/13/gop-isolationism-trump-eisenhower-219003; David Farber, “America First and International Trade Policy in the Cold War Era,” in, “America First: The Past and Future of an Idea,” ed. Melvyn P. Leffler and William Hitchcock, Passport (September 2018): 39–41, https://shafr.org/sites/default/files/passport-09-2018-america-first-essays.pdf. [110] Farber, “America First and International Trade Policy in the Cold War Era,” 40. [111] I would like to thank Reviewer 1 for pointing this out. [112] See, Mitt Romney, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010); Ashley Parker, “Romney Makes His Pitch to Social Conservatives and Attacks Obama,” New York Times, March 31, 2012, https://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/romney-makes-his-pitch-to-social-conservatives-and-attacks-obama/. [113] “2012 Republican Party Platform,” Aug. 27, 2012, The American Presidency Project, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/2012-republican-party-platform#american. [114] For more on this, and how Trump diverges, see, Gilmore and Rowling, “Partisan Patriotism in the American Presidency.” [115] Corn, “Donald Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe in ‘American Exceptionalism.’” [116] Corn, “Donald Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe in ‘American Exceptionalism.’” [117] Corn, “Donald Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe in ‘American Exceptionalism.’” [118] According to Stewart M. Patrick, Trump “has undermined Western solidarity with repeated assaults on NATO and the G-7 and repudiation of the international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He has threatened to leave the World Trade Organization and blocked judicial appointments to its appellate body. He has repudiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership, forced the renegotiation of NAFTA into a more closed deal, slapped aluminum and steel tariffs on U.S. allies on dubious national security grounds, and launched an all-out trade war with China… . Most disconcerting, the president himself has embraced a rogues’ gallery of authoritarian thugs, from Kim Jong Un to Xi Jinping, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte.” In other words, by going much further than previous presidents in his critiques of NATO (not simply stating that allies must raise their defense budgets, but embracing NATO’s main adversary — Putin’s Russia — while aggressively attacking NATO allies such as Germany) and by embracing authoritarian leaders instead of liberal democratic allies, Trump has rejected the values underpinning the liberal world order. See, Patrick, “The Liberal World Order Is Dying. What Comes Next?” World Politics Review, Jan. 15, 2019, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/insights/27192/the-liberal-world-order-is-dying-what-comes-next. [119] Thanks to my colleague Chris White for this phrase. [120] Leffler, “America First: Introduction,” in, “America First: The Past and Future of an Idea,” ed. Leffler and Hitchcock, 33. [121] See, Nicole Hemmer, “America First, a Second Time,” in, “America First: The Past and Future of an Idea,” ed. Leffler and Hitchcock, 47. [122] Susan Dunn, “Trump’s ‘America First’ Has Ugly Echoes from American History,” CNN, April 28, 2016, https://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/27/opinions/trump-america-first-ugly-echoes-dunn/. [123] Christopher Nichols, “America First, American Isolationism, and the Coming of World War II,” in, “America First: The Past and Future of an Idea,” ed. Leffler and Hitchcock, 35. [124] Sarah Churchwell, Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 258. [125] Sean Illing, “How ‘America First’ Ruined the ‘American Dream,’” Vox, Oct. 22, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/10/22/17940964/america-first-trump-sarah-churchwell-american-dream. [126] Nichols, “America First, American Isolationism, and the Coming of World War II,” 35. [127] Nichols, Promise and Peril, chap. 1. See also, Restad, American Exceptionalism, chap. 3. [128] Churchwell, Behold, America, 43. [129] Churchwell, Behold, America, 45. [130] Churchwell, Behold, America, 48. [131] Quoted in, Churchwell, Behold, America, 84. See also, Laderman and Simms, Donald Trump: The Making of a World View, 10–11. [132] Churchwell, Behold, America, 91. [133] “The Ku-Klux Klan,” Committee on Rules, House of Representatives, Oct. 11, 1921, 120, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.hj1i8v. See also, Churchwell, Behold, America, 288–89. [134] “Bush, Buchanan, and No One at All,” New York Times, March 4, 1992, https://www.nytimes.com/1992/03/04/opinion/bush-buchanan-and-no-one-at-all.html [135] “Pat Buchanan in 1992: Make America First Again,” Face the Nation (1992), available on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBm7SZ_WjYY. The appearance on Face the Nation was prior to the New Hampshire primary. [136] Jeff Greenfield, “Trump Is Pat Buchanan with Better Timing,” Politico Magazine (September/October 2016), https://politi.co/2S7NFx1. [137] Greenfield, “Trump Is Pat Buchanan with Better Timing.” [138] Greenfield, “Trump Is Pat Buchanan with Better Timing.” [139] Patrick J. Buchanan, “1992 Republican National Convention Speech,” Patrick J. Buchanan Official Website, Aug. 17, 1992, http://buchanan.org/blog/1992-republican-national-convention-speech-148. [140] Buchanan, “1992 Republican National Convention Speech.” [141] Krishnadev Calamur, “A Short History of ‘America First,’” The Atlantic, Jan. 21, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/trump-america-first/514037/. [142] Mead, Special Providence. [143] Mead, Special Providence, 223. [144] The battle of New Orleans took place after the war was formally over, but the participants in New Orleans were unaware. The battle nevertheless cemented the image of Jackson as a heroic warrior. From the Jackson presidential library: “Jackson’s string of military success, despite the obstacles he faced, the poor results of other military leaders during the War of 1812 and his stunning victory at New Orleans made him a celebrated national hero, revered above all others except George Washington.” See, “War Hero,” Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, https://thehermitage.com/learn/andrew-jackson/general/war-hero/. [145] Daniel Fellner, “Andrew Jackson: Campaigns and Elections,” Miller Center, https://millercenter.org/president/jackson/campaigns-and-elections. [146] Daniel Fellner, “Andrew Jackson: Impact and Legacy,” Miller Center, https://millercenter.org/president/jackson/impact-and-legacy. [147] Mead, Special Providence, 244. [148] Mead, Special Providence, 226. [149] Rogers Brubaker, “Populism and Nationalism,” Nations and Nationalism, April 29, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1111/nana.12522. [150] Brubaker, “Populism and Nationalism,” 224. [151] Mead, Special Providence, 240. [152] Mead, Special Providence, 246. [153] Mead, “The Jacksonian Revolt.” [154] Mead, Special Providence, 244. [155] Mead, Special Providence, 226. [156] Mead, Special Providence, 227. [157] Mead, Special Providence, 227. See, David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). [158] Michael Clarke and Anthony Ricketts, “Donald Trump and American Foreign Policy: The Return of the Jacksonian Tradition,” Comparative Strategy, 36, no. 4 (2017): 368, https://doi.org/10.1080/01495933.2017.1361210. [159] Mead, Special Providence, 226–27. [160] Terri Bimes and Quinn Mulroy, “The Rise and Decline of Presidential Populism,” Studies in American Political Development, 18, no. 2 (October 2004): 136–59, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0898588X04000082. [161] Mead, Special Providence, 230. [162] Mark R. Cheathem, “Donald Trump Is Not a Twenty-First Century Andrew Jackson,” The American Historian (2017), https://www.oah.org/tah/issues/2017/february/donald-trump-is-not-a-twenty-first-century-andrew-jackson/. [163] John Torpey, “The End of the World as We Know It? American Exceptionalism in an Age of Disruption,” Sociological Forum 32, no. 4 (December 2017): 25, https://doi.org/10.1111/socf.12372. [164] Trump, “Inaugural Address.” [165] Trump, “Inaugural Address.” [166] Goldgeier, “The Misunderstood Roots of International Order,” 11. [167] Hasan Dudar and Deirdre Shesgreen, “Trump’s Long List of Global Trade Deals, Agreements Exited or Renegotiated,” USA Today, Nov. 21, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/11/21/donald-trump-foreign-policy-iran-nafta-russia-mexico-canada-trade/1732952002/. [168] Patrick Gillespie, “Trump Hammers ‘America’s Worst Trade Deal,’” CNN Money, Sept. 27, 2016, https://money.cnn.com/2016/09/27/news/economy/donald-trump-nafta-hillary-clinton-debate/. [169] Ryan Hass, “Trump’s Focus on China Trade: Right Target, Wrong Approach,” Order from Chaos Blog, June 14, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/06/14/trumps-focus-on-china-trade-right-target-wrong-approach/. [170] Martha C. White, “Top Economists Blame Trump’s Protectionist Policies for Global ‘Stagnation,’” NBC News, Oct. 22, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/top-economists-blame-trump-s-protectionist-policies-global-stagnation-n1070036. [171] White, “Top Economists Blame Trump’s Protectionist Policies.” [172] Indeed, as Frank Ninkovich points out, it is similar to President William McKinley’s 1896 campaign slogan, “Patriotism, protection, and prosperity.” Ninkovich, “Trumpism, History, and the Future of US Foreign Relations,” in, Chaos in the Liberal Order, ed. Jervis et al., 396. [173] Zeiler, “This Is What Nationalism Looks Like,” in, Chaos in the Liberal Order, ed. Jervis et al., 143. [174] Zeiler, “This Is What Nationalism Looks Like,” 143. [175] Zeiler, “This Is What Nationalism Looks Like,” 146. [176] Robert C. Hilderbrand, Dumbarton Oaks: The Origins of the United Nations and the Search for Postwar Security (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1990). [177] Indeed, his protectionism has been one of his most consistently held policy positions. See, Laderman and Simms, Donald Trump: The Making of a World View. [178] In a campaign speech on trade in Pennsylvania on June 28, 2016, Trump said, “Today, we import nearly $800 billion more in goods than we export. We can’t continue to do that. This is not some natural disaster, it’s a political and politician-made disaster. … It is the consequence of a leadership class that worships globalism over Americanism. This is a direct affront to our founding fathers, who — America wanted to be strong. They wanted this country to be strong. They wanted to be independent and they wanted it to be free.” “Read Donald Trump’s Speech on Trade,” Time, June 28, 2016, https://time.com/4386335/donald-trump-trade-speech-transcript/. See also, Dudar and Shesgreen, “Trump’s Long List of Global Trade Deals.” [179] Corn, “Donald Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe in ‘American Exceptionalism.” [180] Gilmore and Rowling, “Lighting the Beacon,” 272. [181] Barry R. Posen, “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony: Trump’s Surprising Grand Strategy,” Foreign Affairs 97, no. 2 (March/April, 2018), https://fam.ag/2FYj1QY. [182] I thank Melvyn P. Leffler for pointing this out. [183] See Smith, Civic Ideals; and Gerstle, American Crucible. [184] Josh Dawsey, “Trump Derides Protections for Immigrants from ‘Shithole Countries,’” Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-attacks-protections-for-immigrants-from-shithole-countries-in-oval-office-meeting/2018/01/11/bfc0725c-f711-11e7-91af-31ac729add94_story.html. [185] In December 2015, Trump issued a statement saying, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Jenna Johnson and Abigail Hauslohner, “’I Think Islam Hates Us’: A Timeline of Trump’s Comments About Islam and Muslims,” Washington Post, May 20, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/20/i-think-islam-hates-us-a-timeline-of-trumps-comments-about-islam-and-muslims/. [186] Chris Moody and Kristen Holmes, “Donald Trump's History of Suggesting Obama Is a Muslim,” CNN, Sept. 19, 2015, https://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/18/politics/trump-obama-muslim-birther/index.html. [187] “Donald Trump Presidential Announcement,” C-Span, June 16, 2015, https://www.c-span.org/video/?326473-1/donald-trump-presidential-campaign-announcement. [188] Donald Trump (@realdonaldtrump), “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Twitter, June 14, 2019, https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1150381394234941448?s=20. [189] Stuart Rothenberg, “Will There Be Enough White Voters to Elect Donald Trump?” Washington Post, July 7, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/06/07/will-there-be-enough-white-voters-to-elect-donald-trump/. [190] Mike Allen, “Trump’s Next Move: Stick It to Immigration Hardliners,” Axios, Sept. 8, 2017, https://www.axios.com/trumps-next-move-stick-it-to-immigration-hardliners-1513305364-d0631aae-f7bc-4cef-880a-62db9fe42091.html [191] Despite a few exceptions, such as his first inaugural address containing the phrase, “whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” Trump has largely continued his exclusionary rhetoric while in office. See, Trump, “Inaugural Address,” (2017). [192] Tucker Higgins, “Supreme Court Rules that Trump’s Travel Ban Is Constitutional,” CNBC, June 26, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/26/supreme-court-rules-in-trump-muslim-travel-ban-case.html. [193] The countries are Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, along with North Korea and Venezuela. Vahid Niayesh, “Trump’s Travel Ban Really Was a Muslim Ban, Data Suggests,” Washington Post, Sept. 26, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/09/26/trumps-muslim-ban-really-was-muslim-ban-thats-what-data-suggest/. [194] Dara Lind, “America’s Immigration Agency Removes ‘Nation of Immigrants’ from Its Mission Statement,” Vox, Feb. 22, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/2/22/17041862/uscis-removes-nation-of-immigrants-from-mission-statement. [195] Jayashri Srikantiah and Shirin Sinnar, “White Nationalism as Immigration Policy,” Stanford Law Review, no. 71 (March 2019), https://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/white-nationalism-as-immigration-policy/. [196] Michael Luo, “America’s Exclusionary Past and Present and the Judgment of History,” New Yorker, Aug. 17, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/americas-exclusionary-past-and-present-and-the-judgment-of-history. [197] Norway is generally viewed as a white, Christian country. This is largely correct, although the demographics are changing. As of 2018, Norway consisted of 85.9 percent native Norwegians (this includes a small Sami population as well as 3.2 percent born to non-native parents). The largest immigrant community in Norway is Polish. See, “Fjorten present av befolkningen er innvandrere,” Statistics Norway (SSB), March 5, 2018, https://www.ssb.no/befolkning/artikler-og-publikasjoner/14-prosent-av-befolkningen-er-innvandrere. [198] Robin Wright, “The ‘Shithole Countries’ — and the Rest of the World — Respond to President Trump,” New Yorker, Jan. 12, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-shithole-countriesand-the-rest-of-the-worldrespond-to-president-trump. [199] Susannah Crockford, “Why Building a Wall on the US-Mexico Border Is a Symbolic Monument, not Sensible Immigration Policy,” London School of Economics UC Centre Blog, Feb. 21, 2017, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2017/02/21/why-building-a-wall-on-the-us-mexico-border-is-a-symbolic-monument-not-sensible-immigration-policy/h. [200] Abram Van Engen, “American Exceptionalism and America First,” Religion and Politics, Jan. 9, 2018, http://religionandpolitics.org/2018/01/09/american-exceptionalism-and-america-first. [201] See, Gerstle, American Crucible, 418–26. [202] Clarke and Ricketts, “Donald Trump and American Foreign Policy,” 368. [203] Mead, Special Providence, 260–61. [204] Michael Edison Hayden, “Stephen Miller’s Affinity for White Nationalism Revealed in Leaked Emails,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Nov. 12, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2019/11/12/stephen-millers-affinity-white-nationalism-revealed-leaked-emails. [205] Robert Kagan argues that Trump’s grand strategy is classically realist. Personal conversation, April 26, 2018. Robert Jervis argues Trump’s foreign policy does not quite square with realism, whereas Randall Schweller argues that it does. See, Jervis, “President Trump and International Relations Theory,” in, Chaos in the Liberal Order, ed. Jervis et al., 5; Schweller, “Why Trump Now,” in, Chaos in the Liberal Order, ed. Jervis et al., 23, 35. [206] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, The White House (December, 2017), 1, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. To be sure, it is not clear that the National Security Strategy reflects Trump’s personal foreign policy vision. Mostly, it reads like the national security strategy of any Republican administration, or, as Barry R. Posen calls it, “a word salad of a document.” One might even question whether Trump has read it. This is why this article mostly focuses on Trump’s own statements and foreign policy actions. See, Posen, “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony.” [207] See, Restad, American Exceptionalism, chaps. 7 and 8. [208] Micah Zenko, “Trump Is America’s First Contradiction-in-Chief,” Foreign Policy, Feb. 12, 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/02/12/trump-is-americas-first-narcissist-in-chief/. [209] Paul K. MacDonald and Joseph M. Parent, “Trump Didn’t Shrink U.S. Military Commitments Abroad—He Expanded Them,” Foreign Affairs, Dec. 3, 2019, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-12-03/trump-didnt-shrink-us-military-commitments-abroad-he-expanded-them. [210] Daniel Byman and Steve Simon, “Trump’s Surge in Afghanistan: Why We Can’t Seem to End the War,” Foreign Affairs, Sept. 18, 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2017-09-18/trumps-surge-afghanistan. [211] Micah Zenko, “The (Not-So) Peaceful Transition of Power: Trump’s Drone Strikes Outpace Obama,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 2, 2017, https://www.cfr.org/blog/not-so-peaceful-transition-power-trumps-drone-strikes-outpace-obama. [212] Michael R. Gordon, Helene Cooper, and Michael D. Shear, “Dozens of U.S. Missiles Hit Air Base in Syria,” New York Times, April 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/world/middleeast/us-said-to-weigh-military-responses-to-syrian-chemical-attack.html. [213] This later turned out to be incorrect, as the aircraft carrier was sailing in the opposite direction to take part in joint exercises with the Australian navy. Of course, the original diplomatic signal sent by this statement by the U.S. president was still significant. Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt, “Aircraft Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea, as U.S. Suggested,” New York Times, April 18, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/world/asia/aircraft-carrier-north-korea-carl-vinson.html. [214] W. J. Hennigan, “Trump Orders Strikes on Syria Over Chemical Weapons,” Time Magazine, April 13, 2018, https://time.com/5240164/syria-missile-strikes-donald-trump-chemical-weapons/. [215] Brett McGurk, “American Foreign Policy Adrift,” Foreign Affairs, June 5, 2019, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2019-06-05/american-foreign-policy-adrift. [216] Kupchan, “The Clash of Exceptionalisms.” [217] Diplomatic historians realized this was an outdated paradigm long before political scientists. See, Emily S. Rosenberg, “A Call to Revolution: A Roundtable on Early U.S. Foreign Relations,” Diplomatic History 22, no. 1 (January 1998): 63–70, https://doi.org/10.1111/0145-2096.00101. [218] Braumoeller, “The Myth of American Isolationism”; Restad, American Exceptionalism, chap. 3. [219] Kupchan, “The Clash of Exceptionalisms.” [220] Yochi Dreazen, “Candidate Trump Promised to Stay Out of Foreign Wars. President Trump Is Escalating Them,” Vox, Aug. 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/world/2017/8/25/16185936/trump-america-first-afghanistan-war-troops-iraq-generals. [221] MacDonald and Parent, “Trump Didn’t Shrink U.S. Military Commitments Abroad”; Scot Paltrow, “Special Report: In Modernizing Nuclear Arsenal, U.S. Stokes New Arms Race,” Reuters, Nov. 21, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nuclear-modernize-specialreport/special-report-in-modernizing-nuclear-arsenal-u-s-stokes-new-arms-race-idUSKBN1DL1AH; Lara Seligman, “One Small Step for Trump’s Space Force,” Foreign Policy, Aug. 29, 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/08/29/one-small-step-for-trump-space-force-space-command/h. [222] On this, see, Braumoeller, “The Myth of American Isolationism;” Restad, American Exceptionalism, chap. 3. John A. Thompson, “The Appeal of ‘America First,’” in, Chaos in the Liberal Order, ed. Jervis et al., 153. Frank Ninkovich disagrees, labeling it isolationist. See, Ninkovich, “Trumpism, History, and the Future of US Foreign Relations,” in, Chaos in the Liberal Order, ed. Jervis et al., 396. [223] On Trump’s non-isolationism, see also, Wertheim, “Donald Trump Versus American Exceptionalism.” [224] Quoted in, Posen, “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony.” [225] Mead, “The Jacksonian Revolt.” [226] Daniel Bell, “The End of American Exceptionalism,” National Affairs, 41 (Fall 1975): 197, https://www.nationalaffairs.com/public_interest/detail/the-end-of-american-exceptionalism. [227] Doug Stokes, “Trump, American Hegemony and the Future of the Liberal International Order,” International Affairs 94, no. 1 (January 2018): 134, https://doi.org/10.1093/ia/iix238. [228] Patricia Zengerle and Makini Brice, “Breaking with Trump, U.S. Republicans Press for Response to Turkey Over Syria,” Reuters, Oct. 9, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security-turkey-usa-graham/breaking-with-trump-u-s-republicans-press-for-response-to-turkey-over-syria-idUSKBN1WO1ZK. [229] Not to say there have not been internal disagreements, for instance, over Trump’s policy toward Kurdish allies in Syria. See, Catie Edmondson, “In Bipartisan Rebuke, House Majority Condemns Trump for Syria Withdrawal,” New York Times, Oct. 16, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/16/us/politics/house-vote-trump-syria.html. [230] Van Jackson, Heather HurlburtAdam MountLoren DeJonge Schulman, and Thomas Wright, “Policy Roundtable: The Future of Progressive Foreign Policy,” Texas National Security Review, Dec. 4, 2018, https://tnsr.org/roundtable/policy-roundtable-the-future-of-progressive-foreign-policy/. [231] Megan Trimble, “America Perceived Less Trustworthy in Trump Era,” U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 23, 2019, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2019-01-23/america-falls-in-trustworthy-countries-ranking-under-trump. [232] Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Strategic Thinking that Made America Great,” Foreign Affairs, Aug. 10, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-08-10/strategic-thinking-made-america-great. [233] Which is, admittedly, not a movement so much as a few political advisers and writers (a group that has dwindled in numbers since Trump’s election). Contrast the special edition of the National Review — “Conservatives Against Trump,” National Review, January 22, 2016, https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/01/donald-trump-conservatives-oppose-nomination/ — with where its contributors are today on the president. See, Jeremy W. Peters, “The ‘Never Trump’ Coalition that Decided Eh, Never Mind, He’s Fine, New York Times, Oct. 5, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/05/us/politics/never-trumper-republicans.html. [234] I am not arguing that Bush’s highly ideological approach to counter-terrorism was an example to follow. I am merely pointing out the radical differences between neoconservatism and Trump’s America First. [235] George W. Bush, “President Bush Addresses the Nation,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, March 19, 2003, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030319-17.html. [236] James G. Stewart, “Trump Keeps Talking About ‘Keeping’ Middle East Oil. That Would Be Illegal,” Washington Post, Nov. 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/11/05/trump-keeps-talking-about-keeping-middle-east-oil-that-would-be-illegal/. [237] Julian Borger, “Rex Tillerson: ‘America First’ Means Divorcing Our Policies from Our Values,” The Guardian (May 3, 2017), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/03/rex-tillerson-america-first-speech-trump-policy. [238] John McCain, “John McCain: Why We Must Support Human Rights,” New York Times May 8, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/08/opinion/john-mccain-rex-tillerson-human-rights.html. For more on this, see also the leaked memo Tillerson’s adviser Brian Hook wrote on Trump’s “realist” foreign policy: “Balancing Interests and Values,” Politico, May 17, 2017, https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000160-6c37-da3c-a371-ec3f13380001. [239] Indeed, after McCain’s passing, NATO reportedly considered naming its new headquarters after him. Amanda Macias, “NATO Is Considering Naming Its Headquarters After Sen. John McCain,” CNBC, Aug. 29, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/29/nato-considers-naming-headquarters-after-sen-john-mccain.html. [240] Tina Nguyen, “John McCain Takes Over as Shadow Secretary of State,” Vanity Fair, Feb. 2, 2017, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/donald-trump-australia-call-john-mccain. [241] Peter Baker, “A Growing Chorus of Republican Critics for Trump’s Foreign Policy,” New York Times, Jan. 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/29/us/politics/trump-foreign-policy.html. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has stated that Trump’s requests to Ukraine and China to investigate Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are “wrong and appalling.” This issue could be seen as both a domestic and a foreign policy issue. See, Carl Hulse, “For Once, Republicans Break with Trump, but Not on Impeachment,” New York Times, Oct. 8, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/08/us/politics/republicans-trump-syria.html. [242] Rachael Bade, “Trump’s Takeover of GOP Forces Many House Republicans to Head for the Exits,” Washington Post, Sept. 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-takeover-of-gop-forces-many-house-republicans-to-head-for-the-exits/2019/09/22/d89f99fc-d4bd-11e9-ab26-e6dbebac45d3_story.html. [243] Henry Farrell, “Thanks to Trump, Germany Says It Can’t Rely on the United States. What Does that Mean?” Washington Post, May 28, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/05/28/thanks-to-trump-germany-says-it-cant-rely-on-america-what-does-that-mean/; Steven Erlanger, “Macron Says NATO Is Experiencing ‘Brain Death’ Because of Trump,” New York Times, Nov. 7, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/world/europe/macron-nato-brain-death.html. [244] Rich Lowry, “The Fantasy of Republicans Ditching Trump,” Politico Magazine, Oct. 24, 2019, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/10/24/the-fantasy-of-republicans-ditching-trump-229879. [245] Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, “The Republican Devolution: Partisanship and the Decline of American Governance,” Foreign Affairs 98, no. 4 (July/August 2019), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-06-11/republican-devolution. [246] “Both the Democrats and Republicans Were Once White Majority Parties. Now, Race Divides Them,” Washington Post, Dec. 2, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/02/both-democrats-republicans-were-once-white-majority-parties-now-race-divides-them/. [247] Posen, “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony.” [248] Benjamin Hardy, “In Little Rock, Marco Rubio Sells American Exceptionalism,” Arkansas Times, Feb. 22, 2016, https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2016/02/22/in-little-rock-marco-rubio-sells-american-exceptionalism. For an analysis of what Republican rhetoric on American exceptionalism looked like right before Trump, see, Jason A. Edwards, “Contemporary Conservative Constructions of American Exceptionalism,” Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric 1, no. 2 (2011): 40–54, http://contemporaryrhetoric.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/edwards1_5.pdf. [249] Chris Murphy, “How to Make a Progressive Foreign Policy Actually Work,” The Atlantic, Oct. 7, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/senator-chris-murphy-progressive-foreign-policy/599470/. [250] A rather remarkable sign of the times is that the conservative Charles Koch Foundation has teamed up with the liberal Open Society Foundation in order to fund a bipartisan foreign policy think tank aiming to end the “forever wars” called the Quincy Institute. See, Bryan Bender, “George Soros and Charles Koch Take On the ‘Endless Wars,’” Politico, Dec. 2, 2019, https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/02/george-soros-and-charles-koch-take-on-the-endless-wars-074737. [251] Corn, “Donald Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe in ‘American Exceptionalism.’” [252] David Samuels, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru,” New York Times, May 5, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html; Trevor McCrisken, “Ten Years On: Obama’s War on Terrorism in Rhetoric and Practice,” International Affairs 87, no. 4 (July 2011): 781–801, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2346.2011.01004.x. [253] Nicholas Kitchen, “Ending ‘Permanent War’: Security and Economy Under Obama,” in, The Obama Doctrine: A Legacy of Continuity in US Foreign Policy? ed. Michelle Bentley and Jack Holland (Oxon: Routledge 2016), 9–25. [254] “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Syria,” White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Sept. 10, 2013, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/10/remarks-president-address-nation-syria. [255] For the current debate in the Democratic party, see, for example, Thomas Wright, “The Problem at the Core of Progressive Foreign Policy,” The Atlantic, Sept. 12, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/progressives-foreign-policy-dilemma/597823/. [256] Mark Hannah and Caroline Gray, “Indispensable No More? How the American Public Sees U.S. Foreign Policy,” Eurasia Group Foundation (November 2019), https://egfound.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Indispensable-no-more.pdf. [257] Bruce Jentleson, “Millennials Are So Over U.S. Domination of World Affairs,” The Conversation, July 26, 2018, http://theconversation.com/millennials-are-so-over-us-domination-of-world-affairs-99167. [258] Daniel Bell, “The End of American Exceptionalism,” 197. [259] Peter Beinart, “Obama’s Idealists: American Power in Theory and Practice,” Foreign Affairs 98, no. 6 (November/December 2019), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2019-10-07/obamas-idealists. [260] Dina Smeltz, et al., “Rejecting Retreat,” The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Sept. 6, 2019, https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/publication/rejecting-retreat. [261] Kathleen Hicks, “Now What? The American Citizen, World Order, and Building a New Foreign Policy Consensus,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 1 (November 2017): 109, http://hdl.handle.net/2152/63936. [262] See Jentleson, “Millennials Are So Over U.S. Domination of World Affairs.” [263] Michael Tesler, Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2016); Lilliana Mason, Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2018). [264] Bell, “The End of American Exceptionalism.” [265] Paul Staniland, “Misreading the ‘Liberal Order’: Why We Need New Thinking in American Foreign Policy,” Lawfare, July 29, 2018, https://www.lawfareblog.com/misreading-liberal-order-why-we-need-new-thinking-american-foreign-policy. [266] Porter, “A World Imagined. Nostalgia and the Liberal Order.” [267] Jentleson, “Millennials Are So Over U.S. Domination of World Affairs.” [268] Rebecca Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper, “The Day After Trump: American Strategy for a New International Order,”  Washington Quarterly 41, no. 1 (2018): 7–25, https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2018.1445353. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [1] => Array ( [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2271 [post_author] => 339 [post_date] => 2019-12-16 05:00:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-16 10:00:36 [post_content] => Like many people of a certain age, I vividly remember the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon nearly 50 years ago. I held my breath as the lunar module approached the moon’s surface, and when the camera showed the American flag standing on the surface of another world, I was filled with pride, like millions of Americans. But I wasn’t an American yet. I was an Iranian citizen, a young girl watching television in our house in Tehran. And although I wouldn’t move to the United States until several years later, I knew from an early age that America was the place for me. The America I admired as a young girl was the America that put a man on the moon, the America that stood for democracy in the face of the Soviet monolith, the America that struggled righteously and courageously to bring justice to all, regardless of color or creed. Over the past century, the United States has served as the world’s premier example and defender of freedom and human rights. Most people on this planet admired America’s foundational values — perhaps not universally, but broadly and deeply.[1] I saw this when I studied in Switzerland. I saw it when I worked as an investment banker in Japan. And I especially saw it when I served as the U.S. ambassador to Sweden. Even when they disagreed with American policies, people abroad had faith in the American people and, by and large, believed that the United States would ultimately do the right thing and lead by example. It is true that, from America’s beginning, a certain distance has separated its ideals from its practices, particularly in issues related to race, such as slavery and segregation. The great comfort is that, over time, this disparity has shrunk as America’s practices have approached its ideals. For example, many young people like me, viewing the United States from the outside, saw the achievements of the Civil Rights movement as a historical catharsis that righted old wrongs and helped America purge itself of the Jim Crow era. But now the distance between America’s ideals and practices seems not to be shrinking, but widening. Countries around the world take note when the United States abandons desperate friends, shrugs when dictatorial partners murder critics, or appears to politicize the prosecution of domestic political opponents.[2] Their observations will have consequences. They may partner less often with the United States, and more often with America’s more dictatorial geopolitical competitors. Already some European allies, faced with chaotic and contradictory U.S. policies, are thinking about a possible accommodation with Russia over Crimea.[3] This suddenly widening gap between what America stands for and what it does grates deeply against the grain of the country’s overwhelmingly beneficial role in post-World War II global history. The United States was instrumental in designing the post-war architecture of international cooperation that created the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other institutions.[4] It created the conditions, space, and security that led from the European Coal and Steel Community to the European Union, conditions that transformed Europe from a driver of global conflict twice in one century into one of the world’s most remarkable economic and political successes. That security was underwritten by NATO — the world’s most effective military alliance — which successfully deterred the Soviet Union for decades until what Ronald Reagan aptly called the “evil empire” was consigned to the dustbin of history. [quote id="1"] All of these institutions were created to tame international anarchy and promote global cooperation that would enable the spread of free political systems and free markets. Given the violence endemic to human affairs, they were enormously successful, particularly in Europe. But these global institutions require an engaged, productive United States, no less so nearly 30 years after the end of the Cold War. For example, NATO without the United States is less than the sum of its parts. The question isn’t simply one of power, but of legitimacy and leadership. An America that leads NATO in the pursuit of legitimate goals turns a summation of military forces into a multiplier of both hard power and soft power.[5] A United Nations without the United States is a debate club, barren of ideals or purpose, overwhelmed by disinformation and autocratic bluster. The G7 relies on active leadership from Washington for its success. But in a few short years, the Trump administration has taken an axe to these institutions by praising and partnering with authoritarians, railing against longtime democratic allies, and straining or breaking international alliances and agreements.[6] As many voices predicted, “America First,” is mostly “America Alone,” with only the occasional bad company of faithless autocrats and noxious hyper-nationalists. America occupies a privileged, but assailable position, rivaled by revisionist powers. If it continues on its current course of disengaging from global leadership and adopting “America First” policies, those of us who watched in wonder the landing on the moon may live to see a darker, more terrifying era set in. Arguably this era has already begun, given that Turkey’s intervention in Syria — made possible by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull back U.S. troops — could lead to an even more unpredictable downward spiral of that conflict, and the president is demanding dramatically increased monetary contributions to defense from stalwart Asian allies, such as Japan and South Korea.[7] As the country prepares for what is sure to be a contentious and tense electoral season, presidential aspirants and analysts of all stripes are offering their visions for America’s role in the world in the forthcoming era. Many of these visions are inspiring. Too many, however, lack a process for identifying specific policies. The “vision thing” is surely important for guiding the country forward, but the devil is in the details, and a way to create these details is needed in order to find the devil inside them. Pivotal moments in history hinge on the hard cases, and these tend to defy high-minded principles.

Surviving Contact with Reality

A durable vision for foreign policy that can survive contact with hard cases must grapple with the following inter-related realities. First, the post-Cold War era, defined by America’s “unipolar moment,” is ending.[8] That would be true regardless of who is in the White House. But the global distribution of power that will define the next world order is still up for grabs. Whoever wins the 2020 presidential election will have the unenviable task of reaffirming alliances and rebuilding trust with partners made skeptical that America can make promises that last from one administration to another. The task is essential in order to preserve and promote America’s values in a multipolar world. Rather than America First, the country should strive to be America primus inter pares — first among equals, or leader by general acclamation rather than by proclamation. Second, while the international institutions that America built over the last 70 years — military, economic, and beyond — remain critical, they are no longer as fit-for-purpose as they once were. Rising competitors may offer compelling alternatives such as China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Old institutions are also increasingly challenged from within as governments in countries like Hungary, Poland, and Turkey develop autocratic characteristics. And America’s own foreign policy institutions are also in need of modernization, recapitalization, and reform. Third, the American people have been disengaged from foreign policy for far too long. This is not necessarily a question of public ignorance. As Emma Ashford recently wrote, “[A]fter almost two decades of an unwinnable ‘War on Terror,’ it’s somewhat condescending to assume that the problem is with the American people, not with the foreign policy itself.”[9] It may be true that there are aspects of U.S. foreign policy that demand better explanations to some segments of the electorate, such as the value of multilateral agreements and military alliances. But it is also time for America’s foreign policy elite to listen to the American people. While Trump’s visceral hostility to NATO is wrong, for example, his antagonism has shined a light on legitimate questions regarding burden-sharing that deserve fair debate. Rather than just pivoting to Asia, America will need to balance itself carefully in the east and the west to counter terrorist threats and an emerging Sino-Russian bloc that supports autocratic practices and policies. For this job, America’s allies — particularly in Europe — must be better invested both ideologically and financially in their own defense.

Toward a Sustainable American Foreign Policy

How do we restore U.S. leadership in a sustainable way that advances American interests without overextension? It’s a big question, but difficult times call for ambitious thinking. As John F. Kennedy said when he announced America’s intention to go to the moon, we do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I propose three groups of priorities for a renewed and sustainable American foreign policy. They consist of a period of public deliberation and debate to re-examine, clarify, and perhaps redefine assumptions about America’s interests; wide-ranging institutional reforms as a result of those deliberations; and a corresponding revival of American ideals and the hard and soft power behind them. To sum up, America needs to begin the process for reflection, reform, and renewal. First, reflection. America needs a national conversation about how to rekindle the power of its ideals. The 1945 Joint Congressional Committee on the Organization of Congress, and subsequent iterations in 1965 and 1991, offers a model.[10] A new Joint Committee for a Renewed American Foreign Policy would serve a useful political purpose, showing the public that both parties can come together again for the country’s greater good. It would also inject needed congressional oversight into foreign policy formulation during a time when it is dangerously concentrated in the executive branch. [quote id="2"] The problem is party polarization. I assume, perhaps optimistically, that following the next election cycle policymakers from both sides of the aisle will crave a period of relative political peace, irrespective of the victor. After every presidential election, a period of good feelings — mixed with exhaustion — invariably settles upon Washington. Politicians from both parties pledge to work on a bipartisan basis and the newly elected president is toasted at an inaugural luncheon hosted by the bipartisan Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. All the rancor of the 2016 election did not stop President Barack Obama from graciously welcoming President-elect Trump to the White House while making a call for national unity.[11] Perhaps those good feelings could be channeled into a Joint Committee for a Renewed American Foreign Policy, with all the appeal to political independents that such high-minded bipartisanship would hold. They could use that time to rebuild bridges and ponder ways to ensure that America’s policies are consonant with its ideals. The United States is the oldest democracy in the world: a self-perfecting nation based on the ideals of equality. If it is again to become Reagan’s “shining city on a hill,” America must remember that all eyes are upon it.[12] It must also be willing to recognize and correct its mistakes. If America stays true to its core values, it will continue to attract the sympathies and support of right-thinking people around the world. This is a subtle kind of power, but it extends wherever people demand freedom and justice, which is to say everywhere. In that vein, perhaps the greatest failure of the current administration is the perception, widely held abroad and sometimes at home, that U.S. foreign policy has ceased to defend democratic rules, ideals, and norms, and instead has become an instrument that American elites use to pursue their own corrupt interests — or like many other countries whose foreign policies are extensions of autocratic agendas. Therein lies the fundamental contradiction of “America First.” Eisenhower once said, “America is great because she is good.” But an America that uses all means to place herself first cannot be great because she is just like everyone else, throwing around sharp elbows to grab whatever scraps lie on the geopolitical table. And if America’s greatness is measured only by the size of its economy or the strength of its military, rather than the appeal of its ideals, then it will eventually likely be overtaken by a country like China, which has a larger population and more natural resources. Where such a country can never overtake America is in its commitment to universal ideals that respect and enable the fundamental potential and goodness of all people. When I was a young girl watching Apollo 11 descend onto the lunar surface, I did not think of the United States as advancing a narrow and self-interested agenda while fighting with others at the geopolitical table. America was the only table worth sitting at, and all of us wanted a seat. Apollo 11 represented the vanguard of humanity’s desire to transcend its limits, and the stunning accomplishment of putting a man on the Moon had a seismic foreign policy impact far beyond our ability to measure. It was freedom’s ultimate success story: Dare to be free, and you could reach for the stars. Second, reform. The outcome of this national conversation would serve as the basis for wide-ranging institutional reform. America must invest in and modernize its diplomacy. As U.S. ambassador to Sweden, I had the privilege of leading a team of career diplomats, military officers, and civil servants from numerous government agencies and departments as we worked together to advance American interests abroad. Those people remain some of the most capable professionals I have had the pleasure to work with in my career. Diplomats testifying in the ongoing House impeachment hearings have demonstrated for the American people the high standards of professionalism in the Foreign Service, as well as the seriousness and consequential nature of U.S. diplomacy. They are not exceptions, but the rule. But even the most capable individuals need adequate resources to do their jobs, and in his 2020 budget, the president proposed a 23 percent cut in State Department and USAID funding.[13] Gen. Jim Mattis famously said in 2013, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”[14] His meaning was that the hard daily work of diplomacy, rarely acknowledged in public, defuses disputes before they break out into military conflicts. Both of Trump’s secretaries of state, however, have driven junior and senior members of the Foreign Service out of the department at a time when U.S. foreign policy is in tatters across the globe.[15] As former Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns recently wrote in Foreign Affairs, the damage now being done to the State Department “will likely prove to be more severe to both diplomatic tradecraft and U.S. foreign policy” than any previous political assault on the institution.[16] All that said, it is not enough to simply provide more funding. The State Department’s challenges have become more complex, from the rise of China to the impact of artificial intelligence on foreign policy. The way that it does its work must be fundamentally re-imagined. I cannot claim to know exactly how the department should be reformed. Ideally, the results of a Joint Committee for a Renewed American Foreign Policy, informed by career staffers and specialist academics, would help to provide more specific prescriptions. But I can say that while diplomacy cannot achieve everything, it is the most cost-effective way to build support for America’s priorities abroad and promote the mutual understanding so necessary for international cooperation. [quote id="3"] Part-and-parcel of reforming U.S. diplomacy is communicating its necessity and value to Americans who are often skeptical of what taxpayer dollars purchase at the State Department. America seems more willing to fund what it can count. To borrow Mattis’ words, ammunition is easy to quantify, but soft power is not. It is important to help people understand that America’s military forces aren’t based in Europe out of altruism; they are there to keep the peace in a continent that has spawned two world wars that killed tens of millions, including hundreds of thousands of Americans. America isn’t in the United Nations because it likes getting harangued by its adversaries; it is there to push back against their hostile policies, and to help ensure that conflicts get resolved before they flame out of control and become armed conflicts that drag America in. American primacy in international affairs has allowed the United States to set standards and reach markets in a way that a less engaged nation never could.[17] And American consumers have gained enormously from trade, with access to affordable goods undreamt of when Neil Armstrong was taking big steps on the moon. The benefits to average Americans are real. Policymakers need to work harder to communicate these benefits, while not dismissing concerns about trade out of hand. Finally, out of reform would come renewal. With faith in America’s ideals renewed, the country would have a newfound confidence in supporting those ideals without hypocrisy, using both hard and soft power. U.S. foreign policy works best when American ideals and aspirations are at its core. But the country would also have to stop turning a blind eye to behaviors that contradict its fundamental values. A “transactional” foreign policy leaves America short-changed because autocracies inevitably gain more from it, and rules-based democracies gain less. If American leaders shrug when autocrats murder journalists or repress their own peoples, America’s natural allies are repelled, and by acquiescing to authoritarianism the country helps corrode the international order. Friend or competitor, ally or enemy, the United States must hold other nations to account when they step over the line. This can take the form of quiet diplomacy and arm-twisting behind the scenes, public rebuke and peer pressure, or even bilateral or multilateral sanctions. But the message should be clear: Autocratic regimes cannot enjoy the benefits of the West while taking actions that undermine it. Perhaps the first goal for an American foreign policy revival would be to try again on international trade accords. The Obama administration began to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, signed the Paris Climate Agreement, and advocated for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, while the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the climate accord and suspended negotiations on the two trade agreements. But all these agreements had real benefits for the United States, from setting the “rules of the game” for global trade before China can do so itself, to tackling the existential threat of climate change, to forming the world’s largest free trade zone with wealthy nations eager to buy American goods. It’s not too late to resurrect all these agreements or negotiate new ones. Doing so would lay the foundation for years of mutually beneficial economic exchange that would do much to lower the chances of great power warfare. In the past, America has thrown open its doors to refugees, kept the peace in war-wracked regions, stemmed the tide of AIDS in Africa, and kept the light of freedom alive in hopeless corners of the world. After the unbelievable horror of World War II, the United States helped build an international system that has prevented another global catastrophe. It has become the richest country in the world through trade and helped bring unimaginable levels of prosperity to the rest of the globe. The United States may have hit a rough patch in its history. But for me, it will always be that gutsy country that dared to dream that a person could walk on the moon. A momentary crisis of confidence doesn’t change the fact that America is a positive force for good in the world. That’s what America is: a place where hope compels us to believe that great things can still be done. That’s who Americans are. And if Americans are true to their values, then the United States will once again be a guiding light in the night for the world.   Azita Raji served as U.S. ambassador to Sweden from 2016 to 2017. She is a senior fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. [post_title] => Sense and Indispensability: American Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sense-and-indispensability-american-leadership-in-an-age-of-uncertainty [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-15 10:57:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-15 15:57:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2271 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => Former ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji, proposes a way forward for a renewed and sustainable American foreign policy. This would require a re-examination of America's interests, institutional reforms, and a revival of American ideals. To wit: reflection, reform, and renewal. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 3, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => But in a few short years, the Trump administration has taken an axe to these institutions by praising and partnering with authoritarians, railing against longtime democratic allies, and straining or breaking international alliances and agreements. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => If America stays true to its core values, it will continue to attract the sympathies and support of right-thinking people around the world. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => American primacy in international affairs has allowed the United States to set standards and reach markets in a way that a less engaged nation never could. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 339 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] See, for example, Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Idea that Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World (New York: Basic Books, 2007). [2] On abandoning friends, see, Peter Baker and Catie Edmondson, “Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote,” New York Times, Oct. 16, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/16/world/middleeast/trump-erdogan-turkey-syria-kurds.html. On minimizing the murder of American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, see, Michael D. Shear, “Trump Shrugs Off Khashoggi Killing by Ally Saudi Arabia,” New York Times, June 23, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/23/us/politics/trump-khashoggi-killing-saudi-arabia.html. On politicizing the prosecution of political opponents, see, Katie Benner and Adam Goldman, “Justice Dep’t Is Said to Open Criminal Inquiry Into Its Own Russia Investigation,” New York Times, Oct, 24, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/24/us/politics/john-durham-criminal-investigation.html. [3] See, for example, David Chazan, “France Says ‘Time Has Come’ to Ease Tensions with Russia,” The Telegraph, Sept. 9, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/09/09/france-says-time-has-come-ease-tensions-russia/. [4] See, G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011). [5] Alexandra Gheciu, “Security Institutions as Agents of Socialization? NATO and the ‘New Europe,’” International Organization 59, no. 4 (October 2005): 973–1012, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818305050332. [6] For praising and partnering with authoritarians, see, for example, Domenico Montanaro, “6 Strongmen Trump Has Praised — and the Conflicts It Presents,” NPR, May 2, 2017, https://www.npr.org/2017/05/02/526520042/6-strongmen-trumps-praised-and-the-conflicts-it-presents?t=1576072717010; and “The Strange Love-In Between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” The Economist, Nov. 14, 2019, https://www.economist.com/united-states/2019/11/14/the-strange-love-in-between-donald-trump-and-recep-tayyip-erdogan. For railing against longtime democratic allies, see, for example, Paul D. Shinkman, “Trump Attacks France, Germany while Praising Turkey at NATO Summit,” U.S. News and World Report, Dec. 3, 2019, https://www.usnews.com/news/world-report/articles/2019-12-03/trump-attacks-france-germany-while-praising-turkey-at-nato-summit. For straining or breaking international alliances and agreements, see, for example, “Donald Trump: European Union Is a Foe on Trade,” BBC, July 15, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44837311; Lisa Friedman, “Trump Serves Notice to Quit Paris Climate Agreement,” New York Times, Nov. 4, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/04/climate/trump-paris-agreement-climate.html; and Mark Landler, “Trump Abandons Iran Nuclear Deal He Long Scorned,” New York Times, May 8, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/world/middleeast/trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html. [7] See, Lara Seligman and Robbie Gramer, “Trump Asks Tokyo to Quadruple Payments for U.S. Troops in Japan,” Foreign Policy, Nov. 15, 2019, https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/11/15/trump-asks-tokyo-quadruple-payments-us-troops-japan/. [8] The phrase “unipolar moment” was popularized by Charles Krauthammer in an influential essay in Foreign Affairs. Charles Krauthammer, “The Unipolar Moment,” Foreign Affairs, Sept. 18, 1990, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1991-02-01/unipolar-moment. [9] Emma Ashford, “The Gentleman from Nebraska Misfires on America’s Foreign Policy Debate,” War on the Rocks, May 6, 2019, https://warontherocks.com/2019/05/the-gentleman-from-nebraska-misfires-on-americas-foreign-policy-debate/. [10] For a useful overview of these committees, see, Donald R. Wolfensberger’s “A Brief History of Congressional Reform Efforts,” The Bipartisan Policy Center and The Woodrow Wilson Center, Feb. 22, 2013, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/brief_history_congressional_reform_efforts.pdf. Wolfensberger concludes that such committees have had, at best, mixed results. But a new joint committee could be a useful way to begin a conversation about how to rebalance power between the legislative and executive branches, particularly in areas of foreign policy and defense. It could also help lead the way to reforming legislation. [11] David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin, “Trump Meets with Obama at the White House as Whirlwind Transition Starts,” Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/11/10/obama-to-welcome-trump-to-white-house-for-first-meeting-since-election/. [12] In Reagan’s election eve address, he said, “I know I have told before of the moment in 1630 when the tiny ship Arabella bearing settlers to the New World lay off the Massachusetts coast. To the little bank of settlers gathered on the deck John Winthrop said: ‘we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.’ Well, America became more than ‘a story,’ or a ‘byword’ — more than a sterile footnote in history. I have quoted John Winthrop's words more than once on the campaign trail this year — for I believe that Americans in 1980 are every bit as committed to that vision of a shining ‘city on a hill,’ as were those long ago settlers.” Ronald Reagan, “Election Eve Address: ‘A Vision for America,’” American Presidency Project, Nov. 3, 1980, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/election-eve-address-vision-for-america. [13] “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First,” The White House, March 11, 2019, 71, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/budget-fy2020.pdf. [14] Mattis frequently reprised this theme, even while serving as secretary of defense.  See, for example, his remarks of Oct. 30, 2018: “I was frustrated enough with some aspects of State Department's budget that, in my testimony, I said if you don't fully fund up on Capitol Hill, my testimony, if you don't fully fund the State Department, please buy a little more ammunition for me because I'm going to need it.” “Secretary Mattis Remarks on the National Defense Strategy in Conversation with the United States Institute for Peace,” Department of Defense, Oct 30, 2018, https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/1678512/secretary-mattis-remarks-on-the-national-defense-strategy-in-conversation-with/. [15] Max Greenwood, “State Dept. saw 12 percent Drop in Foreign Affairs Workers in First 8 Months of 2017,” The Hill, Feb. 10, 2018, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/373299-state-dept-saw-12-percent-drop-in-foreign-affairs-workers-in-first-9. [16] William J. Burns, “The Demolition of U.S. Diplomacy,” Foreign Affairs, Oct. 14, 2019, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-10-14/demolition-us-diplomacy. [17] See, for example, G. John Ikenberry, “Why the Liberal World Order Will Survive,” Ethics and International Affairs 32, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 17–29, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0892679418000072. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [2] => Array ( [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2152 [post_author] => 334 [post_date] => 2019-11-25 05:00:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-25 10:00:19 [post_content] => While historians write about American exceptionalism and moralism, diplomats and theorists like George Kennan have often warned about the negative consequences of the American moralist-legalist tradition. According to this line of thinking, international relations is anarchic and there is no world government to provide order. States must provide for their own defense and when survival is at stake, the ends justify the means. Where there is no meaningful choice there can be no ethics. Thus, in judging a president’s foreign policy, we should simply ask whether it worked, not whether it was moral. However, in my experience as a scholar and sometime practitioner of foreign policy, morals do matter. The skeptics duck the hard questions by oversimplifying things. The absence of world government does not, in fact, mean the absence of all order. And while some foreign policy issues do relate to America’s survival as a nation, most do not. Since World War II, the United States has been involved in several wars but none were necessary to ensure its survival. Many important foreign policy choices having to do with human rights or climate change or internet freedom do not involve war at all. Instead, most foreign policy issues involve making trade-offs between values — something that requires making choices — not the application of a rigid formula of “raison d’état.” A cynical French official once told me, “I define good as what is good for the interests of France. Morals are irrelevant.” He seemed unaware that his statement was a moral judgment. It is tautological, or at best trivial, to say that all states try to act in their national interest. The important question is how leaders choose to define and pursue that national interest under different circumstances. Access to oil, sales of military equipment, and regional stability are all national interests, but so too are values and principles that are attractive to others. How can these two categories of interests be combined? Moreover, whether practitioners like it or not, Americans continuously make moral judgments about presidents and foreign policies.[1] The election of Donald Trump has revived interest in what is a moral foreign policy, shifting it from a theoretical question to front page news. For example, after the 2018 killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Trump was criticized for ignoring clear evidence of a brutal crime in order to maintain good relations with the Saudi crown prince. The New York Times labelled Trump’s statement about Khashoggi “remorselessly transactional, heedless of the facts,” while the Wall Street Journal editorialized that “we are aware of no President, not even such ruthless pragmatists as Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson, who would have written a public statement like this without so much as a grace note about America’s abiding values and principles.”[2] Unfortunately, many judgments about ethics and foreign policy are haphazard or poorly thought through, and too much of the current debate focuses on Trump’s personality. Americans are seldom clear about the criteria by which they judge a moral foreign policy. They praise a president like Ronald Reagan for the moral clarity of his statements, as though rhetorical good intentions are sufficient in making ethical judgments. However, Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush showed that good intentions without adequate means to achieve them can lead to ethically bad consequences, such as the failure of Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles or Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Or they judge a president simply on results. Some observers have praised Richard Nixon for ending the Vietnam War, but was he right to sacrifice 21,000 American lives just to create a reputational “decent interval” that turned out to be an ephemeral pause on the road to defeat? In this essay, I suggest an approach to comparing different moral foreign policies. I first argue that good moral reasoning should be three dimensional: weighing and balancing the intentions, the means, and the consequences of a president’s decisions. Determining a moral foreign policy is not a matter of intentions versus consequences but must include both as well as the means that were used. I then examine and compare the elements of three common mental maps of world politics — realism, cosmopolitanism, and liberalism. Presidents often combine these three mental maps in different ways that shape the intentions, means, and assessment of consequences of their foreign policy. I illustrate this process with a discussion of the problem of intervention. Finally, I develop a scoring system that allows us to compare their policies, and then apply it to three presidents. Given the different cultural backgrounds, political views, and religious beliefs of Americans, moral reasoning about foreign policy is hotly contested both by politicians and analysts, but it is inescapable.[3] This article aims not to solve but to bring structure to these arguments.

