Kori Schake

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Book Review Roundtable: The Future of War

Book Review Roundtable: The Future of War

Sir Lawrence Freedman's latest book, The Future of War, asks why futurists have so often gotten it wrong when it comes to predicting war.

Book Review Roundtable: Has the Presidency Become Impossible to Manage?

Book Review Roundtable: Has the Presidency Become Impossible to Manage?

In his latest book, "The Impossible Presidency," Jeremi Suri looks at the history of the presidency and asks whether it is still possible for a president to succeed. We've gathered six scholars and policymakers to weigh in.

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1. Introduction: A Strategist at Work

By Kori Schake I love the concept of Lawrence Freedman’s The Future of War: A History. Freedman looks at how individuals in the past have expected conflicts to unfold, and explores why they so frequently — and often spectacularly — got it wrong. It’s a terrific prism through which to see how little the present has to say about the future. Freedman is the very best kind of tour guide, convivial and informative, seeding well-known stories with unexpected facts to savor. The chapter headings alone jostle the imagination as they trace the evolution of thinking about war, highlighting Freedman’s ability to harness examples from newspapers of the 1890s, Walt Whitman’s lamentations of the infringement of war on civilian populations, movies about the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and Los Angeles gang wars — a domestic example of low-level insurgencies that fray governance in urban settings. Futurists of warfare suffer from the same failures of imagination that frequently shackle their brethren in other professions: They overemphasize present trends and assume that their society’s cultural norms will similarly bind their adversaries.[1] Futurists are often mistaken in their predictions because they draw straight-line projections from current data. As Freedman writes, projections are “about the present as much as about the future.”[2]  Projecting accurately into the future requires imagining discontinuous behavior — wars that decimate China’s economic development, or perhaps propel it; breakthroughs in technology that radically reshape the supply and demand curves for energy; dramatic reversals of public attitudes that expand or contract the political space. Perhaps predictors of war read too much history and not enough evolutionary biology. Stephen J. Gould’s idea of contingent evolution may fit intellectual development even better than it does the process of natural selection.[3] Gould posits that in any scenario there are many potential trajectories, perhaps even many diversions from the current path, yet people tend to draw a straight line from the starting point to the current location —  they don’t account for dead ends or butterfly routes that meander. Nature and strategy may be more profligate in their development than straight lines capture. The Decisive Battle Narrative But if futurists have it wrong by projecting current trends forward in time, those who believe in victory stemming from a decisive battle have it wrong because they project nostalgically into the past. They imagine a mystical time when armies formed and fought, and durable political settlements were struck as the dust from the battle settled. Military professionals festooned with breakthrough technologies and unhindered by politicians’ interference dictated the plans and produced politically salient results with a minimum of civilian casualties. It’s a delight to see Freedman tackle the mistaken expectation of a decisive battle in his enormous body of work. If Geoffrey Blainey is right that Occam’s Razor shears away all other explanations of why states go to war, leaving only that they believe they can win, Freedman’s corollary is that strategists wrongly anticipate one key conflict that will decide the fate of the war.[4] In his previous work, Strategy: A History, Freedman traces that mistaken theory of conflict to the Napoleonic Wars, where strategists focused on Jena and Waterloo rather than the grueling Iberian and Russian campaigns. In The Future of War, he uses the 1870 Battle of Sedan between Germany and France to pound the last nails into a coffin he’s been constructing across much of his work in the past fifteen years. Freedman instead supplants decisiveness with duration as the critical factor in war, “because if the enemy proved to be resilient then over time non-military factors would become progressively more important.”[5] This is the essential lesson of his book: Efforts to strike the first blow “were not taken as warnings of the folly and futility of aggression, but instead of how the unwary might get caught.”[6] In reality, according to Freedman, the ability to absorb a surprise attack and draw out a war — what in Eisenhower administration debates about national security policy was discussed as broken-back warfare — is the winning strategy. It is, however, a lesson triumphalists of decisive battles from Austerlitz to the American shock and awe theory of war have had to relearn with depressing regularity. What makes Freedman’s latest book, and so much of Freedman’s recent work, so powerful is that he gives full sail to the breadth of his knowledge on so many topics and brings them to bear on the subject of military strategy. He is especially good at exploring the ways literature has been used to shake the establishment out of complacency, from Sir George Tomkyns Chesney’s The Battle of Dorking to August Cole and Peter Singer’s Ghost Fleet.[7] It’s such a pleasure to watch the finest academic strategist writing today craft the trajectory of this story. Yet, Freedman glides lightly over the failures of contemporary military and civilian strategists to confront the botched current U.S. wars, which is surprising given that Freedman was the intellectual force of the Chilcot Report that so scathingly assessed the Blair government’s Iraq War mistakes. While Freedman chronicles the blind spots and shortcomings of war prognosticators and strategists, I would have liked to read more of his thoughts about other possible choices those individuals might have made and where they would have taken the United States and the United Kingdom. I also would have enjoyed reading him celebrate more of the astringent outliers, the lone voices who have gotten the future right, like Charles J. Dunlap, the military lawyer whose dark foreboding of how the United States would lose future wars was a shock when he wrote it in 1996.[8] The Challenges and Benefits of Quantitative Analysis Like other reviewers, I found Freedman’s extended survey of the quantitative analyses of political scientists discordant with the first half of the book.[9] I agree with Freedman’s assessment that the mania for quantitative studies is often devoid of the context needed to understand the causes and consequences of war.  As Freedman has elsewhere emphasized, interstate wars are both rare and their circumstances particular. Otto von Bismarck summed it up well when he stated that politics isn’t a science, it’s an art.[10] Constructing coded data sets risks making the same mistake Graham Allison made in his book on the “Thucydides trap”: forcing a problem into a political science framework wherein n must be greater than one.[11] In reality, each interstate war is utterly unique, thus n can never be greater than one.  The joke among baseball fans about whether there is a 162-game season, or 162 one-game seasons gets at the heart of the problem. The history of war is surely made up of 162 one-game seasons. However, I’m less convinced that political science’s penchant for quantitative studies has prevented an understanding of the conflicts prevalent after the Cold War, because such an assertion would seem to give one branch of largely inaccessible academic study much more influence than it merits. University political science departments prejudice hiring in the direction of quantitative political science, but those works have very little effect on either public understanding or policy choices. Just to take the example of democratic peace theory, the academic obsession with proving it lagged more than a half century behind the policy relevance of the idea. Nor has this field prevented regional specialists and historians from having sway. That excessive quantification can obscure rather than enlighten the study of war has been clear since Thomas Malthus’ 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population. Yet, that much quantitative work is obscurant rather than enlightening isn’t sufficient to merit ignoring its contributions.  First, because, historically speaking, quantitative political science is still in its early stages, and refinements are improving the numbers and providing more robust insights.[12] Freedman’s criticisms, however well founded, may underestimate the evolution of the form — perhaps the best parallel is the use of sabermetrics in baseball, where number crunching once seen as an affront to the studied judgment of seasoned scouts has now become an invaluable aid to them. The second defense of quantitative political science comes from Theodore Sturgeon’s Revelation. The science fiction writer was once challenged about the low quality of the genre. He responded that what was relevant was not that 90 percent of science fiction writing was crap, but that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” [13] That is, the problem was not unique to the genre, but could be applied to all genres. Just so, Freedman’s critique of quantitative political science can be responded to by noting that much of history writing is likewise unenlightening — the work of accountancy, or overloading the reader with excessive facts and citations, rather than the lively storytelling characteristic of Freedman’s work. A Well-Rounded Discussion of The Future of War Because Freedman’s work is so broad ranging, and the question he poses is relevant across so many fields of study, this roundtable has gathered experts from several different fields to share their thoughts on his latest book. All of them are, in different ways, in the business of imagining the future: by guiding politics, pulling technology forward, utilizing technology to advantage in warfare, or establishing boundaries for its ethical use. Each contributor sinks their teeth into different aspects of The Future of War, illuminating warfare from their unique perspectives. Mike Gallagher, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, represents Wisconsin’s 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the Armed Services Committee. His essay focuses on the failure of technology to prevent adversaries from finding creative ways to stymie success — despite optimism that technology would change the fundamentals of warfare. He also expresses disappointment, as an elected official responsible for preparing American military forces for the future, that Freedman doesn’t offer more practical advice for how to improve predictions of warfare. Gallagher explores the “internal constraints that can explain forecasting failure,” in particular the continuing failure of the United States to marshal regional and cultural expertise in its national security establishment. Heather Roff is senior research analyst at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.  She was previously the ethicist at Deep Mind, Google’s artificial intelligence arm, and has been on the faculties of Oxford University and the University of Colorado at Boulder. In her review, Roff challenges Freedman’s exclusion of the Korean and Vietnam wars from his discussion of how past conflicts can lock future strategists into fixed “scripts,” as those wars cast the longest shadows across contemporary foreign policy and technology challenges. In particular, she discusses the expansion of power of the presidency in times of war and the failure of the United States to understand the Vietnam War from its adversary’s perspective. Sakunthala Panditharatne is the founder of the company Asteroid Technologies that designs 3D graphics and animations for augmented reality applications. Her exploration of ideas on Twitter is the intellectual equivalent of setting sail with Columbus. Her review of Freedman’s latest work draws parallels with economic historian Carlota Perez’s Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital. Panditharatne sees that “trends in technology and organizational dynamics have led to the increasing complexity and hybridization of warfare, much like the increasing complexity in business known as the ‘knowledge economy.’”  Particularly interesting is her exploration of how personal computers and internet connectivity are shifting power from large and centralized organizations toward small networked organizations — both in businesses and militaries — and the role that legitimacy now plays in the wake of that shift. I ardently hope she proves right in her assertion that “Hybrid warfare should lend an advantage to nations with lots of soft power, which are able to attract and retain top technical talent both in industry and in the military directly, an encouraging conclusion for proponents of liberal democracy.” Pavneet Singh and Michael Brown are scouts at DIUx, the Department of Defense’s outreach to Silicon Valley. Brown is the president and CEO of Symantec, and has led numerous other tech companies, including Quantuum and EqualLogic. Singh has worked on the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, and at the World Bank. Their essay explores some of the “signposts” for predicting war that they argue Freedman missed. This includes suggesting expanding the analysis beyond the United Kingdom and America to understand how other cultures, which take a longer view of history than the Anglo-American culture and political systems, view the future of warfare; delving more deeply into the link between economic trends and the outcomes of war, because of warfare’s reliance on economic strength; and recognizing “the role and decisiveness of superior technology.” Brown and Singh argue, “There is no disputing the fact that whoever has significantly superior technology will emerge as the victor in a future conflict.” They also see important differences between great power wars and regional wars, distinctions that Freedman fails to consider in his analysis. Conclusion The Future of Warfare serves as a reminder that strategists must relentlessly reevaluate their analyses, searching for where their assumptions may have been wrong or where they no longer capture the critical elements of the problem. Good strategists also ought to be desperate paranoiacs, constantly fearful a trap door is going to open underneath them, always crafting back-up plans for how to prevent being dumped into the sewer that waits below. Freedman cautions that the most dangerous and destabilizing contemporary factor would be “a decision by the United States to disentangle itself from its alliance commitments.”[14] This is particularly poignant given President Donald Trump’s recent disgraceful behavior toward America’s NATO allies. The world may now be seeing unfold the future that this great scholar of warfare worries most about. Freedman’s exploration of the attitudes, art, and scholarship of individuals from history suggests that it may not be long before these years are referred to as the inter-war period. Sir Lawrence Freedman is the most incisive and influential academic writing about warfare today. He took the profession by storm with his Ph.D. dissertation on U.S. intelligence and the Soviet strategic threat, wrote the official British history of the Falklands War, built the renown War Studies Department at King’s College London, made seminal contributions to both the 1999 Blair doctrine and the Chilcot report, and has been a mentor to practically every young scholar in the field. This book shows him a strategist in full, drawing on a career of thinking carefully about warfare to ask why it is so difficult to see coming the kinds of wars that are actually fought? At a time when much of academia has narrowed its focus, his work is a clarion call to ask big, important questions. I’m so pleased and grateful that this interesting group of thinkers from different fields gave their time to look at The Future of War. And I’m delighted they didn’t defer to his stature or become intimidated by the vastness of his knowledge in critiquing his work.  Instead, they paid him the highest professional honor: engaging seriously and critically with his ideas and arguing about their applicability to — and beyond — warfare. Kori Schake is the deputy director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony.    

2. War May not Be Predictable, but there Are Warning Signs

By Michael Brown and Pavneet Singh In The Future of War, Lawrence Freedman offers a sobering assessment of war forecasters over the last 150 years: They were largely wrong. What’s more, in prescribing a self-interested set of policies and actions, they overlooked the real levers that cause conflict to happen. War is at best blurry, and impossible to divine from present conditions. By reviewing an extensive body of both fiction and non-fiction, Freedman takes aim at the romantic notion that a decisive first blow or the possession of advanced technology will ensure expeditious victory for the aggressor. The former, he says, never achieves the efficient win it promises, and the latter offers little utility in predicting war, but rather provides insight on how wars might be fought. While he does not make his own predictions on the future of war, Freedman identifies a few key trends that are likely to persist: 1) War will always be bloody and violent, 2) conflicts that are ongoing today (e.g., wars in sub-Saharan Africa) will continue because the international community has not come up with a way to stop them, and 3) war will be nasty, complicated, and motivated by social and political behaviors. His core conclusion is that predictions on the future of war should be made with genuine humility, and policymakers should maintain a healthy degree of skepticism before acting on these predictions. In a world obsessed with decoding the future, whether in finance or politics, rarely does one travel back in time to assess the predictions of an earlier era. In this respect, Freedman’s attempt to retroactively parse and grade the influence of futurists is refreshing and should encourage more introspection in the national security decision-making process. However, by simply abandoning at the outset the notion that any predictive models of future wars can be made, this volume does not live up to its tremendous potential. Freedman identifies a litany of “speculative possibilities,” but does not extract the legitimate markers that can inform current and future judgment — not necessarily in order to predict war, but to highlight the relevant warning signs. Below, we discuss three such signposts that Freedman either omits completely or incorrectly dismisses, which have immediate application to current national security challenges. Three Missed Signposts First, as the book is designed to “explore the prevailing understandings about the causes of war and their likely conduct and course,”[15] the most glaring oversight Freedman makes is restricting his analysis primarily to the United States and the United Kingdom. His reasoning is simple enough: These are the two countries he “knows the best,” and because they have been atop “the international hierarchy for some time.”[16] Yet, in looking out on the geopolitical landscape and assessing the threats emanating from current U.S. adversaries — or even the ambitions of U.S. allies — it is clear America is dealing with countries that take a generational perspective and whose fortunes within the international order have risen and fallen over millennia. Some of the obvious candidates include the antecedents to the nation-states of Iran, China, India, Turkey, and Russia. Even a cursory examination of these countries and peoples reveals that they have a sophisticated understanding and experience with great power wars, guerrilla warfare, and hybrid conflict. Moreover, a rich literary canon of war stratagems has originated in these countries — from the “warring states” period in China, when Sun Tzu conceived the Art of War (one of several military strategy pieces written in that period), to more recent strategies like India’s Cold Start doctrine.[17] This literature shares similarities with the works of Freedman’s classical war prognosticators, but also differs significantly on strategies and tactics in war. Indeed, contemporary studies, such as Max Boot’s Invisible Armies, An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present,[18] provide a much more instructive view of irregular warfare, demonstrating its common use as a strategy dating back to Mesopotamia. Put simply, there is much more to learn about the factors that form the views of adversaries, especially given that their behaviors will likely shape the contours of conflict over the coming generations. Second, Freedman devotes little, if any, attention to the importance of economic capacity and capability as a determining factor in winning wars. As Paul Kennedy so eloquently lays out in his book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, economics has always been a key underpinning of military capability. This was the case in World War I, where the addition of the United States’ industrial strength was the decisive factor in the Allied victory. The same was true in World War II, when the U.S. ability to deliver staggering quantities of war materiel was pivotal in defeating the combination of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, even without nuclear weapons. A related third point concerns Freedman’s dismissal of the role and decisiveness of possessing superior technology. Freedman emphasizes the lack of predictability of war and the overconfidence in a first-strike, which often does not result in the anticipated conclusive victory. However, the examples he provides are cases in which the aggressor did not possess superior technology. In the past 150 years, where there was superior technology, there was decisive victory. Take, for example, nuclear technology, which changed the calculus of decision-making in war. This has also been called the “first offset” — when the United States truly had military dominance against its adversary. Superior technology was also a decisive factor during the “second offset,” when America had overmatch capability against Iraq in the First Gulf War, defeating the sixth largest army in a matter of days with few casualties. This was due to electronics-infused warfare: command-and-control capability through GPS, satellite communications and battlefield domain surveillance, night-vision, and laser-guided munitions. In other words, the United States has had the benefit of superior technology for 75 years and has only been drawn into stalemates in situations in which U.S. political leaders have not been willing to use all of America’s military technological capability (such as in Korea and Vietnam). As the U.S. military seeks a “third offset,”[19] and its adversaries catch up to its technology prowess, there is a question as to whether the United States still has the decisive technological advantage. Nevertheless, there is no disputing the fact that whichever country does possess significantly superior technology will emerge as the victor in a future conflict. Unlike Freedman’s conclusion that superior technology does not lead to a decisive win, there are several examples of the United States doing just that through an overmatch in technology. The holy grail of military superiority in great power conflict comes from the combination of superior technology and economic strength. There have been many conflicts in the past 150 years that did not involve great power competition and in which neither superior technology nor economic strength were factors. These are conflicts whose outcomes are difficult to explain in terms of specific decisive factors.  However, to achieve greater understanding, Freedman’s book would have been better served by separating the many regional conflicts, civil wars, and terrorism-driven sources of conflict from great power wars. We disagree with Freedman that great power wars are unpredictable, since many great power wars can be explained largely by the two factors of superior technology and economic capability. Applying these Signposts to China Taken together, these three points are critical to understanding the intensifying competition between the United States and China. Central to this analysis is identifying and recognizing the factors that shape Chinese strategic thinking — and accepting that they diverge from classical western frames for thinking about conflicts. In a recent article, Aaron Friedberg invokes history as the principal wellspring guiding Chinese leaders over successive generations:
China is not just any rising power; it is a nation with a long and proud history as the leading centre of East Asian civilisation and a more recent, inglorious experience of domination and humiliation at the hands of foreign intruders. China’s leaders see their country as not merely rising, but rather returning to a position of regional pre-eminence that it once held and which they (and many of their people) regard as natural and appropriate.[20]
Notably, Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader from 1978 to 1989, played a seminal role in crafting China’s renaissance. It is telling that his philosophy prioritized humility, deception, and endurance as captured in these now famous dictums that “[China should] cross the river by feeling the stones” and “hide its capabilities and bide its time.”[21] The subsequent blueprint implemented by China’s leadership includes a relentless focus on building China’s economic, military, geopolitical, and ideological power.[22] Starting with the economy, China has developed a leading global economy faster than any country in modern history. The timescale during which this growth occurred is stunning: China’s economy has grown from 10 percent of the U.S. economy in the 1970s to the second largest global economy — in just fifty years. China is using its economic power and technology advancements to engage in a rapid peacetime military buildup, aimed at expanding borders across Asia and at sea. China’s military strategy is based on developing asymmetric capabilities to neutralize the traditional strengths of the United States in technology (e.g., anti-satellite missiles to eliminate GPS) and deny capabilities derived from expensive force projection that the United States cannot afford to replace (e.g., aircraft carriers). Beijing focuses on lower-cost technologies that can leapfrog and put America in a defensive posture, using, for example, swarms of drones or hypersonic missiles. With its “military-civil fusion initiative,” China aims to integrate all of its commercial technology advances into its military capability.[23] It has already achieved superior technology capabilities in a number of critical areas, such as hypersonics and supercomputing, while challenging the United States in artificial intelligence and bioengineering. Whether America is already engaged in conflict with China (as some have argued),[24] or the United States is destined for war (as some predict),[25] is a matter of heated debate that we don’t take a position on here.  But this example illustrates that there are key indicators (historical, economic, technological, military) that can be discerned and measured to help policymakers make better predictions about future conflicts.  Freedman is right that there are distinct differences in conflicts between great powers and regional wars, civil wars, and terrorism-fueled conflicts. What Freedman misses in The Future of War is the recognition that they can have different models for war and predictors of outcomes. This is not the same as saying that there are no reliable predictors or indicators for future conflicts. Michael Brown is a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow working with the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx). Through August of 2016, Michael was the CEO of Symantec Corporation, the global leader in cybersecurity. Pavneet Singh is a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and a consultant to DIUx. He was formerly on the National Security Council and National Economic Council focusing on international economic affairs.  

3. The Future of War Ain’t What It Used to Be

By Mike Gallagher  

A man who can look ahead and see the pattern of problems that may be emerging has tremendous value.[26] -Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster

  In his 2013 book, Strategy: A History, Lawrence Freedman developed the concept of “strategic scripts,” which is “a way of thinking about strategy as a story told in the future sense.” These scripts are narratives that can convince a group of how its initial choices are likely to play out.[27] They are essentially working theories about how security can be created by linking ends to means, and which of these means are most effective in advancing particular ends (e.g. using force vs. diplomacy). In Freedman’s 2017 The Future of War: A History, he demonstrates how often those scripts turn out to be wrong, leaving policymakers pain in place of promised success. What L.P. Hartley once said about the past here applies to the future: It is a foreign country; they do things differently there.[28] The inability to look ahead and accurately forecast emerging trends is a theme that pervades this book. Freedman shows how the indecisive and protracted trench fighting of the Great War, for example, undercut Antoine-Henri Jomini’s classical model of war, based on the Napoleonic assumption that “wars could be settled by a well-constructed campaign, culminating in a decisive battle.”[29] More recently, the rapid demise of the Soviet Union surprised many in government, undermining the arguments of realists in particular (here Freedman seems to mean structural realists or neorealists), who have since refused to reappraise a theory that
struggled because it had little to say about the impact of major ideological shifts within great powers or the drivers of instability within minor states, or why any serious major power, secure within its own borders, would bother to try to sort out this instability.[30]
Indeed, as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued,
The liberation of Eastern Europe in less than six months, the collapse of the Soviet Union in less than a year, was stunning, almost miraculous. Very, very few predicted that these revolutionary events would happen in this century. No one foresaw that they would happen so fast.[31]
This inability to accurately forecast the future will be familiar to anyone who has fought in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where despite having clear technological superiority, the United States continues to be challenged by low-tech terrorists. Protracted counterinsurgencies waged in urban settings have ended the brief flirtation with reviving a classical model of war or relying on a Revolution in Military Affairs to substitute technology for mass and “get the whole affair over quickly with few casualties.”[32] Consider the fact that, as Freedman shows, three U.S. presidents announced the end of combat in Iraq and “[e]ach time it turned out that the announcement was premature.”[33] Indeed the idea that new technology will decisively shift the odds of success and change the character of warfare — making it fast, easy, and decisive — is what H. R. McMaster has called a “vampire fallacy,” because it is so hard to kill.[34] Freedman’s focus on science fiction novels and films (i.e. actual scripts) further underscores the failure of these official scripts. For example, Freedman argues that H.G. Wells “was the most influential writer on future war of his time.” Despite his adherence to socialism, advocacy for world government, and prediction that World War I would end all wars, Wells gets credit for inventing the tank and highlighting the problems “new weapons might be trying to solve and those they would create,” such as the potential use of air power against defenseless populations.[35] Freedman praises the 1958 novel Red Alert (the basis for Dr. Strangelove) for calling attention to key weaknesses of deterrent strategy and prompting Thomas Schelling to develop “his ideas for a communications link between Moscow and Washington to reduce the dangers the book described.”[36] Freedman’s chapter on “Cyberwar” begins with an epigraph from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, while the chapter on “Robots and Drones” begins with Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics.”[37] Freedman’s ability to weave such a diverse set of scripts together into coherent and concise chapters is alone worth the price of admission. The busy reader can easily pick and choose from a menu of different options based on his interest. And at the broadest level, Freedman offers scholars and practitioners a useful lesson in intellectual humility (the first paragraph of the book details the origin of the word “hubris”). The Future of War usefully shows where certain scripts went wrong and where individual thinkers and analysts have been overly optimistic, pessimistic, or insufficiently imaginative. Likewise, he shows how militaries — such as the Japanese military in 1941, which believed it could repeat the successes of surprise attacks against the Russians in 1894 and 1904 — have a tendency to try to fight the last war instead of the one they are in.[38] Scripting the Future But as an elected official, and someone who spends a lot of time on the House Armed Services Committee thinking about how to prevent future wars, this is where Freedman left me wanting more. While sufficiently covering the fact that organizations frequently miscast the future, his book has less to say about why they do so. For instance, consider what is perhaps the biggest, bipartisan mistake of the post-Cold War era, besides the failure of imagination that led to 9/11:[39] U.S. policy towards China. As the 2017 National Security Strategy argues,
For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others.[40]
The slowness of America’s response to the rise in Chinese power is especially puzzling given that, as Freedman asserts in his chapter “Coming Wars,” by the late 1990’s, China was a “genuinely revisionist power” and the “the most serious long-term challenger to the United States.”[41] Why did American policy take so long to adjust to this new reality? Beyond summarizing the future Sino-U.S. conflict described in the novel Ghost Fleet, Freedman has little to say about how the United States got China so wrong.[42] He criticizes Graham Allison’s “Thucydides Trap” thesis for its oversimplification of both Greek history and the complex, regional reactions to China’s rise. Yet, he also reviews Allison’s previous prediction — that a nuclear terrorist attack within a decade after 2004 was likely — without discussing the fact that it was completely wrong.[43] While Allison was obviously mistaken in 2004, Freedman leaves the reader in the dark as to why, thus illustrating my broader desire for more from this book. Without a clearer discussion of why states and scholars tend to get the future wrong, Freedman’s work offers few practical suggestions for policymakers who are trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. To be fair, the penultimate page briefly discusses three potential reasons the future is so difficult to forecast: 1) predictions are often clouded by advocacy, frequently by envisioning overly-optimistic outcomes; 2) bureaucratic politics can disincentivize thinking about the unthinkable; and 3) organizations tend to extrapolate into the future using the recent past (though as Freedman notes, the inverse is also true: “Another and quite different tendency is to assert that we are on the verge of a great, transformational discontinuity”).[44] Freedman sums this up with a statement that is true, but in the end, not all that useful:
The reason that the future is difficult to predict is that it depends on choices that have yet to be made, including by our governments, in circumstances that remain uncertain … history is made by people who do not know what is going to happen next.[45]
And yet, much more is known than Freedman acknowledges about how people make choices under certain conditions. As Irving Janis has shown, the psychological drive for consensus and consistency within groups can suppress disagreement and degrade “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.”[46] And, as Risa A. Brooks has argued, poor civil-military relations can corrupt a leader’s advisory system, produce poor strategic assessments, and create an environment in which the state is “devastatingly unprepared to manage [its] international relations.”[47] Keren Yarhi-Milo has similarly highlighted how problems can emerge from differences within the executive branch, such as how the intelligence community favors military capabilities when analyzing adversaries, while presidents base threat perceptions largely on their personal impressions of foreign leaders gained through direct interaction.[48] The point is that if Freedman’s critique of structural realism is correct — he argues that it focuses excessively on system-level variables, such as the distribution of material power, and assumes great powers are rational and respond to system changes in similar ways[49] — then the key question is what state- and individual-level variables can better explain forecasting failure.[50] But unfortunately, Freedman never quite gets around to this level of analysis. This is a shame, because he has most of the pieces in place to put together a more practical guide for policymakers. Conclusion Perhaps one lesson is that, while studies of the future focus on the salience of science fiction, the role of technology in warfare, or the neat-and-tidy lessons of history, they often miss the mark because they rarely come from regional or language specialists. This is particularly true of official governmental scripts. U.S. military career tracks are rarely optimized to produce regional experts. Even the intelligence and diplomatic communities, which used to produce genuine regional experts like George Kennan (a forecasting success story that does not appear in Freedman’s book), often rotate their personnel in an astrategic manner, perpetuating the so-called “mile wide and an inch deep” personnel pathology. This trend was a major concern of the 9/11 Commission, which recommended that the FBI develop a specialized national security workforce of agents, linguists, and analysts “recruited, trained, rewarded, and retained to ensure the development of an institutional culture imbued with a deep expertise in intelligence and national security.”[51] Freedman is right to suggest that there is no easy way to script the future, but military and government leaders should explore every option to improve their forecasts. To this end, deep regional and cultural expertise may go a long way. As Susan Glasser wrote about Kennan, “It is because of Kennan’s meticulous observations, incisive prose and deep knowledge of the country and its people” that he did not “merely throw up his hands in confusion, or succumb to wishful thinking or fellow-travelerism or any of the other diseases endemic to so much Western writing about the Soviet Union.”[52] Perhaps this is just a different form of the hubris Freedman describes in the opening of his book. Or perhaps, with a combination of deep cultural and regional expertise, a sense of humility, and a recognition of our individual and bureaucratic biases, these scripts can have happier endings. Mike Gallagher represents Wisconsin’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where he is a member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. Prior to Congress, Mike served in the Marine Corps for seven years as a Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Officer and Regional Affairs Officer for the Middle East/North Africa, earning the rank of Captain. He deployed twice to Al Anbar Province, Iraq and worked for three years in the intelligence community. Mike also served as the lead Republican staffer for Middle East, North Africa, and Counterterrorism on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, Mike went on to earn a master’s degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University, a second in Strategic Intelligence from National Intelligence University, and his PhD in International Relations from Georgetown.    

 4. Technology, the Economy, and the Future of War

By Saku Panditharatne In his latest book, The Future of War, Lawrence Freedman offers an intellectual history of how Americans and Britons have imagined the future of conflict over the past 200 years. Drawing on not only military history but science fiction as well, Freedman’s book leads the reader through the many twists and turns of history, demonstrating in each time period which future conflicts were imagined realistically and accurately and which came as a complete surprise. In the first section of The Future of War, Freedman describes how warfare has evolved, beginning in the mid-19th century, through the industrial revolution, and beyond — from isolated battles between trained soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars, to the all-consuming destruction of World War I, to the end of the Cold War. At each stage, Freedman focuses on the types of conflict that accompanied these technological leaps forward, and examines the second- and third-order effects that caught intellectuals and military leaders off guard. He discusses not only the impact of muskets on warfare, but also the less predictable impact of supply chains. Technological advances come in fits and spurts. Reading The Future of War called to mind Carlota Perez’s work of economic history, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital.[53] Perez lays out a framework for thinking about technology in terms of discrete paradigm shifts, rather than continuous innovation. These paradigm shifts occur between clusters of technologies that develop together and mutually reinforce each other, and which naturally lead to a different pattern of social organization. It’s an extremely relevant read for today’s era of “technological disruption,” in which the software paradigm is replacing the 20th century paradigm of mass production. After reading The Future of War, I saw a correspondence between Perez’s theory about the course of technology and Freedman’s account of the predictability of war. Perez divides economic development into two phases: an “installation” phase, in which a new set of technologies are invented and commercialized, often coinciding with a financial mania or bubble; and a “deployment” phase of steady economic growth, in which the same technologies are rolled out on a broader scale. In between the two phases is a “turning point,” when the “new economy” replaces the old, and society is restructured to make the best use of it. Some examples of these two phases of economic development include the canal mania that preceded the industrial revolution, the railway mania that preceded the Victorian boom, and the Roaring Twenties and post-World War II period, when mass production, cars, and aviation were invented and then later rolled out more broadly. It is during this "installation” phase that people are frequently taken by surprise by new forms of waging war. For example, after the invention of new technologies, such as the automobile and the telephone, the great powers famously “sleepwalked” into World War I. It was hard for European leaders to imagine that the new supply chains bringing resources to the front lines would prolong the length of battles, and even harder for them to predict the emergence of trench warfare. Even though they may not have literally believed the war would be over by Christmas, as many claimed, only a few Cassandras predicted the scale of destruction these new technologies would enable. Many expected a repeat of the kind of highly contained battles prominent in the previous century — but with machine guns instead of muskets. In reading The Future of War, it became clear the "technological disruption" of warfare often became easier to predict when moving into the “deployment” phase. During the interwar period, a new social and economic structure developed around the emerging technologies that had been invented in the early 20th century. Infrastructure (such as roads and telephone lines) was built out, new management techniques and processes (for example, supply chains) emerged, and people adapted their lifestyles around a new, more centralized and urbanized way of living. As it became more obvious how these technologies would be incorporated into the economy, it also became more obvious how they would be used in warfare. Although the airplane was still a nascent technology, many science-fiction writers and futurists were able to imagine how war could be waged in the skies prior to the start of World War II. Even the atom bomb was thought up in science fiction before it was invented — in some ways it occupied a similar place in popular culture as the idea of superintelligent Artificial Intelligence (AI) does today. H.G. Wells and others imagined an "infinite energy source," which some thought might one day make all jobs obsolete. The end of the Cold War coincided with the end of the deployment phase of the last technological revolution and the start of the computer age. There were many reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union, but by the late 1980s, the highly centralized mid-century economic model had run its course, making totalitarian states impossible to sustain. The end of this technological paradigm was not easy to predict at all: The view from 1960 was that mankind would explore new planets and the Cold War would continue out in space. The first half of The Future of War is a “history of the future,” a critical look back at how predictions about the military affairs played out. The implicit question Freedman seems to be asking is, “How much can we predict about the future of war today?” Are we living through one of those eras where the second- or third-order effects of warfare are relatively easy to predict, or one where they take the world by surprise? The Future of War suggests the answer can be found by looking at the economy, as history teaches that there is a close link between understanding the uses of technology in the economy, and understanding them in warfare. Predicting War in the Post-Cold War Era In the second half of Freedman’s book, he examines the new trends in warfare that have emerged since the end of the Cold War. The period between 1989 and 2015 can be seen as the “installation” phase of the information revolution, again using Perez’s terminology, a time when personal computers and the internet were new, experimental technologies. The two big trends to come out of this installation phase are a set of mutually reinforcing technologies — computers, the internet, mobile phones, and AI — and a new set of processes to make best use of these technologies in the economy. As was true in the first half of The Future of War, there appear to be strong parallels between the organization of the “new economy” and the new developments in warfare. One can look to competition between tech companies to try to understand the technological advantage one nation-state might gain over another. Such an examination suggests that the advantage comes from having a powerful guiding mission, and possessing networks of technically skilled employees. One way in which new tech has affected organizational dynamics is by shifting power away from top-down bureaucracies. The post-Cold War period has been defined by a marked decrease in the power of the nation-state. In The Square and The Tower,[54] Niall Ferguson argues that the internet tipped the balance of power away from large, centralized organizations toward smaller, more networked ones. In a similar way to the advent of the printing press during the Reformation in the 16th century, the internet gave an advantage to smaller groups. Instead of conflicts between highly centralized superpowers, the early 21st century has been defined by conflicts caused by weak states, civil wars, guerilla warfare, and terrorism. The Future of War describes an especially interesting implication of this more networked type of warfare: It results in the heightened importance of “legitimacy.” For military interventions in the post-Cold War period, winning over local allies has become more crucial because on the ground expertise and information matters more than it used to. There’s an interesting parallel here with what’s happening in the economy, where “mission-driven” companies have an advantage because they are better able to build networks of people and recruit those with important skills. A related phenomenon is the blurring of state and non-state actors. Various organized crime groups, such as drug traffickers, are able to build formidable networks without necessarily having the bureaucratic apparatus of a state, and extremist groups like the Islamic State are able to use their ideology to recruit using online propaganda. Reading The Future of War, I was especially struck by Freedman’s account of the increased importance of soft power in winning over allies. If conflicts are fought between networked organizations and their guiding missions, rather than state bureaucracies, then democracies might be at a disadvantage in this new form of warfare. A dictatorship can directly create propaganda to promote its party line abroad, for example, whereas there are fewer ideas upon which democracies can agree to promote. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the strength of culture and civil society in a democracy is more effective at creating soft power than simple propaganda. In this light, U.S. internet companies like Facebook and Google become especially important. In 2016, the Indian government decided against allowing Facebook to provide free but limited mobile internet services to rural Indians, partly because it feared giving a foreign corporation too much power over the flow of information.[55] Many countries already restrict Facebook, most notably China.[56] Although U.S. internet services are popular with users, and there are strong economic incentives for developing countries not to place restrictions on the internet, it is not difficult to imagine a future where a country’s domestic policies about social networks becomes a foreign policy or trade decision. This raises an interesting question: To what extent are U.S. tech companies representative of America and the West abroad? This question is further complicated by individual tech companies’ need for legitimacy as a networked organization. Facebook, for example, cares so much about employees believing in the internal mission that it has a department dedicated to creating internal motivational posters, called the Analog Research Lab art studio.[57] The opinions of employees are important enough to significantly influence top-level decisions. The crafts startup Etsy initially went public as a “public benefit corporation,”[58] meaning it would be legally obligated to hold and prioritize non-financial goals, like helping the environment, in the hopes of making it easier to recruit the people they needed to make the site a success. This is an existential issue for tech companies, which are constantly worried about losing their engineers to startups and other projects with a more compelling “mission.” Business Parallels with Hybrid Warfare These trends in technology and organizational dynamics have led to the increasing complexity and hybridization of warfare, much like the increasing complexity in business known as the “knowledge economy.” Hybrid warfare combines hacking and misinformation campaigns with conventional military tactics, which has some parallels with the new generation of tech companies (like Uber) that combine software (e.g., the app itself) with operational knowledge of traditional, brick-and-mortar industries (e.g., driving a taxi). Typically, these kinds of companies need to have both computer scientists and industry domain experts in the organization’s DNA. They often end up acquiring small teams of computer scientists working on specific, relevant problems to grow the business, in a similar way to how nation-states might recruit teams of hackers to work alongside more traditional military and government officials. A related role from industry that does not yet have an analogue in hybrid warfare is the venture capital analyst — someone who is hired to look for important new tech trends and seek out experts and promising people working in those fields, in hopes of spotting a high-impact discovery before other firms do. Another common pattern that could become relevant to nation-states waging hybrid warfare is that of an old-economy business buying a stake in a software company in order to modernize — such as Unilever acquiring Dollar Shave Club.[59] In these cases, the software company acts like the brain of the jellyfish: It helps the rest of the organization make smarter, more effective decisions. It’s often quite difficult for legacy companies to know which software companies to acquire until they have proven themselves in the marketplace, because they lack the expertise to tell which ones are the best. One way they get around this is by building out networks of computer scientists. Highly specialized, domain-specific knowledge most often requires a mentor to learn. Thus, people with relevant skills tend to know each other, and, more importantly, know who the people doing important work in their field are. Intellectual theft is another domain in which networks have taken on new importance. Industrial espionage was important in the mid 20th century, because specialized technical knowledge was relevant to both military and economic power. With software, stealing secrets has become much more difficult. Simply stealing code is not that valuable without the knowledge and processes to make it useful. In a high-profile 2017 trade secrets legal dispute between Uber and Waymo over the self-driving car,[60] it was not just that data and plans were allegedly stolen — the supposed theft involved the top engineer leaving to go to the other company. Again, the conclusion is the same: Networks of people are of much more critical importance than they used to be. Conclusion In The Future of War, Freedman examines the historical parallels between developments in warfare and developments in the economy. He demonstrates that the current era is no exception, discussing the new patterns of warfare that have emerged since the start of the information age. Freedman traces the implications of both the first-order effects, such as greater use of information technology, and the higher-order effects, such as the shift towards mission-driven networked organizations. If history is any guide, the future of war should be more predictable now given that the economic paradigm of how to use information technology is fairly well-understood. Freedman’s work suggests there is a lot that can be learned regarding warfare by studying the “new economy,” especially the workings of mission-driven, networked organizations. Hybrid warfare should lend an advantage to nations with lots of soft power, which are able to attract and retain top technical talent both in industry and in the military directly, an encouraging conclusion for proponents of liberal democracy. Saku Panditharatne is the founder and CEO of Asteroid, a startup that builds tools for augmented reality developers. Previously, Saku worked as an analyst researching emerging technologies for the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and before that worked as an engineer at a number of computer graphics startups, including Oculus. She graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Computer Science with Mathematics.  