Three-Dimensional Ethics

In their daily lives, most people make moral judgments along three dimensions: intentions, means, and consequences. Intentions are more than just goals. They include both stated values and personal motives (as in, “her motives were well meant”). Most leaders publicly express goals that sound noble and worthy, even though their personal motives, such as ego and self-interest, may subtly corrupt those goals. Moreover, good goals must not only satisfy one’s values, they also have to pass a feasibility test. Otherwise, the best of intentions can have disastrous moral consequences, often providing the proverbial pavement for the road to hell. Johnson may have had good intentions when he sent American troops to Vietnam, but a leader’s good intentions are not proof of what is sometimes misleadingly called “moral clarity.” Judgments based on good intentions alone are simply one-dimensional ethics. For example, Ari Fleischer, the press secretary for George W. Bush, praised his boss for the “moral clarity” of his intentions, but more than that is needed for a sound moral evaluation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[4] The second important dimension of moral judgment is means. Means are spoken of as being effective if they achieve one’s goals, but ethical means also depend upon their quality as well as their efficacy. How do leaders treat others? A moral leader must likewise consider the soft power of attraction and the importance of developing the trust of other countries. When it comes to means, leaders must decide how to combine the hard power of inducements and threats with the soft power of values, culture, diplomacy, and policies that attract people to their goals.[5] Using hard power when soft power will do or using soft power alone when hard power is necessary to protect values raises serious ethical questions about means. As for consequences, effectiveness is crucial and involves achieving the country’s goals, but ethical consequences must also be good not merely for Americans, but for others as well. “America first” must be tempered by what the Declaration of Independence called “a proper consideration for the opinions of mankind.” In practice, effectiveness and ethical means are often closely related. A leader who pursues moral but unrealistic goals or uses ineffective means can produce terrible moral consequences at home and abroad. Leaders with good intentions but weak contextual intelligence and reckless reality-testing sometimes produce bad consequences and lead to ethical failure. [quote id="1"] Given the complexity of foreign policy, prudence is more than just an instrumental virtue. Recklessness in assessing what just war theorists call “a reasonable prospect of success” can become culpable negligence in moral terms. Good moral reasoning about consequences must also consider maintaining an institutional order that encourages moral interests as well as particular newsworthy actions, such as helping a human rights dissident. It is also important to include the ethical consequences of “non-actions,” such as President Harry Truman’s willingness to accept stalemate and domestic political punishment during the Korean War rather than follow Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s recommendation to use nuclear weapons. Good moral reasoning does not judge presidential choices based on stated intentions or outcomes alone, but on all three dimensions of intentions, means, and consequences.[6] Mental Maps of the World and Moral Foreign Policy What is an accurate picture of world politics? Is it so harsh that leaders must abandon their morals at the border? Do they have any duties to those who are not fellow citizens? Cynics might say, “No, because foreigners don’t vote.” Total skeptics argue that the entire notion of a “world community” is a myth, and that where there is no community, there are no moral rights and duties. Nonetheless, moral discourse in the realm of foreign policy persists, and leaders use three prevailing mental maps of world politics to offer different answers to these questions. Realism While there are various strands of realism, realists all portray a world of anarchy where a state’s survival depends upon it helping itself — international morals and institutions provide little succor. Unlike total skeptics, realists accept some moral obligations but see them as limited primarily to practicing the virtue of prudence in the harsh environment of world politics. John Bolton argues for “defending American interests as vigorously as possible and seeing yourself as an advocate for the US rather than a guardian of the world itself.”[7] Hans Morgenthau wrote that “the state has no right to let its moral disapprobation…get in the way of successful political survival. … Realism, then, considers prudence…to be the supreme virtue in politics.”[8] In the words of John Mearsheimer, “States operate in a self-help world in which the best way to survive is to be as powerful as possible, even if that requires pursuing ruthless policies. That is not a pretty story, but there is no better alternative if survival is a country’s paramount goal.”[9] In dire situations of survival, consequences may indeed justify what appear to be immoral acts. Robert D. Kaplan argues that “the rare individuals who have recognized the necessity of violating such morality, acted accordingly, and taken responsibility for their actions are among the most necessary leaders for their countries.”[10] A frequently cited example is when Winston Churchill attacked the French fleet in 1940, killing some 1,300 Frenchmen, rather than let the fleet fall into Hitler’s hands. Churchill referred to that crisis of British survival as a “supreme emergency,” and Michael Walzer argues that in such rare instances moral rules can be overriden even though “there are no moments in human history that are not governed by moral rules.”[11] For instance, some ethicists have justified Churchill’s bombing of German civilian targets in the early days of World War II when Britain’s survival was at stake, but condemned his later support for the fire-bombing of Dresden in February 1945 when victory in Europe was already assured.[12] In the early days of the war, Churchill could claim the necessity of “dirty hands” as his justification for overriding the moral rules, but he was wrong to continue to do so in the later days of the war when he had more leeway. In general, such dire straits of supreme emergency are rare and leaders often exaggerate dangers and threats to justify their actions. For example, Trump justified his mild reaction to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi with, “America First! The world is a dangerous place!”[13] But realists who describe the world in a way that pretends moral choices do not exist are, in fact, making a moral choice and then merely disguising that choice. Survival comes first, but that is not the end of the list of values. Most of international politics is not about survival. A smart realist also knows different types of power exist. No president can lead without power, at home or abroad, but power is more than bombs, bullets, or resources. You can get others to do what you want by coercion (sticks), payment (carrots), and attraction (soft power), and a full understanding of power encompasses all three of these behaviors. Because soft power is rarely sufficient by itself and takes longer to accomplish its effects, leaders find the hard power of coercion or payment more appealing. But when wielded alone, hard power can exact higher costs than when it is combined with the soft power of attraction. The Roman empire rested not only on its legions, but also on the attraction of Roman culture. The Berlin Wall came down not under an artillery barrage, but from hammers and bulldozers wielded by people who had lost faith in communism. A nation’s soft power rests upon its culture, its values, and its policies (when the latter are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others). It can be reinforced by the narratives that a president uses to explain his foreign policy. John F. Kennedy, Reagan, and Barack Obama, for example, framed their policies in ways that attracted support both at home and abroad. Nixon and Trump were less successful in attracting those outside the United States. There is a moral difference between a broad, long-term definition of national interest that can include citizens of other nations and a myopic definition that excludes others. Cosmopolitanism Another important mental map of the world involves viewing the world through a lens of common humanity, known as cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitans see all humans as of equal moral worth regardless of borders. While it may be weak, some degree of international human community exists. As neural science has shown, moral intuition about other humans is evolutionarily hard-wired into people.[14] Most Americans respond with empathy to pictures of starving or drowned children even if not all Americans would allow them to cross the U.S. border or would take them into their homes, although some would. The cosmopolitan mental map rests on the belief that basic human rights are universal. David Luban argues that rights “are not respecters of political boundaries and require a universalist politics to implement them; even if this means breaching the wall of state sovereignty.”[15] Many Americans hold multiple loyalties to several communities at the same time in a series of widening concentric circles that extend beyond national boundaries. One can simultaneously feel part of a town, a state, a region, a profession, a transnational ethnic group, and humanity at large. However, loyalty to the outer circles tends to be weaker and generate weaker moral duties than cosmopolitans often assume. One can be a stout inclusive nationalist and a moderate globalist at the same time, but the community of nationality is usually stronger. [quote id="2"] I often used to ask my students to test their moral intuitions about the existence and limits of cosmopolitanism with the following thought experiment. Suppose you are a good swimmer reading at the beach and you notice a child drowning in the surf. Would you put down your book and rescue her? Most would say yes. Would it matter whether she called, “Help!” or cried out in a foreign language? Most would say the foreign language would make no difference. If she were somewhat further out and you were not a strong swimmer, how much risk would you take? Answers would range from the prudent to the heroic. If there were two children, one of which was yours, and you could rescue only one, would it matter whether it was yours? Most would say yes. In other words, one’s role as parent adds moral rights and duties beyond the common humanitarian duty that would prompt one to rescue an anonymous drowning child. Borders are arbitrary and sometimes unjust, but nations are communities that similarly engender additional roles, rights, and responsibilities. As Stanley Hoffmann pointed out, “States may be no more than a collection of individuals and borders may be mere facts, but a moral significance is attached to them.”[16] A cosmopolitan who ignores the moral, legal, and institutional significance of borders fails to do justice to the difficult job of balancing rights in the international realm as much as the blinkered realist who sees everything as a matter of national survival. A humanitarian duty to rescue can coexist with a preference for prioritizing the protection of one’s fellow citizens.[17] The devil is in the details of how far and how much. Liberalism There are various strands of liberalism including economic liberalism, which stresses the pacific benefits of trade; social liberalism, which emphasizes contacts among people; and institutional liberalism, which argues that institutions can create a society of states that mitigates the negative effects of anarchy. International politics is often called anarchic, but anarchy simply means “without government,” and does not necessarily mean chaos. Liberals argue that rudimentary practices and institutions such as the balance of power, international law, norms, and international organizations can create enough order to establish a framework for making meaningful moral choices in most cases. Institutions shape expectations of future behavior, which allows leaders to go beyond simple transactionalism. Institutions of international law and morality play a role even in war. The just war doctrine originated in the early Christian church as Saint Augustine and others wrestled with the paradox that if the good did not fight back, they would perish and the evil would inherit the earth. That doctrine of just self-defense became secularized after the 17th century and today it provides a broad normative structure that encompasses all three moral dimensions discussed above: good intentions represented by a just cause; forceful means that are proportional to the situation and which discriminate between military and civilian targets; and good consequences that emerge from a prudent regard for the probability of success. Just war doctrine is more than theoretical. It is enshrined both in international humanitarian law (e.g., the Geneva Conventions) and the American military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice. Soldiers who violated the moral principles that are enshrined in the law of armed conflict have been jailed in many countries including the United States. Different mental maps of the world portray anarchy differently, and that affects the way leaders frame their moral choices. Writing in 1651 after the bloody English civil war in which the king was decapitated, the realist Thomas Hobbes thought of anarchy as chaotic and imagined a state of nature without government as a war of all against all where life was “nasty, brutish, and short.” In contrast, writing in a somewhat more peaceful period a few decades later, the liberal John Locke thought of anarchy as the absence of government, but imagined that such a state of nature would involve social contracts that permitted the successful pursuit of life, liberty, and property. Modern liberals follow the Lockean approach to international anarchy and believe that institutions stabilize expectations in ways that permit reciprocity and morality to enter into policy decisions. They help create a “long shadow of the future,” that is a means to escape zero-sum calculations.[18] Liberals argue that while there is no world government, there is a degree of world governance. They argue that anarchy therefore has limits. At the same time, they recognize that the state is a key institution of world politics both as a reality and as a moral community. Even a renowned liberal philosopher like John Rawls believed that the conditions for his theory of justice applied only to domestic society.[19] At the same time, Rawls argued that a liberal society’s duties went beyond its borders: These should include mutual aid in dire circumstances and respect for laws and institutions that ensure basic human rights while allowing people in a diverse world to determine their own affairs as much as possible.[20] The rise of human rights law after World War II, particularly in reaction to the horror of genocide, has complicated presidential choices. The American public wants some response to genocide, but it is divided over how much. For example, in retrospect, Bill Clinton criticized his own failure to respond to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.[21] Yet, after the death of American soldiers in an earlier humanitarian intervention in Somalia in 1993, had Clinton tried to send American troops to Rwanda he would have encountered stiff resistance in parts of his administration, the Congress, and the public. Clinton has acknowledged that he could have done more to help the United Nations and other countries to save some of the lives that were lost in Rwanda, but this example is a reminder that good leaders today are often caught between their cosmopolitan inclinations and their more traditional democratic obligations to the people who elected them. Mixing Mental Maps These three mental maps of world politics are not mutually exclusive — in practice, leaders mix them in inconsistent ways in different contexts to shape the stated intent, means, and consequences of their foreign policies. In a detailed comparison of the 14 American presidents since 1945, I found that most have turned out to be “liberal realists with a touch of cosmopolitanism.”[22] Realism is the default position that most presidents use to chart their course in foreign policy. Given a world of sovereign states, in my personal policy experience, realism is the best map to start with. For example, at the end of the Cold War when I participated in formulating an East Asia policy in the Clinton administration, we wanted to integrate a rising China into liberal international institutions, but we started with a realist policy of reaffirming the U.S.-Japan security relationship, which was, at that point, in disarray. By reaffirming America’s position in the regional balance of power, we were taking out a realist insurance policy in case our policy of liberal integration failed. The two approaches were complementary to one another. Realism is the right place to start, but too many realists stop where they start without realizing that realism is a necessary but not sufficient condition for crafting good policy. They fail to recognize that cosmopolitanism and liberalism often have something important to contribute to forming an accurate moral map. When survival is in jeopardy, realism is a necessary basis for a moral foreign policy, but it is not sufficient for all foreign policy scenarios. The question again is one of degree. Since no state can attain perfect security, the moral issue is what degree of security must be assured before other values such as welfare, identity, or rights become part of a president’s foreign policy? Most foreign policy choices involve questions about authorizing arms sales to authoritarian allies or criticizing the human rights behavior of another country. When some realists treat such isssues as similar to Churchill’s decision to attack the French fleet, they are simply ducking hard moral issues. It is not enough to say that security comes first or that justice presupposes some degree of order. Presidents have to assess how closely a situation fits a Hobbesian or Lockean mental map, or where an action lies on a continuum between ensuring security and pursuing other important values. [quote id="3"] Public opinion also shows a similar pattern of mixing mental maps. Because the American people are usually more concerned with domestic issues than foreign policy, they tend toward a basic form of realism. Security from attack and economic security generally rank highest in opinion polls. Because elite opinion is often more interventionist than the public, some critics argue that the elite is more liberal than the public.[23] However, patterns of “strong, widespread public support for international organizations, multilateral agreements and actions, and collective international decision making suggest that most Americans are…‘neo liberals,’” while support for humanitarian assistance shows strands of cosmopolitanism.[24] 

The Example of Intervention

Intervention has been a fraught issue in recent foreign policy debates, prompting questions about when the United States should take actions that involve extending its reach beyond its own borders. Since 1945, the liberal Charter of the United Nations has limited the use of force to self-defense or actions authorized by the Security Council (where the United States and four other countries have veto power). Realists argue that intervention can be justified if it prevents disruption of the balance of power upon which order depends. Cosmopolitans prioritize justice and individual human rights to justify humanitarian intervention. Liberals argue that nations are groups of people with a sovereign right — enshrined in the U.N. Charter — to determine their own fate. Intervention can only be justified to counter a prior intervention or to prevent a massacre that would make a mockery of self-determination.[25] In practice, these principles often get combined in odd ways. In Vietnam, Kennedy and Johnson argued that America was countering a North Vietnamese intervention in the South, but the Vietnamese saw themselves as one nation that had been artificially divided for realist, Cold War balance-of-power purposes. In the first Gulf War, George H.W. Bush used force to expel Iraq’s forces from Kuwait in order to preserve the regional balance of power, but he did so using the liberal mechanism of a U.N. collective security resolution and a broad coalition to enhance American legitimacy and soft power. Bush considered himself a realist and refused to intervene to stop the shelling of civilians in Sarajevo, but after devastating pictures of starving Somalis were shown on American television in December 1992, he sent American troops on a cosmopolitan humanitarian intervention in Mogadishu, which subsequently became a problem for his successor.[26] In the second Gulf War, American motives for intervention were mixed. Theorists have sparred over whether the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a realist or a liberal intervention.[27] Some key figures in the George W. Bush adminstration, such as Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, were realists concerned about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and the local balance of power. The “neo-conservatives” in the administration (many of whom were former liberals) stressed promoting democracy as well as maintaining American hegemony. Outside the administration, some liberals supported the war because of Hussein’s abominable human rights record, while others opposed Bush for failing to obtain the institutional support of the U.N. Security Council as his father had in the first Gulf War. Stephen Walt, a realist skeptic about intervention, argues that “had realists been at the helm of US foreign policy over the past 20 years, it is likely that a number of costly debacles would have been avoided.”[28] Perhaps he is right, but his case is far from clear, for there are many variants of realism as well as of liberalism. Realism is a broad tendency, not a precise category with clear implications for policy. Certainly Cheney and Rumsfeld considered themselves realists. In the 2016 presidential debate, both Trump and Hillary Clinton said the United States had a responsibility to prevent mass casualties in Syria, but neither advocated major military intervention. While some commentators argue that liberal interventionism to promote democracy has “grown into ‘America’s self-designation as a special nation,’” there is an enormous difference between democracy promotion by coercive and non-coercive means.[29] Voice of America broadcasts and the National Endowment for Democracy cross international borders in a very different manner than does the 82nd Airborne Division. In terms of consequences, the means are as important as the ends. No one of the mental maps of the world provides presidents with an easy answer or substitutes for their good judgment and contextual intelligence when deciding whether to intervene or not. In its broadest definition, intervention refers to external actions that influence the domestic affairs of another sovereign state, and they can range from broadcasts, economic aid, and support for opposition parties at the low-coercion end of the spectrum, to blockades, cyber attacks, drone strikes, and military invasion at the high-coercive end. From a moral point of view, the degree of coercion involved is very important in terms of restricting local choice and rights. Moreover, military intervention is a dangerous instrument to use. It looks deceptively simple, but rarely is. Prudence warns against unintended consequences.

“The Best Moral Choice in the Context”: A Presidential Scorecard

How then should we judge the morality of a foreign policy? Presidents have their own values and convictions but they are also leaders living in what Max Weber described as a political world of non-perfectionist ethics.[30] Arnold Wolfers, a sophisticated and subtle Swiss-American realist, argued after World War II that “the interpretation of what constitutes a vital national interest and how much value should be attached to it is a moral question. It cannot be answered by reference to alleged amoral necessities inherent in international politics.” At the same time, leaders cannot always follow a simple formula. The best one can hope for in judging the ethics of foreign policy leaders, Wolfers concluded, is determining whether they made “the best moral choices that circumstances permit.”[31] While this is true, it is not completely helpful. It is a necessary but certainly not a sufficient standard. As mentioned above, prudence is a virtue in an anarchic world, but such a broad rule of prudence can easily be abused. How, then, can Americans decide whether their presidents did indeed make “the best moral choices” under the circumstances? They can start by making sure to judge them in terms of three-dimensional ethics, deriving criteria for each dimension from the wisdom of all three mental maps of realism, liberalism, and cosmopolitanism (in that order). When looking at the foreign policy goals that presidents have sought, one should not expect them to have pursued justice at the international level similar to what they aspired to in their domestic policies. In the August 1941 Atlantic Charter, one of the founding documents of the liberal international order, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Churchill declared their devotion to ensuring freedom from want and from fear (though they disagreed about the British empire),[32] but Roosevelt did not try to transfer his domestic New Deal to the international stage. [quote id="4"] As mentioned earlier, survival comes first, but liberals and cosmopolitans argue that America has duties abroad that include humanitarian assistance and respect for basic human rights. Beyond that, Rawlsian liberals want to allow peoples in a diverse world to determine their own affairs as much as possible.[33] Thus, Americans should ask whether a president’s goals include a vision that expresses widely attractive values both at home and abroad, but also prudently balances those values and assesses risks so that there is a reasonable prospect of success. It is not enough to articulate noble goals — feasibility also matters. This means a president should be judged not only on his or her character and intentions, but also on contextual intelligence when it comes to promoting values. Regarding ethical means, presidents can be judged by the well-established just war criteria of proportional and discriminate use of force that are the law of the land in the United States. They can also be judged by Rawls’ liberal concern for minimal degrees of intervention in order to respect the rights and institutions of other peoples. As for ethical consequences, Americans can ask whether a president succeeded in promoting the country’s long-term national interests, but also whether he respected cosmopolitan values regarding human life by avoiding extreme insularity totally discounts harm to foreigners. The example that leaders set also has important moral consequences, as does whether they are promoting truth and trust that broadens moral discourse at home and abroad. These criteria are modest and derived from insights from realism, liberalism, and cosmopolitanism. The resulting “scorecard” below is by no means complete. Others might select other criteria from the different mental maps and weight them differently. Nevertheless, this scorecard provides some basic guidance to determine what constitutes a moral foreign policy that goes beyond Wolfers’ simple generality about prudence: Intentions: Goals and Motives
  1. Moral vision: Did the president express attractive values, and did those values determine his motives? Did he have the “emotional IQ” to avoid contradicting those values because of his personal needs?[34]
  2. Prudence: Did he have the contextual intelligence to wisely balance the values he pursued and the risks he imposed on others?
Means
  1. Use of force: Did he use force while paying attention to necessity, discrimination in the treatment of civilians, and the proportionality of benefits and harm?
  2. Liberal concerns: Did he try to respect and use institutions at home and abroad? To what extent did he consider the rights of other peoples?
Consequences
  1. Fiduciary: Was he a good trustee of America’s long-term interests?
  2. Cosmopolitan: Did he consider the interests of other peoples and minimize causing them unnecessary harm?
  3. Educational: Did he respect the truth and build credibility? Did he respect facts? Did he try to create and broaden moral discourse at home and abroad?

Three Illustrations

This three-dimensional scorecard hardly solves all problems of judgment, but it encourages looking at all dimensions of a president’s actions when comparing the morality of different foreign policy leadership. Consider the example of Reagan and the two Bushes. When people sometimes call for a “Reaganite foreign policy,” they tend to mean the moral clarity that went with Reagan’s simplification of complex issues and his effective rhetoric in the presentation of his values. Not only is this type of morality inadequate and one-dimensional for reasons explained above, but it also mistakes the success of Reagan’s moral leadership, which included the ability to bargain and compromise as he pursued his policies. Nonetheless, clear and clearly stated objectives can educate and motivate the public. The key question is whether Reagan was prudent in balancing his aspirations and the risks of trying to achieve his objectives. Reagan’s initial rhetoric in his first term created a dangerous degree of tension and distrust in U.S.–Soviet relations that increased the prospect of a miscalculation or accident leading to war, but it also created incentives to bargain which Reagan later put to good advantage when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Reagan’s second term. In terms of consequences, Reagan undoubtedly advanced the national interests of the United States, though most of the credit for ending the Cold War and the Soviet Union belongs to Gorbachev. In any event, Reagan took good advantage of the opportunity in a manner that did not exclusively benefit insular American interests. He ranks near the top of the second quartile. By his own account, George H. W. Bush did not have a transformational vision for the world, but was interested in avoiding disaster in a world that was changing dramatically at the end of the Cold War. While he referred to a “new world order” he never spelled out what this would look like. As Bush and his team responded to the forces that were largely outside of his control, he set goals that balanced opportunities and prudence. In each instance, Bush limited his short-term aims in order to pursue long-term stability, prompting some critics to complain that Bush did not set more transformational objectives.[35] In ethical terms, although Bush did not express a strong moral vision, it is difficult to make the case that he should have been less prudent and taken more risks. In terms of consequences, Bush was a worthy fiduciary in accomplishing national goals and managed to do so in a manner that was not unduly insular and did minimal damage to the interests of foreigners. He was careful not to humiliate Gorbachev and to manage Boris Yeltsin’s transition to power in Russia. At the same time, not all foreigners were adequately protected; for example, Bush assigned a lower priority to Kurds in northern Iraq, to dissidents in China, or to Bosnians who were embroiled in a civil war in the former Yugoslavia. In that sense, Bush’s realist approach limited his cosmopolitan impulses. With better communication skills, Bush might also have been able to do more to educate the American public about the changing nature of the world they faced after the Cold War. But given the uncertainties of history, and the potential for disaster as the Cold War era came to a close, Bush had one of best foreign policies of the period after 1945. He allowed America to benefit from a rising tide and his skills avoided shipwreck during tempest. He ranks in the top quartile (along with Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower.)[36] In contrast, George W. Bush started his first term in office as a limited realist with little interest in foreign policy, but his objectives became transformational after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Like Wilson, Roosevelt, and Truman, Bush became concerned about security but turned to the rhetoric of democracy to rally his followers in a time of crisis. His 2002 national security strategy, which came to be called the Bush Doctrine, proclaimed that the United States would “identify and eliminate terrorists wherever they are, together with the regimes that sustain them.”[37] In this new game, there were no rules. The solution to the terrorist problem was to spread democracy everywhere, and a freedom agenda thus became the basis of his 2006 national security strategy.[38] But the removal of Hussein did not accomplish the mission, and inadequate understanding of the context plus poor planning and management undercut Bush’s grand objectives. As a result, I rank him in the bottom quartile of presidents since World War II.

Conclusion

A perpetual problem in American foreign policy is the complexity of the context, and that is why contextual intelligence is such an important skill for presidents to have in framing an ethical foreign policy. Contextual intelligence is the ability to understand an evolving environment and capitalize on trends.[39] Sometimes prudence is dismissed as mere strategic self-interest and contrasted with moral conviction. But in three-dimensional ethics, both are essential. As Max Weber famously pointed out, conviction is important but in a complex political environment like foreign policy, the president is a trustee who must follow an ethic of responsibility.[40] In that context, weak contextual intelligence that produces negligent assessment and reckless risk-taking leads to immoral consequences. In legal terms, irresponsible assessment is termed “culpable negligence.” In assessing foreign policy, Trump’s rejection of intelligence and reliance on television sources raises serious moral as well as practical questions. We live in a world of diverse cultures and still know very little about social engineering and how to “build nations.” When one cannot be sure how to improve the world, prudence becomes an important virtue in an ethic of responsibility, while hubristic visions can do serious damage. Prudence usually requires emotional intelligence and the ability to manage one’s emotions and turn them to constructive purposes rather than to be dominated by them. [quote id="5"] That returns us to the role of institutions, public goods, and how broadly a president defines America’s national interest. The overall assessment of a president’s foreign policy depends not just on specific actions but also on how a pattern of actions shapes the environment of world politics. A president may have a broad and long-term vision but be unable to convince the public — witness Wilson in 1919. The disastrous 1930s were caused when the United States replaced Britain as the largest global power but failed to take on Britain’s role in providing global public goods. The result was the collapse of the global system into depression, genocide, and world war. In the domestic realm, governments produce public goods such as policing or clean water from which all citizens can benefit and none are excluded. At the anarchic global level, where there is no government, public goods — such as managing climate change, ensuring financial stability, or guaranteeing freedom of the seas — are provided by coalitions led by the largest power. Small countries have little incentive to pay for such global public goods: Because their small contributions make little difference to whether they benefit or not from these goods, it is rational for them to ride for free. But the largest powers can see the effect and feel the benefit of their own contributions. Thus, it is rational and in the long-term national interest of the largest countries to lead. Part of American exceptionalism is America’s disproportionate size. Leadership by the largest country in the production of global public goods is consistent with “America First” but it rests on a broader historical and institutional understanding of the current context than Trump has shown when he uses that term. As Henry Kissinger has argued,
to strike a balance between the two aspects of world order — power and legitimacy — is the essence of statesmanship. Calculations of power without a moral dimension will turn every disagreement into a test of strength. … Moral prescriptions without concern for equilibrium, on the other hand, tend toward either crusades or an impotent policy tempting challenges; either extreme risks endangering the coherence of the international order itself.[41]
Well-meaning interventions that are not based on good contextual intelligence can alter millions of lives for the worse. For presidents, prudence is a necessary virtue for a good foreign policy, but it is not sufficient. American presidents in the inter-war period were prudent when they instead needed to embrace a broader institutional vision. Wilson had such a vision, but without adequate contextual intelligence. Roosevelt began his presidency without a foreign policy vision but developed one on the job. In the future, a sense of vision and strategy that correctly understands and responds to new technological and environmental changes, such as cyber threats and climate change, will be crucial. In judging a president’s record of pursuing a moral foreign policy that makes Americans safer but also makes the world a better place, it is important to look at the full range of his or her leadership skills, to look at both actions and institutions, commissions and omissions, and to make three-dimensional moral judgments. Even then, we will often wind up with mixed verdicts — but that is the nature of foreign policy. We cannot responsibly banish moral discourse from foreign policy, but we can try to be more disciplined in how we structure our moral reasoning about it.   Joseph S. Nye Jr. is University Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus and former dean of the Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Princeton University, won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and earned a PhD in political science from Harvard. He has served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, chair of the National Intelligence Council, and deputy under secretary of state for security assistance, science, and technology. His most recent books include Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era, Is the American Century Over?, and Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the British Academy, and the American Academy of Diplomacy. In a recent survey of international relations scholars, he was ranked as the most influential scholar on American foreign policy, and in 2011, Foreign Policy named him one of the top 100 Global Thinkers.   Image: Sgt. Bryan Lewis [post_title] => What Is a Moral Foreign Policy? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => what-is-a-moral-foreign-policy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-25 18:42:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-25 23:42:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2152 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => How should we judge the morality of a president's foreign policy? Joseph Nye suggests a rubric that is based on a three-dimensional ethics of intentions, means, and consequences and that draws from realism, cosmopolitanism, and liberalism. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 3, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => In their daily lives, most people make moral judgments along three dimensions: intentions, means, and consequences.  ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Borders are arbitrary and sometimes unjust, but nations are communities that similarly engender additional roles, rights, and responsibilities. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The rise of human rights law after World War II, particularly in reaction to the horror of genocide, has complicated presidential choices. The American public wants some response to genocide, but it is divided over how much.  ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => No one of the mental maps of the world provides presidents with an easy answer or substitutes for their good judgment and contextual intelligence when deciding whether to intervene or not. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => We cannot responsibly banish moral discourse from foreign policy, but we can try to be more disciplined in how we structure our moral reasoning about it. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 334 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry, “Realism, Liberalism and the Iraq War,” Survival 59, no. 4 (August-September 2017): 7–26, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2017.1349757. [2]  Mark Landler, “Trump Stands with Saudis Over Murder of Khashoggi,” New York Times, Nov. 20, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/20/world/middleeast/trump-saudi-khashoggi.html; “Trump’s Crude Realpolitik,” Wall Street Journal, Nov. 21, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-crude-realpolitik-1542763629. [3] Owen Harries, “Power and Morals,” Prospect, April 17, 2005, 26, https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/powerandmorals. [4] Ari Fleischer, “What I Will Miss About President Bush,” New York Times, Nov. 4, 2008, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/opinion/02bush.html. [5] Joseph Nye, Jr., Soft Power (New York: Public Affairs, 2004). [6] Tom L. Beauchamp, Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy (New York: McGraw Hill, 1982), 179. In his view, virtue ethicists emphasize intentions, deontologists focus more on means, and utilitarians are most concerned with consequences. [7] Caroline Daniel, “Hard Man Who Sits at the Heart of US Foreign Policy,” Financial Times, Dec. 19, 2002, 14. [8] Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Knopf, 1955), 9. [9] John J. Mearsheimer, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018), 216. [10] Robert D. Kaplan, The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2018), 146. [11] See, Michael Walzer, “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 2, no. 2 (1973): 160–80. See also, Gerald F. Gaus, “Dirty Hands,” in, A Companion to Applied Ethics, ed. R.G. Frey and Christopher Heath Wellman (Malden, MA, Blackwell, 2003), 167–79. [12] Cathal J. Nolan, “‘Bodyguard of Lies’: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Defensible Deceit in World War II,” in, Ethics and Statecraft: The Moral Dimensions of International Affairs, ed. Cathal J. Nolan, 2nd ed. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004), 35–58. [13] “Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia,” The White House, Nov. 20, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-donald-j-trump-standing-saudi-arabia/. [14] Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (New York, Random House, 2012). [15] David Luban, “The Romance of the Nation State,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 9, no. 4 (Summer 1980): 392, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2265007. [16] Stanley Hoffmann, Duties Beyond Borders: On the Limits and Possibilities of Ethical International Politics (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1981), 155. [17] Alexander Betts and Paul Collier, Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 125. [18]  See, Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1984); Robert O. Keohane, “Reciprocity in International Relations,” International Organization 40, no. 1 (Winter, 1986): 1–27, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2706740. [19] John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971). [20] John Rawls, The Law of Peoples (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). [21] Barbara Kellerman, Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2004), chap. 9. [22] Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020). [23] Stephen M. Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018). [24] See, Daniel W. Drezner, “The Realist Tradition in American Public Opinion,” Perspectives on Politics 6, no. 1 (March 2008): 63. See also, Benjamin I. Page and Marshall M. Bouton, The Foreign Policy Dis-connect: What Americans Want from Our Leaders but Don’t Get (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 241. [25] Michael Walzer, Arguing About War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 35–36. [26] Humanitarian intervention is not a new or uniquely American foreign policy problem. Victorian Britain had debates about using force to end slavery, Belgian atrocities in the Congo and Ottoman repression of Balkan minorities long before Woodrow Wilson became the American president. Gary J. Bass, Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention (New York, Random House, 2008), 4. [27] Deudney and Ikenberry, “Realism, Liberalism and the Iraq War.” [28] Stephen M. Walt, “What Would a Realist World Have Looked Like?” Foreign Policy, Jan. 8, 2016, https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/01/08/what-would-a-realist-world-have-looked-like-iraq-syria-iran-obama-bush-clinton/. [29] Quoted in, Max Fisher and Amanda Taub, “Syria Provokes an American Anxiety: Is U.S. Power Really So Special?” New York Times, Oct. 8, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/world/middleeast/syria-provokes-an-american-anxiety-is-us-power-really-so-special.html. See also, Sean Lynn-Jones, “Why the United States Should Spread Democracy,” Discussion Paper 98-07, Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, March 1998. [30] Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation,” in, Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958), 126. [31] Arnold Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration: Essays on International Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962) 47–65. [32] See Michael Fullilove, Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America Into the War and Into the World (New York: Penguin, 2013), chap. 7. [33] Rawls, The Law of Peoples. [34] The masculine pronoun used in the list reflects presidential history, not preferences for the future. [35] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower (New York: Basic Books, 2007). [36]  For a full discussion, see, Nye, Do Morals Matter? chap. 9. [37] The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, White House, September 2002, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/nss/2002/. [38] The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, The White House, March 2006, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/nss/2006/. [39] Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria, In Their Time: The Greatest Business Leaders of the Twentieth Century (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2005). See also, Joseph S. Nye Jr., The Powers to Lead (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), chap. 4. [40] Weber, “Politics as a Vocation,” 126. [41] Henry Kissinger, World Order (New York: Penguin Press, 2014), 367. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) ) ) [2] => Array ( [acf_fc_layout] => wgt_featured_articles [wgt_type] => manual [qty] => 3 [posts] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2134 [post_author] => 49 [post_date] => 2019-11-21 13:14:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-21 18:14:29 [post_content] => Though we are loath to admit it, we all enjoy a good academic fight. The recent passing of two noted, brilliant, but problematic intellectual pugilists — the historian Norman Stone and literary critic Harold Bloom — has made me wonder whether such battles are the best way to advance scholarly arguments and expand our understanding of the world.[1] I was certainly trained in the arts of intellectual combat. As an undergraduate, I had a front row seat to what had been called “the great 3:1 pissing match,” an intense debate over whether NATO conventional forces could withstand an attack from larger Soviet forces, and how to assess the military balance on the central front in Europe (3:1 is the concentration of forces needed to break through a well-established front).[2] Reading Greg Brew’s new article, “The Collapse Narrative: The United States, Mohammed Mossadegh, and the Coup Decision of 1953,” brought back memories of my first academic clash. Twenty years ago, an article I published on the same issue received a skeptical review at H-Diplo.[3] I remember locking myself in my office for 48 hours, pulling out file after file of primary documents, and consulting with friends and mentors, all in order to craft the right response.[4] In the academic world I was raised in, a negative review had to be met — immediately and with great force — with a sharp rejoinder. The pursuit of knowledge was often framed as a bitter contest between competing theoretical schools, where no side could concede an inch to its opponents. The leading journal, International Security, devoted scores of pages in the 1990s to unending, contentious debates over which “ism” best explained how the world worked. Like other young scholars, I followed these arguments with rapt attention, rooting for my “ism” with the same irrational passion I have long devoted to my often emotionally crippling attachment to the Philadelphia Eagles. This model of intellectual battle was how I thought scholarship and knowledge advanced. I no longer see things this way. The pursuit of wisdom is not about scoring points or attempting to defeat adversaries. Most of the issues we wrestle with in international security, foreign policy, and grand strategy are complex, contested, and difficult, defying parsimonious explanations or generalizations. Most people — both in the academy and in the policy world — explore these issues in good faith. The correspondence in this issue of TNSR between Mark Bell, Julia McDonald, Brendan Green, and Austin Long is, to my mind, an exemplar of how such exchanges over scholarly differences should take place: in a serious but respectful manner. All four are terrific scholars. And the fact is, the issue they are dealing with — how to define and understand a nuclear crisis — is an epistemological nightmare. What is a nuclear crisis? Is it any contest involving a nuclear armed state, which is how some political scientist have coded it, or does the use of nuclear weapons have to be explicitly mentioned? Nuclear weapons have perverse and puzzling effects on state behavior, dampening crises that might have otherwise have emerged (the Long Peace!) yet creating dangerous situations — like the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis — that make no sense in a non-nuclear world. And the bomb is always present, hovering like a dark shadow over world politics, even when nuclear weapons appear irrelevant or no one is talking about them. I’ve made the point elsewhere that coding anything involving nuclear weapons is hard, since the “Ns” we really care about are nine (the number of nuclear weapons states), two (the times atomic bombs have been used in battle, both within days of each other in 1945), and, most importantly, zero (the number of thermonuclear wars). In the nuclear realm, certainty is elusive and most of our assertions are historical interpretations. I am not sure I am convinced by either approach. Yet, all four are to be commended for their efforts, as the issues involved could not be more important. From a social science perspective, small Ns are a nightmare. In the world of nuclear weapons, however, small Ns are a miracle of history and policy, and we should continue our rigorous intellectual examination of these questions in our unending quest to keep those numbers — nine, two, and zero — exactly where they are. The scholarly focus on competing theoretical frameworks can also blind us to how policymaking actually works and why it often fails. Philip Zelikow’s important new article, “To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Public Problem Solving,” identifies what he sees as a steep decline in the United States’ ability to conduct effective, competent statecraft. To be clear, Zelikow is not so much worried about which grand strategy or school of thought animates U.S. policy: Trendy academic debates over restraint, primacy, or off-shore balancing miss the point in the same way the battle of the “isms” did in the 1990s. His contention is that the skills needed to carry out successful policy should be thought of like engineering; an interactive process between assessment, design, and implementation. The good news is that these skills are teachable, and Zelikow’s urging that universities update their pedagogy accordingly should be heeded. Sometimes intellectual insight emerges that defies easy categorization by “isms” or schools of thought, yet this insight reveals a whole new way of understanding old problems. Andrew Rhodes’ “Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Making,” is such an article. Rhodes identifies an irony: The contemporary tools available to scholars and policymakers to understand geography are extraordinary. Yet, rarely do we understand or interrogate the mental maps to understand how space and geography affect international policy and world politics. Borrowing from Ernest May and Richard Neustadt’s famous Harvard Kennedy School class and book, Rhodes says we must learn to “think in space.” Jaehan Park makes the case that much of the international relations theory that developed after World War II was aspatial. Some of this had to do with the nuclear revolution, but much of it was driven by “emotional repugnance, as in the case of Morgenthau, or of ‘physics envy,’ in the academy in general.” Systems analysis and game theoretic models thus replaced traditional geopolitical models for understanding international relations.[5] Rhodes’ piece is difficult to categorize, either in terms of a school of thought or a methodology. It is eclectic and smart, precisely the kind of article that is difficult to place in traditional disciplinary journals but finds a most welcome home at TNSR. This is not to suggest we abandon sharp intellectual debate — quite the contrary. People may have important disagreements over how Todd Hall explains what is driving the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyo islands, or how David Betz and Hugo Stanford-Tuck portray urban warfare. Such contestation is to be welcomed, even encouraged, because the issues these scholars tackle matter enormously. The 1953 Mossadegh coup analyzed in Brew’s article, for example, plays an outsize role in both Tehran and Washington in explicitly and implicitly shaping contemporary U.S.-Iranian relations. It is important that we rigorously examine and test our assumptions about the origins and consequences of this critical event. There is a balance to be had. During the late 16th and early 17th century, scholarly debates at the world’s most prestigious universities, Cambridge and Oxford, were often shaped by arid, formal, and bitter theological and philosophical disputes with little connection to the larger world. At the same time, a new, unheralded institution emerged in London — Gresham College — which was later to become the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, or the Royal Society. Its members, pursuing science for the larger public good, helped transform our understanding of the physical world; including, most consequentially, the navigation of the sea. Oxford and Cambridge soon caught up and surpassed Gresham College. The world, however, should be grateful for its efforts to escape academic “inside baseball” and connect knowledge to larger social purposes. Perhaps the way our current academic system operates when it comes to studying foreign policy and international security could use a similar helpful nudge. I learned a lot sitting on the sidelines watching the great 3:1 pissing war. What I remember most as it unfolded in 1988 and 1989, however, was the strange allocation of intellectual resources. Intense, passionate, and even intemperate clashes over the military balance in central Europe were taking place just as the Cold War was ending and the Soviet Union unraveled. In just a few years, the great pissing war would be forgotten, the term “Fulda Gap” would largely disappear, and the participants would move on to other intellectual battles, with no one questioning whether this particular war of words had been especially fruitful. At TNSR, we enjoy and encourage sharp, big arguments. But any debate should be respectful and measured, while recognizing how hard it is to get definitive answers. Most vital of all, such debates should be important to people beyond the silos and ivory towers in which we often find ourselves. We hope you agree with us that this issue passes that test.   Francis J. Gavin is the chair of the editorial board of the Texas National Security Review. He is the Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and the inaugural director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University. His writings include Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958–1971 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004) and Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age (Cornell University Press, 2012). His latest book, Nuclear Weapons and American Grand Strategy, will be published by Brookings Institution Press later this year.   [post_title] => Wars with Words? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wars-with-words [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-09 11:08:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-09 16:08:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2134 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => In his introductory essay for Vol. 2, Iss. 4, Francis J. Gavin, the chair of TNSR's editorial board, discusses academic combat, debates over "isms," and how to truly advance knowledge through intellectual exchange. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => [style] => framing [type] => Framing [style_label] => The Foundation [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 2444 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 49 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Eric Homberger, “Harold Bloom, Obituary,” The Guardian, Oct. 15th, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/15/harold-bloom-obituary; Falstaff Agonistes, “Obituary: Harold Bloom Died on October 14th, The Economist, Oct. 24, 2019, https://www.economist.com/obituary/2019/10/24/obituary-harold-bloom-died-on-october-14th; Richard J. Evans, “Norman Stone Obituary,”  The Guardian June 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/25/norman-stone-obituary; Marcus Williamson, “Norman Stone: Outspoken Historian and Writer Whose Work Polarised Academic Opinion,” Independent, July 1, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/norman-stone-death-obituary-news-historian-dead-a8974476.html. [2] While there were several competing articles published on the subject, the gist of the dispute can be found here: John J. Mearsheimer, Barry R. Posen, Eliot A. Cohen, “Correspondence: Reassessing Net Assessment” International Security 13, No. 4 (Spring 1989): 128–79, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2538782. [3] Francis J. Gavin, “Politics, Power, and U.S. Policy in Iran, 1950-1953,” Journal of Cold War Studies 1, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 58–89, https://doi.org/10.1162/15203970152521890. [4] Francis J. Gavin, “Author’s Response,” H-Diplo, Oct. 8, 1999, https://issforum.org/reviews/PDF/Gavin-response.pdf. [5] Jaehan Park, “The Case for Geopolitics,” unpublished chapter from his forthcoming dissertation, The Age of Geopolitics: Japan, Russia, and the United States in the Far East, 1895-1905. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [1] => Array ( [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2052 [post_author] => 322 [post_date] => 2019-11-07 14:10:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-07 19:10:07 [post_content] =>

Only statesmen who can do their political and strategic thinking in terms of a round earth and a three-dimensional warfare can save their countries from being outmaneuvered on distant flanks.

            -Nicholas Spykman[1]

  Leaders who fail to think in space do so at their own peril. Nicholas Spykman published the above warning on the importance of mental maps in the context of World War II and the global challenges it presented, but his argument regarding the importance of spatial thinking to the nation’s security has never been more relevant. Thinking in space has long been an essential tool for thinking critically and communicating clearly when it comes to national security decision-making. The importance of mental maps and geographic communication are only growing in an era of new global challenges and renewed great power competition. Strategists and diplomats would benefit from gaining greater insight into the ways geographic information shapes national security decision-making. Moreover, understanding this impact can help produce recommendations for how American strategists can more effectively think in space. The tools and resources needed to elevate the spatial thinking of those charged with conducting America’s foreign policy and securing the national interest are all available. Unfortunately, American strategists are currently not making full use of geographic information, inhibiting the policymaking process as well as the government’s ability to communicate global policy. Despite national security decision-makers having unprecedented access to geographic information and tools with which to visualize the world, this is not the golden age of spatial thinking in national security policymaking. The challenges confronting the national security community require learning new ways of spatial thinking — and relearning old ones — on a global scale. The ability to “think in space” is more than mere navigation, map-reading, or geographic literacy. The basic assumptions laid out in Richard Neustadt and Ernest May’s classic study Thinking in Time, which explores how decision-makers can make better use of history, are germane to this type of thinking.[2] The first assumption is that busy decision-makers and their advisers are presented with a tremendous quantity and diversity of information every day. Thus, when it comes to thinking in space, such individuals can consume only a small amount of the geographic information available to them. Second, the pressures of time and limited information do not lend themselves to thinking critically or, in the case of thinking in space, questioning the geographic renderings they are presented with. Third, it is nevertheless possible to achieve marginal improvements — in this case, in the use of geographic information — and be, as Neustadt and May put it, “more reflective and systematic.”[3] This article seeks to advance the conversation about how geographic information shapes national security decisions. While many have agreed with Spykman that “geography matters” and although there is a substantial literature on cartography as a form of communication, there has been little analysis of how geography “matters” when it comes to contemporary national security decision-making.[4] This article begins by considering the position of national security decision-making at the intersection of the art and science of cartography and visualization, the unique cartographic consciousness of American strategists, and the various theories of geopolitics. These three elements are analogous to the three “images” Kenneth Waltz identified to discuss international relations: the individual, the national, and the global.[5] In the sections that follow, I discuss the interaction of technology and geography, arguing that the ability of decision-makers to think critically in space has not kept pace with the advances of technology. The article then turns to the structure and process for employing geography in U.S. national security institutions and the importance of thinking in space in order to tackle 21st-century national security challenges. Finally, the article closes with recommendations for making the national security workforce more effective and identifies areas for further research.