5. Faulty Frames and Techno-Optimism

By Heather M. Roff Lawrence Freedman’s impressive new work, The Future of War, provides a solid, general introduction to a contemporary history of war. Its breadth and scope intertwine not only historical accounting, but international relations theory, film, and literature, bringing to life the sentiments and perspectives of people in their time. Freedman’s thesis — that American and British leaders, including politicians and military officers, fail to predict future wars because they lack knowledge of historical precedents and the strategic narratives of past conflicts — is largely correct. And yet, Freedman falls prey to his own critique by failing to examine two extremely important modern conflicts that lay the foundation for many of the present technological advancements and strategic doctrines that continue to shape contemporary thinking on warfare: the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Korean War Freedman’s lack of serious engagement with these two conflicts is not only perplexing, but troubling. Indeed, he makes only two brief mentions of the Korean War. The first is in reference to the United States’ supposed surprise when North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. The second is in relation to counting battle casualties. North Korea itself only appears in a few fleeting anecdotes in The Future of War, again in reference to the “surprise” of the United States, as well as the notion of delivering a first, “decisive” blow to an enemy, the seizing of the USS Pueblo, the hack on the Sony Corporation, and the almost relentless 70-year pursuit of a nuclear weapons program by the North. Yet, it was the Korean War that lay much of the groundwork for many of the present-day foreign policy challenges that face the United States. If Freedman were following his own advice, he would have looked at the historical context in 1950 to help explain the strategic context on the Korean Peninsula today. Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was educated, trained, and equipped by Josef Stalin. The perception in the United States and elsewhere was that Stalin was making a play to expand communist influence in the East. But what was not appreciated a mere five years after the end of World War II — and after America’s use of nuclear weapons — was that Stalin had little appetite for a long and escalatory conflict in Korea.[61] The United States, however ,along with many major powers at that time, viewed a military response to North Korean aggression as required under the newly formulated United Nations. Referring to this response as a “police action” gave Western countries, and particularly the United States, expansive new powers. Domestically, it enabled President Harry Truman to bypass congressional approval for going to war against North Korea, thereby challenging the Constitution. This greatly enhanced and expanded U.S. executive powers in ways that have still not been walked back. Internationally, the absence of the Soviet Union at the United Nations Security Council vote on approving this so-called police action meant that the vote went unopposed. Thus, the Security Council’s “approval” lent a patina of legitimacy to actions that member states like the Soviet Union and, later, China would have seriously opposed. The various domestic pressures faced by the Truman administration from 1949 to 1950 — such as outrage at the Soviets acquiring their own atomic weapon and fear of further communist expansion after the successful Chinese revolution — presented Truman with an opportunity to begin making the Cold War a hot one. Truman’s “police action” turned into a full-scale war that ultimately challenged the notion of state sovereignty upheld by the United Nations. Moreover, it also changed how U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia was framed — a frame that continues to this day. The war brought Maoist Chinese forces into North and South Korea to fight U.S. troops. When Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces were routed, facing defeat at the hands of North Korean and Chinese troops, the response was to escalate the crisis and threaten nuclear action.[62] To use nuclear weapons as a threat, less than ten years after the technology’s first use, was so serious that one can argue it changed the North Korean perception of obtaining nuclear weapons forever. And this perception — this nuclear hangover, so to speak — persists in the Kim dynasty to this day. North Korea pursues nuclear power at all costs because it is that country’s greatest defense against a nuclear threat. Yet, without understanding the reasons for North Korean nuclear armament, or its close connections with China, one will have little understanding of present-day potentialities for nuclear brinkmanship or conflict in South East Asia. Contemporary foreign policy and alliances in the region cannot be understood without understanding the past. However, such an analysis is not to be found in Freedman’s book. He has failed to take his own advice. The Vietnam War The U.S. bombing campaign in Korea marked the first time America employed napalm as a weapon in war, setting the stage for its later use in Vietnam.[63] Enter the light treatment of Vietnam in The Future of War. As Freedman makes sweeping claims about intervention, failed states, democracy, and counterinsurgency — as his chapter titles exhibit — it is quite surprising that Vietnam does not have a more prominent place in his book. The Vietnam conflict touches on all of these themes. It also cemented a particular cultural narrative about the U.S. use of force for decades. Indeed, the United States feared public opinion about entrenched conflicts, the draft, and insurgency to such an extent that it literally threw away all of the field manuals pertaining to the war, thereby hindering U.S. strategy in 2003, when America faced insurgency once more in Iraq. Again, Freedman has failed to make this connection and take his own advice. From the perspective of Vietnam, all of these topics play a crucial role in explaining the conflict and providing historical context for future strategic narratives. As early as 1919, the Vietnamese people were asking the United States to help them gain recognition from French colonialists.[64] In his first attempt at negotiating with the French, Ho Chi Minh approached President Woodrow Wilson to use his 14 Points Speech to help the Vietnamese gain a “permanent delegation of native people elected to the French Parliament.”[65] Ho wouldn’t return to fight again for independence until 1941. The roots of the Vietnam War did not grow out of a red scare or fear about falling dominoes. All of that came later. This war was about an ongoing struggle against colonialism, brutal treatment at the hands of the French colonialists, and the fight for democratic representation. Ultimately, Truman’s lack of interest in Indo-China and the Far East, as well as French and British reticence to give up their colonies or tolerate nationalist movements, led to policies toward Vietnam that only further inflamed the Vietnamese population’s drive to fight back against the French. Ultimately, over time, communism came to the fore, but not before attempts at decolonization and a fight for independence. Truman had sent military advisers to his French allies in Vietnam as early as 1950, but it wasn’t until the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, in 1954, that the United States began to pay much closer attention to what was happening there. It was at this point, with the new Eisenhower administration in office, that U.S. involvement became almost a forgone conclusion. It was with Dwight Eisenhower and his new policies, geared toward amassing nuclear weapons, purging communist elements, and expanding the Central Intelligence Agency, that the conflict began to take on a new significance. It is important to note the history of the United States and its Western allies with regards to Vietnam’s nationalist movement and civil war. America’s installment of a U.S. friendly leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, undermined confidence in the eventual unification or democratic aspirations of North and South Vietnam. Truman’s, and then Eisenhower’s, fears of communism provided both presidents with faulty foreign policy decision-making frames that ultimately committed them to actions that would only escalate and heighten the situation. Given the significance of such frames, Freedman ought to have identified this example from history as evidence to support his thesis. With Eisenhower’s New Look nuclear policy and hawkish attitudes, potential first use of atomic weapons was on the table. However, by the time John F. Kennedy came into office, he was neither fully aware of the U.S. nuclear capability — ordering Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to actually count the U.S. arsenal — nor was he aware of how America’s involvement in Vietnam was truly playing out.[66] He essentially remained committed to Eisenhower’s policies until 1963, when Kennedy announced his plan to withdraw all U.S. troops by 1965. Kennedy’s commitment to leaving Vietnam was not popular at that time with military leaders. Upon his assassination, and the appointment of Lyndon B. Johnson to the presidency, the Vietnam War entered its most important phase for the history of war and for the future of war with regard to technological development. Johnson’s commitment to more right-leaning and hawkish policies led him to appoint Gen. William Westmoreland and to increasingly rely on the advice of former-President Eisenhower.[67] Westmoreland’s strategy for winning the war was to continuously increase the number of ground troops and bombing campaigns. Indeed, he escalated the troop commitment from 16,000 in 1963 to over 536,000 in 1968.[68]  While the massive troop deployments and the political opposition raged on, another important aspect of this war came to the fore: technological development. Technology and the Future of War One of the themes that Freedman explores in his book is the role of technological development in predicting the future of warfare. One must, therefore, look to the strategic narratives that drove technological development and that frame present-day narratives for the future of war. In the 1960s, one such narrative came to fruition in one of Eisenhower’s defense initiatives: the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). ARPA’s delivery of high-tech, useful technologies combined with the United States’ faulty frame of decrying the “communist threat” in Vietnam meant that Washington continually believed that advanced technology and overwhelming force could ensure a victory.[69] Founded in 1958, ARPA (later adding a “D” for “Defense”) continually put its best talent toward providing technological solutions to the conflict at hand. In 1961, for example, (D)ARPA’s Project Agile was designated for “counterinsurgency research programs in Southeast Asia.” This 13 year-long project included “flamethrowers, the M-16 assault rifle, communications, surveillance, target acquisition, defoliation and psychological warfare.”[70] Likewise, (D)ARPA worked on surveillance aircraft, and ultimately stealth technologies, as well as advanced sensors to populate the Southeast Asian jungle.[71] Much of the sensor, computing, and command and control architecture built in advanced U.S. military laboratories during the Vietnam War continues to push present-day militaries in particular directions. Take, for instance, Gen. Westmoreland’s vision of battle in 1970:
On the battlefield of the future, enemy forces will be located, tracked, and targeted almost instantaneously through the use of data links, computer-assisted intelligence evaluation, and automated fire control.  … I am confident [that] the American people expect this country to take full advantage of its technology—to welcome and applaud the developments that will replace wherever possible the man with the machine [emphasis added].[72]
This is exactly the future of war that was realized not only in the 1991 Gulf War, but in the strategy doctrines of current and past secretaries of defense in the Third Offset Strategy. As former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work remarked, “I'm telling you right now, 10 years from now if the first person through a breach isn’t a friggin’ robot, shame on us.”[73] The lessons from the Korean and Vietnam Wars cannot be overstated. Rigid frames of thinking, as well as the belief that technology and air power would bring conflicts to a quick end, continue to plague U.S. and Western thinking about how to wage war. Past histories of colonialism and nationalism, as well as counterinsurgencies and the fear of Western occupation, still drive many of the beliefs and tactics used by contemporary U.S adversaries. That the United States and the United Kingdom continue to believe that technology will save them from long, entrenched, and bitter war indicates that they lack deep, strategic thinking. Yet, Freedman cannot actually make this case. He fails to link appropriately the end of World War II and the start of the Iraq War in 1991. Without taking account of the strategic rationale of the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia — and the way in which the United States fought these wars and developed technology in order to fight specific kinds of tactical challenges within these conflicts — it is impossible to explain why America and its allies fought the way they did in 1991, or how it is that they failed, and continue to fail, in Afghanistan. This doctrine of “technology saves” has long blinded Western powers. It did not save hundreds of thousands of American lives, or millions of Vietnamese lives, in Vietnam. This is because technology is not value-neutral. It is created for a purpose and a task. Depending upon the task at hand, the ways in which technologies are viewed and used become refined. Thus, the present U.S. Third Offset Strategy, with its focus on artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced materials, and mass over-precision, is indicative of the way the United States looks at how to profitably fight wars against potential adversaries — never mind the countless enabling technologies required for this vision to work, or the belief that one’s adversaries will be equally matched in quality and number. Conclusion If Korea and Vietnam are to provide any lesson, it is that the causes of war provide ample evidence as to how a war ought — or ought not — to be fought. U.S. and allied defeats by the Maoist Chinese forces — forces that were technologically underdeveloped — surprised the United States. However, that surprise was not taken as evidence that technology and tactics needed to change. Instead, it entrenched the view that “there just isn’t enough” of it. Yet again, Freedman fails to examine this case, and by failing to examine it he restricts his own ability to make claims about the future of war. If he believes his own thesis, then he ought to unpack the strategic narratives that unfolded between 1950 and 1990 that he so glaringly omits in his latest book. Dr. Heather Roff is a Senior Research Analyst at the National Security Analysis Department at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and an Associate Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge  She is formerly a Senior Research Scientist at DeepMind, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics & International Relations at the University of Oxford, and she has held faculty positions at the University of Waterloo, the University of Denver and the United States Air Force Academy. Her research interests include the law, policy and ethics of emerging military technologies, such as artificial intelligence, autonomy, and robotics. [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: The Future of War [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-the-future-of-war [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-08 11:28:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-08 15:28:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=657 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => Sir Lawrence Freedman's latest book, The Future of War, asks why futurists have so often gotten it wrong when it comes to predicting war. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 75 [1] => 191 [2] => 192 [3] => 136 [4] => 189 [5] => 190 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] For an incisive study of the domestic consequences of war, see Seva Gunitsky, Aftershocks: Great Powers and Domestic Reforms of the Twentieth Century, (Princeton University Press, 2017). [2] Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History (New York: Public Affairs, 2017), 286. [3] Stephen J. Gould, Wonderful Life, (New York: Vintage, 2000), 14. [4] Geoffrey Blainey, The Causes of War, (New York: Free Press, 1988), 41. [5] Future of War, 10. [6] Future of War, 279. [7] Future of War, 4, 252. [8] C.J. Dunlap, Jr., “How We Lost the High-Tech War of 2007,” Weekly Standard, Jan. 29, 1996. [9] Douglas M. Gibler, Beatrice Heuser, Mara Karlin, Joshua Rovner, and Lawrence Freedman, “Roundtable 10-14 on The Future of War: A History,” H-Diplo/ISSF, May 18, 2018, https://issforum.org/roundtables/10-14-future-of-war. [10] Otto von Bismarck, Horst Kohl, Bismarckreden: 1847-1895 (1899), 255. As quoted in translation in William Roscoe Thayer “Cavour and Bismarck,”  Atlantic (Mar 1909), 103, 343. [11] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (London: Scribe, 2017). [12] Douglas M. Gibler, Steven V. Miller, and Erin K. Little, “An Analysis of the Militarized Interstate Dispute (MID) Dataset, 1816–2001,” International Studies Quarterly 60, no. 4 (December 2016), https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqw045. [13] Theodore Sturgeon, Venture 49, September 1957 (for more on Venture, see “Venture,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venture_Science_Fiction). [14] Future of War, 282. [15] Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History (New York: Public Affairs, 2017), xix. [16] Freedman, Future of War, xix. [17] For a detailed analysis of the Cold Start doctrine, see: Walter C. Ladwig III, “A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army's New Limited War Doctrine,” International Security 32, no. 3. (Winter 2007/08): 158–190, https://www.jstor.org/stable/30130521. [18] Max Boot, Invisible Armies, An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (New York: Liveright, 2013). [19] For a detailed discussion of the “third offset” see Kathleen Hicks et al., Assessing the Third Offset Strategy, Center for Strategic International Studies, Mar. 16, 2017, https://www.csis.org/analysis/assessing-third-offset-strategy. [20] Aaron L. Friedberg “Competing with China,” Survival 60, no. 3, (2018), https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2018.1470755. [21] “Less Biding and Hiding,” Economist, Dec. 2, 2010, https://www.economist.com/special-report/2010/12/02/less-biding-and-hiding. [22] A fulsome analysis of China’s understanding of Comprehensive National Power can be found in David M. Lampton, The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money, and Minds, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). [23] Greg Levesque and Mark Stokes, “Blurred Lines: Military-Civil Fusion and the “Going Out” of China’s Defense Industry,” Pinte Bello, December 2016, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/569925bfe0327c837e2e9a94/t/593dad0320099e64e1ca92a5/1497214574912/062017_Pointe+Bello_Military+Civil+Fusion+Report.pdf. [24] Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (New York: Griffin, 2016). [25] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? (Boston, MA: Mariner Books, 2018). [26] Andrew J. Goodpaster, Reminiscences, Aug. 2, 1967, Oral History Collection of Columbia University, 74. [27] Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), xiv, 607–629. [28] L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between (New York: The New York Review of Books, 1953), 17. [29] Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History (New York: Public Affairs, 2017), 8. [30] Freedman, Future of War, 109–110. [31] Robert M. Gates, From the Shadows (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 15. [32] Freedman, Future of War, 188–189. [33] Freedman, Future of War, 119. [34] Freedman, Future of War, 279. As Freedman puts it: “By early in the twenty-first century it was apparent that the inherited scripts for future war were inadequate. The US military had clung to an ideal type derived from the classical model and then faced a more unruly form of warfare for which it was poorly prepared and from which it struggled to extricate itself. Their British allies believed that they understood the requirements of Iraq based on their peacekeeping experience of Bosnia and aid to the civil power in Northern Ireland, but their scripts were also inadequate; they found themselves struggling even more than the Americans.” Freedman, The Future of War, 222. [35] Freedman, The Future of War, 18–19. [36] Freedman, The Future of War, 78–80. [37] Freedman, The Future of War, 230, 239. [38] Freedman, The Future of War, 63. [39]Thomas H. Kean and Lee Hamilton, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.: National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, 2004), 339. [40] The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, 25, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. [41] Freedman, The Future of War, 267. [42] One plausible explanation, from H.D.S. Greenway, suggests that the United States was guilty primarily of “wish-casting” or optimistically extrapolating American values. This error predates the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the mid-19th century, a well-meaning missionary from Tennessee taught the gospel to a young man named Hong Xiuquan. Unfortunately, rather than spreading the Word as intended, Hong became convinced he was the brother of Christ and instigated the long and bloody Taiping Rebellion, leaving tens of millions dead. H.D.S. Greenway, “How the United States always ‘gets China wrong,’” Boston Globe, Apr. 13, 2018, https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/04/12/how-united-states-always-gets-china-wrong/ianuhEbqtbheIIl75Sa2IK/story.html. [43] Freedman, The Future of War, 271–273. [44] Freedman, The Future of War, 286. Consider the National Intelligence Council (NIC)’s latest Global Trends product — an unclassified assessment published every four years to help senior U.S. government leaders understand the global environment over the next two decades — which predicts a near-term transformation of the global landscape. The NIC assessment argues: “The post-Cold War era is giving way to a new strategic context. Recent and future trends will converge during the next 20 years at an unprecedented pace to increase the number and complexity of issues, with several, like cyber attacks, terrorism, or extreme weather, representing risks for imminent disruption.” Director of National Intelligence, Global Trends: Paradox of Progress (Washington, DC: National Intelligence Council, January 2017), https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/nic/GT-Full-Report.pdf, 7. Similarly, an earlier installment of Global Trends argues the international system is becoming more complex as power diffuses and actors multiply. U.S. National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2025: A World Transformed (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Intelligence Council, 2008), x-xi. See also U.S. Department of Defense, The National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2011: Redefining America’s Leadership (Washington DC: Department of Defense, 2011), 1, 5–6, 16. [45] Freedman, The Future of War, xvii–xix. [46] Due to delusions of invulnerability, belief in the inherent morality of the group’s cause, self-censorship and pressure on dissenters, and the illusion of unanimity, organizations often fail to consider alternative courses of action and employ faulty logic leading to bad decisions and sub-optimal outcomes. Irving L. Janis, Victims of Groupthink (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1972), 9. [47] Risa A. Brooks, Shaping Strategy: the Civil-Military Politics of Strategic Assessment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 2, 5, 13. [48] Keren Yarhi-Milo, Knowing the Adversary: Leaders, Intelligence, and Assessment of Intentions in International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014). [49] See John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001); Barry Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), 7-8, 239; Robert Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003); Colin Elman, “Horses for Courses: Why Not Neorealist Theories of Foreign Policy?” Security Studies 6, no. 1 (Autumn 1996): 7–5; Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: Random House, 1979), 121–122. For a review of the assumption of rationality see David A. Lake, “The State and International Relations,” in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, ed. Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 41–61. [50] These factors may include but are not limited to regime type, interest groups, bureaucratic politics, and individual presidential leadership style and personality. For a review of this approach, see Richard Rosecrance and Arthur Stein, eds., The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy (Ithaca: Cornel University Press, 1993). See also Graham Allison, “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” American Political Science Review 63 (1969): 689–718. [51]Kean and Hamilton, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 425–426. [52] Susan B. Glasser, “The Man Who Got Russia Right,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 23, 2011, http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/12/23/the-man-who-got-russia-right/. See also John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life (New York: Penguin, 2011). [53] Carlota Perez, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages (Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar, 2003). [54] Niall Ferguson, The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (London, Allen Lane: 2017). [55] Rahul Bhatia, “The Inside Story of Facebook's Biggest Setback,” Guardian, May 12, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/12/facebook-free-basics-india-zuckerberg. [56] Paul Mozur, “Blocked in China, Facebook Is Said to Seek a Shanghai Office,” New York Times, Sept. 6, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/technology/facebook-china-shanghai-office.html. [57] Mike Isaac, “Meet Facebook's Secret Propaganda Arm: The Analog Research Lab,” Wired, May 18, 2012, http://www.wired.com/2012/05/analog-research-lab/. [58] Maria Stracqualursi, “The Rise of the Public Benefit Corporation: Considerations for Start-Ups,” BC LAW LAB, http://bclawlab.org/eicblog/2017/3/21/the-rise-of-the-public-benefit-corporation-considerations-for-start-ups. [59] Dan Primack, “Unilever Buys Dollar Shave Club for $1 Billion,” Fortune, July 20, 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/07/19/unilever-buys-dollar-shave-club-for-1-billion/. [60] Leslie Hook, “Waymo-Uber Trial: What's at Stake?” Financial Times, Feb. 4, 2018, http://www.ft.com/content/be56451a-0862-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5. [61] Gary R. Hess, Presidential Decisions for War: Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 14–15. [62] Hess, Presidential Decisions for War, 61. [63] Bruce Cummings, The Korean War: A History (The Modern Library, 2011), 159. [64] Jeffery Ward and Ken Burns, The Vietnam War: An Intimate History (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), 3. [65] Ward and Burns, The Vietnam War, 3. [66] Historical Office, “Robert McNamara,” United States Office of the Secretary of Defense,  http://history.defense.gov/Multimedia/Biographies/Article-View/Article/571271/robert-s-mcnamara/ [67] Hess, Presidential Decisions for War, 134, 93. [68] “Vietnam War Allied Troop Levels 1960–73,” American War Library, https://www.americanwarlibrary.com/vietnam/vwatl.htm. [69] “Infographic: The Vietnam War: Military Statistics,” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, https://www.gilderlehrman.org/content/infographic-vietnam-war-military-statistics. [70] “History and Timeline,” Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, https://www.darpa.mil/about-us/darpa-history-and-timeline?PP=1. [71] Matt Novak, “How the Vietnam War Brought High-Tech Border Surveillance to America” Gizmodo, September 15, 2015, https://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/how-the-vietnam-war-brought-high-tech-border-surveillan-1694647526. [72] Gene I. Rochlin, Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Compterization (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 200. [73] Cheryl Pellerin, “Work: Human-Machine Teaming Represents Defense Technology Future,” DoD News, Nov. 8, 2015, https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/628154/work-human-machine-teaming-represents-defense-technology-future/. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction: A Strategist at Work, by Kori Schake 2. War May not Be Predictable, but there Are Warning Signs, by Michael Brown and Pavneet Singh 3. The Future of War Ain't What It Used to Be, by Mike Gallagher 4. Technology, the Economy, and the Future of War, by Saku Panditharatne 5. Faulty Frames and Techno-Optimism, by Heather M. Roff ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 587 [post_author] => 172 [post_date] => 2018-05-15 04:40:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-15 08:40:52 [post_content] =>

1. Are the United States and China in a New Cold War?

By Iskander Rehman For over two decades, Western academics and policymakers have struggled to define the nature and scope of the challenge posed by China’s rise.[1] In the early 1990s, the U.S. spearheaded a series of efforts to better enmesh Beijing in the liberal international order, primarily by facilitating the communist behemoth’s access to foreign technology and markets. This policy was framed both as a net benefit for the global economy and trading system, and as a form of strategic down payment for the future. It was assumed that a wealthier, better-integrated, and more powerful China would slowly shed its insecurities and morph into a “responsible stakeholder.” Granted, democracy might not blossom overnight, but Chinese illiberalism would be tempered by pragmatic economic imperatives, diluted by the proliferation of digital communication technologies, and eroded by routinized interactions with Western-style democracies. In the meantime, modern Chinese authoritarianism — with its emphasis on collective leadership and technocratic efficiency — appeared to have provided a long-suffering people with a welcome degree of socio-economic stability after decades of bloody upheaval. Enthralled by the nation’s gleaming skyscrapers, continent-straddling highways, and meteoric rates of economic growth, some foreign observers even ventured that the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which appeared to have more successfully weathered the 2008 financial crisis than most, presented an alternative, and perhaps more viable, development model — the so-called “Beijing Consensus.”[2] Over the past few years, however, the mood within the Western commentariat has turned. Hopes that the PRC might somehow morph into a super-sized Singapore have largely dissipated. From its militarization of disputed islets in the South China Sea to its unabashed use of economic coercion against countries ranging from South Korea to Mongolia, China has become more, not less, assertive in its near-abroad.[3] Meanwhile, Beijing’s longstanding model of authoritarian governance — centered on collective decision-making and an orderly succession process — has precipitously crumbled. President Xi Jinping’s shift toward a strongman style of rule has been accompanied by an evolution, in parallel, of Chinese discourse and internal politics, which point to a more combative, jingoistic, and embattled regime. As many contemporary sinologists have noted, nationalism has progressively replaced Marxist revolutionary thought as the ideological cement of the PRC, though evidence of the latter persists in synergy with the former.[4] To cite just one example of this nationalist-Marxist complement, China’s unabashedly cynical attitude toward the law of the sea reflects a longstanding revolutionary conviction that international law is little more than the “agreed will of a number of states,” and a tool for ideological warfare.[5] This political evolution has resulted in nationalist revisionism — and more specifically the politics of anti-western ressentiment — becoming the ideological pillar of Xi Jinping’s China. Under his presidency, patriotic education campaigns have been revived, and the tone of public commentary has become more strident and critical of the United States, and of democracy’s perceived shortcomings.[6] China’s expenditure on internal security has outpaced its defense spending, and draconian new cyber and counter-terrorism laws have further curtailed individual freedoms.[7] By harnessing advances in big data, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition software, the Chinese state has considerably enhanced both its digital and physical surveillance capacities. It aims to export this dystopian suite of technological capabilities to fellow autocracies around the globe.[8] In short, the environment has become one of greater domestic repression, of fear of ideological contamination, and of more overt hostility toward the U.S.-led alliance system in Asia.[9] How, then, has the international community of China-watchers responded to this troubling evolution — to the collapse of the so-called “convergence myth,” and to the uncomfortable, nagging sensation that the West somehow “got China wrong,” or, in the words of a recent editorial in the Economist, that “the West has lost its bet on China?”[10] The natural impulse is to reach for historical analogies. Human beings spontaneously engage in analogical thinking when confronted with particularly thorny conceptual challenges, “seeking and comparing patterns” and inferring abstract ideas from one domain before applying them to another.[11] In an effort to better gauge the trajectory of the Sino-U.S. relationship, American analysts have begun doing just that. China’s proprietary attitude toward the South and East China Seas has thus been described as a new form of “Monroe Doctrine,” albeit with Chinese characteristics, and the past few years have borne witness to a steady stream of commentary that anxiously queries whether 21st century northeast Asia shares parallels to early 20th century Europe.[12] And as relations between Beijing and Washington have steadily deteriorated over the past decade, commentators have begun to question whether the United States and China now find themselves embroiled in a “new Cold War.”[13] In order to consider the appropriateness of that analogy, this roundtable has convened a stellar group of Asia-watchers and historically minded scholars. The immediate reaction of most of our contributors was to reject any such comparison as misleading or overwrought. In their joint contribution, Tiffany Ma and Brian O’ Keefe, from BowerGroupAsia and the National Bureau of Asian Research respectively, note that “despite the alluring simplicity of likening uncertainties in the present U.S. relationship with China to the zero-sum competition of the Cold War, significant differences make the analogy a poor fit.” Similarly, Michael Auslin of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University posits that the Cold War is a “misleading comparison” for the China-U.S. rivalry, and cautions that “adopting such a mindset overstates the threat China poses, confuses assessments of the challenge, and diverts Washington from crafting an appropriate strategy.” In making this case, several contributors note that the Sino-U.S. trade relationship — which has skyrocketed from two billion dollars in 1979 to six hundred and thirty-six billion dollars per annum in 2017 — binds both nations within a complex web of economic interdependence, the likes of which never existed between the Western and Eastern blocs during the Cold War. China and the United States are certainly competing, notes Robert Ayson of Victoria University of Wellington, but “largely within the same system.” More importantly, China has “a stake in the current order, and has benefited from globalization,” argues Elsa Kania of the Center for a New American Security, before stating that, “while China has not yet liberalized politically as a result of its deepening integration into the international order, it has arguably become more of a status quo power in certain respects, increasing its involvement in international issues and institutions” One could thus point to China’s proactive role in negotiating complex multilateral arrangements, such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the Paris Climate Accord, and to its move toward taking on a leading role in peacekeeping and anti-piracy operations.[14] Finally, and perhaps most obviously, the contemporary international system is not defined by a superpower duopoly, with both powers at the heart of competing alliance structures and universalistic systems of belief. Neither country is attempting to “bleed the other out” through a series of violent proxy wars, or to trigger a system-shattering turn in global affairs via the collapse of their adversary. As eminent Cold War historian Odd Arne Westad has noted, the Cold War was a “bipolar system of total victory or total defeat, in which neither of the main protagonists could envisage a lasting compromise with the other.”[15] It would seem at first glance, therefore, that there is little value to be gained from drawing such historical comparisons. Perhaps — as Auslin, Ayson, and Kania in particular suggest — it could even prove harmful, as it could forestall the collective formulation of a more coherent grand strategy toward China, one better tailored to the nature of the threat. This would comport with the wry observation made by Richard Evans, a renowned British historian, who writes that, “when people try to use history, they often do so not in order to accommodate themselves to the inevitable, but in order to avoid it.”[16] Even worse, repeatedly conjuring up the Cold War analogy could lead to “a self-fulfilling prophecy,” “entrenching strategic competition,” or playing into China’s deep-seated suspicions the United States seeks to enact a policy of containment in Asia. Not so fast, says Kori Schake of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. The Cold War analogy may not be perfect, but it is “still useful for thinking about the threats a rising China poses to the United States.” One should not be too hasty in dismissing its relevance, and in so doing run the risk of throwing the grand strategy baby out with the Cold War bath water. We already know that the strategic history of the Cold War is a lot richer, less linear, and more variegated than common wisdom would suggest.[17] Furthermore, Schake argues, “the circumstances that American leaders are facing today do bear some interesting resemblances to the Cold War, especially the mid-1950s.” Then, as now, the United States was traversing a crisis in strategic self-confidence, and had been plunged into domestic disarray. Then, as now, American policymakers found themselves pitted against an authoritarian power whose rise seemed almost inexorable. Moreover, claims Schake, there is a certain virtue in strategic clarity, and the Cold War comparison “helps give a sense of proportion to what America faces. Identifying China as an adversary clarifies U.S. strategic thinking on the matter and suggests policy courses of action commensurate to the challenge.” This is particularly important with regard to military planning. Indeed, highly diversified threat environments, with little to no ordering of potential adversaries, can complicate strategic assessments and undermine political-military coordination.[18] While our contributors may disagree on the overall usefulness of the Cold War analogy, all converge on the necessity to respond more coherently and decisively to a rapidly shifting balance of power in Asia. Although there will remain strong incentives on both sides for cooperation and conflict mitigation, the Sino-U.S. relationship has curdled into something more overtly rivalrous. Sheryn Lee of Macquarie University in Australia warns “We have already entered a new phase in Sino-U.S. relations, characterized by orthogonal conflict, playing out in cyber space, through 'gray zone' coercion, and influence operations.” As these areas of competition expand, overlap, and begin to bleed into each other, warns Kania, the United States must “also be wary of the risks of misperception and potential miscalculation that can arise within a classic security dilemma.” Our roundtable participants differ somewhat on their assessment of the severity of China’s military threat. Auslin claims neither the United States or China are “militarily organized to defeat the other as its primary enemy,” but subsequently concedes that Beijing’s pursuit of anti-access and area-denial capabilities (A2/AD) is geared toward neutering U.S. freedom of action and power projection in Asia. Lee expresses a high degree of confidence in America’s Third Offset Strategy, and believes its implementation will allow the U.S. military to preserve its technological and warfighting edge. Kania, however, warns that Chinese efforts to leapfrog its way forward in certain critical sectors — such as biotechnology and artificial intelligence — could allow it to “offset America’s current military-technological advantage in the Pacific and beyond.” Interestingly, the roundtable participants also diverge on whether China constitutes a more redoubtable geopolitical challenger than the Soviet Union. For Kania, “across all dimensions of national power, China is a far more formidable rival than the Soviet Union or modern Russia,” whereas for Schake, present-day China has “nowhere near the soft-power magnetism that communism did.” Ayson, for his part, points to China’s rather dismal-looking alliance portfolio, which pales in comparison to the diplomatic and military brawn of the Eastern bloc during the Cold War. And in varying degrees, all of our contributors express concern over the potentially debilitating effects of deepening domestic disunion in the United States, and of the long-term risks associated with an abrogation of U.S. leadership on issues such as human rights and free trade. Three short comments before ceding the floor to our contributors. First, observers have a tendency to underestimate the weight of China’s ideological challenge — and, perhaps more broadly, to dismiss the time old appeal of authoritarianism even within well-established democracies.[19] While the transatlantic debate on influence operations has largely focused on Russia, “down under” it is Beijing’s nefarious activities that have garnered the most attention.[20]  China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) undoubtedly constitutes one of the most ambitious grand strategic designs in modern history.[21] Looking beyond the more immediate concerns tied to debt traps and economic coercion, what political philosophy will undergird this monumental undertaking? Will this vast Eurasian circulatory system beat to the rhythm of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian heart, or will it be governed by the same rules and norms that have shielded the global commons from expropriation and enclosure since the end of World War II? Second, there is an additional hazard nested within an overly casual use of the Cold War analogy. By framing the Sino-U.S. competition as a fundamentally bipolar struggle, it lends strength to Beijing’s position that the future of Asian politics should be determined at the G2 level, by a Sino-U.S. condominium. Our contributors rightly highlight the importance of second-ranking and middle powers in the Indo-Pacific, none of whom would be comfortable with such a prospect. As Charles Edel noted in an excellent, recent essay,
The G-2 model appeals to some U.S. policymakers because it seems to hold out the promise of one-stop shopping for stability. But it is a false promise, for other major Asian states — most notably Japan, Australia, and India — would never accede to an order that placed their independence, sovereignty, and ultimately security in a subservient position, and these states would justifiably resent the United States for seeming to suggest that they should.[22]
Finally, if this roundtable has proven anything, it is that contemporary foreign policy discussions need more rather than less animated debates over the relevancy of different historical analogies. Hal Brands and William Inboden are right when they say that the only way to avoid being misled in the process is
to know enough history to understand that all analogies are imperfect, and that using them properly requires using them with great care and discipline. It requires pitting analogies against one another in competitive fashion, in order to see which is truly the better fit and in order to free policymakers from the trap of viewing the present through the lens of only a single historical comparison.[23]
Let this analogical debate, therefore, constitute but one intellectual salvo amongst many in an ongoing struggle to provide robust, interdisciplinary analyses of some of the world’s most pressing security issues. Iskander Rehman is the Senior Fellow for International Relations at the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University. Prior to joining the Pell Center, Iskander was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the International Order and Strategy Program (IOS) at the Brookings Institution. He has also served as a Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Stanton Nuclear Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and as a Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, all in Washington, D.C. 