Three Levels of Thinking in Space

Echoing Waltz, thinking in space occurs at three levels of national security decision-making: the individual, the governmental or national, and the global. Examining each of these three levels in sequence allows a careful review of the existing research, historical context, and theoretical foundations of different aspects of thinking in space. These three perspectives also provide useful analogies and suggest frameworks for evaluating contemporary issues. At the most basic level, thinking in space is the act of an individual seeking to make sense of space when it is out of sight and perhaps beyond his or her direct experience. On the national level, American society, including its vast national security bureaucracy, has developed its own uniquely American national geographic consciousness, with implications for how Americans use geographic information. At the highest level, geographic conceptualization of the international system — that is, geopolitics — bounds and focuses diplomacy and national security decisions. The Individual Level: Capturing and Interpreting Space on a Flat Surface Individuals must interpret and describe their geographic context, whether exploring a new city as a tourist or formulating wartime strategy. It is, therefore, essential to understand fundamental issues of cognition and spatial reasoning, which have been an important part of human evolution and can vary widely among individuals and even cultures.[6] Some may possess Clausewitz’s inner eye — the military thinker wrote that spatial cognition is a commander’s “special gift.” His version of thinking in space was a “sense of locality” through which abstract space was “vividly present to the mind, imprinted like a picture, like a map, upon the brain, without fading or blurring in detail.”[7] Others, however, might be what the Japanese call “hōkō onchi,” someone who is “directionally tone-deaf.”[8] One famous study found unique patterns of activity and even structural changes in the hippocampus of the brains of London taxi drivers who mastered the encyclopedic knowledge required to pass the city-wide driver licensing exam.[9] Cartography is the way in which geographic information is communicated to and interpreted by the individual. The maps we study shape our spatial understanding, and the maps we make reflect deliberate choices to describe and simplify a complex reality. Lewis Carroll and Jorge Luis Borges both explored the idea of a fictional “perfect” map, on a one-to-one scale, which would be difficult to consult as “it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight.”[10] A perfect map is impossible, and thus every map is a simplified, two-dimensional abstraction of three-dimensional space. According to one provocative argument, “not only is it easy to lie with maps, it’s essential.”[11] These lies could be accidental misrepresentations or deliberate deceptions, but the best maps make intentional and transparent choices, trading some distortions for others, such as scale, projection, and symbolization. Thus, the mapmaker only tells “white lies” and the informed map reader knows which lies the map contains and why. Scale and projection are both practical cartographic “lies.” A wall-sized world map cannot contain the same detail as a state highway map, but both have their purpose. Projection allows the transfer of three dimensions to two but entails some distortions in the process: No projection can preserve true distance, area, and shape in the same map. For example, many map users are familiar with the Mercator projection’s heavy distortion of distance and area. While the unlikely hold of the Mercator projection on American education is an instructive history of addiction to lazy conventions, there is nothing technically inaccurate about the projection itself, which was a remarkable technological achievement that facilitated global trade and exploration.[12] The essential point is that mapmakers must select an appropriate projection and scale to facilitate accurate interpretation by the map user, and informed map users must understand the reasons for those choices.  

Image 1: Comparison of Six Different Common Projections, All Centered on Beijing (Maps by author, 2019)

Robinson: Compromise to reduce distortion of shape, area, and distance.

 

Goode Homosoline: Distortion reduced by interrupting the map in areas less important to the user.

 

Miller Cylindrical: Compromise that fits on a rectangular page, but distorts distance and area, particularly in high latitudes.

 

Orthographic: Realistic "globe" view, but shapes and area are distorted. Can only depict one hemisphere.

 

Miller Cylindrical: Compromise that fits on a rectangular page, but distorts distance and area, particularly in high latitudes.

 

Gnomonic: Every line is a great circle, showing direct paths between points, but area and shape are distorted. Can only depict one hemisphere.  

Mercator: Useful for ocean navigation, but significant distortion of distance and area. The example above includes polar regions which are typically cropped.

  There is no perfect answer when it comes to choosing a map projection, though there are many wrong ones. One map familiar to many in the U.S. military is “The World with Commanders’ Areas of Responsibility,” which uses the Miller Cylindrical projection to delineate the regional combatant commands under the Unified Command Plan. The standard world wall map produced for the Department of Defense also uses the Miller projection, which has the advantage of being rectangular and fitting neatly onto a sheet or wall, but is only slightly less distorted than the Mercator projection in terms of high latitudes.[13] The Miller projection is inappropriate, for example, for a planner in the Pacific seeking to understand or convey the tyranny of distance in that theater. When distance is the central issue to a planning team, an equidistant projection, of which there are many kinds, is most appropriate. However, American officials rarely use equidistant projections, possibly because they look unfamiliar and distort shape while preserving distance. When comparing the size of two areas or mapping the distribution of data, such as population density, an equal-area projection is most appropriate and accurate. When mapping the entire world onto a single sheet or wall, a “compromise” projection provides a balance that accepts, but minimizes, distortions to the distance, area, and shape.[14] The creator of one of the best compromise projections, Arthur H. Robinson, called for map creators to heed principles of graphic design just as an author “must employ words with due regard for many important structural elements of the written language, such as grammar, syntax, and spelling.”[15]  

 

Image 2: The Miller Cylindrical projection (top) is common to many Department of Defense wall maps. The Two-Point Equidistant projection (bottom), shows true distances to Honolulu and Taipei. Both maps are at the scale of 1:65,000,000, and show the Great Circle paths among Taipei, Honolulu, Fairbanks, Darwin, and San Francisco. The dashed rings show 2000-kilometer ranges around these cities. Maps by author, 2019.

  Symbolization is another area in which cartographers must tell necessary “lies.” To make a road, river, or small island visible on a map, the cartographer often must make it far wider or larger than it actually is at that scale. Abstract symbolization provides a powerful language through which cartographers can communicate, but can also easily become a source of inadvertent blunders or deliberate deception. The design choices that cartographers make significantly impact the ways in which individuals will perceive geographic information. Even if scale and projection are appropriately and effectively used, the employment of line, color, information density, text labels, and symbols bear on accuracy and ease of interpretation. Because maps can feature centrally in national security decision-making, this is particularly important to bear in mind. The National Level: Development of American Cartographic Consciousness Zooming out from the individual to the national level, one can see how a unique American cartographic consciousness has evolved with the nation, shaping the way that Americans — including national security decision-makers — view the world. Every nation, and its government, has its own relationship with maps. The national map is a critical dimension of national identity and governments have a vested interest in the regular, public declaration of the extent of their sovereignty. Kosovo and Cyprus, for example, put the outline of their borders on their national flags. America’s cartographic consciousness developed over several principal phases. Spatial thinking may have had an early hold on the national psyche in a nation founded by traders and explorers — George Washington himself had an early career as a surveyor before his military and political life. The colonial era was marked by exploration, colonization, and conquest of the interior, after which national independence marked an inflection point as the young republic sought to craft its own geographic identity.[16] Before and after independence, there was a grand spatial dimension to America’s commitment to territorial expansion. This was evident in the colonial era but grew rapidly in the years after independence, most notably with the Louisiana Purchase and the Jefferson administration’s sponsorship of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Susan Schulten, a leading scholar of the role of cartography in American society, highlights important links between geographic education and the development of the early republic. Emma Hart Willard, a prominent educator of the period, explicitly connected the teaching of geography with national development and promotion of an American identity.[17] The Civil War represented a watershed moment in popular mapping, as newspapers published battle maps and Americans both north and south followed the progress of the war. Some of the first American maps to shade or color code the different states (i.e., choropleth maps) distinguished slave and free states, while the Lincoln administration closely studied maps detailing the distribution of slave populations in the South. The 1874 publication of the Statistical Atlas of the United States, charting data from the 1870 census, opened a new era of the American government using cartographic data in support of policymaking.[18] This period also saw growing institutional commitment to the study and advancement of geography, as seen in the establishment of the American Geographical Society in 1851 and the National Geographic Society in 1888. It was also at this time, in 1878, that Harvard appointed its first geography professor.  

Image 3: Population density, as depicted in the Statistical Atlas of the United States for 1870. Courtesy of the U.S. Census Department

  At the end of the 19th century, a truly outward and international perspective to America’s cartographic consciousness began to emerge. The Spanish-American War, the “Great White Fleet,” and Alfred Thayer Mahan’s writings on global sea power shifted America’s cartographic consciousness to a maritime and international focus. The acquisition of Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines forced an expansion of the national map that included the vast scale of trans-Pacific distances. And although Mahan did not achieve the same popular acclaim in his own country that he enjoyed in Europe, he had a clear impact on key leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, who, as assistant secretary of the Navy and later as president promoted the development of the United States into a global naval power.[19] Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wartime leadership demonstrated the value of thinking in space: He had an innate spatial sense that strengthened his critical thinking and he employed maps in communicating with his administration. But, in addition to creating a White House map room and attaching hand-annotated maps to memoranda, Roosevelt employed geography to explain national strategy to the public, most famously in his Feb. 23, 1942, radio address, for which newspapers nationwide printed accompanying world maps. Roosevelt directly contributed to a new national consciousness of strategic issues in World War II that Alan Henrikson called a “revolution…in the way Americans visually imagined the earth and represented it cartographically.”[20] The career of cartographer Richard Edes Harrison exemplified this revolution.[21] In the 1930s, Harrison began producing maps emphasizing nontraditional projections and perspectives — particularly orthographic projections, which provide a realistic “globe” view, but in which shapes and areas are distorted and only one hemisphere is viewable at a time. He sacrificed convention to enable visualizations that better reflect the reality that the world is three-dimensional than do most flat, two-dimensional maps.[22] Harrison’s 1944 Look at the World: The Fortune Atlas for World Strategy includes dozens of original maps of war zones from multiple perspectives and advances several arguments about how different nations’ unique spatial perceptions influenced the making of good or bad strategy. Harrison made an impassioned plea for the importance of “geographical sense” to Americans who had been forced by the war from “a period of cartographic lethargy.”[23] He also attacked the “psychological shackles of conventional maps” that prevent Americans from effectively conceptualizing geographic challenges, and held particular disdain for the “invariable placing of North at the top [as] geographical cant in its most pernicious form.”[24] The popular atlases and magazine maps of World War II created the defining spatial conception of global threats facing America — Henrikson called this new global awareness “air-age globalism” — that continued into the early years of the Cold War.[25] The threat of nuclear attack by strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles brought new military challenges into sharper focus, such as the strategic value of the Arctic. Maps with azimuthal equidistant projections centered on the North Pole became essential to understanding the threat axis. Those emphasizing the cartographic perspective of air-age globalists reached their peak with Alexander de Seversky whose maps depicted the Arctic as the “area of decision” situated most directly between the industrial heartlands of the United States and Soviet Union.[26] [quote id="1"] Although remarkable technical achievements in cartography continued throughout the Cold War, geography’s place in academia did not keep pace. Indeed, despite the demand for geography skills during World War II, Harvard eliminated its geography department in 1948. Neil Smith argues that Harvard’s decision marked a key moment in an “academic war over the field of geography,” in which the institutionally weak discipline faced challenges in establishing itself as a true science, something more than a set of technical skills and distinct from the other physical and social sciences.[27] Personal and academic rivalries also played a role in the Harvard affair, as did McCarthyite accusations that university geography departments were a “haven for socialists.”[28] Also in decline from a relative high point during World War II was the effectiveness of geographic discourse between national leaders and the public, which did not carry forward to Vietnam. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote late in life that Indochina had been effectively “terra incognita” for the Kennedy-Johnson national security team.[29] But the United States employed ample cartographic resources in support of combat and economic development efforts in Vietnam. Furthermore, at various stages of America’s military involvement in Vietnam, President John F. Kennedy, McNamara, and President Richard Nixon all used maps in televised press conferences on the Vietnam War, but the effect was somehow less compelling than Roosevelt's radio address. Johnson, for his part, studied a terrain model of Khe Sanh as he directed his advisers to avoid a repeat of Dien Bien Phu, perhaps reflecting the broader tendency to fixate on operational and tactical situations, rather than the strategic level of war in that conflict.[30] Over the course of the Cold War, the associated cartographic imagery became more ideological than geostrategic, reflecting the global contest for influence between the two superpowers.[31] The Cold War map simplistically reduced the world (on a Mercator projection) to color-coded countries aligned to either the United States or the Soviet Union. It is not yet clear how to describe the American cartographic consciousness in the post-Cold War or post-9/11 world. The low level of geographic literacy among Americans in an age of globalization is a popular and longstanding complaint.[32] In one recent study, conducted at a time of high tension on the Korean peninsula, only 36 percent of American respondents could correctly identify North Korea on a map, while only 16 percent of Americans could correctly locate Ukraine in a similar 2014 study.[33] But these results are nothing new: In December 1950, with the Korean peninsula in crisis, the New York Times front page highlighted the poor results of a survey on geographic education in American schools and colleges.[34] Indeed, for all of the geopolitical turbulence of recent decades, America’s cartographic consciousness and the way that the American national security apparatus functions have been remarkably consistent since the end of the Cold War. The International Level: The Theory and Context of Geopolitics At the international level, geographic context and literacy are closely related to how decision-makers perceive the structure of the international system and the nature of the powers that define it. Saul Bernard Cohen defines modern geopolitics as the “scholarly analysis of the geographical factors underlying international relations and guiding political interactions.”[35] Geopolitics shapes the way national leaders view the outside world and how they make national security decisions. Just as individuals may not comprehend the distortions of the map they are looking at and Americans may not reflect on the uniqueness of their own cartographic perspective, national leaders may not realize it when they invoke geopolitical theories or engage in some of the great debates of geopolitics. In other words, policymakers may not be interested in geopolitics, but geopolitics is interested in them. The principal early proponent of geopolitical thought was Halford Mackinder, who elaborated the concept of a Eurasian “heartland,” control of which determined global power. Mackinder’s career overlapped with Mahan’s, but they advanced very different arguments about where the seat of global power rested. Mackinder, writing at a time when Mahan’s theories of sea power had reached peak popularity, argued that the true pivot of world power was on land, and that advances in the technologies of land power diminished the importance of maritime trade and naval power.[36] However, Mahan the historian and Mackinder the geographer shared a common geographical model and common assumptions about the role of military power and conflict in determining a nation’s status in the international system.[37] This enduring understanding of a world in which regional centers of power compete within a closed system has profoundly influenced how strategists conceive of global space. Nicholas Spykman fused Mahan and Mackinder in his analysis of great power competition for regional and global influence.[38] Spykman accepted much of Mackinder’s geographic conceptualization, but argued that the critical geostrategic region was not the Eurasian heartland but the coastal “Rimland” that surrounds Eurasia, an area that Mackinder referred to as the “inner or marginal crescent.”[39] According to Spykman, a strong power like the United States should, therefore, support buffer states (i.e., in the Rimland) and fight its enemies abroad, as only weak states fight defensively at their own borders or within their own territory. Spykman also studied the difference between how land powers and sea powers think in space, writing in 1938 that “[a] land power thinks in terms of continuous surfaces surrounding a central point of control, while a sea power thinks in terms of points and connecting lines dominating an immense territory.”[40] Spykman perceived that the unpopularity of foreign engagement created a natural cycle among great powers — especially the United States — of war, isolation, alliance, and renewed war. Furthermore, Spykman explicitly connected the structure of the international system to domestic and foreign policy, calling the tension between interventionism and isolationism “the oldest issue in American foreign policy.”[41] [quote id="2"] Spykman’s perspective helped shape policy throughout the Cold war, but the politics and structure of the immediate post-Cold War world initially appeared dramatically different than the preceding centuries of great power competition and traditional geopolitics. However, in his 2012 book, The Revenge of Geography, Robert Kaplan highlighted the enduring importance of geopolitics following the end of the Cold War. Not only does he begin his first chapter with an argument for “recover[ing] our sense of geography” that was lost with the end of the Cold War, but he devotes a full chapter to the 21st-century importance of Spykman’s Rimland thesis.[42] More recently, Jakub Grygiel updated Spykman’s thinking for the new century. Grygiel’s 2017 book, The Unquiet Frontier, co-authored by Wess Mitchell, makes a geopolitical argument for resisting the lure of isolationism and sustaining American engagement abroad to counter Chinese and Russian probing for weak points in America’s international position.[43] The context and theory of geopolitics are not merely academic. Contemporary strategists debate whether Mahan or Mackinder holds more sway in guiding China’s rise. The answers to that debate hold important implications for how America should compete with China over the long term.[44] The thinking of individuals across the American foreign policy establishment, from realists to liberal internationalists, has been firmly rooted in Spykman’s concept of forward engagement for the better part of a century. Spykman also discussed the possibility that the Asian littorals might one day “be controlled not by British, American, or Japanese sea power but by Chinese air power.”[45] He would doubtless be amazed at the geographic tools — from GPS to Google Earth — available to the average person and the geospatial support provided to American national security decision-makers, but at the same time dismayed at their inability to “do their thinking in terms of a round earth and three-dimensional warfare.”[46] In order to critically analyze national security decision-making, it is essential have a greater awareness of how thinking in space takes place on the individual, national, and international levels. These national security decisions occur within a specific context on all three levels, often in ways decision-makers may not be fully conscious of. As Robert Jervis writes, “the roots of many important disputes about policies lie in differing perceptions. And in the frequent cases when the actors do not realize this, they will misunderstand their disagreement and engage in a debate that is unenlightening.”[47] The preceding theoretical and historical foundation therefore serves as the basis for the following portion of this article, which focuses on the practical considerations of how well the national security establishment thinks in space and how it might improve.

The Use of Geography in National Security Institutions

There is little data on how exactly government institutions employ the vast amounts of geographic data and finished cartographic products created by the U.S. government. Public strategy documents, congressional testimony, and some declassified products offer the public a small but limited view of the frequency with which cartography is utilized in discussions on issues of defense and foreign policy and the quality of such cartography. The extent to which officials employ cartography and visualization to explain a decision is relevant, and potentially a meaningful proxy, to how much “thinking in space” went into that decision. Thinking in space is not just useful during the decision-making process itself. It is also central to effectively communicating how a given decision will be implemented. Using text and cartography together in public documents can help explain a national security issue to the public more effectively, as well as guide the execution of policy at the lower levels of government.[48] It is notable that neither the 2017 National Security Strategy nor the 2018 National Defense Strategy includes any maps.[49] Similarly, the National Defense Strategy Commission’s 2018 assessment of the National Defense Strategy, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the Navy’s 2018 Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, and the 2017 Defense Posture Statement, all lack maps, although they were laid out by professional graphic designers and include other visual aids, such as photographs and charts.[50] Despite their purpose being to explain global strategy, these documents use maps with less frequency than a typical issue of the Economist. By contrast, the annual report to Congress titled, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” mandated since 2000, includes 14 maps in its 2018 edition, including a diverse set of scales and projections.[51] Although released by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, it is important to note this report is fundamentally an intelligence product and is largely compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Similarly, the Defense Department’s 2019 Missile Defense Review includes a few small and informative maps but is also produced by the intelligence community.[52] The lack of maps in the majority of these documents does not mean that cartography and spatial thinking played no role in their development and presentation or the implementation of the policies they prescribe. For example, those who developed the 2018 National Defense Strategy consulted maps while considering new operating concepts, testing these concepts in war games, and presenting National Defense Strategy themes to key stakeholders.[53] However, these cartographic efforts were ad hoc and largely incidental to the process of developing and implementing the strategy. Whether considering grand strategy, military capability, national cartographic consciousness, or individual spatial cognition, to exclude geographic content fails to make use of a valuable tool. Geographic expertise and resources are scattered widely and inconsistently across the national security enterprise, but many organizations have some sort of department that produces cartographic or geospatial products, often in conjunction with other graphic design services. That some parts of the government employ geography in their public messaging and others do not could reflect deliberate choices about the most appropriate or most effective ways to make an argument. More likely, however, is that the differences are the result of widely varying cartographic capabilities across the government, unevenly distributed geospatial resources, and long-unquestioned institutional processes. [quote id="3"] The National Security Council, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff would all benefit from a much greater ability to produce original geographic content in house. These organizations are among the most influential in the interagency policymaking process — indeed the National Security Council is its central coordinator — and yet they lack their own cartography capabilities. Policymakers at the National Security Council, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff may be avid consumers of maps, and they all certainly have access to quality geographic products through the intelligence community. However, that this capability has been almost exclusively allocated to the intelligence community has important implications. The intelligence community, by nature and by design, resides primarily in a classified domain, which allows it to take the sensitive information it collects and present it through geospatial visualizations. But working with classified systems can also hinder the employment of the full range of software and data that is available, as security policies can slow the adoption of commercial or open-source software suites and data repositories. In recent years, many successful geography applications have emerged from open-source software models that emphasize crowd-sourced development and collection of data by a wide array of volunteers — as in the case of OpenStreetMap — but government agencies prefer traditional models of software development and data collection from established corporations.[54] A more subtle challenge arises from the relationship between the intelligence community and policymakers, in which intelligence seeks policy relevance but avoids making policy prescriptions. High standards of security and objective independence from crafting policy are vital principles within the intelligence community, but when it is the only one with cartographic resources, these firebreaks can also serve to keep the best maps and most compelling geographic communication out of the hands of decision-makers. The government, with some exceptions, has generally treated geography and cartography as a service to be provided to customers, rather than as a core capability for decision-makers. That is, cartography is a support function assigned to technical specialists, rather than a skill, like effective writing, to be prized by policy advisers or senior officials. This has been particularly true in the military, which has considered mapmaking an enlisted function and not a skill set needed in the officer corps. The military has diminished even the enlisted focus on cartography through the elimination of certain specialties or their merger with other disciplines.[55] Government organizations have also been hampered in geostrategic thinking by the shift from general and thematic cartography to specialized geospatial intelligence. A subtle difference is apparent in the different treatment of geography at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the CIA. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s doctrinal definition of geospatial intelligence is that it “consists of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information,” emphasizing imagery and data over cartography.[56] By contrast, the CIA’s cartography center emphasizes cartography as a form of communication “to present the information visually in creative and effective ways for maximum understanding.”[57] This focus on visual communication may be narrower, more traditional, and less technical, but it is probably more consistent with promoting thinking in space.

Visualizing and Communicating the Geography of Coming Challenges

The contemporary environment and the threats that loom on the horizon present new challenges, and a few opportunities, for thinking in space. The American national security enterprise has a chance to regain the skills it has lost. Now is a time when those charged with thinking in space in defense of the nation can gain a new and more sophisticated understanding of the geographic information they consume, the limits of their own expertise in using it, and ways to cope with ambiguity. Although lacking any maps, as noted above, the 2018 National Defense Strategy uses spatial language to argue for a reappraisal of the nation’s strategic position. The strategy document argues that “every domain is contested—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace,” that battles are conducted “at increasing speed and reach,” and that “the homeland is no longer a sanctuary.”[58] By naming the leading competitors or pacing threats, the language of the National Defense Strategy allows for more geographic clarity than similar previous documents that referred only generically to capabilities or regions. Stating explicitly that China, followed by Russia, should be the strategic focus of the U.S. military, puts a geographic frame on planning discussions. Chinese military modernization has reintroduced old lessons about the tremendous expanse of the Pacific theater. Preparing for a high-end conflict that emphasizes the air and maritime domains might require relearning the cartography of the air-age globalism that took hold in the 1940s. Invoking the “tyranny of distance” has become a standard talking point for officials highlighting the difficulties of rapid response and the importance of forward deployment and foreign partnerships in the Pacific. But there is insufficient geographic content to support these points beyond rudimentary — and often inaccurate — range rings. If China is the primary concern for force planners, they must employ better mental and physical maps of the Pacific. Well-articulated spatial content, with geographic arguments supported by cartographic communication, would help strategists present a more effective case to their audience. The true implications of the tyranny of distance and the key geographic relationships of the Pacific theater need to be fully understood by strategists and clearly argued before the national leadership, the American people, and key U.S. allies.[59] In particular, there are three domains that are crucial when it comes to constructing both mental and actual maps if decision-makers want to be prepared for coming challenges. Space, cyberspace, and the undersea environment are essential strategic domains whose physical infrastructure is difficult to visualize spatially. Very few humans have navigated a submarine or charted the motion of a spacecraft and while cyberspace has become a part of ordinary life, few can explain the physical infrastructure of the internet. Leading Chinese strategists have emphasized that these domains are critical, calling space and cyber the new “commanding heights” of military capability that could “determine the outcome of future wars.”[60] Making smart investments to prepare for future conflict and compete with peer adversaries in these domains requires the commitment of a host of political, technological, and financial resources. These weighty national security decisions require critical analysis of complex data. Thinking in space must play a part in these decisions, even if spatial visualization proves difficult. Space Preparing for, deterring, and executing operations in the space domain requires decision-makers to think spatially. Outer space may be far from the earth’s surface where map coordinates are plotted, but it remains fundamentally spatial. Thus, we can analyze and visualize space in some of the same ways we approach traditional geographic problems. The coordinates that describe the three-dimensional position of a satellite are no different than those of an airplane, except that they change much more rapidly, the atmosphere is not a factor, and the distances are so great that communication delays are a more important factor, even at the speed of light. [quote id="6"] American policymakers seeking to accurately envision the spatial context of objects above the Karman Line probably fare little better than American high school students trying to locate Iraq on a world map. Supporting decision-makers in analyzing this domain will require a mix of traditional and unconventional geospatial materials. There is not a widely available body of accessible reference material for visualizing earth orbits. The established standard, Systems Tool Kit (formerly known as Satellite Tool Kit) contains a powerful visualization engine, but, as with many Geographic Information Systems suites, it is designed for experts, not generalists, in order to analyze complicated physics problems.[61] Outside of science education posters, there are few wall charts or reference atlases of various satellite constellations. Such charts — unclassified base maps of space — do not yet adorn the walls of conference rooms in which policymakers discuss investing in this vital domain. In part, the nature of orbitology makes a static or “flat” reference product on paper problematic, thus, animation or interactive displays may foster more understanding. Although creating, transporting, and displaying a digital interactive product has major practical limitations, it would almost certainly be more accurate and effective than static products, in part because objects in space move very fast and static maps cannot accurately portray location in time.[62] Cyberspace Visualizing cyberspace in recent years has been an interesting artistic endeavor, but practical mapping of the domain in support of national security decision-making remains undeveloped. Gaining a better understanding of the overlap between physical and virtual domains has become vitally important for senior officials. There have been a variety of official and unofficial efforts to generate comprehensive, global maps of internet traffic and devices, and books like The Atlas of Cyberspace have compiled different conceptual visualizations.[63] These efforts highlight that the private sector dominates both the visualization and the management of the physical infrastructure that supports internet traffic,[64] while private companies play an increasingly central role in discovering and responding to cyber attacks. They also own and manage the majority of the key information for visualizing the internet, such as charts of cables and switches and raw data on the paths through which internet traffic is routed. [65] One author found the researchers from a leading visualization firm, TeleGeography, to be part of a “small global fraternity that knows the geography of the internet” and has robust mental maps of the geographic movement of traffic on the internet’s physical cables.[66] Undersea The undersea domain has captured less attention in the popular press than space and cyberspace, but it is nevertheless a vital strategic domain that challenges the geographic thinking of national security leaders. In contrast to the cyber and space domains, shortfalls in thinking about undersea space derive more from disinterest and lack of imagination than technical or bureaucratic challenges. Anti-submarine warfare was a high priority in World War II, but submarine operations of that era were only partially an undersea contest. Competing for mastery of the undersea domain reached its height in the Cold War ocean surveillance networks and reliance on submarine-launched ballistic missiles for strategic deterrence. Such issues of military use of the undersea domain have become prominent again, but technology has also dramatically increased the commercial importance of the undersea environment. The overwhelming majority of global communication rides on seabed fiber-optic cables and the growing feasibility of extracting seabed resources requires an enhanced understanding of the undersea geography that determines competing claims and the accessibility of those resources. These challenges raise the importance of making national security leaders familiar with the shape and science of the undersea world. Those who develop and implement national strategy will have to become more spatially conversant in presenting and considering the strategic issues of the undersea domain.

Challenges to Thinking in Space

Getting policymakers and military leaders to think in space more effectively is easier said than done. There are a number of challenges to enhancing geographic skills — some of these challenges are more cognitive and abstract, while others are more practical and procedural. But they must be described so that they can be understood and overcome. As discussed above, technology has made possible some remarkable uses of geography in the digital age, but technology is a double-edged sword that creates tradeoffs for the decision-maker relying on a digital reference or navigational aid. Similarly, there are tradeoffs in the specific ways that national security organizations use geographic information, with implications for the quality and efficiency of the decisions these groups make. Confronting the nature of these tradeoffs suggests national security decision-makers would benefit from adapting their tools and processes to improve their ability to think in space. The Effects of Technology on Thinking in Space in the 21st Century The idea that technology impacts the spatial thinking of its users is not a new one. In 1913, Gerard Stanley Lee wrote that “the telephone changes the structure of the brain. Men live in wider distances, and think in larger figures, and become eligible to nobler and wider motives.”[67] A growing body of research has examined the effects of technology on spatial thinking as digital systems replace analog techniques in cartography and navigation and indicates that technology can both aid and hinder thinking in space. Geographic information systems technology encompasses the collection, manipulation, analysis, and display of increasingly rich data sets, empowered by global navigation systems, the storage of big data collected in the field, space-based imaging sensors, and the computing power to process it all. This technology has become an essential tool for an ever-broadening set of organizations, from businesses seeking more efficient supply chains to local governments managing public services and utilities and nongovernmental organizations conducting disaster relief. The essential skills for developing geographic tools and manipulating geographic information, i.e., geographic information systems technology, has become much more an exercise in computer programming and development of user interfaces than of traditional cartography. Scientists studying the interface between human cognition and digital maps discuss “navigational efficiency,” suggesting the ideal geospatial tool would reach maximum efficiency by requiring no geographic knowledge or critical thinking.[68] [quote id="4"] Digital navigation is the ubiquitous and essential means by which many people around the world engage with the mapped environment. But the ease of use and narrow purpose of navigational tools and digital map applications have also led to what researchers identify as “spatial cognitive deskilling” — people who use certain tools and interfaces actually acquire less spatial knowledge than they otherwise would.[69] A visual display that demands less skill of the user and strips away context can have clear benefits. Henry Grabar notes this is perhaps most evident in the way that a transit diagram, technically a “cartogram” rather than a map, allows a tourist to navigate the New York subway or London Underground. However, Grabar also points out that such navigational tools abandon geographic accuracy and provide little to no context of the surrounding environment. Having “small screens and egocentric perspectives, mobile navigation systems function like blinders, reducing the landscape to the width of a street. They narrow the world.”[70] Indeed, a broader view of the world provides a reminder of the tendency for technology to narrow the perspective by abandoning the context. A remarkable 2018 New York Times map of every structure in the United States, produced in both paper and online interactive forms, prompted Harvard’s Susan Crawford to remark on how modern technology denies individuals important spatial context, saying that “we lose what’s fascinating about a place by not having this bigger picture.”[71] Small navigational displays in cars replicate a capability that has been available in military cockpits for decades. Various studies have examined how to optimize displays for tactical situational awareness.[72] Recent studies of U.S. Navy doctrine have praised the development, circa 1943, of the shipboard Combat Information Center, which allows operational commanders to think spatially with new sensors (radar), new displays (the Plan Position Indicator scope), and networked communications (radio).[73] For all of the advances of integrated sensors and communications in modern military systems, some contemporary military officers have noted issues with spatial cognitive de-skilling within the officer corps due to using these digital tools in place of analog processes and paper charts. Moreover, digital screens limit the size and resolution of the map display and the hardware and software that integrate sensors, processors, databases, and displays require significant maintenance. The Navy now relies on digital charts that can be updated more readily than paper charts, but the system needs constant information technology support for the maintenance and integration of various electronic components. Developing skilled navigators necessitates specialized training with analog and digital systems alike. Digital systems require their users to be especially conscious of the quality and sources of the data displayed.[74] One study of flight skills among pilots found that certain basic skills were declining due to reliance on advanced instruments and that pilots consistently overestimated their level of skill in the event of losing advanced systems.[75] One critique of the Army’s digital systems, under the Command Post of the Future, is that these new tools are not expedient for field use since they have maintenance requirements that are too steep for deployment in austere environments. Moreover, they can introduce as much noise as signal into a geographic display because of a bias toward the most-accessible data layers displayed on a base map (such as auto-generated vehicle locations) rather than the most important data. Some officers, therefore, find digital systems to be less effective than analog alternatives for conveying clear spatial information among higher- and lower-echelon commanders.[76] Dealing with Ambiguity: Dangers of Dependence and Excessive Trust Despite the trend in spatial de-skilling, technology has deepened our addiction to certain types of geographic information and changed the way we consume it — with a less critical eye and without context. But what would happen if that technology was suddenly unavailable? Unexpectedly being denied the availability, quality, and accuracy of geographic information that technology currently provides will impair decision-making at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. There is a need for greater research on what happens when strategic decision-makers, conditioned to highly accurate and unambiguous spatial information, are suddenly denied that information or presented a deliberately deceptive spatial image. The increasing sophistication and broader proliferation of technology that is shaping strategic situational awareness present new challenges to decision-makers. Rebecca Hersman and Bernadette Stadler argue that many of the core concepts of crisis management were developed during the Cold War; however, decision-makers have not kept pace with changes in technology since 1990.[77] Furthermore, they argue the “emerging strategic situational awareness environment” will require policymakers to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the technology through which they visualize and maintain awareness of complex security challenges. Natural fog and friction are reason enough to build cognitive tools for dealing with ambiguous geographic information. However, an adversary presenting deliberately deceptive geographical information creates crucial challenges for decision-makers. Sharp power and information warfare are on the rise, and the United States has proven itself ill-prepared to deal with the deception and disinformation campaigns at which an adversary like Russia excels. Although geographic information has not yet been tampered with in the same way as other forms of communication, cartography will not be spared from the phenomenon of “deepfakes” and will inevitably be involved in what a recent RAND study called “truth decay.”[78] Following the Gulf War, discussions about navigation warfare began to shift toward the operational impacts of protecting and attacking a combatant’s positioning, navigation, and timing  systems on weapons guidance, command and control, and a variety of other operational functions.[79] But little attention has been paid to the possibility of a systemic attack that, beyond crippling GPS and communications networks, fundamentally degrades or denies the ability of the senior leadership to make geographically informed decisions. The 2002 Millennium Challenge exercise highlighted just how poorly U.S. military commanders fare at processing a highly dynamic common operating picture, particularly when a deceptive foe pollutes that picture with false information.[80] It is increasingly easy to envision a conflict in which the national command authority will have to issue new strategic guidance with no confidence in its knowledge of enemy and friendly positions and might have to act counter to a geographic picture it suspects of being deceptive. The geographic information that supports and empowers national security decisions can be both part of the problem and part of the solution in future challenges. Cartography has always been an art that manages the ambiguity of the geographic environment and, when used carefully and effectively, can serve as an essential heuristic to aid strategic decisions even in an uncertain environment. However, to improve performance in these decisions, senior leaders in the U.S. national security community would benefit from moving away from what Gary Klein calls an “impoverished mental model” to a “rich mental model” in their consumption and use of geographic information.[81] Practical Challenges of Incorporating Geography into National Security Institutions Some of the challenges to thinking in space are rather practical. As discussed above, cartography skills are in surprisingly short supply within the Department of Defense. A broad survey of the distribution of Defense Department cartographic resources would help leadership study the possibility of equipping policy offices and planning staffs with some of the capabilities currently found only in the intelligence community. Cartographic consultants could embed within planning teams, not to give them reference material, but to help add quality geographic content to documents and presentations. However, even if staff officers and decision-makers were able to create and edit better maps, they would still face practical challenges in sharing and displaying them. Cartographers have always published maps in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but the contemporary national security community is narrowly limited to the letter-size sheets that are easily reproduced and included in briefing books. Amateur and professional cartographers alike must struggle with the tradeoff of creating the most compelling and accurate product possible while recognizing that the limitations of printers and formatting may require a black-and-white image in “portrait” orientation. The U.S. military’s devotion to “slideware” predates the arrival of Microsoft PowerPoint, but the dangers of the current PowerPoint addiction, which is antithetical to critical thinking, are well established in formal and informal critiques, such as the “Creed of the PowerPoint Ranger.”[82] PowerPoint has some advantages when it comes to displaying maps and other geospatial information, providing a common format and platform for easy sharing of files by email. PowerPoint allows the easy import and annotation of base maps, empowering any user to attempt thematic cartography by layering crude symbols, but it is very much a double-edged sword. The ease of manipulating images and adding new symbols can obscure or misuse the underlying geographic data. PowerPoint itself, and the broader system of storing, transmitting, and displaying its files, presents important limitations similar to those of printer paper and briefing books. PowerPoint locks in a specific aspect ratio that is perfect for a map of North Dakota, but not for countries like Vietnam or Chile, which have a major north-south extent (unless, of course, one follows Harrison’s advice to abandon the arbitrary “north up” convention). Because file sizes grow quickly with high-resolution images — such as a quality map — the imperative quickly becomes reducing the resolution of embedded images, which in effect deliberately reduces the quality of a map. To support necessarily large files of quality geographic products, information technology departments should seek better integration with and adoption of alternatives to email for simple and secure transfer. [quote id="5"] Digital displays have advantages in that they cheaply and easily display an array of dynamic content and can even support animation. A very early glimmer of how such technology might prove useful to support national security goals appeared in the use of animated terrain models through a program called PowerScene during the 1995 negotiations for the Dayton Accord.[83] U.S. officials, led by Richard Holbrooke, reportedly used PowerScene to great effect with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to demonstrate the advantages and infeasibility of different proposed border demarcations.[84] Visualization of detailed three-dimensional models is widely employed by the U.S. military for mission planning, but the promise of systems like PowerScene to support national-level decision-making or multilateral diplomacy, as seen at Dayton, has not materialized. The technology demonstrated at Dayton is now widely available for free: The desktop edition of Google Earth supports fly-through control with a joystick or gamepad. If deployed more widely and if users develop a natural facility with the interface, future government officials might use such a tool for studying a problem or presenting policy options, although the low level of geographic literacy and unsophisticated employment of cartographic tools detailed above suggest that simpler and more straightforward solutions would pay greater dividends in the near term. Furthermore, those employing and using this kind of visualization tool should do so conscious of the dangers of spatial de-skilling.[85] The quality of digital screens has improved dramatically in recent years, accompanied by falling prices in high-resolution displays. Nevertheless, screens still struggle to compete with paper when it comes to resolution, a major factor when rendering the fine details that the human eye can pick out of a good map. Large-format paper maps also have their own downsides. Paper maps are static, paper is expensive (and heavy in large quantity), and printers are notoriously fickle. But paper maps transport easily, roll out on any table, and work even when computers, networks, and projectors do not cooperate. The Department of Defense and national security organizations might consider shifting some of their resources away from large digital displays to make large-format color printers and plotters more widely available.

Growing a National Security Workforce Equipped to Think in Space

Although national security professionals undoubtedly score higher in geographic literacy than the general population, proper surveys of these issues would surely reveal gaps and areas for improvement. Jakub Grygiel has argued that “the education profession is failing” the needs of national security.[86] Better foundational education on geography would help enrich the geographic mental models of policymakers. Students receiving a master’s degree in national security or international relations — civilian or military — ought to receive both education and training for using geography. The differences between education and training are subtle but tremendously important: If training is learning how to perform a specific task and education is learning how to think, then both are required for thinking in space. National security professionals, whether on a military staff or at the National Security Council, could be more effective if equipped with the practical skills to develop original geographic content. They should be able to make their own maps, their own geographic arguments, and know what went into them. These practical skills, though mechanical in many ways, are potentially as valuable as the mechanical skill of proper citation in academic writing that receives such heavy emphasis at the war colleges. Just as the war colleges stress critical thinking skills to turn successful operational-level leaders into effective participants in the interagency policymaking process at the strategic level, these institutions would be ideal places to build upon the practical navigational skills of pilots, sailors, and battalion commanders in order to help them create more sophisticated and strategic mental maps.[87] Civilian and military graduate programs rightly require students to master clear and effective writing. These future decision-makers would similarly benefit from receiving training in the modern tools available for analyzing and presenting geographic information. Studies at the graduate level should involve more than just remedial familiarity with maps and should emphasize skills for mastering spatial critical thinking. Over the longer term, curriculum changes could create a broader reservoir of geographic expertise at senior levels. Professional military education requirements already highlight critical thinking and briefly mention geographic factors, but the Joint Staff ought to amplify the importance of spatial thinking and communication, alongside reading and writing, in the senior schools.[88] Civilian and military schools should draw on a well-established academic curriculum for all levels of cartography and visualization with commercial and open-source software suites, including free online courses. Other near-term solutions include the addition of courses on geographic skills in elective programs, or the creation of a geography adviser to aid students in incorporating geography and cartography into their work. Such an adviser, or a “geography center,” would not be the equivalent of a mapmaker on call. Rather, these advisers would serve as mentors to help students conceive geographic arguments and provide resources for gaining practical skills with tools like geographic information systems software. ArcGIS, produced by ESRI, is the overwhelmingly dominant geographic information systems software suite, with a market share akin to that of PowerPoint. The U.S. government is ESRI’s largest customer and ArcGIS licenses are widely available throughout different parts of the national security community. Where licensing costs are prohibitive, the leading open-source alternative to ArcGIS is QGIS, which can serve most of the geospatial analysis and cartography needs of a typical military officer or foreign policy generalist. The sophistication of software like ArcGIS and QGIS can present steep learning curves to novices. Moreover, these software suites have capabilities that go far beyond the needs of those seeking to merely incorporate effective cartography into their communication. There are, however, several other free and user-friendly options available for quickly generating base maps tailored to the purpose required. ESRI offers an online “My Map” portal that provides basic geographic information systems services and a library of base maps in different styles, with more powerful services available with a subscription.[89] The “Natural Earth” project, sponsored by a consortium including the North American Cartographic Information Society, provides an extensive set of well-curated public domain data for use in map making.[90] The cartographer Cynthia Brewer, who has published several practical guides to effective cartographic design, also maintains a website for effective and reliably reproduced color schemes that can quite literally help the amateur cartographer or designer to “paint by numbers.”[91] With a small investment in expert instruction or self-guided study, a skilled computer user can learn to create custom maps at no cost, choosing among appropriate projections in QGIS and layering data from Natural Earth.[92]

Conclusion

Geographic analogies are powerful instruments, though they run the same risks of cognitive bias and shallow analysis as other simplifications, such as historical analogy. The shortcomings of historical analogy have been well studied by scholars who warn against the “tyranny of the past upon the imagination,” and the dangers awaiting those who “do not examine a variety of analogies before selecting the one that they believe sheds light on their situation.”[93] The great military historian Michael Howard highlighted the dangers of overlapping analogies in both history and cartography, writing that historical battlefield maps, with “neat little blocks and arrows moving in a rational and orderly way…are an almost blasphemous travesty of the chaotic truth.”[94] Just as one ought not to depend on a single historical analogy, a senior official or policy analyst could constrain their thinking if relying on a single geographic perspective. Geography can be just as subjective as history, and those who desire to think more effectively in space should seek out multiple perspectives in the maps they study and their own mental maps. As mentioned above, Richard Edes Harrison argued that a critical first step is to dispense with persistent conventions that inhibit a “flexible view of geography,” such as always placing north at the top of the map. Harrison also wrote, in a wartime article co-authored by Robert Strausz-Hupé, that “the main pitfall to avoid is the continual use of one map, for the mind is inexorably conditioned to its shapes. It begins to look ‘right’ and all others ‘wrong.’”[95] Take as an example a map of the Taiwan Strait rotated 55 degrees. Such a map will look “wrong” at first, but has the benefit of forcing the viewer to give fresh consideration to the key distances and geographic relationships.  

Image 4: Taiwan Strait: Richard Edes Harrison encouraged the use of maps that force a new perspective on a familiar geographic issue. Map by author, 2019.