2. Beware the Cold War Trap — It’s a Geopolitical Competition, Instead

By Michael Auslin A “new Cold War” is the latest fashion for describing the current state of Sino-American relations. Whether asserting that one is already underway or warning that one is imminent,[24] the phrase is popular with commentators and even the Chinese government itself.[25] It may indeed be natural to view the growing tensions between the world’s two largest powers through the familiar dyadic prism that shaped American and Russian strategic thinking after 1945. Yet the Cold War is a misleading comparison for the geopolitical competition between the United States and China. Adopting such a mindset overstates the threat China poses, confuses assessments of its true challenge to U.S. interests, and diverts Washington from crafting an appropriate strategy. At its potentially most damaging, a Cold War paradigm can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. To say that Washington and Beijing are not in a Cold War-style dynamic, however, is not to deny that they are engaged in an intensifying, multilayered geopolitical competition for influence and power. The differences between the Cold War and contemporary Sino-U.S. relations should be obvious enough. First, the Cold War was an ideological struggle between two diametrically opposed systems, each of which sought to defeat, if not exterminate, the other. While China is officially communist, and while under current leader Xi Jinping it has increased the ideological component of its propaganda, it does not have the destruction of capitalism and the takeover of foreign governments as its primary political goal. Neither is the United States committed to bringing down the Chinese government as a step towards destroying the remnants of global communism. Second, China and the United States do not face each other militarily over a divided continent where travel between the two sides has been barred — as was the case between the United States and the Soviet Union in Berlin. Nor does China control a bloc of allied nations ruled by communist regimes that overthrew liberal governments. While China’s police state is among the most powerful in the world, it does not lead an organized bloc of allied police states. Moreover, despite Beijing’s growing military power and influence, Chinese troops are not stationed in foreign countries against local will, as was the case with the Soviet Union. While the militaries of the United States and China watch each other, often warily, and while war plans on both sides undoubtedly take into account all possible contingencies, neither country is militarily organized to defeat the other as its primary enemy. It goes without saying that the United States and the Soviet Union had nothing remotely comparable to the trade relationship between the United States and China, which reached $635 billion in 2017 (along with a $375 billion trade deficit in favor of China).[26] This includes approximately $68 billion in Chinese investment in the United States (in 2016), and the operation of hundreds of U.S. companies in China, along with more than $75 billion in U.S. foreign direct investment in China.[27] In addition, nearly 330,000 Chinese students study in the United States, according to a recent report, which dwarfs the number of Soviets who attended American colleges in the Cold War era.[28] Nor is the political relationship between Washington and Beijing, comprising dozens of official and unofficial meetings and summits each year, not to mention grassroots connections, comparable to the much more limited exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union. Beyond the statistics, however, is the fact that for a “cold war” to exist, both sides must acknowledge it as such. That is as much a function of mindset as it is of official policy. Thus, while the two countries’ militaries are increasingly concerned with the actions of the other, and while both capitals swing between engagement and periods of frosty relations, as far as we know, neither Washington nor Beijing formally considers the other to be an (or the) “enemy.” Regardless of whether it is fair to say that the Sino-American relationship is today the most important in the world, it is undoubtedly one of the most complicated and well-developed, and is unlike anything that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union. And yet, there is no denying that the overall Sino-U.S. relationship has deteriorated over the past decade, and that attitudes on both sides have become increasingly critical of the other. If Washington and Beijing are not in a cold war, they are quite clearly in an increasingly competitive relationship that is global in nature. Long gone are the days of musing about a “G-2” or “strategic partnership,” and few if any in Washington expect Beijing to become a “responsible stakeholder,” as advocated over a decade ago by then-Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.[29] Moreover, despite multiple iterations of the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue — the highest level recurring diplomatic engagement between the two countries — little of substance has been achieved to reduce areas of friction or to create meaningful areas of cooperation, beyond the dialogue itself. Strategic Competition as Conventional Wisdom The Pentagon warned about “strategic competition” from China as early as the George W. Bush era.[30] Nevertheless, the concept only gained government-wide traction when it was enshrined in President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy, released in December 2017. That document described China as a “revisionist power” that is actively competing against the United States in order to shift the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region and supplant U.S. influence.[31] The new common wisdom in Washington circa 2018 is that China, under President Xi Jinping, is a strategic competitor. Like much common wisdom, this view is largely correct. Chinese competition has multiple facets, the foremost of which is its geographic scope. Not surprisingly, it is mostly focused in Asia proper, particularly in the region’s waters, or what is referred to as the “maritime commons.” Beijing both resents and feels threatened by Washington’s network of long-standing alliances, and aims above all at carving out a sphere for freedom of action within Asia that ensures its own access to the global maritime commons and pushes back direct military threats to its homeland. But radiating out from Eastern Asia are rippling waves of interest: the Indian Ocean, Siberia, the Persian Gulf, Africa, the Arctic Ocean, and Latin America. Chinese presence, engagement, and influence varies widely in these places, but no longer is there much doubt that Beijing desires to increase its role in each of these areas, whether it be for natural resources, transit routes, markets, or political support. Indeed, China often aims at overlapping goals, for example, by using infrastructure investment or foreign aid to secure political alliances or access to ports for Chinese civilian and military vessels alike. With these geographic concerns in mind, Beijing has set out to challenge U.S. supremacy in Asia using a diverse array of policies and tactics. The buildup of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is known well enough to need little comment here. Notable, however, is the adoption of an anti-access/area denial strategy (A2/AD), whose goal is to eliminate U.S. freedom of action in Asian waters during a crisis.[32] From a largely coastal defense force in the 1980s, the PLA Navy (PLAN) now conducts blue water operations around the globe, and in particular throughout the Indo-Pacific maritime commons. Having launched its first aircraft carrier and introduced new series of both attack and ballistic missile submarines, along with introducing supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles and the DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile, the PLA is aiming at becoming a high-tech, modernized, networked force that can compete with the U.S. Navy not only in numbers, but also in quality.[33] Similarly, the PLA Air Force is introducing new stealth fighter variants as well as advanced drones, in order to contest the skies of East Asia. It has also begun receiving the S-400 advanced integrated air defense missile system from Russia, adding to previous systems, thus making far more difficult any U.S. air operations over Chinese airspace.[34] And, in a military parade held just a few months after Donald Trump took office, Beijing showed off its newest intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose ranges can cover the entire continental United States.[35] The full scope of China’s military modernization is captured in annual reports by the Pentagon, with the 2017 edition noting the wide ranging reorganization of the military ordered by President Xi Jinping, as well as the increase in Chinese military activities throughout Asia and farther abroad.[36] In short, Beijing continues to develop and modernize its military into an effective tool of national power, one that appears directed, at least in part, against American strengths and ability to operate in the Asia-Pacific region. Competing Beyond the Military Realm Beijing’s geopolitical challenge transcends the military. Under Xi Jinping, Beijing has mounted significant political and economic initiatives designed to wrest influence from Washington. Perhaps best known is the so-called Belt and Road Initiative, or One Belt-One Road (OBOR), which Xi has made the centerpiece of his global economic agenda. At its most ambitious, OBOR will pledge as much as $1 trillion for infrastructure investment around Eurasia, creating a new network of trade routes running from east to west, as well as north to south — all designed to integrate the world’s largest trading region around a Chinese axis. With the Trump administration’s abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, China’s OBOR automatically increases in legitimacy, even if doubts persist over whether it will live up to its billing. Along with OBOR, Beijing has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to compete with the Japanese-managed Asian Development Bank and the U.S.-run World Bank, thereby offering a nascent financial architecture separate from the Western-dominated system that has shaped the global economy since 1945. When combined with Xi’s 2017 claim at the World Economic Forum that China will uphold the global free trade regime, Beijing is making a bold bid to supplant U.S. global leadership on economic issues, though skepticism abounds.[37] One dimension of the current Sino-U.S. geopolitical competition that has gotten relatively less attention than others is espionage. While all nations spy on one another in some manner, the cloak-and-dagger battle between China and the United States appears to have become particularly intense. Recent news reports of Chinese spies arrested in the United States, including a suspected mole who helped China’s security services dismantle America’s spy network inside China, purportedly leading to several executions, point to the increasing amount of dangerous interactions.[38] In 2016, Chinese agents kidnapped an American State Department officer in Chengdu and held him overnight for illegal questioning without informing the U.S. Consulate.[39] Meanwhile, at least two other Americans were charged with spying for China in 2017, one a former CIA officer and the other a State Department employee.[40] In addition, the Director of the FBI has warned that Chinese spies are posing as exchange students to gain access to leading American universities and research institutes and pass back cutting-edge research to the mainland.[41] The most consequential, pervasive, and endemic espionage activity may be that which is taking place in cyberspace. For years, PLA cyber units have been stealing corporate secrets from hundreds of companies, leading experts to assess that Chinese cyber espionage costs the U.S. economy up to $600 billion per year.[42] Beijing was also accused by the U.S. government of breaching the confidential records of the Office of Personnel Management, stealing the information of more than 22 million U.S. citizens, including those with government-issued security clearances.[43] Clearly, Beijing’s systematic targeting of American individuals, corporations, and government entities reveals an aggressive intent to weaken and disrupt elements of U.S. society. Nor is China’s competition with the United States limited to its dealings with the United States. The most contested aspect of Sino-U.S. relations may well be the question of how the region’s smaller powers align strategically. Beijing’s trade relations with smaller nations are increasingly seen as a means of gaining influence, using foreign aid as a means of securing political support and access to strategic ports throughout Asia. OBOR, meanwhile, seeks to link smaller states ever more closely to China, with potentially deleterious effects for U.S. trade relations in the region. Asia’s smaller states have long made clear that they do not want to be caught in between China and the United States, let alone be forced to choose sides. In reality, both Beijing and Washington have limits on how far they can push smaller countries. There is no likelihood of Washington forming a NATO-like regional security organization, even if it wanted to. It must instead continue to rely on its “hub-and-spoke” model of bilateral security alliances in the region. Similarly, despite China’s dominant economic position in Asia, it continues to find resistance to its increasing influence. Beijing is rightly seen as an often-overbearing actor — its very size makes smaller nations wary of its power. Washington is so far unwilling to promote a more robust liberal agenda in Asia, or explicitly call for greater cooperation among democracies. This leaves it focused primarily on security issues, and also constrained by the limits of its allies’ more modest capabilities. For its part, Beijing has little to say to the region’s democracies beyond promoting trade, while its illiberal partners, such as North Korea, Laos, and Cambodia, are weak, isolated, and largely irrelevant. This leaves most smaller nations in Asia the option of maneuvering between Washington and Beijing for their own interests, variously prioritizing economics, politics, or security. The fear of entrapment by either great power is a major driving factor in the policies of smaller nations, and so most attempt to remain equidistant between the two. For America’s allies, the calculation is more complicated because they must take into account their treaty obligations without alienating Beijing. Australia and the Philippines, in particular, have struggled with maintaining that balance, given their dependence on Chinese economic ties. Competition Doesn’t Mean Cold War Perhaps above all, Asian nations want to avoid a new cold war. Any attempt to portray Sino-U.S. competition in such terms deeply concerns most Asian capitals, even Japan, which is probably the most hawkish of U.S. allies. Such a formulation is counterproductive, as well as objectively misleading. Adopting a Cold War paradigm to explain contemporary Sino-U.S. relations would logically lead to attempts to organize Asian countries in a formal bloc against Beijing, which will fail, and to contain China, which will lead to a dangerous deterioration of the relationship. Instead, Washington should continue to recognize that it is engaged in a persistent, open-ended strategic competition with China for influence in Asia and beyond. Holding the line against a weakening of America’s role in Asia should be paramount. Preserving a credible American military posture in the region that includes responding to Chinese aggressive actions such as cyber espionage should also be a priority, as much to send a signal to Beijing as to protect U.S. interests. The competition for ideas should be a part of U.S. policy as well, and ought to include promoting further democratization in the region (or at least trying to prevent further democratic erosion), as well as promoting the benefits of high-level free trade agreements that can help foster prosperity. Yet such a policy approach does not require labeling China as an “enemy,” let alone a global ideological rival. The interdependence of both countries’ economies, as well as certain, if limited, shared goals on issues like climate change, means that there will be some opportunities for cooperation. With Xi Jinping now seemingly positioned to stay in power indefinitely, the United States must maintain a firm line against China while approaching the relationship from a position of strength.[44] Such steadfastness may in turn cause China to moderate some of its more aggressive behavior, though any short-term change in China’s political system is highly unlikely. Beijing sees the competition with Washington as a long game. U.S. policymakers should adopt a similar mindset without creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of great power conflict.   Michael Auslin is the Williams-Griffis Fellow in Contemporary Asia at The Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His most recent book is End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region (Yale University Press).

3. Competition Aplenty, But No Cold War

By Robert Ayson It's not difficult to envision a future where the competitive side of Sino-U.S.  relations overshadows its cooperative dimension. Since the early days of the Barack Obama administration, if not before, it has become clear that the more China translates its economic power into diplomatic and military influence, the more that the United States will seek counteractive measures. For the Donald Trump administration, such measures have relied on America's military superiority, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. By giving less weight to trade and diplomatic multilateralism than its predecessor, the Trump approach downplays the collaborative possibilities in America's relationship with China. And because it places such a strong emphasis on military power, the new administration is making contentious interactions between the two countries all the more likely. Primed for Competition To be sure, any competitive relationship takes at least two sides to tango. There is no question that China would like to have the dominant position in wider Asia, an ambition that threatens America's long-standing estimation of its own vital interests. For many years that prospect has seemed out of reach. But China’s growing strength and influence, coupled with a ruler who wishes to more confidently assert Beijing's preferences abroad, brings it closer to realizing its goal of gaining a position of regional leadership. Ever sensitive to the changing balance of power with the United States, Beijing may have seen Donald Trump's arrival in Oval Office as an opportunity to exploit, even if this meant heightening the risks of competition. In an era when the U.S. president is tarnishing America’s hard-won international reputation, the argument that China lacks soft power appeal needs re-evaluating. Xi Jinping’s grandiose claim that China is the new champion of economic globalism[45] is an example of Chinese messaging that attracts while Trump repels. Meanwhile, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) reflects a more upbeat vision of Asia’s future than America’s abandonment of the Trans Pacific Partnership. Between Xi Jinping’s regional ambitions and several near-term decisions facing the United States, the chance that competition between the two countries will intensify is increasing. If, for example, the Trump administration follows through on the president’s threats to impose tariffs on Chinese goods,[46] economic competition could escalate. And if Kim Jong-Un disappoints Trump in their pending summit meeting, and the United States takes provocative military action against North Korea following dashed expectations of denuclearization, the United States and China could come into direct conflict on the Korean Peninsula for the first time in nearly 70 years. Counterintuitively, even if the White House decides not to use preventive force against North Korea, avoiding that war would make it more likely that Washington and Beijing compete more intensely over other contested spots. In the South China Sea, for instance, China wishes to reduce America's military reach and the United States wishes to avoid the further extension of Beijing's expanding assertions of control. China and the United States are also wrestling diplomatically. China has been trying to persuade America's allies and partners in Asia that they might be better off distancing themselves from Washington. South Korea and the Philippines come to mind as examples of this effort in North and Southeast Asia, respectively. Both are traditional U.S. allies, and both have seen China attempt to use a combination of charm and coercion to peel them away from the United States. There is also some element of ideological competition between China and the United States. The former is showing developing countries that they do not need to be democratic to be rich, while at the same time the leader of the free world appears to regard democracy as overrated. The cooperative aspects of Sino-U.S. relations, which in theory could encourage mutual restraint and a positive sum outlook, are more fragile and narrowly based than the issues that engender competition between China and America. The two great powers certainly have some common economic interests, and have both benefited from the economic interdependence that exists between them. Growing trade and financial ties between the United States and China have raised the costs of conflict between them. But close economic connections are no guarantee of peace: Europe’s powers were, after all, highly interdependent in 1914. Paradoxically, the economic interactions that have allowed China to flourish have also allowed it to change the distribution of power in a region where the United States wishes to remain preeminent. Moreover, as Japan's relations with China demonstrate, very close economic connections can coexist with serious diplomatic and military tensions. There are other dimensions in which Beijing and Washington have interests in common. Both would like to prevent third parties from provoking local conflicts that could drag in either country. One example is the Sino-U.S. modus vivendi when it comes to Taiwan: Both great powers have indicated to Taipei that pressing for independence is not an option. Despite some early wobbles,[47] President Trump has not upset the status quo on Taiwan, but many in Washington would like to see him take a firmer line with Beijing.[48] More immediately significant are the overlapping but also competing interests that the United States and China bring to the situation with North Korea. In the early months of the Trump administration, the new president was willing to give Beijing the benefit of the doubt when it came to helping the international community reign in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program. But he has also shown signs of impatience with Xi’s reluctance to apply the totality of economic pressure on North Korea — something Washington wants and Beijing would rather avoid. Cold, but Not a War With plenty of competition ahead between the United States and China, and with obstacles strewn in the path toward deeper collaboration, it seems reasonable to wonder whether these two great powers are sliding into a Cold War. But this bilateral contest — even if it becomes increasingly severe — should not be mistaken as the 21st century version of the east-west conflict that dominated the post-World War II world until the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are several reasons why the Cold War analogy is misplaced. First of all, China is competing with the United States largely within the same system. As the Cold War intensified in the 1950s and early 1960s, by contrast, the centralized economies of the Soviet bloc represented an entirely alternative system to the capitalist west. Can China's BRI and Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank be viewed as alternatives to U.S. and western-led approaches? Yes, they can. But do they suggest that Beijing is abandoning its western capitalist connections? Not so much. Smaller liberal countries like New Zealand, which are participating in these new arrangements, do not see themselves as signing up to an entirely separate Chinese sphere of economic influence. To the contrary, the New Zealand government insisted it would not be part of TPP negotiations if the aim was to exclude or contain China.[49] Far too many Asia-Pacific countries wished U.S. and Chinese approaches to regional economics were complementary. They know that China may be seeking to rework some of the rules of the international game, but it is by no means clear that Beijing is trying to create an entirely separate one. That’s because China has benefited significantly from the international order that it is sometimes accused of seeking to dismantle. Another reason the Cold War analogy is inappropriate is that Beijing does not hold the same position that Moscow and Washington once enjoyed. At the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union sat at the apex of the Western and Eastern blocs respectively. Their highly unequal relations with allies is a reminder that the Cold War dominated international politics not merely because of the existence of the two superpowers, but because so many other states were on one side or another. Even the non-aligned movement — which sought to eschew choosing sides — was defined in relation to that divide. Today’s China has nothing like the Soviet bloc at its disposal. Several of its neighbors, especially in continental Southeast Asia, are accommodating China’s rise and are willing to acknowledge its local dominance. Beijing would like to expand that group to include maritime Southeast Asia and potentially beyond. Much further afield, China has developed close relations with a number of developing countries, including several African states that rely extensively upon its aid and investment.[50] But these are not Marxist-Leninist-Maoist look-alikes. China wants its friends and partners to tolerate the political system it has developed for itself. But it is not engaged in a revolutionary campaign to entice them to copy China's one-party state. China’s rule is a negative one: Don't criticize or interfere in China’s politics. It encourages inaction rather than the adoption of a particular ideologically driven political system. What’s more, China lacks allies who are willing — or, as was the case with the Soviet Union, required — to be part of a Beijing-led military coalition. China has no equivalent to the Warsaw Pact, whose imposed unity encouraged the creation of the alliance standoff with what became the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). China does have a partner in Russia. The two have a shared interest in diluting America's primacy in world affairs and in encouraging a multipolar world, where possible. Russian leaders are also keen to protect the country’s brand of authoritarian politics against the decadent appeal of Western liberalism. And yet, it is easy to overstate the unity between Beijing and Moscow. We cannot take seriously the idea that they speak with one voice, still less that Russia is willing to submit to China's direction, or vice versa. One might be forgiven for superficially comparing China's encroachment on the South China Sea to the Soviet Union’s Cold War efforts in Eastern Europe. Beijing is creating new facts on the “ground” in maritime Asia,[51] and new ground on which those facts can be built. But most of this is happening on hitherto unpopulated — or legally non-existing — features that China claims as part of its own sovereign territory. There is no bloc being built here. China may have satellite dishes in the South China Sea, but it has no satellite countries. Some governments in maritime Southeast Asia may have little choice but to put up with China's spreading presence. But this does not make them Chinese allies or even willing puppets. So what does Beijing's great answer to the Soviet bloc of the Cold War consist of? North Korea? Cambodia? Pakistan on alternate days? Not Iran — Tehran is too independent for that. Not Turkey if China needs dutiful partners. It’s an awfully short list. Turning to the United States, for all of its traditional allies in Europe and Asia, it can hardly boast of leading a tight and cohesive western bloc today. To help create a new Cold War, Washington would need to frighten its prospective allies about the threat from China to the point where they were willing to suspend their independence for the sake of the team. But there is little sign of this happening, especially under the Trump administration. If the new Cold War adversary is really China, European countries are showing absolutely no appetite for a Soviet era type of containment. Indeed, they have been falling over themselves to economically court Beijing and dilute their criticisms of China’s human rights record. In turn, China has been increasing its economic and political influence with a series of smaller European states.[52] But this doesn’t mean these polities are completely on China’s side in a wholesale division of the planet. In Asia, Washington would find it hard to gather allies that would be willing to treat China as a threat that needs to be contained. Nor would many countries in the region be willing to separate themselves from the motley crowd of China supporters. The Obama Administration’s experience with its “pivot to Asia” proved this point. To the extent that the rebalance worked in Washington’s favor, it built links with newer partners who were unwilling to definitively choose the United States over China, but who still wanted America to balance China's growing influence. The Trump administration, and its successors, will struggle in vain to find a bloc of countries willing to walk away from lucrative relationships with China. Regarding the military factor, which is the Trump administration’s focus, any possible anti-China coalition would be very small: It might include Japan, although Tokyo seems interested in developing its own independent capacities to use force in order to give itself more options should Washington prove unreliable. It’s possible Australia would join such a coalition, although the southern anchor of the American alliance system in Asia has been reluctant to join U.S. freedom of navigation operations, which doesn’t bode well for its cooperation.[53] Who else is ready and able? Singapore simply couldn’t function without strong commercial ties with China. If America adopts a Cold War mentality in Asia, its list of loyal followers would be small. Beware a Hot War We shouldn't spend too much of our time worrying about the dangers of a new Cold War between the United States and China. But we do have reason to be worried about the possibilities of a hot war. If the olive branch extended by North Korea to South Korea and the United States proves to be full of thorns, Washington would find itself back in an increasingly dangerous standoff with Pyongyang. The use of force by either country could have dramatic implications for the United States and China: not in the form of a new Cold War or some kind of peaceful coexistence that mirrors detente, but in a military battle. The task for countries in the region, therefore, is not to help China and the United States avoid a Cold War. It is to keep them from ending Asia’s lukewarm peace.[54]   Robert Ayson is Professor of Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and author of Asia's Security (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

4. Beyond Cold War: Paradigms for U.S.-China Strategic Competition

By Elsa B. Kania Beijing has long called for the United States to abandon what it calls its “Cold War mentality” (冷战思维). Today, that critique, long a staple of official Chinese propaganda, is starting to ring true as the United States once again emphasizes great power rivalry in identifying China as a strategic competitor.[55] The notion of a “new Cold War” may be a convenient conceptual framework for the intensifying competition between the United States and China, but Washington should indeed abandon Cold War prescriptions for containing China. At best, such an approach would play directly into the hands of China’s propaganda machine. Instead, the United States must recognize that China’s ambition for what it describes as “national rejuvenation” constitutes a challenge that eclipses the Cold War in both complexity and consequence. An Unrivaled Challenger Across all dimensions of national power, China is a far more formidable rival than the Soviet Union or modern Russia. For better and worse, China’s quest for “national rejuvenation” — with ambitions to “regain its might and re-ascend to the top of the world” — has already started to shift the world order’s center of gravity.[56] China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse, enabled by its integration into the global economy, has created both positive dividends and negative externalities for the United States and the world. Its quest to become a “superpower” in science and technology could enable China to emerge as a new center of innovation, including in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies. Meanwhile, the Chinese military is pursuing rapid modernization and defense innovations that could offset — rather than match, as the Soviet military did — America’s current military-technological advantage in the Pacific and beyond. There is no clear precedent for the challenge that China poses today. In particular, the level of economic interdependence between China and the United States, which has often been mutually beneficial, further complicates matters, since such entanglement can be exploited to asymmetric advantage. Certain Chinese policies and practices — particularly tactics for transferring technology that range from outright theft of intellectual property to forced technology transfers — have proven damaging to U.S. interests and distortionary to global trade.[57] At the same time, mastery of economic statecraft has given China greater influence, even over U.S. allies and partners. China has also sought to expand its sphere of influence, just as a rising United States asserted the Monroe Doctrine. But China’s ambitions already are very global in scope and scale, stretching from Asia to the Arctic.[58] Going forward, China’s defense of its ever-growing national interests may mean that its influence — and perhaps even its military power — will extend in parallel. Relative to the Cold War, the ideological dimension of this competition has been less obvious thus far, but it may prove to be a considerable challenge going forward. At a time when U.S. soft power is diminished,[59] global public opinion of the United States and China is now similarly positive, while favorable perceptions of China have increased considerably.[60] Despite the clumsiness of Chinese propaganda, the success of the “China model” has rendered its approach attractive to illiberal and developing states, at a time when global faith in democracy is diminishing precipitously. A recent study estimated that nearly three in ten Americans would support an “authoritarian alternative” to democracy.[61] Meanwhile, traditional instruments of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) power, including such “magic weapons” as the United Front Work, have been reinvigorated to advance influence and often even interference in the politics of democracies from Australia to Peru, furthering Party-State interests.[62] While their efficacy can be limited, the global deployment of such tools has provoked acute concerns about the “sharp power” of authoritarian influence worldwide.[63] This kind of “political warfare” has a long history,[64] and countering it requires forced transparency that exposes and counters these “covert, corrupt, coercive” activities, while strengthening the resilience of our democracies.[65] Perils of Cold War Thinking Given these challenges, the United States may be tempted to revert to an established playbook of containment. After all, the Soviet Union also pursued a sphere of influence within its near abroad, and U.S. containment proved effective in preventing it from extending such influence globally. However, in today’s complex, globalized world — in which economics is China’s primary means of influence — such a strategy is unlikely to prove feasible, let alone successful. In particular, an attempt to disentangle the U.S. and Chinese economies — or even simply to cut such a Gordian knot — could be deeply damaging to the United States and highly disruptive to the world economy. Although Xi Jinping’s efforts to position himself as a champion of free trade should be met with serious skepticism, it is true that China has a stake in the current order and has benefited from globalization. While China has not yet liberalized politically as a result of its deepening integration into the international order, it has arguably become more of a status quo power in certain respects, increasing its involvement in international issues and institutions, in response to U.S. urgings that it become a “responsible stakeholder.”[66] Moreover, were the United States to revert to a “Cold War mentality,” concentrating primarily on countering and containing China’s economic resurgence and expanding influence, it might only accelerate the emergence of a more Sino-centric world order. A U.S. decision to pursue tactics that risk alienating U.S. allies and partners — such as imposing indiscriminate tariffs — could backfire. In reaction, Beijing’s attempts to create an alternative institutional architecture, including the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) may achieve greater traction, possibly at the expense of more U.S.-centric institutions, like the World Bank.[67] At the same time, Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative aims to accelerate the emergence of a more Sino-centric order by reshaping the geopolitics and economics of Eurasia.[68] If U.S. actions, such as import tariffs, raise the specter of protectionism, it could increase the relative attractiveness of the economic opportunities that China promises, notwithstanding the strings that will likely be attached. It is still possible for the United States to confront China on its anti-competitive behavior, by enacting aggressive industrial policies, for example, and to exert pressure for deeper regulatory changes that are favored by some reformers within China.[69] The perils of a Cold War approach to China are most acute in the military domain. The more the United States flexes its military muscles in Asia, the more it will inadvertently bolster Beijing’s narrative that U.S. “hegemonism,” rather than Chinese assertiveness,[70] is to blame for exacerbating regional tensions.[71] U.S. strategy must ensure that any further military presence in the region is balanced by greater security cooperation with allies and partners. And, perhaps more critically, the United States must engage economically, including a reconsideration of the merits of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As U.S.-China military competition intensifies — from the seas to space to the cyber domain — the United States must also be wary of the risks of misperception and potential miscalculation that can arise within a classic security dilemma.[72] At the same time, the United States must avoid falling into the trap of overinvesting in the military dimension of competition and neglecting other core sources of strength, lest it find itself making the same mistakes that undermined the Soviet Union during the Cold War.[73] U.S. strategy toward China must balance and reconcile concurrent competition and cooperation. In particular, it is critical to engage with China in order to mitigate risks to strategic stability that may arise. This includes deepening the military-to-military relationship between the United States and China, for example, through the new joint strategic dialogue mechanism.[74] The realities of rivalry should not undermine joint efforts to mitigate shared threats, from North Korea to cyber crime to climate change. Increasingly, it may become difficult to justify sustaining such cooperation unless tangible outcomes arise from it. It is therefore important to begin where shared threats and interests converge, and to focus on systemic challenges that cannot be resolved without the involvement of the world’s most powerful and vulnerable stakeholders. For instance, the United States and China were the two nations most adversely impacted by the WannaCry ransomware outbreak in May 2017,[75] which has since been attributed to North Korea.[76] In the case of the Mirai botnet, vulnerabilities in Chinese Internet of Things (IoT) devices enabled its creation and the launching of massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that caused major disruption to the Internet.[77] Future U.S.-China cooperation to counter high-end cyber crime and enhance IoT security could prove viable and mutually beneficial. It is clear that such global issues and systemic challenges cannot be readily resolved without cooperation. Rivalry and Rejuvenation Going forward, the United States should not fear, but rather must embrace, cooperation with China as a catalyst for an “American rejuvenation.” While aspects of a Cold War paradigm may be applicable to this strategic competition, U.S. strategy should instead articulate a new vision that accounts for the complexity of U.S.-China competition and cooperation in a chaotic and uncertain world. In the process, the United States must recognize and reaffirm its commitment to its core values and enduring advantages — the vibrancy of its democracy, the freeness and openness of its society, and the dynamism of its innovation ecosystems. And yet, America must not take these strengths for granted, at a time when there are troubling indicators of democratic breakdown,[78] a resurgence of hatreds and prejudice that is antithetic to U.S. values,[79] and inadequate investment in the technologies that will shape America’s future.[80] As China pursues its national rejuvenation, the United States must undertake its own revitalization — fortifying its democratic institutions; battling the demons of hatreds both old and new; and embracing new frontiers of innovation, including through concentrating on education, openness to immigration, and sustained funding for basic scientific research. At a time of crisis and anxiety, the United States must rise to the challenge of an ascendant China.   Elsa B. Kania is an Adjunct Fellow with the Center for a New American Security’s Technology and National Security Program. She focuses on Chinese defense innovation in emerging technologies in support of the Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Initiative at CNAS, where she also acts as a member of the research team for the new Task Force on Artificial Intelligence and National Security. 

5. Are the United States and China really in a new Cold War? A View from the Region

By Sheryn Lee Has the Cold war returned? Yes, if we are to believe current media and policy discussions about the state of Sino-U.S. relations.[81] Meanwhile, in response to American plans to expand its strategic reach in Asia, Beijing has repeatedly accused Washington of a “Cold War” mentality and of misreading Chinese military modernization.[82] Parallels have been drawn to the bipolar and openly antagonistic relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union, with some comparing U.S. policy in Asia to “containment” and arguing that bipolarity is returning once again to global politics. According to this theory, the post-Cold War period of American unipolarity is declining, a rising China will not “subordinate itself to Pax Americana,” and the ensuing Sino-U.S. strategic competition will divide the international order.[83] However, despite the seemingly appealing description of another Cold War-type clash of ideologies, there are several problems with using that era of bipolarity as a template for understanding current Sino-U.S. affairs. The Cold War was an extreme form of strategic competition that divided the globe into two ideological poles. It was openly antagonistic in political, ideological, economic, and military terms, leading to proxy wars and a nuclear arms race. In contrast, U.S. relations with China are far more complex and Asia’s changing regional balance of power is nowhere near settled. And despite labelling China a “strategic competitor” in its 2018 National Defense Strategy,[84] the United States has not actively sought to contain China, nor has it contested China’s every military advancement, as it did the Soviet Union. We should therefore resist the urge to apply stark terminology to what is, in reality, a complex Sino-U.S. relationship that continually fluctuates between cooperation and conflict. The Art of the Deal One of the key dimensions of the Cold War was the clash of ideology between the communist Soviet Union and the democratic West. Although there is a clash of values between the United States and China today, it is not polarized to the same degree. The 2018 National Security Strategy argues that China and Russia “are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”[85] But if the United States is competing for influence, China and Russia are less damaging to its efforts than the overall posture of the Trump administration. With the pending introduction of trade tariffs, the commitment to increase its defense expenditure and military capabilities, and the alleged collusion of some members of President Donald Trump’s team with Russia during the 2016 election campaign the United States is damaging its soft power. Trump has openly praised strongmen such as Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Tayyip Erdogan, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Rodrigo Duterte. He has also reduced the emphasis of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, ended U.S. leadership on climate change, and undermined the “rules-based” global order the United States effectively built and has maintained over many decades. Indeed, as some eminent U.S. political scientists have argued, there has been an “underlying erosion of democratic norms” in America since the 1990s of which Trump is merely a symptom.[86] Trump’s “fiery, populist nationalism” challenged American internationalism and espoused a return to isolationism and protectionism.[87] It is no surprise, then, that interpersonal relations between Trump and President Xi Jinping have been warm. In fact, Trump was the only Western leader who expressed sympathy for Xi’s moves to becoming “President for life,” and the White House refused to criticize China for removing the two-term limit on its presidency. Both leaders are symptomatic of their political systems and both have transactional approaches to international relations. “Chairman” Xi has effectively ended China’s era of “collective leadership” and created a cult of personality similar to Mao, this time based on the “Chinese Dream” slogan. Similarly, Trump claims to “drain the swamp” in order to “Make America Great Again.” These programs of national rejuvenation are based on economic nationalism and the pursuit of national interests. This is not the “intense competition between rival political ideologies” that unfolded during the Cold War that affected the “global distribution of power among states.”[88] Moreover, it is important to remember that Sino-U.S. relations have only been recast by Trump in the past year — previously Beijing and Washington maintained cooperation on the key issues of global economic growth, climate change, and nuclear security. What could upend the Trump-Xi friendship is not a clash of liberal and authoritarian ideologies but rather a clash of economic policies — in essence, the “deal-based order” both leaders have promoted. Trump seeks to preserve the American economic might that has financed American military superiority and underpinned the U.S.-led global order since the end of the Cold War. The United States has played a key role in China’s economic development as the largest purchaser of Chinese products and through technology transfer agreements. Trump seeks to overturn this by following through on his campaign promise of reducing China’s trade surplus with the United States, including employing protectionist measures. His administration is seeking to impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese imports, namely information technology, apparel, and consumer electronics, as redress for Chinese intellectual property theft and unfair trade practices.[89] On the other hand, Beijing has repeatedly vowed to defend its “legitimate rights and interests.” In reaction to Trump’s declaration of a 25 percent tariff on steel imports, China’s metal industry urged the government to target U.S. coal and other sectors located in Trump’s electoral support base.[90] Nevertheless, the possibility of a “trade war” is not tantamount to the emergence of Cold War bipolarity. There is No Arms Race During the Cold War, American containment of the Soviet Union prevented it from using “the power and position it won from [the Second World War] to reshape the postwar international order.”[91] Consequently, the democratic West and communist East structured both their conventional and nuclear armed forces in relation to one another. The interaction between arms acquisition programs resulted in increases in the size and destructive capabilities of their militaries. This was “punctuated by several intense nuclear crises, an arms race in which each side accumulated tens of thousands of powerful hydrogen bombs, and proxy wars in which millions died.”[92] China is on a trajectory to threaten America’s position in Asia, but it is not there yet. In Asia today, much regional and U.S. concern stems from annual increases in Chinese defense expenditure and the rapid transformation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which also involves the reorganization of its strategic command structures. However, China’s defense spending has never exceeded 2 percent of GDP, nor has the PLA achieved parity to the technological sophistication of U.S. armed forces, particularly in modern command and control (C4ISR) systems. What’s more, China’s long-term military modernization does not begin and end with combating America’s presence in Asia. Its military modernization — particularly upgrades to its naval and associated air capabilities — has been an ongoing political and strategic process driven by several overlapping impulses. Starting in the 1970s, China recognized the potential strategic and economic value of controlling its maritime approaches, which had been largely ignored under Mao Zedong.[93] Realizing this aspiration has involved a drastic realignment of its traditional force structure — expanding from its previous exclusive focus on homeland defense to include both territorial defense and expeditionary duties.[94] Although Washington’s focus has now shifted towards recognizing China as a “strategic competitor,” the American military retains a global force posture in order to meet global deployment requirements, meaning its capability development is driven by more than just the PLA. America’s armed forces pursue qualitative military modernization and innovation to maintain technological superiority. This is done in a cost-effective way to ensure that advanced weapons acquisitions have a lasting effect not just on American security commitments in Asia, but also its global “command of the commons.” Although the PLA is eroding American regional capabilities in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and ballistic missile defense, American Third Offset Strategy technologies — such as quantum machine learning, artificial intelligence-human collaboration, and network enabled autonomous weapons — are presumably not only far ahead of the PLA’s military transformation but also able to counter the ability of American adversaries to disrupt the C4ISR network that is central to modern American warfighting.[95] Coping with Change It is unlikely that changes in the regional balance of power will result in the emergence of bipolarity on the order of what existed between the United States and the Soviet Union. Regional observers have long lamented the lack of a credible Asia policy due to Washington’s polarized partisanship and stagnant economy. This began well before Trump’s impulsive policy decisions — the region criticized George W. Bush’s prioritization of the Global War on Terror over his commitment to Asia, and asked the Obama administration whether the regional “pivot” or “rebalance” would ever become a reality. Consequently, countries such as Japan, Australia, India, and South Korea have long been preparing for the worst-case scenario of Asia “Without America.”[96] Although Sino-U.S. relations are now framed as a “strategic competition,” its effect on Asia is markedly different than that of Cold War bipolarity. On the one hand, American allies and partners remain invested in the bilateral system of “hubs and spokes,” as well as the complex network of minilateral arrangements and regional forums meant to maintain the delicate regional stability. Countries are diversifying their foreign policies through minilateral initiatives, ranging from attempts to reinvigorate “The Quadrilateral” — the United States, Japan, India, and Australia — to the proliferation of enhanced security and strategic partnership bilateral agreements between the “spokes.” In addition, despite Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the remaining 11 countries signed an amended agreement in March 2018, expressing a commitment to ratifying an “effective, rules-based and transparent trading system.”[97] On the other hand, nation-states tend to act in their own national interests before they act for the collective good of the region. Therefore, coping with changes to the regional balance of power has also resulted in increased investment in self-reliant defense capabilities. This makes for a more uncertain and contested geostrategic environment, increasing the risk of miscalculation and misadventure. Countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam are modernizing blue water power projection, ASW, and maritime constabulary capabilities. Countries such as Japan and South Korea are also manufacturing indigenous defense technologies that capitalize on technology transfer agreements with the United States, with the long-term objective of decreasing the reliance on foreign purchases. These efforts should not be viewed as enhancing collective security or containment strategies by like-minded countries against China. They are neither coordinated nor integrated with one another. Responses to China’s actions, moreover, are varied, a key example being the South China Sea. Vietnam has invested in land reclamation and militarization activities on its occupied islands in the South China Sea.[98] Australia has resisted calls for conducting freedom of navigation operations in the area, citing that it would “unilaterally provoke an increase in tensions,”[99] while the Philippines has eschewed multilateral discussions and opted to negotiate bilaterally with China to resolve its dispute in the West Philippine Sea, despite its favorable ruling at the U.N.-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration.[100] Cold War 2.0? The debate about whether the current state of Sino-U.S. competition is a repeat of the Cold War reflects the uncomfortable uncertainty in predicting the outcomes of the next transformation in the balance of power. It is unsurprising, then, that the debate looks to the history of hegemonic power transition for answers. And history suggests that peaceful power transitions are rare and the odds are not good for the U.S.-Sino case.[101] This guiding framework and the Trump administration’s emphasis on economic nationalism and a “zero-sum” approach only reinforces the current trend to focus on the conflictual aspects of this relationship and to draw stark conclusions. But the United States and China are not in a new Cold War. Instead, they are locked in a strategic competition that is becoming fiercer but is constrained by an understanding that each needs the each other, and that pursuing “defeat” would simply be too costly. This does not mean that serious conflict between the two is impossible. The Taiwan Strait, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea disputes loom large in this respect. But their competition is not a total struggle on a global stage. This is good news. The bad news, however, is that we have already entered a new phase in Sino-U.S. relations characterized by orthogonal conflict, playing out in cyber space, through “gray zone” coercion, and influence operations. The West has realized it “got China wrong.”[102] But a Cold War paradigm does not get China right.   Dr. Sheryn Lee is a Lecturer in the Department of Security Studies and Criminology, Macquarie University, Sydney. You can email her at sheryn.lee@mq.edu.au.  