  Despite the pace of technological development and geopolitical shifts in the last two decades, the fundamental processes of national security institutions have changed remarkably little and are not conducive to the flexible view advocated by Harrison and Strausz-Hupé above.[96] The bureaucratic circulatory system continues to rely on strategy documents, memos, email, briefings, and PowerPoint slides with anemic geographic content. The current distribution of cartographic capability and the standard forms of communication within the government are stagnant and may actively contribute to spatial de-skilling.[97] Thus, the national security community needs to sharpen its understanding of the problem and consider different processes. There is limited data on questions of geographic literacy, trends in the use of geographic data, or the effectiveness of spatial thinking within the U.S. national security establishment. More research is needed to understand the institutional dimensions of how the U.S. government thinks in space, where the strengths and weakness are, what credible options for improvement exist, and what barriers inhibit their employment. Collection of such data would enable meaningful evaluation of how effectively the U.S. government’s geospatial tools and products support decision-makers and would undoubtedly suggest ways to improve the government’s use of geography and fix technical gaps and problems. Broad surveys of America’s national security institutions could not only identify any persistent holes in basic geographic knowledge but could also highlight conceptual strengths and weaknesses in employing the art and science of cartography. The findings of such investigations would provide valuable information to the civilian and military academic institutions of higher learning that shape future policymakers. There is much work to be done in studying and improving the way the U.S. national security apparatus uses geography. However, another vital question for future scholars and analysts will be how America’s potential adversaries think in space. Succeeding in a long-term strategic competition requires a deep understanding of the thought processes, priorities, and blind spots of the other side. It is crucial to understand the persistent distortions that exist in an adversary’s world view, what inefficiencies endure in the ways they process new and ambiguous geographic information, and what cartographic messages resonate best with their national security system.[98] But this will not be possible until the U.S. national security community improves its own ability to think in space. Thinking in space is only one tool available to decision-makers and is no panacea to crafting successful strategies and avoiding tragic blunders. But more sophisticated geographic thinking and communication will sharpen national security decision-making and help decision-makers to better communicate their plans to the public. The national security community must be a learning and adaptive organization. It needs an objective evaluation of how effectively it is employing geographic information and it must seek every opportunity to sharpen its skills in order to think effectively in space.   Andrew Rhodes is a career civil servant who has served as an expert in Asia-Pacific affairs in a variety of analytic, advisory, and staff positions across the Department of Defense and the interagency. He earned a BA in political science from Davidson College, an MA in international relations from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and a certificate in Geographic Information Sciences from the University of North Dakota. He recently graduated with highest distinction from the U.S. Naval War College and is an affiliated scholar of the Naval War College China Maritime Studies Institute. The contents of this paper reflect the author’s own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by the Naval War College, the Department of the Navy, or the U.S. government. Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Peter Dutton, Michael O'Hara, Megan Rhodes, and many other Naval War College classmates, faculty, and staff who provided valuable insights for this article. [post_title] => Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Decision-Making [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => thinking-in-space-the-role-of-geography-in-national-security-decision-making [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-09 11:05:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-09 16:05:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2052 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => Being able to "think in space" is a crucial tool for decision-makers, but one that is often deemphasized. In order to improve its ability to think in space, the national security community ought to objectively assess how effectively it is employing geographic information and seek every opportunity to sharpen its skills in this area. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Harrison made an impassioned plea for the importance of “geographical sense” to Americans who had been forced by the war from “a period of cartographic lethargy.” ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => In other words, policymakers may not be interested in geopolitics, but geopolitics is interested in them. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The government, with some exceptions, has generally treated geography and cartography as a service to be provided to customers, rather than as a core capability for decision-makers. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => For all of the advances of integrated sensors and communications in modern military systems, some contemporary military officers have noted issues with spatial cognitive de-skilling within the officer corps due to using these digital tools in place of analog processes and paper charts.  ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => However, even if staff officers and decision-makers were able to create and edit better maps, they would still face practical challenges in sharing and displaying them.  ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => These weighty national security decisions require critical analysis of complex data. Thinking in space must play a part in these decisions, even if spatial visualization proves difficult. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 2441 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 322 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1942), 165. [2] Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (New York: The Free Press, 1986). [3] Neustadt and May, Thinking in Time, 2. [4] Ken Jennings, Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks (New York: Scribner, 2011). Harm de Blij, Why Geography Matters: More than Ever (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 16. [5] Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis, Revised Edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001). [6] M.R. O’Connor, Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World (New York: St. Martin’s, 2019). Lera Boroditsky and Alice Gaby, “Remembrances of Times East: Absolute Spatial Representations of Time in an Australian Aboriginal Community,” Psychological Science 21, no. 11 (2010): 1635, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0956797610386621. [7] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (New York: Alfred A. Knopf (Everyman’s Library), 1993), Book I, chap. 3, 127. [8] Joshua Hotaka Roth, “Hōkō onchi: Wayfinding and the Emergence of ‘Directional Tone-Deafness’ in Japan,” Ethos 43, no. 4 (December 2015): 402–22, https://doi.org/10.1111/etho.12098. [9] Eleanor A. Maguire et al., "Navigation-Related Structural Change in the Hippocampi of Taxi Drivers," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97, no. 8 (2000): 4398–403, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.070039597. [10] Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (London: Macmillan, 1893), 169. Jorge Luis Borges, “On Exactitude in Science,” in, Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Viking Penguin, 1998). [11] Mark Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, Second Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 1. [12] Mark Monmonier, Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004). [13] “Mapping Customer Operations,” Defense Logistics Agency, accessed Jan. 18,  2019, http://www.dla.mil/Aviation/Offers/Products/Mapping/Topographic/. [14] J.A. Steers, An Introduction to the Study of Map Projections, 15th Edition (London: University of London, 1970). [15] Arthur H. Robinson and Randall D. Sale, Elements of Cartography, 3rd Edition (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1969), 250. [16] Susan Schulten, "Map Drawing, Graphic Literacy, and Pedagogy in the Early Republic," History of Education Quarterly 57, no. 2 (May 2017): 185–220, https://doi.org/10.1017/heq.2017.2. [17] Jeremy Black, Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 75. [18] Susan Schulten, Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 2012. [19] George W. Baer, One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy 1890-1990 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 11. [20] Alan K. Henrikson, “The Map as an ‘Idea’: The Role of Cartographic Imagery During the Second World War,” The American Cartographer 2, no. 1 (1975): 19, https://doi.org/10.1559/152304075784447243. [21] Susan Schulten, “Richard Edes Harrison and the Challenge to American Cartography,” Imago Mundi 50, no. 1 (1998): 174–188, https://doi.org/10.1080/03085699808592886. [22] Jeremy Black, Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 230. [23] Richard Edes Harrison, ed., Look at the World: The Fortune Atlas of World Strategy (New York: Fortune, 1944). [24] Harrison, ed., Look at the World. [25] Timothy Barney, Mapping the Cold War: Cartography and the Framing of America’s International Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 30. [26] Alexander P. de Seversky, Air Power: Key to Survival (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950), map following page 312. [27] Neil Smith, “’Academic War over the Field of Geography’: The Elimination of Geography at Harvard 1947-1951,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77, no. 2 (June 1987): 155­–72, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8306.1987.tb00151.x. [28] Smith, “Academic War,” 166. [29] Robert S. McNamara, “We Were Wrong, Terribly Wrong,” Newsweek, April 16, 1995. [30] Conor Friedersdorf, “The Battle of Khe Sanh and Its Retellings,” Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 27, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/the-battle-of-khe-sanh-and-its-retellings/551315/. [31] Barney, Mapping the Cold War, 11–16. [32] Kevin Quealy, “If Americans Can Find North Korea on a Map, They’re More Likely to Prefer Diplomacy,” New York Times, May 14, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/14/upshot/if-americans-can-find-north-korea-on-a-map-theyre-more-likely-to-prefer-diplomacy.html; Kyle Dropp, Joshua D. Kertzer, and Thomas Zeitzoff, “The Less Americans Know About Ukraine’s Location, the More They Want U.S. to Intervene,” Washington Post, April 7, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/07/the-less-americans-know-about-ukraines-location-the-more-they-want-u-s-to-intervene/. “What College-Aged Students Know About the World: A Survey on Global Literacy,” National Geographic Society and the Council on Foreign Relations, September 2016, https://www.cfr.org/global-literacy-survey. “Final Report: 2006 Geographic Literacy Study,” National Geographic Society and Roper Public Affairs, May 2006, https://media.nationalgeographic.org/assets/file/NGS-Roper-2006-Report.pdf. [33] Quealy, “If Americans Can Find North Korea on a Map”; Dropp et al., “The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location.” [34] Benjamin Fine, “Geography Almost Ignored in Colleges, Survey Shows: Yet Most Educators Deem It Vital to Good Citizenship-Students' Knowledge of Subject Found Woefully Inadequate,” New York Times, Dec. 18, 1950, 1. Barney also references this article in juxtaposition to early Cold War headlines on the same day relating to the Korean War: see Barney, Mapping the Cold War, 96. [35] Saul Bernard Cohen, Geopolitics: The Geography of International Relations, 2nd Edition (Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2009), 11. [36] Martin Glassner, Political Geography (Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 1995), 325. [37] Jon Sumida, “Alfred Thayer Mahan, Geopolitician,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 22, no. 2-3 (1999): 42, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402399908437753. [38] Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics. [39] Francis Sempa, “The Geopolitical Realism of Nicholas Spykman,” in, Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2008). [40] Nicholas J. Spykman, “Geography and Foreign Policy II,” American Political Science Review 32, no. 2 (April 1938): 224. Emphasis added. I am indebted to Jakub Grygiel, for whom I once worked as a research assistant, for highlighting this passage: Grygiel, Great Powers and Geopolitical Change, 10. [41] Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics, 5. [42] Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate (New York: Random House, 2012), 3. [43] Jakub J. Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell, The Unquiet Frontier: Rising Rivals, Vulnerable Allies, and the Crisis of American Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016). [44] Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes, Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy, 2nd Edition (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2018). [45] Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics, 469. [46] Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics, 165. [47] Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 31. [48] Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Cheshire, CT: The Graphics Press, 2001). Michael P. Verdi and Raymond W. Kulhavy, “Learning with Maps and Texts: An Overview,” Educational Psychology Review 14, no. 1 (March 2002): 27-46, https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013128426099. [49] Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, Department of Defense, January 2018, https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf. [50] National Security Strategy of the United States, The White House, December 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf; 2018 National Defense Strategy; Providing for the Common Defense, National Defense Strategy Commission, Nov. 14, 2018, https://www.usip.org/publications/2018/11/providing-common-defense; Nuclear Posture Review, Department of Defense, February 2018, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF; A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 2.0, United States Navy, December 2018, https://www.navy.mil/navydata/people/cno/Richardson/Resource/Design_2.0.pdf; 2017 Defense Posture Statement: Taking the Long View, Investing for the Future, Department of Defense, February 2016, https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017DODPOSTURE_FINAL_MAR17UpdatePage4_WEB.PDF. [51] Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Aug. 16, 2018, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Aug/16/2001955282/-1/-1/1/2018-CHINA-MILITARY-POWER-REPORT.PDF. [52] Missile Defense Review, Department of Defense, Jan. 17, 2019, https://www.defense.gov/Experience/2019-Missile-Defense-Review/. [53] Personal experience of the author in 2017 and correspondence with principal members of the National Defense Strategy drafting team in 2019. [54] “About Page,” OpenStreetMap, https://www.openstreetmap.org/about. [55] “Careers and Jobs: Geospatial Engineer (12Y),” United States Army, https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/browse-career-and-job-categories/construction-engineering/geospatial-engineer.html; “Careers and Jobs: Geospatial Intelligence Imagery Analyst (35G),” United States Army, https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/browse-career-and-job-categories/intelligence-and-combat-support/geospatial-intelligence-imagery-analyst.html. [56] “Publication 1.0: GEOINT Basic Doctrine,” National System for Geospatial Intelligence, April 2018, https://www.nga.mil/ProductsServices/Pages/GEOINT-Basic-Doctrine-Publication.aspx. The Department of Defense defines imagery as “a likeness or presentation of any natural or man-made feature or related object or activity, and the positional data acquired at the time the likeness or representation was acquired, including: products produced by space-based national intelligence reconnaissance systems; and likeness and presentations produced by satellites, airborne platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles, or other similar means.” DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Joint Publication 1-02) (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2018), 115. [57] “The Mapmaker’s Craft: A History of Cartography at CIA,” Central Intelligence Agency, Nov. 10, 2016, https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2016-featured-story-archive/mapmakers-craft.html. [58] 2018 National Defense Strategy, 3. 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[66] Andrew Blum, Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 33­–34. Mapping Communication (Carlsbad, CA: TeleGeography, 2018). Electronic book is available at https://blog.telegeography.com/free-ebook-telecom-history-telegeography-map-portfolio, accessed Jan. 24, 2019. [67] Gerald Stanley Lee, Crowds: A Moving-Picture of Democracy (New York: Doubleday, 1913), 65. [68] Stefan Münzer, Hubert D. Zimmer, and Jörg Baus. "Navigation Assistance: A Trade-Off between Wayfinding Support and Configural Learning Support," Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 18, no. 1 (2012): 18–37, https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/a0026553. 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[94] Michael Howard, “The Use and Abuse of Military History,” Royal United Services Institution Journal 107, no. 625 (1962): 4–10. [95] Richard Edes Harrison and Robert Strausz-Hupé, “Maps, Strategy, and World Politics,” Infantry Journal, November 1942, 40. [96] Wolf Melbourne, “Naval Intelligence’s Lost Decade,” US Naval Institute Proceedings 144, no. 12 (December 2018): 44–48, https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2018/december/naval-intelligences-lost-decade. [97] Claude Berube, “How to Avoid a Naval Intelligence Jutland,” War on the Rocks, Oct. 18, 2019, https://warontherocks.com/2019/10/getting-back-to-basics-how-to-avoid-a-naval-intelligence-jutland/. [98] For one example of Chinese scholars discussing the nexus of cartography and geopolitical analysis, citing many of the same issues raised here, see, He Guangqiang and Song Xiuju (何光强, 宋秀琚), “Map Projection and Geopolitical Analysis: A Perspective of Spatial Cognition (地图投影与地球政法分析:一种空间认知的视角),” Human Geography (人文地理), no. 2, 2014. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [2] => Array ( [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2046 [post_author] => 321 [post_date] => 2019-11-06 12:31:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-06 17:31:01 [post_content] => On Aug. 19, 1953, the streets of Tehran exploded into violence. Clashes broke out between rival crowds at the city’s major radio station and central squares, while an armored column surrounded the home of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, peppering it with machine gun fire. Shouts of “Zendebad shah!” — “Long live the shah” — filled the air as Mossadegh’s National Front government fell from power. From the ashes rose a new government, led by former Gen. Fazlallah Zahidi and the young shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who returned from a brief exile on August 20. The shah spent the subsequent years consolidating his rule inside Iran, maintaining a close relationship with the United States until his fall from power amidst the Islamic Revolution of 1978–79. Though various Iranian factions and figures took part in the downfall of Mossadegh, the coup would not have been possible without the participation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British secret intelligence services. A pivotal moment in the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, modern Iranian history, and the history of covert operations, the coup of 1953 — the Mordad Coup, or Operation TPAJAX, as it is sometimes known — has received considerable scholarly attention. No fewer than four monographs, dozens of articles, two edited volumes, and countless chapters have been published that illustrate, in vivid detail, both the coup itself and the preceding oil nationalization crisis that consumed Iran, Great Britain, and the United States.[1] Among this mass of scholarship, there is a broad consensus on how the coup took place.[2] In 2000, the New York Times published an internal CIA history of the coup written in 1954 that revealed major operational details.[3] Other official histories have been declassified, though some pages remain redacted.[4] While the original volume in the State Department’s venerable Foreign Relations of the United States series focusing on Iran from 1951 to 1954 contained no information on the coup operation, in 2017 the Office of the Historian released a retrospective Foreign Relations of the United States volume.[5] Documents in the new volume confirm major details from existing sources, but they also reveal much that had hitherto remained obscure. In particular, the 300 documents included in this volume shed considerable light on the perspectives of various U.S. policymakers at the time, including their thoughts and feelings toward Iran, Mossadegh, oil nationalization, and the course of action needed to resolve the crisis.[6] Nevertheless, some gaps remain: Britain’s involvement in the coup, code-named “Operation Boot” by the intelligence services, is still relatively unknown, due to the lack of declassified documents.[7] The insights provided by this new volume of Foreign Relations of the United States are crucial to understanding Operation TPAJAX. While much is known about how the coup took place, there remains some disagreement as to why the United States decided on covert action or why this decision was made in early 1953. Mark J. Gasiorowski argues that U.S. actions in Iran were largely motivated “by fears of a communist takeover.” Viewed within the broader context, the decision to remove Mossadegh emerges “as one more step in the global effort of the Eisenhower Administration to block Soviet expansionism.”[8] Iran was a strategically important country due to its position athwart both the Soviet Union and the Middle East oil fields, which held roughly 50 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Mossadegh had chosen to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, setting off an international crisis that exacerbated Iran’s internal politics. There were also worrying signs that he would soon ally himself with Iran’s communist organization, the Tudeh Party. As historian Mary Ann Heiss argues, for U.S. policymakers in early 1953, a coup appeared necessary “to save Iran from communist domination.”[9] Other scholars like Steve Marsh and James F. Goode have offered similar interpretations of the coup decision, while Francis J. Gavin argues that a shift in the Cold War balance of power proved critical in motivating the Eisenhower administration to act against Mossadegh.[10] Another explanation for the coup centers on oil. According to historian Ervand Abrahamian, Mossadegh’s nationalization of the oil industry posed a grave risk to Western domination of global oil supplies, particularly the oil concessions held by major Western oil companies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Venezuela, and elsewhere. The coup was therefore necessary to restore Western control over Iranian oil and reduce the threat of nationalization in other oil-producing regions.[11] This view is a popular one, particularly in light of what occurred after the coup: The shah’s government signed an agreement with oil companies that effectively reversed nationalization, awarding American firms 40 percent of a consortium that would control the flow of Iranian oil for the next 20 years.[12] Viewed from this perspective, the coup was part of an effort to control oil resources in developing countries, which formed the foundation for the global economy constructed and supervised by the United States.[13] This take emphasizes an aspect of covert action that Abdel Razzaq Takriti has noted in multiple coup operations: The hegemon’s intervention is motivated by “global contestations over political and economic sovereignty,” and chiefly revolves around the control of natural resources and the restriction of popular political will.[14] Both arguments have their shortcomings. Nationalization resulted in Iran’s isolation from the global oil economy — by 1953, none of the major oil companies needed Iranian oil and the success of a British-led embargo had reduced Iran’s oil exports to zero.[15] While Great Britain hoped to remove Mossadegh in order to reverse nationalization and restore British control over Iran’s oil industry — where a British oil company had been dominant since the early 20th century — the U.S. position was much more complex. Continuous negotiation efforts from 1951 to early 1953 were aimed at restarting the flow of oil. A final offer was made to Mossadegh that would have left Iran “master of its industry,” though there were conditions attached that ultimately made the offer unacceptable to Mossadegh.[16] Thus, oil played a role in the coup decision, as will become clear, but regaining control of Iranian oil, overturning nationalization, or serving the commercial interests of the companies were not the paramount concerns.[17] Furthermore, Iran’s communist Tudeh Party, while well organized and increasingly active in street demonstrations, lacked “the intention or the ability to gain control of the government.”[18] The new Foreign Relations of the United States volume has illustrated, according to Gasiorowski’s recent study, that the Tudeh threat was small in 1953 and that the U.S. decision to oust Mossadegh “was not made on the basis of strong evidence that a Communist takeover might otherwise soon occur.”[19] New documentary evidence indicates British officials approached the United States in late 1952 “disposed to bring about a coup d’etat in Iran,” but were rebuffed by Truman administration officials who thought it too risky.[20] Why, then, did policymakers reverse this decision, and organize a coup in Iran with British help a few months later? This article addresses that question by re-examining the coup of August 1953 from the point of view of U.S. policymakers in Washington and Tehran. It utilizes the archives of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, as well as records from Britain’s National Archives and the archival collections of major oil companies.[21] In particular, this article seeks to use revelations from the 2017 Foreign Relations of the United States volume to re-evaluate the 1953 coup decision. It draws on similar studies of formal decision-making by Philip Zelikow as well as Alexandra T. Evans and A. Bradley Potter, to isolate the factors involved and lay out a hierarchy of motives influencing a key foreign policy decision, one that would have momentous consequences, both for the United States and Iran.[22] [quote id="1"] Specifically, this article examines the formation of a “collapse narrative” that emerged based on intelligence assessments of the internal conditions in Iran in the years leading up to the coup. This narrative shaped policy in a way that made covert action in Iran more likely. The collapse narrative incorporated concerns over oil with the well-articulated fears of Iran “falling behind the Iron Curtain.”[23] Faced with an embargo on oil exports, Mossadegh launched a series of policies in late 1952 designed to render Iran “oil-less.” While his policies may have worked in time to detach Iran from the influence of oil, the notion of an oil-less Iran filled the United States with dread. The collapse narrative, a predictive analytical framework for viewing developments within Mossadegh’s Iran that soon permeated policymaking discourse in both Tehran and Washington D.C., rested upon two foundations: that oil-less economics was not sustainable for Iran in the long term, and that, without an oil agreement, the National Front government was not capable of managing Iran’s affairs without leaning on communist support. Preventing collapse by stabilizing Iran’s political system and resuming the flow of oil, thereby solving the government’s financial problems and ensuring a stable source of revenue for Iran’s economic development, was the primary motivation for Operation TPAJAX. The coup was not about countering an imminent communist threat — rather, it rested on fears of an uncertain future, concern over an ill-defined collapse of Iran’s internal stability through economic and political disintegration, and a deeply engrained skepticism of Iran’s ability to avoid catastrophe without foreign intervention. Scholars such as Douglas Little and Matthew Jacobs have noted the tendency of American policymakers to “Orientalize” governments and individuals in the Middle East, assembling a “hierarchy of race and culture” built on assumptions of Arab and Iranian inferiority and the struggle of Middle Eastern cultures to adapt to Western concepts of modernity.[24] Persistent notions of Iranian incapacity, born out of prior experiences and bolstered by broader views of the Middle East, affected U.S. thinking and fed into the collapse narrative. Officials viewed Iran as backward, feudal, and vulnerable to social revolution. American thinking emphasized economic development driven by central state growth as a cure for these apparent ills — a view that prioritized security over democracy and thus favored authoritarian modernizing regimes over popular democratic coalitions.[25] Establishing such a regime in Iran, backed with U.S. support and funded through oil revenues, seemed the only way to prevent an Iranian collapse — an outcome that would have had disastrous strategic ramifications for the United States and would have impaired future access to Middle Eastern oil. While certain policymakers, particularly CIA Director Allen Dulles, exaggerated the threat of collapse, the decision to remove Mossadegh should not be thought of as an intelligence failure. Rather, it constitutes a moment when policymakers, surrounded by uncertainty and driven by a fear that the worst-case scenario was just around the corner, chose to undertake a radical action in the belief that it was the last remaining viable option. In the American hierarchy of motives — which included forestalling the spread of communist influence, ending the oil crisis, and promoting a pro-Western regime in Iran — preventing collapse emerged as a broadly felt justification for covert action. In that sense, the operation was a success — Iran did not collapse, its government remained pro-Western, and the oil crisis was resolved in a way that satisfied Iran’s need for revenue and the oil companies’ desire for control. Yet, the coup decision had significant implications for the future of Iran and its relations with the United States, narrowing subsequent U.S. policy and staining the shah’s post-coup government with a mark of illegitimacy. The first section of this article details the historical background, including American views of Iran before 1951, the rise of Mossadegh, and the oil nationalization crisis. The second section analyzes the collapse narrative put forward by various U.S. officials at the time based on assessments of Iran’s oil-less economy and Mossadegh’s capacity to manage it effectively. The third section considers the coup decision itself, the option of taking covert action, and the circumstances surrounding the Eisenhower administration’s deliberations in early 1953. The fourth and final section lays out the hierarchy of motives that went into the coup decision and explores the coup’s aftermath. I argue that Operation TPAJAX was meant to prevent a collapse in Iran — a vaguely defined though omnipresent fear in the minds of American policymakers — and restore the flow of Iranian oil, not for the sake of American oil companies, but as a way to “save” Iran from a future without oil and put it back on the path toward progress.

Chaotic and Corrupt Conditions

In the aftermath of World War II, Iran emerged as a particular point of concern for U.S. policymakers. While nominally pro-Western, the country appeared vulnerable to destabilization by the Soviet Union, with which it shared a long border. Iran’s ruling elite, land-owning aristocrats who dominated the parliament, or Majlis, were led by the shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, a young and fairly inexperienced figure at the time. To American observers, Iran’s greatest weakness was its “backwards” economy, as well as the paucity of managerial expertise among the country’s elite. Foreigners tended to emphasize Iran’s “feudal” state, where, according to one author, “95% of the people are impoverished, ignorant and inarticulate.”[26] Iran was a country, wrote Ambassador John C. Wiley in 1950, “of archaic feudalism,” where economic conditions “involving hunger and despair…are an obvious invitation to subversive activities.”[27] State Department officials observing Iran’s attempts at economic development after World War II advocated for “a complete revolution of the present system of management,” which could only be accomplished “under the temporary control of foreigners.”[28] Wiley suggested an aggressive policy of economic and military assistance: Aid disbursements, “properly controlled,” would give the United States the ability “to shape [the] course of events; though of course our control should remain imperceptible.”[29] Max Weston Thornburg, a former oil executive who served as economic adviser to the shah’s government from 1948 to 1951, summed up the problem in a dispatch to Wiley: “The practical difficulty of turning money, ideas and good intentions into real works, however simple, by people who don’t know how to do it.”[30] Iran’s access to oil revenues seemed to offer the nation a way toward lasting stability. Oil was discovered in 1908 in Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan, and, by 1950, Iran was the fourth-largest oil producer in the world. The oil industry in Iran, as in other Middle Eastern states, was owned and operated by a foreign company: in this case, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later renamed British Petroleum, or BP). The company was deeply unpopular in Iran. Royalty payments, which had lagged behind company profits and tax payments to the British government, were considered unfairly low. Great Britain had historically interfered in Iran’s internal affairs and thus the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was widely seen by most Iranians, particularly an emerging class of nationalist politicians, as a front for British power.[31] With the United States standing aloof, tensions within Iran increased, much of them focused on the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This was exasperated by frustration with the country’s corrupt political system and socio-economic inequality. In March 1951, a supporter of nationalizing Iran’s oil industry assassinated the shah’s prime minister, Ali Razmara. In the chaos that followed, nationalists in the Majlis nominated their leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, as the new prime minister. Mossadegh called for nationalization as well as the expulsion of foreign influence from the country. The shah, fearing the new government’s massive popular support, signed Mossadegh’s nationalization bill into law on May 1, 1951.[32] The rise of Mossadegh, a 69-year-old Iranian aristocrat and prominent nationalist icon, revolutionized Iranian politics. Oil nationalization was the most popular political program in modern Iranian history. Support for Mossadegh and his governing coalition, the National Front, was particularly strong in urban areas among the working class and middle-class intelligentsia. Mossadegh was one of the first postcolonial nationalist politicians to emerge in the Middle East, and his program of nationalization provided a blueprint for other leaders, including Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, who would nationalize the Suez Canal in 1956. Rather than take sides in the Cold War, Mossadegh sought to maintain a middle path. His outlook, while largely pro-Western, was neutral and emphasized Iran’s independence. Mossadegh was also not a communist — in fact, when he first came to power, Soviet propaganda vilified him as an “American puppet.”[33] Even so, Mossadegh was a challenge that the United States and Great Britain were ill equipped to face. [quote id="2"] The British, for whom the Iranian oil industry represented a major economic and political asset, were fairly straightforward in their policy: remove Mossadegh and reverse nationalization. The British, as well as the major oil companies, hoped to prevent Iran’s nationalization from spreading to other oil-producing nations, like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, or Indonesia. Working in tandem, the United Kingdom and these companies placed an embargo on the nationalized Iranian oil. The embargo was very effective: The companies controlled the global tanker supply and were able to increase oil production elsewhere to make up for the Iranian oil shutdown. By September 1951, Iran’s oil exports had been reduced to zero. The British hope was that economic pressure would force Mossadegh from power, thus leading to a new, more “reasonable” government amenable to an oil agreement that suited British interests, and they were prepared to be patient in executing this goal. The major oil companies were able to maintain their control of the global oil supply fairly easily and, by early 1952, oil markets had recovered from the shock of the Iranian shutdown.[34] American thinking was more conflicted. While there was little support for Mossadegh, policymakers recognized Iranian nationalism as a powerful political force. Failure to satisfy this sentiment at a time of intense internal instability in Iran could potentially lead to a worse outcome. At the same time, officials in the Truman administration were unwilling to abandon the British, an important Cold War ally, and were conscious of protecting American oil companies from further nationalizations. Any resolution to the crisis in Iran had to contain the “contagion” of nationalization, preventing it from spreading elsewhere. Thus, between May 1951 and March 1953, the United States focused on facilitating an oil agreement between Mossadegh and the United Kingdom. While Iranian nationalism would have to be satisfied, in the interests of global oil and out of respect to the British the American proposals focused on ways to accept the principle of nationalization while keeping control of Iranian oil in British hands. Naturally, Mossadegh found such proposals unacceptable.[35] In July 1952, a political crisis resulted in Mossadegh temporarily stepping down as prime minister. The United States, according to declassified documents in the 2017 Foreign Relations of the United States volume, moved quickly to support a new government led by conservative politician Ahmed Qavam, who immediately expressed his willingness to negotiate an acceptable oil settlement “as soon as possible.”[36] But before any progress could be made, massive demonstrations broke out in Tehran. Nationalists, as well as members of the communist Tudeh Party, took to the streets to protest. Qavam lost his nerve and resigned. The shah bowed to public pressure and reinstated Mossadegh. Once back in power, Mossadegh undertook a series of measures designed to transform Iran into an oil-less economy. Imports plummeted while non-oil exports increased. To make up the budget deficit left by the absence of oil revenues, Mossadegh turned to deficit financing. Two billion rials, Iran’s currency, were released between July 1952 and January 1953, increasing the total quantity of rials in circulation by 20 percent.[37] Mossadegh’s embrace of Keynesian economics provided a temporary boost to the marketplace. Iran’s agricultural sector, which accounted for 80 percent of its gross national product, thrived in the midst of the oil shutdown. Good harvests in 1951–52 and 1952–53 improved rural employment and cut back on the need for imports. It is possible an Iranian economy without oil would have succeeded, provided Mossadegh had been able to maintain political stability.[38] But that’s not how U.S. policymakers saw things. Rather, they perceived an oil-less Iran under Mossadegh’s leadership to be a recipe for disaster. While the Truman administration rejected the idea of covert action in November 1952, the Eisenhower administration reversed course, gave up on further negotiations with Mossadegh, and approved funding for a coup in April 1953. The administration made the decision for a host of different reasons, but crucial among them was an emerging narrative emphasizing Iran’s inevitable collapse. Included in this narrative were perceptions of Iran’s vulnerability, the weakness of the Mossadegh government, and the importance of restarting the flow of oil revenues.

Judging Collapse: Measuring Oil’s Importance to Iran

Did Iran need oil? Was it possible for Iran to survive as an oil-less state? For U.S. policymakers, such questions were difficult to answer. When nationalization first occurred, U.S. officials worried that a showdown between Iran and the British would bring internal chaos to Iran, making a collapse into communist rule “a distinct possibility.”[39] The Tudeh Party was viewed as the country’s only properly organized political party, one that received considerable moral and material support from the Soviet Union. Even before the United Kingdom and the Western oil companies imposed an embargo against Iran, American officials believed Mossadegh’s crusade against the oil companies would end in disaster, particularly if the British pushed him too far: “Any test of will … in the light of the highly irrational and emotional view of the Iranians, [would] not be successful,” according to Assistant Secretary of State George C. McGhee. It was crucial that the “uninterrupted flow of oil” be maintained.[40] The CIA thought an oil shutdown would promptly lead to “bankruptcy, internal unrest, and at worst Communist control of the state.”[41] With negotiations stalled and the United Kingdom turning to pressure tactics, policymakers in Washington grew increasingly worried about Iran’s ability to resist communist pressure. While estimates varied, it appeared that five to ten thousand members of the Tudeh Party came from Iran’s industrial working class and the intelligentsia. Communist domination as a result of an internal coup led by the Tudeh Party, with external Soviet support à la Czechoslovakia in February 1948, seemed likely if a solution to the oil crisis was not found.[42] Heiss argues that U.S. officials exaggerated the effects of the embargo, misjudged the importance of oil, and treated Iran as an industrial society rather than an agricultural one.[43] Indeed, 80 percent of Iran’s economy was agricultural. While the oil industry employed around 50,000 skilled and nonskilled workers, it existed as an enclave and had few linkages to the rest of the economy, a phenomenon that was (and still is) quite common in oil-producing countries.[44] Information on Iran’s economy was hard to come by in the early 1950s: The chief source of intelligence was the U.S. Embassy in Iran, particularly reports written by the embassy’s economic counselor Robert M. Carr. According to Carr, for the Iranian year 1330 (March 1951–March 1952), had nationalization not occurred, the Iranian government would have earned £10 million worth of rials from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s operating expenses, another £12.2 million from sales of sterling at differing exchange rates, and £28 million in royalties. Under these conditions, the oil company would contribute 4.5 billion rials in state revenue, more than one-third of its entire budget, including projected development expenses.[45] This was an estimate of a single year: A conservative estimate was that the British-controlled company contributed roughly half of Iran’s state expenditures. Carr and U.S. Ambassador Loy Henderson chose to express it as “forty percent of the total budget.”[46] In addition, oil royalties and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s internal purchases constituted around 60 percent of Iran’s foreign exchange balance. Nationalization and the British embargo removed these lucrative sources of revenue and foreign exchange. By September 1951, with exports at zero and royalty payments from the oil company suspended, Iran faced a trade crisis, a state budget crisis, a balance-of-payments crisis, and a defunct development plan.[47]

[table id=19 /]

Table 1: Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Contribution to Iran’s State Budget, 1951-1952 (Estimated)[48]

 

[table id=18 /]

Table 2: Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Foreign Exchange Contributions, Millions of Rials[49]

  In 1951, these figures produced considerable alarm. Senior officials like Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Policy Planning Director Paul Nitze, and McGhee scrambled to implement an oil settlement and “keep Iranian oil moving.” “[O]nly in this way can we hope to prevent the Iranian economy from collapsing.”[50] As Acheson explained to British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden in November of that year, failure to reach an oil settlement — thus producing a prolonged oil embargo — would lead to the weakening of Iran’s armed forces, political assassinations and social unrest, “and the rapid movement toward the Tudeh Party’s taking over.”[51] But Carr initially downplayed the risk of an imminent collapse. According to him, Iran’s agricultural economy would show “considerable resistance” to the oil shutdown, while Mossadegh could draw on gold and foreign exchange reserves to fill the budget and trade gap. Mismanagement was to blame for Iran’s existing financial woes, and the country possessed the resources to survive for some time, “if the burden was properly distributed.”[52] The State Department agreed, arguing that Iran’s government could pay its bills for up to a year, “without any benefits whatsoever from oil resources.”[53] Eventually, fears of collapse subsided, with Nitze admitting in February 1952 that Iran’s economic conditions — its gold reserves, internal credit facilities, and prospects for a strong harvest — meant a general disintegration was unlikely, though the country’s politics remained unstable.[54] But fears of a collapse began to mount again, particularly after July 1952, when Mossadegh returned to office and began to implement his oil-less economic policies. Carr and his staff at the embassy viewed such policies with deep skepticism. Minor reforms designed to boost imports and save foreign exchange would provide “superficial” improvements, masking symptoms of an “economic and financial deterioration.”[55] To fund the government, Mossadegh turned to deficit financing, which the embassy believed would produce disastrous inflation: “The printing press has become a source of government revenue.”[56] It was feasible that a government possessed of greater will, “sufficiently able, demagogic and dictatorial,” could balance the budget and survive without oil revenues, perhaps indefinitely. But Carr, as well as others at the U.S. Embassy, doubted Mossadegh’s competence or the abilities of his government to guide the country. Mossadegh’s reforms were evidence of growing state involvement in the economy, characterized by interventions from the “already overgrown and none-too-competent bureaucracy.” The increased involvement of the state, necessitated by the extreme conditions produced by the oil crisis, presaged a slow slide down a familiar slope: “[T]he reformers are the apostles of the typical ‘bureaucratic revolution,’ complete with the statism, controls and neo-Keynesian economics which have become increasingly questioned elsewhere.”[57] To make an oil-less economy work, Mossadegh would either need to take full control over Iran’s state and economy or lean on outside support. Without U.S. assistance, his only option would be to turn to the Soviet Union. Carr’s concerns were shared by his boss, Henderson. A career foreign service officer, Henderson had been among the State Department’s most aggressively anti-communist voices, “a hard-line anti-Soviet diplomat,” according to his biographer.[58] While Carr’s reports rarely made it all the way to Washington, his views were regularly synthesized by Henderson, whose impact on U.S. policy was far more significant. “Iran is [a] sick country,” he wrote, “and [Mossadegh] is one of its most sick leaders.”[59] An oil agreement would halt a “financial collapse towards which [Iran] was heading so rapidly.”[60] Without access to oil revenues, no government could improve “the miserable social and economic conditions” pervasive throughout the country. In the absence of meaningful reforms and improvements, “[the] discontent of [the] people is bound to attract them towards [the] extreme of Communism.”[61] Like Carr, Henderson did not think collapse was imminent, but he pointed to “insidious disintegration” stemming from the financial situation.[62] Mossadegh lacked the capacity to lead Iran effectively. An oil-less economy would need “skillful, strong and ruthless dictatorship,” the kind only the Tudeh Party “was capable of furnishing.”[63] Since the National Front took power, “there has been a marked deterioration of forces making for steady administration and for [the] stability [of the] country.” Communist influence within the government, while apparently quite small, could grow quickly under the right circumstances: Henderson believed that Mossadegh received “Tudeh-slanted advice," that a number of cabinet ministers were, in fact, “Tudeh tools,” and that “infiltration of this kind might result in communists creeping almost imperceptibly into power.”[64] In steering Iran toward oil independence, Mossadegh would either fail or be forced to lean on Tudeh support. Either way, the outcome would be the same. [quote id="3"] By late 1952 and into early 1953, these views were becoming well represented elsewhere in the Truman administration, State Department, and CIA. According to Carr’s figures, Mossadegh still retained some flexibility: Iran’s hard currency and gold reserves, as well as Iran’s agricultural economy, meant he could probably stave off spiraling inflation, “unless there is a serious crop failure or an unfavorable export market.” But this did not allay fears of a collapse. Without a return of oil revenues, “further currency expansion” was inevitable.[65] The National Security Council policy document completed in November 1952 concluded that Mossadegh’s government had stoked “popular desire for promised economic and social betterment,” increasing the social unrest already evident prior to 1951. Furthermore, “nationalist failure to restore the oil industry has led to … deficit financing to meet current expense, and is likely to produce a progressive deterioration of the economy at large.”[66] Deputy CIA Director Robert Amory concluded that, without oil, Iran would succumb to “economic and political disintegration.”[67] Secretary of Defense Robert A. Lovett felt urgent action was needed “to prevent the strategic collapse of Iran’s loss to communism,” and suggested a course of economic and military aid.[68] But others in the government worried that aid for Mossadegh would just encourage further intransigence during oil negotiations, preventing an agreement and continuing the oil-less economy. Following his victory in the 1952 presidential election, Dwight D. Eisenhower was briefed by President Harry Truman and Acheson. The situation in Iran, they said, had developed to a “critical point.” Mossadegh’s approach to the crisis was irrational: The Iranians were more interested in defying the British “than they were in the economic benefits which might come to them from the oil industry.” The stalemate at the negotiating table and the ongoing British oil embargo “had led to very grave disintegration” within both the government and the “social structure” of Iran. Hard evidence would suggest that the National Front could survive for a year if it acted “reasonably,” but Acheson and Truman no longer thought that likely. “They would act emotionally,” perhaps breaking relations with the United States and cutting the number of public employees or reducing wages for the army, which would increase internal unrest. “[I]n a very short time [they] might have the country in a state of chaos.”[69] By late 1952, there was a growing feeling throughout the Truman administration that an oil-less Iran under Mossadegh’s rule would lead to disaster. However, there were few outward signs that economic collapse was imminent — inflation inside Iran had not yet reached crisis levels, the cost of living indices were relatively stable, and imports had fallen while non-oil exports had risen. One estimate from October 1952 noted how the loss of oil revenues had not “seriously damaged” Iran’s economy, thanks in part to an “excellent harvest.”[70] Nevertheless, the emerging consensus in Washington was pessimistic. According to Acheson’s recollection, “[the] situation was deteriorating … various people put it at four, six, seven or eight months,” but sooner or later, “we would reach … the point of no return.”[71] Fear of the future, skepticism of Iranian capacity for self-government, and an overriding sense that the Tudeh Party would profit from continued uncertainty formed an omnipresent fear of collapse that gripped the Truman administration in its last months in office, despite signs that Iran’s economy was actually managing the oil shutdown fairly well. No one could claim with any confidence when this collapse would take place, or even what it would look like. “If present trends continue unchecked,” however, there was thought to be a growing chance that Iran would drift away from the West “in advance of an actual communist takeover.”[72] The question galling Acheson, Truman, Nitze, and others was how to prevent this collapse from occurring.

The Coup Decision

Allen Dulles, deputy director of the CIA beginning in August 1951 and director after February 1953, was a noted skeptic of the Mossadegh government. In May 1951, just after nationalization of the oil supply, the forceful and gregarious Dulles suggested the United States cooperate with the British and intervene directly: “[T]hrow out Mossadegh, close the Majlis … at a later date a premier could be installed with our help.”[73] In late 1952, as his superiors deliberated, Dulles turned to Thornburg for advice. The former oilman-turned-international consultant who had acted as economic adviser to the shah’s government before 1951 was one of the few self-described “Iran experts” known in Washington. Thornburg enjoyed “unusual access” to both Dulles and the Department of State and he offered policy advice in meetings, memos, and messages sent from his personal island in the Persian Gulf.[74] Thornburg scoffed at Iran’s nationalist government. Supporters of Mossadegh “are not the kind of men who can carry out any practical program.” Rather, the men governing Iran were “political flaneurs” interested only in advancing their own careers. According to him, establishing a “democratic government” was not necessary. “What is necessary is that each of these countries have a stable government dedicated to the welfare of its people.”[75] Otherwise, the risk was instability and, eventually, collapse leading to communist rule. Thornburg felt that this could best be prevented by backing a right-wing strongman. A “responsible” regime led by the shah — a figure most American officials viewed as indecisive and weak-willed — could impose martial law, rule by decree, and reach a suitable oil settlement, thereby freeing up funds for a new development scheme. The key for Thornburg was changing the political balance in Iran. The goal should not be “how to make an oil agreement that will bolster up the government in Persia, but how to bolster up the government in Persia so it can make an oil agreement.”[76] The necessary consequence of that conclusion was removing Mossadegh from power. Documents in the 2017 Foreign Relations of the United States volume indicate that U.S. officials considered removing Mossadegh at various times throughout 1951 and 1952. After Mossadegh’s consolidation of power in July 1952, Assistant Secretary of State Henry F. Byroade had plans drawn up “as to possible alternatives to Mossadeq, method of bringing such a government into power, and the type of encouragement and support that would be necessary in such circumstances.”[77] The policy paper that the National Security Council adopted in November 1952 was much more alarmist than similar papers published a year before.[78] The policy mentioned the threat of an “attempted or actual communist seizure of power,” and included provisions for “special political operations in Iran” to support noncommunist forces.[79] The CIA had been active in Iran since 1948, combatting the Tudeh Party through an operation code-named TPBEDAMN and setting up a “stay-behind” mission in case Iran’s government were to fall under communist influence.[80] The United Kingdom, which had long sought Mossadegh’s removal from office, was expelled from Iran in October 1952, after which British officials reached out to the United States for help.[81] The British, conscious of U.S. concerns and anxious to elicit assistance, emphasized the threat of an internal coup through Tudeh Party subversion. The risk did not arise “from the country’s bad financial situation,” but rather from Mossadegh’s unwillingness “to check the growth of communist strength.” To that end, they were “disposed to bring about a coup d’etat in Iran,” and hoped for U.S. help in replacing Mossadegh with a more “reliable” prime minister. It was, in their opinion, “our best chance to save Iran.”[82] According to one agent’s recollection, the offer was favorably received by Dulles and Frank Wisner of the CIA.[83] [quote id="4"] But senior U.S. officials, including CIA Director Walter Bedell Smith and Acheson, could not see a viable alternative to Mossadegh among Iran’s conservative politicians. Mossadegh had placed his own supporters in key army posts: He could not be easily deposed through a military coup. Moreover, no conservative political figure possessed the prestige to challenge the National Front, while the young shah seemed paralyzed. Arguably the second-most powerful man in Iran was the populist demagogue Ayatollah Sayyed Abu al-Qasim Kashani. While a member of Iran’s Shia clerical leadership, Kashani was more notable for his hardline position on oil negotiations. He was opposed to any deal with the oil companies and had condemned oil revenues as a “curse rather than a blessing.” Should Mossadegh retire or die in office, a new nationalist government would probably coalesce around Kashani. From a U.S. point of view, it was better to have Mossadegh remain in power than to have such an unpredictable figure assume a position of authority.[84] For these reasons, the British offer was rebuffed. “You may be able to throw out Mossadegh,” remarked Smith, “but you will never get your own man to stick in his place.”[85] While Dulles felt that an operation could be carried out “in such a way that British and American connection with it could never be proven,” officials in the State Department, like Byroade and Freeman Matthews, were skeptical.[86] By late 1952, Carr’s reports and Henderson’s analysis convinced policymakers in Washington that an Iranian economy without oil was not sustainable, and that, without an oil settlement, Mossadegh would lead the country into disaster. But a coup to remove him did not seem viable. Nitze informed the United Kingdom that the United States would not dismiss the idea, but would, for the time being, proceed with a new round of negotiations: “We would keep the suggestion in mind.”[87] Instead of a coup, the focus turned to the question of propping up Mossadegh and staving off collapse. Byroade suggested an oil settlement or “substantial financial assistance and a program of economic development” as the two best options.[88] Lovett insisted that the United States “must get the oil flowing” in order to prevent the situation from deteriorating to the point where a military intervention became necessary.[89] According to Nitze, Iran needed to be pushed into a deal that would provide “sufficient revenues to meet its economic problems.”[90] Talk of financial aid to Mossadegh continued after Eisenhower took office in January 1953. The president, despite taking a more flexible position than his predecessor, seemed preoccupied with the problem of how to aid Mossadegh. “If…I had $500,000,000 of money to spend in secret,” he said during a meeting of his National Security Council on March 4, “I would give $100,000,000 of it to Iran right now.”[91] While the United Kingdom felt the new administration would be “more robust,” initially there was continuity in policy. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles focused on continuing negotiations with Mossadegh, though it was clear that a settlement was unlikely, given the disagreements between Mossadegh and the British over terms to settle the 1951 nationalization.[92] An important turning point in the crisis came in late February 1953. Mossadegh’s position in Iran had grown unstable. Aware that conservative forces were maneuvering against him, in February 1953 Mossadegh demanded the shah abandon his few remaining prerogatives and subordinate himself to the government. Henderson, exhausted after months of negotiating and frustrated with the prime minister’s “one track mind,” “hyper-sensitive attitude,” and “suspicious character,” had come to think further negotiations were pointless.[93] Moreover, he regarded the shah as “a potentially powerful anti-commie element.” Mossadegh’s assault on the monarch prompted Henderson to take action, despite conventions prohibiting U.S. diplomats from intervening in local politics.[94] “I dislike remaining inactive,” he wrote defiantly, “when [the] monarchical institution…is in grave danger.” Henderson went to the shah and implored him to remain in the country. He then met with Mossadegh, making it clear that the shah’s departure would “weaken [the] security [of the] country,” an open show of support for the monarchy. Shortly after their meeting, crowds organized by the prime minister’s opponents, including Ayatollah Kashani and several pro-shah organizations, assaulted Mossadegh’s house, forcing him to climb over a 10-foot fence to take refuge in the house next door.[95] Events in January and February 1953 indicated increasing political instability in Iran, which prompted a more alarmist assessment in Washington. Allen Dulles, together with others inside the CIA, had the intelligence estimate for Iran altered in January. If current trends were allowed to continue “beyond the end of 1953,” internal tensions and the “continued deterioration of the economy” would lead to a “breakdown of governmental authority” and the “gradual assumption of control by the Tudeh.”[96] In his report for Eisenhower, Allen Dulles, by then director of the CIA, contended that conditions in Iran had been steadily deteriorating since 1951, “building up…a situation where a Communist takeover is becoming more and more of a possibility.” He then noted that CIA agents had resources inside Iran, “a considerable supply of small arms…[and] a considerable amount of cash,” which could be quickly supplemented.[97] During a meeting of the National Security Council on March 4, the CIA director laid out the situation in Iran in the bleakest possible terms: Mossadegh’s actions in February indicated his desire to rule as dictator, but if he were to die or resign, “a political vacuum would occur … and the Communists might easily take over.”[98] While John Foster Dulles and Eisenhower were focused on negotiating with Mossadegh during the March 4 National Security Council meeting, they were noticeably more skeptical of Mossadegh at a second meeting on March 11. They felt there was little hope of Mossadegh agreeing to new oil terms, while financial aid would only delay the inevitable and irritate the British. The risks of doing nothing were high: Should Iran be lost, the entirety of the Middle East’s oil resources would be lost with it.[99] Dulles instructed Henderson that there would be no new offers to Mossadegh and that all his requests for economic assistance were to be rebuffed.[100] Discussion in Washington turned toward “assets which could be rallied to support a replacement [for Mossadegh].” The National Security Council policy adopted in 1953 outlined plans to be undertaken “prior to an identifiable attempted or actual communist seizure of power,” while preparations were made for “special psychological measures” in connection with the “special political operations” authorized in November 1952.[101] Funds for operations were released in early April.[102] Henderson warned that conditions in Iran were becoming critical. “Practically all sections of the Iranian public,” he wrote, were growing increasingly frustrated with the West, “as they note the deteriorating conditions of the country. …Only those sympathetic to the Soviet Union and to international communism have reason to be pleased at what is taking place in Iran.”[103] In May, Henderson met with Secretary of State Dulles in Karachi. The ambassador, drawing on Carr’s analysis, reported that Iran’s economy was in the midst of a slow deterioration. “The need for foreign exchange has become acute. …[L]ocal currency needs have been met in the printing press route. …[T]he inflationary effect of this is only just beginning to be felt.” On the political side, the confrontation in February had increased Mossadegh’s reliance on the Tudeh Party, “the only organization which can give him the kind of support in the streets.” Henderson and the secretary of state discussed four potential courses of action, which included breaking off negotiations, proceeding with emergency aid, or removing Mossadegh through covert action. Doing nothing, however, would quicken Iran’s “drift into chaos.”[104] It is difficult to say with certainty, but it would appear that the decision to remove Mossadegh was made sometime in March or April, with Henderson’s May meeting with Secretary of State Dulles representing a final consultation. By June, Operation TPAJAX was in motion.[105]

The Hierarchy of Motives and the Collapse Narrative

The decision to topple Mossadegh emerged from several factors. Like their predecessors in the Truman administration, officials in the Eisenhower administration hoped to resolve Iran’s oil crisis. While the embargo remained in effect, Secretary of State Dulles worried that Iran would soon start “dumping” oil on the international market at rock-bottom prices or sell oil to the Soviet Union.[106] CIA Director Allen Dulles supplied figures indicating Iran could produce and export as much as 3.7 million tons (74,000 barrels per day).[107] Such actions would negatively impact the global oil economy and do nothing to alleviate the economic conditions in Iran, since the oil would be sold at low prices and in relatively small amounts, yielding little revenue. At the March 4 and March 11 National Security Council meetings, both the Dulles brothers and Eisenhower expressed concern over losing access to Middle Eastern oil. On March 11, Eisenhower noted that an agreement with Mossadegh “might not be worth the paper it was written on,” and might disrupt concessions elsewhere if the terms were “too favorable” to Iran.[108] Such comments have led historians to speculate that the Eisenhower administration, which enjoyed close ties to the American oil industry, sought to remove Mossadegh in order to gain access to Iranian oil and protect Western oil interests elsewhere.[109] Such motivations did influence policy, but were probably not decisive on their own. Both the United Kingdom and the oil companies themselves doubted Iran’s ability to ship large quantities of “unclean” oil when cheaper sources, like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, were available.[110] The Petroleum Administration for Defense, a branch of the Department of the Interior tasked with monitoring the global oil supply, felt there was no market for Iranian oil and that it would take two years for Mossadegh to claw back market share.[111] With only 28 tankers of its own, the Soviet Union could not move large quantities of Iranian oil.[112] Rather than focusing on saving the oil companies, which were never consulted by the Eisenhower administration at any point in early 1953 (something noted by British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden[113]), the United States focused on conditions inside Iran. Fear of collapse stemming from a prolonged oil shutdown and a lack of oil revenues for the Iranian state outweighed worries of a global oil economy without Iran. The precise imagining of this collapse was linked to the threat of the Tudeh Party. Reports at the time indicated that the communist group was not ready to challenge the government.[114] The CIA had infiltrated the organization and had up-to-date information on key decisions.[115] Allen Dulles and Henderson chose to emphasize the “imperceptible” increase in the Tudeh Party’s power, and the “gradual assumption of control” it could engineer.[116] The February crisis was decisive: Mossadegh broke with the shah and his former ally Kashani, and adopted a more lenient attitude toward the communist organization. As one Iranian minister explained to the U.S. embassy in Iran, Mossadegh could not fight both his conservative opposition and the communists, and had opted for a marriage of convenience.[117] Mossadegh may have been acting strategically, but his maneuver seemed to confirm Dulles and Henderson’s warning of a creeping Tudeh influence over the government. But this threat was never characterized at the time as imminent. [quote id="5"] Documents in the 2017 Foreign Relations of the United States volume and other declassified sources indicate that avoiding a Kashani government was as important to U.S. officials as preventing the rise of the Tudeh Party. Worries that Mossadegh would die or resign once again prompted concerns over who would succeed him — something that had preoccupied the Truman administration. With conservative opposition too weak to mount an effective opposition effort, Mossadegh would be succeeded by another member of the National Front. Ayatollah Kashani was the most likely candidate, given his prominence, popular following, and powerful street presence. As prime minister, it was unlikely Kashani would seek an oil agreement. Rather than reach a deal with the British, “[h]e has … urged that Iran forget its oil resources and develop a self-sustaining economy and governmental structure not dependent on them.”[118] When the idea of a coup was first suggested in November 1952, Nitze had queried whether CIA assets could be used against the Tudeh Party and Kashani, whose aggressive form of nationalism was viewed as particularly destabilizing.[119] If matters were left to drift and Mossadegh became suddenly incapacitated, Kashani’s leadership of the National Front was more or less assured. Avoiding this outcome was another reason the United States opted for covert action.[120] In the hierarchy of motives behind Operation TPAJAX, concerns over Iran’s oil nationalization and the communist threat were both important, but they were not, by themselves, crucial to the final decision to back the coup. Instead, both oil and communism factored into the decision through the predictive analytical framework of the collapse narrative represented in the reports and writings of Carr, Henderson, Thornburg, and Allen Dulles: They describe the deterioration of the oil-less economy, the consequent increase in communist or extremist influence, and the final nightmare scenario in which Iran could break away from the West, become a Soviet satellite, and threaten Western access to all Middle East oil. And yet, no one in either the Truman or Eisenhower administration articulated what collapse would look like in completely lucid terms. Hence, its characterization as a narrative: a story of how the future in Iran might unfold, should the United States do nothing. Once the narrative came to dominate policy, a form of groupthink took over. According to the CIA record, Allen Dulles dismissed intelligence provided by the agency’s analytical wing, relying on advice from “experts” like Thornburg, who shared his interventionist proclivities. Anything “incompatible with the planned covert political action … did not dissuade the President, Secretary of State … from executing TPAJAX.”[121] At least one CIA report on the limitations of U.S. resources in Iran was produced but never utilized. Dulles must have either ignored the report or had it suppressed.[122] Preventing collapse by changing the internal political dynamics of Iran — “bolstering up” a government so it could then reach an oil agreement and forestall the fall into chaos and communism, as Thornburg put it — was the goal of TPAJAX.[123] The operation was not meant to prevent a communist coup, but to reverse conditions that might result in a communist government, while producing the conditions necessary to restart the flow of oil. This becomes clear when examining the planning phase of the coup and the operation’s immediate aftermath. In 1952, the State Department’s John Leavitt was considering potential strategies should Mossadegh be removed from power. A new government would be given a sizable loan with further aid “contingent on a satisfactory solution of the oil issue.”[124] The oil issue, however, was to be downplayed during and immediately after the operation. According to John Stutesman, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs and formerly Henderson’s political counselor at the embassy in Tehran, the United States “should avoid any statement that the oil question is involved in a change of government in Iran,” and the new regime should be deterred from raising the oil question publicly for at least several months.[125] The United States had been funding agricultural relief operations through the Point Four foreign aid program since 1951. These programs were to continue, even as operations against Mossadegh proceeded, in order to keep Iran’s agrarian economy “afloat.”[126] After the coup, “substantial economic assistance” would be provided to Iran’s new government. Such aid would keep the post-coup government on its feet while also giving the U.S. leverage over its approach to the oil question.[127] Fazlallah Zahidi, a former general, was selected to lead the post-coup government. He possessed the necessary ambition, was “energetic,” and committed to pursuing an oil settlement “on a realistic basis.”[128] An estimate prepared by Donald Wilber for the CIA noted that Zahidi, who had led a number of abortive coup attempts against Mossadegh in 1952 and early 1953, was “anxious to settle the oil issue.” Once in power, he would be “presented with a draft of an oil agreement,” which would be implemented as soon as his government was “firmly established,” with a promise of further U.S. loans and cash grants once the agreement was signed.[129] Zahidi was also outwardly eager to launch a sweeping social and economic reform program tied to the new oil agreement.[130] Planning throughout 1953 was slow, however, due to the shah’s “unwillingness to take any initiative.”[131] It took months to convince the wary monarch to participate. Henderson, who had gone out of his way to aid the monarchy in February 1953, suggested the shah could be replaced if he proved uncooperative.[132] On August 19, military units loyal to the shah and Zahidi overwhelmed Mossadegh’s forces, and after a lengthy battle captured the prime minister at his house. The CIA transferred to Zahidi the funds that were left over from the operation (around $1 million), while Secretary of State Dulles approved an emergency grant of $45 million. As per the U.S. strategy, this aid was applied judiciously: It was used to push Zahidi into quickly confirming an oil agreement. “The most difficult problem confronting us,” argued John Foster Dulles, “was how to develop revenues for Iran out of her oil.”[133] Henderson told the shah in straightforward terms that a new oil arrangement would hand effective control back to the companies, while providing Iran “income in [the] immediate future from its oil.” According to Manuchehr Farmanfarmaʼiyan, an Iranian oilman, the proposal was essentially an ultimatum. If the “principle” of foreign control was not admitted, there would be no deal and no aid.[134] Again, the administration’s goal was to bring about the speedy return of oil revenues to help Iranian finances, in order to bolster Zahidi and the shah. To accomplish this, however, Iran would need to reach a deal with the major oil companies: According to Dulles, this would require the “partial negation of Iranian nationalization,” to facilitate corporate cooperation and the rapid recovery of production.[135] [quote id="6"] Intercorporate documents gleaned from the archive of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later BP) make it clear that the companies had no need of Iranian oil, as the global market was in a state of over-supply and an Iranian recovery would depress prices. The American oil companies initially argued that it would be better for the British to return to Iran alone, permitting the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to recover its nationalized assets. But John Foster Dulles and others rejected this as politically impossible. Even with Mossadegh out of power, the Iranian public would react violently to a British return, unless it was suitably camouflaged. The Eisenhower administration directed the five major U.S. firms to take over Iran’s oil industry “in the security interest of the United States … to permit the reactivation of the petroleum industry in Iran and to provide to the friendly government of Iran substantial revenues.”[136] Their participation came “at the request of the United States government, and for the primary purpose of assisting Iran … to improve and stabilize its economy.”[137] The U.S. companies were given a 40-percent stake in the new “Iran Consortium,” with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company receiving 40 percent of its own and the remaining 20 percent split between Royal Dutch/Shell and the Compagnie Française des Pétroles. The shah’s government was in no position to argue with the companies’ terms and approved the final agreement in October 1954. In legal terms, Iran’s nationalization remained in effect — U.S. officials recognized that to do otherwise would only inflame Iranian nationalism. But the reality of nationalization was effectively reversed, and the Western oil companies would control the flow of Iranian oil for another 20 years.[138] The new oil agreement was very unpopular in Iran. Together with the coup, the agreement identified the shah’s new government with foreign influence, staining it with a mark of illegitimacy that would never truly disappear. For American policymakers, however, these issues were of secondary importance. Without an oil agreement, Iran would lurch “from crisis to crisis,” depending on aid “to meet emergencies” and the shah’s legitimacy would remain shaky following the coup. Such a strategy would do little to create “real stability, permit development or avoid future emergencies.”[139] The new agreement was needed to support the government, which could use oil to fund programs of economic development, “[to] meet popular aspirations,” and forestall the country’s slip toward communism.[140] Once the Consortium Agreement was ratified by the shah’s new Majlis in October 1954, the chief U.S. negotiator, Herbert Hoover Jr., offered his congratulations to Iran’s foreign minister. The news marked a “significant victory” for those “dedicated to the principle that Iran is to move toward social and economic development.”[141] Iran had been saved. The coup was complete.