6. A New Era of Major Power Competition, Not a New Cold War

By Tiffany Ma and Brian O’Keefe As China continues to pursue an ambitious agenda for its long-term economic and political rise, Washington has openly acknowledged that some of Beijing’s aspirations challenge its fundamental interests in the Asia-Pacific. Despite the alluring simplicity of likening uncertainties in the present U.S. relationship with China to the zero-sum competition of the Cold War, significant differences make the analogy a poor fit. The reality is that the United States and China are more interconnected, and the current international system is more complex, than at any point during the Cold War. Looking back at the Cold War may situate current dynamics in a broader historical context, and the analogy may offer certain insights. But it is dangerous to confuse the past with the great power competition — as well as the elements of cooperation —  that are currently playing out in the Indo-Pacific region. Cold War Criteria Despite the pervasiveness of the term “cold war” in discussions about great power relations today, it is important to recognize that the period from 1945 to 1991 grew out of a unique confluence of twentieth-century disasters with lingering nineteenth-century tensions between capitalism and socialism.[103] The United States and Soviet Union were the last powers standing after two world wars and the Great Depression. Facing one another’s nearly equal power and antithetical worldviews, each “side” embraced its ideology in identity-laden terms, casting itself as virtuous and its opponent as dangerous and depraved. The two superpowers lived largely separate lives. They did not trade, and they maintained few significant political linkages. Under the totality of their competing visions, each took steps that threatened the existence of not just the other’s society but of the entire world. Because the confrontation eventually spanned the globe, less powerful states were inevitably drawn in, sometimes unwillingly. Any attempt to characterize the current relationship between China and the United States as a new Cold War would need to fulfill several criteria. First, it would require a strongly bipolar distribution of power, in which other states are pulled toward one of the two roughly equal poles. Second, the superpowers and those aligned with them would need to be living essentially disconnected lives from those aligned opposite them, save perhaps shared membership in a few major international institutions. Third, China and the United States would have to pursue zero-sum policies against one another across all issues of mutual concern, not just military policies. And finally, each side would need to be so sensitive to the military balance between them that signs of an arms race would emerge, posing perilous risks to humanity. How does the Sino-U.S. relationship fare according to these four measures? Not very well. With respect to bipolarity and the alignments of smaller states, China does not compare to the Soviet Union, which controlled an array of client states that made it possible to wage proxy wars against the United States. Today, the United States maintains defense treaties with dozens of states throughout the Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Americas,[104] while China counts only North Korea as an ally. Moreover, since the fall of the Cold War bipolar order and the triumph of American preeminence, the world has gradually been moving toward a multipolar structure. Power in the region is distributed more diffusely than it was during the Cold War[105] — a trend only partly driven by China’s rise. China and the United States do not live separate existences, as was the case with the United States and the Soviet Union. Elements of cooperation and interdependence have in fact featured in U.S. policy toward China since the Nixon administration, from Cold War alignment against the Soviet Union to jointly tackling climate change in the 21st century. Today, China is the United States’ top trading partner, with bilateral trade in goods alone reaching an all-time high of nearly $636 billion in 2017,[106] and two-way foreign direct investment flows likewise achieving record levels of more than $60 billion in 2016.[107] An unprecedented 329,000 Chinese students studied in the United States in 2017,[108] and in 2014, the number of U.S. students in China surpassed 100,000.[109] The Cold War saw nothing of the sort. What’s more, cooperation between China and the United States has broadened across a range of issues, including space, cyber, conservation and wildlife, and counterterrorism. Military-to-military engagement has also matured over the decades, including direct exchanges at the senior and staff levels, a growing number of confidence-building measures, and Chinese participation in the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific naval exercises.[110] China is also far more integrated into a variety of international institutions than the Soviet Union ever was. It participates with the United States in premier multilateral bodies including the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the G20, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. China also contributes to U.N. peacekeeping operations. The significance of China’s record in these entities is a subject of debate given its complicated history — including the fact that the People’s Republic of China was not “present at the creation” of key institutions. Yet the point remains that Beijing has been seen as a partner in resolving difficult international challenges in a way that Moscow never was. Third, while the United States and China differ in their economic and political systems, they have not, since the normalization of relations, let ideology define their relationship. China has not sought to export its ideology as the Soviet Union did, aggressively, during the Cold War. Of course, Xi Jinping recently stated that China’s experience could offer other countries “a new option” for development without concomitant pressure to reform politically.[111] And some scholars have dubbed China’s economic model sui generis and an existential threat to trade multilateralism and the centrality of the WTO.[112] Nonetheless, talk of a so-called “Beijing Consensus” seems overplayed.[113] Beijing remains a beneficiary of the liberal international economic order shaped by Washington, and the United States and its partners possess the multilateral means to address Chinese practices should they collectively choose to utilize them. While ideological differences between the United States and China do not mirror Cold War spheres of influence, political differences and geopolitical ambitions are deepening competition in other ways. Xi Jinping’s vision, as sanctioned by party elites, is leading to a more assertive foreign policy agenda and a more prominent role for Beijing on the world stage. In its actions and rhetoric, China has begun to shape and challenge its external environment. This is particularly evident in the South China Sea land reclamation activities,[114] the expansive Belt and Road Initiative,[115] Beijing’s efforts to alter the cross-Strait status quo,[116] and Xi’s declaration that China will “take an active part in reforming and developing the global governance system.”[117] Moreover, Beijing’s goal of national rejuvenation reflects a desire to increase China’s power and status — although, as with the Cold War analogy, one should not rush to equate the Chinese Communist Party’s present aspirations to those of some bygone imperial era. Like the Cold War, the military domain features prominently in U.S.-China relations. During the Cold War, an arms race was driven by the desire to sustain military and technological parity. The specter of conflict and escalation to nuclear war meant that both sides’ militaries and national security apparatuses were postured for direct confrontation. For the United States and China, similar concerns exist, yet neither views the other as its singular security concern. In its most recent national security strategy,[118] the United States prioritizes major power competition with both China and Russia in addition to other threats. For Beijing’s part, unification with Taiwan has been and continues to be the main focus of PLA planning and modernization, and China has prepared for U.S. intervention through asymmetric means.[119] Accidental escalation between the United States and China over regional hotspots is certainly conceivable. However, both countries have strong incentives to avoid unwarranted escalation — both lack the capacity and constituencies for major conflict.[120] The character of strategic stability also differentiates the Sino-U.S. security relationship from Cold War dynamics. Strategic stability in the Cold War context largely referred to arms race stability and crisis stability. In the Sino-U.S. context, the concept of strategic stability is more expansive, including new factors, such as mutual vulnerability and interdependence, and new strategic domains.[121] In addition, strategic stability may function on several levels, including regional balance, strategic nuclear force balance, and the overall bilateral relationship.[122] A broader definition of strategic stability acknowledges complexities in the U.S.-China relationship that did not exist between the United States and the Soviet Union. A more nuanced understanding of strategic stability recognizes that stability could be affected by increased tensions across a range of different issues — and, conversely, that more potential avenues exist for strengthening stability as well. What Sino-U.S. Competition Means The current state of Sino-U.S. relations is competitive. However, that competition is occurring between interlinked economic and geopolitical partners and is more likely to play out within international institutions and rules than through proxy wars. Managing this type of geopolitical competition is a more complex task than outright containment or conflict in the traditional sense, because the two powers are neither friends, given the level of strategic distrust, nor foes, given the high degree of interdependence. Nor are they equals. The United States has clear advantages that have been generated by its “long-standing lead in the development and deployment of new technologies, and the unmatched ability of its huge and dynamic economy to carry the costs of military primacy.”[123] While the overall future of the U.S.-China relationship is still highly uncertain, three specific trends are relatively clear. First, cooperation between China and the United States will become more difficult to pursue systematically. China’s integration into the international system suggests that some level of cooperation with the United States is conducive to both sides’ interests and economic growth. However, rhetorical tensions are building, and the United States is retreating from traditional tenets of trade and diplomacy, potentially risking harm to the very international institutions it has long championed.[124] The two sides will have to find ways — both individually and together — to keep cooperation on track. Second, the contest for regional leadership will increasingly occur within a multipolar system. China has long preferred a multipolar regional order featuring a less prominent U.S. role, and it has taken actions to undermine U.S. leadership in Asia in order to facilitate such a change.[125] The Trump administration believes that China seeks not only “Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term” but also “displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.”[126] Still, it is important to note that usurping U.S. dominance would not guarantee China global preeminence. The Asia-Pacific region will serve as a litmus test of China’s long-term global ambitions and influence. Third, the rift between the United States and China over notions of international order will continue to widen. Successive U.S. administrations have seen the creation and maintenance of international order as critical for promoting U.S. interests, though the discourse would benefit from a systematic or comprehensive definition of order.[127] Under the current administration, U.S. presidential rhetoric on alliance relationships has been unprecedentedly transactional and inconsistent,[128] while Washington’s tone toward China has undergone a shift — as reflected in more frequent references to China as a “revisionist” power.[129] The commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, recently channeled a widespread Washington view when he testified that Beijing is using its military and economic power to erode the free and open international order.[130] While China certainly poses unprecedented challenges to U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific, the “revisionist” designation carries its own risks. As one China expert has observed, “it seems now that any Chinese attempts to accumulate or exercise power are labelled as undermining the international order or revisionist.”[131] In this respect, the Cold War’s confrontational identity discourse can serve as a warning. If the United States defines China as revisionist and itself as the defender of the international order, both powers may become more likely to intensify strategic competition and miss opportunities for further cooperation. Implications for Smaller Powers Navigating this new era is proving ever more challenging for the major powers, but secondary powers in the Asia-Pacific are confronted with an even more precarious predicament. Smaller states must increasingly hedge their strategies to manage relations with China, a leading economic partner, and with the United States, the region’s primary security provider. Evidence of that hedging can be seen in the reticence of some non-claimant states to take a stronger position, whether individually or collectively through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, on the South China Sea disputes and in their tentative, often heavily caveated, interest in the China-centered Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative. While smaller states do not want to be caught in the middle of Sino-U.S. strategic competition, avoiding it is increasingly difficult given the growing friction over issues of regional order and leadership. The ability to hedge is further complicated by what Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats calls uncertainty over “the willingness and capability of the U.S. to maintain its international commitments” — a factor that may lead some countries to orient their policies, particularly on trade, away from the United States, at least for the time being.[132] As much as smaller states may prefer to engage in a hedging posture, recent years have also seen a noticeable trend in balancing behaviors.[133] Countries in Asia are increasingly pursuing both internal and external balancing strategies vis-à-vis China — by investing internally in their own militaries, as well as deepening external strategic partnerships and alliances. The complicating reality of China as the main trade partner to most in the region has compelled some Southeast Asian nations to “diversify their strategic relationships, beyond a binary choice between Beijing and Washington.”[134] Increasingly, Southeast Asia is looking to India, Japan, and Australia as partners for cooperation. The shift toward multipolarity appears to open up more balancing options for smaller states to manage the effects of Sino-U.S. competition. Conclusion What is perhaps most revealing about the analogy of a “new Cold War” is not so much the comparison itself, but the fact that people are resorting to it. Observers are groping for an analytical framework to make sense of the complexities of Sino-U.S. competition, the nature of America’s interconnectedness with China, the stark differences between China and the Soviet Union, and the changes that have taken place in the international system since the Cold War. And yet, analogies merely compare. They do not explain or predict. The Cold War analogy ultimately produces less insight than oversight when it comes to understanding the current state and future trajectory of U.S.-China relations.   Tiffany Ma is a senior director at BowerGroupAsia, a government affairs and public policy consulting firm that specializes in the Asia-Pacific, and a Nonresident Fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research. Brian O’Keefe is a Research Assistant for Political and Security Affairs at The National Bureau of Asian Research.

7. America Faces the Stakes and Style of a Cold War in Asia

By Kori Schake Every American president since 1990 has emphasized the cooperative nature of relations between the great powers and the prospect that rising powers could be co-opted into the existing international order. President Donald Trump, in his 2017 National Security Strategy, instead placed the focus on conflict, especially with China, proclaiming that, “after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned.”[135] The tone is almost celebratory, a harkening back to a time when the country and its challenges seemed clearer. But are we really seeing the emergence of a new Cold War with China? The circumstances that American leaders are facing today do bear some interesting resemblances to the Cold War, especially the mid-1950s. Now, as then, there is anxious concern about the success and durability of the U.S. economic system. People who had lived through the Great Depression and America’s near-run victory over two authoritarian economic powerhouses didn’t have the luxury of believing in the natural superiority of the American way of life. Americans have arguably never been as safe or as prosperous as they are now. Yet, especially with real wages stagnant and the 2008 financial collapse, Americans worry that free market liberalism is no longer competitive with the dynamism of an authoritarian China. This anxiety parallels very closely with CIA estimates from the 1950s about the Soviet economy overtaking the U.S. economy.[136] What is more, the weaknesses of the American economy are a major theme in Chinese discussions of their increasing power and global prominence.[137] Comparing Then and Now The two eras bear a number of similarities. The first has to do with social and political division. In the decade following the end of World War II, America’s domestic political order was badly frayed — then even more so than it is now. Sen. Joseph McCarthy was holding hearings seeking to uncover traitors in the Army and State Department, writers were prevented from working because of their politics, and the military was enforcing an end to segregation of schools in the South. Then, as now, America faced an authoritarian regime with ambitions to change the rules of the international order. In both eras, America had a tendency to overstate the strengths of its competitor and underestimate its own.[138] Then, as now, America’s success was deeply reliant on holding together fractious allies whom it worried were insufficiently concerned with the threat and inadequately cooperative to provide the basis for U.S. strategy. We often romanticize the golden age of alliance commitment, so it merits remembering that in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Dulles concluded that “the NATO concept (was) losing its grip in Europe.”[139] The final similarity between the Cold War and the contemporary challenge that China poses is the risk that the adversary possesses “superior military capabilities in certain local areas,” and that those capabilities “can be exercised without substantial risk of provoking general war.”[140] In both eras, the United States has lacked confidence that its general military strength could be tailored to counter localized advantages of the adversary. Yet there are important differences between the early Cold War and today’s concerns about a rising China. For one thing, China is much weaker internationally than the Soviet Union was. While we may fear China’s ideological appeal, it has nowhere near the soft-power magnetism that communism did, especially for states just emerging from colonial control in the post-World War II era. China has sought to build attractive narratives with its Confucius Institutes and the Belt and Road Initiative that echoes the Marshall Plan. Yet both face major hurdles after China’s attempts to intimidate independent scholars overseas and its seizures of foreign ports and other infrastructure as collateral for non-performing loans to smaller foreign governments. Smaller regional powers have grown especially skittish amid suspicions that Chinese lending terms have been unduly lenient in order to create debt-for-equity swaps, giving China control over other nations’ infrastructure.[141] China has no allies to speak of and seems to want only tributaries. Its main appeal is overtly commercial, leaving it vulnerable to the collapse of its influence concurrent with any economic setbacks it might experience. China is also economically dependent on global market access in ways the Soviet Union never was. That market dependence gives the United States more tools with which to craft strategy. But the United States, too, is different than it was during the Cold War. While Trump’s National Security Strategy talks about great power competition, it is difficult to imagine any recent president thinking, as Eisenhower did, that if the United States went to war against the Soviet Union, he should be impeached for sending reinforcements to Europe, because the American military would be needed in the United States for “reestablishing order in American cities after the (nuclear) exchange.”[142] Also, the current president does not seem to believe in “the security of the stalemate” that produced strategic stability between great powers during the Cold War.[143] Nor do recent American presidents worry that “if we wage such a war to establish respect for free government in Europe and Asia, we won’t have that type of government left ourselves.”[144] There was, especially during the early years of the Cold War, a healthy modesty about America’s ability to affect the world, particularly through the use of military force. Eisenhower’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Arthur Radford, once remarked that the United States
can only contribute by deterring military action, thus borrowing time during which the political, economic, and psychological programs of the Free World can function. The relative strengths of the opposing Blocs will, to a large extent, be determined by the success of the non-military elements of our national security strategy.[145]
One may hear echoes of that sentiment from the current defense secretary, but less so by elected leaders in either the executive or legislative branches of government. America has grown so powerful, and so flabby in its strategic thinking, that its presidents no longer believe, as Eisenhower did, that the nation’s chief executive owes the people both security and solvency. Contemporary presidents of both parties have had their senses so dulled by the exorbitant privilege of affordable debt that they have become inured to the risk that penury may force military capitulation (as the United States imposed on Britain during the 1956 Suez crisis). Given these many differences between the 1950s and today, it bears asking, does the Cold War analogy do more harm than good? No. Even with all these variations on the theme, the Cold War analogy is still useful for thinking about the threats a rising China poses to the United States. The comparison helps give a sense of proportion to what America faces. Identifying China as an adversary clarifies U.S. strategic thinking on the matter and suggests policy courses of action commensurate to the challenge. The most vital challenge in this regard is recognizing the value of friendships and alliance relationships that allow the United States to share the burden of a long struggle and foreclose assets to its adversary. The comparison also suggests the magnitude of effort that will be required, over an extended period of time, to preserve U.S. autonomy. And not just governmental effort, although that, too, will need to be much more serious and coordinated than it has been since the collapse of America’s Cold War adversary. It will also require civil society to mobilize its businesses and faith communities, its schools and language and family networks, and all the panoply of strengths free societies have in abundance but that the government does not control. The Choices Facing Asia’s Small States Asia’s smaller states have to worry not only whether the United States is able to repeat its previous success against a major adversary, but also whether it will choose to do so. Being the hegemon of the international order requires a state to have both the ability to set the rules and the willingness to enforce them. America’s recent behavior has called both aspects of that equation into doubt. The United States currently has a president who does not appear to believe in mutually beneficial trade, and who is burning through goodwill that accrued to the United States by legitimating its power through international institutions and norms by which lesser powers have been able to participate in shaping the rules that bind the international order. Can the United States continue to set rules for other countries when its own society is so divided, and the world is in the midst of a technological revolution? Any rules that the United States sets might be perceived as predatory at a time when the president doesn’t seem to subscribe to mutually beneficial trade and looks at America’s allies as burdens, often treating them poorly. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether Americans will be willing to enforce international order as new competitors rise, weapons of mass destruction proliferate, and the homeland comes to feel itself at risk to the same worrying degree it did during the Cold War. Asia’s smaller states have fewer sentimental claims on American attention than do its long-standing allies, which claim bonds of values and shared history, making the reliability of American guarantees correspondingly paler. Given China’s economic heft and the degree to which the economies of smaller Asian states are interwoven with China’s, refusing Chinese investment to curtail its influence would be prohibitively costly for these countries. They could bilaterally lash themselves to the U.S. mast or choose non-alignment, leaving them exposed to China’s depredations. However, neither option offers much appeal. Alternatively, smaller powers could pursue a dual-track policy of tacit acceptance of Chinese international policies coupled with maintaining enough military power to drive up the cost of conflict to China, as Finland did in response to the Soviet Union. Probably the best option is the one that is most widespread in Asia: encouraging economic interaction while hedging against exposure by cultivating American interest and engaging in frenetic cooperation with other “rise of the rest” countries. Banding together to cascade training and equipment, demonstrate a growing sense of collective security, reduce their exposure either to U.S. abandonment or Chinese pressure, and set consensual terms for economic and political action is probably the best any of Asia’s smaller countries can achieve. What’s at Stake The Cold War comparison provides a bracing recognition that America could fail. It gives a sense of what the consequences would be of losing autonomy. For nearly forty years, the jury was out on whether the United States and its allies were winning the Cold War. That America won was a highly contingent outcome. Just because the United States overestimated Soviet power does not mean it is overestimating China’s potential now. Nor does it mean — having succeeded before in overcoming all obstacles and mistakes — that the United States will remain capable of repeating that hat trick.   Kori Schake is the deputy director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony.   Image: U.S. Air Force [post_title] => Policy Roundtable: Are the United States and China in a New Cold War? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => policy-roundtable-are-the-united-states-and-china-in-a-new-cold-war [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-06 16:50:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-06 20:50:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=587 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => We asked a group of experts to discuss whether the tensions between the United States and China amount to a 21st century Cold War. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Policy [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 172 [1] => 173 [2] => 174 [3] => 175 [4] => 176 [5] => 177 [6] => 178 [7] => 75 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] See, for example, David Shambaugh, “Containment or Engagement of China? Calculating Beijing’s Responses,” International Security 21, no.2 (1992): 180-209. [2] For a good summary of the debate surrounding the so-called “Beijing consensus,” see Katrin Bennhold, “What is the Beijing Consensus?” New York Times, Jan. 28, 2011, https://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/what-is-the-beijing-consensus/. [3] For a good overview of China’s growing tendency to resort to economic coercion, see Evan Feigenbaum, “Is Coercion the New Normal in Chinese Economic Statecraft?” Macro Polo, Jul. 25, 2017, https://macropolo.org/coercion-new-normal-chinas-economic-statecraft/. [4] Jessica Chen Weiss, Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). [5] On early communist China’s attitude toward international law, see Hungdah Chiu, “Communist China’s Attitude Toward International Law,” American Journal of International Law 60, no.2 (1966): 245-267. On how this continues to partially condition China’s attitude toward the law of the sea, see Iskander Rehman, India, China, and Differing Conceptions of the Maritime Order (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, June 2017), https://www.brookings.edu/research/india-china-and-differing-conceptions-of-the-maritime-order/. [6] Simon Denyer, “China’s President Takes Campaign for Ideological Purity Into Universities, Schools,” Washington Post, Dec. 12, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/chinas-president-takes-campaign-for-ideological-purity-into-universities-schools/2016/12/12/2395ec42-c047-11e6-b20d-3075b273feeb_story.html?utm_term=.bdc83c7c42cf. [7] Adrian Kenz, “China’s Domestic Security Spending: An Analysis of Available Data,” China Brief 18, no.4 (2018), https://jamestown.org/program/chinas-domestic-security-spending-analysis-available-data/. [8] See Josh Chin and Clement Burge, “Twelve Days in Xinjiang: How China’s Surveillance State Overwhelms Daily Life,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 19 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/twelve-days-in-xinjiang-how-chinas-surveillance-state-overwhelms-daily-life-1513700355; and Jun Mai, “Ecuador Fights Crime Using Chinese Surveillance Technology,” South China Morning Post, Jan. 22, 2018, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2129912/ecuador-fighting-crime-using-chinese-surveillance. [9] Adam P. Liff, “China and the U.S. Alliance System,” China Quarterly 233 (2018): 137-165, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/china-quarterly/article/china-and-the-us-alliance-system/1FF369905B4A8110DC8693A3C8A7857B. [10] See Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner, “How Beijing Defied American Expectations,” Foreign Affairs 97, no.2 (2018): 60-71, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2018-02-13/china-reckoning; and “How the West Got China Wrong,” Economist, Mar. 1, 2018, https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21737517-it-bet-china-would-head-towards-democracy-and-market-economy-gamble-has-failed-how. [11] Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander, Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking (New York: Basic Books, 2013). [12] See, for example, John J. Mearsheimer, “Can China Rise Peacefully?” National Interest, Oct. 25, 2014, http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/can-china-rise-peacefully-10204; Edward N. Luttwak, The Rise of China Versus the Logic of Strategy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012); and Robert Dujarric, “China is not Imperial Germany of the Twenty-First Century,” South China Morning Post, Jul. 25, 2014, http://www.scmp.com/comment/article/1559046/china-not-imperial-germany-21st-century. [13] Cary Huang, “Trump Versus China: Is This the Dawn of a New Cold War?” South China Morning Post, Feb. 18, 2018, http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2133344/trump-versus-china-dawn-second-cold-war. [14] See Rosemary Foot, “Doing Some Things in the Xi Jinping Era: The United Nations as China’s Venue of Choice,” International Affairs 90, no. 5, (2014): 1085-1100. [15] Odd Arne Westad, “Why This is Not a New Cold War,” Foreign Affairs Snapshot, Mar. 27, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-03-27/has-new-cold-war-really-begun. [16] Richard J. Evans, In Defense of History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), 50. [17] See Odd Arne Westad’s magisterial new history of the Cold War, which explores its varied effects and manifestations over the decades and across multiple regional subsystems. Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History (New York: Basic Books, 2017). [18] See, for example, Emily O. Goldman, “Thinking about Strategy Absent the Enemy,” Security Studies 4, no.4 (1994): 40-85. [19] See Aaron Friedberg, The Authoritarian Challenge: China, Russia and the Threat to the International Liberal Order (Tokyo: Sasakawa Peace Foundation, 2017), https://www.spf.org/jpus-j/img/investigation/The_Authoritarian_Challenge.pdf; and Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence (Washington, DC: National Endowment for Democracy, 2017), https://www.ned.org/sharp-power-rising-authoritarian-influence-forum-report/. [20] Jamil Anderlini and Jamie Smyth, “The West Grows Wary of China’s Influence Game,” Financial Times, Dec. 19, 2017, available at https://www.ft.com/content/d3ac306a-e188-11e7-8f9f-de1c2175f5ce. [21] For a seminal discussion of the BRI, see Nadege Rolland, China’s Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative (Seattle, WA: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2017). [22] Charles Edel, “Limiting Chinese Aggression: A Strategy of Counter-Pressure,” American Interest, Feb. 9, 2018, https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/02/09/limiting-chinese-aggression-strategy-counter-pressure/. [23] Hal Brands and William Inboden, “Wisdom Without Tears: Statecraft and the Use of History,” Journal of Strategic Studies (2018), https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2018.1428797. [24] Russell Flannery, “Is a U.S.-China Cold War in the Cards?” Forbes, Apr. 3, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/russellflannery/2018/04/03/is-a-u-s-china-cold-war-in-the-cards/#24aa8adf2df5. [25] “China Accuses U.S. of ‘Cold War Mentality’ with New Nuclear Policy,” Reuters, Feb. 4, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-nuclear-china/china-accuses-u-s-of-cold-war-mentality-with-new-nuclear-policy-idUKKBN1FO02O. [26] U.S. Census Bureau, “Trade in Goods with China.” https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5700.html. [27] Neil Gough, “Chinese Firm Takes Stake in U.S. Investment Bank Cowen,” New York Times, Mar. 29, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/business/dealbook/china-us-investment-bank-cowen.html; “U.S. Relations with China,” Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Sept. 13, 2017, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/18902.htm. [28] Stephanie Saul, “On Campuses Far From China, Still Under Beijing’s Watchful Eye,” New York Times, May 4, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us/chinese-students-western-campuses-china-influence.html?_r=0. [29] See, for example, Robert Zoellick and Justin Yifu Lin, “Recovery: A Job for China and the U.S.,” Washington Post, Mar. 6, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/05/AR2009030502887.html; 1999 Chinese Embassy statement at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zmgx/zysj/zrjfm/t36212.htm; and Zoellick speech, archived at https://2001-2009.state.gov/s/d/former/zoellick/rem/53682.htm. [30] See, for example, U.S. Department of Defense, Report to Congress: The Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2005, http://archive.defense.gov/news/Jul2005/d20050719china.pdf. [31] The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States, December 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. For a representative analysis, see Timothy R. Heath, “America’s New Security Strategy Reflects the Intensifying Strategic Competition with China,” RAND Corporation, Dec. 27, 2017, https://www.rand.org/blog/2017/12/americas-new-security-strategy-reflects-the-intensifying.html. [32] For an institutional study on the development of the People’s Liberation Army, see Roger Cliff, China’s Military Power: Assessing Current and Future Capabilities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); for up to date assessments of Chinese military strength, see the Department of Defense annual reports on Chinese military power, most recently, The Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017, May 15, 2017, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017_China_Military_Power_Report.PDF. For A2/AD, see Andrew Krepinevich, Barry Watts, and Robert Work, Meeting the Anti-Access and Area-Denial Challenge (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, 2003), https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/a2ad-anti-access-area-denial/publication. On the PLAN, see Ronald O’Rourke, “China’s Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities,” Congressional Research Service, Apr. 25, 2018, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33153.pdf. [33] The best overview of recent weapons development is in The Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress, 2017; see also “China’s Naval Modernization,” https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33153.pdf. [34] Christopher Woody, “Russia Is Reportedly Shipping Its Advanced S-400 Anti-Aircraft Missile System to China,” Business Insider, Jan. 19, 2018, http://www.businessinsider.com/r-russia-starts-shipping-s-400-air-defense-missile-system-to-china-tass-cites-source-2018-1. [35] Steven Jiang, “China Shows Off Newest Weapons in Huge Military Parade,” CNN.com, Jul. 30, 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/07/30/asia/china-military-parade/index.html. [36] The Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress, 2017. [37] Xi’s speech can be found at http://www.china.org.cn/node_7247529/content_40569136.htm. [38] Among other reports, see Adam Goldman, “Ex-C.I.A. Officer Suspected of Comprising Chinese Informants Is Arrested,” New York Times, Jan. 16, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/16/us/politics/cia-china-mole-arrest-jerry-chun-shing-lee.html. [39] Ali Watkins, “China Grabbed American As Spy Wars Flare,” Politico, Oct., 11, 2017, https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/11/china-spy-games-espionage-243644. [40] See Josh Gerstein, “Ex-CIA Officer Charged with Spying for China,” Politico, June 22, 2017, https://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/22/kevin-mallory-ex-cia-officer-arrested-spying-china-239877 and Joseph Tanfani, “U.S. Diplomat Arrested, Accused of Conspiracy with Chinese Intelligence Agents,” Los Angeles Times, Mar., 29, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-china-state-spy-20170329-story.html. [41] Tim Johnson, “FBI Says Chinese Operatives Active at Scores of U.S. Universities,” McClatchy News, Feb. 14, 2018, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article199929429.html. [42] The leading cyber espionage report, by Mandiant Corporation, can be found at https://www.fireeye.com/content/dam/fireeye-www/services/pdfs/mandiant-apt1-report.pdf; for assessments of economic costs, see The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, “Update to the IP Commission Report,” National Bureau of Asian Research, 2017, http://www.ipcommission.org/report/IP_Commission_Report_Update_2017.pdf. [43] Ellen Nakashima, “Hacks of OPM Databases Comprised 22.1 Million People, Federal Authorities Say,” Washington Post, July 9, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/federal-eye/wp/2015/07/09/hack-of-security-clearance-system-affected-21-5-million-people-federal-authorities-say/?utm_term=.26db6f1dcfa5. [44] “China Scraps Presidential Term Limits, Clearing Way for Xi’s Indefinite Rule,” Bloomberg News, Mar. 11, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-11/china-ties-future-to-xi-as-congress-scraps-president-term-limits. [45] Noah Barkin and Elizabeth Piper, “China’s Xi Positions Himself as Champion of Globalization at Davos,” Huffington Post, Jan. 17 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/china-xi-globalization-davos_us_587e705be4b0c147f0bb6fc4. [46] Edward Alden, ”The Trump Tariffs on China: A Perilous Moment,” CFR Blog, Mar. 22 2018, https://www.cfr.org/blog/trump-tariffs-china-perilous-moment. [47] Tom Phillips et al., ”Trump’s Phone Call with Taiwan Risks China’s Wrath,” Guardian, Dec. 3, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/03/trump-angers-beijing-with-provocative-phone-call-to-taiwan-president. [48] Patrick Temple-West, ”GOP Pressures Trump on Taiwan as China Issues Threats,” Politico, Feb. 2, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/02/china-taiwan-trump-republicans-386449. [49] “New Zealand gov’t rejects TPP China containment: trade minister,” Global Times, June 30, 2015, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-06/30/c_134369400.htm. [50] Irene Yuan Sun, Kartik Jayaram, and Omid Kassiri, Dance of the Lions and the Dragons, McKinsey and Company, June 2017, https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Global Themes/Middle East and Africa/The closest look yet at Chinese economic engagement in Africa/Dance-of-the-lions-and-dragons.ashx. [51] “Comparing aerial satellite images of China’s Spratly Outposts,” Asia Maritime Transparency Institute, Feb. 16, 2018, https://amti.csis.org/comparing-aerial-satellite-images-chinas-spratly-outposts/. [52] Laurens Cerulus and Jakob Hanke, “Enter the Dragon,” Politico Europe, Oct. 9, 2017, https://www.politico.eu/article/china-and-the-troika-portugal-foreign-investment-screening-takeovers-europe/. [53] James Laurenceson, “Will Australia Join South China Sea FONOPs? Don’t Count on It,” Asia Unbound, Mar. 2, 2017, https://www.cfr.org/blog/will-australia-join-south-china-sea-fonops-dont-count-it. [54] Rosemary Foot, “China and the United States: Between Cold and Warm Peace’, Survival 51 No. 6 (2009): 123-146. [55] Department of Defense, “Summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Advantage,” https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf; The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. [56] See, for instance: “Commentary: Milestone Congress points to new era for China, the world,” Xinhua News Agency, Oct. 24, 2017, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-10/24/c_136702090.htm. [57] For a full accounting, see: Office of the United States Trade Representative Executive Office of the President, “Findings of the Investigation into China’s Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974,” Mar. 22, 2018, https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/Section 301 FINAL.PDF. [58] Anne-Marie Brady, China as a Polar Great Power, (Cambridge University Press, 2017). [59] Joseph Nye, “Donald Trump and the Decline of American Soft Power,” Project Syndicate, Feb. 6, 2018, https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trump-american-soft-power-decline-by-joseph-s--nye-2018-02. For contrast, on Chinese sharp power, see: “Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence,” National Endowment for Democracy, Dec. 5, 2017, https://www.ned.org/sharp-power-rising-authoritarian-influence-forum-report/. [60] “In global popularity, U.S. and China – not Russia – vie for first,” Pew Research Center, Aug. 23, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/. [61] Lee Drutman, Larry Diamond, and Joe Goldman, “Follow the Leader: Exploring American Support for Democracy and Authoritarianism,” Voter Study Group, March 2018, https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publications/2017-voter-survey/follow-the-leader. [62] Peter Mattis, “What We Talk About When We Talk about Chinese Communist Party Interference in the Public Square,” War on the Rocks, Mar. 7, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/03/talk-talk-chinese-communist-party-interference-public-square/; Anne Marie Brady, “Magic Weapons: China's political influence activities under Xi Jinping,” Wilson Center, Sept. 18, 2017, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/magic-weapons-chinas-political-influence-activities-under-xi-jinping; Alex Joske, “Beijing Is Silencing Chinese-Australians,” New York Times, Feb. 6, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/opinion/beijing-chinese-australians-censorship.html; “Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence,” National Endowment for Democracy, Dec. 5, 2017, https://www.ned.org/sharp-power-rising-authoritarian-influence-forum-report/. [63] “Sharp Power.” [64] Mark Stokes and Russell Hsiao, “The People’s Liberation Army General Political Department Political Warfare with Chinese Characteristics,” Project 2049, Oct. 14, 2013, https://www.project2049.net/documents/PLA_General_Political_Department_Liaison_Stokes_Hsiao.pdf. [65] John Garnaut, in personal capacity, “Testimony to US House Armed Services Committee,” Mar. 21, 2018, https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS00/20180321/108048/HHRG-115-AS00-Wstate-GarnautJ-20180321.pdf. [66] For an extensive consideration of this debate (that illustrates that these debates have remained ongoing over decades), see Alastair Iain Johnston, “Is China a Status Quo Power?,” International Security 27, no. 4 (Spring 2003):5–56, https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/files/publication/johnston_spring_2003.pdf. [67] For more on AIIB, see, for instance, the following report: Scott Morris, “Responding to AIIB,” Council on Foreign Relations, Sept. 1, 2016, https://www.cfr.org/report/responding-aiib. [68] For a deeper analysis of these issues, see Nadège Rolland, China's Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative, National Bureau of Asian Research, May 2017, http://www.nbr.org/publications/issue.aspx?id=346. [69] Scott Kennedy, “Surviving March Madness in U.S.-China Trade Relations,” CSIS, Mar. 28, 2018, https://www.csis.org/analysis/surviving-march-madness-us-china-trade-relations. [70] Alastair Iain Johnston, “How new and assertive is China's new assertiveness?” International Security 37, no. 4 (2013): 7-48. Chen, Dingding, Xiaoyu Pu, and Alastair Iain Johnston, “Debating China's assertiveness,” International Security 38, no. 3 (2014): 176-183. [71] For one typical take in Chinese state media, see, for instance: “U.S.-called freedom of navigation is hegemonism in disguise,” Xinhua, Nov. 19, 2015, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-11/19/c_134833546.htm+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us. [72] Robert Jervis, “Cooperation under the security dilemma,” World Politics 30, no. 2 (1978): 167-214. [73] It would be ironic if the United States were to become the victim of its own techniques of competitive strategy, which Chinese leaders may have studied more closely. [74] “U.S., Chinese Military Leaders Sign Agreement to Increase Communication,” DOD News, Aug. 15, 2017, http://www.jcs.mil/Media/News/News-Display/Article/1278963/us-chinese-military-leaders-sign-agreement-to-increase-communication/. [75] “Tens of thousands of Chinese firms, institutes affected in WannaCry global cyberattack,” South China Morning Post, May 15, 2017, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2094377/tens-thousands-chinese-firms-institutes-affected. [76] “Press Briefing on the Attribution of the WannaCry Malware Attack to North Korea,” Dec. 19, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/press-briefing-on-the-attribution-of-the-wannacry-malware-attack-to-north-korea-121917/. [77] “Chinese firm admits its hacked products were behind Friday's DDOS attack,” Computerworld, Oct. 23,2016, https://www.computerworld.com/article/3134097/security/chinese-firm-admits-its-hacked-products-were-behind-fridays-ddos-attack.html. [78] Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, “This is how democracies die,” Guardian, Dec. 21, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2018/jan/21/this-is-how-democracies-die; Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, (New York: Crown, 2018). [79] For more context, see Heidi Beirich and Susy Buchanan, “2017: The Year in Hate and Extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, Feb. 11, 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2018/2017-year-hate-and-extremism; See also David Sterman, “Terrorism in America After 9/11,” New America, https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/terrorism-in-america/what-threat-united-states-today/; For a recent case, see: Kelly Weill, “Suspected White Supremacist Died Building ISIS-Style Bombs,” Daily Beast, Apr. 12, 2018, https://www.thedailybeast.com/suspected-white-supremacist-died-building-isis-style-bombs?ref=home. [80] Report by the MIT Committee to Evaluate the Innovation Deficit, “The Future Postponed: Why Declining Investment in Basic Research Threatens a U.S. Innovation Deficit,” Apr. 2015, https://dc.mit.edu/sites/default/files/Future Postponed.pdf . [81] See for instance, Geoff Dyer, “US v China: is this the new cold war,” Financial Times, Feb. 21, 2014, https://www.ft.com/content/78920b2e-99ba-11e3-91cd-00144feab7de; and Yan Xuetong, “Trump can’t start a Cold War with China, even if he wants to,” Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/02/06/china-trump/?utm_term=.cacebe146b78. [82] “China accuses US of ‘Cold War mentality’ with new nuclear policy,” Reuters, Feb. 8, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-nuclear-china/china-accuses-us-of-cold-war-mentality-with-new-nuclear-policy-idUSL4N1PU01X. [83] See Christopher Layne, “The US-Chinese power shift and the end of Pax Americana,” International Affairs 94, no. 1 (January 2018): 89-111; Randall Schweller, “Opposite but Compatible Nationalisms: A Neoclassical Realist Approach to the Future of US-China Relations,” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 11, no. 1 (March 2018): 23-48; and Øystein Tunsjø, The Return of Bipolarity in World Politics: China, the United States, and Geostructural Realism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018). [84] U.S. Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, January 2018, 1, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf. [85] The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, 2, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. [86] Interview with Uri Friedman, “How’s Democracy Holding Up After Trump’s First Year,” Atlantic, Jan. 13, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/01/trump-democracy-ziblatt-levitsky/550340/. [87] Hal Brands, “US Grand Strategy in an Age of Nationalism: Fortress America and its Alternatives,” The Washington Quarterly 40, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 74-75. [88] Stephen M. Walt, “I Knew the Cold War. This Is No Cold War,” Foreign Policy, Mar. 12, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/12/i-knew-the-cold-war-this-is-no-cold-war/. [89] Takeshi Kawanami, “US set to hit China with tariffs up to $60bn over intellectual property theft”, Nikkei Asian Review, Mar. 14, 2018, https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/US-set-to-hit-China-with-tariffs-up-to-60bn-over-intellectual-property. [90] “China metal producers urge Beijing to retaliate on US tariffs,” Reuters, Mar. 9, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-trade-steel/china-metal-producers-urge-beijing-to-retaliate-on-u-s-tariffs-idUSKCN1GL01O. [91] John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy during the Cold War, 2nd edn, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 4. [92] Walt, “I Knew the Cold War.” [93] Daniel M. Hartnett, “China’s Evolving Interests and Activities in the East China Sea,” in The Long Littoral Project: East China and Yellow Seas—A Maritime Perspective on Indo-Pacific Security, ed. Michael A. Devitt and Catherine K. Lea (Alexandria: Center for Naval Analyses, September 2012), 83-86. [94] Timothy R. Heath, “Developments in China’s Military Force Projection and Expeditionary Capabilities,” Testimony presented before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Jan. 21, 2016, http://www.rand.org/pubs/testimonies/CT450.html. [95] Robert Martinage, Toward a New Offset Strategy: Exploiting US Long-Term Advantages to Restore US Global Power Projection Capability (Washington DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2014), 34, https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/toward-a-new-offset-strategy-exploiting-u-s-long-term-advantages-to-restore. [96] Hugh White, “Without America: Australia in the New Asia,” Quarterly Essay 68 (Black Inc, 2017). [97] Australian Government, “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement,” Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mar. 8, 2018, http://dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/tpp/news/Pages/news.aspx#tpp-news-20180308. [98] “Vietnam builds up its remote outposts,” CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Aug. 4, 2017, https://amti.csis.org/vietnam-builds-remote-outposts/. [99] Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop quoted in Lisa Murray, “Foreign Minister Julie Bishop won’t provoke in the South China Sea,” Australian Financial Review, Mar. 8, 2018, http://www.afr.com/news/politics/world/foreign-minister-julie-bishop-wont-provoke-in-the-south-china-sea-20180308-h0x7nr. [100] Liu Zhen, “China, Philippines to set up negotiation mechanism to resolve South China Sea disputes,” South China Morning Post, Oct. 22, 2016, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2038993/china-philippines-agree-set-negotiation-mechanism. [101] See Kori Schake, Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017). [102] “How the West got China wrong,” Economist, Mar. 1, 2018, https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21737517-it-bet-china-would-head-towards-democracy-and-market-economy-gamble-has-failed-how. [103] Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History (Basic Books, 2017). [104] United States Department of State, U.S. Collective Defense Arrangements, https://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/collectivedefense/. [105] National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World (U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008), https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Reports and Pubs/2025_Global_Trends_Final_Report.pdf. [106] United States Census Bureau, Top Trading Partners - December 2017, https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/highlights/top/top1712yr.html - total. [107] Thilo Hanemann, Daniel H. Rosen, & Cassie Gao, “Two-Way Street: 2017 Update: US-China Direct Investment Trends,” Rhodium Group & The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, May 2017, http://us-china-fdi.com/static/downloads/2017Update.pdf. [108] Stephanie Saul, “On Campuses Far from China, Still under Beijing’s Watchful Eye,” New York Times, May 4, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us/chinese-students-western-campuses-china-influence.html?_r=0. [109] US-China Strong Foundation, http://uschinastrong.org/initiatives/1-million-strong/. [110] Roy D. Kamphausen with Jessica Drun, “Sino-U.S. Military-to-Military Relations,” in “U.S.-China Relations in Strategic Domains,” Travis Tanner & Wang Dong, eds., National Bureau of Asian Research, Special Report, no. 57, April 2016, 103–118, http://www.nbr.org/publications/specialreport/pdf/sr57_us-china_april2016.pdf. [111] Xi Jinping, “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” Work Report of the 19th Party Congress, Oct. 18, 2017, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/download/Xi_Jinping's_report_at_19th_CPC_National_Congress.pdf, 9. [112] Mark Wu, “The ‘China, Inc.’ Challenge to Global Trade Governance,” Harvard International Law Journal 57, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 261–324. [113] Scott M. Kennedy, “The Myth of the Beijing Consensus,” Journal of Contemporary China 19, no. 65 (June 2010): 461–477. [114] See “Imagery,” Maritime Awareness Project, National Bureau of Asian Research, maritimeawarenessproject.org/gallery/imagery/. [115] Nadège Rolland, China’s Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative (National Bureau of Asian Research, 2017). [116] Abraham Denmark, “China’s Increasing Pressure on Taiwan,” Asia Dispatches, Jan. 30, 2018, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/chinas-increasing-pressure-taiwan. [117] Xi, Work Report of the 19th Party Congress, 54. See also, “Xi Calls for Reforms on Global Governance,” Xinhua, Sept. 28, 2016, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-09/28/c_135720719.htm. [118] The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905-2.pdf. [119] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017 (Washington, D.C, May 15, 2017), https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2017_China_Military_Power_Report.PDF. [120] Timothy R. Heath & William R. Thompson, “U.S.-China Tensions Are Unlikely to Lead to War,” National Interest, Apr. 30, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/us-china-tensions-are-unlikely-lead-war-20411?page=show. [121] Thomas Fingar & Fan Jishe, “Ties that Bind: Strategic Stability in the U.S.-China Relationship,” Washington Quarterly 36, no. 4 (Fall 2013): 125–138, https://aparc.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/TWQ_13Winter_Fingar-Jishe.pdf; Eric Jacobson & Phil Goldstein, “Emerging Challenges in the China-US Strategic Military Relationship,” Center for Global Security Research Workshop Report, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, May 8, 2017, https://e-reports-ext.llnl.gov/pdf/881654.pdf. [122] International Security Advisory Board, “Maintaining U.S.-China Strategic Stability,” Oct. 26, 2012, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/200473.pdf. [123] Aaron L. Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011), 215. [124] Edward Alden, “Trump, China, and Steel Tariffs: The Day the WTO Died,” Council on Foreign Relations, Mar. 9, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/blog/trump-china-and-steel-tariffs-day-wto-died. [125] Robert Sutter, “Does China Seek to Dominate Asia and Reduce US influence as a Regional Power?,” Paper for the series “Reframing China Policy: The Carnegie Debates,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Apr. 20, 2007, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/Sutter_paper.pdf. [126] United States Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge, January 2018, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf. [127] Michael J. Mazarr et al., “Understanding the Current International Order,” RAND Corporation, 2016, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1500/RR1598/RAND_RR1598.pdf, 54. [128] On the potential consequences of this rhetoric, even amidst consistent military deployments and treaty commitments, see Mark S. Bell & Joshua D. Kertzer, “Trump, Psychology, and the Future of U.S. Alliances,” in “Assessing the U.S. Commitment to Allies in Asia and Beyond,” Sharon Stirling, ed., German Marshall Fund of the United States, Collection, no. 11, Mar. 2018, 6–13, http://www.gmfus.org/publications/assessing-us-commitment-allies-asia-and-beyond. [129] National Security Strategy, 2017. [130] Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., Statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. Pacific Command Posture, Mar. 15, 2018, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Harris_03-15-18.pdf. [131] Oriana Skylar Mastro, “China’s End Run around the World Order,” Cato Unbound, Mar. 14, 2018, https://www.cato-unbound.org/2018/03/14/oriana-skylar-mastro/chinas-end-run-around-world-order. [132] Daniel R. Coats, “Statement for the Record: Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” Mar. 6, 2018, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Testimonies/Final-2018-ATA---Unclassified---SASC.pdf. [133] Adam P. Liff, “Whither the Balancers? The Case for a Methodological Reset,” Security Studies 25, no. 3 (2016): 420–459. [134] Joshua Kurlantzick, “Southeast Asia Seeks New Partners in the Era of ‘America First’,” Council on Foreign Relations, Mar. 14, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/blog/southeast-asia-seeks-new-partners-era-america-first. See also, Max Fisher and Audrey Carlsen, “How China is Challenging American Dominance in Asia,” New York Times, Mar. 9, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/09/world/asia/china-us-asia-rivalry.html. [135] The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States, December 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. [136] Angus Maddsien, “Measuring the performance of a Communist Command Economy: Evaluating the CIA Estimates For the USSR," Review of Income and Wealth 44, no. 3 (September 1998),  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1475-4991.1998.tb00284.x. [137] Liu He, “Overcoming the Great Recession: Lessons from China,” M-RCBG Associate Working Paper no. 33, Harvard Kennedy School, 2014, https://www.hks.harvard.edu/centers/mrcbg/publications/awp/awp33. [138] James Fallows, “How America Can Rise Again,” Atlantic (January/February 2010), https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/01/how-america-can-rise-again/307839/. [139] “Memorandum by the Secretary of State, September 6, 1953,” Foreign Relations of the United States 1952-1954, National Security Affairs, vol. II, part 1, doc. 88, 457-460, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v02p1/d88. [140] “National Intelligence Estimate 100-5-55: Implications of Growing Nuclear Capabilities for the Communist Bloc and the Free World, June 14, 1955,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, National Security Policy, XIX, doc. 27, p. 86, par. 31, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1955-57v19/d27. [141] Elizabeth Redden, "Confucius Controversies," Inside Higher Education, July 24, 2014, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/07/24/debate-renews-over-confucius-institutes; “Maldives: Trouble in Paradise,” Japan Times, Feb.13, 2018, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/02/13/editorials/maldives-trouble-paradise/#.WqcL5JPFLVo. [142] “Diary Entry by the President’s Press Secretary (Hagerty), February 1, 1955,” Foreign Relations of the United States 1955-1957, National Security Policy, vol. XIX, doc. 8, p. 40, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1955-57v19/d8. [143] “Memorandum of Discussion at the 230th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, January 5, 1955,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, China, vol. II, doc. 2, p. 26, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1955-57v02/d2. [144] “Memorandum of Discussion at the 257th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, August 4, 1955,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, National Security Policy, vol. XIX, doc. 30, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1955-57v19/d30. [145] “Memorandum from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Radford) to the President, Washington: Military and Other Requirements for National Security, Apr. 17, 1956,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, National Security Policy, vol. XIX, doc. 73, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1955-57v19/d73. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => 1. Introduction, by Iskander Rehman 2. Beware the Cold War Trap — It's a Geopolitical Competition, Instead, by Michael Auslin 3. Competition Aplenty, but no Cold War, by Robert Ayson 4. Beyond Cold War: Paradigms for U.S.-China Strategic Competition, by Elsa B. Kania 5. Are the United States and China Really in a New Cold War? A View from the Region, by Sheryn Lee 6. A New Era of Major Power Competition, Not a New Cold War, by Tiffany Ma and Brian O'Keefe 7. America Faces the Stakes and Style of a Cold War in Asia, Kori Schake ) ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 421 [post_author] => 124 [post_date] => 2018-01-31 12:59:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-31 17:59:06 [post_content] =>