Conclusion

The collapse narrative formed by Carr, Henderson, Dulles, and Thornburg carried over into the official histories of the coup. According to one internal CIA account, “[Iran] seemed headed for an economic collapse and political anarchy,” a state of affairs that would inevitably lead to its transformation into a “Soviet satellite.”[142] The coup was necessary, “as the alternative to certain economic collapse in Iran … [due to] the dangerous and advanced stage of illegal deficit financing,” concluded CIA adviser and coup chronicler Wilber.[143] The same notion found traction in the shah’s Iran, which charged Mossadegh with “tyrannical” acts, including the printing of new rials. The failure of his economic policies acted as justification for his subsequent imprisonment, despite his sincere arguments that the country “could sustain itself without oil revenues.”[144] Within the Eisenhower administration, it was agreed that the coup had been necessary, while the efficacy of covert action was proven a second time in 1954 when the CIA assisted in the removal of Guatemalan president Juan Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán. “Whatever we have done, good or bad … we can at least have the satisfaction that we saved Iran from communism,” concluded Eisenhower in 1957.[145] The collapse narrative provided the foundation for the decision to remove Mossadegh. The threat posed to the global oil market by Iran’s nationalization remained inchoate and the communist threat to Iran was not imminent. But the threat of collapse, imagined through a predictive analytical framework and articulated in terms either of a progressive economic deterioration or a political crisis brought on by Mossadegh’s death or incapacitation loomed on the horizon if the United States failed to act. Fears of a collapse had percolated throughout the policymaking apparatus for months and were evident in the economic reports of Carr and the political analysis of Henderson. CIA Director Dulles was a crucial supporter of intervention, but while he may have accepted the collapse narrative, he did not form it entirely on his own. Although covert action was initially rejected, by March 1953 other options — aiding Mossadegh, pushing for an oil settlement, or doing nothing — appeared unsuitable. Once the coup decision was made, there was no going back. Among those directly involved in launching Operation TPAJAX, Henderson voiced the strongest reservations. Though he supported the action, he doubted whether TPAJAX would bring about the stability the United States craved in Iran: “I do not believe the problem can be solved merely by attempts to unseat Mossadegh.”[146] His uncertainty was prescient. Iran’s new government came to power marred by illegitimacy and dependent upon coercion and repression. Despite his apparent strength, the shah fell from power amidst the tumult of the Islamic Revolution of 1978–79, his allies in Washington watching in disbelief as another cadre of “irrational” leaders took over the Iranian state. But all that lay in the future. There was an obvious sense of relief among U.S. policymakers in the aftermath of the coup, as oil dollars and U.S. aid flooded into Iran and the shah’s military decimated the ranks of the Tudeh Party and National Front. According to Carr’s successor Spencer Barnes, most aid was wasted and its positive economic effect “sterilized.” Yet, the psychological impact of regime change and the hope for a new oil settlement would offset that waste: “The economy of Iran has considerable resistance and flexibility … [and] political factors are often more important than economic [ones],” while ongoing deficit spending could probably continue for months, “perhaps even a year or so,” before becoming “disastrous.”[147] Nevertheless, the collapse narrative did not go away, although the sense of urgency did. Subsequent administrations continued to doubt Iranian competence: “What they lack is the capacity for sustained, dynamic effort,” wrote Kennedy adviser Robert Komer in October 1962. “They don’t have what it takes to run a country themselves.”[148] The shah’s form of top-down modernization, lubricated by billions in oil revenues, seemed the only viable cure for Iran’s chronic instability. The coup of 1953 returned Iran to a state of “stability” that American policymakers could comprehend. More importantly, TPAJAX ensured that Iran would never again be “oil-less.”   Dr. Gregory Brew is a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. A historian of U.S.-Iranian relations and the political economy of international oil, his work has appeared in Iranian Studies, International History Review, Mediterranean Quarterly, and The Oxford Research Encyclopedia. He also writes on the geopolitics of energy at The FUSE. Find him @gbrew24.   Acknowledgements: This article is based on a paper presented at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. The author would like to thank the panel participants who read and commented on the paper, including Mary Ann Heiss, Mark J. Gasiorowski, Roham Alvandi, Malcolm Byrne, and David S. Painter. The author would also like to acknowledge the excellent editorial assistance of the staff at the Texas National Security Review and both peer-review readers.   [post_title] => The Collapse Narrative: The United States, Mohammed Mossadegh, and the Coup Decision of 1953 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-collapse-narrative-the-united-states-mohammed-mossadegh-and-the-coup-decision-of-1953 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-09 11:02:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-09 16:02:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2046 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => On Aug. 19, 1953, elements inside Iran organized and funded by the Central Intelligence Agency and British intelligence services carried out a coup d’état that overthrew the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. Historians have yet to reach a consensus on why the Eisenhower administration opted to use covert action in Iran, tending to either emphasize America’s fear of communism or its desire to control oil as the most important factor influencing the decision. Using recently declassified material, this article argues that growing fears of a “collapse” in Iran motivated the decision to remove Mossadegh. American policymakers believed that Iran could not survive without an agreement that would restart the flow of oil, something Mossadegh appeared unable to secure. There was widespread skepticism of his government’s ability to manage an “oil-less” economy, as well as fears that such a situation would lead inexorably to communist rule. A collapse narrative emerged to guide U.S. thinking, one that coalesced in early 1953 and convinced policymakers to adopt regime change as the only remaining option. Oil and communism both impacted the coup decision, but so did powerful notions of Iranian incapacity and a belief that only an intervention by the United States would save the country from a looming, though vaguely defined, calamity. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => While much is known about how the coup took place, there remains some disagreement as to why the United States decided on covert action or why this decision was made in early 1953. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => While there was little support for Mossadegh, policymakers recognized Iranian nationalism as a powerful political force.  ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => To make an oil-less economy work, Mossadegh would either need to take full control over Iran’s state and economy or lean on outside support. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => By late 1952, Carr’s reports and Henderson’s analysis convinced policymakers in Washington that an Iranian economy without oil was not sustainable, and that, without an oil settlement, Mossadegh would lead the country into disaster. But a coup to remove him did not seem viable.  ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Fear of collapse stemming from a prolonged oil shutdown and a lack of oil revenues for the Iranian state outweighed worries of a global oil economy without Iran. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Without an oil agreement, Iran would lurch “from crisis to crisis,” depending on aid “to meet emergencies” and the shah’s legitimacy would remain shaky following the coup. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 2439 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 321 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Accounts of the coup include, Ali Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup in Iran: Thugs, Turncoats, Soldiers, and Spooks (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Ervand Abrahamian, The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations (New York: New Press, 2013); Mark J. Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup d’Etat Against Mossadeq,” in, Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, ed. Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 227­–60. A popular, though far less rigorous account, is, Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2004). For general studies of the crisis that precipitated the August 1953 coup, see, James A. Bill and Wm. Roger Louis, eds., Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism and Oil (London: Tauris, 1988); Mary Ann Heiss, Empire and Nationhood: The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950-1954 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997); Steve Marsh, Anglo-American Relations and Cold War Oil: Crisis in Iran (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); James F. Goode, The United States and Iran: In the Shadow of Musaddiq (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997); Mostafa Elm, Oil, Power and Principle: Iran’s Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1992); and Richard W. Cottam, Iran and the United States: A Cold War Case Study (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988). A few of the more notable articles published concerning the coup and nationalization crisis include, Steve Marsh, “The United States, Iran and Operation ‘Ajax’: Inverting Interpretative Orthodoxy,” Middle Eastern Studies 39, no. 3 (2003): 1–38, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00263200412331301657; Francis J. Gavin, “Politics, Power, and US Policy in Iran, 1950-1953,” Journal of Cold War Studies 1, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 56–89, https://doi.org/10.1162/15203970152521890; and Andreas Etges, “All That Glitters Is Not Gold: The 1953 Coup Against Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran,” Intelligence and National Security 26, no. 4 (2011): 495–508, https://doi.org/10.1080/02684527.2011.580603. [2] A new revisionist school has attempted a re-evaluation of the coup, arguing that foreign intervention was relatively unimportant. See, Darioush Bayandor, Iran and the CIA: The Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited (Houndsmill: Basingstoke, 2010); Ray Takeyh and Steven Simon, The Pragmatic Superpower: Winning the Cold War in the Middle East (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016), 53–89; Ray Takeyh, “What Really Happened in Iran: The CIA, the Ouster of Mosaddeq, and the Restoration of the Shah,” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 4 (July/August 2014): 2–14, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2014-06-16/what-really-happened-iran. For a detailed response to this revisionism, see, Fakhreddin Azimi, “The Overthrow of the Government of Mosaddeq Reconsidered,” Iranian Studies 45 no. 5 (2012): 693–712, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00210862.2012.702554. [3] Donald Wilber, CIA Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953, ed. Malcolm Byrne, published online by the National Security Archive, Nov. 29, 2000, 1–3, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/. [4] Scott A. Koch, “Zendebad Shah!”: The Central Intelligence Agency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, August 1953 (Washington DC: CIA, June 1998); and The Battle for Iran, published online by National Security Archive, June 27, 2014 https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB476/. [5] Carl N. Raether and Charles S. Sampson, eds., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Iran, 1951-1954, Volume X (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 1989) [hereafter FRUS X]; James C. Van Hook, ed., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Iran, 1951-1954, Second Edition (Washington DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2018) [hereafter FRUS Retrospective]. [6] In September 2017, the Wilson Center organized a seminar on the new FRUS volume. Included among the participants were Mark J. Gasiorowski, Malcolm Byrne, David S. Painter, Wm. Roger Louis, Bruce Kuniholm, Barbara Slavin, and others. [7] One British operative published a memoir that touched on coup planning in 1953. See, C.M. Woodhouse, Something Ventured (London: Granada, 1982). [8] See Mark J. Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup D’etat in Iran,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 19, no. 3 (August 1987): 275, https://www.jstor.org/stable/163655. See also, Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup d’Etat Against Mossadeq,” 227–60. [9] Heiss, Empire and Nationhood, 172. [10] Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup, 60–61; Marsh, Anglo-American Relations, 152–53, Goode, The United States and Iran, 110. Gavin, “Politics, Power, and US Policy in Iran,” 56–89. [11] Abrahamian, The Coup, 5. [12] Elm, Oil, Power and Principle, 276; Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), 412–20. For the formation of the consortium, see, Mary Ann Heiss, “The United States, Great Britain, and the Creation of the Iranian Oil Consortium, 1953-1954,” International History Review 16, no. 3 (August 1994): 511–35, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40107317. [13] David S. Painter, Oil and the American Century: The Political Economy of U.S. Foreign Oil Policy, 1941-1954 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 173–99. [14] Abdel Razzaq Takriti, “Colonial Coups and the War on Popular Sovereignty,” American Historical Review 124, no. 3 (June 2019): 880, https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/rhz459. [15] Mary Ann Heiss, “The International Boycott of Iranian Oil and the Anti-Mosaddeq Coup of 1953,” in, Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, ed. Malcolm Byrne and Mark J. Gasiorowski (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 178–200. [16] Henderson to Acheson No. 2425, December 27, 1952, United States National Archives, College Park, Maryland, [USNA] Record Group [RG] 59, Central Decimal File [CDF], Box 5510, 888.2553/12-2652. [17] For a response to Abrahamian’s “control of oil” argument, see, Mark J. Gasiorowski, “Review of The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations, by Ervand Abrahamian,” Middle East Journal 67, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 315–17, https://www.jstor.org/stable/43698055. [18] Zendebad Shah!, 11. [19] Mark J. Gasiorowski, “U.S. Perceptions of the Communist Threat in Iran During the Mossadegh Era,” Journal of Cold War Studies 21, no. 3 (Summer 2019): 37, https://doi.org/10.1162/jcws_a_00898. [20] Memo, Jernegan to Matthews, October 23, 1952; Byroade to Matthews, November 26,1952; Memo of Conversation, December 3, 1952. Thanks to the National Security Archive for making these documents available: https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [21] Documents from Record Group 59 and Record Group 84 (RG 59 and RG 84) were viewed in the Main Reading Room, United States National Archives, College Park, Maryland. British Petroleum Archive (BP) at the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK. [22] Philip Zelikow, “Why Did America Cross the Pacific? Reconstructing the U.S. Decision to Take the Philippines, 1898-99,” Texas National Security Review 1 no. 1 (December 2017): 36­–67, https://tnsr.org/2017/11/america-cross-pacific-reconstructing-u-s-decision-take-philippines-1898-99/; Alexandra T. Evans and A. Bradley Potter, “When Do Leaders Change Course? Theories of Success and the American Withdrawal From Beirut, 1983-1984,” Texas National Security Review 2, no. 2 (February 2019): 10–38, https://tnsr.org/2019/02/when-do-leaders-change-course-theories-of-success-and-the-american-withdrawal-from-beirut-1983-1984/. [23] Wilber, CIA Clandestine Service History, 1. [24] Quote from Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945, 3rd Edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2008), 28. See also, Matthew F. Jacobs, Imagining the Middle East: The Building of an American Foreign Policy, 1918-1967 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 12–27. [25] For an example of this trend in thinking, see, Bradley R. Simpson, Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008). For development ideology in the Cold War, see, Michael E. Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development and US Foreign Policy from the Cold War to the Present (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2011). [26] A.C. Millspaugh, “The Persian-British Oil Dispute,” Foreign Affairs II, no. 3 (April 1933): 521–25, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-kingdom/1933-04-01/persian-british-oil-dispute. [27] Telegram, Wiley to Acheson, Feb. 27, 1950, FRUS 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V, ed. Herbert A. Fine et al., no. 217, (Washington DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1978), https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1950v05/d217. [28] From USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 7243: Memo by Dean Acheson, August 17, 1946, 891.50/8-1746; Memo of Conversation, October 8, 1948, 891.50/10-848; “Need for Improving the Economic Conditions in Iran,” 891.50 SEVEN YEAR PLAN/6-2248; “Memorandum on the Naficy Plan,” March 12, 1948, 891.50 SEVEN YEAR PLAN/6-2248, U.S. Embassy No. 179, June 22, 1948, Enclosure No. 3; Memo of Conversation, February 28, 1946, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 7244, 891.51/2-2846; Allen to State, no. 575, June 28, 1947, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 7245891.60/6-2847. [29] Wiley to State, no. 179, February 1, 1950, USNA RG 84 U.S. Legation & Embassy, Tehran, Classified General Records[USLETCGR] 1950–1952, Box 35; Richards to Acheson, No. 673, April 13, 1950, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950–1052, Box 35. [30] Thornburg to US Ambassador, March 5, 1950, recovered from World Bank General Archives, WB IBRD/IDA MNA Folder ID 1805823, http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/162371403270473426/wbg-archives-1805823.pdf. [31] James Bamberg, The History of the British Petroleum Company: The Anglo-Iranian Years, 1928–1954, Vol. 2 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982); and James Bamberg, British Petroleum and Global Oil, 1950-1975: The Challenge of Nationalism, Vol. 3 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000). [32] For the narrative of the nationalization crisis, see Abrahamian, The Coup, 9–80. [33] Maziar Behrooz, “Tudeh Factionalism and the 1953 Coup in Iran,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 33, no. 3 (August 2001): 364, http://www.jstor.org/stable/259456. [34] For the British view of the Iran crisis, see, Steven G. Galpern, Money, Oil and Empire in the Middle East: Sterling and Postwar Imperialism, 1945-1971 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 80–141; Wm Roger Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-1951: Arab Nationalism, the United States, and Postwar Imperialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 632–89; Heiss, “The International Boycott of Iranian Oil,” 178–80. [35] The various phases of negotiation are described in detail in Heiss, Empire and Nationhood. [36] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, July 18, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 84, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d84. See also, Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, July 18, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 85, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d85; Telegram, U.S. State Department to U.S. Embassy London, July 18, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 86, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d86;, Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, July 19, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 88, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d88. [37] Iran Economic Papers, no. 8, “Imports and Exports,” January 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955, Box 60; US Embassy Iran, no. 46, July 18, 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955, Box 60; Henderson to State, no. 1245 September 23, 1952, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1950–1952, Box 36 501; Middleton to Foreign Office, no. 292 (E), September 22, 1952, United Kingdom National Archives [UKNA] Foreign Office [FO] 371/98625 EP 1112/29. [38] Patrick Clawson and Cyrus Sassanpour, “Adjustment to a Foreign Exchange Shock: Iran, 1951-1953,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 19, no. 1 (February 1987): 10–11, http://www.jstor.org/stable/163025. Homa Katouzian, “Oil Boycott and the Political Economy: Mosaddeq and the Strategy of Non-Oil Economics,” in, Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism and Oil, ed. Bill and Louis (London: IB Tauris, 1988), 212–14. [39] Telegram, Acheson to Gifford, June 22, 1951, FRUS 1952-1954, Vol. X: Iran 1951-1954 [FRUS X], no. 30, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d30;  Statement of Policy Proposed by National Security Council: Iran, June 27, 1951, FRUS 1952-1954, Vol. X: Iran 1951-1954, no. 32, ,  https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d32. [40] Memo of Conversation,  July 12, 1951, FRUS X, no. 40,  https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d40; Memo from McGhee to Acheson, April 20, 1951, RG 59 888.2553/4-2051. [41] Intelligence Memorandum, July 11, 1951, FRUS Retrospective, no. 39, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d39. [42] Gasiorowski, “U.S. Perceptions of the Communist Threat,” 13, 17. [43] Heiss, “International Boycott of Iranian Oil,” 198. Heiss bases her conclusion on figures from Jahangir Amuzegar and M. Ali Fekrat, Iran: Economic Development Under Dualistic Conditions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971), 21. [44] Hossein Mahdavy, “The Patterns and Problems of Economic Development in Rentier States: The Case of Iran,’’ in, Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East: From the Rise of Islam to the Present Day, ed. M.A. Cook, ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), 443–67. [45] US Embassy no. 574, October 31, 1951, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1950–1952, Box 39; Iran Economic Paper no. 2, Government Budget, January 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955 Box 60; US Embassy no. 712, March 5, 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5503, 888.2553/3-551. [46] Henderson to Acheson, November 6, 1951, FRUS X, no. 122,  https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d122. [47] Henderson to State No. 3781, Drafted by Carr, April 4, 1952, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950–1952 Box 36. [48] US Embassy no. 866, Contributions of the AIOC to the Iranian Embassy, April 27, 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF Box 5504, 888.2553/4-2751. [49] Iran Economic Paper no. 9, Balance of Payment, January 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955, Box 60. [50] Villard to Nitze, Policy Planning Staff, October 9, 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5507, 888.2553/10-951. [51] Memo of Conversation, November 4, 1951, FRUS X, no. 120, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d120. [52] US Embassy No. 185, October 4, 1951, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950–1952, Box 35; Henderson to State, no. 3781, Drafted by Carr, April 4, 1951, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950–1952, Box 36. [53] “Prospects for Economic Stabilization in Iran After Oil Nationalization,” July 23 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5505A, 888.2553/7-2351. [54] Memo of Conversation, February 14, 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5506 Nitze-Linder Working Papers. [55] US Embassy Tehran, no. 555, January 17, 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953­–1955, Box 60. [56] US Embassy Tehran, no. 824, April 8, 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955, Box 60. [57] US Embassy Tehran, no. 555, January 17, 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1950–1952, Box 36. [58] John J. Harter, “Loy Henderson and the Cold War: An Interview with the Biographer of ‘Mr. Foreign Service,’” Foreign Service Journal (April 1992): 41–45, http://www.afsa.org/foreign-service-journal-april-1992. [59] Telegram, Henderson to State, January 4, 1952, FRUS X, no. 139, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d139. [60] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, January 29, 1952, FRUS X, no. 153, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d153. [61] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, October 22, 1951, FRUS X, no. 116, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d116; Henderson to Acheson, no. 1869, November 20, 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5507, 888.2553/11-2051. [62] Telegram, Henderson to Gifford, February 28, 1952, FRUS X, no. 164, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d164. [63] Henderson to Acheson No. 1857 November 5, 1952, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950-1952 Box 36. [64] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson,  November 5, 1952, FRUS X, no. 235, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d235. [65] Special Estimate-33, Prospects for Survival of Mossadeq Regime in Iran, October 14, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 132, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d132; National Intelligence Estimate (NIE-75), November 13, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 143, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d143. [66] Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council, The Present Situation in Iran, November 20, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, No 147, NSC 136/1, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d147. [67] Robert Amory Jr., Memo for General Smith, November 28, 1952, CIA CREST On-Line. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP79-01041A000100020058-0.pdf. [68] Lovett for Acheson, November 12, 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5510, 888.2553/11-1252. [69] Memo of Conversation, November 18, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 146, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d146. [70] Special Estimate: Prospects for Survival of Mossadeq Regime in Iran, October 14, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 132, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d132. [71] Dean G. Acheson Papers, Box 81, Princeton Seminar, May 15, 1954, from the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Independence, MO. [72] Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council: The Present Situation in Iran, November 20, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 147, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d147. [73] Memorandum Prepared in the Office of National Estimates, Central Intelligence Agency, May 1, 1951, FRUS Retrospective, no. 20, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d20; Memo, Langer to Smith, July 6, 1951, FRUS Retrospective, no. 37 https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d37; Minutes of Meeting with Director of Central Intelligence Smith, May 9, 1951, FRUS Retrospective, no. 25, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d25. [74] Zendebad Shah!, 119. The island had been a gift from the ruler of Bahrain, with whom Thornburg forged a relationship while serving as a representative of the Standard Oil Company of California (SOCAL). See, Linda Wills Qaimmaqami, “The Catalyst of Nationalization: Max Thornburg and the Failure of Private Sector Developmentalism in Iran, 1946-1951,” Diplomatic History 19, no. 1 (January 1995): 1–31, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7709.1995.tb00575.x. [75] Memo of Conversation, August 20, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 116, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d116. [76] Memo Prepared by Thornburg, August 22, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, No. 118, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d118; Memo from Dulles to Smith, Attached Letter Thornburg to Dulles, February 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 154, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d154. [77] Memo, Byroade to Acheson, July 29, 1952, FRUS Retrospective Iran, no. 101, emphasis mine, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d101. [78] Gavin, “Politics, Power, and US Policy in Iran,” 78–80. [79] Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council: The Present Situation in Iran, November 20, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 147, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d147. [80] Mark J. Gasiorowski, “The CIA’s TPBEDAMN Operation and the 1953 Coup in Iran,” Journal of Cold War Studies 15, no. 4 (Fall 2013): 4–24, https://doi.org/10.1162/JCWS_a_00393; and Gasiorowski, “The US Stay-Behind Operation in Iran, 1948-1953,” Intelligence and National Security 34, no. 2 (February 2019): 170–88, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02684527.2018.1534639. [81] For British interest in removing Mossadegh, see Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup, 11–33. [82] Memo Jernegan to Matthews, October 23, 1952; Byroade to Matthews, November 26,1952; Memo of Conversation, December 3, 1952, National Security Archive, Briefing Book no. 601, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [83] Woodhouse, Something Ventured, 117–18. [84] Special Estimate: Prospects for Survival of Mossadeq Regime in Iran, October 14, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 132, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d132; Memo Prepared in the Office of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, March 31, 1953, FRUS Retrospective No. 181, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d181. [85] Zendebad Shah!, 15. [86] Byroade to Matthews, November 26, 1952, National Security Archive, Briefing Book no. 601, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [87] Memo of Conversation, December 3, 1952, National Security Archive, Briefing Book no. 601, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [88] Memo from Byroade to Matthews, October 15, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 133, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d133. [89] Lovett to Acheson, October 24, 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5510, 888.2553/10-2452; Lovett for Acheson, November 12 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5510, 888.2553/11-1252. [90] Nitze for Acheson, November 6, 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5510, 888.2553/11-652. [91] Memo of Discussion at the 135th Meeting of the National Security Council, March 4, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, No. 171, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d171. [92] The best account of these discussions can be found in Heiss, Empire and Nationhood, 135–66. [93] Henderson to Acheson no. 2518, January 3, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/1-353. [94] Telegram, Henderson to State, October 22, 1951, FRUS X, no. 116, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d116. [95] Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup, 49–59; CIA Briefing Note for Dulles, Undated, FRUS Retrospective, no. 159, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d159; Telegram, Henderson to State, February 25, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 161, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d161; Telegram, Henderson to State, February 26, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 162, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d162; Telegram, Henderson to State, February 27, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 165, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d165; Telegram, Henderson to State, February 28, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 166, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d166. [96] National Intelligence Estimate, November 13, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 143, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d143; National Intelligence Estimate, January 9, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 152, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d152. The quotes indicate passages of the original national intelligence estimate which were altered for the January draft. [97] Memo prepared in the Office of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, March 31, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 181, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d181; Memo, Allen Dulles to Eisenhower, March 1, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 169, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d169. [98] Memo of Discussion at the 135th Meeting of the National Security Council, March 4, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 171, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d171. [99] Memorandum of Discussion at the 136th Meeting of the National Security Council, March 11, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 176, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d176. [100] Foster Dulles to Henderson no. 2387, March 13, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511A, 888.2553/3-1353. [101] Memo for the Record, March 18, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 179, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d179; Progress Report to the National Security Council, March 20 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 180, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d180; Memo from Morgan to Allen Dulles, April 3, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 183, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d183. [102] Memo, Roosevelt to Allen Dulles, April 4 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 184, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d184. [103] Memo, Smith to Eisenhower, May 23, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 211, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d211. [104] Memo, Mattison to Henderson, May 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 206, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d206. [105] A meeting between Henderson and several CIA officials, including Kermit Roosevelt, on June 6 makes it clear that the ambassador was aware of the operation to remove Mossadegh. See, Memo of Conversation, June 6, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 216, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d216. Roosevelt’s memoir includes a meeting held on June 25 when high-level approval was given, but no record has been found elsewhere. See Roosevelt, Countercoup, 1–10. Two CIA histories mention authorization for TPAJAX was given by Secretary Dulles and Eisenhower on July 11, but no record has been found to confirm this. See, Editorial Note, FRUS Retrospective, no. 225, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d225. [106] Foster Dulles to Holmes, no. 5294, February 10, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/2-1053. [107] Allen Dulles, Memo for Secretary of State, February 18, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511,888.2553/2-1853. [108] Memorandum of Discussion at the 136th Meeting of the National Security Council, March 11, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 176, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d176. [109] Collier, Democracy and the Nature of American Influence in Iran, 120–21. [110] Holmes to Foster Dulles no. 4663, February 20, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/2-2053. [111] Note to Linder from PAD Deputy Administrator, February 4, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/2-453. [112] Holmes to Foster Dulles no. 4663, February 20, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/2-2053. [113] Foreign Office to Makins No. 716, February 18, 1953, UKNA FO 371/104612 EP 1531/158. [114] CIA Memo, Undated, FRUS Retrospective, no. 138, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d138; Gasiorowski, “U.S. Perceptions of the Tudeh Threat,” 30–32. [115] Information Report Prepared by the CIA, April 6, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 185, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d185. [116] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, November 5, 1952, FRUS X, no. 235, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d235; National Intelligence Estimate, January 9, 1953, FRUS X, no. 152, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d152. [117] Memo, Warne to Henderson, May 20, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 207, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d207. [118] Memo Prepared in the Office of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, March 31, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 181, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d181. [119] Memo of Conversation, December 3, 1952, National Security Archive, Briefing Book no. 601, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [120] Kashani helped organize crowds on August 19 that supported the coup against Mossadegh. There is as yet little evidence to suggest he was paid by the CIA or the British. See, “New Findings on Clerical Involvement in the 1953 Coup in Iran,” National Security Archive, Briefing Book 619, published March 7, 2018, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2018-03-07/new-findings-clerical-involvement-1953-coup-iran. [121] Koch, Zendebad Shah!, Appendix E, 118­–19, 120. This particular appendix detailing the scope of divisions within the CIA was not declassified until 2017. [122] Memo Prepared by the Directorate of Plans, CIA, March 3, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 170, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d170. [123] Memo from Allen Dulles to Smith, Attached letter Thornburg to Dulles, February 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 154, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d154. [124] Leavitt to Roosevelt, September 22, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 122, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d122. [125] Memo, Stutesman to Richards, Undated, FRUS Retrospective, no. 256, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d256; Nash to Cutler, Undated,  FRUS Retrospective, no. 299, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d299. [126] Memo of Conversation, June 2, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 215, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d215. [127] CIA Memo for the Record, August 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 282, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d282. [128] Memo of Conversation, May 16, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 73, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d73; CIA Memo for the Record, August 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 282, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d282. [129] Memo from Waller to Roosevelt, April 16, 1953, Attachment no. 1, “Factors Involved in the Overthrow of Mossadeq,” Undated, FRUS Retrospective, no. 192, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d192. [130] Dispatch from the Embassy in Iran to the State Department, May 20, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 208, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d208. [131] CIA Briefing Note, April 21, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 194, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d194. [132] Memo of Conversation, June 6, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 216, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d216. [133] Memo of Discussion at 160th Meeting of the National Security Council, August 27, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 304, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d304. [134] Manucher Farmanfarmaian, Blood and Oil: Memoirs of a Persian Prince (New York: Random House, 1997), 302–03; Henderson to Foster Dulles no. 949, October 22, 1953, RG 59 888.2553/10-2253; Henderson to Foster Dulles no. 958, October 23, 1953, RG 59 888.2553/10-2353. [135] Dulles to Henderson, September 23, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511A, 888.2553/9-2153. [136] Quoted in, Multinational Oil Corporations and US Foreign Policy, Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate (Washington: 1975), 68. [137] “The American Group’s Further Views: Basis for the Settlement with Anglo-Iranian,” British Petroleum Archive, Coventry UK [BP] 66232, March 16, 1954. [138] The legal means behind the “façade of nationalization” put in place by the 1954 agreement were complex. See, Heiss, “Creation of the Iranian Oil Consortium, 1953-1954,” 511­–35. [139] Statement of Policy by the National Security Council, January 2 1954, FRUS Retrospective, no. 355, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d355; Memo from the Office of National Estimates, March 29, 1954, FRUS Retrospective, no. 365, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d365. [140] National Intelligence Estimate, December 7, 1954, FRUS Retrospective, no. 375, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d375. [141] Foster Dulles to Henderson, October 28, 1954, FRUS X, no. 502, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d502. [142] The Battle for Iran, 1. [143] Wilber, Clandestine Service History, 1, Appendix B: “‘London’ Draft of TPAJAX Operational Plan.” [144] Quoted in Katouzian, “Oil Boycott,” 209. [145] Memo of Discussion at the 312th Meeting of the National Security Council, February 7, 1957, FRUS 1955-1957 Vol. XII, no. 391, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1955-57v12/d391. [146] Memo by Stutesman, May 8, 1953, Attachment, Henderson to State no. 4348, May 7, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511A, 888.2553/5-853. [147] Barnes to Henderson, Conversion of US Aid Dollars to Rials, September 21, 1953, USNA RG 469 Records of U.S. Foreign Aid Agencies, Iran Branch, Subject Files 1952–1959, Box 2; Barnes to Warne and Henderson, Utilization of Grant Aid Funds, October 14, 1953, USNA RG 469 Records of U.S. Foreign Aid Agencies, Iran Branch, Subject Files 1952–1959, Box 2. [148] Paper by Komer of the National Security Council Staff, October 20, 1962, FRUS 1961-1963 Vol. XVIII Near East 1962-1963, no. 85, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v18/d85. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) ) ) [3] => Array ( [acf_fc_layout] => wgt_newsletter [mc4wp] => 61 ) [4] => Array ( [acf_fc_layout] => wgt_textblock [main_title] => Latest Roundtables [intro_title] => What is a Roundtable? [intro_text] => Roundtables are where we get to hear from multiple experts on either a subject matter or a recently published book. These collections of essays allow for detailed debates and discussions from a variety of viewpoints so that we can deeply explore a given topic or book. ) [5] => Array ( [acf_fc_layout] => wgt_featured_roundtables [wgt_type] => auto [qty] => 3 [posts] => ) ) ) [queried_object_id] => 2 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.ID = 2 AND wp_posts.post_type = 'page' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2134 [post_author] => 49 [post_date] => 2019-11-21 13:14:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-21 18:14:29 [post_content] => Though we are loath to admit it, we all enjoy a good academic fight. The recent passing of two noted, brilliant, but problematic intellectual pugilists — the historian Norman Stone and literary critic Harold Bloom — has made me wonder whether such battles are the best way to advance scholarly arguments and expand our understanding of the world.[1] I was certainly trained in the arts of intellectual combat. As an undergraduate, I had a front row seat to what had been called “the great 3:1 pissing match,” an intense debate over whether NATO conventional forces could withstand an attack from larger Soviet forces, and how to assess the military balance on the central front in Europe (3:1 is the concentration of forces needed to break through a well-established front).[2] Reading Greg Brew’s new article, “The Collapse Narrative: The United States, Mohammed Mossadegh, and the Coup Decision of 1953,” brought back memories of my first academic clash. Twenty years ago, an article I published on the same issue received a skeptical review at H-Diplo.[3] I remember locking myself in my office for 48 hours, pulling out file after file of primary documents, and consulting with friends and mentors, all in order to craft the right response.[4] In the academic world I was raised in, a negative review had to be met — immediately and with great force — with a sharp rejoinder. The pursuit of knowledge was often framed as a bitter contest between competing theoretical schools, where no side could concede an inch to its opponents. The leading journal, International Security, devoted scores of pages in the 1990s to unending, contentious debates over which “ism” best explained how the world worked. Like other young scholars, I followed these arguments with rapt attention, rooting for my “ism” with the same irrational passion I have long devoted to my often emotionally crippling attachment to the Philadelphia Eagles. This model of intellectual battle was how I thought scholarship and knowledge advanced. I no longer see things this way. The pursuit of wisdom is not about scoring points or attempting to defeat adversaries. Most of the issues we wrestle with in international security, foreign policy, and grand strategy are complex, contested, and difficult, defying parsimonious explanations or generalizations. Most people — both in the academy and in the policy world — explore these issues in good faith. The correspondence in this issue of TNSR between Mark Bell, Julia McDonald, Brendan Green, and Austin Long is, to my mind, an exemplar of how such exchanges over scholarly differences should take place: in a serious but respectful manner. All four are terrific scholars. And the fact is, the issue they are dealing with — how to define and understand a nuclear crisis — is an epistemological nightmare. What is a nuclear crisis? Is it any contest involving a nuclear armed state, which is how some political scientist have coded it, or does the use of nuclear weapons have to be explicitly mentioned? Nuclear weapons have perverse and puzzling effects on state behavior, dampening crises that might have otherwise have emerged (the Long Peace!) yet creating dangerous situations — like the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis — that make no sense in a non-nuclear world. And the bomb is always present, hovering like a dark shadow over world politics, even when nuclear weapons appear irrelevant or no one is talking about them. I’ve made the point elsewhere that coding anything involving nuclear weapons is hard, since the “Ns” we really care about are nine (the number of nuclear weapons states), two (the times atomic bombs have been used in battle, both within days of each other in 1945), and, most importantly, zero (the number of thermonuclear wars). In the nuclear realm, certainty is elusive and most of our assertions are historical interpretations. I am not sure I am convinced by either approach. Yet, all four are to be commended for their efforts, as the issues involved could not be more important. From a social science perspective, small Ns are a nightmare. In the world of nuclear weapons, however, small Ns are a miracle of history and policy, and we should continue our rigorous intellectual examination of these questions in our unending quest to keep those numbers — nine, two, and zero — exactly where they are. The scholarly focus on competing theoretical frameworks can also blind us to how policymaking actually works and why it often fails. Philip Zelikow’s important new article, “To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Public Problem Solving,” identifies what he sees as a steep decline in the United States’ ability to conduct effective, competent statecraft. To be clear, Zelikow is not so much worried about which grand strategy or school of thought animates U.S. policy: Trendy academic debates over restraint, primacy, or off-shore balancing miss the point in the same way the battle of the “isms” did in the 1990s. His contention is that the skills needed to carry out successful policy should be thought of like engineering; an interactive process between assessment, design, and implementation. The good news is that these skills are teachable, and Zelikow’s urging that universities update their pedagogy accordingly should be heeded. Sometimes intellectual insight emerges that defies easy categorization by “isms” or schools of thought, yet this insight reveals a whole new way of understanding old problems. Andrew Rhodes’ “Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Making,” is such an article. Rhodes identifies an irony: The contemporary tools available to scholars and policymakers to understand geography are extraordinary. Yet, rarely do we understand or interrogate the mental maps to understand how space and geography affect international policy and world politics. Borrowing from Ernest May and Richard Neustadt’s famous Harvard Kennedy School class and book, Rhodes says we must learn to “think in space.” Jaehan Park makes the case that much of the international relations theory that developed after World War II was aspatial. Some of this had to do with the nuclear revolution, but much of it was driven by “emotional repugnance, as in the case of Morgenthau, or of ‘physics envy,’ in the academy in general.” Systems analysis and game theoretic models thus replaced traditional geopolitical models for understanding international relations.[5] Rhodes’ piece is difficult to categorize, either in terms of a school of thought or a methodology. It is eclectic and smart, precisely the kind of article that is difficult to place in traditional disciplinary journals but finds a most welcome home at TNSR. This is not to suggest we abandon sharp intellectual debate — quite the contrary. People may have important disagreements over how Todd Hall explains what is driving the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyo islands, or how David Betz and Hugo Stanford-Tuck portray urban warfare. Such contestation is to be welcomed, even encouraged, because the issues these scholars tackle matter enormously. The 1953 Mossadegh coup analyzed in Brew’s article, for example, plays an outsize role in both Tehran and Washington in explicitly and implicitly shaping contemporary U.S.-Iranian relations. It is important that we rigorously examine and test our assumptions about the origins and consequences of this critical event. There is a balance to be had. During the late 16th and early 17th century, scholarly debates at the world’s most prestigious universities, Cambridge and Oxford, were often shaped by arid, formal, and bitter theological and philosophical disputes with little connection to the larger world. At the same time, a new, unheralded institution emerged in London — Gresham College — which was later to become the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, or the Royal Society. Its members, pursuing science for the larger public good, helped transform our understanding of the physical world; including, most consequentially, the navigation of the sea. Oxford and Cambridge soon caught up and surpassed Gresham College. The world, however, should be grateful for its efforts to escape academic “inside baseball” and connect knowledge to larger social purposes. Perhaps the way our current academic system operates when it comes to studying foreign policy and international security could use a similar helpful nudge. I learned a lot sitting on the sidelines watching the great 3:1 pissing war. What I remember most as it unfolded in 1988 and 1989, however, was the strange allocation of intellectual resources. Intense, passionate, and even intemperate clashes over the military balance in central Europe were taking place just as the Cold War was ending and the Soviet Union unraveled. In just a few years, the great pissing war would be forgotten, the term “Fulda Gap” would largely disappear, and the participants would move on to other intellectual battles, with no one questioning whether this particular war of words had been especially fruitful. At TNSR, we enjoy and encourage sharp, big arguments. But any debate should be respectful and measured, while recognizing how hard it is to get definitive answers. Most vital of all, such debates should be important to people beyond the silos and ivory towers in which we often find ourselves. We hope you agree with us that this issue passes that test.   Francis J. Gavin is the chair of the editorial board of the Texas National Security Review. He is the Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and the inaugural director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University. His writings include Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958–1971 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004) and Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age (Cornell University Press, 2012). His latest book, Nuclear Weapons and American Grand Strategy, will be published by Brookings Institution Press later this year.   [post_title] => Wars with Words? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wars-with-words [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-09 11:08:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-09 16:08:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2134 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => In his introductory essay for Vol. 2, Iss. 4, Francis J. Gavin, the chair of TNSR's editorial board, discusses academic combat, debates over "isms," and how to truly advance knowledge through intellectual exchange. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => [style] => framing [type] => Framing [style_label] => The Foundation [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 2444 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 49 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Eric Homberger, “Harold Bloom, Obituary,” The Guardian, Oct. 15th, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/15/harold-bloom-obituary; Falstaff Agonistes, “Obituary: Harold Bloom Died on October 14th, The Economist, Oct. 24, 2019, https://www.economist.com/obituary/2019/10/24/obituary-harold-bloom-died-on-october-14th; Richard J. Evans, “Norman Stone Obituary,”  The Guardian June 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/25/norman-stone-obituary; Marcus Williamson, “Norman Stone: Outspoken Historian and Writer Whose Work Polarised Academic Opinion,” Independent, July 1, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/norman-stone-death-obituary-news-historian-dead-a8974476.html. [2] While there were several competing articles published on the subject, the gist of the dispute can be found here: John J. Mearsheimer, Barry R. Posen, Eliot A. Cohen, “Correspondence: Reassessing Net Assessment” International Security 13, No. 4 (Spring 1989): 128–79, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2538782. [3] Francis J. Gavin, “Politics, Power, and U.S. Policy in Iran, 1950-1953,” Journal of Cold War Studies 1, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 58–89, https://doi.org/10.1162/15203970152521890. [4] Francis J. Gavin, “Author’s Response,” H-Diplo, Oct. 8, 1999, https://issforum.org/reviews/PDF/Gavin-response.pdf. [5] Jaehan Park, “The Case for Geopolitics,” unpublished chapter from his forthcoming dissertation, The Age of Geopolitics: Japan, Russia, and the United States in the Far East, 1895-1905. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2052 [post_author] => 322 [post_date] => 2019-11-07 14:10:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-07 19:10:07 [post_content] =>

Only statesmen who can do their political and strategic thinking in terms of a round earth and a three-dimensional warfare can save their countries from being outmaneuvered on distant flanks.

            -Nicholas Spykman[1]

  Leaders who fail to think in space do so at their own peril. Nicholas Spykman published the above warning on the importance of mental maps in the context of World War II and the global challenges it presented, but his argument regarding the importance of spatial thinking to the nation’s security has never been more relevant. Thinking in space has long been an essential tool for thinking critically and communicating clearly when it comes to national security decision-making. The importance of mental maps and geographic communication are only growing in an era of new global challenges and renewed great power competition. Strategists and diplomats would benefit from gaining greater insight into the ways geographic information shapes national security decision-making. Moreover, understanding this impact can help produce recommendations for how American strategists can more effectively think in space. The tools and resources needed to elevate the spatial thinking of those charged with conducting America’s foreign policy and securing the national interest are all available. Unfortunately, American strategists are currently not making full use of geographic information, inhibiting the policymaking process as well as the government’s ability to communicate global policy. Despite national security decision-makers having unprecedented access to geographic information and tools with which to visualize the world, this is not the golden age of spatial thinking in national security policymaking. The challenges confronting the national security community require learning new ways of spatial thinking — and relearning old ones — on a global scale. The ability to “think in space” is more than mere navigation, map-reading, or geographic literacy. The basic assumptions laid out in Richard Neustadt and Ernest May’s classic study Thinking in Time, which explores how decision-makers can make better use of history, are germane to this type of thinking.[2] The first assumption is that busy decision-makers and their advisers are presented with a tremendous quantity and diversity of information every day. Thus, when it comes to thinking in space, such individuals can consume only a small amount of the geographic information available to them. Second, the pressures of time and limited information do not lend themselves to thinking critically or, in the case of thinking in space, questioning the geographic renderings they are presented with. Third, it is nevertheless possible to achieve marginal improvements — in this case, in the use of geographic information — and be, as Neustadt and May put it, “more reflective and systematic.”[3] This article seeks to advance the conversation about how geographic information shapes national security decisions. While many have agreed with Spykman that “geography matters” and although there is a substantial literature on cartography as a form of communication, there has been little analysis of how geography “matters” when it comes to contemporary national security decision-making.[4] This article begins by considering the position of national security decision-making at the intersection of the art and science of cartography and visualization, the unique cartographic consciousness of American strategists, and the various theories of geopolitics. These three elements are analogous to the three “images” Kenneth Waltz identified to discuss international relations: the individual, the national, and the global.[5] In the sections that follow, I discuss the interaction of technology and geography, arguing that the ability of decision-makers to think critically in space has not kept pace with the advances of technology. The article then turns to the structure and process for employing geography in U.S. national security institutions and the importance of thinking in space in order to tackle 21st-century national security challenges. Finally, the article closes with recommendations for making the national security workforce more effective and identifies areas for further research.

Three Levels of Thinking in Space

Echoing Waltz, thinking in space occurs at three levels of national security decision-making: the individual, the governmental or national, and the global. Examining each of these three levels in sequence allows a careful review of the existing research, historical context, and theoretical foundations of different aspects of thinking in space. These three perspectives also provide useful analogies and suggest frameworks for evaluating contemporary issues. At the most basic level, thinking in space is the act of an individual seeking to make sense of space when it is out of sight and perhaps beyond his or her direct experience. On the national level, American society, including its vast national security bureaucracy, has developed its own uniquely American national geographic consciousness, with implications for how Americans use geographic information. At the highest level, geographic conceptualization of the international system — that is, geopolitics — bounds and focuses diplomacy and national security decisions. The Individual Level: Capturing and Interpreting Space on a Flat Surface Individuals must interpret and describe their geographic context, whether exploring a new city as a tourist or formulating wartime strategy. It is, therefore, essential to understand fundamental issues of cognition and spatial reasoning, which have been an important part of human evolution and can vary widely among individuals and even cultures.[6] Some may possess Clausewitz’s inner eye — the military thinker wrote that spatial cognition is a commander’s “special gift.” His version of thinking in space was a “sense of locality” through which abstract space was “vividly present to the mind, imprinted like a picture, like a map, upon the brain, without fading or blurring in detail.”[7] Others, however, might be what the Japanese call “hōkō onchi,” someone who is “directionally tone-deaf.”[8] One famous study found unique patterns of activity and even structural changes in the hippocampus of the brains of London taxi drivers who mastered the encyclopedic knowledge required to pass the city-wide driver licensing exam.[9] Cartography is the way in which geographic information is communicated to and interpreted by the individual. The maps we study shape our spatial understanding, and the maps we make reflect deliberate choices to describe and simplify a complex reality. Lewis Carroll and Jorge Luis Borges both explored the idea of a fictional “perfect” map, on a one-to-one scale, which would be difficult to consult as “it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight.”[10] A perfect map is impossible, and thus every map is a simplified, two-dimensional abstraction of three-dimensional space. According to one provocative argument, “not only is it easy to lie with maps, it’s essential.”[11] These lies could be accidental misrepresentations or deliberate deceptions, but the best maps make intentional and transparent choices, trading some distortions for others, such as scale, projection, and symbolization. Thus, the mapmaker only tells “white lies” and the informed map reader knows which lies the map contains and why. Scale and projection are both practical cartographic “lies.” A wall-sized world map cannot contain the same detail as a state highway map, but both have their purpose. Projection allows the transfer of three dimensions to two but entails some distortions in the process: No projection can preserve true distance, area, and shape in the same map. For example, many map users are familiar with the Mercator projection’s heavy distortion of distance and area. While the unlikely hold of the Mercator projection on American education is an instructive history of addiction to lazy conventions, there is nothing technically inaccurate about the projection itself, which was a remarkable technological achievement that facilitated global trade and exploration.[12] The essential point is that mapmakers must select an appropriate projection and scale to facilitate accurate interpretation by the map user, and informed map users must understand the reasons for those choices.  

Image 1: Comparison of Six Different Common Projections, All Centered on Beijing (Maps by author, 2019)

Robinson: Compromise to reduce distortion of shape, area, and distance.

 

Goode Homosoline: Distortion reduced by interrupting the map in areas less important to the user.

 

Miller Cylindrical: Compromise that fits on a rectangular page, but distorts distance and area, particularly in high latitudes.

 

Orthographic: Realistic "globe" view, but shapes and area are distorted. Can only depict one hemisphere.

 

Miller Cylindrical: Compromise that fits on a rectangular page, but distorts distance and area, particularly in high latitudes.

 

Gnomonic: Every line is a great circle, showing direct paths between points, but area and shape are distorted. Can only depict one hemisphere.  

Mercator: Useful for ocean navigation, but significant distortion of distance and area. The example above includes polar regions which are typically cropped.

  There is no perfect answer when it comes to choosing a map projection, though there are many wrong ones. One map familiar to many in the U.S. military is “The World with Commanders’ Areas of Responsibility,” which uses the Miller Cylindrical projection to delineate the regional combatant commands under the Unified Command Plan. The standard world wall map produced for the Department of Defense also uses the Miller projection, which has the advantage of being rectangular and fitting neatly onto a sheet or wall, but is only slightly less distorted than the Mercator projection in terms of high latitudes.[13] The Miller projection is inappropriate, for example, for a planner in the Pacific seeking to understand or convey the tyranny of distance in that theater. When distance is the central issue to a planning team, an equidistant projection, of which there are many kinds, is most appropriate. However, American officials rarely use equidistant projections, possibly because they look unfamiliar and distort shape while preserving distance. When comparing the size of two areas or mapping the distribution of data, such as population density, an equal-area projection is most appropriate and accurate. When mapping the entire world onto a single sheet or wall, a “compromise” projection provides a balance that accepts, but minimizes, distortions to the distance, area, and shape.[14] The creator of one of the best compromise projections, Arthur H. Robinson, called for map creators to heed principles of graphic design just as an author “must employ words with due regard for many important structural elements of the written language, such as grammar, syntax, and spelling.”[15]  

 

Image 2: The Miller Cylindrical projection (top) is common to many Department of Defense wall maps. The Two-Point Equidistant projection (bottom), shows true distances to Honolulu and Taipei. Both maps are at the scale of 1:65,000,000, and show the Great Circle paths among Taipei, Honolulu, Fairbanks, Darwin, and San Francisco. The dashed rings show 2000-kilometer ranges around these cities. Maps by author, 2019.

  Symbolization is another area in which cartographers must tell necessary “lies.” To make a road, river, or small island visible on a map, the cartographer often must make it far wider or larger than it actually is at that scale. Abstract symbolization provides a powerful language through which cartographers can communicate, but can also easily become a source of inadvertent blunders or deliberate deception. The design choices that cartographers make significantly impact the ways in which individuals will perceive geographic information. Even if scale and projection are appropriately and effectively used, the employment of line, color, information density, text labels, and symbols bear on accuracy and ease of interpretation. Because maps can feature centrally in national security decision-making, this is particularly important to bear in mind. The National Level: Development of American Cartographic Consciousness Zooming out from the individual to the national level, one can see how a unique American cartographic consciousness has evolved with the nation, shaping the way that Americans — including national security decision-makers — view the world. Every nation, and its government, has its own relationship with maps. The national map is a critical dimension of national identity and governments have a vested interest in the regular, public declaration of the extent of their sovereignty. Kosovo and Cyprus, for example, put the outline of their borders on their national flags. America’s cartographic consciousness developed over several principal phases. Spatial thinking may have had an early hold on the national psyche in a nation founded by traders and explorers — George Washington himself had an early career as a surveyor before his military and political life. The colonial era was marked by exploration, colonization, and conquest of the interior, after which national independence marked an inflection point as the young republic sought to craft its own geographic identity.[16] Before and after independence, there was a grand spatial dimension to America’s commitment to territorial expansion. This was evident in the colonial era but grew rapidly in the years after independence, most notably with the Louisiana Purchase and the Jefferson administration’s sponsorship of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Susan Schulten, a leading scholar of the role of cartography in American society, highlights important links between geographic education and the development of the early republic. Emma Hart Willard, a prominent educator of the period, explicitly connected the teaching of geography with national development and promotion of an American identity.[17] The Civil War represented a watershed moment in popular mapping, as newspapers published battle maps and Americans both north and south followed the progress of the war. Some of the first American maps to shade or color code the different states (i.e., choropleth maps) distinguished slave and free states, while the Lincoln administration closely studied maps detailing the distribution of slave populations in the South. The 1874 publication of the Statistical Atlas of the United States, charting data from the 1870 census, opened a new era of the American government using cartographic data in support of policymaking.[18] This period also saw growing institutional commitment to the study and advancement of geography, as seen in the establishment of the American Geographical Society in 1851 and the National Geographic Society in 1888. It was also at this time, in 1878, that Harvard appointed its first geography professor.  

Image 3: Population density, as depicted in the Statistical Atlas of the United States for 1870. Courtesy of the U.S. Census Department

  At the end of the 19th century, a truly outward and international perspective to America’s cartographic consciousness began to emerge. The Spanish-American War, the “Great White Fleet,” and Alfred Thayer Mahan’s writings on global sea power shifted America’s cartographic consciousness to a maritime and international focus. The acquisition of Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines forced an expansion of the national map that included the vast scale of trans-Pacific distances. And although Mahan did not achieve the same popular acclaim in his own country that he enjoyed in Europe, he had a clear impact on key leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, who, as assistant secretary of the Navy and later as president promoted the development of the United States into a global naval power.[19] Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wartime leadership demonstrated the value of thinking in space: He had an innate spatial sense that strengthened his critical thinking and he employed maps in communicating with his administration. But, in addition to creating a White House map room and attaching hand-annotated maps to memoranda, Roosevelt employed geography to explain national strategy to the public, most famously in his Feb. 23, 1942, radio address, for which newspapers nationwide printed accompanying world maps. Roosevelt directly contributed to a new national consciousness of strategic issues in World War II that Alan Henrikson called a “revolution…in the way Americans visually imagined the earth and represented it cartographically.”[20] The career of cartographer Richard Edes Harrison exemplified this revolution.[21] In the 1930s, Harrison began producing maps emphasizing nontraditional projections and perspectives — particularly orthographic projections, which provide a realistic “globe” view, but in which shapes and areas are distorted and only one hemisphere is viewable at a time. He sacrificed convention to enable visualizations that better reflect the reality that the world is three-dimensional than do most flat, two-dimensional maps.[22] Harrison’s 1944 Look at the World: The Fortune Atlas for World Strategy includes dozens of original maps of war zones from multiple perspectives and advances several arguments about how different nations’ unique spatial perceptions influenced the making of good or bad strategy. Harrison made an impassioned plea for the importance of “geographical sense” to Americans who had been forced by the war from “a period of cartographic lethargy.”[23] He also attacked the “psychological shackles of conventional maps” that prevent Americans from effectively conceptualizing geographic challenges, and held particular disdain for the “invariable placing of North at the top [as] geographical cant in its most pernicious form.”[24] The popular atlases and magazine maps of World War II created the defining spatial conception of global threats facing America — Henrikson called this new global awareness “air-age globalism” — that continued into the early years of the Cold War.[25] The threat of nuclear attack by strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles brought new military challenges into sharper focus, such as the strategic value of the Arctic. Maps with azimuthal equidistant projections centered on the North Pole became essential to understanding the threat axis. Those emphasizing the cartographic perspective of air-age globalists reached their peak with Alexander de Seversky whose maps depicted the Arctic as the “area of decision” situated most directly between the industrial heartlands of the United States and Soviet Union.[26] [quote id="1"] Although remarkable technical achievements in cartography continued throughout the Cold War, geography’s place in academia did not keep pace. Indeed, despite the demand for geography skills during World War II, Harvard eliminated its geography department in 1948. Neil Smith argues that Harvard’s decision marked a key moment in an “academic war over the field of geography,” in which the institutionally weak discipline faced challenges in establishing itself as a true science, something more than a set of technical skills and distinct from the other physical and social sciences.[27] Personal and academic rivalries also played a role in the Harvard affair, as did McCarthyite accusations that university geography departments were a “haven for socialists.”[28] Also in decline from a relative high point during World War II was the effectiveness of geographic discourse between national leaders and the public, which did not carry forward to Vietnam. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote late in life that Indochina had been effectively “terra incognita” for the Kennedy-Johnson national security team.[29] But the United States employed ample cartographic resources in support of combat and economic development efforts in Vietnam. Furthermore, at various stages of America’s military involvement in Vietnam, President John F. Kennedy, McNamara, and President Richard Nixon all used maps in televised press conferences on the Vietnam War, but the effect was somehow less compelling than Roosevelt's radio address. Johnson, for his part, studied a terrain model of Khe Sanh as he directed his advisers to avoid a repeat of Dien Bien Phu, perhaps reflecting the broader tendency to fixate on operational and tactical situations, rather than the strategic level of war in that conflict.[30] Over the course of the Cold War, the associated cartographic imagery became more ideological than geostrategic, reflecting the global contest for influence between the two superpowers.[31] The Cold War map simplistically reduced the world (on a Mercator projection) to color-coded countries aligned to either the United States or the Soviet Union. It is not yet clear how to describe the American cartographic consciousness in the post-Cold War or post-9/11 world. The low level of geographic literacy among Americans in an age of globalization is a popular and longstanding complaint.[32] In one recent study, conducted at a time of high tension on the Korean peninsula, only 36 percent of American respondents could correctly identify North Korea on a map, while only 16 percent of Americans could correctly locate Ukraine in a similar 2014 study.[33] But these results are nothing new: In December 1950, with the Korean peninsula in crisis, the New York Times front page highlighted the poor results of a survey on geographic education in American schools and colleges.[34] Indeed, for all of the geopolitical turbulence of recent decades, America’s cartographic consciousness and the way that the American national security apparatus functions have been remarkably consistent since the end of the Cold War. The International Level: The Theory and Context of Geopolitics At the international level, geographic context and literacy are closely related to how decision-makers perceive the structure of the international system and the nature of the powers that define it. Saul Bernard Cohen defines modern geopolitics as the “scholarly analysis of the geographical factors underlying international relations and guiding political interactions.”[35] Geopolitics shapes the way national leaders view the outside world and how they make national security decisions. Just as individuals may not comprehend the distortions of the map they are looking at and Americans may not reflect on the uniqueness of their own cartographic perspective, national leaders may not realize it when they invoke geopolitical theories or engage in some of the great debates of geopolitics. In other words, policymakers may not be interested in geopolitics, but geopolitics is interested in them. The principal early proponent of geopolitical thought was Halford Mackinder, who elaborated the concept of a Eurasian “heartland,” control of which determined global power. Mackinder’s career overlapped with Mahan’s, but they advanced very different arguments about where the seat of global power rested. Mackinder, writing at a time when Mahan’s theories of sea power had reached peak popularity, argued that the true pivot of world power was on land, and that advances in the technologies of land power diminished the importance of maritime trade and naval power.[36] However, Mahan the historian and Mackinder the geographer shared a common geographical model and common assumptions about the role of military power and conflict in determining a nation’s status in the international system.[37] This enduring understanding of a world in which regional centers of power compete within a closed system has profoundly influenced how strategists conceive of global space. Nicholas Spykman fused Mahan and Mackinder in his analysis of great power competition for regional and global influence.[38] Spykman accepted much of Mackinder’s geographic conceptualization, but argued that the critical geostrategic region was not the Eurasian heartland but the coastal “Rimland” that surrounds Eurasia, an area that Mackinder referred to as the “inner or marginal crescent.”[39] According to Spykman, a strong power like the United States should, therefore, support buffer states (i.e., in the Rimland) and fight its enemies abroad, as only weak states fight defensively at their own borders or within their own territory. Spykman also studied the difference between how land powers and sea powers think in space, writing in 1938 that “[a] land power thinks in terms of continuous surfaces surrounding a central point of control, while a sea power thinks in terms of points and connecting lines dominating an immense territory.”[40] Spykman perceived that the unpopularity of foreign engagement created a natural cycle among great powers — especially the United States — of war, isolation, alliance, and renewed war. Furthermore, Spykman explicitly connected the structure of the international system to domestic and foreign policy, calling the tension between interventionism and isolationism “the oldest issue in American foreign policy.”[41] [quote id="2"] Spykman’s perspective helped shape policy throughout the Cold war, but the politics and structure of the immediate post-Cold War world initially appeared dramatically different than the preceding centuries of great power competition and traditional geopolitics. However, in his 2012 book, The Revenge of Geography, Robert Kaplan highlighted the enduring importance of geopolitics following the end of the Cold War. Not only does he begin his first chapter with an argument for “recover[ing] our sense of geography” that was lost with the end of the Cold War, but he devotes a full chapter to the 21st-century importance of Spykman’s Rimland thesis.[42] More recently, Jakub Grygiel updated Spykman’s thinking for the new century. Grygiel’s 2017 book, The Unquiet Frontier, co-authored by Wess Mitchell, makes a geopolitical argument for resisting the lure of isolationism and sustaining American engagement abroad to counter Chinese and Russian probing for weak points in America’s international position.[43] The context and theory of geopolitics are not merely academic. Contemporary strategists debate whether Mahan or Mackinder holds more sway in guiding China’s rise. The answers to that debate hold important implications for how America should compete with China over the long term.[44] The thinking of individuals across the American foreign policy establishment, from realists to liberal internationalists, has been firmly rooted in Spykman’s concept of forward engagement for the better part of a century. Spykman also discussed the possibility that the Asian littorals might one day “be controlled not by British, American, or Japanese sea power but by Chinese air power.”[45] He would doubtless be amazed at the geographic tools — from GPS to Google Earth — available to the average person and the geospatial support provided to American national security decision-makers, but at the same time dismayed at their inability to “do their thinking in terms of a round earth and three-dimensional warfare.”[46] In order to critically analyze national security decision-making, it is essential have a greater awareness of how thinking in space takes place on the individual, national, and international levels. These national security decisions occur within a specific context on all three levels, often in ways decision-makers may not be fully conscious of. As Robert Jervis writes, “the roots of many important disputes about policies lie in differing perceptions. And in the frequent cases when the actors do not realize this, they will misunderstand their disagreement and engage in a debate that is unenlightening.”[47] The preceding theoretical and historical foundation therefore serves as the basis for the following portion of this article, which focuses on the practical considerations of how well the national security establishment thinks in space and how it might improve.

The Use of Geography in National Security Institutions

There is little data on how exactly government institutions employ the vast amounts of geographic data and finished cartographic products created by the U.S. government. Public strategy documents, congressional testimony, and some declassified products offer the public a small but limited view of the frequency with which cartography is utilized in discussions on issues of defense and foreign policy and the quality of such cartography. The extent to which officials employ cartography and visualization to explain a decision is relevant, and potentially a meaningful proxy, to how much “thinking in space” went into that decision. Thinking in space is not just useful during the decision-making process itself. It is also central to effectively communicating how a given decision will be implemented. Using text and cartography together in public documents can help explain a national security issue to the public more effectively, as well as guide the execution of policy at the lower levels of government.[48] It is notable that neither the 2017 National Security Strategy nor the 2018 National Defense Strategy includes any maps.[49] Similarly, the National Defense Strategy Commission’s 2018 assessment of the National Defense Strategy, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the Navy’s 2018 Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, and the 2017 Defense Posture Statement, all lack maps, although they were laid out by professional graphic designers and include other visual aids, such as photographs and charts.[50] Despite their purpose being to explain global strategy, these documents use maps with less frequency than a typical issue of the Economist. By contrast, the annual report to Congress titled, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” mandated since 2000, includes 14 maps in its 2018 edition, including a diverse set of scales and projections.[51] Although released by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, it is important to note this report is fundamentally an intelligence product and is largely compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Similarly, the Defense Department’s 2019 Missile Defense Review includes a few small and informative maps but is also produced by the intelligence community.[52] The lack of maps in the majority of these documents does not mean that cartography and spatial thinking played no role in their development and presentation or the implementation of the policies they prescribe. For example, those who developed the 2018 National Defense Strategy consulted maps while considering new operating concepts, testing these concepts in war games, and presenting National Defense Strategy themes to key stakeholders.[53] However, these cartographic efforts were ad hoc and largely incidental to the process of developing and implementing the strategy. Whether considering grand strategy, military capability, national cartographic consciousness, or individual spatial cognition, to exclude geographic content fails to make use of a valuable tool. Geographic expertise and resources are scattered widely and inconsistently across the national security enterprise, but many organizations have some sort of department that produces cartographic or geospatial products, often in conjunction with other graphic design services. That some parts of the government employ geography in their public messaging and others do not could reflect deliberate choices about the most appropriate or most effective ways to make an argument. More likely, however, is that the differences are the result of widely varying cartographic capabilities across the government, unevenly distributed geospatial resources, and long-unquestioned institutional processes. [quote id="3"] The National Security Council, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff would all benefit from a much greater ability to produce original geographic content in house. These organizations are among the most influential in the interagency policymaking process — indeed the National Security Council is its central coordinator — and yet they lack their own cartography capabilities. Policymakers at the National Security Council, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff may be avid consumers of maps, and they all certainly have access to quality geographic products through the intelligence community. However, that this capability has been almost exclusively allocated to the intelligence community has important implications. The intelligence community, by nature and by design, resides primarily in a classified domain, which allows it to take the sensitive information it collects and present it through geospatial visualizations. But working with classified systems can also hinder the employment of the full range of software and data that is available, as security policies can slow the adoption of commercial or open-source software suites and data repositories. In recent years, many successful geography applications have emerged from open-source software models that emphasize crowd-sourced development and collection of data by a wide array of volunteers — as in the case of OpenStreetMap — but government agencies prefer traditional models of software development and data collection from established corporations.[54] A more subtle challenge arises from the relationship between the intelligence community and policymakers, in which intelligence seeks policy relevance but avoids making policy prescriptions. High standards of security and objective independence from crafting policy are vital principles within the intelligence community, but when it is the only one with cartographic resources, these firebreaks can also serve to keep the best maps and most compelling geographic communication out of the hands of decision-makers. The government, with some exceptions, has generally treated geography and cartography as a service to be provided to customers, rather than as a core capability for decision-makers. That is, cartography is a support function assigned to technical specialists, rather than a skill, like effective writing, to be prized by policy advisers or senior officials. This has been particularly true in the military, which has considered mapmaking an enlisted function and not a skill set needed in the officer corps. The military has diminished even the enlisted focus on cartography through the elimination of certain specialties or their merger with other disciplines.[55] Government organizations have also been hampered in geostrategic thinking by the shift from general and thematic cartography to specialized geospatial intelligence. A subtle difference is apparent in the different treatment of geography at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the CIA. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s doctrinal definition of geospatial intelligence is that it “consists of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information,” emphasizing imagery and data over cartography.[56] By contrast, the CIA’s cartography center emphasizes cartography as a form of communication “to present the information visually in creative and effective ways for maximum understanding.”[57] This focus on visual communication may be narrower, more traditional, and less technical, but it is probably more consistent with promoting thinking in space.

Visualizing and Communicating the Geography of Coming Challenges

The contemporary environment and the threats that loom on the horizon present new challenges, and a few opportunities, for thinking in space. The American national security enterprise has a chance to regain the skills it has lost. Now is a time when those charged with thinking in space in defense of the nation can gain a new and more sophisticated understanding of the geographic information they consume, the limits of their own expertise in using it, and ways to cope with ambiguity. Although lacking any maps, as noted above, the 2018 National Defense Strategy uses spatial language to argue for a reappraisal of the nation’s strategic position. The strategy document argues that “every domain is contested—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace,” that battles are conducted “at increasing speed and reach,” and that “the homeland is no longer a sanctuary.”[58] By naming the leading competitors or pacing threats, the language of the National Defense Strategy allows for more geographic clarity than similar previous documents that referred only generically to capabilities or regions. Stating explicitly that China, followed by Russia, should be the strategic focus of the U.S. military, puts a geographic frame on planning discussions. Chinese military modernization has reintroduced old lessons about the tremendous expanse of the Pacific theater. Preparing for a high-end conflict that emphasizes the air and maritime domains might require relearning the cartography of the air-age globalism that took hold in the 1940s. Invoking the “tyranny of distance” has become a standard talking point for officials highlighting the difficulties of rapid response and the importance of forward deployment and foreign partnerships in the Pacific. But there is insufficient geographic content to support these points beyond rudimentary — and often inaccurate — range rings. If China is the primary concern for force planners, they must employ better mental and physical maps of the Pacific. Well-articulated spatial content, with geographic arguments supported by cartographic communication, would help strategists present a more effective case to their audience. The true implications of the tyranny of distance and the key geographic relationships of the Pacific theater need to be fully understood by strategists and clearly argued before the national leadership, the American people, and key U.S. allies.[59] In particular, there are three domains that are crucial when it comes to constructing both mental and actual maps if decision-makers want to be prepared for coming challenges. Space, cyberspace, and the undersea environment are essential strategic domains whose physical infrastructure is difficult to visualize spatially. Very few humans have navigated a submarine or charted the motion of a spacecraft and while cyberspace has become a part of ordinary life, few can explain the physical infrastructure of the internet. Leading Chinese strategists have emphasized that these domains are critical, calling space and cyber the new “commanding heights” of military capability that could “determine the outcome of future wars.”[60] Making smart investments to prepare for future conflict and compete with peer adversaries in these domains requires the commitment of a host of political, technological, and financial resources. These weighty national security decisions require critical analysis of complex data. Thinking in space must play a part in these decisions, even if spatial visualization proves difficult. Space Preparing for, deterring, and executing operations in the space domain requires decision-makers to think spatially. Outer space may be far from the earth’s surface where map coordinates are plotted, but it remains fundamentally spatial. Thus, we can analyze and visualize space in some of the same ways we approach traditional geographic problems. The coordinates that describe the three-dimensional position of a satellite are no different than those of an airplane, except that they change much more rapidly, the atmosphere is not a factor, and the distances are so great that communication delays are a more important factor, even at the speed of light. [quote id="6"] American policymakers seeking to accurately envision the spatial context of objects above the Karman Line probably fare little better than American high school students trying to locate Iraq on a world map. Supporting decision-makers in analyzing this domain will require a mix of traditional and unconventional geospatial materials. There is not a widely available body of accessible reference material for visualizing earth orbits. The established standard, Systems Tool Kit (formerly known as Satellite Tool Kit) contains a powerful visualization engine, but, as with many Geographic Information Systems suites, it is designed for experts, not generalists, in order to analyze complicated physics problems.[61] Outside of science education posters, there are few wall charts or reference atlases of various satellite constellations. Such charts — unclassified base maps of space — do not yet adorn the walls of conference rooms in which policymakers discuss investing in this vital domain. In part, the nature of orbitology makes a static or “flat” reference product on paper problematic, thus, animation or interactive displays may foster more understanding. Although creating, transporting, and displaying a digital interactive product has major practical limitations, it would almost certainly be more accurate and effective than static products, in part because objects in space move very fast and static maps cannot accurately portray location in time.[62] Cyberspace Visualizing cyberspace in recent years has been an interesting artistic endeavor, but practical mapping of the domain in support of national security decision-making remains undeveloped. Gaining a better understanding of the overlap between physical and virtual domains has become vitally important for senior officials. There have been a variety of official and unofficial efforts to generate comprehensive, global maps of internet traffic and devices, and books like The Atlas of Cyberspace have compiled different conceptual visualizations.[63] These efforts highlight that the private sector dominates both the visualization and the management of the physical infrastructure that supports internet traffic,[64] while private companies play an increasingly central role in discovering and responding to cyber attacks. They also own and manage the majority of the key information for visualizing the internet, such as charts of cables and switches and raw data on the paths through which internet traffic is routed. [65] One author found the researchers from a leading visualization firm, TeleGeography, to be part of a “small global fraternity that knows the geography of the internet” and has robust mental maps of the geographic movement of traffic on the internet’s physical cables.[66] Undersea The undersea domain has captured less attention in the popular press than space and cyberspace, but it is nevertheless a vital strategic domain that challenges the geographic thinking of national security leaders. In contrast to the cyber and space domains, shortfalls in thinking about undersea space derive more from disinterest and lack of imagination than technical or bureaucratic challenges. Anti-submarine warfare was a high priority in World War II, but submarine operations of that era were only partially an undersea contest. Competing for mastery of the undersea domain reached its height in the Cold War ocean surveillance networks and reliance on submarine-launched ballistic missiles for strategic deterrence. Such issues of military use of the undersea domain have become prominent again, but technology has also dramatically increased the commercial importance of the undersea environment. The overwhelming majority of global communication rides on seabed fiber-optic cables and the growing feasibility of extracting seabed resources requires an enhanced understanding of the undersea geography that determines competing claims and the accessibility of those resources. These challenges raise the importance of making national security leaders familiar with the shape and science of the undersea world. Those who develop and implement national strategy will have to become more spatially conversant in presenting and considering the strategic issues of the undersea domain.

Challenges to Thinking in Space

Getting policymakers and military leaders to think in space more effectively is easier said than done. There are a number of challenges to enhancing geographic skills — some of these challenges are more cognitive and abstract, while others are more practical and procedural. But they must be described so that they can be understood and overcome. As discussed above, technology has made possible some remarkable uses of geography in the digital age, but technology is a double-edged sword that creates tradeoffs for the decision-maker relying on a digital reference or navigational aid. Similarly, there are tradeoffs in the specific ways that national security organizations use geographic information, with implications for the quality and efficiency of the decisions these groups make. Confronting the nature of these tradeoffs suggests national security decision-makers would benefit from adapting their tools and processes to improve their ability to think in space. The Effects of Technology on Thinking in Space in the 21st Century The idea that technology impacts the spatial thinking of its users is not a new one. In 1913, Gerard Stanley Lee wrote that “the telephone changes the structure of the brain. Men live in wider distances, and think in larger figures, and become eligible to nobler and wider motives.”[67] A growing body of research has examined the effects of technology on spatial thinking as digital systems replace analog techniques in cartography and navigation and indicates that technology can both aid and hinder thinking in space. Geographic information systems technology encompasses the collection, manipulation, analysis, and display of increasingly rich data sets, empowered by global navigation systems, the storage of big data collected in the field, space-based imaging sensors, and the computing power to process it all. This technology has become an essential tool for an ever-broadening set of organizations, from businesses seeking more efficient supply chains to local governments managing public services and utilities and nongovernmental organizations conducting disaster relief. The essential skills for developing geographic tools and manipulating geographic information, i.e., geographic information systems technology, has become much more an exercise in computer programming and development of user interfaces than of traditional cartography. Scientists studying the interface between human cognition and digital maps discuss “navigational efficiency,” suggesting the ideal geospatial tool would reach maximum efficiency by requiring no geographic knowledge or critical thinking.[68] [quote id="4"] Digital navigation is the ubiquitous and essential means by which many people around the world engage with the mapped environment. But the ease of use and narrow purpose of navigational tools and digital map applications have also led to what researchers identify as “spatial cognitive deskilling” — people who use certain tools and interfaces actually acquire less spatial knowledge than they otherwise would.[69] A visual display that demands less skill of the user and strips away context can have clear benefits. Henry Grabar notes this is perhaps most evident in the way that a transit diagram, technically a “cartogram” rather than a map, allows a tourist to navigate the New York subway or London Underground. However, Grabar also points out that such navigational tools abandon geographic accuracy and provide little to no context of the surrounding environment. Having “small screens and egocentric perspectives, mobile navigation systems function like blinders, reducing the landscape to the width of a street. They narrow the world.”[70] Indeed, a broader view of the world provides a reminder of the tendency for technology to narrow the perspective by abandoning the context. A remarkable 2018 New York Times map of every structure in the United States, produced in both paper and online interactive forms, prompted Harvard’s Susan Crawford to remark on how modern technology denies individuals important spatial context, saying that “we lose what’s fascinating about a place by not having this bigger picture.”[71] Small navigational displays in cars replicate a capability that has been available in military cockpits for decades. Various studies have examined how to optimize displays for tactical situational awareness.[72] Recent studies of U.S. Navy doctrine have praised the development, circa 1943, of the shipboard Combat Information Center, which allows operational commanders to think spatially with new sensors (radar), new displays (the Plan Position Indicator scope), and networked communications (radio).[73] For all of the advances of integrated sensors and communications in modern military systems, some contemporary military officers have noted issues with spatial cognitive de-skilling within the officer corps due to using these digital tools in place of analog processes and paper charts. Moreover, digital screens limit the size and resolution of the map display and the hardware and software that integrate sensors, processors, databases, and displays require significant maintenance. The Navy now relies on digital charts that can be updated more readily than paper charts, but the system needs constant information technology support for the maintenance and integration of various electronic components. Developing skilled navigators necessitates specialized training with analog and digital systems alike. Digital systems require their users to be especially conscious of the quality and sources of the data displayed.[74] One study of flight skills among pilots found that certain basic skills were declining due to reliance on advanced instruments and that pilots consistently overestimated their level of skill in the event of losing advanced systems.[75] One critique of the Army’s digital systems, under the Command Post of the Future, is that these new tools are not expedient for field use since they have maintenance requirements that are too steep for deployment in austere environments. Moreover, they can introduce as much noise as signal into a geographic display because of a bias toward the most-accessible data layers displayed on a base map (such as auto-generated vehicle locations) rather than the most important data. Some officers, therefore, find digital systems to be less effective than analog alternatives for conveying clear spatial information among higher- and lower-echelon commanders.[76] Dealing with Ambiguity: Dangers of Dependence and Excessive Trust Despite the trend in spatial de-skilling, technology has deepened our addiction to certain types of geographic information and changed the way we consume it — with a less critical eye and without context. But what would happen if that technology was suddenly unavailable? Unexpectedly being denied the availability, quality, and accuracy of geographic information that technology currently provides will impair decision-making at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. There is a need for greater research on what happens when strategic decision-makers, conditioned to highly accurate and unambiguous spatial information, are suddenly denied that information or presented a deliberately deceptive spatial image. The increasing sophistication and broader proliferation of technology that is shaping strategic situational awareness present new challenges to decision-makers. Rebecca Hersman and Bernadette Stadler argue that many of the core concepts of crisis management were developed during the Cold War; however, decision-makers have not kept pace with changes in technology since 1990.[77] Furthermore, they argue the “emerging strategic situational awareness environment” will require policymakers to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the technology through which they visualize and maintain awareness of complex security challenges. Natural fog and friction are reason enough to build cognitive tools for dealing with ambiguous geographic information. However, an adversary presenting deliberately deceptive geographical information creates crucial challenges for decision-makers. Sharp power and information warfare are on the rise, and the United States has proven itself ill-prepared to deal with the deception and disinformation campaigns at which an adversary like Russia excels. Although geographic information has not yet been tampered with in the same way as other forms of communication, cartography will not be spared from the phenomenon of “deepfakes” and will inevitably be involved in what a recent RAND study called “truth decay.”[78] Following the Gulf War, discussions about navigation warfare began to shift toward the operational impacts of protecting and attacking a combatant’s positioning, navigation, and timing  systems on weapons guidance, command and control, and a variety of other operational functions.[79] But little attention has been paid to the possibility of a systemic attack that, beyond crippling GPS and communications networks, fundamentally degrades or denies the ability of the senior leadership to make geographically informed decisions. The 2002 Millennium Challenge exercise highlighted just how poorly U.S. military commanders fare at processing a highly dynamic common operating picture, particularly when a deceptive foe pollutes that picture with false information.[80] It is increasingly easy to envision a conflict in which the national command authority will have to issue new strategic guidance with no confidence in its knowledge of enemy and friendly positions and might have to act counter to a geographic picture it suspects of being deceptive. The geographic information that supports and empowers national security decisions can be both part of the problem and part of the solution in future challenges. Cartography has always been an art that manages the ambiguity of the geographic environment and, when used carefully and effectively, can serve as an essential heuristic to aid strategic decisions even in an uncertain environment. However, to improve performance in these decisions, senior leaders in the U.S. national security community would benefit from moving away from what Gary Klein calls an “impoverished mental model” to a “rich mental model” in their consumption and use of geographic information.[81] Practical Challenges of Incorporating Geography into National Security Institutions Some of the challenges to thinking in space are rather practical. As discussed above, cartography skills are in surprisingly short supply within the Department of Defense. A broad survey of the distribution of Defense Department cartographic resources would help leadership study the possibility of equipping policy offices and planning staffs with some of the capabilities currently found only in the intelligence community. Cartographic consultants could embed within planning teams, not to give them reference material, but to help add quality geographic content to documents and presentations. However, even if staff officers and decision-makers were able to create and edit better maps, they would still face practical challenges in sharing and displaying them. Cartographers have always published maps in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but the contemporary national security community is narrowly limited to the letter-size sheets that are easily reproduced and included in briefing books. Amateur and professional cartographers alike must struggle with the tradeoff of creating the most compelling and accurate product possible while recognizing that the limitations of printers and formatting may require a black-and-white image in “portrait” orientation. The U.S. military’s devotion to “slideware” predates the arrival of Microsoft PowerPoint, but the dangers of the current PowerPoint addiction, which is antithetical to critical thinking, are well established in formal and informal critiques, such as the “Creed of the PowerPoint Ranger.”[82] PowerPoint has some advantages when it comes to displaying maps and other geospatial information, providing a common format and platform for easy sharing of files by email. PowerPoint allows the easy import and annotation of base maps, empowering any user to attempt thematic cartography by layering crude symbols, but it is very much a double-edged sword. The ease of manipulating images and adding new symbols can obscure or misuse the underlying geographic data. PowerPoint itself, and the broader system of storing, transmitting, and displaying its files, presents important limitations similar to those of printer paper and briefing books. PowerPoint locks in a specific aspect ratio that is perfect for a map of North Dakota, but not for countries like Vietnam or Chile, which have a major north-south extent (unless, of course, one follows Harrison’s advice to abandon the arbitrary “north up” convention). Because file sizes grow quickly with high-resolution images — such as a quality map — the imperative quickly becomes reducing the resolution of embedded images, which in effect deliberately reduces the quality of a map. To support necessarily large files of quality geographic products, information technology departments should seek better integration with and adoption of alternatives to email for simple and secure transfer. [quote id="5"] Digital displays have advantages in that they cheaply and easily display an array of dynamic content and can even support animation. A very early glimmer of how such technology might prove useful to support national security goals appeared in the use of animated terrain models through a program called PowerScene during the 1995 negotiations for the Dayton Accord.[83] U.S. officials, led by Richard Holbrooke, reportedly used PowerScene to great effect with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to demonstrate the advantages and infeasibility of different proposed border demarcations.[84] Visualization of detailed three-dimensional models is widely employed by the U.S. military for mission planning, but the promise of systems like PowerScene to support national-level decision-making or multilateral diplomacy, as seen at Dayton, has not materialized. The technology demonstrated at Dayton is now widely available for free: The desktop edition of Google Earth supports fly-through control with a joystick or gamepad. If deployed more widely and if users develop a natural facility with the interface, future government officials might use such a tool for studying a problem or presenting policy options, although the low level of geographic literacy and unsophisticated employment of cartographic tools detailed above suggest that simpler and more straightforward solutions would pay greater dividends in the near term. Furthermore, those employing and using this kind of visualization tool should do so conscious of the dangers of spatial de-skilling.[85] The quality of digital screens has improved dramatically in recent years, accompanied by falling prices in high-resolution displays. Nevertheless, screens still struggle to compete with paper when it comes to resolution, a major factor when rendering the fine details that the human eye can pick out of a good map. Large-format paper maps also have their own downsides. Paper maps are static, paper is expensive (and heavy in large quantity), and printers are notoriously fickle. But paper maps transport easily, roll out on any table, and work even when computers, networks, and projectors do not cooperate. The Department of Defense and national security organizations might consider shifting some of their resources away from large digital displays to make large-format color printers and plotters more widely available.

Growing a National Security Workforce Equipped to Think in Space

Although national security professionals undoubtedly score higher in geographic literacy than the general population, proper surveys of these issues would surely reveal gaps and areas for improvement. Jakub Grygiel has argued that “the education profession is failing” the needs of national security.[86] Better foundational education on geography would help enrich the geographic mental models of policymakers. Students receiving a master’s degree in national security or international relations — civilian or military — ought to receive both education and training for using geography. The differences between education and training are subtle but tremendously important: If training is learning how to perform a specific task and education is learning how to think, then both are required for thinking in space. National security professionals, whether on a military staff or at the National Security Council, could be more effective if equipped with the practical skills to develop original geographic content. They should be able to make their own maps, their own geographic arguments, and know what went into them. These practical skills, though mechanical in many ways, are potentially as valuable as the mechanical skill of proper citation in academic writing that receives such heavy emphasis at the war colleges. Just as the war colleges stress critical thinking skills to turn successful operational-level leaders into effective participants in the interagency policymaking process at the strategic level, these institutions would be ideal places to build upon the practical navigational skills of pilots, sailors, and battalion commanders in order to help them create more sophisticated and strategic mental maps.[87] Civilian and military graduate programs rightly require students to master clear and effective writing. These future decision-makers would similarly benefit from receiving training in the modern tools available for analyzing and presenting geographic information. Studies at the graduate level should involve more than just remedial familiarity with maps and should emphasize skills for mastering spatial critical thinking. Over the longer term, curriculum changes could create a broader reservoir of geographic expertise at senior levels. Professional military education requirements already highlight critical thinking and briefly mention geographic factors, but the Joint Staff ought to amplify the importance of spatial thinking and communication, alongside reading and writing, in the senior schools.[88] Civilian and military schools should draw on a well-established academic curriculum for all levels of cartography and visualization with commercial and open-source software suites, including free online courses. Other near-term solutions include the addition of courses on geographic skills in elective programs, or the creation of a geography adviser to aid students in incorporating geography and cartography into their work. Such an adviser, or a “geography center,” would not be the equivalent of a mapmaker on call. Rather, these advisers would serve as mentors to help students conceive geographic arguments and provide resources for gaining practical skills with tools like geographic information systems software. ArcGIS, produced by ESRI, is the overwhelmingly dominant geographic information systems software suite, with a market share akin to that of PowerPoint. The U.S. government is ESRI’s largest customer and ArcGIS licenses are widely available throughout different parts of the national security community. Where licensing costs are prohibitive, the leading open-source alternative to ArcGIS is QGIS, which can serve most of the geospatial analysis and cartography needs of a typical military officer or foreign policy generalist. The sophistication of software like ArcGIS and QGIS can present steep learning curves to novices. Moreover, these software suites have capabilities that go far beyond the needs of those seeking to merely incorporate effective cartography into their communication. There are, however, several other free and user-friendly options available for quickly generating base maps tailored to the purpose required. ESRI offers an online “My Map” portal that provides basic geographic information systems services and a library of base maps in different styles, with more powerful services available with a subscription.[89] The “Natural Earth” project, sponsored by a consortium including the North American Cartographic Information Society, provides an extensive set of well-curated public domain data for use in map making.[90] The cartographer Cynthia Brewer, who has published several practical guides to effective cartographic design, also maintains a website for effective and reliably reproduced color schemes that can quite literally help the amateur cartographer or designer to “paint by numbers.”[91] With a small investment in expert instruction or self-guided study, a skilled computer user can learn to create custom maps at no cost, choosing among appropriate projections in QGIS and layering data from Natural Earth.[92]

Conclusion

Geographic analogies are powerful instruments, though they run the same risks of cognitive bias and shallow analysis as other simplifications, such as historical analogy. The shortcomings of historical analogy have been well studied by scholars who warn against the “tyranny of the past upon the imagination,” and the dangers awaiting those who “do not examine a variety of analogies before selecting the one that they believe sheds light on their situation.”[93] The great military historian Michael Howard highlighted the dangers of overlapping analogies in both history and cartography, writing that historical battlefield maps, with “neat little blocks and arrows moving in a rational and orderly way…are an almost blasphemous travesty of the chaotic truth.”[94] Just as one ought not to depend on a single historical analogy, a senior official or policy analyst could constrain their thinking if relying on a single geographic perspective. Geography can be just as subjective as history, and those who desire to think more effectively in space should seek out multiple perspectives in the maps they study and their own mental maps. As mentioned above, Richard Edes Harrison argued that a critical first step is to dispense with persistent conventions that inhibit a “flexible view of geography,” such as always placing north at the top of the map. Harrison also wrote, in a wartime article co-authored by Robert Strausz-Hupé, that “the main pitfall to avoid is the continual use of one map, for the mind is inexorably conditioned to its shapes. It begins to look ‘right’ and all others ‘wrong.’”[95] Take as an example a map of the Taiwan Strait rotated 55 degrees. Such a map will look “wrong” at first, but has the benefit of forcing the viewer to give fresh consideration to the key distances and geographic relationships.  

Image 4: Taiwan Strait: Richard Edes Harrison encouraged the use of maps that force a new perspective on a familiar geographic issue. Map by author, 2019.