1. The American Presidency in the 21st Century: Too Much Even for a Stable Genius?

By Celeste Ward Gventer Can Donald Trump handle being president? This is a question that has been on the minds of many in Washington, the mainstream media, and perhaps some world leaders, since the 45th president took office. The question re-emerges with striking frequency, usually in the wake of the president’s latest tweet, questionable claim, or impolitic remark. But few observers have raised the larger, more significant question: Can anyone, regardless of background, talent, preparation, mental faculties, rhetorical gifts, or other qualities, successfully manage what has become an overwhelmingly difficult job? Jeremi Suri argues in his new book, The Impossible Presidency, the Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, that the demands have come to exceed the capabilities of any one human being. Suri looks to five of America’s celebrated chief executives to understand the personal qualities and circumstances that allowed them to achieve their feats of leadership — Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and, as Suri sees it, the best of them all, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). The first four of these presidents, he argues, added something substantial to the office — majesty, populism, rhetorical virtuosity, strenuous engagement — which FDR fully leveraged to accomplish his unrivaled achievements. The apotheosis of presidential mastery, FDR “…was the culmination of one hundred and fifty years of growth in the reach of the presidency, the personal role of the president, and the public expectations surrounding the office and the man in it…The country never looked back.”[1] FDR’s successors, on the other hand, each failed in some way to deliver a remarkable presidency. According to Suri, they have fought losing battles against the U.S. government bureaucracy, which often works at cross-purposes with the Oval Office. Overscheduled victims of the in-box, these men have lurched from crisis to crisis while shouldering expectations that are simply more than one person can handle. Gone is time for considered thought or the opportunity to focus on a few strategic priorities. Post-World War II presidents have been engaged in a pell-mell race against time, pitched battles against intractable Congresses, and faced a mountain of obstacles that even the most exceptional personal gifts could not help them to surmount. Our six contributors — academics, practitioners, and some who straddle both worlds — generally agree that each occupant of the Oval Office since 1945 has faced great burdens. They have operated at an increasingly breakneck pace in order to keep up with whatever might cross their desks. Our reviewers concede that the American president is certainly the subject of great (possibly inflated) expectations on the part of the public. Indeed, as Jeff Engel notes, most of our recent presidents have left office looking careworn, exhausted, and distinctly older than they did at their first inaugural balls. But the contributors also ask hard questions about the fundamental planks of Suri’s argument. Is the narrative of progressive decline credible, or is it simply nostalgia for imagined glory days? What is the standard by which historical presidencies should be judged? Is the president the only causal agent that can explain outcomes? If the presidency has indeed become impossible, what can be done about it? Finally, is Donald Trump the perfect exemplar of Suri’s impossible presidency thesis or a refutation of it? Robert Cook and Kori Schake point out that American history is full of unexceptional presidents. Suri’s narrative of deterioration after FDR does not account for the parade of middling chief executives earlier in American history. What about Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, or Calvin Coolidge? Schake notes that the founders would likely have been far more comfortable with a limited presidency than an FDR-like figure, and that perhaps the brilliance of their original design is precisely that unexceptional people can do the job. David Adesnik asks what the standard is for the “success” and “failure” of presidencies, whether we might better grade their tenures on a curve, and how to appraise the performance of presidents who had both great accomplishments yet also presided over historic disasters. He and Luke Hartig both note that assessing any president’s performance is impossible without an examination of the composition and outlook of Congress. Several of Suri’s “successful” presidents enjoyed great support on the Hill, while the disappointments he cites — Clinton and Obama among them — faced largely hostile legislatures. Schake, too, notes that engaging with the literature that explores causal factors beyond the presidency would have improved the book’s argument. Hartig reminds us that there are forces acting on the presidents of today that their predecessors did not face, or at least not to the same degree: political polarization exacerbated by shadowy donors and gerrymandering; a media landscape in which sensationalism and playing to the public’s worst instincts brings in revenue; and an electorate seemingly uninterested in holding their leaders accountable. Derek Chollet largely agrees with Suri’s premise, and places the book in the canon of prior histories of the presidency by Arthur Schlesinger, Richard Neustadt, and Theodore Lowy. Chollet had a front row seat to the challenges President Obama faced in the White House. He notes that, to some extent, the difficulty of the job is inherent to it, because all the hard decisions get made before they reach the president’s desk. But he also underscores one of Suri’s key conclusions: A core problem of the modern presidency is the outsize (and unrealistic) expectations of the public. Jeff Engel is also sympathetic to Suri’s argument, and points to the author’s consistent and admirable willingness to tackle the big questions in all of his work. But he argues that the problem has less to do with how presidents manage their time or the international commitments they make on America’s behalf, than it does with the overall pace of events in the world today as a result of communication technologies and media. What to do about the impossible presidency? Suri suggests perhaps breaking the job into two parts, separating the ceremonial from the leadership and policy duties, along the lines of some European models. He also argues that presidents must do a better job of prioritizing and focusing on the most important strategic issues, thus allowing them time for much-needed thought and contemplation. Suri further urges the development of mechanisms to help the American public return to fact-based debate and become better informed through, for example, greater funding of educational and research institutions. There is a consensus among our contributors that changing to a European model is unrealistic in the imaginable future. A formal change of that magnitude seems a long reach indeed in today’s polarized politics. While it is also perhaps desirable to have a more informed public, the contributors have a hard time seeing how that problem is readily solved, even if educational and research organizations were better capitalized. As Hartig points out, it is the distrust of just such “elite” institutions that seemed to have helped usher Donald Trump into the White House. Of course, several of our writers note, any president could theoretically choose to focus on a few key issues and take better control of an overburdened schedule. This brings us to Trump. There is divided opinion on whether or not he is doing exactly what Suri suggests. Schake points out that Trump is, in fact, focusing on a few key issues — immigration, trade, taxes. Engel notes that he is leaving himself plenty of white space on the calendar for golf and “executive time.” But just because Trump is not tackling all the tasks that consumed his predecessors, Engel argues, does not mean that the need to deal with them has disappeared. And even if the job has become unmanageable, Robert Cook points out that the president retains one power in particular that should perhaps worry us more than his overburdened schedule: the ability to deploy a massive nuclear arsenal, largely on his own orders. All of the contributors seem to agree with Suri on at least one count. No solution to the problems he identifies is possible without the American public setting realistic expectations and holding all of their leaders to account. How to make this happen, one hopes, is the subject of Suri’s next book.   Celeste Ward Gventer is an Associate Editor of the Texas National Security Review, a National Security Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas, and an adjunct analyst for the RAND Corporation. She currently consults widely with governments in Europe and the Middle East on defense organization and reform and is based in Amberg, Germany. As a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Texas, she is writing a dissertation on Eisenhower’s 1953 and 1958 Department of Defense reforms, inter-service rivalry, and the New Look strategy. She was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush Administration and served two tours in Iraq as a civilian. 

2. Grading on a Curve: Adjusting Expectations for Presidential Success

By David Adesnik If Harry Truman ranks as a failed president, then the bar for success must be exceptionally high. On Truman’s watch, the United States implemented the Marshall Plan, orchestrated the Berlin airlift, desegregated the armed forces, established NATO, and put Japan on the path to democracy. The stalemate in Korea undermined Truman’s popularity, yet he correctly saw the invasion of the south as a war of aggression. As president, Truman put in place the pillars of containment that lasted until the end of the Cold War. He deserves a generous share of the credit for a victory that cemented America’s place as the lone superpower. Nevertheless, Jeremi Suri concludes that the office of the presidency experienced “a rapid decline, and ultimate fall, after 1945,” an era in which “strategy became a lost art in the White House”, thus ensuring that “American power has underperformed.”[2] The difficulty of reconciling these judgments with Truman’s actual achievements highlights important gaps in Suri’s new book, The Impossible Presidency, in which he argues that “the inhuman demands of the office [have] made it impossible to succeed as president.”[3]  One crucial problem is that the book does not lay out a clear threshold for distinguishing success from failure. Post-WWII presidents may not have achieved the greatness of Washington, Lincoln, or the Roosevelts. But it is not clear that they should all be branded as failures, let alone that it is no longer possible for a president to succeed. Another problem is that, by focusing so intently on presidents as protagonists, the book misses an important opportunity to consider whether factors beyond the control of the president, especially the balance of power in Congress, may impose substantial limitations on what a president can achieve. In a system of government composed of three co-equal branches, it is vital not to confuse the absence of dramatic achievements by a president with the dysfunction of the system as a whole. Finally, these two analytic gaps raise questions about one of the book’s main prescriptions for reviving the presidency by “restoring facts to public discussion” so that Americans can begin to have “the rigorous, fact-based dialogue envisioned by the Founders.”[4] Understandably, Suri decries the partisanship and rancor of today’s public debate, facilitated by social media, yet slander and conspiracy theories have remained depressingly integral to public discourse since the time of Adams and Jefferson. There are five case studies of failure in The Impossible Presidency that profile the tenures of Presidents Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama. It’s a list of supposed underachievement that runs directly counter to the collective assessment of 91 presidential historians who participated in C-SPAN’s Presidential Historians Survey for 2017.[5] On that list, Kennedy, Reagan, and Johnson occupy positions number eight, nine, and ten, respectively. Obama debuted on the list in 12th place, while Clinton holds on to position fifteen, which he also occupied in the 2009 survey. While significant inadequacies marred the tenure of each of these presidents, the C-SPAN Survey suggests that presidential effectiveness reached a peak, not a trough, in the postwar era. Notably, the survey ranks Truman fifth and Eisenhower sixth, just ahead of Thomas Jefferson. Suri declares that Lyndon Johnson, by “[t]rying to serve as chief legislator and chief executive turned an inhuman job into an impossible leap of folly.”[6] Yet Johnson’s legislative success was extraordinary. Suri concedes that he played an instrumental role in the success of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and thus “had done more for racial inclusion in American society than any president since Lincoln.”[7] But the author omits any mention of Medicare and Medicaid, the establishment of Head Start, or the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, all of which had a significant impact on American society. Advocates of limited government have made the case that Johnson’s triumphs were a prelude to eventual tragedies —witness today’s entitlement-driven $20 trillion debt — yet they do not question that Johnson was a success in terms of achieving what he set out to achieve. Johnson’s greatest failure — Vietnam — raises another difficult question for Suri’s argument: How does one evaluate a president who has extensive entries on both sides of the ledger? Perhaps a case like Johnson’s should lead to a reconsideration of whether any given presidency on the whole can be labeled as a success or a failure (and whether it is productive for historians to assign numerical rankings). It is similarly unclear why Suri concludes that the tenures of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton exemplify the decline and fall of the office of president, rather than illustrating the extent to which the chief executive cannot advance his agenda if the opposing party wins control of Congress. An alternate title for The Impossible Presidency might have been The Invisible Congress, since it gives so little consideration to the role of the legislative branch. While the book has many harsh words for Clinton’s and Obama’s Republican opponents on Capitol Hill, it identifies other causes for the failure of the two most recent Democratic presidents. While praising both for their empathy, inspirational power, and impressive intelligence, the author argues that “those qualities did not substitute for deep-thinking about how to shift the behavior of a massive government and a sprawling, diverse country.”[8] As a result, they were “harried, overstretched, and reactive executives,” whose record was one of “limited accomplishments, frequent haste, and emerging fatigue, rather than big and enduring New Deal-style transformations.”[9] It seems unfair to indict Clinton and Obama for their inability to measure up to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). This may be a sign that The Impossible Presidency has not fully internalized its own warning that outsized expectations are responsible for persistent dissatisfaction with modern presidents. More significantly, the book does not compare the political situations faced by Clinton and Obama with those of the five presidents held up as examples of success, all of whom benefited from deep wells of support in Congress. While Washington and Jackson saw some erosion of legislative support in their later years, Lincoln and the two Roosevelts enjoyed commanding majorities. The achievements of Johnson’s Great Society would also have been unthinkable without a dominant position in the House and Senate. Clinton faced Republican majorities on the Hill from 1995 onward, whereas Obama lost his majority in the House after just two years and his majority in the Senate four years later. Perhaps Clinton and Obama occasionally wondered what they might have accomplished with the seventy-percent majorities on the Hill that FDR enjoyed. With good reason, Suri is concerned about the corrosive effect of today’s media landscape. He argues that, “in the highly individualized social media space, the absence of traditional editorial standards means that information circulates as truth with very little accountability to evidence.”[10] While granting that such challenges are not entirely new, the author writes, “The contrast with the rigorous fact-based dialogue envisioned by the Founders, and later generations, could not be greater.”[11] Yet the experience of Dwight Eisenhower, to cite just one example, suggests that stunning lies and character assassination are not the products of twenty-first century technology alone. As president, Eisenhower endured ferocious calumnies, notably accusations that he was soft on communism or even a communist himself. McCarthyism flourished long before Twitter or talk radio. While the founders may have hoped for better, they knew first-hand that freedom of the press can be dangerous. The partisan publications of the 1790s promoted the ideas that John Adams was a monarchist and Thomas Jefferson was a Jacobin. A half century later, American politics had to contend with the Know Nothing movement. In the late 19th century, yellow journalism abounded. Eisenhower’s experience, and that of the founders before him, suggests that this problem may have less to do with media technology than it does with more deeply rooted impulses. Yet, this sordid history should give rise to optimism and pessimism in equal measure. On the one hand, prospects for a cure are remote if the problem has always been with us. We cannot return to an idealized past. On the other hand, many presidents have achieved greatness despite having to contend with the corruption of public debate. Eisenhower, for example, helped to end the Korean War, prevent violent conflict with the Soviet Union, and steer the Republican Party away from isolationism. The economy grew while debt and deficits remained under control. To that list, one might add the establishment of the interstate highway system and the deployment of federal troops to ensure the peaceful integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Impossible Presidency deserves ample praise for advancing a bold hypothesis that directly challenges conventional wisdom. When leading scholars like Jeremi Suri take on received opinion, they prevent the field from becoming stale and complacent. No doubt, there are many reasons to be pessimistic about the state of American politics, the tenor and quality of public debate, and the capacity of modern presidents to get things done. Even so, the road to recovery may be easier to identify if we recognize that the challenges we face today are not altogether new, and stem in part from the structure of American government, rather than treating them as unprecedented obstacles we have not previously overcome.   David Adesnik is the Director of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington-based research institute focusing on national security. He spent two years at the Department of Defense and was part of the foreign policy staff for John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. David holds a doctorate and master’s degree international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. His dissertation focused on President Reagan’s rhetoric and his administration’s approach to democracy promotion.

3. Can the Presidency Be Saved?

By Derek Chollet   “It’s like middle management.” -Barack Obama   The job of President of the United States is usually characterized in more heroic terms, like commander in chief or leader of the free world. But this workmanlike description is how Barack Obama summed up life in the Oval Office to Marc Maron in 2015, while recording a podcast in the less august surroundings of the comedian’s Los Angeles garage. “Sometimes your job is just to make stuff work,” Obama explained, “to make incremental improvements or try to steer the ocean liner two degrees north or south so that ten years from now, suddenly we’re in a very different place.”[12] Yet, as Obama experienced, this kind of slow, steady, sensible pace of progress requires patience and persistence that is in short supply nowadays. “At the moment people may feel like we needed a fifty degree turn,” he told Maron. But the danger is capsizing. “If I turn fifty degrees, the whole ship turns. And you can’t turn fifty degrees.” Being president is not easy. All modern ones have had to grapple with high expectations and shared powers, and at some point every White House occupant has expressed frustration with how difficult it is to get things done. While they all enter office with great confidence that, unlike their predecessors, they have the secret sauce for success, every outgoing president would likely agree with Harry Truman’s oft-quoted observation about Dwight Eisenhower from over sixty years ago. “He’ll say, ‘do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen,” Truman predicted. “Poor Ike — it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”[13] Or, as Jeremi Suri observes in his insightful new book, The Impossible Presidency, most presidents “die from a thousand cuts.”[14] Building his case by exploring several of America’s most consequential presidents, Suri provides a useful historical overview. His biographical sketches are vivid and revealing, recalling a classic work of political history, Richard Hofstadter’s 1948 The American Political Tradition.[15] Suri shows that while the scope of presidential power and ambition evolved from George Washington’s commanding modesty to Andrew Jackson’s fiery populism to Abraham Lincoln’s soaring poetry, it grew exponentially in the 20th century, thanks to both Roosevelts. Theodore Roosevelt brought unprecedented energy and ambition to the office, broadening the reach of the presidency into almost every aspect of American life, forging the bully pulpit, and spreading American influence in the world. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) took the reins at a time of profound national and global crisis, and transformed the government more than any other president, building an office with a tremendous span of control — a system with powers so vast that political scientist Theodore Lowi called it America’s “Second Republic.”[16] Suri argues that while FDR was the most successful president — describing him as the nation’s healer — his legacy gave his successors “too much power, too much responsibility, and too much temptation.”[17] After presidential accomplishment reached its zenith with FDR, Suri shows how subsequent occupants of the Oval Office became over-extended, over-scheduled, and overwhelmed. The expectations are now so high, the scrutiny so crushing, there is little time for innovation or strategic thinking. Scholars have been exploring the dilemmas of the modern presidency for decades. Perhaps the most famous of these was Richard Neustadt, who substantially influenced how presidents think about exercising power. His 1960 book, Presidential Power, became mandatory reading for the incoming John F. Kennedy team.[18] Reflecting the frustrations of the Eisenhower years, Neustadt’s angle was presidential weakness. He portrayed the constitutional duties of the job as inherently those of a “clerk.” Because of this structural disadvantage, a president needed to generate power from public authority and persuasion. Just thirteen years later, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. worried about the opposite problem, warning of the ills of the “Imperial Presidency,” in which presidents use secrecy, a monopoly of information, and the power of decision to give the White House a span of control that is dangerously undemocratic.[19] Derived from the management of foreign policy — the argument was built on the ashes of Vietnam and Watergate — Schlesinger cautioned that a president will exploit a persistent sense of threat to accumulate power at the expense of accountability. Then, at the height of the Reagan Revolution in the mid-1980s, Theodore Lowi took things a step further, acerbically describing the modern presidency as a “plebiscitary” office, arguing that this “Personal Presidency” created a no-win situation.[20] As presidential power blossomed with the growth of a massive executive branch bureaucracy, congressional abdication, legislative sclerosis (which has led to the increased use of executive orders), and the ability of leaders to engage directly with the public through mass media, so did the expectations for what a president could achieve. This created a pathology: presidents would habitually over-promise and under-deliver, which only fueled disillusionment. “As Presidential success advances arithmetically,” Lowi argued, “public expectations advance geometrically.”[21] Or to use Obama’s analogy, people want one of those fifty-degree turns. The Impossible Presidency fits nicely in this canon, and should be read as a successor to these earlier works. Suri’s book combines the historical wisdom of Neustadt and Schlesinger with the biting analysis of Lowi, and his core insights are made persuasively. By detailing the shared struggles of presidents whose talents he admires — Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama — Suri leaves the reader with a sense of despair, resigned to the fact that even the most capable leaders are stuck in a job so big they are destined to fail. Like these other works, this book reflects the frustrations (and worries) of its time — including the grim conclusion that as important as the presidency has become, succeeding in the job has become, well, impossible. Are things really so bad? Suri makes a compelling case, explaining how the demands of the daily grind — as well as the expectation that the White House will respond to everything, immediately — makes presidential success unachievable. Anyone who has served at high levels in government knows how important daily calendars can be, and Suri helpfully shows how a president’s days have only become more packed. The pace of events can be unrelenting, and it is increasingly difficult for presidents to maintain control over their workday, let alone their broader policy agenda. In many ways that’s the nature of the office. All the easy decisions get made before they reach the president’s in-box, so all that’s left are choices without clear answers or those that require difficult trade-offs. Most presidents understand this — consider the messages they send with the inspirational plaques they place on their Oval Office desk. Harry Truman’s famously declared where the buck stops, whereas Reagan’s had a characteristically optimistic “It CAN Be Done,” and Obama’s reminded “Hard Things are Hard.” All reflect the burden, and occasional loneliness, of the job. Yet Suri shows how things have only gotten worse. Suri’s analysis makes our leadership crisis today more comprehensible. He wrote most of this book before Trump was elected, but in many ways the 45th President is the natural culmination of the pathology Suri describes. The Trump presidency is like a vast social science experiment to test the outer limits of democratic presidential power, and one wonders whether the office will become even more imperial or if, in response to Trump, the system will self-correct with congress, the courts, the media, and yes, the “deep state,” acting as antibodies to constrain the president further. Trump himself will never change. So, as his presidency evolves, one can envision two outcomes, neither of which is good for the future of American democracy: an increasingly autocratic, “Trumpist” system, with democratic checks and balances eroded; or a president detached from the mechanics of governing (or hemmed in by senior aides) whose only real weapon is a Twitter account. In explaining how we got to this point, Suri’s sour conclusion is that the problem has less to do with any particular officeholder or institution of government. The problem is us — with our inflated expectations and, as the founders feared, susceptibility to demagogues. Over forty years ago, journalist Elizabeth Drew made a similar observation. In her Washington Journal, a detailed diary of Nixon’s downfall in 1973-74, she remarked that we have a “totemic” view of the presidency. “Societies need symbols, and the Presidency has been ours,” Drew wrote. “Our well-being is involved with it…. In Nixon’s frequent reminders that he is the President, he speaks to something in us.”[22] In other words, our expectations for the presidency must change — as well as our susceptibility to the ills Suri so eloquently describes. So what are we to do? What reforms could make the job more manageable? Suri offers some common sense ideas that are hard to disagree with, but none of them seem achievable at the moment. A president should focus only on “vital” national interests and urgent needs, communicate with the goal of “enlightening, rather than alienating” citizens and, most radically, move away from a single executive and divide responsibilities along the lines of the systems in France and Germany. This all sounds good, and to a certain extent, recent presidents have tried to act along the lines Suri suggests. For example, Obama worked vigorously to impose rigor on his agenda, going to great lengths to explain complex policy issues and future challenges. His last State of the Union address is a textbook example.[23] He reached out to audiences in the new media landscape, which is how he ended up doing a podcast in a comedian’s garage. He tried to divide the labor with his vice president and senior cabinet officials and built a “team of rivals.” But even someone as skilled and disciplined as Obama, who I think would agree with this book’s analysis and conclusions, failed to overcome the ills of the impossible presidency. While Obama played a long game and was able to accomplish many significant policy objectives (on health care and on the Iran nuclear deal, to cite just two examples), he struggled to meet expectations. Even Suri admits that he found Obama’s acknowledgement of the limits of presidential power — when much of the job can seem like a middle management grind of getting things done — to be “wise but deeply unsatisfying.”[24] Obama left office enormously frustrated by the political ecosystem defined by, as he described in his farewell address, the “rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste.”[25] Which brings us back to Obama’s ship metaphor. Over a century ago, another astute Washington observer, Henry Adams, himself the direct descendant of two presidents, argued that the American chief executive “resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek.”[26] Future presidents can certainly do better at navigating their course. But after reading Suri’s book, one might add that a president must also have a populace who will give him (and someday her) a chance to succeed.   Derek Chollet is Executive Vice President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He served in senior positions during the Obama administration at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon, most recently as the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. His latest book is The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World.

4. It is the Possible Presidency that Should Worry Americans

By Robert Cook Jeremi Suri is an academic with a mission. He wants to repair the political system in the United States by persuading readers that the American presidency is no longer capable of delivering on the voters’ mandate to execute coherent policies tested in the fires of electoral democracy every four years.[27] He regards this situation as profoundly worrying because the president is the one person who, in theory at least, has the capacity to advance the public good, yet operates in a federal system designed to limit powers in order to minimize the danger of tyrannical rule. “The presidency is the world’s most powerful office,” he contends, “but it is set up to fail.”[28] Suri’s wide-ranging historical assessment demonstrates that American presidents have not always failed. His sketches of truly great leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), as well as those of two arguably lesser presidents, Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, provide evidence of considerable success. Washington, for example, carefully fostered the growth of a stronger central government capable of generating national prosperity and, crucially, defending the interests of the new republic in a menacing geopolitical climate. Jackson created the spoils system to undermine the influence of established elites and Theodore Roosevelt used his bully pulpit to promote a number of progressive reforms. Lincoln created a national army to prevent the destruction of the Union and FDR expanded the reach of the federal government in order to protect ordinary Americans from the most serious consequences of the Great Depression. Wisely, Suri offers a balanced appraisal of these achievements. He rightly chastises Jackson for his ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, and criticizes FDR for his inattention to the plight of African-Americans. However, he does not allow his subjects’ flaws — their limited racial vision in particular — to distract him from his central thesis: These men succeeded where other presidents failed, not only because they had exceptional personal qualities (Jackson’s military experience, Lincoln’s poetic speeches, FDR’s sunny radio voice, and so forth), but also because each of them possessed a clear strategic vision, set achievable goals, and maintained a close connection with the people. Suri argues that these presidents enjoyed a large degree of success because American society was less complex before 1945 than it is today. These great or nearly great men achieved as much as they did, he suggests, because the country’s population was relatively small and ethnically homogeneous and because industrial capitalism and bureaucracy were in their infancy. He regards the United States’ entry into World War II and its subsequent involvement in the Cold War as watershed moments in American history. No president after 1945 could match or surpass the towering achievements of FDR because their own efforts to act decisively were limited by a range of factors linked to historical change in the modern era. These included an expansion of executive business (which Suri illustrates usefully by comparing the crowded calendars of modern presidents with that of FDR), the stultifying operation of entrenched government bureaucracies, mounting domestic and foreign policy crises, growing tension between the president and his military advisers, social and political polarization that triggered a disastrous decline in bipartisan cooperation, and a proliferation of information spawned by technological innovations like the internet. To illustrate his thesis, Suri shows how energetic liberal presidents like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson quickly became frustrated by their descent into crisis-management (though he does credit Kennedy for his ability to overrule his military advisers during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and Johnson for his decisive action on civil rights). Instead of being able to follow through purposefully on a focused political agenda, they found themselves reacting to events on a day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour basis. Even Ronald Reagan, the hero of the American right, disappointed many of his conservative supporters by vastly inflating the national debt in order to combat the Soviet Union. His presidency ended in scandal, with Iran-Contra, a crisis born of his attempt to pursue his own foreign policy goals without the necessary congressional oversight. Suri acknowledges that Reagan’s Democratic successors, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, did achieve some things: economic growth in Clinton’s case and the Affordable Care Act in Obama’s. But overall, he claims, both of these highly intelligent presidents failed in their attempts to remake the country and the wider world in their own image. While Clinton permitted genocide in Rwanda and unwittingly spawned an energized conservative movement at home, Obama was unable to mend fences with Russia and left a power vacuum in the Middle East that was filled by Islamic State terror. In the case of both men, Suri concludes, “tactical brilliance crowded out strategic focus.”[29] As a result of the packed calendars, inflated expectations of U.S. power in the world, and the tyranny of the in-box, Suri claims, Americans are now confronted with the “impossible presidency.” Presidents are charged with the task of promoting the national good within the constraints of a federal polity but, regardless of their personal qualities, they no longer have the ability to get the job done. One can quibble with various aspects of what is, essentially, a declension narrative — a story of something becoming progressively worse, or declining, over time. Profound national crises empowered Lincoln and FDR, rendering them exceptional figures in American history. They would not have achieved as much as they did without seizing and being granted extraordinary powers to deal with civil war and economic collapse. One could make a plausible case for regarding Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt as failures, certainly in terms of their ultimate inability to stem corporate power in the United States. And even FDR, perhaps the greatest of all modern presidents, was thwarted in his efforts to foster progressive reforms by the emergence of a bipartisan conservative bloc in Congress in the mid-1930s. The truth is, there has been no golden age of American presidents. Even granting the successes of the great and not-so-great, the “achievements” of many 19th- and early 20th-century incumbents were decidedly negative. Take, for example, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.[30] Both were men of narrow vision whose actions contributed unwittingly to the dubious accomplishment of southern secession. Or how about John Tyler who succeeded only in thwarting the economic program of his own party, or Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge who helped to lay the foundations for the Wall Street crash?[31] While his declension thesis is far from watertight, Suri is right to insist that constraints upon effective executive action have increased greatly in the modern age. Donald Trump joins a growing list of presidents frustrated by their inability to put their policies into practice as quickly and as decisively as FDR did. Trump may be the most powerful man on the planet on paper, but he has struggled to translate his much-touted abilities as a business tycoon into tangible political achievements. This said, contemporary liberals should be wary of congratulating the Founding Fathers for limiting the powers of the president. What is remarkable is the extent to which Trump has achieved his objectives thus far in spite of the obvious constraints on his power, including intense opposition from Democrats (and a handful of Republicans) in Congress, state and municipal opposition to his travel ban, sustained negative coverage of his presidency in the mainstream media, and deep social divisions generated by the ongoing culture wars. His signature policy of a border wall with Mexico remains an aspiration, but during his first turbulent year in office Trump has nonetheless put some points on the board. He appointed a conservative Supreme Court justice, significantly reduced the size of the federal government’s regulatory regime, has taken steps to unravel Obamacare and his predecessor’s nuclear deal with Iran, and secured passage of a conservative tax bill that he hopes will stimulate the American economy. He has accomplished these things by using his legal powers as president and by dealing with pragmatic Republican leaders in Washington. These successes indicate that Suri may underestimate the power of the modern president to get things done in the face of the many obstacles that he identifies. One policy area, to which Suri alludes only occasionally, clearly uncovers the limits of his thesis: the president’s enormous power to unleash nuclear weapons on the world. Donald Trump stands at the apex of a short chain of command that essentially gives him sole control over America’s vast nuclear arsenal. Procedures require him to seek confirmation from the secretary of defense, but ultimately the decision to order nuclear attacks is his alone. Therefore, if Trump determines, for whatever reason, that American nuclear weapons should be deployed against an enemy state like North Korea or Iran, his decision will be acted upon. The results would be catastrophic, both in terms of human casualties and environmental damage. Jeremi Suri rightly highlights the many constraints on the modern presidency, but on this critical subject his thesis is unconvincing. Readers of this roundtable should hope that this power of the possible presidency is not tested in their lifetime.   Robert Cook is professor of American History at the University of Sussex, UK. He is the author of Civil War Memories: Contesting the Past in the United States since 1865 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017).

5. Thinking Big About the Biggest Job in the World

By Jeffrey A. Engel Jeremi Suri does not write small books. Designed to reveal, prompt discussion, and ultimately serve as vehicles for offering solutions, his thoughtful works are not for intellectual shrinking violets. His first explored the international turbulence of 1968, a year remembered too often in our own tumultuous era simply as a point of comparison.[32] Having taken on a topic no smaller than the world, he then turned his eye towards perhaps the most influential, and surely the most controversial, American policymaker of our era: the oft-discussed yet perennially confounding Henry Kissinger.[33] Suri’s account ranks among the top works on Kissinger for its insightful portrayal of how the young boy’s exile and upbringing affected his older self’s Metternichian fascination with order and power. Turning from the question of what fueled intertwined protests or made a single man tick, Suri next put all of American history on the analyst’s couch, identifying an impulse for democratic missionizing and ultimately nation-building, which he considers essential to the nation’s culture and history.[34] These are not small topics, nor are they incontrovertible. That is, in part, the purpose of making a large argument: to generate thought (perhaps even controversy), pushback, and debate, within, and ultimately beyond, the ivory tower. Each of Suri’s books has aged well, remaining as relevant to contemporary discussion as any historian’s work today. The questions he has raised in each bubbled below the surface of American life and politics for generations: the implications of globalism’s reach and the interwoven lives of disparate peoples and states; explorations of America’s self-proclaimed mission and responsibility to the world; and yes, the influence of Jewish intellectuals (foreign-born no less!). These questions have become even more relevant with the election of President Trump, who disdains everything Suri has devoted a lifetime to studying — protesters, internationalism, nation-building, and experts — making his new book all the more timely. Written mostly before Donald Trump’s election to the nation’s highest office, Suri’s latest work shines a new light on the 45th president and the state of the office today. The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, explores the past and future of the nation’s chief executive and commander in chief. It is a position that, from 1943–2017, had no real rival for the title of world’s most powerful ruler. But along with the rise of Trump, there is a growing sense that the leadership of the free world and beyond no longer automatically accompanies the Oval Office. That virtually every major issue on earth once flowed across a president’s desk, as Suri describes, largely explains the office’s decline in effectiveness, thoughtfulness, and ultimately influence. If Trump’s election brought the presidency’s deterioration into sharp relief, Suri shows that it had been sick long before. Tracing the history of the presidency from its first occupant to its most recent, Suri argues that such a fall from power was inevitable, as the demands of the job became too great for any one man (or woman) to fully master: “Today, power elicits demands, at home and abroad, that exceed capabilities… Power pulls the president into mounting commitments, exaggerated promises, and widening distractions—‘mission creep,’ in its many infectious forms.”[35] The presidency itself has become an impossible job, his latest book concludes, whose burdens, being at once global and omnipresent, leave little time for reflection, strategizing, evaluation, or even governing. Given the size of today’s federal bureaucracy, and the breadth of the nation’s global commitments (both wise and imprudent), there is no issue capable of appearing in a newspaper that could not in some way fall under the president’s purview (for comment if not for coordination of policy). Yet, at the same time, there is no way for any human being to coordinate everything said, done, or committed in his name and under his presidential seal. The problem is not a new one: “[Ronald] Reagan’s presidency ended in scandal,” Suri concludes, in one of eight episodic chapters exploring a sample of historically popular presidents, when his “strong beliefs empowered zealous staff members…to push beyond the legal boundaries of their authority.”[36] Reagan was a hands-off visionary, unconcerned with nuance or detail. No one would ever reasonably call him a micromanager, whether of his office, his administration, or even his own daily schedule. Yet, “even if he had tried” to exert more personal control, Suri writes, “Reagan could not have maintained the same direct control over the larger, more complex, and more international government bureaucracy” that Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) did.[37] FDR was not only Reagan’s political idol, he is also the fulcrum on which Suri’s book hinges. Every predecessor to FDR he discusses contributed something to the office that FDR, beset both by global economic depression and then world war, found useful and empowering. George Washington’s “vision of a focused executive set the standard for his successors.”[38] Andrew Jackson, a self-styled man of the people with all the attendant contemporary fascist resonances embedded in that term, “rooted his presidency in the interests and expectations of ordinary citizens, rather than the refined institutions and ideas that had guided his predecessors.” As Suri writes, Jackson “made the presidency anti-elitist.”[39] Abraham Lincoln pushed the boundaries of presidential power still farther, yet not so far that it could not be focused and controlled. By the time Lincoln passed from this earth and into history, he’d commanded the world’s largest military, overseen a broad expansion of the federal government’s promotion of education, infrastructure, and industry, and retooled the nation from a collection of conjoined states into one national union. He’d also overseen more American blood spilt than any of his presidential peers before or since. Lincoln was neither perfect nor without his critics, being in Suri’s portrayal more controversial saint than unquestioned savior. The presidency under his mantle “became more powerful not because he could always achieve his aims, but because he managed to imbue his centralizing efforts with legitimacy through the force of his actions, and especially his words.”[40] As American power grew from its 18th century origins across the 19th century, so too did the president’s. By the 20th century, the power centralized in the White House was employed by progressive leaders to rein in other, more nefarious, centers of influence over American life, be they Wall Street financiers or corporations more concerned with profits than with the lives of their workers or the safety of their products. Theodore Roosevelt created a “strenuous presidency,” increasing “the speed, range, and impact of the nation’s executive as a catalyst for domestic and international change.” He was a “progressive,” Suri writes, determined to employ the power of his office to reform what ailed America’s modernizing economy and society, “but he was also hyper-interventionist in all areas of policy.”[41] By FDR’s time, the presidency had thus become prestigious (Washington’s influence); personal (Jackson’s); powerful (Lincoln’s); and potentially omnipresent (Theodore Roosevelt’s). A man of remarkable temperament and charm, capable of delegating in order to reserve time to socialize, think, and thus strategize, FDR employed all these attributes when facing and ultimately overcoming two of the three greatest existential threats the American republic has ever faced: the Great Depression and World War II (Lincoln’s Civil War was both the third and the direst). Suri writes that “Roosevelt was the last great president because the office was still small enough for him to control it, just barely. After him, the continued increase in presidential power exceeded executive capacity.”[42] It was all downhill from there, as leaders such as John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama soon found. During and after the Cold War, required to patrol and police the global reach of Roosevelt’s nascent leviathan, each of his successors discovered too much on their desk — and in particular, too much on their daily agenda — to truly prioritize their energy and efforts. Diffused by circumstance and driven more by crisis than by design as the necessity of responding to events outpaced a president’s ability to truly shape them, their effectiveness waned. There is, Suri ultimately concludes, too much on any president’s plate to expect success. The system is simply overwhelmed. So too the man. This is a hard argument to refute in the 21st century. The manic pace of events denies any president, let alone any citizen, the quiet and intellectual solitude afforded in previous generations. We all respond to crises, represented by beeps and buzzes emanating from the electronic tethers we keep in our pockets or by our bedsides, never straying far from their grasp. Donald Trump’s infatuation with the instantaneous reach of his influence is undoubtedly a key to his electoral success. Where would his campaign have been without Twitter, and a willingness to use it at all hours, and without restraint? It is worth noting that this proximity does not appear to make the electorate’s heart grow fonder. From Clinton to Trump, technology has brought Americans ever closer to their presidents, erasing much of the majesty and mystique Washington originally infused into the office. Trump, in particular, is omnipresent, dominating the news cycle and thus the electorate’s attention as no predecessor, while simultaneously receiving an equally unprecedented disapproval for any modern Commander-in-Chief at the close of their first year in office.[43] Trump notes his “ratings” are up, but counting views and clicks might work for reality television, where the difference between infatuation and revulsion matters not so long as eyeballs are transfixed. But in actual reality, one must take account of quality as well as quantity. Presidents have always longed to directly engage their constituents with immediacy and without intermediary. Woodrow Wilson traversed the country in order to sell his internationalist wares directly to voters. FDR’s voice could simultaneously flow into every business and living room, while, from Truman until today, presidents’ faces have routinely filled television and computer screens. With the Oval Office now connected directly to the miniature display of any citizen’s phone or even wrist-watch, the presidency today appears smaller than ever before. Pace and proximity are not the only problems the office confronts. No single leader could do all that is expected of a president today, Suri argues. In some sense, the current occupant does not even try. Trump’s post-FDR predecessors bemoaned being buried in paper. This president eschews reading. Television is less taxing. Roosevelt’s successors aged at a terrifying speed in office, its pressures etched into every premature wrinkle and gray hair. Trump’s coif appears untarnished. Perhaps golf helps. He hit the links one out of every three days, on average, during his first year in office. “I don’t have time for golf,” he complained when campaigning for office, and certainly won’t once “working for you,” the American voter. Inauguration left other presidents drowning in information and responsibility, Suri shows in great detail, their every movement and minute scripted, parsed, and occupied. Trump’s daily schedule, conversely, contains primarily “executive time,” his office’s in-house euphemism for further television viewing. Donald Trump is therefore not the ideal example of the burdens of office that Suri accurately describes, being particularly unburdened by them. This does not mean the problems Suri identifies have been solved or reached their nadir merely because they are going unattended. How then might more conscientious presidents, presuming there are more to come, contend with the overburdening of their post? Suri offers only two brief solutions — all too brief a payoff for a reader who has followed his long story of decline and yearns for a glimmer of hope. First, Americans might rework their constitution to separate the sovereign’s governing and ceremonial responsibilities, following a British or German model (one hereditary, the other elected) wherein the duties of head of state and of policymaking are divorced. Think how much more work a president might achieve if relieved of the awesome burden of greeting Super Bowl winners and spelling bee champs? Alternatively, the presidency’s plight might be improved by improving the electorate. “Instead of serious, fact-based debate, an increasingly segmented media landscape encourages citizens to receive information that confirms their biases, often without attention to contrary facts or perspectives.”[44] If better educated, more widely informed, and ultimately wiser, Suri essentially posits, voters would more likely hold their leaders to a higher standard. By “restoring facts” to public discussion, a president might more effectively lead. In 1931, ironically just before FDR’s election, the famed historian Carl Becker observed that “every man is his own historian.”[45] Suri in 2017 calls for each American to be his or her own fact-checker as well. Would that it were so easy. In the Impossible Presidency, Suri has thoughtfully identified the problem of an overworked and overextended presidency, and done a great service by sparking discussion and debate on the topic, even if he has failed to identify the root cause of that problem. Why are American leaders from Washington’s time forward busier than their predecessors, why has their pace of work increased as has America’s power and global reach (and thus global responsibility)? It is not merely because FDR took up a burden others dared not set down. Their pace has increased merely — and yet profoundly — because the world’s overall pace has quickened, along with its intertwinement. This is not simply because of new global responsibilities Americans have undertaken, but because of the technologies they employ. Washington and Jackson never had to allot time for consuming and composing telegraphs or emails. Their missives could take weeks (if not more) to arrive, and an equal period for a response to return. Lincoln would hear telegraphed reports from the battlefield and manage demands for a decision multiple times a day. Theodore Roosevelt’s words could be read across the country within minutes. Woodrow Wilson’s circled the globe in less than an hour. And by the 1930s, FDR’s constituents could hear him, in real time, simultaneously. The pace of connections and the reach of a president’s office and influence only increased in the decades that followed, not just arithmetically but geometrically. Today our commander in chief can instantaneously communicate to the world merely by tapping his thumbs. This is the real problem of the overburdened presidency, and one that is impossible to imagine retreating from or improving. Separating the ceremonial and the governing elements of the job would help. So too would a more educated and informed electorate who could afford policymakers the opportunity for a more elevated public square in which to debate policies. Ultimately though, the presidency is not such an impossible task for a leader who understands the basic elements of power in the 21st century — the speed and reach of that power in particular. But it is impossible to do well without fully recognizing when to put that power down. That one can reach the world within milliseconds in order to express every passing whim or fury does not mean one should. Suri has skillfully identified what makes the presidency difficult. The solution lies not in dividing the office or in limiting its scope, but rather, in our leaders choosing to concentrate on what matters most to them and what is in the country’s national interest, and not only on their retweets, ratings, and putts.   Jeffrey A. Engel is the founding director of Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History. Author or editor of ten books on American foreign policy and politics, his latest is When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War.

6. The Road to the Impossible Presidency Runs Through Our Dysfunctional National Politics

By Luke Hartig At some point early in the Kennedy administration, the president’s men — the “best and brightest” of their generation — realized they faced a challenge that not even their prestigious educations and fine family lineages could help them surmount. The federal bureaucracy that their hero, President Franklin Roosevelt, had built and that President John F. Kennedy hoped to harness to unleash American greatness, had become so unwieldy and obstinate that it threatened the very authority of the president as head of the executive branch. In the words of Kennedy’s chosen chronicler, Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, the bureaucracy “remained in bulk a force against innovation with an inexhaustible capacity to dilute, delay, and obstruct presidential purpose. Only so many fights were possible.”[46] By pointing to this observation in his new book, The Impossible Presidency, Jeremi Suri lands squarely on one of the fundamental challenges of the modern presidency. How can the occupant of the Oval Office serve as the chief executive of a vast establishment that may — by statute or due to political and cultural leanings — sometimes stand in the way of his or her agenda? This challenge has only become more acute in the ensuing decades, as a series of presidents, frustrated by legislative intransigence, have come to rely on their executive powers to get anything done. Suri’s treatment of the modern executive revolves around Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both of whom he regards with admiration. He describes them as “Magicians of Possibility,” two men of humble backgrounds and extraordinary gifts who inspired their bases and enraged their opposition.[47] Nonetheless, according to Suri, both ultimately succumbed to the challenges of the office and delivered middling presidencies to the American people. In the end, Suri’s account concludes with a whimper. Seemingly overwhelmed by the impossible circumstances he has outlined, Suri suggests changes — a restructuring of government, perhaps the creation of a prime minister — that are more fanciful than practical. In addition to leaving the reader with few realistic solutions to the problems he so compellingly describes, a major shortcoming of an otherwise persuasive book is that Suri spends so little time on the real, day-to-day methods modern presidents have used to confront those problems. A closer look at the presidency of Barack Obama (in whose White House I served), in many ways, underscores Suri’s thesis about the challenges of the office. However, unpacking some of the additional challenges Obama faced on the Hill and with the public — including major complications of modern politics that Suri omits or touches on too briefly — and how he maneuvered within the executive branch to achieve major policy wins provides practical lessons for future executives. Indeed, it was both Obama’s pragmatism and his exercise of executive authority that made the things that he did accomplish possible. For Suri and other students of the office, the Obama presidency might serve either as a guide to what can be done about the overwhelming nature of the modern presidency, or a cautionary tale of executive overreach. It may be a bit of both. Any accounting of Barack Obama’s tenure must acknowledge his dysfunctional relationship with Congress. Many of the successful presidencies Suri cites relied on productive partnerships with the Hill. But today’s members of Congress operate in a different incentive structure from their predecessors, making the kind of wheeling and dealing of days past an impossibility. For Suri, the resistance Obama (as well as Clinton) faced was a result of resentment over their “non-traditional backgrounds, their remarkable rise, and the people [i.e., racial minorities] they brought along with them.”[48] But a more careful examination reveals a range of forces in Washington that have poisoned and polarized the atmosphere and would complicate the ambition of any president, no matter their rhetorical gifts or partisan affiliation. Getting elected to Congress has become almost entirely about fundraising, and districts have been gerrymandered so that the dominant party can stay in power. Serious 1990s-era legislative attempts to reform campaign finance have largely been abandoned, and the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United unleashed torrents of dark money. Lobbying expenditures have surged, while political mega-donors, like George Soros on the left and the Koch brothers on the right, now fund not only candidates, but constellations of political action committees, coalitions, think tanks, shadow groups, grassroots organizers, media outlets, and academic institutions that serve their objectives.[49] A throng of Beltway trade associations and special interest groups demands attention to their issues, and advocacy groups release scorecards grading the administration and Congress on how well they support priority issues and then urge their supporters to hold to account those members who are insufficiently pure. The kinds of deals cut by previous presidents and Congresses are no longer tenable. Suri has little to say about these realities, or their impact, and partisan gridlock is too often reduced to simplistic concepts like congressional Republican desires to “reduce taxes and protect a traditional white America”[50] or “a virulent political attack culture.”[51] The president also has less ability to shape public consensus than he once did. The media environment, which grew more polarized with the advent of widespread cable news and the proliferation of political talk radio in the 1990s, has only become more complex in the digital age. Web-based publications, blogs, and social media — carefully funneled to the political beliefs of the viewer and powered by a click-based revenue model that incentivizes the sensational — provide an avalanche of charged content to reinforce partisan positions. False or misleading news stories go viral on social media and partisans release 280-character streams of vitriol aimed at those they disagree with. Winning the argument has come to supplant the search for truth in our national dialogue. Here too, Suri’s treatment is far too cursory and his solutions too simplistic. While he acknowledges the role of new media and “false news” in our dysfunctional public dialogue, his prescriptions of empowering public educational institutions, public media, and non-partisan research organizations fail to grapple with the growing conservative distrust for these “elite” institutions.[52] Suri is surely right that governing strategically in such an environment seems impossible. But Obama took a number of steps to find work-arounds to these many obstacles, and in many cases, he succeeded. After early legislative wins on economic stimulus and health care reform, Democrats lost seats and eventually their majorities in both chambers. Republicans declared their top goal was making Obama a one-term president, and prospects for legislative victories faded. Obama, the former constitutional law professor, who had set out to work with Congress on landmark legislation, increasingly looked to executive action to fulfill his policy agenda. Often, this meant taking an expansive view of the statutory authority granted to the executive branch and pushing the regulatory machine to the outer bounds of congressional intent. In one of the more notable examples, the administration approved regulations to slash carbon emissions by fundamentally redesigning power generation in the United States — all without an act of Congress.[53] Other regulatory action introduced muscular reforms across industries, and contrary to Suri’s account, a great deal of them have not been easily reversed. A similar playbook guided foreign policy. In 2011, for example, in the absence of congressional authorization, an expansive interpretation of executive authority justified U.S. participation in a months-long war against the sovereign government of Libya. After Congress failed to pass a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would have covered U.S. action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Obama Administration justified its ISIS campaign under the 2001 AUMF that authorized military action “against those nations, organizations, or persons [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”[54] No matter that ISIS did not exist on 9/11, nor that ISIS had publicly split with al-Qaeda a few months prior. Some of Obama’s top foreign policy accomplishments that Suri favorably cites, such as the normalization of relations with Cuba, the Paris climate accords, and the Iran nuclear deal, were similarly lawyered so that the president had maximum discretion to execute deals he believed were in the best interest of the United States. His administration engaged Congress on these issues but deftly sidestepped congressional veto of the most controversial aspects. Also central to Obama’s approach to the presidency was mastering the mechanics of the executive branch. He appointed to his national security cabinet men and women who knew how to work the bureaucracy. At lower levels, the president appointed an army of experienced lawyers and policy wonks, most of whom had worked together for years in Washington, D.C.’s think tanks and law firms, to help him navigate complex legal and policy questions. And while some of Obama’s predecessors (and his successor) were in some ways thwarted by the career civil servants they presided over, the Obama team set out to woo the federal workforce. In many ways, Obama’s empowerment of a professional civil service harkens back not to Kennedy but to the Theodore Roosevelt ideal that Suri praises.[55] What’s more, in the post-Bush era, serving in government, especially at the White House or near the upper ranks of cabinet agencies, gained a new cachet among left-leaning young people, and served as powerful social currency in Washington and beyond. White House staffers associated with A-list stars and became celebrities in their own right. The New York Times gushed over the young Obama White House staffers remaking Washington, D.C. as if they were the young New York heirs often featured in the Sunday Styles section.[56] Top talent from Silicon Valley left high-paying jobs to serve in government. A Facebook photo with the president was the ultimate sign of insider status. For career staff, the desire to serve in the White House, always a sought-after rotation, became ever more intense, both as an opportunity to be on Team Obama and to potentially catapult oneself out of the slow, seniority-based career progression that defines the civil service. Beyond winning over the bureaucracy, the Obama national security team sought to understand the bureaucratic process and make sure it was actually carrying out the president’s priorities. As Suri notes, the modern bureaucracy tends to take on a life of its own and can stymie a president’s plans by slow-rolling them or implementing them in a way that allows the bureaucracy to fulfill its institutional biases. Whether by design or circumstance, the Obama approach to taming the national security bureaucracy ran through a muscular National Security Council (where I served from 2013-2016). A large staff — the NSC ballooned to more than 400 in Obama’s second term — had extraordinary reach across the government. The staff held more meetings on a wider range of issues and on more levels than many of its predecessors. The progress the Obama team made in reducing the detainee population at Guantanamo Bay would not have been possible had the president purely deferred to the Pentagon. His drone reforms, which held operators to a higher standard and resulted in a restriction of the kinds of strikes they could take, might not have been possible if Obama had fully acquiesced to the preferences of those operators. The Iran deal might not have been possible if the White House had been more solicitous of departments and agencies dominated by those that held more hawkish views on Iran. For the Obama team, overcoming bureaucratic inertia and executing the president’s priorities required both earning the trust of the bureaucracy and building a team big enough to wrangle it. To critics, the large NSC staff became a sign of Obama’s micromanagement and the insularity of the White House. National security commentators from both sides of the aisle called for greater delegation of policymaking to departments and agencies and for the NSC to focus on strategic matters. Seen through the lens of Suri’s argument, it would also suggest a continued trend of a White House without clear and limited strategic priorities. But keeping the bureaucracy moving along required the intensive involvement of staff with a direct line to the president and his closest advisers. Others impugned Obama’s expanded use of executive powers. Indeed, while most of Suri’s book was written before the Trump presidency got under way, he might have noted that Trump began immediately issuing executive orders and rolling back a raft of regulations, thus aggressively using the tools available to him thanks, in part, to the precedent set by President Obama. Thus, one implication of the impossible presidency, as illustrated by Obama’s tenure, is that occupants of the office must now inevitably push its powers to the limit in order to accomplish any of their priorities at all. Overloaded calendars and time famine have no doubt been a problem for modern presidents — certainly before President Trump brought “executive time” to the Oval Office.  Yet many of America’s business leaders face similar challenges, and anyone who has worked in Washington or similarly demanding professional environments would view a full schedule for senior officials as the norm. Indeed, many of Suri’s practitioner readers may be shocked by (and envious of) the large blocks of white space on Franklin Roosevelt’s calendar, but a return to those times is hardly practical. Suri stretches the time management argument beyond its breaking point by implying that effectiveness and calendar density are inversely related. The true lesson of the Obama presidency — as well as the Bush years and the early Trump administration — is not really about the increased demands and overloaded schedules of our presidents. It is about the extraordinary power residing with the executive and the necessity of exercising that power in order to advance a president’s agenda. Yet the reliance on executive power is a symptom of a broader problem, namely the dysfunction of our current politics, both among citizens and their elected representatives. The real solution, therefore, lies in having an informed populace and a responsible media that holds the government — all of it — to greater account. And it demands a serious Congress focused on solving the adaptive challenges we face as a nation rather than stirring the political pot and kowtowing to donors. It remains to be seen whether the extraordinary and appalling nature of Trump’s presidency precipitates a realignment or rebalancing of powers — that would be the best outcome — or whether he manages to follow Obama’s lead in using that power to the maximum extent.   Luke Hartig is the Executive Director of National Journal’s Network Science Initiative, a fellow at New America, and a member of the editorial board of Just Security. He served as Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council from 2014-2016. He previously served in other counterterrorism and national security policy roles at the White House and Pentagon from 2008-2014.

7. The Possibility of Mediocrity

By Kori Schake Jeremi Suri argues in The Impossible Presidency that the post-World War II American presidency is “set up to fail.”[57] The core of his argument is that “by the start of the twenty-first century, the inhuman demands of the office made it impossible to succeed as president.”[58] Expectations of the office have burgeoned such that no woman or man could master the span of control, or resist the temptation to fritter their time away. Power “elicits demands…inspires resistance…[and] pulls the president into mounting commitments, exaggerated promises, and widening distractions.”[59] And presidents “are too busy deploying their power flagrantly, rather than targeting it selectively.”[60] This is a variant of the imperial overstretch argument. Suri’s version is not a straightforward realist argument, though; it is shot through with puritan disapproval that the country “strayed from its values” and undermined its democracy. There is much of interest in Suri’s history of the American presidency. His exploration of the origins of the term “executive” — and what its propagation in the 18th century tells us about changing political mores — is particularly compelling. But Suri uses a discussion about the structure of one branch of the American government to advance a normative agenda about who America should elect, and the foreign policies that elected officials should enact. The Impossible Presidency opens with an accessible description of the evolution of the American presidency, its origins in Enlightenment philosophy and the anxieties of balancing power and restraint in the office. Suri offers insightful observations on why there is value in the office’s responsibilities remaining undefined. But the book suffers somewhat from golden-ageism — the belief that there was a time when presidents were all “idealistic in their aspirations” and brilliant at their executive functions.[61] In fact, there was a lot more bungling and failure by our great presidents (think Washington and the whiskey rebellion or Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing debacle) than Suri’s account encompasses. As Joseph Ellis has argued in His Excellency, George Washington, this does a disservice to the founders.[62] Carving them from marble leeches the real majesty of their achievements by making them Elysian figures rather than political actors. George Washington’s presidency looks a lot more anxious and unmanageable with less pedestal and more tawdry politics. Suri mistakes the aspirations of the founders — that men of civic virtue were required to hold the position — as the job description itself. Those virtues were in short supply in the 18th century, just as they are in the 21st. Jefferson’s pastoral moralism wasn’t shared by Hamilton or many others, and indeed Jefferson himself was a poor example of the qualities purported to be essential.[63] He was a romantic about power and an advocate for Plato’s philosopher king because — despite his Machiavellian manipulations for partisan advantage — he considered himself one. America’s third president was also astute (and arrogant) enough to reckon that few others met his standard. Suri says that “for Jefferson, the essential qualities of leadership came from the intellect of the man who occupied the office.”[64] This is another way of saying that for Jefferson, the essential qualities of leadership were those he himself possessed. Not for him the battlefield tenacity or executive humility of Washington, or Adams’ acidulous worries that gave rise to legal constraint. Our man Jefferson extolled his own virtues, which were intellectual, and imagined himself in possession of self-abnegation (a fiction which his indebtedness and personal relationships belied). Yet for all his faults, Jefferson did foresee the dangers of an imperial presidency. The great presidents were not uniformly virtuous and capable. Nor were most presidents great: The history of America is replete with mediocre chief executives. Suri focuses his critique on post-World War II presidents and ascribes a causal link between the growth of the job and presidential ineffectualness, but fails to account for all the ineffectual presidents before the job had the dimensions it does today. The 19th century roster of American presidents reads like a parade of mediocrity ­— and so does the 20th. In fact, what Suri bemoans can be cast as the founders’ greatest achievement: executive direction of the national enterprise by unexceptional individuals. Suri depicts Franklin Delano Roosevelt both as the architect of the imperial presidency and the last person to effectively wield that power. But is the reason for that structural or personal? It seems likelier that Roosevelt was an outstanding politician who effectively worked a system designed by its founders to do little; and therefore, the answer to an ineffectual presidency lies less in the structure of the office than in the deficiencies of the politicians we’ve been electing to it. There exists a vibrant body of literature on the explanatory power of structural versus other causal factors (such as personal qualities and decisions, or the preferences of bureaucracies).[65] While The Impossible Presidency is clearly intended to be an accessible and commercial read rather than a strictly academic one, it still would have benefitted from engaging some of that literature. What didn’t come through clearly enough in Suri’s account is that the president’s main policy challenge comes from Capitol Hill. The chief executive can propose priorities and legislation but must ultimately cajole the Congress to act on those priorities and enact laws to support them. Suri considers it “startling how much time they [Presidents] spend fending off small demands.”[66] And it is true that for the world’s most powerful office, the president does spend an inordinate amount of time having his picture taken and greeting visitors. But another term for those activities is building and holding together a political coalition, and that is the sole leverage a president has over the Congress. The small-bore politicking serves a large-scale purpose of giving the president the ability to direct Congress toward his priorities. Whether presidents can effectively capitalize on that may be the more salient political question. Suri concludes that the very power of the presidency prevents a president from being effective: Presidents are incapable of prioritization and focused activity because they are expected to do something about everything. He argues their interests would be better served, and their presidencies more consequential, by identifying a few priorities and dedicating all of their energies to advancing them. But one possible conclusion one could draw from Suri’s excellent recounting of presidential history is that because modern presidents are overwhelmed by all the power at their disposal, the presidency has returned to dimensions the founding fathers would endorse. They would have been more comfortable with today’s circumscribed presidency than they would have been with Lincoln or either of the Roosevelts. A few of Suri’s policy recommendations for addressing presidential enfeeblement have the advantage that any holder of the office could choose to adopt them. Other than his suggestion of dividing the functions of the office along European lines, his recommendations require only sparse legislation and no constitutional renegotiation. Presidents have in their power to establish and enforce their priorities and set their own schedules. Suri argues they should redesign the presidency to eliminate “non-necessary roles,” and use the presidency to teach “agreed facts” for making policy, and provide public funding for research organizations. Leaving aside the challenge of convincing the American public to accept their president as an arbiter of truth (Jefferson would roll in his grave!), Suri’s solutions seem inadequate to meet the magnitude of the problems he identifies. A president has many other levers at their disposal, and using the power of the presidency aggressively may counterintuitively solve the problem that Suri suggests an overactive presidency created. The election of Donald Trump is, for Suri, proof in support of his argument that America has strayed from the prudence and personal restraint of intelligent leaders. Crazily enough, President Trump may be the refutation of Suri’s argument. Because while stoking the flames of the culture wars, President Trump appears to care only about economic growth, restricting trade, and preventing immigration. The only piece of legislation he’s produced in a year in office is about taxes. He is scything back the administrative state, and his first executive order was an immigration ban. In his own way, he is exhibiting the focused prioritization Suri extolls. Trump seems averse to the alliance commitments and prosecution of wars that Suri considers immoral over-extensions of power supposedly irresistible to previous American presidents. Trump also appears to have activated antibodies against his agenda in the form of both institutional constraints and a more widespread engagement of the citizenry. While Thomas Jefferson would surely be repulsed by Trump’s belligerent ignorance, he would be deeply gratified to see civic forces mobilizing to constrain the president and the country prospering economically despite an ineffectual presidency. After all, Jefferson’s worry about an overweening executive was because of his belief that “every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.”[67]   Kori Schake is the deputy director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony.

8. Author Response: Smarter and Younger, Not Bigger

By Jeremi Suri Bigger is not always better. Size can distort, distract, and discourage. It elicits excessive ambitions and expectations, dooming leaders to disappoint. These truisms of politics and strategy date back to Herodotus’ account of the Persian Empire and Sallust’s histories of Rome.[68] In its modern incarnation, the problem of size has underpinned two of the most influential historical studies of empire, Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher’s Africa and the Victorians, and Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.[69] For these authors, and many others, the historical growth that contributed to the wealth and power of dynamic societies also contributed to their rapid decline. Landed expansion to extract resources and project power overstretched the capabilities of the metropole. Early, strategic priorities gave way to hyperactive reaction in the face of multiplying crises. Foundational interests and values were lost beneath layered commitments, complex institutions, and — the nightmare of America’s founders — factionalized political communities. Most significant, the drive for growth caused the humility and focus of early leaders to be replaced with excess, militarism, decadence, and hubris. I wrote The Impossible Presidency as a study of American leadership and “executive” culture, paying close attention to size and history. The presidency was the most original and uncertain part of the early American constitutional project. As the country grew from a small republic into an industrial nation and then a global power, so too did the presidency grow to steer policy, serve expanding constituencies, and manage a multitude of far-flung government agencies. With a larger, more heterogeneous space for action, the opportunities and challenges for presidents became increasingly complex. Managing war and society in the 20th century involved exponentially more moving parts and peoples, across a vaster geography, and at greater speed, than ever before. The Constitution did not prepare leaders for these circumstances; they had to adapt the office with each generation and create new patterns of executive behavior. Presidential power is therefore path dependent and determined by context. The thoughtful reviewers of The Impossible Presidency have helped me to expand and refine these historical insights at a moment when the presidency is in existential crisis. David Adesnik astutely asks how we judge presidential success and what role Congress plays. He insightfully points to the accomplishments of recent presidents, especially Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, to show that size is not always debilitating for national leadership. Of course, this is true. My argument is not that all presidents have failed since Franklin Roosevelt, but rather that Truman, Eisenhower, and their successors found themselves responding to ever-multiplying international and domestic demands. As much as they tried — and Truman and Eisenhower tried mightily — they could not avoid the Cold War conflicts abroad and rising expectations at home that distracted them from their original goals. The Cold War conflagrations around the world that redefined communist containment during their presidencies and empowered anti-communist excesses at home, left a military-industrial complex in place that both Truman and Eisenhower perceived as a profound threat to the democracy they held so dear. At home and abroad, size made the defense of core values more difficult, even for clairvoyant leaders such as these. Kori Schake takes me to task for smuggling a normative judgment into this argument. She wishes for more realism; less “puritan disapproval.” (I have never been called a Puritan before!) Schake also points out that many earlier presidents, including George Washington, contended with competing demands, rising expectations, and even a fair share of personal bumbling. She is, of course, correct — but only to a point. Even the worst presidents of the 19th century had fewer opportunities to fail than their successors a century later. What’s more, failure in the 20th century meant more harm to more people in more places, with greater rapidity than before. The Civil War, for all of its mass death and destruction, pales in comparison with the repeated genocides of the 20th century. A divided, distracted, and overstretched presidency is much more threatening to the security of our nation and our world today than it was in previous generations. Leadership is harder, yet more necessary; its absence has more tragic consequences. The healthy civic “antibodies” to despotic leadership that Schake so eloquently describes, and I embrace, are not solutions to the leadership problem, but symptoms of it. Robert Cook builds on this perspective, pointing to the existential dangers of such a sizeable nuclear arsenal in the hands of contemporary presidents. For Cook, presidential power to irradiate the world is all too possible. I fear he is correct, although the real question is why presidents who strongly wished to eliminate nuclear weapons — especially Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama — could not do so. For all their power as commanders in chief, they confronted a wide range of international threats and organized domestic interests (including a stubborn military-industrial complex) that opposed steep weapons reductions. Although presidents could make war, their range of responsibilities made it much harder to un-make the nuclear dangers of their time. Large nuclear arsenals became an inescapable albatross for presidents as early John F. Kennedy, limiting their strategic flexibility and freezing dangerous commitments in place. Nuclear weapons made America’s traditional international aloofness — first announced by George Washington and maintained until Franklin Roosevelt — impossible. Luke Hartig’s review describes how presidents, particularly Barack Obama, create flexibility in these impossible circumstances by stretching executive authority, drawing top talent, and mobilizing particular constituencies, where possible. The pressures on presidential decision-making, especially from a dysfunctional and oppositional Congress, make these extra-constitutional actions necessary, Hartig argues, and I certainly agree. Hartig is also correct to describe the costs of these presidential efforts for the overall quality of policymaking and national unity. Presidential maneuvers to get around the impossibilities of the office make enduring leadership only more impossible. The solution is surely, as Hartig argues, to focus the power of the executive on fewer priorities and empower other institutions, particularly Congress, to contribute more substantively. Derek Chollet reveals that Barack Obama conceptualized his presidency along these lines. He played the “long game,” and sought to accomplish big things through “incremental improvements” in key areas, “so that ten years from now, suddenly we’re in a very different place.” “It’s like middle management” — a revealing statement from Obama. And that is the problem. The office pulls men who are elected to solve big, pressing problems into incremental roles that are prudent, but often insufficient. Incrementalism is the story of war in Vietnam and creeping inequality in the United States. Incrementalism is the excuse for sticking with bad decisions in Afghanistan and the war on drugs, rather than abandoning obvious failure. Chollet is surely correct that incrementalism still has wisdom, and perhaps it is the best we can do. I share his (and Obama’s) frustrations with partisanship and institutional resistance. But instead of giving up, I still believe that presidents must find a creative way forward. More priorities and selective risk-taking, as in Obama’s opening to Cuba, are necessary, and other daily issues must be removed from the president’s calendar. This is not an excuse for laziness and pig-headedness, as exemplified by our current president, but instead a call for deep thought, broad consultation, and innovative action where they are most opportune for the nation as a whole. Jeffrey Engel captures beautifully how different the book’s historical diagnosis is from the mangled presidency of our current moment: Trump “disdains everything Suri has devoted a lifetime to studying — protesters, internationalism, nation-building, and experts.” So true! The current president is not mobilizing the nation as a whole behind priorities for national security and domestic tranquility, but hardening divisions and neglecting growing vulnerabilities. Engel makes superb points about how technology — from social media to cyberwarfare — has pushed even the best leaders to frenetic reactivity, rather than calm, considered thought. Engel is correct that The Impossible Presidency says too little about technology. The suggestions for a focused presidential agenda, investments in public enlightenment, and a less personalized presidency that I offer in the epilogue are indeed insufficient to counteract the pings on our phones that pull leaders’ attention at all hours of the day. The reviewers all agree that much more work is needed to chart pathways forward from our current predicament. Celeste Gventer makes this point in her excellent introduction to the roundtable. I agree, and I am optimistic. The Impossible Presidency is not a declension narrative. I believe that a rise and fall in the presidency can be followed by renewal in a new form of the office — devoted to creative problem solving and inspiring the best qualities in American society (“the better angels of our nature,” in Lincoln’s words). That is the real point of my epilogue. The resources for American leadership — a dynamic, wealthy, secure nation — remain firm. The challenge is to reassemble the resources within our constitutional structure for something new. The Impossible Presidency shows that we have done this before in each of the presidential transformations that I describe in the first half of the book. We have an opportunity to do the same again today, at a time when the failures of the current executive institutions are so evident. While I may not have the answers for how this will happen, I believe that asking hard questions about where the institution of the presidency came from, how it has changed, and what is needed next is the right place to start. Challenging ourselves to think about alternative models — even France! — can open our minds to other sources of inspiration. Most of all, engaging a new generation of problem solvers — the “Millennials” — in this vital task is a golden opportunity. Institutions change when people within them seek new ways to solve real problems. That is not happening today. As currently constituted, our institutions discourage this kind of change. We need the exogenous force of youthful idealism and intelligence to enter our political institutions and wreak some havoc, tip some sacred cows, and redefine what democracy looks like. That needs to happen in the presidency, in Congress, in our universities, and elsewhere. I wrote The Impossible Presidency, above all, to encourage that kind of messy revitalization. Generational change has been the engine of American executive development and democratic reform in the past, and it can be again. The presidency will be less impossible when the woman in office reinvents it to serve the most important national needs, currently lost somewhere in the crowded schedules and long hours of “executive time” spent on Twitter and television. Instead of being bigger, we should focus our leadership on being smarter. Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a professor in the Department of History and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. He is the author and editor of nine books, most recently, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office.   Image: Public Domain [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: Has the Presidency Become Impossible to Manage? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-presidency-become-impossible-manage [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-08 14:34:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-08 19:34:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=421 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In his latest book, "The Impossible Presidency," Jeremi Suri looks at the history of the presidency and asks whether it is still possible for a president to succeed. We've gathered six scholars and policymakers to weigh in. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 124 [1] => 30 [2] => 125 [3] => 126 [4] => 23 [5] => 127 [6] => 75 [7] => 135 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), xii. [2] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise of Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), xiii-xiv, xxi. [3] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 289. [4] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 291-292 [5] National Cable Satellite Corporation. “Presidential Historians Survey 2017.” C-SPAN.org, accessed Jan. 31, 2018,  https://www.c-span.org/presidentsurvey2017/?page=overall. [6] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 211 [7] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 220 [8] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 271 [9] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 271-272. There is some ambiguity on the subject of Clinton and Obama’s alleged failure. At one point, the book condemns Republicans whose “partisanship and a virulent political attack culture prohibited legislative compromise.” Yet presumably even the most fair-minded and civil Republicans would not have agreed to a New Deal-style transformation (see Suri, Impossible Presidency, 275). [10] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 291 [11] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 292 [12] See Marc Maron interview with Barack Obama, June 22, 2015, http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/episode_613_-_president_barack_obama. [13] Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power (New York: The Free Press, 1990), 10. [14] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), xvi. [15] Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948). [16] Theodore Lowi, The End of Liberalism (New York: Norton,1969). [17] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 177. [18] Neustadt, Presidential Power. [19] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Imperial Presidency (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973). [20] Lowi, The Personal President (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985). [21] Lowi, Personal President, 20. [22] Elizabeth Drew, Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon's Downfall (New York: Overlook Press, 2015), 121. [23] Barack Obama. “State of the Union Address.” https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/12/remarks-president-barack-obama-–-prepared-delivery-state-union-address. [24] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 286. [25] Barack Obama. “Farewell Remarks.” http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-obama-farewell-speech-transcript-20170110-story.html. [26] As quoted by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., “Editor’s Note.” In Josiah Bunting, III, Ulysses S. Grant (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2004), xviii. [27] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise of Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), 297. [28] Suri, Impossible Presidency ix. [29] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 272. [30] For judicious assessments of Presidents Pierce and Buchanan see Michael F. Holt, Franklin Pierce (New York: Times Books, 2010), and Jean H. Baker, James Buchanan (New York: Times Books, 2004). [31] On Tyler, Harding and Coolidge, see especially Gary May, John Tyler (New York: Times Books, 2008) and William E. Leuchtenburg, The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), chapter 3. [32] Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003). [33] Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2009). [34] Jeremi Suri, Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama (New York: Free Press, 2012). [35] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise of Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), ix. [36] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 257. [37] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 258. [38] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 46. [39] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 69. [40] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 100. [41] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 135-136. [42] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 177. [43] Rebecca Savransky, “Gallup: Trump’s First Year Job Approval Ten Points Lower than Any Predecessor.” The Hill, January 22, 2018. http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/370154-gallup-trumps-first-year-job-approval-10-points-lower-than-any. [44] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 290-291. [45] Carl L. Becker, “Everyman His Own Historian,” American Historical Review, 37, no. 2 (1931): 221–36. [46] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, (New York: Basic Books, 2017), 189. [47] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 261. [48] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 275. [49] Open Secrets. "Total lobbying spending in the U.S. 1998-2016 | Statistic." Statista. April, 2017. Accessed January 09, 2018. https://www.statista.com/statistics/257337/total-lobbying-spending-in-the-us/. [50] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 276. [51] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 275. [52] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 291-292. [53] Coral Davenport, “Obama to Take Action to Slash Coal Pollution,” New York Times, June 1, 2014. Accessed on January 31, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/us/politics/epa-to-seek-30-percent-cut-in-carbon-emissions.html [54] United States. Cong. Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Those Responsible for the Recent Attacks Launched Against the United States. 107th Cong. S.J.Res 23. 115 Stat. 224 (2001). [55] Suri, Impossible Presidency,, 111. [56] See, for example, Ashley Parker, “All the Obama 20-Somethings,” New York Times Magazine, April 29, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/magazine/02obamastaff-t.html. [57] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: the Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), xi. [58] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 281. [59] Suri, Impossible Presidency, ix. [60] Suri, Impossible Presidency, x. [61] Suri, Impossible Presidency, xi. [62] Joseph Ellis, His Excellency, George Washington (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004). [63] For example, Jefferson fails to meet the criteria adduced by Madison: avoid financial dependence, not live extravagantly, etc., Suri, Impossible Presidency, p 20. [64] Suri, Impossible Presidency, x. [65] For example, Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power (New York: The Free Press, 1990); Scott C. James, “The Evolution of the Presidency: Between the Promise and the Fear,” The Executive Branch, ed. Joel D. Aberbach and Mark A. Peterson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); George C. Edwards, III, Kenneth R. Mayer, Stephen J. Wayne, Presidential Leadership: Politics and Policy Making, (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018); Fred I. Greenstein, The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004); Morton Halperin and Priscilla Clapp and Arnold Kanter, Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2006). [66] Suri, Impossible Presidency, xvi, and 190-191. [67] Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14,” Jefferson: Political Writings, Joyce Appleby and Terrence Ball, eds., (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought), 259. [68] See Herodotus, The Histories, trans. Robin Waterfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); Sallust, Loeb Classical Library, Number 116, trans. J.C. Rolfe (Cambridge: Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1921). [69] See Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher with Alice Denny, Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1961); Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Random House, 1987). ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction, by Celeste Ward Gventer 2. Grading on a Curve: Adjusting Expectations for Presidential Success, by David Adesnik 3. Can the Presidency be Saved? by Derek Chollet 4. It is the Possible Presidency that Should Worry Americans, by Robert Cook 5. Thinking Big About the Biggest Job in the World, by Jeffrey A. Engel 6. The Road to the Impossible Presidency Runs Through Our Dysfunctional National Politics, by Luke Hartig 7. The Possibility of Mediocrity, by Kori Schake 8. Author Response: Smarter and Younger, Not Bigger, by Jeremi Suri ) ) ) [post_count] => 3 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 657 [post_author] => 75 [post_date] => 2018-08-07 13:08:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-07 17:08:39 [post_content] =>

1. Introduction: A Strategist at Work

By Kori Schake I love the concept of Lawrence Freedman’s The Future of War: A History. Freedman looks at how individuals in the past have expected conflicts to unfold, and explores why they so frequently — and often spectacularly — got it wrong. It’s a terrific prism through which to see how little the present has to say about the future. Freedman is the very best kind of tour guide, convivial and informative, seeding well-known stories with unexpected facts to savor. The chapter headings alone jostle the imagination as they trace the evolution of thinking about war, highlighting Freedman’s ability to harness examples from newspapers of the 1890s, Walt Whitman’s lamentations of the infringement of war on civilian populations, movies about the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and Los Angeles gang wars — a domestic example of low-level insurgencies that fray governance in urban settings. Futurists of warfare suffer from the same failures of imagination that frequently shackle their brethren in other professions: They overemphasize present trends and assume that their society’s cultural norms will similarly bind their adversaries.[1] Futurists are often mistaken in their predictions because they draw straight-line projections from current data. As Freedman writes, projections are “about the present as much as about the future.”[2]  Projecting accurately into the future requires imagining discontinuous behavior — wars that decimate China’s economic development, or perhaps propel it; breakthroughs in technology that radically reshape the supply and demand curves for energy; dramatic reversals of public attitudes that expand or contract the political space. Perhaps predictors of war read too much history and not enough evolutionary biology. Stephen J. Gould’s idea of contingent evolution may fit intellectual development even better than it does the process of natural selection.[3] Gould posits that in any scenario there are many potential trajectories, perhaps even many diversions from the current path, yet people tend to draw a straight line from the starting point to the current location —  they don’t account for dead ends or butterfly routes that meander. Nature and strategy may be more profligate in their development than straight lines capture. The Decisive Battle Narrative But if futurists have it wrong by projecting current trends forward in time, those who believe in victory stemming from a decisive battle have it wrong because they project nostalgically into the past. They imagine a mystical time when armies formed and fought, and durable political settlements were struck as the dust from the battle settled. Military professionals festooned with breakthrough technologies and unhindered by politicians’ interference dictated the plans and produced politically salient results with a minimum of civilian casualties. It’s a delight to see Freedman tackle the mistaken expectation of a decisive battle in his enormous body of work. If Geoffrey Blainey is right that Occam’s Razor shears away all other explanations of why states go to war, leaving only that they believe they can win, Freedman’s corollary is that strategists wrongly anticipate one key conflict that will decide the fate of the war.[4] In his previous work, Strategy: A History, Freedman traces that mistaken theory of conflict to the Napoleonic Wars, where strategists focused on Jena and Waterloo rather than the grueling Iberian and Russian campaigns. In The Future of War, he uses the 1870 Battle of Sedan between Germany and France to pound the last nails into a coffin he’s been constructing across much of his work in the past fifteen years. Freedman instead supplants decisiveness with duration as the critical factor in war, “because if the enemy proved to be resilient then over time non-military factors would become progressively more important.”[5] This is the essential lesson of his book: Efforts to strike the first blow “were not taken as warnings of the folly and futility of aggression, but instead of how the unwary might get caught.”[6] In reality, according to Freedman, the ability to absorb a surprise attack and draw out a war — what in Eisenhower administration debates about national security policy was discussed as broken-back warfare — is the winning strategy. It is, however, a lesson triumphalists of decisive battles from Austerlitz to the American shock and awe theory of war have had to relearn with depressing regularity. What makes Freedman’s latest book, and so much of Freedman’s recent work, so powerful is that he gives full sail to the breadth of his knowledge on so many topics and brings them to bear on the subject of military strategy. He is especially good at exploring the ways literature has been used to shake the establishment out of complacency, from Sir George Tomkyns Chesney’s The Battle of Dorking to August Cole and Peter Singer’s Ghost Fleet.[7] It’s such a pleasure to watch the finest academic strategist writing today craft the trajectory of this story. Yet, Freedman glides lightly over the failures of contemporary military and civilian strategists to confront the botched current U.S. wars, which is surprising given that Freedman was the intellectual force of the Chilcot Report that so scathingly assessed the Blair government’s Iraq War mistakes. While Freedman chronicles the blind spots and shortcomings of war prognosticators and strategists, I would have liked to read more of his thoughts about other possible choices those individuals might have made and where they would have taken the United States and the United Kingdom. I also would have enjoyed reading him celebrate more of the astringent outliers, the lone voices who have gotten the future right, like Charles J. Dunlap, the military lawyer whose dark foreboding of how the United States would lose future wars was a shock when he wrote it in 1996.[8] The Challenges and Benefits of Quantitative Analysis Like other reviewers, I found Freedman’s extended survey of the quantitative analyses of political scientists discordant with the first half of the book.[9] I agree with Freedman’s assessment that the mania for quantitative studies is often devoid of the context needed to understand the causes and consequences of war.  As Freedman has elsewhere emphasized, interstate wars are both rare and their circumstances particular. Otto von Bismarck summed it up well when he stated that politics isn’t a science, it’s an art.[10] Constructing coded data sets risks making the same mistake Graham Allison made in his book on the “Thucydides trap”: forcing a problem into a political science framework wherein n must be greater than one.[11] In reality, each interstate war is utterly unique, thus n can never be greater than one.  The joke among baseball fans about whether there is a 162-game season, or 162 one-game seasons gets at the heart of the problem. The history of war is surely made up of 162 one-game seasons. However, I’m less convinced that political science’s penchant for quantitative studies has prevented an understanding of the conflicts prevalent after the Cold War, because such an assertion would seem to give one branch of largely inaccessible academic study much more influence than it merits. University political science departments prejudice hiring in the direction of quantitative political science, but those works have very little effect on either public understanding or policy choices. Just to take the example of democratic peace theory, the academic obsession with proving it lagged more than a half century behind the policy relevance of the idea. Nor has this field prevented regional specialists and historians from having sway. That excessive quantification can obscure rather than enlighten the study of war has been clear since Thomas Malthus’ 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population. Yet, that much quantitative work is obscurant rather than enlightening isn’t sufficient to merit ignoring its contributions.  First, because, historically speaking, quantitative political science is still in its early stages, and refinements are improving the numbers and providing more robust insights.[12] Freedman’s criticisms, however well founded, may underestimate the evolution of the form — perhaps the best parallel is the use of sabermetrics in baseball, where number crunching once seen as an affront to the studied judgment of seasoned scouts has now become an invaluable aid to them. The second defense of quantitative political science comes from Theodore Sturgeon’s Revelation. The science fiction writer was once challenged about the low quality of the genre. He responded that what was relevant was not that 90 percent of science fiction writing was crap, but that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” [13] That is, the problem was not unique to the genre, but could be applied to all genres. Just so, Freedman’s critique of quantitative political science can be responded to by noting that much of history writing is likewise unenlightening — the work of accountancy, or overloading the reader with excessive facts and citations, rather than the lively storytelling characteristic of Freedman’s work. A Well-Rounded Discussion of The Future of War Because Freedman’s work is so broad ranging, and the question he poses is relevant across so many fields of study, this roundtable has gathered experts from several different fields to share their thoughts on his latest book. All of them are, in different ways, in the business of imagining the future: by guiding politics, pulling technology forward, utilizing technology to advantage in warfare, or establishing boundaries for its ethical use. Each contributor sinks their teeth into different aspects of The Future of War, illuminating warfare from their unique perspectives. Mike Gallagher, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, represents Wisconsin’s 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the Armed Services Committee. His essay focuses on the failure of technology to prevent adversaries from finding creative ways to stymie success — despite optimism that technology would change the fundamentals of warfare. He also expresses disappointment, as an elected official responsible for preparing American military forces for the future, that Freedman doesn’t offer more practical advice for how to improve predictions of warfare. Gallagher explores the “internal constraints that can explain forecasting failure,” in particular the continuing failure of the United States to marshal regional and cultural expertise in its national security establishment. Heather Roff is senior research analyst at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.  She was previously the ethicist at Deep Mind, Google’s artificial intelligence arm, and has been on the faculties of Oxford University and the University of Colorado at Boulder. In her review, Roff challenges Freedman’s exclusion of the Korean and Vietnam wars from his discussion of how past conflicts can lock future strategists into fixed “scripts,” as those wars cast the longest shadows across contemporary foreign policy and technology challenges. In particular, she discusses the expansion of power of the presidency in times of war and the failure of the United States to understand the Vietnam War from its adversary’s perspective. Sakunthala Panditharatne is the founder of the company Asteroid Technologies that designs 3D graphics and animations for augmented reality applications. Her exploration of ideas on Twitter is the intellectual equivalent of setting sail with Columbus. Her review of Freedman’s latest work draws parallels with economic historian Carlota Perez’s Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital. Panditharatne sees that “trends in technology and organizational dynamics have led to the increasing complexity and hybridization of warfare, much like the increasing complexity in business known as the ‘knowledge economy.’”  Particularly interesting is her exploration of how personal computers and internet connectivity are shifting power from large and centralized organizations toward small networked organizations — both in businesses and militaries — and the role that legitimacy now plays in the wake of that shift. I ardently hope she proves right in her assertion that “Hybrid warfare should lend an advantage to nations with lots of soft power, which are able to attract and retain top technical talent both in industry and in the military directly, an encouraging conclusion for proponents of liberal democracy.” Pavneet Singh and Michael Brown are scouts at DIUx, the Department of Defense’s outreach to Silicon Valley. Brown is the president and CEO of Symantec, and has led numerous other tech companies, including Quantuum and EqualLogic. Singh has worked on the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, and at the World Bank. Their essay explores some of the “signposts” for predicting war that they argue Freedman missed. This includes suggesting expanding the analysis beyond the United Kingdom and America to understand how other cultures, which take a longer view of history than the Anglo-American culture and political systems, view the future of warfare; delving more deeply into the link between economic trends and the outcomes of war, because of warfare’s reliance on economic strength; and recognizing “the role and decisiveness of superior technology.” Brown and Singh argue, “There is no disputing the fact that whoever has significantly superior technology will emerge as the victor in a future conflict.” They also see important differences between great power wars and regional wars, distinctions that Freedman fails to consider in his analysis. Conclusion The Future of Warfare serves as a reminder that strategists must relentlessly reevaluate their analyses, searching for where their assumptions may have been wrong or where they no longer capture the critical elements of the problem. Good strategists also ought to be desperate paranoiacs, constantly fearful a trap door is going to open underneath them, always crafting back-up plans for how to prevent being dumped into the sewer that waits below. Freedman cautions that the most dangerous and destabilizing contemporary factor would be “a decision by the United States to disentangle itself from its alliance commitments.”[14] This is particularly poignant given President Donald Trump’s recent disgraceful behavior toward America’s NATO allies. The world may now be seeing unfold the future that this great scholar of warfare worries most about. Freedman’s exploration of the attitudes, art, and scholarship of individuals from history suggests that it may not be long before these years are referred to as the inter-war period. Sir Lawrence Freedman is the most incisive and influential academic writing about warfare today. He took the profession by storm with his Ph.D. dissertation on U.S. intelligence and the Soviet strategic threat, wrote the official British history of the Falklands War, built the renown War Studies Department at King’s College London, made seminal contributions to both the 1999 Blair doctrine and the Chilcot report, and has been a mentor to practically every young scholar in the field. This book shows him a strategist in full, drawing on a career of thinking carefully about warfare to ask why it is so difficult to see coming the kinds of wars that are actually fought? At a time when much of academia has narrowed its focus, his work is a clarion call to ask big, important questions. I’m so pleased and grateful that this interesting group of thinkers from different fields gave their time to look at The Future of War. And I’m delighted they didn’t defer to his stature or become intimidated by the vastness of his knowledge in critiquing his work.  Instead, they paid him the highest professional honor: engaging seriously and critically with his ideas and arguing about their applicability to — and beyond — warfare. Kori Schake is the deputy director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony.    

2. War May not Be Predictable, but there Are Warning Signs

By Michael Brown and Pavneet Singh In The Future of War, Lawrence Freedman offers a sobering assessment of war forecasters over the last 150 years: They were largely wrong. What’s more, in prescribing a self-interested set of policies and actions, they overlooked the real levers that cause conflict to happen. War is at best blurry, and impossible to divine from present conditions. By reviewing an extensive body of both fiction and non-fiction, Freedman takes aim at the romantic notion that a decisive first blow or the possession of advanced technology will ensure expeditious victory for the aggressor. The former, he says, never achieves the efficient win it promises, and the latter offers little utility in predicting war, but rather provides insight on how wars might be fought. While he does not make his own predictions on the future of war, Freedman identifies a few key trends that are likely to persist: 1) War will always be bloody and violent, 2) conflicts that are ongoing today (e.g., wars in sub-Saharan Africa) will continue because the international community has not come up with a way to stop them, and 3) war will be nasty, complicated, and motivated by social and political behaviors. His core conclusion is that predictions on the future of war should be made with genuine humility, and policymakers should maintain a healthy degree of skepticism before acting on these predictions. In a world obsessed with decoding the future, whether in finance or politics, rarely does one travel back in time to assess the predictions of an earlier era. In this respect, Freedman’s attempt to retroactively parse and grade the influence of futurists is refreshing and should encourage more introspection in the national security decision-making process. However, by simply abandoning at the outset the notion that any predictive models of future wars can be made, this volume does not live up to its tremendous potential. Freedman identifies a litany of “speculative possibilities,” but does not extract the legitimate markers that can inform current and future judgment — not necessarily in order to predict war, but to highlight the relevant warning signs. Below, we discuss three such signposts that Freedman either omits completely or incorrectly dismisses, which have immediate application to current national security challenges. Three Missed Signposts First, as the book is designed to “explore the prevailing understandings about the causes of war and their likely conduct and course,”[15] the most glaring oversight Freedman makes is restricting his analysis primarily to the United States and the United Kingdom. His reasoning is simple enough: These are the two countries he “knows the best,” and because they have been atop “the international hierarchy for some time.”[16] Yet, in looking out on the geopolitical landscape and assessing the threats emanating from current U.S. adversaries — or even the ambitions of U.S. allies — it is clear America is dealing with countries that take a generational perspective and whose fortunes within the international order have risen and fallen over millennia. Some of the obvious candidates include the antecedents to the nation-states of Iran, China, India, Turkey, and Russia. Even a cursory examination of these countries and peoples reveals that they have a sophisticated understanding and experience with great power wars, guerrilla warfare, and hybrid conflict. Moreover, a rich literary canon of war stratagems has originated in these countries — from the “warring states” period in China, when Sun Tzu conceived the Art of War (one of several military strategy pieces written in that period), to more recent strategies like India’s Cold Start doctrine.[17] This literature shares similarities with the works of Freedman’s classical war prognosticators, but also differs significantly on strategies and tactics in war. Indeed, contemporary studies, such as Max Boot’s Invisible Armies, An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present,[18] provide a much more instructive view of irregular warfare, demonstrating its common use as a strategy dating back to Mesopotamia. Put simply, there is much more to learn about the factors that form the views of adversaries, especially given that their behaviors will likely shape the contours of conflict over the coming generations. Second, Freedman devotes little, if any, attention to the importance of economic capacity and capability as a determining factor in winning wars. As Paul Kennedy so eloquently lays out in his book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, economics has always been a key underpinning of military capability. This was the case in World War I, where the addition of the United States’ industrial strength was the decisive factor in the Allied victory. The same was true in World War II, when the U.S. ability to deliver staggering quantities of war materiel was pivotal in defeating the combination of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, even without nuclear weapons. A related third point concerns Freedman’s dismissal of the role and decisiveness of possessing superior technology. Freedman emphasizes the lack of predictability of war and the overconfidence in a first-strike, which often does not result in the anticipated conclusive victory. However, the examples he provides are cases in which the aggressor did not possess superior technology. In the past 150 years, where there was superior technology, there was decisive victory. Take, for example, nuclear technology, which changed the calculus of decision-making in war. This has also been called the “first offset” — when the United States truly had military dominance against its adversary. Superior technology was also a decisive factor during the “second offset,” when America had overmatch capability against Iraq in the First Gulf War, defeating the sixth largest army in a matter of days with few casualties. This was due to electronics-infused warfare: command-and-control capability through GPS, satellite communications and battlefield domain surveillance, night-vision, and laser-guided munitions. In other words, the United States has had the benefit of superior technology for 75 years and has only been drawn into stalemates in situations in which U.S. political leaders have not been willing to use all of America’s military technological capability (such as in Korea and Vietnam). As the U.S. military seeks a “third offset,”[19] and its adversaries catch up to its technology prowess, there is a question as to whether the United States still has the decisive technological advantage. Nevertheless, there is no disputing the fact that whichever country does possess significantly superior technology will emerge as the victor in a future conflict. Unlike Freedman’s conclusion that superior technology does not lead to a decisive win, there are several examples of the United States doing just that through an overmatch in technology. The holy grail of military superiority in great power conflict comes from the combination of superior technology and economic strength. There have been many conflicts in the past 150 years that did not involve great power competition and in which neither superior technology nor economic strength were factors. These are conflicts whose outcomes are difficult to explain in terms of specific decisive factors.  However, to achieve greater understanding, Freedman’s book would have been better served by separating the many regional conflicts, civil wars, and terrorism-driven sources of conflict from great power wars. We disagree with Freedman that great power wars are unpredictable, since many great power wars can be explained largely by the two factors of superior technology and economic capability. Applying these Signposts to China Taken together, these three points are critical to understanding the intensifying competition between the United States and China. Central to this analysis is identifying and recognizing the factors that shape Chinese strategic thinking — and accepting that they diverge from classical western frames for thinking about conflicts. In a recent article, Aaron Friedberg invokes history as the principal wellspring guiding Chinese leaders over successive generations:
China is not just any rising power; it is a nation with a long and proud history as the leading centre of East Asian civilisation and a more recent, inglorious experience of domination and humiliation at the hands of foreign intruders. China’s leaders see their country as not merely rising, but rather returning to a position of regional pre-eminence that it once held and which they (and many of their people) regard as natural and appropriate.[20]
Notably, Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader from 1978 to 1989, played a seminal role in crafting China’s renaissance. It is telling that his philosophy prioritized humility, deception, and endurance as captured in these now famous dictums that “[China should] cross the river by feeling the stones” and “hide its capabilities and bide its time.”[21] The subsequent blueprint implemented by China’s leadership includes a relentless focus on building China’s economic, military, geopolitical, and ideological power.[22] Starting with the economy, China has developed a leading global economy faster than any country in modern history. The timescale during which this growth occurred is stunning: China’s economy has grown from 10 percent of the U.S. economy in the 1970s to the second largest global economy — in just fifty years. China is using its economic power and technology advancements to engage in a rapid peacetime military buildup, aimed at expanding borders across Asia and at sea. China’s military strategy is based on developing asymmetric capabilities to neutralize the traditional strengths of the United States in technology (e.g., anti-satellite missiles to eliminate GPS) and deny capabilities derived from expensive force projection that the United States cannot afford to replace (e.g., aircraft carriers). Beijing focuses on lower-cost technologies that can leapfrog and put America in a defensive posture, using, for example, swarms of drones or hypersonic missiles. With its “military-civil fusion initiative,” China aims to integrate all of its commercial technology advances into its military capability.[23] It has already achieved superior technology capabilities in a number of critical areas, such as hypersonics and supercomputing, while challenging the United States in artificial intelligence and bioengineering. Whether America is already engaged in conflict with China (as some have argued),[24] or the United States is destined for war (as some predict),[25] is a matter of heated debate that we don’t take a position on here.  But this example illustrates that there are key indicators (historical, economic, technological, military) that can be discerned and measured to help policymakers make better predictions about future conflicts.  Freedman is right that there are distinct differences in conflicts between great powers and regional wars, civil wars, and terrorism-fueled conflicts. What Freedman misses in The Future of War is the recognition that they can have different models for war and predictors of outcomes. This is not the same as saying that there are no reliable predictors or indicators for future conflicts. Michael Brown is a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow working with the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx). Through August of 2016, Michael was the CEO of Symantec Corporation, the global leader in cybersecurity. Pavneet Singh is a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and a consultant to DIUx. He was formerly on the National Security Council and National Economic Council focusing on international economic affairs.  

3. The Future of War Ain’t What It Used to Be

By Mike Gallagher  

A man who can look ahead and see the pattern of problems that may be emerging has tremendous value.[26] -Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster

  In his 2013 book, Strategy: A History, Lawrence Freedman developed the concept of “strategic scripts,” which is “a way of thinking about strategy as a story told in the future sense.” These scripts are narratives that can convince a group of how its initial choices are likely to play out.[27] They are essentially working theories about how security can be created by linking ends to means, and which of these means are most effective in advancing particular ends (e.g. using force vs. diplomacy). In Freedman’s 2017 The Future of War: A History, he demonstrates how often those scripts turn out to be wrong, leaving policymakers pain in place of promised success. What L.P. Hartley once said about the past here applies to the future: It is a foreign country; they do things differently there.[28] The inability to look ahead and accurately forecast emerging trends is a theme that pervades this book. Freedman shows how the indecisive and protracted trench fighting of the Great War, for example, undercut Antoine-Henri Jomini’s classical model of war, based on the Napoleonic assumption that “wars could be settled by a well-constructed campaign, culminating in a decisive battle.”[29] More recently, the rapid demise of the Soviet Union surprised many in government, undermining the arguments of realists in particular (here Freedman seems to mean structural realists or neorealists), who have since refused to reappraise a theory that
struggled because it had little to say about the impact of major ideological shifts within great powers or the drivers of instability within minor states, or why any serious major power, secure within its own borders, would bother to try to sort out this instability.[30]
Indeed, as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued,
The liberation of Eastern Europe in less than six months, the collapse of the Soviet Union in less than a year, was stunning, almost miraculous. Very, very few predicted that these revolutionary events would happen in this century. No one foresaw that they would happen so fast.[31]
This inability to accurately forecast the future will be familiar to anyone who has fought in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where despite having clear technological superiority, the United States continues to be challenged by low-tech terrorists. Protracted counterinsurgencies waged in urban settings have ended the brief flirtation with reviving a classical model of war or relying on a Revolution in Military Affairs to substitute technology for mass and “get the whole affair over quickly with few casualties.”[32] Consider the fact that, as Freedman shows, three U.S. presidents announced the end of combat in Iraq and “[e]ach time it turned out that the announcement was premature.”[33] Indeed the idea that new technology will decisively shift the odds of success and change the character of warfare — making it fast, easy, and decisive — is what H. R. McMaster has called a “vampire fallacy,” because it is so hard to kill.[34] Freedman’s focus on science fiction novels and films (i.e. actual scripts) further underscores the failure of these official scripts. For example, Freedman argues that H.G. Wells “was the most influential writer on future war of his time.” Despite his adherence to socialism, advocacy for world government, and prediction that World War I would end all wars, Wells gets credit for inventing the tank and highlighting the problems “new weapons might be trying to solve and those they would create,” such as the potential use of air power against defenseless populations.[35] Freedman praises the 1958 novel Red Alert (the basis for Dr. Strangelove) for calling attention to key weaknesses of deterrent strategy and prompting Thomas Schelling to develop “his ideas for a communications link between Moscow and Washington to reduce the dangers the book described.”[36] Freedman’s chapter on “Cyberwar” begins with an epigraph from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, while the chapter on “Robots and Drones” begins with Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics.”[37] Freedman’s ability to weave such a diverse set of scripts together into coherent and concise chapters is alone worth the price of admission. The busy reader can easily pick and choose from a menu of different options based on his interest. And at the broadest level, Freedman offers scholars and practitioners a useful lesson in intellectual humility (the first paragraph of the book details the origin of the word “hubris”). The Future of War usefully shows where certain scripts went wrong and where individual thinkers and analysts have been overly optimistic, pessimistic, or insufficiently imaginative. Likewise, he shows how militaries — such as the Japanese military in 1941, which believed it could repeat the successes of surprise attacks against the Russians in 1894 and 1904 — have a tendency to try to fight the last war instead of the one they are in.[38] Scripting the Future But as an elected official, and someone who spends a lot of time on the House Armed Services Committee thinking about how to prevent future wars, this is where Freedman left me wanting more. While sufficiently covering the fact that organizations frequently miscast the future, his book has less to say about why they do so. For instance, consider what is perhaps the biggest, bipartisan mistake of the post-Cold War era, besides the failure of imagination that led to 9/11:[39] U.S. policy towards China. As the 2017 National Security Strategy argues,
For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others.[40]
The slowness of America’s response to the rise in Chinese power is especially puzzling given that, as Freedman asserts in his chapter “Coming Wars,” by the late 1990’s, China was a “genuinely revisionist power” and the “the most serious long-term challenger to the United States.”[41] Why did American policy take so long to adjust to this new reality? Beyond summarizing the future Sino-U.S. conflict described in the novel Ghost Fleet, Freedman has little to say about how the United States got China so wrong.[42] He criticizes Graham Allison’s “Thucydides Trap” thesis for its oversimplification of both Greek history and the complex, regional reactions to China’s rise. Yet, he also reviews Allison’s previous prediction — that a nuclear terrorist attack within a decade after 2004 was likely — without discussing the fact that it was completely wrong.[43] While Allison was obviously mistaken in 2004, Freedman leaves the reader in the dark as to why, thus illustrating my broader desire for more from this book. Without a clearer discussion of why states and scholars tend to get the future wrong, Freedman’s work offers few practical suggestions for policymakers who are trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. To be fair, the penultimate page briefly discusses three potential reasons the future is so difficult to forecast: 1) predictions are often clouded by advocacy, frequently by envisioning overly-optimistic outcomes; 2) bureaucratic politics can disincentivize thinking about the unthinkable; and 3) organizations tend to extrapolate into the future using the recent past (though as Freedman notes, the inverse is also true: “Another and quite different tendency is to assert that we are on the verge of a great, transformational discontinuity”).[44] Freedman sums this up with a statement that is true, but in the end, not all that useful:
The reason that the future is difficult to predict is that it depends on choices that have yet to be made, including by our governments, in circumstances that remain uncertain … history is made by people who do not know what is going to happen next.[45]
And yet, much more is known than Freedman acknowledges about how people make choices under certain conditions. As Irving Janis has shown, the psychological drive for consensus and consistency within groups can suppress disagreement and degrade “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.”[46] And, as Risa A. Brooks has argued, poor civil-military relations can corrupt a leader’s advisory system, produce poor strategic assessments, and create an environment in which the state is “devastatingly unprepared to manage [its] international relations.”[47] Keren Yarhi-Milo has similarly highlighted how problems can emerge from differences within the executive branch, such as how the intelligence community favors military capabilities when analyzing adversaries, while presidents base threat perceptions largely on their personal impressions of foreign leaders gained through direct interaction.[48] The point is that if Freedman’s critique of structural realism is correct — he argues that it focuses excessively on system-level variables, such as the distribution of material power, and assumes great powers are rational and respond to system changes in similar ways[49] — then the key question is what state- and individual-level variables can better explain forecasting failure.[50] But unfortunately, Freedman never quite gets around to this level of analysis. This is a shame, because he has most of the pieces in place to put together a more practical guide for policymakers. Conclusion Perhaps one lesson is that, while studies of the future focus on the salience of science fiction, the role of technology in warfare, or the neat-and-tidy lessons of history, they often miss the mark because they rarely come from regional or language specialists. This is particularly true of official governmental scripts. U.S. military career tracks are rarely optimized to produce regional experts. Even the intelligence and diplomatic communities, which used to produce genuine regional experts like George Kennan (a forecasting success story that does not appear in Freedman’s book), often rotate their personnel in an astrategic manner, perpetuating the so-called “mile wide and an inch deep” personnel pathology. This trend was a major concern of the 9/11 Commission, which recommended that the FBI develop a specialized national security workforce of agents, linguists, and analysts “recruited, trained, rewarded, and retained to ensure the development of an institutional culture imbued with a deep expertise in intelligence and national security.”[51] Freedman is right to suggest that there is no easy way to script the future, but military and government leaders should explore every option to improve their forecasts. To this end, deep regional and cultural expertise may go a long way. As Susan Glasser wrote about Kennan, “It is because of Kennan’s meticulous observations, incisive prose and deep knowledge of the country and its people” that he did not “merely throw up his hands in confusion, or succumb to wishful thinking or fellow-travelerism or any of the other diseases endemic to so much Western writing about the Soviet Union.”[52] Perhaps this is just a different form of the hubris Freedman describes in the opening of his book. Or perhaps, with a combination of deep cultural and regional expertise, a sense of humility, and a recognition of our individual and bureaucratic biases, these scripts can have happier endings. Mike Gallagher represents Wisconsin’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where he is a member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. Prior to Congress, Mike served in the Marine Corps for seven years as a Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Officer and Regional Affairs Officer for the Middle East/North Africa, earning the rank of Captain. He deployed twice to Al Anbar Province, Iraq and worked for three years in the intelligence community. Mike also served as the lead Republican staffer for Middle East, North Africa, and Counterterrorism on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, Mike went on to earn a master’s degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University, a second in Strategic Intelligence from National Intelligence University, and his PhD in International Relations from Georgetown.    

 4. Technology, the Economy, and the Future of War

By Saku Panditharatne In his latest book, The Future of War, Lawrence Freedman offers an intellectual history of how Americans and Britons have imagined the future of conflict over the past 200 years. Drawing on not only military history but science fiction as well, Freedman’s book leads the reader through the many twists and turns of history, demonstrating in each time period which future conflicts were imagined realistically and accurately and which came as a complete surprise. In the first section of The Future of War, Freedman describes how warfare has evolved, beginning in the mid-19th century, through the industrial revolution, and beyond — from isolated battles between trained soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars, to the all-consuming destruction of World War I, to the end of the Cold War. At each stage, Freedman focuses on the types of conflict that accompanied these technological leaps forward, and examines the second- and third-order effects that caught intellectuals and military leaders off guard. He discusses not only the impact of muskets on warfare, but also the less predictable impact of supply chains. Technological advances come in fits and spurts. Reading The Future of War called to mind Carlota Perez’s work of economic history, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital.[53] Perez lays out a framework for thinking about technology in terms of discrete paradigm shifts, rather than continuous innovation. These paradigm shifts occur between clusters of technologies that develop together and mutually reinforce each other, and which naturally lead to a different pattern of social organization. It’s an extremely relevant read for today’s era of “technological disruption,” in which the software paradigm is replacing the 20th century paradigm of mass production. After reading The Future of War, I saw a correspondence between Perez’s theory about the course of technology and Freedman’s account of the predictability of war. Perez divides economic development into two phases: an “installation” phase, in which a new set of technologies are invented and commercialized, often coinciding with a financial mania or bubble; and a “deployment” phase of steady economic growth, in which the same technologies are rolled out on a broader scale. In between the two phases is a “turning point,” when the “new economy” replaces the old, and society is restructured to make the best use of it. Some examples of these two phases of economic development include the canal mania that preceded the industrial revolution, the railway mania that preceded the Victorian boom, and the Roaring Twenties and post-World War II period, when mass production, cars, and aviation were invented and then later rolled out more broadly. It is during this "installation” phase that people are frequently taken by surprise by new forms of waging war. For example, after the invention of new technologies, such as the automobile and the telephone, the great powers famously “sleepwalked” into World War I. It was hard for European leaders to imagine that the new supply chains bringing resources to the front lines would prolong the length of battles, and even harder for them to predict the emergence of trench warfare. Even though they may not have literally believed the war would be over by Christmas, as many claimed, only a few Cassandras predicted the scale of destruction these new technologies would enable. Many expected a repeat of the kind of highly contained battles prominent in the previous century — but with machine guns instead of muskets. In reading The Future of War, it became clear the "technological disruption" of warfare often became easier to predict when moving into the “deployment” phase. During the interwar period, a new social and economic structure developed around the emerging technologies that had been invented in the early 20th century. Infrastructure (such as roads and telephone lines) was built out, new management techniques and processes (for example, supply chains) emerged, and people adapted their lifestyles around a new, more centralized and urbanized way of living. As it became more obvious how these technologies would be incorporated into the economy, it also became more obvious how they would be used in warfare. Although the airplane was still a nascent technology, many science-fiction writers and futurists were able to imagine how war could be waged in the skies prior to the start of World War II. Even the atom bomb was thought up in science fiction before it was invented — in some ways it occupied a similar place in popular culture as the idea of superintelligent Artificial Intelligence (AI) does today. H.G. Wells and others imagined an "infinite energy source," which some thought might one day make all jobs obsolete. The end of the Cold War coincided with the end of the deployment phase of the last technological revolution and the start of the computer age. There were many reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union, but by the late 1980s, the highly centralized mid-century economic model had run its course, making totalitarian states impossible to sustain. The end of this technological paradigm was not easy to predict at all: The view from 1960 was that mankind would explore new planets and the Cold War would continue out in space. The first half of The Future of War is a “history of the future,” a critical look back at how predictions about the military affairs played out. The implicit question Freedman seems to be asking is, “How much can we predict about the future of war today?” Are we living through one of those eras where the second- or third-order effects of warfare are relatively easy to predict, or one where they take the world by surprise? The Future of War suggests the answer can be found by looking at the economy, as history teaches that there is a close link between understanding the uses of technology in the economy, and understanding them in warfare. Predicting War in the Post-Cold War Era In the second half of Freedman’s book, he examines the new trends in warfare that have emerged since the end of the Cold War. The period between 1989 and 2015 can be seen as the “installation” phase of the information revolution, again using Perez’s terminology, a time when personal computers and the internet were new, experimental technologies. The two big trends to come out of this installation phase are a set of mutually reinforcing technologies — computers, the internet, mobile phones, and AI — and a new set of processes to make best use of these technologies in the economy. As was true in the first half of The Future of War, there appear to be strong parallels between the organization of the “new economy” and the new developments in warfare. One can look to competition between tech companies to try to understand the technological advantage one nation-state might gain over another. Such an examination suggests that the advantage comes from having a powerful guiding mission, and possessing networks of technically skilled employees. One way in which new tech has affected organizational dynamics is by shifting power away from top-down bureaucracies. The post-Cold War period has been defined by a marked decrease in the power of the nation-state. In The Square and The Tower,[54] Niall Ferguson argues that the internet tipped the balance of power away from large, centralized organizations toward smaller, more networked ones. In a similar way to the advent of the printing press during the Reformation in the 16th century, the internet gave an advantage to smaller groups. Instead of conflicts between highly centralized superpowers, the early 21st century has been defined by conflicts caused by weak states, civil wars, guerilla warfare, and terrorism. The Future of War describes an especially interesting implication of this more networked type of warfare: It results in the heightened importance of “legitimacy.” For military interventions in the post-Cold War period, winning over local allies has become more crucial because on the ground expertise and information matters more than it used to. There’s an interesting parallel here with what’s happening in the economy, where “mission-driven” companies have an advantage because they are better able to build networks of people and recruit those with important skills. A related phenomenon is the blurring of state and non-state actors. Various organized crime groups, such as drug traffickers, are able to build formidable networks without necessarily having the bureaucratic apparatus of a state, and extremist groups like the Islamic State are able to use their ideology to recruit using online propaganda. Reading The Future of War, I was especially struck by Freedman’s account of the increased importance of soft power in winning over allies. If conflicts are fought between networked organizations and their guiding missions, rather than state bureaucracies, then democracies might be at a disadvantage in this new form of warfare. A dictatorship can directly create propaganda to promote its party line abroad, for example, whereas there are fewer ideas upon which democracies can agree to promote. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the strength of culture and civil society in a democracy is more effective at creating soft power than simple propaganda. In this light, U.S. internet companies like Facebook and Google become especially important. In 2016, the Indian government decided against allowing Facebook to provide free but limited mobile internet services to rural Indians, partly because it feared giving a foreign corporation too much power over the flow of information.[55] Many countries already restrict Facebook, most notably China.[56] Although U.S. internet services are popular with users, and there are strong economic incentives for developing countries not to place restrictions on the internet, it is not difficult to imagine a future where a country’s domestic policies about social networks becomes a foreign policy or trade decision. This raises an interesting question: To what extent are U.S. tech companies representative of America and the West abroad? This question is further complicated by individual tech companies’ need for legitimacy as a networked organization. Facebook, for example, cares so much about employees believing in the internal mission that it has a department dedicated to creating internal motivational posters, called the Analog Research Lab art studio.[57] The opinions of employees are important enough to significantly influence top-level decisions. The crafts startup Etsy initially went public as a “public benefit corporation,”[58] meaning it would be legally obligated to hold and prioritize non-financial goals, like helping the environment, in the hopes of making it easier to recruit the people they needed to make the site a success. This is an existential issue for tech companies, which are constantly worried about losing their engineers to startups and other projects with a more compelling “mission.” Business Parallels with Hybrid Warfare These trends in technology and organizational dynamics have led to the increasing complexity and hybridization of warfare, much like the increasing complexity in business known as the “knowledge economy.” Hybrid warfare combines hacking and misinformation campaigns with conventional military tactics, which has some parallels with the new generation of tech companies (like Uber) that combine software (e.g., the app itself) with operational knowledge of traditional, brick-and-mortar industries (e.g., driving a taxi). Typically, these kinds of companies need to have both computer scientists and industry domain experts in the organization’s DNA. They often end up acquiring small teams of computer scientists working on specific, relevant problems to grow the business, in a similar way to how nation-states might recruit teams of hackers to work alongside more traditional military and government officials. A related role from industry that does not yet have an analogue in hybrid warfare is the venture capital analyst — someone who is hired to look for important new tech trends and seek out experts and promising people working in those fields, in hopes of spotting a high-impact discovery before other firms do. Another common pattern that could become relevant to nation-states waging hybrid warfare is that of an old-economy business buying a stake in a software company in order to modernize — such as Unilever acquiring Dollar Shave Club.[59] In these cases, the software company acts like the brain of the jellyfish: It helps the rest of the organization make smarter, more effective decisions. It’s often quite difficult for legacy companies to know which software companies to acquire until they have proven themselves in the marketplace, because they lack the expertise to tell which ones are the best. One way they get around this is by building out networks of computer scientists. Highly specialized, domain-specific knowledge most often requires a mentor to learn. Thus, people with relevant skills tend to know each other, and, more importantly, know who the people doing important work in their field are. Intellectual theft is another domain in which networks have taken on new importance. Industrial espionage was important in the mid 20th century, because specialized technical knowledge was relevant to both military and economic power. With software, stealing secrets has become much more difficult. Simply stealing code is not that valuable without the knowledge and processes to make it useful. In a high-profile 2017 trade secrets legal dispute between Uber and Waymo over the self-driving car,[60] it was not just that data and plans were allegedly stolen — the supposed theft involved the top engineer leaving to go to the other company. Again, the conclusion is the same: Networks of people are of much more critical importance than they used to be. Conclusion In The Future of War, Freedman examines the historical parallels between developments in warfare and developments in the economy. He demonstrates that the current era is no exception, discussing the new patterns of warfare that have emerged since the start of the information age. Freedman traces the implications of both the first-order effects, such as greater use of information technology, and the higher-order effects, such as the shift towards mission-driven networked organizations. If history is any guide, the future of war should be more predictable now given that the economic paradigm of how to use information technology is fairly well-understood. Freedman’s work suggests there is a lot that can be learned regarding warfare by studying the “new economy,” especially the workings of mission-driven, networked organizations. Hybrid warfare should lend an advantage to nations with lots of soft power, which are able to attract and retain top technical talent both in industry and in the military directly, an encouraging conclusion for proponents of liberal democracy. Saku Panditharatne is the founder and CEO of Asteroid, a startup that builds tools for augmented reality developers. Previously, Saku worked as an analyst researching emerging technologies for the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and before that worked as an engineer at a number of computer graphics startups, including Oculus. She graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Computer Science with Mathematics.  

5. Faulty Frames and Techno-Optimism

By Heather M. Roff Lawrence Freedman’s impressive new work, The Future of War, provides a solid, general introduction to a contemporary history of war. Its breadth and scope intertwine not only historical accounting, but international relations theory, film, and literature, bringing to life the sentiments and perspectives of people in their time. Freedman’s thesis — that American and British leaders, including politicians and military officers, fail to predict future wars because they lack knowledge of historical precedents and the strategic narratives of past conflicts — is largely correct. And yet, Freedman falls prey to his own critique by failing to examine two extremely important modern conflicts that lay the foundation for many of the present technological advancements and strategic doctrines that continue to shape contemporary thinking on warfare: the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Korean War Freedman’s lack of serious engagement with these two conflicts is not only perplexing, but troubling. Indeed, he makes only two brief mentions of the Korean War. The first is in reference to the United States’ supposed surprise when North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. The second is in relation to counting battle casualties. North Korea itself only appears in a few fleeting anecdotes in The Future of War, again in reference to the “surprise” of the United States, as well as the notion of delivering a first, “decisive” blow to an enemy, the seizing of the USS Pueblo, the hack on the Sony Corporation, and the almost relentless 70-year pursuit of a nuclear weapons program by the North. Yet, it was the Korean War that lay much of the groundwork for many of the present-day foreign policy challenges that face the United States. If Freedman were following his own advice, he would have looked at the historical context in 1950 to help explain the strategic context on the Korean Peninsula today. Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was educated, trained, and equipped by Josef Stalin. The perception in the United States and elsewhere was that Stalin was making a play to expand communist influence in the East. But what was not appreciated a mere five years after the end of World War II — and after America’s use of nuclear weapons — was that Stalin had little appetite for a long and escalatory conflict in Korea.[61] The United States, however ,along with many major powers at that time, viewed a military response to North Korean aggression as required under the newly formulated United Nations. Referring to this response as a “police action” gave Western countries, and particularly the United States, expansive new powers. Domestically, it enabled President Harry Truman to bypass congressional approval for going to war against North Korea, thereby challenging the Constitution. This greatly enhanced and expanded U.S. executive powers in ways that have still not been walked back. Internationally, the absence of the Soviet Union at the United Nations Security Council vote on approving this so-called police action meant that the vote went unopposed. Thus, the Security Council’s “approval” lent a patina of legitimacy to actions that member states like the Soviet Union and, later, China would have seriously opposed. The various domestic pressures faced by the Truman administration from 1949 to 1950 — such as outrage at the Soviets acquiring their own atomic weapon and fear of further communist expansion after the successful Chinese revolution — presented Truman with an opportunity to begin making the Cold War a hot one. Truman’s “police action” turned into a full-scale war that ultimately challenged the notion of state sovereignty upheld by the United Nations. Moreover, it also changed how U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia was framed — a frame that continues to this day. The war brought Maoist Chinese forces into North and South Korea to fight U.S. troops. When Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces were routed, facing defeat at the hands of North Korean and Chinese troops, the response was to escalate the crisis and threaten nuclear action.[62] To use nuclear weapons as a threat, less than ten years after the technology’s first use, was so serious that one can argue it changed the North Korean perception of obtaining nuclear weapons forever. And this perception — this nuclear hangover, so to speak — persists in the Kim dynasty to this day. North Korea pursues nuclear power at all costs because it is that country’s greatest defense against a nuclear threat. Yet, without understanding the reasons for North Korean nuclear armament, or its close connections with China, one will have little understanding of present-day potentialities for nuclear brinkmanship or conflict in South East Asia. Contemporary foreign policy and alliances in the region cannot be understood without understanding the past. However, such an analysis is not to be found in Freedman’s book. He has failed to take his own advice. The Vietnam War The U.S. bombing campaign in Korea marked the first time America employed napalm as a weapon in war, setting the stage for its later use in Vietnam.[63] Enter the light treatment of Vietnam in The Future of War. As Freedman makes sweeping claims about intervention, failed states, democracy, and counterinsurgency — as his chapter titles exhibit — it is quite surprising that Vietnam does not have a more prominent place in his book. The Vietnam conflict touches on all of these themes. It also cemented a particular cultural narrative about the U.S. use of force for decades. Indeed, the United States feared public opinion about entrenched conflicts, the draft, and insurgency to such an extent that it literally threw away all of the field manuals pertaining to the war, thereby hindering U.S. strategy in 2003, when America faced insurgency once more in Iraq. Again, Freedman has failed to make this connection and take his own advice. From the perspective of Vietnam, all of these topics play a crucial role in explaining the conflict and providing historical context for future strategic narratives. As early as 1919, the Vietnamese people were asking the United States to help them gain recognition from French colonialists.[64] In his first attempt at negotiating with the French, Ho Chi Minh approached President Woodrow Wilson to use his 14 Points Speech to help the Vietnamese gain a “permanent delegation of native people elected to the French Parliament.”[65] Ho wouldn’t return to fight again for independence until 1941. The roots of the Vietnam War did not grow out of a red scare or fear about falling dominoes. All of that came later. This war was about an ongoing struggle against colonialism, brutal treatment at the hands of the French colonialists, and the fight for democratic representation. Ultimately, Truman’s lack of interest in Indo-China and the Far East, as well as French and British reticence to give up their colonies or tolerate nationalist movements, led to policies toward Vietnam that only further inflamed the Vietnamese population’s drive to fight back against the French. Ultimately, over time, communism came to the fore, but not before attempts at decolonization and a fight for independence. Truman had sent military advisers to his French allies in Vietnam as early as 1950, but it wasn’t until the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, in 1954, that the United States began to pay much closer attention to what was happening there. It was at this point, with the new Eisenhower administration in office, that U.S. involvement became almost a forgone conclusion. It was with Dwight Eisenhower and his new policies, geared toward amassing nuclear weapons, purging communist elements, and expanding the Central Intelligence Agency, that the conflict began to take on a new significance. It is important to note the history of the United States and its Western allies with regards to Vietnam’s nationalist movement and civil war. America’s installment of a U.S. friendly leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, undermined confidence in the eventual unification or democratic aspirations of North and South Vietnam. Truman’s, and then Eisenhower’s, fears of communism provided both presidents with faulty foreign policy decision-making frames that ultimately committed them to actions that would only escalate and heighten the situation. Given the significance of such frames, Freedman ought to have identified this example from history as evidence to support his thesis. With Eisenhower’s New Look nuclear policy and hawkish attitudes, potential first use of atomic weapons was on the table. However, by the time John F. Kennedy came into office, he was neither fully aware of the U.S. nuclear capability — ordering Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to actually count the U.S. arsenal — nor was he aware of how America’s involvement in Vietnam was truly playing out.[66] He essentially remained committed to Eisenhower’s policies until 1963, when Kennedy announced his plan to withdraw all U.S. troops by 1965. Kennedy’s commitment to leaving Vietnam was not popular at that time with military leaders. Upon his assassination, and the appointment of Lyndon B. Johnson to the presidency, the Vietnam War entered its most important phase for the history of war and for the future of war with regard to technological development. Johnson’s commitment to more right-leaning and hawkish policies led him to appoint Gen. William Westmoreland and to increasingly rely on the advice of former-President Eisenhower.[67] Westmoreland’s strategy for winning the war was to continuously increase the number of ground troops and bombing campaigns. Indeed, he escalated the troop commitment from 16,000 in 1963 to over 536,000 in 1968.[68]  While the massive troop deployments and the political opposition raged on, another important aspect of this war came to the fore: technological development. Technology and the Future of War One of the themes that Freedman explores in his book is the role of technological development in predicting the future of warfare. One must, therefore, look to the strategic narratives that drove technological development and that frame present-day narratives for the future of war. In the 1960s, one such narrative came to fruition in one of Eisenhower’s defense initiatives: the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). ARPA’s delivery of high-tech, useful technologies combined with the United States’ faulty frame of decrying the “communist threat” in Vietnam meant that Washington continually believed that advanced technology and overwhelming force could ensure a victory.[69] Founded in 1958, ARPA (later adding a “D” for “Defense”) continually put its best talent toward providing technological solutions to the conflict at hand. In 1961, for example, (D)ARPA’s Project Agile was designated for “counterinsurgency research programs in Southeast Asia.” This 13 year-long project included “flamethrowers, the M-16 assault rifle, communications, surveillance, target acquisition, defoliation and psychological warfare.”[70] Likewise, (D)ARPA worked on surveillance aircraft, and ultimately stealth technologies, as well as advanced sensors to populate the Southeast Asian jungle.[71] Much of the sensor, computing, and command and control architecture built in advanced U.S. military laboratories during the Vietnam War continues to push present-day militaries in particular directions. Take, for instance, Gen. Westmoreland’s vision of battle in 1970:
On the battlefield of the future, enemy forces will be located, tracked, and targeted almost instantaneously through the use of data links, computer-assisted intelligence evaluation, and automated fire control.  … I am confident [that] the American people expect this country to take full advantage of its technology—to welcome and applaud the developments that will replace wherever possible the man with the machine [emphasis added].[72]
This is exactly the future of war that was realized not only in the 1991 Gulf War, but in the strategy doctrines of current and past secretaries of defense in the Third Offset Strategy. As former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work remarked, “I'm telling you right now, 10 years from now if the first person through a breach isn’t a friggin’ robot, shame on us.”[73] The lessons from the Korean and Vietnam Wars cannot be overstated. Rigid frames of thinking, as well as the belief that technology and air power would bring conflicts to a quick end, continue to plague U.S. and Western thinking about how to wage war. Past histories of colonialism and nationalism, as well as counterinsurgencies and the fear of Western occupation, still drive many of the beliefs and tactics used by contemporary U.S adversaries. That the United States and the United Kingdom continue to believe that technology will save them from long, entrenched, and bitter war indicates that they lack deep, strategic thinking. Yet, Freedman cannot actually make this case. He fails to link appropriately the end of World War II and the start of the Iraq War in 1991. Without taking account of the strategic rationale of the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia — and the way in which the United States fought these wars and developed technology in order to fight specific kinds of tactical challenges within these conflicts — it is impossible to explain why America and its allies fought the way they did in 1991, or how it is that they failed, and continue to fail, in Afghanistan. This doctrine of “technology saves” has long blinded Western powers. It did not save hundreds of thousands of American lives, or millions of Vietnamese lives, in Vietnam. This is because technology is not value-neutral. It is created for a purpose and a task. Depending upon the task at hand, the ways in which technologies are viewed and used become refined. Thus, the present U.S. Third Offset Strategy, with its focus on artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced materials, and mass over-precision, is indicative of the way the United States looks at how to profitably fight wars against potential adversaries — never mind the countless enabling technologies required for this vision to work, or the belief that one’s adversaries will be equally matched in quality and number. Conclusion If Korea and Vietnam are to provide any lesson, it is that the causes of war provide ample evidence as to how a war ought — or ought not — to be fought. U.S. and allied defeats by the Maoist Chinese forces — forces that were technologically underdeveloped — surprised the United States. However, that surprise was not taken as evidence that technology and tactics needed to change. Instead, it entrenched the view that “there just isn’t enough” of it. Yet again, Freedman fails to examine this case, and by failing to examine it he restricts his own ability to make claims about the future of war. If he believes his own thesis, then he ought to unpack the strategic narratives that unfolded between 1950 and 1990 that he so glaringly omits in his latest book. Dr. Heather Roff is a Senior Research Analyst at the National Security Analysis Department at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and an Associate Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge  She is formerly a Senior Research Scientist at DeepMind, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics & International Relations at the University of Oxford, and she has held faculty positions at the University of Waterloo, the University of Denver and the United States Air Force Academy. Her research interests include the law, policy and ethics of emerging military technologies, such as artificial intelligence, autonomy, and robotics. [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: The Future of War [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-the-future-of-war [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-08 11:28:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-08 15:28:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=657 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => Sir Lawrence Freedman's latest book, The Future of War, asks why futurists have so often gotten it wrong when it comes to predicting war. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 75 [1] => 191 [2] => 192 [3] => 136 [4] => 189 [5] => 190 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] For an incisive study of the domestic consequences of war, see Seva Gunitsky, Aftershocks: Great Powers and Domestic Reforms of the Twentieth Century, (Princeton University Press, 2017). [2] Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History (New York: Public Affairs, 2017), 286. [3] Stephen J. Gould, Wonderful Life, (New York: Vintage, 2000), 14. [4] Geoffrey Blainey, The Causes of War, (New York: Free Press, 1988), 41. [5] Future of War, 10. [6] Future of War, 279. [7] Future of War, 4, 252. [8] C.J. Dunlap, Jr., “How We Lost the High-Tech War of 2007,” Weekly Standard, Jan. 29, 1996. [9] Douglas M. Gibler, Beatrice Heuser, Mara Karlin, Joshua Rovner, and Lawrence Freedman, “Roundtable 10-14 on The Future of War: A History,” H-Diplo/ISSF, May 18, 2018, https://issforum.org/roundtables/10-14-future-of-war. [10] Otto von Bismarck, Horst Kohl, Bismarckreden: 1847-1895 (1899), 255. As quoted in translation in William Roscoe Thayer “Cavour and Bismarck,”  Atlantic (Mar 1909), 103, 343. [11] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (London: Scribe, 2017). [12] Douglas M. Gibler, Steven V. Miller, and Erin K. Little, “An Analysis of the Militarized Interstate Dispute (MID) Dataset, 1816–2001,” International Studies Quarterly 60, no. 4 (December 2016), https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqw045. [13] Theodore Sturgeon, Venture 49, September 1957 (for more on Venture, see “Venture,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venture_Science_Fiction). [14] Future of War, 282. [15] Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History (New York: Public Affairs, 2017), xix. [16] Freedman, Future of War, xix. [17] For a detailed analysis of the Cold Start doctrine, see: Walter C. Ladwig III, “A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army's New Limited War Doctrine,” International Security 32, no. 3. (Winter 2007/08): 158–190, https://www.jstor.org/stable/30130521. [18] Max Boot, Invisible Armies, An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (New York: Liveright, 2013). [19] For a detailed discussion of the “third offset” see Kathleen Hicks et al., Assessing the Third Offset Strategy, Center for Strategic International Studies, Mar. 16, 2017, https://www.csis.org/analysis/assessing-third-offset-strategy. [20] Aaron L. Friedberg “Competing with China,” Survival 60, no. 3, (2018), https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2018.1470755. [21] “Less Biding and Hiding,” Economist, Dec. 2, 2010, https://www.economist.com/special-report/2010/12/02/less-biding-and-hiding. [22] A fulsome analysis of China’s understanding of Comprehensive National Power can be found in David M. Lampton, The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money, and Minds, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). [23] Greg Levesque and Mark Stokes, “Blurred Lines: Military-Civil Fusion and the “Going Out” of China’s Defense Industry,” Pinte Bello, December 2016, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/569925bfe0327c837e2e9a94/t/593dad0320099e64e1ca92a5/1497214574912/062017_Pointe+Bello_Military+Civil+Fusion+Report.pdf. [24] Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (New York: Griffin, 2016). [25] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? (Boston, MA: Mariner Books, 2018). [26] Andrew J. Goodpaster, Reminiscences, Aug. 2, 1967, Oral History Collection of Columbia University, 74. [27] Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), xiv, 607–629. [28] L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between (New York: The New York Review of Books, 1953), 17. [29] Lawrence Freedman, The Future of War: A History (New York: Public Affairs, 2017), 8. [30] Freedman, Future of War, 109–110. [31] Robert M. Gates, From the Shadows (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 15. [32] Freedman, Future of War, 188–189. [33] Freedman, Future of War, 119. [34] Freedman, Future of War, 279. As Freedman puts it: “By early in the twenty-first century it was apparent that the inherited scripts for future war were inadequate. The US military had clung to an ideal type derived