  Despite the pace of technological development and geopolitical shifts in the last two decades, the fundamental processes of national security institutions have changed remarkably little and are not conducive to the flexible view advocated by Harrison and Strausz-Hupé above.[96] The bureaucratic circulatory system continues to rely on strategy documents, memos, email, briefings, and PowerPoint slides with anemic geographic content. The current distribution of cartographic capability and the standard forms of communication within the government are stagnant and may actively contribute to spatial de-skilling.[97] Thus, the national security community needs to sharpen its understanding of the problem and consider different processes. There is limited data on questions of geographic literacy, trends in the use of geographic data, or the effectiveness of spatial thinking within the U.S. national security establishment. More research is needed to understand the institutional dimensions of how the U.S. government thinks in space, where the strengths and weakness are, what credible options for improvement exist, and what barriers inhibit their employment. Collection of such data would enable meaningful evaluation of how effectively the U.S. government’s geospatial tools and products support decision-makers and would undoubtedly suggest ways to improve the government’s use of geography and fix technical gaps and problems. Broad surveys of America’s national security institutions could not only identify any persistent holes in basic geographic knowledge but could also highlight conceptual strengths and weaknesses in employing the art and science of cartography. The findings of such investigations would provide valuable information to the civilian and military academic institutions of higher learning that shape future policymakers. There is much work to be done in studying and improving the way the U.S. national security apparatus uses geography. However, another vital question for future scholars and analysts will be how America’s potential adversaries think in space. Succeeding in a long-term strategic competition requires a deep understanding of the thought processes, priorities, and blind spots of the other side. It is crucial to understand the persistent distortions that exist in an adversary’s world view, what inefficiencies endure in the ways they process new and ambiguous geographic information, and what cartographic messages resonate best with their national security system.[98] But this will not be possible until the U.S. national security community improves its own ability to think in space. Thinking in space is only one tool available to decision-makers and is no panacea to crafting successful strategies and avoiding tragic blunders. But more sophisticated geographic thinking and communication will sharpen national security decision-making and help decision-makers to better communicate their plans to the public. The national security community must be a learning and adaptive organization. It needs an objective evaluation of how effectively it is employing geographic information and it must seek every opportunity to sharpen its skills in order to think effectively in space.   Andrew Rhodes is a career civil servant who has served as an expert in Asia-Pacific affairs in a variety of analytic, advisory, and staff positions across the Department of Defense and the interagency. He earned a BA in political science from Davidson College, an MA in international relations from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and a certificate in Geographic Information Sciences from the University of North Dakota. He recently graduated with highest distinction from the U.S. Naval War College and is an affiliated scholar of the Naval War College China Maritime Studies Institute. The contents of this paper reflect the author’s own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by the Naval War College, the Department of the Navy, or the U.S. government. Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Peter Dutton, Michael O'Hara, Megan Rhodes, and many other Naval War College classmates, faculty, and staff who provided valuable insights for this article. [post_title] => Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Decision-Making [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => thinking-in-space-the-role-of-geography-in-national-security-decision-making [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-09 11:05:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-09 16:05:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2052 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => Being able to "think in space" is a crucial tool for decision-makers, but one that is often deemphasized. In order to improve its ability to think in space, the national security community ought to objectively assess how effectively it is employing geographic information and seek every opportunity to sharpen its skills in this area. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Harrison made an impassioned plea for the importance of “geographical sense” to Americans who had been forced by the war from “a period of cartographic lethargy.” ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => In other words, policymakers may not be interested in geopolitics, but geopolitics is interested in them. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The government, with some exceptions, has generally treated geography and cartography as a service to be provided to customers, rather than as a core capability for decision-makers. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => For all of the advances of integrated sensors and communications in modern military systems, some contemporary military officers have noted issues with spatial cognitive de-skilling within the officer corps due to using these digital tools in place of analog processes and paper charts.  ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => However, even if staff officers and decision-makers were able to create and edit better maps, they would still face practical challenges in sharing and displaying them.  ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => These weighty national security decisions require critical analysis of complex data. Thinking in space must play a part in these decisions, even if spatial visualization proves difficult. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 2441 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 322 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1942), 165. [2] Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (New York: The Free Press, 1986). [3] Neustadt and May, Thinking in Time, 2. [4] Ken Jennings, Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks (New York: Scribner, 2011). Harm de Blij, Why Geography Matters: More than Ever (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 16. [5] Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis, Revised Edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001). [6] M.R. O’Connor, Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World (New York: St. Martin’s, 2019). Lera Boroditsky and Alice Gaby, “Remembrances of Times East: Absolute Spatial Representations of Time in an Australian Aboriginal Community,” Psychological Science 21, no. 11 (2010): 1635, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0956797610386621. [7] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (New York: Alfred A. Knopf (Everyman’s Library), 1993), Book I, chap. 3, 127. [8] Joshua Hotaka Roth, “Hōkō onchi: Wayfinding and the Emergence of ‘Directional Tone-Deafness’ in Japan,” Ethos 43, no. 4 (December 2015): 402–22, https://doi.org/10.1111/etho.12098. [9] Eleanor A. Maguire et al., "Navigation-Related Structural Change in the Hippocampi of Taxi Drivers," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97, no. 8 (2000): 4398–403, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.070039597. [10] Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (London: Macmillan, 1893), 169. Jorge Luis Borges, “On Exactitude in Science,” in, Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Viking Penguin, 1998). [11] Mark Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, Second Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 1. [12] Mark Monmonier, Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004). [13] “Mapping Customer Operations,” Defense Logistics Agency, accessed Jan. 18,  2019, http://www.dla.mil/Aviation/Offers/Products/Mapping/Topographic/. [14] J.A. Steers, An Introduction to the Study of Map Projections, 15th Edition (London: University of London, 1970). [15] Arthur H. Robinson and Randall D. Sale, Elements of Cartography, 3rd Edition (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1969), 250. [16] Susan Schulten, "Map Drawing, Graphic Literacy, and Pedagogy in the Early Republic," History of Education Quarterly 57, no. 2 (May 2017): 185–220, https://doi.org/10.1017/heq.2017.2. [17] Jeremy Black, Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 75. [18] Susan Schulten, Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 2012. [19] George W. Baer, One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy 1890-1990 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 11. [20] Alan K. Henrikson, “The Map as an ‘Idea’: The Role of Cartographic Imagery During the Second World War,” The American Cartographer 2, no. 1 (1975): 19, https://doi.org/10.1559/152304075784447243. [21] Susan Schulten, “Richard Edes Harrison and the Challenge to American Cartography,” Imago Mundi 50, no. 1 (1998): 174–188, https://doi.org/10.1080/03085699808592886. [22] Jeremy Black, Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 230. [23] Richard Edes Harrison, ed., Look at the World: The Fortune Atlas of World Strategy (New York: Fortune, 1944). [24] Harrison, ed., Look at the World. [25] Timothy Barney, Mapping the Cold War: Cartography and the Framing of America’s International Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 30. [26] Alexander P. de Seversky, Air Power: Key to Survival (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950), map following page 312. [27] Neil Smith, “’Academic War over the Field of Geography’: The Elimination of Geography at Harvard 1947-1951,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77, no. 2 (June 1987): 155­–72, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8306.1987.tb00151.x. [28] Smith, “Academic War,” 166. [29] Robert S. McNamara, “We Were Wrong, Terribly Wrong,” Newsweek, April 16, 1995. [30] Conor Friedersdorf, “The Battle of Khe Sanh and Its Retellings,” Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 27, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/the-battle-of-khe-sanh-and-its-retellings/551315/. [31] Barney, Mapping the Cold War, 11–16. [32] Kevin Quealy, “If Americans Can Find North Korea on a Map, They’re More Likely to Prefer Diplomacy,” New York Times, May 14, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/14/upshot/if-americans-can-find-north-korea-on-a-map-theyre-more-likely-to-prefer-diplomacy.html; Kyle Dropp, Joshua D. Kertzer, and Thomas Zeitzoff, “The Less Americans Know About Ukraine’s Location, the More They Want U.S. to Intervene,” Washington Post, April 7, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/07/the-less-americans-know-about-ukraines-location-the-more-they-want-u-s-to-intervene/. “What College-Aged Students Know About the World: A Survey on Global Literacy,” National Geographic Society and the Council on Foreign Relations, September 2016, https://www.cfr.org/global-literacy-survey. “Final Report: 2006 Geographic Literacy Study,” National Geographic Society and Roper Public Affairs, May 2006, https://media.nationalgeographic.org/assets/file/NGS-Roper-2006-Report.pdf. [33] Quealy, “If Americans Can Find North Korea on a Map”; Dropp et al., “The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location.” [34] Benjamin Fine, “Geography Almost Ignored in Colleges, Survey Shows: Yet Most Educators Deem It Vital to Good Citizenship-Students' Knowledge of Subject Found Woefully Inadequate,” New York Times, Dec. 18, 1950, 1. Barney also references this article in juxtaposition to early Cold War headlines on the same day relating to the Korean War: see Barney, Mapping the Cold War, 96. [35] Saul Bernard Cohen, Geopolitics: The Geography of International Relations, 2nd Edition (Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2009), 11. [36] Martin Glassner, Political Geography (Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 1995), 325. [37] Jon Sumida, “Alfred Thayer Mahan, Geopolitician,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 22, no. 2-3 (1999): 42, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402399908437753. [38] Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics. [39] Francis Sempa, “The Geopolitical Realism of Nicholas Spykman,” in, Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2008). [40] Nicholas J. Spykman, “Geography and Foreign Policy II,” American Political Science Review 32, no. 2 (April 1938): 224. Emphasis added. I am indebted to Jakub Grygiel, for whom I once worked as a research assistant, for highlighting this passage: Grygiel, Great Powers and Geopolitical Change, 10. [41] Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics, 5. [42] Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate (New York: Random House, 2012), 3. [43] Jakub J. Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell, The Unquiet Frontier: Rising Rivals, Vulnerable Allies, and the Crisis of American Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016). [44] Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes, Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy, 2nd Edition (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2018). [45] Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics, 469. [46] Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics, 165. [47] Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 31. [48] Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Cheshire, CT: The Graphics Press, 2001). Michael P. Verdi and Raymond W. Kulhavy, “Learning with Maps and Texts: An Overview,” Educational Psychology Review 14, no. 1 (March 2002): 27-46, https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013128426099. [49] Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, Department of Defense, January 2018, https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf. [50] National Security Strategy of the United States, The White House, December 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf; 2018 National Defense Strategy; Providing for the Common Defense, National Defense Strategy Commission, Nov. 14, 2018, https://www.usip.org/publications/2018/11/providing-common-defense; Nuclear Posture Review, Department of Defense, February 2018, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF; A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 2.0, United States Navy, December 2018, https://www.navy.mil/navydata/people/cno/Richardson/Resource/Design_2.0.pdf; 2017 Defense Posture Statement: Taking the Long View, Investing for the Future, Department of Defense, February 2016, https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017DODPOSTURE_FINAL_MAR17UpdatePage4_WEB.PDF. [51] Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Aug. 16, 2018, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Aug/16/2001955282/-1/-1/1/2018-CHINA-MILITARY-POWER-REPORT.PDF. [52] Missile Defense Review, Department of Defense, Jan. 17, 2019, https://www.defense.gov/Experience/2019-Missile-Defense-Review/. [53] Personal experience of the author in 2017 and correspondence with principal members of the National Defense Strategy drafting team in 2019. [54] “About Page,” OpenStreetMap, https://www.openstreetmap.org/about. [55] “Careers and Jobs: Geospatial Engineer (12Y),” United States Army, https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/browse-career-and-job-categories/construction-engineering/geospatial-engineer.html; “Careers and Jobs: Geospatial Intelligence Imagery Analyst (35G),” United States Army, https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/browse-career-and-job-categories/intelligence-and-combat-support/geospatial-intelligence-imagery-analyst.html. [56] “Publication 1.0: GEOINT Basic Doctrine,” National System for Geospatial Intelligence, April 2018, https://www.nga.mil/ProductsServices/Pages/GEOINT-Basic-Doctrine-Publication.aspx. The Department of Defense defines imagery as “a likeness or presentation of any natural or man-made feature or related object or activity, and the positional data acquired at the time the likeness or representation was acquired, including: products produced by space-based national intelligence reconnaissance systems; and likeness and presentations produced by satellites, airborne platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles, or other similar means.” DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Joint Publication 1-02) (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2018), 115. [57] “The Mapmaker’s Craft: A History of Cartography at CIA,” Central Intelligence Agency, Nov. 10, 2016, https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2016-featured-story-archive/mapmakers-craft.html. [58] 2018 National Defense Strategy, 3. [59] Andrew Rhodes, “Go Get Mahan’s Yardstick,” US Naval Institute Proceedings 145, no. 7 (July 2019): 19–23, https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2019/july/go-get-mahans-yardstick. [60] Xiao Tianliang [肖天亮], “'Operational Cloud' Promotes Joint Operations to a Higher Level [“作战云”把联合作战推向更高层次],” People’s Liberation Army Daily [解放军报], Jan. 5, 2016. [61] “Space Support,” Analytical Graphics, Inc., accessed July 26, 2019, agi.com/products/space-support. [62] “Catalog of Earth Satellite Orbits,” NASA, Sept. 4, 2009, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/OrbitsCatalog. [63] Betsy Mason, “Beautiful, Intriguing, and Illegal Ways to Map the Internet,” WIRED, June 10, 2015, https://www.wired.com/2015/06/mapping-the-internet/. [64] Martin Dodge and Robert Kitchin, Atlas of Cyberspace (London: Pearson, 2002). [65] Adam Segal, The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age (New York: PublicAffairs, 2016), 41. [66] Andrew Blum, Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 33­–34. Mapping Communication (Carlsbad, CA: TeleGeography, 2018). Electronic book is available at https://blog.telegeography.com/free-ebook-telecom-history-telegeography-map-portfolio, accessed Jan. 24, 2019. [67] Gerald Stanley Lee, Crowds: A Moving-Picture of Democracy (New York: Doubleday, 1913), 65. [68] Stefan Münzer, Hubert D. Zimmer, and Jörg Baus. "Navigation Assistance: A Trade-Off between Wayfinding Support and Configural Learning Support," Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 18, no. 1 (2012): 18–37, https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/a0026553. [69] Klaus Gramann, Paul Hoepner, and Katja Karrer-Gauss, "Modified Navigation Instructions for Spatial Navigation Assistance Systems Lead to Incidental Spatial Learning," Frontiers in Psychology 8, no. 193 (2017), https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2017.00193; Claudio Aporta and Eric Higgs, "Satellite Culture: Global Positioning Systems, Inuit Wayfinding, and the Need for a New Account of Technology," Current Anthropology 46, no. 5 (December 2005): 729–53, https://doi.org/10.1086/432651. [70] Henry Grabar, “Smartphones and the Uncertain Future of 'Spatial Thinking,” Citylab (Atlantic Monthly blog), Sept. 9, 2014, https://www.citylab.com/life/2014/09/smartphones-and-the-uncertain-future-of-spatial-thinking/379796/. [71] Quoted in, Tim Wallace, Derek Watkins, and John Schwartz, “A Map of Every Building in America,” New York Times, Oct. 12, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/12/us/map-of-every-building-in-the-united-states.html. [72] Maura C. Lohrenz, Michael E. Trenchard and Melissa R. Beck, “Clearing Up the Clutter,” Defence Management Journal (2008). Maura C. Lohrenz, et al., “Optimizing Cockpit Moving-Map Displays for Enhanced Situational Awareness,” in, Situational Awareness in the Tactical Air Environment: Augmented Proceedings of the NAWC 1st Annual Symposium (1997), chap. 13, 363–87, https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a508998.pdf. [73] Trent Hone, Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898-1945 (Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press, 2018), 206. Trent Hone, “Learning to Win: The Evolution of U.S. Navy Tactical Doctrine During the Guadalcanal Campaign,” Journal of Military History 82, no. 3 (July 2018): 817–41. [74] Edward H. Lundquist, “Surface Warfare Officers School Employing New Technology and Training Methods,” Defense Media Network, Aug. 22, 2018, https://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/surface-warfare-officers-school-employing-new-technology-training-methods/. [75] John P. Young, Richard O. Fanjoy, and Michael W. Suckow, “Impact of Glass Cockpit Experience on Manual Flight Skills,” Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education and Research 15, no. 2 (Winter 2006), https://doi.org/10.15394/jaaer.2006.1501; John Zimmerman, “The Truth About the iPad,” Air Facts, Sept. 29, 2011, https://airfactsjournal.com/2011/09/johns-blog-the-truth-about-the-ipad/; Ron Rapp, “Teaching Flight Planning: Digital vs. Paper,” The House of Rapp, June 7, 2011, http://www.rapp.org/archives/2011/06/flight-planning/; Michael W. Gillen, Degradation of Pilot Skill, Master’s Thesis, University of North Dakota, 2008. [76] John Q. Bolton, “Modifying Situational Awareness: Perfect Knowledge and Precision Are Fantasy,” Small Wars Journal, June 10, 2018, https://smallwarsjournal.com/index.php/jrnl/art/modifying-situational-awareness-perfect-knowledge-and-precision-are-fantasy; John Bolton, “Overkill: Army Mission Command Systems Inhibit Mission Command,” Small Wars Journal, Aug. 29, 2017, https://smallwarsjournal.com/index.php/jrnl/art/overkill-army-mission-command-systems-inhibit-mission-command. [77] Rebecca Hersman and Bernadete Stadler, “When Is More Actually Less? Situational Awareness and Nuclear Risks,” War on the Rocks, Aug. 2, 2019, https://warontherocks.com/2019/08/when-is-more-actually-less-situational-awareness-and-nuclear-risks/. [78] Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron, “Deepfakes and the New Disinformation War: The Coming Age of Post-Truth Geopolitics,” Foreign Affairs 98, no. 1 (January/February 2019), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2018-12-11/deepfakes-and-new-disinformation-war. Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael D. Rich, Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018), https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2314.html. [79] “Lockheed Martin Selected for U.S. Air Force Navigation Warfare Study,” Business Wire, Aug. 21, 1996. [80] Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2005), 99–147. [81] Gary Klein, Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011), 104. [82] T.X. Hammes, “Dumb-dumb Bullets,” Armed Forces Journal, July 1, 2009, http://armedforcesjournal.com/essay-dumb-dumb-bullets/; Spencer Ackerman, “Colonel Kicked Out of Afghanistan for Anti-Powerpoint Rant,” WIRED, Aug. 27, 2010, https://www.wired.com/2010/08/anti-powerpoint-rant-gets-colonel-kicked-out-of-afghanistan; Edward R. Tufte, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, 2nd Edition (Cheshire, Conn: Graphics Press, 1942, 2006). “PowerPoint Ranger: Where the Battle Staff Commiserates” Powerpoint Ranger, https://powerpointranger.com/. [83] Mark W. Corson and Julian V. Minghi, “Powerscene: Application of New Geographic Technology to Revolutionise Boundary Making,” IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin, Summer 1996, 34–37. [84] Ethan Watters, “Virtual War and Peace,” Wired, March 1996, https://www.wired.com/1996/03/virtual-war-and-peace/. [85] Eric Van Rees, “AR, VR and GIS Have Finally Found Each Other,” Spar3D, Oct. 10, 2017, https://www.spar3d.com/blogs/all-over-the-map/ar-vr-gis-finally-found/. [86] Jakub Grygiel, “Educating for National Security,” Orbis 57, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 201–216, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orbis.2013.02.001. [87] Kevin P. Kelley and Joan Johnson-Freese, “Getting to the Goal in Professional Military Education,” Orbis 58, no. 1 (Winter 2013): 119–31, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orbis.2013.11.009. [88] “Officer Professional Military Education Policy,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 18001.01E, May 29, 2015 [89] “ My Map,” ArcGIS, accessed Nov. 7, 2019, https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html. [90] “Home Page,” Natural Earth, https://www.naturalearthdata.com/. [91] Cynthia A. Brewer, Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users (Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 2015). Cynthia Brewer, Mark Harrower, and the Pennsylvania State University, “COLORBREWER 2.0: Color Advice for Cartographers,” http://www.colorbrewer2.org/. [92] “Projection Wizard” is an excellent tool for amateur cartographers needing assistance selecting a projection and importing it to software like QGIS. See, http://projectionwizard.org/. [93] Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics, 217–18, 281–82. [94] Michael Howard, “The Use and Abuse of Military History,” Royal United Services Institution Journal 107, no. 625 (1962): 4–10. [95] Richard Edes Harrison and Robert Strausz-Hupé, “Maps, Strategy, and World Politics,” Infantry Journal, November 1942, 40. [96] Wolf Melbourne, “Naval Intelligence’s Lost Decade,” US Naval Institute Proceedings 144, no. 12 (December 2018): 44–48, https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2018/december/naval-intelligences-lost-decade. [97] Claude Berube, “How to Avoid a Naval Intelligence Jutland,” War on the Rocks, Oct. 18, 2019, https://warontherocks.com/2019/10/getting-back-to-basics-how-to-avoid-a-naval-intelligence-jutland/. [98] For one example of Chinese scholars discussing the nexus of cartography and geopolitical analysis, citing many of the same issues raised here, see, He Guangqiang and Song Xiuju (何光强, 宋秀琚), “Map Projection and Geopolitical Analysis: A Perspective of Spatial Cognition (地图投影与地球政法分析:一种空间认知的视角),” Human Geography (人文地理), no. 2, 2014. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2046 [post_author] => 321 [post_date] => 2019-11-06 12:31:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-06 17:31:01 [post_content] => On Aug. 19, 1953, the streets of Tehran exploded into violence. Clashes broke out between rival crowds at the city’s major radio station and central squares, while an armored column surrounded the home of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, peppering it with machine gun fire. Shouts of “Zendebad shah!” — “Long live the shah” — filled the air as Mossadegh’s National Front government fell from power. From the ashes rose a new government, led by former Gen. Fazlallah Zahidi and the young shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who returned from a brief exile on August 20. The shah spent the subsequent years consolidating his rule inside Iran, maintaining a close relationship with the United States until his fall from power amidst the Islamic Revolution of 1978–79. Though various Iranian factions and figures took part in the downfall of Mossadegh, the coup would not have been possible without the participation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British secret intelligence services. A pivotal moment in the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, modern Iranian history, and the history of covert operations, the coup of 1953 — the Mordad Coup, or Operation TPAJAX, as it is sometimes known — has received considerable scholarly attention. No fewer than four monographs, dozens of articles, two edited volumes, and countless chapters have been published that illustrate, in vivid detail, both the coup itself and the preceding oil nationalization crisis that consumed Iran, Great Britain, and the United States.[1] Among this mass of scholarship, there is a broad consensus on how the coup took place.[2] In 2000, the New York Times published an internal CIA history of the coup written in 1954 that revealed major operational details.[3] Other official histories have been declassified, though some pages remain redacted.[4] While the original volume in the State Department’s venerable Foreign Relations of the United States series focusing on Iran from 1951 to 1954 contained no information on the coup operation, in 2017 the Office of the Historian released a retrospective Foreign Relations of the United States volume.[5] Documents in the new volume confirm major details from existing sources, but they also reveal much that had hitherto remained obscure. In particular, the 300 documents included in this volume shed considerable light on the perspectives of various U.S. policymakers at the time, including their thoughts and feelings toward Iran, Mossadegh, oil nationalization, and the course of action needed to resolve the crisis.[6] Nevertheless, some gaps remain: Britain’s involvement in the coup, code-named “Operation Boot” by the intelligence services, is still relatively unknown, due to the lack of declassified documents.[7] The insights provided by this new volume of Foreign Relations of the United States are crucial to understanding Operation TPAJAX. While much is known about how the coup took place, there remains some disagreement as to why the United States decided on covert action or why this decision was made in early 1953. Mark J. Gasiorowski argues that U.S. actions in Iran were largely motivated “by fears of a communist takeover.” Viewed within the broader context, the decision to remove Mossadegh emerges “as one more step in the global effort of the Eisenhower Administration to block Soviet expansionism.”[8] Iran was a strategically important country due to its position athwart both the Soviet Union and the Middle East oil fields, which held roughly 50 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Mossadegh had chosen to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, setting off an international crisis that exacerbated Iran’s internal politics. There were also worrying signs that he would soon ally himself with Iran’s communist organization, the Tudeh Party. As historian Mary Ann Heiss argues, for U.S. policymakers in early 1953, a coup appeared necessary “to save Iran from communist domination.”[9] Other scholars like Steve Marsh and James F. Goode have offered similar interpretations of the coup decision, while Francis J. Gavin argues that a shift in the Cold War balance of power proved critical in motivating the Eisenhower administration to act against Mossadegh.[10] Another explanation for the coup centers on oil. According to historian Ervand Abrahamian, Mossadegh’s nationalization of the oil industry posed a grave risk to Western domination of global oil supplies, particularly the oil concessions held by major Western oil companies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Venezuela, and elsewhere. The coup was therefore necessary to restore Western control over Iranian oil and reduce the threat of nationalization in other oil-producing regions.[11] This view is a popular one, particularly in light of what occurred after the coup: The shah’s government signed an agreement with oil companies that effectively reversed nationalization, awarding American firms 40 percent of a consortium that would control the flow of Iranian oil for the next 20 years.[12] Viewed from this perspective, the coup was part of an effort to control oil resources in developing countries, which formed the foundation for the global economy constructed and supervised by the United States.[13] This take emphasizes an aspect of covert action that Abdel Razzaq Takriti has noted in multiple coup operations: The hegemon’s intervention is motivated by “global contestations over political and economic sovereignty,” and chiefly revolves around the control of natural resources and the restriction of popular political will.[14] Both arguments have their shortcomings. Nationalization resulted in Iran’s isolation from the global oil economy — by 1953, none of the major oil companies needed Iranian oil and the success of a British-led embargo had reduced Iran’s oil exports to zero.[15] While Great Britain hoped to remove Mossadegh in order to reverse nationalization and restore British control over Iran’s oil industry — where a British oil company had been dominant since the early 20th century — the U.S. position was much more complex. Continuous negotiation efforts from 1951 to early 1953 were aimed at restarting the flow of oil. A final offer was made to Mossadegh that would have left Iran “master of its industry,” though there were conditions attached that ultimately made the offer unacceptable to Mossadegh.[16] Thus, oil played a role in the coup decision, as will become clear, but regaining control of Iranian oil, overturning nationalization, or serving the commercial interests of the companies were not the paramount concerns.[17] Furthermore, Iran’s communist Tudeh Party, while well organized and increasingly active in street demonstrations, lacked “the intention or the ability to gain control of the government.”[18] The new Foreign Relations of the United States volume has illustrated, according to Gasiorowski’s recent study, that the Tudeh threat was small in 1953 and that the U.S. decision to oust Mossadegh “was not made on the basis of strong evidence that a Communist takeover might otherwise soon occur.”[19] New documentary evidence indicates British officials approached the United States in late 1952 “disposed to bring about a coup d’etat in Iran,” but were rebuffed by Truman administration officials who thought it too risky.[20] Why, then, did policymakers reverse this decision, and organize a coup in Iran with British help a few months later? This article addresses that question by re-examining the coup of August 1953 from the point of view of U.S. policymakers in Washington and Tehran. It utilizes the archives of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, as well as records from Britain’s National Archives and the archival collections of major oil companies.[21] In particular, this article seeks to use revelations from the 2017 Foreign Relations of the United States volume to re-evaluate the 1953 coup decision. It draws on similar studies of formal decision-making by Philip Zelikow as well as Alexandra T. Evans and A. Bradley Potter, to isolate the factors involved and lay out a hierarchy of motives influencing a key foreign policy decision, one that would have momentous consequences, both for the United States and Iran.[22] [quote id="1"] Specifically, this article examines the formation of a “collapse narrative” that emerged based on intelligence assessments of the internal conditions in Iran in the years leading up to the coup. This narrative shaped policy in a way that made covert action in Iran more likely. The collapse narrative incorporated concerns over oil with the well-articulated fears of Iran “falling behind the Iron Curtain.”[23] Faced with an embargo on oil exports, Mossadegh launched a series of policies in late 1952 designed to render Iran “oil-less.” While his policies may have worked in time to detach Iran from the influence of oil, the notion of an oil-less Iran filled the United States with dread. The collapse narrative, a predictive analytical framework for viewing developments within Mossadegh’s Iran that soon permeated policymaking discourse in both Tehran and Washington D.C., rested upon two foundations: that oil-less economics was not sustainable for Iran in the long term, and that, without an oil agreement, the National Front government was not capable of managing Iran’s affairs without leaning on communist support. Preventing collapse by stabilizing Iran’s political system and resuming the flow of oil, thereby solving the government’s financial problems and ensuring a stable source of revenue for Iran’s economic development, was the primary motivation for Operation TPAJAX. The coup was not about countering an imminent communist threat — rather, it rested on fears of an uncertain future, concern over an ill-defined collapse of Iran’s internal stability through economic and political disintegration, and a deeply engrained skepticism of Iran’s ability to avoid catastrophe without foreign intervention. Scholars such as Douglas Little and Matthew Jacobs have noted the tendency of American policymakers to “Orientalize” governments and individuals in the Middle East, assembling a “hierarchy of race and culture” built on assumptions of Arab and Iranian inferiority and the struggle of Middle Eastern cultures to adapt to Western concepts of modernity.[24] Persistent notions of Iranian incapacity, born out of prior experiences and bolstered by broader views of the Middle East, affected U.S. thinking and fed into the collapse narrative. Officials viewed Iran as backward, feudal, and vulnerable to social revolution. American thinking emphasized economic development driven by central state growth as a cure for these apparent ills — a view that prioritized security over democracy and thus favored authoritarian modernizing regimes over popular democratic coalitions.[25] Establishing such a regime in Iran, backed with U.S. support and funded through oil revenues, seemed the only way to prevent an Iranian collapse — an outcome that would have had disastrous strategic ramifications for the United States and would have impaired future access to Middle Eastern oil. While certain policymakers, particularly CIA Director Allen Dulles, exaggerated the threat of collapse, the decision to remove Mossadegh should not be thought of as an intelligence failure. Rather, it constitutes a moment when policymakers, surrounded by uncertainty and driven by a fear that the worst-case scenario was just around the corner, chose to undertake a radical action in the belief that it was the last remaining viable option. In the American hierarchy of motives — which included forestalling the spread of communist influence, ending the oil crisis, and promoting a pro-Western regime in Iran — preventing collapse emerged as a broadly felt justification for covert action. In that sense, the operation was a success — Iran did not collapse, its government remained pro-Western, and the oil crisis was resolved in a way that satisfied Iran’s need for revenue and the oil companies’ desire for control. Yet, the coup decision had significant implications for the future of Iran and its relations with the United States, narrowing subsequent U.S. policy and staining the shah’s post-coup government with a mark of illegitimacy. The first section of this article details the historical background, including American views of Iran before 1951, the rise of Mossadegh, and the oil nationalization crisis. The second section analyzes the collapse narrative put forward by various U.S. officials at the time based on assessments of Iran’s oil-less economy and Mossadegh’s capacity to manage it effectively. The third section considers the coup decision itself, the option of taking covert action, and the circumstances surrounding the Eisenhower administration’s deliberations in early 1953. The fourth and final section lays out the hierarchy of motives that went into the coup decision and explores the coup’s aftermath. I argue that Operation TPAJAX was meant to prevent a collapse in Iran — a vaguely defined though omnipresent fear in the minds of American policymakers — and restore the flow of Iranian oil, not for the sake of American oil companies, but as a way to “save” Iran from a future without oil and put it back on the path toward progress.

Chaotic and Corrupt Conditions

In the aftermath of World War II, Iran emerged as a particular point of concern for U.S. policymakers. While nominally pro-Western, the country appeared vulnerable to destabilization by the Soviet Union, with which it shared a long border. Iran’s ruling elite, land-owning aristocrats who dominated the parliament, or Majlis, were led by the shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, a young and fairly inexperienced figure at the time. To American observers, Iran’s greatest weakness was its “backwards” economy, as well as the paucity of managerial expertise among the country’s elite. Foreigners tended to emphasize Iran’s “feudal” state, where, according to one author, “95% of the people are impoverished, ignorant and inarticulate.”[26] Iran was a country, wrote Ambassador John C. Wiley in 1950, “of archaic feudalism,” where economic conditions “involving hunger and despair…are an obvious invitation to subversive activities.”[27] State Department officials observing Iran’s attempts at economic development after World War II advocated for “a complete revolution of the present system of management,” which could only be accomplished “under the temporary control of foreigners.”[28] Wiley suggested an aggressive policy of economic and military assistance: Aid disbursements, “properly controlled,” would give the United States the ability “to shape [the] course of events; though of course our control should remain imperceptible.”[29] Max Weston Thornburg, a former oil executive who served as economic adviser to the shah’s government from 1948 to 1951, summed up the problem in a dispatch to Wiley: “The practical difficulty of turning money, ideas and good intentions into real works, however simple, by people who don’t know how to do it.”[30] Iran’s access to oil revenues seemed to offer the nation a way toward lasting stability. Oil was discovered in 1908 in Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan, and, by 1950, Iran was the fourth-largest oil producer in the world. The oil industry in Iran, as in other Middle Eastern states, was owned and operated by a foreign company: in this case, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later renamed British Petroleum, or BP). The company was deeply unpopular in Iran. Royalty payments, which had lagged behind company profits and tax payments to the British government, were considered unfairly low. Great Britain had historically interfered in Iran’s internal affairs and thus the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was widely seen by most Iranians, particularly an emerging class of nationalist politicians, as a front for British power.[31] With the United States standing aloof, tensions within Iran increased, much of them focused on the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This was exasperated by frustration with the country’s corrupt political system and socio-economic inequality. In March 1951, a supporter of nationalizing Iran’s oil industry assassinated the shah’s prime minister, Ali Razmara. In the chaos that followed, nationalists in the Majlis nominated their leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, as the new prime minister. Mossadegh called for nationalization as well as the expulsion of foreign influence from the country. The shah, fearing the new government’s massive popular support, signed Mossadegh’s nationalization bill into law on May 1, 1951.[32] The rise of Mossadegh, a 69-year-old Iranian aristocrat and prominent nationalist icon, revolutionized Iranian politics. Oil nationalization was the most popular political program in modern Iranian history. Support for Mossadegh and his governing coalition, the National Front, was particularly strong in urban areas among the working class and middle-class intelligentsia. Mossadegh was one of the first postcolonial nationalist politicians to emerge in the Middle East, and his program of nationalization provided a blueprint for other leaders, including Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, who would nationalize the Suez Canal in 1956. Rather than take sides in the Cold War, Mossadegh sought to maintain a middle path. His outlook, while largely pro-Western, was neutral and emphasized Iran’s independence. Mossadegh was also not a communist — in fact, when he first came to power, Soviet propaganda vilified him as an “American puppet.”[33] Even so, Mossadegh was a challenge that the United States and Great Britain were ill equipped to face. [quote id="2"] The British, for whom the Iranian oil industry represented a major economic and political asset, were fairly straightforward in their policy: remove Mossadegh and reverse nationalization. The British, as well as the major oil companies, hoped to prevent Iran’s nationalization from spreading to other oil-producing nations, like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, or Indonesia. Working in tandem, the United Kingdom and these companies placed an embargo on the nationalized Iranian oil. The embargo was very effective: The companies controlled the global tanker supply and were able to increase oil production elsewhere to make up for the Iranian oil shutdown. By September 1951, Iran’s oil exports had been reduced to zero. The British hope was that economic pressure would force Mossadegh from power, thus leading to a new, more “reasonable” government amenable to an oil agreement that suited British interests, and they were prepared to be patient in executing this goal. The major oil companies were able to maintain their control of the global oil supply fairly easily and, by early 1952, oil markets had recovered from the shock of the Iranian shutdown.[34] American thinking was more conflicted. While there was little support for Mossadegh, policymakers recognized Iranian nationalism as a powerful political force. Failure to satisfy this sentiment at a time of intense internal instability in Iran could potentially lead to a worse outcome. At the same time, officials in the Truman administration were unwilling to abandon the British, an important Cold War ally, and were conscious of protecting American oil companies from further nationalizations. Any resolution to the crisis in Iran had to contain the “contagion” of nationalization, preventing it from spreading elsewhere. Thus, between May 1951 and March 1953, the United States focused on facilitating an oil agreement between Mossadegh and the United Kingdom. While Iranian nationalism would have to be satisfied, in the interests of global oil and out of respect to the British the American proposals focused on ways to accept the principle of nationalization while keeping control of Iranian oil in British hands. Naturally, Mossadegh found such proposals unacceptable.[35] In July 1952, a political crisis resulted in Mossadegh temporarily stepping down as prime minister. The United States, according to declassified documents in the 2017 Foreign Relations of the United States volume, moved quickly to support a new government led by conservative politician Ahmed Qavam, who immediately expressed his willingness to negotiate an acceptable oil settlement “as soon as possible.”[36] But before any progress could be made, massive demonstrations broke out in Tehran. Nationalists, as well as members of the communist Tudeh Party, took to the streets to protest. Qavam lost his nerve and resigned. The shah bowed to public pressure and reinstated Mossadegh. Once back in power, Mossadegh undertook a series of measures designed to transform Iran into an oil-less economy. Imports plummeted while non-oil exports increased. To make up the budget deficit left by the absence of oil revenues, Mossadegh turned to deficit financing. Two billion rials, Iran’s currency, were released between July 1952 and January 1953, increasing the total quantity of rials in circulation by 20 percent.[37] Mossadegh’s embrace of Keynesian economics provided a temporary boost to the marketplace. Iran’s agricultural sector, which accounted for 80 percent of its gross national product, thrived in the midst of the oil shutdown. Good harvests in 1951–52 and 1952–53 improved rural employment and cut back on the need for imports. It is possible an Iranian economy without oil would have succeeded, provided Mossadegh had been able to maintain political stability.[38] But that’s not how U.S. policymakers saw things. Rather, they perceived an oil-less Iran under Mossadegh’s leadership to be a recipe for disaster. While the Truman administration rejected the idea of covert action in November 1952, the Eisenhower administration reversed course, gave up on further negotiations with Mossadegh, and approved funding for a coup in April 1953. The administration made the decision for a host of different reasons, but crucial among them was an emerging narrative emphasizing Iran’s inevitable collapse. Included in this narrative were perceptions of Iran’s vulnerability, the weakness of the Mossadegh government, and the importance of restarting the flow of oil revenues.

Judging Collapse: Measuring Oil’s Importance to Iran

Did Iran need oil? Was it possible for Iran to survive as an oil-less state? For U.S. policymakers, such questions were difficult to answer. When nationalization first occurred, U.S. officials worried that a showdown between Iran and the British would bring internal chaos to Iran, making a collapse into communist rule “a distinct possibility.”[39] The Tudeh Party was viewed as the country’s only properly organized political party, one that received considerable moral and material support from the Soviet Union. Even before the United Kingdom and the Western oil companies imposed an embargo against Iran, American officials believed Mossadegh’s crusade against the oil companies would end in disaster, particularly if the British pushed him too far: “Any test of will … in the light of the highly irrational and emotional view of the Iranians, [would] not be successful,” according to Assistant Secretary of State George C. McGhee. It was crucial that the “uninterrupted flow of oil” be maintained.[40] The CIA thought an oil shutdown would promptly lead to “bankruptcy, internal unrest, and at worst Communist control of the state.”[41] With negotiations stalled and the United Kingdom turning to pressure tactics, policymakers in Washington grew increasingly worried about Iran’s ability to resist communist pressure. While estimates varied, it appeared that five to ten thousand members of the Tudeh Party came from Iran’s industrial working class and the intelligentsia. Communist domination as a result of an internal coup led by the Tudeh Party, with external Soviet support à la Czechoslovakia in February 1948, seemed likely if a solution to the oil crisis was not found.[42] Heiss argues that U.S. officials exaggerated the effects of the embargo, misjudged the importance of oil, and treated Iran as an industrial society rather than an agricultural one.[43] Indeed, 80 percent of Iran’s economy was agricultural. While the oil industry employed around 50,000 skilled and nonskilled workers, it existed as an enclave and had few linkages to the rest of the economy, a phenomenon that was (and still is) quite common in oil-producing countries.[44] Information on Iran’s economy was hard to come by in the early 1950s: The chief source of intelligence was the U.S. Embassy in Iran, particularly reports written by the embassy’s economic counselor Robert M. Carr. According to Carr, for the Iranian year 1330 (March 1951–March 1952), had nationalization not occurred, the Iranian government would have earned £10 million worth of rials from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s operating expenses, another £12.2 million from sales of sterling at differing exchange rates, and £28 million in royalties. Under these conditions, the oil company would contribute 4.5 billion rials in state revenue, more than one-third of its entire budget, including projected development expenses.[45] This was an estimate of a single year: A conservative estimate was that the British-controlled company contributed roughly half of Iran’s state expenditures. Carr and U.S. Ambassador Loy Henderson chose to express it as “forty percent of the total budget.”[46] In addition, oil royalties and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s internal purchases constituted around 60 percent of Iran’s foreign exchange balance. Nationalization and the British embargo removed these lucrative sources of revenue and foreign exchange. By September 1951, with exports at zero and royalty payments from the oil company suspended, Iran faced a trade crisis, a state budget crisis, a balance-of-payments crisis, and a defunct development plan.[47]

[table id=19 /]

Table 1: Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Contribution to Iran’s State Budget, 1951-1952 (Estimated)[48]

 

[table id=18 /]

Table 2: Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Foreign Exchange Contributions, Millions of Rials[49]

  In 1951, these figures produced considerable alarm. Senior officials like Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Policy Planning Director Paul Nitze, and McGhee scrambled to implement an oil settlement and “keep Iranian oil moving.” “[O]nly in this way can we hope to prevent the Iranian economy from collapsing.”[50] As Acheson explained to British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden in November of that year, failure to reach an oil settlement — thus producing a prolonged oil embargo — would lead to the weakening of Iran’s armed forces, political assassinations and social unrest, “and the rapid movement toward the Tudeh Party’s taking over.”[51] But Carr initially downplayed the risk of an imminent collapse. According to him, Iran’s agricultural economy would show “considerable resistance” to the oil shutdown, while Mossadegh could draw on gold and foreign exchange reserves to fill the budget and trade gap. Mismanagement was to blame for Iran’s existing financial woes, and the country possessed the resources to survive for some time, “if the burden was properly distributed.”[52] The State Department agreed, arguing that Iran’s government could pay its bills for up to a year, “without any benefits whatsoever from oil resources.”[53] Eventually, fears of collapse subsided, with Nitze admitting in February 1952 that Iran’s economic conditions — its gold reserves, internal credit facilities, and prospects for a strong harvest — meant a general disintegration was unlikely, though the country’s politics remained unstable.[54] But fears of a collapse began to mount again, particularly after July 1952, when Mossadegh returned to office and began to implement his oil-less economic policies. Carr and his staff at the embassy viewed such policies with deep skepticism. Minor reforms designed to boost imports and save foreign exchange would provide “superficial” improvements, masking symptoms of an “economic and financial deterioration.”[55] To fund the government, Mossadegh turned to deficit financing, which the embassy believed would produce disastrous inflation: “The printing press has become a source of government revenue.”[56] It was feasible that a government possessed of greater will, “sufficiently able, demagogic and dictatorial,” could balance the budget and survive without oil revenues, perhaps indefinitely. But Carr, as well as others at the U.S. Embassy, doubted Mossadegh’s competence or the abilities of his government to guide the country. Mossadegh’s reforms were evidence of growing state involvement in the economy, characterized by interventions from the “already overgrown and none-too-competent bureaucracy.” The increased involvement of the state, necessitated by the extreme conditions produced by the oil crisis, presaged a slow slide down a familiar slope: “[T]he reformers are the apostles of the typical ‘bureaucratic revolution,’ complete with the statism, controls and neo-Keynesian economics which have become increasingly questioned elsewhere.”[57] To make an oil-less economy work, Mossadegh would either need to take full control over Iran’s state and economy or lean on outside support. Without U.S. assistance, his only option would be to turn to the Soviet Union. Carr’s concerns were shared by his boss, Henderson. A career foreign service officer, Henderson had been among the State Department’s most aggressively anti-communist voices, “a hard-line anti-Soviet diplomat,” according to his biographer.[58] While Carr’s reports rarely made it all the way to Washington, his views were regularly synthesized by Henderson, whose impact on U.S. policy was far more significant. “Iran is [a] sick country,” he wrote, “and [Mossadegh] is one of its most sick leaders.”[59] An oil agreement would halt a “financial collapse towards which [Iran] was heading so rapidly.”[60] Without access to oil revenues, no government could improve “the miserable social and economic conditions” pervasive throughout the country. In the absence of meaningful reforms and improvements, “[the] discontent of [the] people is bound to attract them towards [the] extreme of Communism.”[61] Like Carr, Henderson did not think collapse was imminent, but he pointed to “insidious disintegration” stemming from the financial situation.[62] Mossadegh lacked the capacity to lead Iran effectively. An oil-less economy would need “skillful, strong and ruthless dictatorship,” the kind only the Tudeh Party “was capable of furnishing.”[63] Since the National Front took power, “there has been a marked deterioration of forces making for steady administration and for [the] stability [of the] country.” Communist influence within the government, while apparently quite small, could grow quickly under the right circumstances: Henderson believed that Mossadegh received “Tudeh-slanted advice," that a number of cabinet ministers were, in fact, “Tudeh tools,” and that “infiltration of this kind might result in communists creeping almost imperceptibly into power.”[64] In steering Iran toward oil independence, Mossadegh would either fail or be forced to lean on Tudeh support. Either way, the outcome would be the same. [quote id="3"] By late 1952 and into early 1953, these views were becoming well represented elsewhere in the Truman administration, State Department, and CIA. According to Carr’s figures, Mossadegh still retained some flexibility: Iran’s hard currency and gold reserves, as well as Iran’s agricultural economy, meant he could probably stave off spiraling inflation, “unless there is a serious crop failure or an unfavorable export market.” But this did not allay fears of a collapse. Without a return of oil revenues, “further currency expansion” was inevitable.[65] The National Security Council policy document completed in November 1952 concluded that Mossadegh’s government had stoked “popular desire for promised economic and social betterment,” increasing the social unrest already evident prior to 1951. Furthermore, “nationalist failure to restore the oil industry has led to … deficit financing to meet current expense, and is likely to produce a progressive deterioration of the economy at large.”[66] Deputy CIA Director Robert Amory concluded that, without oil, Iran would succumb to “economic and political disintegration.”[67] Secretary of Defense Robert A. Lovett felt urgent action was needed “to prevent the strategic collapse of Iran’s loss to communism,” and suggested a course of economic and military aid.[68] But others in the government worried that aid for Mossadegh would just encourage further intransigence during oil negotiations, preventing an agreement and continuing the oil-less economy. Following his victory in the 1952 presidential election, Dwight D. Eisenhower was briefed by President Harry Truman and Acheson. The situation in Iran, they said, had developed to a “critical point.” Mossadegh’s approach to the crisis was irrational: The Iranians were more interested in defying the British “than they were in the economic benefits which might come to them from the oil industry.” The stalemate at the negotiating table and the ongoing British oil embargo “had led to very grave disintegration” within both the government and the “social structure” of Iran. Hard evidence would suggest that the National Front could survive for a year if it acted “reasonably,” but Acheson and Truman no longer thought that likely. “They would act emotionally,” perhaps breaking relations with the United States and cutting the number of public employees or reducing wages for the army, which would increase internal unrest. “[I]n a very short time [they] might have the country in a state of chaos.”[69] By late 1952, there was a growing feeling throughout the Truman administration that an oil-less Iran under Mossadegh’s rule would lead to disaster. However, there were few outward signs that economic collapse was imminent — inflation inside Iran had not yet reached crisis levels, the cost of living indices were relatively stable, and imports had fallen while non-oil exports had risen. One estimate from October 1952 noted how the loss of oil revenues had not “seriously damaged” Iran’s economy, thanks in part to an “excellent harvest.”[70] Nevertheless, the emerging consensus in Washington was pessimistic. According to Acheson’s recollection, “[the] situation was deteriorating … various people put it at four, six, seven or eight months,” but sooner or later, “we would reach … the point of no return.”[71] Fear of the future, skepticism of Iranian capacity for self-government, and an overriding sense that the Tudeh Party would profit from continued uncertainty formed an omnipresent fear of collapse that gripped the Truman administration in its last months in office, despite signs that Iran’s economy was actually managing the oil shutdown fairly well. No one could claim with any confidence when this collapse would take place, or even what it would look like. “If present trends continue unchecked,” however, there was thought to be a growing chance that Iran would drift away from the West “in advance of an actual communist takeover.”[72] The question galling Acheson, Truman, Nitze, and others was how to prevent this collapse from occurring.

The Coup Decision

Allen Dulles, deputy director of the CIA beginning in August 1951 and director after February 1953, was a noted skeptic of the Mossadegh government. In May 1951, just after nationalization of the oil supply, the forceful and gregarious Dulles suggested the United States cooperate with the British and intervene directly: “[T]hrow out Mossadegh, close the Majlis … at a later date a premier could be installed with our help.”[73] In late 1952, as his superiors deliberated, Dulles turned to Thornburg for advice. The former oilman-turned-international consultant who had acted as economic adviser to the shah’s government before 1951 was one of the few self-described “Iran experts” known in Washington. Thornburg enjoyed “unusual access” to both Dulles and the Department of State and he offered policy advice in meetings, memos, and messages sent from his personal island in the Persian Gulf.[74] Thornburg scoffed at Iran’s nationalist government. Supporters of Mossadegh “are not the kind of men who can carry out any practical program.” Rather, the men governing Iran were “political flaneurs” interested only in advancing their own careers. According to him, establishing a “democratic government” was not necessary. “What is necessary is that each of these countries have a stable government dedicated to the welfare of its people.”[75] Otherwise, the risk was instability and, eventually, collapse leading to communist rule. Thornburg felt that this could best be prevented by backing a right-wing strongman. A “responsible” regime led by the shah — a figure most American officials viewed as indecisive and weak-willed — could impose martial law, rule by decree, and reach a suitable oil settlement, thereby freeing up funds for a new development scheme. The key for Thornburg was changing the political balance in Iran. The goal should not be “how to make an oil agreement that will bolster up the government in Persia, but how to bolster up the government in Persia so it can make an oil agreement.”[76] The necessary consequence of that conclusion was removing Mossadegh from power. Documents in the 2017 Foreign Relations of the United States volume indicate that U.S. officials considered removing Mossadegh at various times throughout 1951 and 1952. After Mossadegh’s consolidation of power in July 1952, Assistant Secretary of State Henry F. Byroade had plans drawn up “as to possible alternatives to Mossadeq, method of bringing such a government into power, and the type of encouragement and support that would be necessary in such circumstances.”[77] The policy paper that the National Security Council adopted in November 1952 was much more alarmist than similar papers published a year before.[78] The policy mentioned the threat of an “attempted or actual communist seizure of power,” and included provisions for “special political operations in Iran” to support noncommunist forces.[79] The CIA had been active in Iran since 1948, combatting the Tudeh Party through an operation code-named TPBEDAMN and setting up a “stay-behind” mission in case Iran’s government were to fall under communist influence.[80] The United Kingdom, which had long sought Mossadegh’s removal from office, was expelled from Iran in October 1952, after which British officials reached out to the United States for help.[81] The British, conscious of U.S. concerns and anxious to elicit assistance, emphasized the threat of an internal coup through Tudeh Party subversion. The risk did not arise “from the country’s bad financial situation,” but rather from Mossadegh’s unwillingness “to check the growth of communist strength.” To that end, they were “disposed to bring about a coup d’etat in Iran,” and hoped for U.S. help in replacing Mossadegh with a more “reliable” prime minister. It was, in their opinion, “our best chance to save Iran.”[82] According to one agent’s recollection, the offer was favorably received by Dulles and Frank Wisner of the CIA.[83] [quote id="4"] But senior U.S. officials, including CIA Director Walter Bedell Smith and Acheson, could not see a viable alternative to Mossadegh among Iran’s conservative politicians. Mossadegh had placed his own supporters in key army posts: He could not be easily deposed through a military coup. Moreover, no conservative political figure possessed the prestige to challenge the National Front, while the young shah seemed paralyzed. Arguably the second-most powerful man in Iran was the populist demagogue Ayatollah Sayyed Abu al-Qasim Kashani. While a member of Iran’s Shia clerical leadership, Kashani was more notable for his hardline position on oil negotiations. He was opposed to any deal with the oil companies and had condemned oil revenues as a “curse rather than a blessing.” Should Mossadegh retire or die in office, a new nationalist government would probably coalesce around Kashani. From a U.S. point of view, it was better to have Mossadegh remain in power than to have such an unpredictable figure assume a position of authority.[84] For these reasons, the British offer was rebuffed. “You may be able to throw out Mossadegh,” remarked Smith, “but you will never get your own man to stick in his place.”[85] While Dulles felt that an operation could be carried out “in such a way that British and American connection with it could never be proven,” officials in the State Department, like Byroade and Freeman Matthews, were skeptical.[86] By late 1952, Carr’s reports and Henderson’s analysis convinced policymakers in Washington that an Iranian economy without oil was not sustainable, and that, without an oil settlement, Mossadegh would lead the country into disaster. But a coup to remove him did not seem viable. Nitze informed the United Kingdom that the United States would not dismiss the idea, but would, for the time being, proceed with a new round of negotiations: “We would keep the suggestion in mind.”[87] Instead of a coup, the focus turned to the question of propping up Mossadegh and staving off collapse. Byroade suggested an oil settlement or “substantial financial assistance and a program of economic development” as the two best options.[88] Lovett insisted that the United States “must get the oil flowing” in order to prevent the situation from deteriorating to the point where a military intervention became necessary.[89] According to Nitze, Iran needed to be pushed into a deal that would provide “sufficient revenues to meet its economic problems.”[90] Talk of financial aid to Mossadegh continued after Eisenhower took office in January 1953. The president, despite taking a more flexible position than his predecessor, seemed preoccupied with the problem of how to aid Mossadegh. “If…I had $500,000,000 of money to spend in secret,” he said during a meeting of his National Security Council on March 4, “I would give $100,000,000 of it to Iran right now.”[91] While the United Kingdom felt the new administration would be “more robust,” initially there was continuity in policy. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles focused on continuing negotiations with Mossadegh, though it was clear that a settlement was unlikely, given the disagreements between Mossadegh and the British over terms to settle the 1951 nationalization.[92] An important turning point in the crisis came in late February 1953. Mossadegh’s position in Iran had grown unstable. Aware that conservative forces were maneuvering against him, in February 1953 Mossadegh demanded the shah abandon his few remaining prerogatives and subordinate himself to the government. Henderson, exhausted after months of negotiating and frustrated with the prime minister’s “one track mind,” “hyper-sensitive attitude,” and “suspicious character,” had come to think further negotiations were pointless.[93] Moreover, he regarded the shah as “a potentially powerful anti-commie element.” Mossadegh’s assault on the monarch prompted Henderson to take action, despite conventions prohibiting U.S. diplomats from intervening in local politics.[94] “I dislike remaining inactive,” he wrote defiantly, “when [the] monarchical institution…is in grave danger.” Henderson went to the shah and implored him to remain in the country. He then met with Mossadegh, making it clear that the shah’s departure would “weaken [the] security [of the] country,” an open show of support for the monarchy. Shortly after their meeting, crowds organized by the prime minister’s opponents, including Ayatollah Kashani and several pro-shah organizations, assaulted Mossadegh’s house, forcing him to climb over a 10-foot fence to take refuge in the house next door.[95] Events in January and February 1953 indicated increasing political instability in Iran, which prompted a more alarmist assessment in Washington. Allen Dulles, together with others inside the CIA, had the intelligence estimate for Iran altered in January. If current trends were allowed to continue “beyond the end of 1953,” internal tensions and the “continued deterioration of the economy” would lead to a “breakdown of governmental authority” and the “gradual assumption of control by the Tudeh.”[96] In his report for Eisenhower, Allen Dulles, by then director of the CIA, contended that conditions in Iran had been steadily deteriorating since 1951, “building up…a situation where a Communist takeover is becoming more and more of a possibility.” He then noted that CIA agents had resources inside Iran, “a considerable supply of small arms…[and] a considerable amount of cash,” which could be quickly supplemented.[97] During a meeting of the National Security Council on March 4, the CIA director laid out the situation in Iran in the bleakest possible terms: Mossadegh’s actions in February indicated his desire to rule as dictator, but if he were to die or resign, “a political vacuum would occur … and the Communists might easily take over.”[98] While John Foster Dulles and Eisenhower were focused on negotiating with Mossadegh during the March 4 National Security Council meeting, they were noticeably more skeptical of Mossadegh at a second meeting on March 11. They felt there was little hope of Mossadegh agreeing to new oil terms, while financial aid would only delay the inevitable and irritate the British. The risks of doing nothing were high: Should Iran be lost, the entirety of the Middle East’s oil resources would be lost with it.[99] Dulles instructed Henderson that there would be no new offers to Mossadegh and that all his requests for economic assistance were to be rebuffed.[100] Discussion in Washington turned toward “assets which could be rallied to support a replacement [for Mossadegh].” The National Security Council policy adopted in 1953 outlined plans to be undertaken “prior to an identifiable attempted or actual communist seizure of power,” while preparations were made for “special psychological measures” in connection with the “special political operations” authorized in November 1952.[101] Funds for operations were released in early April.[102] Henderson warned that conditions in Iran were becoming critical. “Practically all sections of the Iranian public,” he wrote, were growing increasingly frustrated with the West, “as they note the deteriorating conditions of the country. …Only those sympathetic to the Soviet Union and to international communism have reason to be pleased at what is taking place in Iran.”[103] In May, Henderson met with Secretary of State Dulles in Karachi. The ambassador, drawing on Carr’s analysis, reported that Iran’s economy was in the midst of a slow deterioration. “The need for foreign exchange has become acute. …[L]ocal currency needs have been met in the printing press route. …[T]he inflationary effect of this is only just beginning to be felt.” On the political side, the confrontation in February had increased Mossadegh’s reliance on the Tudeh Party, “the only organization which can give him the kind of support in the streets.” Henderson and the secretary of state discussed four potential courses of action, which included breaking off negotiations, proceeding with emergency aid, or removing Mossadegh through covert action. Doing nothing, however, would quicken Iran’s “drift into chaos.”[104] It is difficult to say with certainty, but it would appear that the decision to remove Mossadegh was made sometime in March or April, with Henderson’s May meeting with Secretary of State Dulles representing a final consultation. By June, Operation TPAJAX was in motion.[105]

The Hierarchy of Motives and the Collapse Narrative

The decision to topple Mossadegh emerged from several factors. Like their predecessors in the Truman administration, officials in the Eisenhower administration hoped to resolve Iran’s oil crisis. While the embargo remained in effect, Secretary of State Dulles worried that Iran would soon start “dumping” oil on the international market at rock-bottom prices or sell oil to the Soviet Union.[106] CIA Director Allen Dulles supplied figures indicating Iran could produce and export as much as 3.7 million tons (74,000 barrels per day).[107] Such actions would negatively impact the global oil economy and do nothing to alleviate the economic conditions in Iran, since the oil would be sold at low prices and in relatively small amounts, yielding little revenue. At the March 4 and March 11 National Security Council meetings, both the Dulles brothers and Eisenhower expressed concern over losing access to Middle Eastern oil. On March 11, Eisenhower noted that an agreement with Mossadegh “might not be worth the paper it was written on,” and might disrupt concessions elsewhere if the terms were “too favorable” to Iran.[108] Such comments have led historians to speculate that the Eisenhower administration, which enjoyed close ties to the American oil industry, sought to remove Mossadegh in order to gain access to Iranian oil and protect Western oil interests elsewhere.[109] Such motivations did influence policy, but were probably not decisive on their own. Both the United Kingdom and the oil companies themselves doubted Iran’s ability to ship large quantities of “unclean” oil when cheaper sources, like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, were available.[110] The Petroleum Administration for Defense, a branch of the Department of the Interior tasked with monitoring the global oil supply, felt there was no market for Iranian oil and that it would take two years for Mossadegh to claw back market share.[111] With only 28 tankers of its own, the Soviet Union could not move large quantities of Iranian oil.[112] Rather than focusing on saving the oil companies, which were never consulted by the Eisenhower administration at any point in early 1953 (something noted by British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden[113]), the United States focused on conditions inside Iran. Fear of collapse stemming from a prolonged oil shutdown and a lack of oil revenues for the Iranian state outweighed worries of a global oil economy without Iran. The precise imagining of this collapse was linked to the threat of the Tudeh Party. Reports at the time indicated that the communist group was not ready to challenge the government.[114] The CIA had infiltrated the organization and had up-to-date information on key decisions.[115] Allen Dulles and Henderson chose to emphasize the “imperceptible” increase in the Tudeh Party’s power, and the “gradual assumption of control” it could engineer.[116] The February crisis was decisive: Mossadegh broke with the shah and his former ally Kashani, and adopted a more lenient attitude toward the communist organization. As one Iranian minister explained to the U.S. embassy in Iran, Mossadegh could not fight both his conservative opposition and the communists, and had opted for a marriage of convenience.[117] Mossadegh may have been acting strategically, but his maneuver seemed to confirm Dulles and Henderson’s warning of a creeping Tudeh influence over the government. But this threat was never characterized at the time as imminent. [quote id="5"] Documents in the 2017 Foreign Relations of the United States volume and other declassified sources indicate that avoiding a Kashani government was as important to U.S. officials as preventing the rise of the Tudeh Party. Worries that Mossadegh would die or resign once again prompted concerns over who would succeed him — something that had preoccupied the Truman administration. With conservative opposition too weak to mount an effective opposition effort, Mossadegh would be succeeded by another member of the National Front. Ayatollah Kashani was the most likely candidate, given his prominence, popular following, and powerful street presence. As prime minister, it was unlikely Kashani would seek an oil agreement. Rather than reach a deal with the British, “[h]e has … urged that Iran forget its oil resources and develop a self-sustaining economy and governmental structure not dependent on them.”[118] When the idea of a coup was first suggested in November 1952, Nitze had queried whether CIA assets could be used against the Tudeh Party and Kashani, whose aggressive form of nationalism was viewed as particularly destabilizing.[119] If matters were left to drift and Mossadegh became suddenly incapacitated, Kashani’s leadership of the National Front was more or less assured. Avoiding this outcome was another reason the United States opted for covert action.[120] In the hierarchy of motives behind Operation TPAJAX, concerns over Iran’s oil nationalization and the communist threat were both important, but they were not, by themselves, crucial to the final decision to back the coup. Instead, both oil and communism factored into the decision through the predictive analytical framework of the collapse narrative represented in the reports and writings of Carr, Henderson, Thornburg, and Allen Dulles: They describe the deterioration of the oil-less economy, the consequent increase in communist or extremist influence, and the final nightmare scenario in which Iran could break away from the West, become a Soviet satellite, and threaten Western access to all Middle East oil. And yet, no one in either the Truman or Eisenhower administration articulated what collapse would look like in completely lucid terms. Hence, its characterization as a narrative: a story of how the future in Iran might unfold, should the United States do nothing. Once the narrative came to dominate policy, a form of groupthink took over. According to the CIA record, Allen Dulles dismissed intelligence provided by the agency’s analytical wing, relying on advice from “experts” like Thornburg, who shared his interventionist proclivities. Anything “incompatible with the planned covert political action … did not dissuade the President, Secretary of State … from executing TPAJAX.”[121] At least one CIA report on the limitations of U.S. resources in Iran was produced but never utilized. Dulles must have either ignored the report or had it suppressed.[122] Preventing collapse by changing the internal political dynamics of Iran — “bolstering up” a government so it could then reach an oil agreement and forestall the fall into chaos and communism, as Thornburg put it — was the goal of TPAJAX.[123] The operation was not meant to prevent a communist coup, but to reverse conditions that might result in a communist government, while producing the conditions necessary to restart the flow of oil. This becomes clear when examining the planning phase of the coup and the operation’s immediate aftermath. In 1952, the State Department’s John Leavitt was considering potential strategies should Mossadegh be removed from power. A new government would be given a sizable loan with further aid “contingent on a satisfactory solution of the oil issue.”[124] The oil issue, however, was to be downplayed during and immediately after the operation. According to John Stutesman, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs and formerly Henderson’s political counselor at the embassy in Tehran, the United States “should avoid any statement that the oil question is involved in a change of government in Iran,” and the new regime should be deterred from raising the oil question publicly for at least several months.[125] The United States had been funding agricultural relief operations through the Point Four foreign aid program since 1951. These programs were to continue, even as operations against Mossadegh proceeded, in order to keep Iran’s agrarian economy “afloat.”[126] After the coup, “substantial economic assistance” would be provided to Iran’s new government. Such aid would keep the post-coup government on its feet while also giving the U.S. leverage over its approach to the oil question.[127] Fazlallah Zahidi, a former general, was selected to lead the post-coup government. He possessed the necessary ambition, was “energetic,” and committed to pursuing an oil settlement “on a realistic basis.”[128] An estimate prepared by Donald Wilber for the CIA noted that Zahidi, who had led a number of abortive coup attempts against Mossadegh in 1952 and early 1953, was “anxious to settle the oil issue.” Once in power, he would be “presented with a draft of an oil agreement,” which would be implemented as soon as his government was “firmly established,” with a promise of further U.S. loans and cash grants once the agreement was signed.[129] Zahidi was also outwardly eager to launch a sweeping social and economic reform program tied to the new oil agreement.[130] Planning throughout 1953 was slow, however, due to the shah’s “unwillingness to take any initiative.”[131] It took months to convince the wary monarch to participate. Henderson, who had gone out of his way to aid the monarchy in February 1953, suggested the shah could be replaced if he proved uncooperative.[132] On August 19, military units loyal to the shah and Zahidi overwhelmed Mossadegh’s forces, and after a lengthy battle captured the prime minister at his house. The CIA transferred to Zahidi the funds that were left over from the operation (around $1 million), while Secretary of State Dulles approved an emergency grant of $45 million. As per the U.S. strategy, this aid was applied judiciously: It was used to push Zahidi into quickly confirming an oil agreement. “The most difficult problem confronting us,” argued John Foster Dulles, “was how to develop revenues for Iran out of her oil.”[133] Henderson told the shah in straightforward terms that a new oil arrangement would hand effective control back to the companies, while providing Iran “income in [the] immediate future from its oil.” According to Manuchehr Farmanfarmaʼiyan, an Iranian oilman, the proposal was essentially an ultimatum. If the “principle” of foreign control was not admitted, there would be no deal and no aid.[134] Again, the administration’s goal was to bring about the speedy return of oil revenues to help Iranian finances, in order to bolster Zahidi and the shah. To accomplish this, however, Iran would need to reach a deal with the major oil companies: According to Dulles, this would require the “partial negation of Iranian nationalization,” to facilitate corporate cooperation and the rapid recovery of production.[135] [quote id="6"] Intercorporate documents gleaned from the archive of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later BP) make it clear that the companies had no need of Iranian oil, as the global market was in a state of over-supply and an Iranian recovery would depress prices. The American oil companies initially argued that it would be better for the British to return to Iran alone, permitting the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to recover its nationalized assets. But John Foster Dulles and others rejected this as politically impossible. Even with Mossadegh out of power, the Iranian public would react violently to a British return, unless it was suitably camouflaged. The Eisenhower administration directed the five major U.S. firms to take over Iran’s oil industry “in the security interest of the United States … to permit the reactivation of the petroleum industry in Iran and to provide to the friendly government of Iran substantial revenues.”[136] Their participation came “at the request of the United States government, and for the primary purpose of assisting Iran … to improve and stabilize its economy.”[137] The U.S. companies were given a 40-percent stake in the new “Iran Consortium,” with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company receiving 40 percent of its own and the remaining 20 percent split between Royal Dutch/Shell and the Compagnie Française des Pétroles. The shah’s government was in no position to argue with the companies’ terms and approved the final agreement in October 1954. In legal terms, Iran’s nationalization remained in effect — U.S. officials recognized that to do otherwise would only inflame Iranian nationalism. But the reality of nationalization was effectively reversed, and the Western oil companies would control the flow of Iranian oil for another 20 years.[138] The new oil agreement was very unpopular in Iran. Together with the coup, the agreement identified the shah’s new government with foreign influence, staining it with a mark of illegitimacy that would never truly disappear. For American policymakers, however, these issues were of secondary importance. Without an oil agreement, Iran would lurch “from crisis to crisis,” depending on aid “to meet emergencies” and the shah’s legitimacy would remain shaky following the coup. Such a strategy would do little to create “real stability, permit development or avoid future emergencies.”[139] The new agreement was needed to support the government, which could use oil to fund programs of economic development, “[to] meet popular aspirations,” and forestall the country’s slip toward communism.[140] Once the Consortium Agreement was ratified by the shah’s new Majlis in October 1954, the chief U.S. negotiator, Herbert Hoover Jr., offered his congratulations to Iran’s foreign minister. The news marked a “significant victory” for those “dedicated to the principle that Iran is to move toward social and economic development.”[141] Iran had been saved. The coup was complete.

Conclusion

The collapse narrative formed by Carr, Henderson, Dulles, and Thornburg carried over into the official histories of the coup. According to one internal CIA account, “[Iran] seemed headed for an economic collapse and political anarchy,” a state of affairs that would inevitably lead to its transformation into a “Soviet satellite.”[142] The coup was necessary, “as the alternative to certain economic collapse in Iran … [due to] the dangerous and advanced stage of illegal deficit financing,” concluded CIA adviser and coup chronicler Wilber.[143] The same notion found traction in the shah’s Iran, which charged Mossadegh with “tyrannical” acts, including the printing of new rials. The failure of his economic policies acted as justification for his subsequent imprisonment, despite his sincere arguments that the country “could sustain itself without oil revenues.”[144] Within the Eisenhower administration, it was agreed that the coup had been necessary, while the efficacy of covert action was proven a second time in 1954 when the CIA assisted in the removal of Guatemalan president Juan Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán. “Whatever we have done, good or bad … we can at least have the satisfaction that we saved Iran from communism,” concluded Eisenhower in 1957.[145] The collapse narrative provided the foundation for the decision to remove Mossadegh. The threat posed to the global oil market by Iran’s nationalization remained inchoate and the communist threat to Iran was not imminent. But the threat of collapse, imagined through a predictive analytical framework and articulated in terms either of a progressive economic deterioration or a political crisis brought on by Mossadegh’s death or incapacitation loomed on the horizon if the United States failed to act. Fears of a collapse had percolated throughout the policymaking apparatus for months and were evident in the economic reports of Carr and the political analysis of Henderson. CIA Director Dulles was a crucial supporter of intervention, but while he may have accepted the collapse narrative, he did not form it entirely on his own. Although covert action was initially rejected, by March 1953 other options — aiding Mossadegh, pushing for an oil settlement, or doing nothing — appeared unsuitable. Once the coup decision was made, there was no going back. Among those directly involved in launching Operation TPAJAX, Henderson voiced the strongest reservations. Though he supported the action, he doubted whether TPAJAX would bring about the stability the United States craved in Iran: “I do not believe the problem can be solved merely by attempts to unseat Mossadegh.”[146] His uncertainty was prescient. Iran’s new government came to power marred by illegitimacy and dependent upon coercion and repression. Despite his apparent strength, the shah fell from power amidst the tumult of the Islamic Revolution of 1978–79, his allies in Washington watching in disbelief as another cadre of “irrational” leaders took over the Iranian state. But all that lay in the future. There was an obvious sense of relief among U.S. policymakers in the aftermath of the coup, as oil dollars and U.S. aid flooded into Iran and the shah’s military decimated the ranks of the Tudeh Party and National Front. According to Carr’s successor Spencer Barnes, most aid was wasted and its positive economic effect “sterilized.” Yet, the psychological impact of regime change and the hope for a new oil settlement would offset that waste: “The economy of Iran has considerable resistance and flexibility … [and] political factors are often more important than economic [ones],” while ongoing deficit spending could probably continue for months, “perhaps even a year or so,” before becoming “disastrous.”[147] Nevertheless, the collapse narrative did not go away, although the sense of urgency did. Subsequent administrations continued to doubt Iranian competence: “What they lack is the capacity for sustained, dynamic effort,” wrote Kennedy adviser Robert Komer in October 1962. “They don’t have what it takes to run a country themselves.”[148] The shah’s form of top-down modernization, lubricated by billions in oil revenues, seemed the only viable cure for Iran’s chronic instability. The coup of 1953 returned Iran to a state of “stability” that American policymakers could comprehend. More importantly, TPAJAX ensured that Iran would never again be “oil-less.”   Dr. Gregory Brew is a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. A historian of U.S.-Iranian relations and the political economy of international oil, his work has appeared in Iranian Studies, International History Review, Mediterranean Quarterly, and The Oxford Research Encyclopedia. He also writes on the geopolitics of energy at The FUSE. Find him @gbrew24.   Acknowledgements: This article is based on a paper presented at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. The author would like to thank the panel participants who read and commented on the paper, including Mary Ann Heiss, Mark J. Gasiorowski, Roham Alvandi, Malcolm Byrne, and David S. Painter. The author would also like to acknowledge the excellent editorial assistance of the staff at the Texas National Security Review and both peer-review readers.   [post_title] => The Collapse Narrative: The United States, Mohammed Mossadegh, and the Coup Decision of 1953 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-collapse-narrative-the-united-states-mohammed-mossadegh-and-the-coup-decision-of-1953 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-09 11:02:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-09 16:02:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2046 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => On Aug. 19, 1953, elements inside Iran organized and funded by the Central Intelligence Agency and British intelligence services carried out a coup d’état that overthrew the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. Historians have yet to reach a consensus on why the Eisenhower administration opted to use covert action in Iran, tending to either emphasize America’s fear of communism or its desire to control oil as the most important factor influencing the decision. Using recently declassified material, this article argues that growing fears of a “collapse” in Iran motivated the decision to remove Mossadegh. American policymakers believed that Iran could not survive without an agreement that would restart the flow of oil, something Mossadegh appeared unable to secure. There was widespread skepticism of his government’s ability to manage an “oil-less” economy, as well as fears that such a situation would lead inexorably to communist rule. A collapse narrative emerged to guide U.S. thinking, one that coalesced in early 1953 and convinced policymakers to adopt regime change as the only remaining option. Oil and communism both impacted the coup decision, but so did powerful notions of Iranian incapacity and a belief that only an intervention by the United States would save the country from a looming, though vaguely defined, calamity. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => While much is known about how the coup took place, there remains some disagreement as to why the United States decided on covert action or why this decision was made in early 1953. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => While there was little support for Mossadegh, policymakers recognized Iranian nationalism as a powerful political force.  ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => To make an oil-less economy work, Mossadegh would either need to take full control over Iran’s state and economy or lean on outside support. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => By late 1952, Carr’s reports and Henderson’s analysis convinced policymakers in Washington that an Iranian economy without oil was not sustainable, and that, without an oil settlement, Mossadegh would lead the country into disaster. But a coup to remove him did not seem viable.  ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Fear of collapse stemming from a prolonged oil shutdown and a lack of oil revenues for the Iranian state outweighed worries of a global oil economy without Iran. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Without an oil agreement, Iran would lurch “from crisis to crisis,” depending on aid “to meet emergencies” and the shah’s legitimacy would remain shaky following the coup. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 2439 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 321 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Accounts of the coup include, Ali Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup in Iran: Thugs, Turncoats, Soldiers, and Spooks (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Ervand Abrahamian, The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations (New York: New Press, 2013); Mark J. Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup d’Etat Against Mossadeq,” in, Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, ed. Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 227­–60. A popular, though far less rigorous account, is, Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2004). For general studies of the crisis that precipitated the August 1953 coup, see, James A. Bill and Wm. Roger Louis, eds., Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism and Oil (London: Tauris, 1988); Mary Ann Heiss, Empire and Nationhood: The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950-1954 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997); Steve Marsh, Anglo-American Relations and Cold War Oil: Crisis in Iran (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); James F. Goode, The United States and Iran: In the Shadow of Musaddiq (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997); Mostafa Elm, Oil, Power and Principle: Iran’s Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1992); and Richard W. Cottam, Iran and the United States: A Cold War Case Study (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988). A few of the more notable articles published concerning the coup and nationalization crisis include, Steve Marsh, “The United States, Iran and Operation ‘Ajax’: Inverting Interpretative Orthodoxy,” Middle Eastern Studies 39, no. 3 (2003): 1–38, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00263200412331301657; Francis J. Gavin, “Politics, Power, and US Policy in Iran, 1950-1953,” Journal of Cold War Studies 1, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 56–89, https://doi.org/10.1162/15203970152521890; and Andreas Etges, “All That Glitters Is Not Gold: The 1953 Coup Against Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran,” Intelligence and National Security 26, no. 4 (2011): 495–508, https://doi.org/10.1080/02684527.2011.580603. [2] A new revisionist school has attempted a re-evaluation of the coup, arguing that foreign intervention was relatively unimportant. See, Darioush Bayandor, Iran and the CIA: The Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited (Houndsmill: Basingstoke, 2010); Ray Takeyh and Steven Simon, The Pragmatic Superpower: Winning the Cold War in the Middle East (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016), 53–89; Ray Takeyh, “What Really Happened in Iran: The CIA, the Ouster of Mosaddeq, and the Restoration of the Shah,” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 4 (July/August 2014): 2–14, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2014-06-16/what-really-happened-iran. For a detailed response to this revisionism, see, Fakhreddin Azimi, “The Overthrow of the Government of Mosaddeq Reconsidered,” Iranian Studies 45 no. 5 (2012): 693–712, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00210862.2012.702554. [3] Donald Wilber, CIA Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953, ed. Malcolm Byrne, published online by the National Security Archive, Nov. 29, 2000, 1–3, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/. [4] Scott A. Koch, “Zendebad Shah!”: The Central Intelligence Agency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, August 1953 (Washington DC: CIA, June 1998); and The Battle for Iran, published online by National Security Archive, June 27, 2014 https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB476/. [5] Carl N. Raether and Charles S. Sampson, eds., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Iran, 1951-1954, Volume X (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 1989) [hereafter FRUS X]; James C. Van Hook, ed., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Iran, 1951-1954, Second Edition (Washington DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2018) [hereafter FRUS Retrospective]. [6] In September 2017, the Wilson Center organized a seminar on the new FRUS volume. Included among the participants were Mark J. Gasiorowski, Malcolm Byrne, David S. Painter, Wm. Roger Louis, Bruce Kuniholm, Barbara Slavin, and others. [7] One British operative published a memoir that touched on coup planning in 1953. See, C.M. Woodhouse, Something Ventured (London: Granada, 1982). [8] See Mark J. Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup D’etat in Iran,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 19, no. 3 (August 1987): 275, https://www.jstor.org/stable/163655. See also, Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup d’Etat Against Mossadeq,” 227–60. [9] Heiss, Empire and Nationhood, 172. [10] Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup, 60–61; Marsh, Anglo-American Relations, 152–53, Goode, The United States and Iran, 110. Gavin, “Politics, Power, and US Policy in Iran,” 56–89. [11] Abrahamian, The Coup, 5. [12] Elm, Oil, Power and Principle, 276; Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), 412–20. For the formation of the consortium, see, Mary Ann Heiss, “The United States, Great Britain, and the Creation of the Iranian Oil Consortium, 1953-1954,” International History Review 16, no. 3 (August 1994): 511–35, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40107317. [13] David S. Painter, Oil and the American Century: The Political Economy of U.S. Foreign Oil Policy, 1941-1954 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 173–99. [14] Abdel Razzaq Takriti, “Colonial Coups and the War on Popular Sovereignty,” American Historical Review 124, no. 3 (June 2019): 880, https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/rhz459. [15] Mary Ann Heiss, “The International Boycott of Iranian Oil and the Anti-Mosaddeq Coup of 1953,” in, Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, ed. Malcolm Byrne and Mark J. Gasiorowski (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 178–200. [16] Henderson to Acheson No. 2425, December 27, 1952, United States National Archives, College Park, Maryland, [USNA] Record Group [RG] 59, Central Decimal File [CDF], Box 5510, 888.2553/12-2652. [17] For a response to Abrahamian’s “control of oil” argument, see, Mark J. Gasiorowski, “Review of The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations, by Ervand Abrahamian,” Middle East Journal 67, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 315–17, https://www.jstor.org/stable/43698055. [18] Zendebad Shah!, 11. [19] Mark J. Gasiorowski, “U.S. Perceptions of the Communist Threat in Iran During the Mossadegh Era,” Journal of Cold War Studies 21, no. 3 (Summer 2019): 37, https://doi.org/10.1162/jcws_a_00898. [20] Memo, Jernegan to Matthews, October 23, 1952; Byroade to Matthews, November 26,1952; Memo of Conversation, December 3, 1952. Thanks to the National Security Archive for making these documents available: https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [21] Documents from Record Group 59 and Record Group 84 (RG 59 and RG 84) were viewed in the Main Reading Room, United States National Archives, College Park, Maryland. British Petroleum Archive (BP) at the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK. [22] Philip Zelikow, “Why Did America Cross the Pacific? Reconstructing the U.S. Decision to Take the Philippines, 1898-99,” Texas National Security Review 1 no. 1 (December 2017): 36­–67, https://tnsr.org/2017/11/america-cross-pacific-reconstructing-u-s-decision-take-philippines-1898-99/; Alexandra T. Evans and A. Bradley Potter, “When Do Leaders Change Course? Theories of Success and the American Withdrawal From Beirut, 1983-1984,” Texas National Security Review 2, no. 2 (February 2019): 10–38, https://tnsr.org/2019/02/when-do-leaders-change-course-theories-of-success-and-the-american-withdrawal-from-beirut-1983-1984/. [23] Wilber, CIA Clandestine Service History, 1. [24] Quote from Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945, 3rd Edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2008), 28. See also, Matthew F. Jacobs, Imagining the Middle East: The Building of an American Foreign Policy, 1918-1967 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 12–27. [25] For an example of this trend in thinking, see, Bradley R. Simpson, Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008). For development ideology in the Cold War, see, Michael E. Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development and US Foreign Policy from the Cold War to the Present (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2011). [26] A.C. Millspaugh, “The Persian-British Oil Dispute,” Foreign Affairs II, no. 3 (April 1933): 521–25, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-kingdom/1933-04-01/persian-british-oil-dispute. [27] Telegram, Wiley to Acheson, Feb. 27, 1950, FRUS 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V, ed. Herbert A. Fine et al., no. 217, (Washington DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1978), https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1950v05/d217. [28] From USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 7243: Memo by Dean Acheson, August 17, 1946, 891.50/8-1746; Memo of Conversation, October 8, 1948, 891.50/10-848; “Need for Improving the Economic Conditions in Iran,” 891.50 SEVEN YEAR PLAN/6-2248; “Memorandum on the Naficy Plan,” March 12, 1948, 891.50 SEVEN YEAR PLAN/6-2248, U.S. Embassy No. 179, June 22, 1948, Enclosure No. 3; Memo of Conversation, February 28, 1946, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 7244, 891.51/2-2846; Allen to State, no. 575, June 28, 1947, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 7245891.60/6-2847. [29] Wiley to State, no. 179, February 1, 1950, USNA RG 84 U.S. Legation & Embassy, Tehran, Classified General Records[USLETCGR] 1950–1952, Box 35; Richards to Acheson, No. 673, April 13, 1950, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950–1052, Box 35. [30] Thornburg to US Ambassador, March 5, 1950, recovered from World Bank General Archives, WB IBRD/IDA MNA Folder ID 1805823, http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/162371403270473426/wbg-archives-1805823.pdf. [31] James Bamberg, The History of the British Petroleum Company: The Anglo-Iranian Years, 1928–1954, Vol. 2 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982); and James Bamberg, British Petroleum and Global Oil, 1950-1975: The Challenge of Nationalism, Vol. 3 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000). [32] For the narrative of the nationalization crisis, see Abrahamian, The Coup, 9–80. [33] Maziar Behrooz, “Tudeh Factionalism and the 1953 Coup in Iran,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 33, no. 3 (August 2001): 364, http://www.jstor.org/stable/259456. [34] For the British view of the Iran crisis, see, Steven G. Galpern, Money, Oil and Empire in the Middle East: Sterling and Postwar Imperialism, 1945-1971 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 80–141; Wm Roger Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-1951: Arab Nationalism, the United States, and Postwar Imperialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 632–89; Heiss, “The International Boycott of Iranian Oil,” 178–80. [35] The various phases of negotiation are described in detail in Heiss, Empire and Nationhood. [36] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, July 18, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 84, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d84. See also, Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, July 18, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 85, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d85; Telegram, U.S. State Department to U.S. Embassy London, July 18, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 86, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d86;, Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, July 19, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 88, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d88. [37] Iran Economic Papers, no. 8, “Imports and Exports,” January 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955, Box 60; US Embassy Iran, no. 46, July 18, 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955, Box 60; Henderson to State, no. 1245 September 23, 1952, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1950–1952, Box 36 501; Middleton to Foreign Office, no. 292 (E), September 22, 1952, United Kingdom National Archives [UKNA] Foreign Office [FO] 371/98625 EP 1112/29. [38] Patrick Clawson and Cyrus Sassanpour, “Adjustment to a Foreign Exchange Shock: Iran, 1951-1953,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 19, no. 1 (February 1987): 10–11, http://www.jstor.org/stable/163025. Homa Katouzian, “Oil Boycott and the Political Economy: Mosaddeq and the Strategy of Non-Oil Economics,” in, Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism and Oil, ed. Bill and Louis (London: IB Tauris, 1988), 212–14. [39] Telegram, Acheson to Gifford, June 22, 1951, FRUS 1952-1954, Vol. X: Iran 1951-1954 [FRUS X], no. 30, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d30;  Statement of Policy Proposed by National Security Council: Iran, June 27, 1951, FRUS 1952-1954, Vol. X: Iran 1951-1954, no. 32, ,  https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d32. [40] Memo of Conversation,  July 12, 1951, FRUS X, no. 40,  https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d40; Memo from McGhee to Acheson, April 20, 1951, RG 59 888.2553/4-2051. [41] Intelligence Memorandum, July 11, 1951, FRUS Retrospective, no. 39, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d39. [42] Gasiorowski, “U.S. Perceptions of the Communist Threat,” 13, 17. [43] Heiss, “International Boycott of Iranian Oil,” 198. Heiss bases her conclusion on figures from Jahangir Amuzegar and M. Ali Fekrat, Iran: Economic Development Under Dualistic Conditions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971), 21. [44] Hossein Mahdavy, “The Patterns and Problems of Economic Development in Rentier States: The Case of Iran,’’ in, Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East: From the Rise of Islam to the Present Day, ed. M.A. Cook, ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), 443–67. [45] US Embassy no. 574, October 31, 1951, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1950–1952, Box 39; Iran Economic Paper no. 2, Government Budget, January 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955 Box 60; US Embassy no. 712, March 5, 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5503, 888.2553/3-551. [46] Henderson to Acheson, November 6, 1951, FRUS X, no. 122,  https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d122. [47] Henderson to State No. 3781, Drafted by Carr, April 4, 1952, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950–1952 Box 36. [48] US Embassy no. 866, Contributions of the AIOC to the Iranian Embassy, April 27, 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF Box 5504, 888.2553/4-2751. [49] Iran Economic Paper no. 9, Balance of Payment, January 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955, Box 60. [50] Villard to Nitze, Policy Planning Staff, October 9, 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5507, 888.2553/10-951. [51] Memo of Conversation, November 4, 1951, FRUS X, no. 120, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d120. [52] US Embassy No. 185, October 4, 1951, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950–1952, Box 35; Henderson to State, no. 3781, Drafted by Carr, April 4, 1951, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950–1952, Box 36. [53] “Prospects for Economic Stabilization in Iran After Oil Nationalization,” July 23 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5505A, 888.2553/7-2351. [54] Memo of Conversation, February 14, 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5506 Nitze-Linder Working Papers. [55] US Embassy Tehran, no. 555, January 17, 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953­–1955, Box 60. [56] US Embassy Tehran, no. 824, April 8, 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1953–1955, Box 60. [57] US Embassy Tehran, no. 555, January 17, 1953, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR, 1950–1952, Box 36. [58] John J. Harter, “Loy Henderson and the Cold War: An Interview with the Biographer of ‘Mr. Foreign Service,’” Foreign Service Journal (April 1992): 41–45, http://www.afsa.org/foreign-service-journal-april-1992. [59] Telegram, Henderson to State, January 4, 1952, FRUS X, no. 139, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d139. [60] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, January 29, 1952, FRUS X, no. 153, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d153. [61] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, October 22, 1951, FRUS X, no. 116, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d116; Henderson to Acheson, no. 1869, November 20, 1951, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5507, 888.2553/11-2051. [62] Telegram, Henderson to Gifford, February 28, 1952, FRUS X, no. 164, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d164. [63] Henderson to Acheson No. 1857 November 5, 1952, USNA RG 84 USLETCGR 1950-1952 Box 36. [64] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson,  November 5, 1952, FRUS X, no. 235, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d235. [65] Special Estimate-33, Prospects for Survival of Mossadeq Regime in Iran, October 14, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 132, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d132; National Intelligence Estimate (NIE-75), November 13, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 143, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d143. [66] Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council, The Present Situation in Iran, November 20, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, No 147, NSC 136/1, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d147. [67] Robert Amory Jr., Memo for General Smith, November 28, 1952, CIA CREST On-Line. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP79-01041A000100020058-0.pdf. [68] Lovett for Acheson, November 12, 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5510, 888.2553/11-1252. [69] Memo of Conversation, November 18, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 146, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d146. [70] Special Estimate: Prospects for Survival of Mossadeq Regime in Iran, October 14, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 132, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d132. [71] Dean G. Acheson Papers, Box 81, Princeton Seminar, May 15, 1954, from the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Independence, MO. [72] Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council: The Present Situation in Iran, November 20, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 147, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d147. [73] Memorandum Prepared in the Office of National Estimates, Central Intelligence Agency, May 1, 1951, FRUS Retrospective, no. 20, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d20; Memo, Langer to Smith, July 6, 1951, FRUS Retrospective, no. 37 https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d37; Minutes of Meeting with Director of Central Intelligence Smith, May 9, 1951, FRUS Retrospective, no. 25, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d25. [74] Zendebad Shah!, 119. The island had been a gift from the ruler of Bahrain, with whom Thornburg forged a relationship while serving as a representative of the Standard Oil Company of California (SOCAL). See, Linda Wills Qaimmaqami, “The Catalyst of Nationalization: Max Thornburg and the Failure of Private Sector Developmentalism in Iran, 1946-1951,” Diplomatic History 19, no. 1 (January 1995): 1–31, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7709.1995.tb00575.x. [75] Memo of Conversation, August 20, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 116, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d116. [76] Memo Prepared by Thornburg, August 22, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, No. 118, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d118; Memo from Dulles to Smith, Attached Letter Thornburg to Dulles, February 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 154, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d154. [77] Memo, Byroade to Acheson, July 29, 1952, FRUS Retrospective Iran, no. 101, emphasis mine, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d101. [78] Gavin, “Politics, Power, and US Policy in Iran,” 78–80. [79] Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council: The Present Situation in Iran, November 20, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 147, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d147. [80] Mark J. Gasiorowski, “The CIA’s TPBEDAMN Operation and the 1953 Coup in Iran,” Journal of Cold War Studies 15, no. 4 (Fall 2013): 4–24, https://doi.org/10.1162/JCWS_a_00393; and Gasiorowski, “The US Stay-Behind Operation in Iran, 1948-1953,” Intelligence and National Security 34, no. 2 (February 2019): 170–88, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02684527.2018.1534639. [81] For British interest in removing Mossadegh, see Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup, 11–33. [82] Memo Jernegan to Matthews, October 23, 1952; Byroade to Matthews, November 26,1952; Memo of Conversation, December 3, 1952, National Security Archive, Briefing Book no. 601, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [83] Woodhouse, Something Ventured, 117–18. [84] Special Estimate: Prospects for Survival of Mossadeq Regime in Iran, October 14, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 132, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d132; Memo Prepared in the Office of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, March 31, 1953, FRUS Retrospective No. 181, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d181. [85] Zendebad Shah!, 15. [86] Byroade to Matthews, November 26, 1952, National Security Archive, Briefing Book no. 601, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [87] Memo of Conversation, December 3, 1952, National Security Archive, Briefing Book no. 601, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [88] Memo from Byroade to Matthews, October 15, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 133, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d133. [89] Lovett to Acheson, October 24, 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5510, 888.2553/10-2452; Lovett for Acheson, November 12 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5510, 888.2553/11-1252. [90] Nitze for Acheson, November 6, 1952, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5510, 888.2553/11-652. [91] Memo of Discussion at the 135th Meeting of the National Security Council, March 4, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, No. 171, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d171. [92] The best account of these discussions can be found in Heiss, Empire and Nationhood, 135–66. [93] Henderson to Acheson no. 2518, January 3, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/1-353. [94] Telegram, Henderson to State, October 22, 1951, FRUS X, no. 116, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d116. [95] Rahnema, Behind the 1953 Coup, 49–59; CIA Briefing Note for Dulles, Undated, FRUS Retrospective, no. 159, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d159; Telegram, Henderson to State, February 25, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 161, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d161; Telegram, Henderson to State, February 26, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 162, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d162; Telegram, Henderson to State, February 27, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 165, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d165; Telegram, Henderson to State, February 28, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 166, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d166. [96] National Intelligence Estimate, November 13, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 143, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d143; National Intelligence Estimate, January 9, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 152, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d152. The quotes indicate passages of the original national intelligence estimate which were altered for the January draft. [97] Memo prepared in the Office of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, March 31, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 181, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d181; Memo, Allen Dulles to Eisenhower, March 1, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 169, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d169. [98] Memo of Discussion at the 135th Meeting of the National Security Council, March 4, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 171, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d171. [99] Memorandum of Discussion at the 136th Meeting of the National Security Council, March 11, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 176, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d176. [100] Foster Dulles to Henderson no. 2387, March 13, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511A, 888.2553/3-1353. [101] Memo for the Record, March 18, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 179, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d179; Progress Report to the National Security Council, March 20 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 180, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d180; Memo from Morgan to Allen Dulles, April 3, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 183, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d183. [102] Memo, Roosevelt to Allen Dulles, April 4 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 184, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d184. [103] Memo, Smith to Eisenhower, May 23, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 211, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d211. [104] Memo, Mattison to Henderson, May 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 206, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d206. [105] A meeting between Henderson and several CIA officials, including Kermit Roosevelt, on June 6 makes it clear that the ambassador was aware of the operation to remove Mossadegh. See, Memo of Conversation, June 6, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 216, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d216. Roosevelt’s memoir includes a meeting held on June 25 when high-level approval was given, but no record has been found elsewhere. See Roosevelt, Countercoup, 1–10. Two CIA histories mention authorization for TPAJAX was given by Secretary Dulles and Eisenhower on July 11, but no record has been found to confirm this. See, Editorial Note, FRUS Retrospective, no. 225, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d225. [106] Foster Dulles to Holmes, no. 5294, February 10, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/2-1053. [107] Allen Dulles, Memo for Secretary of State, February 18, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511,888.2553/2-1853. [108] Memorandum of Discussion at the 136th Meeting of the National Security Council, March 11, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 176, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d176. [109] Collier, Democracy and the Nature of American Influence in Iran, 120–21. [110] Holmes to Foster Dulles no. 4663, February 20, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/2-2053. [111] Note to Linder from PAD Deputy Administrator, February 4, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/2-453. [112] Holmes to Foster Dulles no. 4663, February 20, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511, 888.2553/2-2053. [113] Foreign Office to Makins No. 716, February 18, 1953, UKNA FO 371/104612 EP 1531/158. [114] CIA Memo, Undated, FRUS Retrospective, no. 138, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d138; Gasiorowski, “U.S. Perceptions of the Tudeh Threat,” 30–32. [115] Information Report Prepared by the CIA, April 6, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 185, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d185. [116] Telegram, Henderson to Acheson, November 5, 1952, FRUS X, no. 235, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d235; National Intelligence Estimate, January 9, 1953, FRUS X, no. 152, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d152. [117] Memo, Warne to Henderson, May 20, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 207, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d207. [118] Memo Prepared in the Office of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, March 31, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 181, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d181. [119] Memo of Conversation, December 3, 1952, National Security Archive, Briefing Book no. 601, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2017-08-08/1953-iran-coup-new-us-documents-confirm-british-approached-us-late. [120] Kashani helped organize crowds on August 19 that supported the coup against Mossadegh. There is as yet little evidence to suggest he was paid by the CIA or the British. See, “New Findings on Clerical Involvement in the 1953 Coup in Iran,” National Security Archive, Briefing Book 619, published March 7, 2018, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2018-03-07/new-findings-clerical-involvement-1953-coup-iran. [121] Koch, Zendebad Shah!, Appendix E, 118­–19, 120. This particular appendix detailing the scope of divisions within the CIA was not declassified until 2017. [122] Memo Prepared by the Directorate of Plans, CIA, March 3, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 170, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d170. [123] Memo from Allen Dulles to Smith, Attached letter Thornburg to Dulles, February 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 154, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d154. [124] Leavitt to Roosevelt, September 22, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 122, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d122. [125] Memo, Stutesman to Richards, Undated, FRUS Retrospective, no. 256, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d256; Nash to Cutler, Undated,  FRUS Retrospective, no. 299, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d299. [126] Memo of Conversation, June 2, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 215, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d215. [127] CIA Memo for the Record, August 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 282, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d282. [128] Memo of Conversation, May 16, 1952, FRUS Retrospective, no. 73, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d73; CIA Memo for the Record, August 19, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 282, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d282. [129] Memo from Waller to Roosevelt, April 16, 1953, Attachment no. 1, “Factors Involved in the Overthrow of Mossadeq,” Undated, FRUS Retrospective, no. 192, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d192. [130] Dispatch from the Embassy in Iran to the State Department, May 20, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 208, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d208. [131] CIA Briefing Note, April 21, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 194, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d194. [132] Memo of Conversation, June 6, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 216, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d216. [133] Memo of Discussion at 160th Meeting of the National Security Council, August 27, 1953, FRUS Retrospective, no. 304, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d304. [134] Manucher Farmanfarmaian, Blood and Oil: Memoirs of a Persian Prince (New York: Random House, 1997), 302–03; Henderson to Foster Dulles no. 949, October 22, 1953, RG 59 888.2553/10-2253; Henderson to Foster Dulles no. 958, October 23, 1953, RG 59 888.2553/10-2353. [135] Dulles to Henderson, September 23, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511A, 888.2553/9-2153. [136] Quoted in, Multinational Oil Corporations and US Foreign Policy, Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate (Washington: 1975), 68. [137] “The American Group’s Further Views: Basis for the Settlement with Anglo-Iranian,” British Petroleum Archive, Coventry UK [BP] 66232, March 16, 1954. [138] The legal means behind the “façade of nationalization” put in place by the 1954 agreement were complex. See, Heiss, “Creation of the Iranian Oil Consortium, 1953-1954,” 511­–35. [139] Statement of Policy by the National Security Council, January 2 1954, FRUS Retrospective, no. 355, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d355; Memo from the Office of National Estimates, March 29, 1954, FRUS Retrospective, no. 365, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d365. [140] National Intelligence Estimate, December 7, 1954, FRUS Retrospective, no. 375, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951-54IranEd2/d375. [141] Foster Dulles to Henderson, October 28, 1954, FRUS X, no. 502, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v10/d502. [142] The Battle for Iran, 1. [143] Wilber, Clandestine Service History, 1, Appendix B: “‘London’ Draft of TPAJAX Operational Plan.” [144] Quoted in Katouzian, “Oil Boycott,” 209. [145] Memo of Discussion at the 312th Meeting of the National Security Council, February 7, 1957, FRUS 1955-1957 Vol. XII, no. 391, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1955-57v12/d391. [146] Memo by Stutesman, May 8, 1953, Attachment, Henderson to State no. 4348, May 7, 1953, USNA RG 59 CDF, Box 5511A, 888.2553/5-853. [147] Barnes to Henderson, Conversion of US Aid Dollars to Rials, September 21, 1953, USNA RG 469 Records of U.S. Foreign Aid Agencies, Iran Branch, Subject Files 1952–1959, Box 2; Barnes to Warne and Henderson, Utilization of Grant Aid Funds, October 14, 1953, USNA RG 469 Records of U.S. Foreign Aid Agencies, Iran Branch, Subject Files 1952–1959, Box 2. [148] Paper by Komer of the National Security Council Staff, October 20, 1962, FRUS 1961-1963 Vol. XVIII Near East 1962-1963, no. 85, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v18/d85. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2134 [post_author] => 49 [post_date] => 2019-11-21 13:14:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-21 18:14:29 [post_content] => Though we are loath to admit it, we all enjoy a good academic fight. The recent passing of two noted, brilliant, but problematic intellectual pugilists — the historian Norman Stone and literary critic Harold Bloom — has made me wonder whether such battles are the best way to advance scholarly arguments and expand our understanding of the world.[1] I was certainly trained in the arts of intellectual combat. As an undergraduate, I had a front row seat to what had been called “the great 3:1 pissing match,” an intense debate over whether NATO conventional forces could withstand an attack from larger Soviet forces, and how to assess the military balance on the central front in Europe (3:1 is the concentration of forces needed to break through a well-established front).[2] Reading Greg Brew’s new article, “The Collapse Narrative: The United States, Mohammed Mossadegh, and the Coup Decision of 1953,” brought back memories of my first academic clash. Twenty years ago, an article I published on the same issue received a skeptical review at H-Diplo.[3] I remember locking myself in my office for 48 hours, pulling out file after file of primary documents, and consulting with friends and mentors, all in order to craft the right response.[4] In the academic world I was raised in, a negative review had to be met — immediately and with great force — with a sharp rejoinder. The pursuit of knowledge was often framed as a bitter contest between competing theoretical schools, where no side could concede an inch to its opponents. The leading journal, International Security, devoted scores of pages in the 1990s to unending, contentious debates over which “ism” best explained how the world worked. Like other young scholars, I followed these arguments with rapt attention, rooting for my “ism” with the same irrational passion I have long devoted to my often emotionally crippling attachment to the Philadelphia Eagles. This model of intellectual battle was how I thought scholarship and knowledge advanced. I no longer see things this way. The pursuit of wisdom is not about scoring points or attempting to defeat adversaries. Most of the issues we wrestle with in international security, foreign policy, and grand strategy are complex, contested, and difficult, defying parsimonious explanations or generalizations. Most people — both in the academy and in the policy world — explore these issues in good faith. The correspondence in this issue of TNSR between Mark Bell, Julia McDonald, Brendan Green, and Austin Long is, to my mind, an exemplar of how such exchanges over scholarly differences should take place: in a serious but respectful manner. All four are terrific scholars. And the fact is, the issue they are dealing with — how to define and understand a nuclear crisis — is an epistemological nightmare. What is a nuclear crisis? Is it any contest involving a nuclear armed state, which is how some political scientist have coded it, or does the use of nuclear weapons have to be explicitly mentioned? Nuclear weapons have perverse and puzzling effects on state behavior, dampening crises that might have otherwise have emerged (the Long Peace!) yet creating dangerous situations — like the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis — that make no sense in a non-nuclear world. And the bomb is always present, hovering like a dark shadow over world politics, even when nuclear weapons appear irrelevant or no one is talking about them. I’ve made the point elsewhere that coding anything involving nuclear weapons is hard, since the “Ns” we really care about are nine (the number of nuclear weapons states), two (the times atomic bombs have been used in battle, both within days of each other in 1945), and, most importantly, zero (the number of thermonuclear wars). In the nuclear realm, certainty is elusive and most of our assertions are historical interpretations. I am not sure I am convinced by either approach. Yet, all four are to be commended for their efforts, as the issues involved could not be more important. From a social science perspective, small Ns are a nightmare. In the world of nuclear weapons, however, small Ns are a miracle of history and policy, and we should continue our rigorous intellectual examination of these questions in our unending quest to keep those numbers — nine, two, and zero — exactly where they are. The scholarly focus on competing theoretical frameworks can also blind us to how policymaking actually works and why it often fails. Philip Zelikow’s important new article, “To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Public Problem Solving,” identifies what he sees as a steep decline in the United States’ ability to conduct effective, competent statecraft. To be clear, Zelikow is not so much worried about which grand strategy or school of thought animates U.S. policy: Trendy academic debates over restraint, primacy, or off-shore balancing miss the point in the same way the battle of the “isms” did in the 1990s. His contention is that the skills needed to carry out successful policy should be thought of like engineering; an interactive process between assessment, design, and implementation. The good news is that these skills are teachable, and Zelikow’s urging that universities update their pedagogy accordingly should be heeded. Sometimes intellectual insight emerges that defies easy categorization by “isms” or schools of thought, yet this insight reveals a whole new way of understanding old problems. Andrew Rhodes’ “Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Making,” is such an article. Rhodes identifies an irony: The contemporary tools available to scholars and policymakers to understand geography are extraordinary. Yet, rarely do we understand or interrogate the mental maps to understand how space and geography affect international policy and world politics. Borrowing from Ernest May and Richard Neustadt’s famous Harvard Kennedy School class and book, Rhodes says we must learn to “think in space.” Jaehan Park makes the case that much of the international relations theory that developed after World War II was aspatial. Some of this had to do with the nuclear revolution, but much of it was driven by “emotional repugnance, as in the case of Morgenthau, or of ‘physics envy,’ in the academy in general.” Systems analysis and game theoretic models thus replaced traditional geopolitical models for understanding international relations.[5] Rhodes’ piece is difficult to categorize, either in terms of a school of thought or a methodology. It is eclectic and smart, precisely the kind of article that is difficult to place in traditional disciplinary journals but finds a most welcome home at TNSR. This is not to suggest we abandon sharp intellectual debate — quite the contrary. People may have important disagreements over how Todd Hall explains what is driving the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyo islands, or how David Betz and Hugo Stanford-Tuck portray urban warfare. Such contestation is to be welcomed, even encouraged, because the issues these scholars tackle matter enormously. The 1953 Mossadegh coup analyzed in Brew’s article, for example, plays an outsize role in both Tehran and Washington in explicitly and implicitly shaping contemporary U.S.-Iranian relations. It is important that we rigorously examine and test our assumptions about the origins and consequences of this critical event. There is a balance to be had. During the late 16th and early 17th century, scholarly debates at the world’s most prestigious universities, Cambridge and Oxford, were often shaped by arid, formal, and bitter theological and philosophical disputes with little connection to the larger world. At the same time, a new, unheralded institution emerged in London — Gresham College — which was later to become the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, or the Royal Society. Its members, pursuing science for the larger public good, helped transform our understanding of the physical world; including, most consequentially, the navigation of the sea. Oxford and Cambridge soon caught up and surpassed Gresham College. The world, however, should be grateful for its efforts to escape academic “inside baseball” and connect knowledge to larger social purposes. Perhaps the way our current academic system operates when it comes to studying foreign policy and international security could use a similar helpful nudge. I learned a lot sitting on the sidelines watching the great 3:1 pissing war. What I remember most as it unfolded in 1988 and 1989, however, was the strange allocation of intellectual resources. Intense, passionate, and even intemperate clashes over the military balance in central Europe were taking place just as the Cold War was ending and the Soviet Union unraveled. In just a few years, the great pissing war would be forgotten, the term “Fulda Gap” would largely disappear, and the participants would move on to other intellectual battles, with no one questioning whether this particular war of words had been especially fruitful. At TNSR, we enjoy and encourage sharp, big arguments. But any debate should be respectful and measured, while recognizing how hard it is to get definitive answers. Most vital of all, such debates should be important to people beyond the silos and ivory towers in which we often find ourselves. We hope you agree with us that this issue passes that test.   Francis J. Gavin is the chair of the editorial board of the Texas National Security Review. He is the Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and the inaugural director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University. His writings include Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958–1971 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004) and Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age (Cornell University Press, 2012). His latest book, Nuclear Weapons and American Grand Strategy, will be published by Brookings Institution Press later this year.   [post_title] => Wars with Words? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wars-with-words [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-09 11:08:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-09 16:08:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=2134 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [meta] => [lead] => In his introductory essay for Vol. 2, Iss. 4, Francis J. Gavin, the chair of TNSR's editorial board, discusses academic combat, debates over "isms," and how to truly advance knowledge through intellectual exchange. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => [style] => framing [type] => Framing [style_label] => The Foundation [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 2444 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 49 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Eric Homberger, “Harold Bloom, Obituary,” The Guardian, Oct. 15th, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/15/harold-bloom-obituary; Falstaff Agonistes, “Obituary: Harold Bloom Died on October 14th, The Economist, Oct. 24, 2019, https://www.economist.com/obituary/2019/10/24/obituary-harold-bloom-died-on-october-14th; Richard J. Evans, “Norman Stone Obituary,”  The Guardian June 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/25/norman-stone-obituary; Marcus Williamson, “Norman Stone: Outspoken Historian and Writer Whose Work Polarised Academic Opinion,” Independent, July 1, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/norman-stone-death-obituary-news-historian-dead-a8974476.html. [2] While there were several competing articles published on the subject, the gist of the dispute can be found here: John J. Mearsheimer, Barry R. Posen, Eliot A. Cohen, “Correspondence: Reassessing Net Assessment” International Security 13, No. 4 (Spring 1989): 128–79, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2538782. [3] Francis J. Gavin, “Politics, Power, and U.S. Policy in Iran, 1950-1953,” Journal of Cold War Studies 1, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 58–89, https://doi.org/10.1162/15203970152521890. [4] Francis J. Gavin, “Author’s Response,” H-Diplo, Oct. 8, 1999, https://issforum.org/reviews/PDF/Gavin-response.pdf. [5] Jaehan Park, “The Case for Geopolitics,” unpublished chapter from his forthcoming dissertation, The Age of Geopolitics: Japan, Russia, and the United States in the Far East, 1895-1905. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => 1 [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => 1 [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 49dbe46e3d0184d53dfae81090227c81 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )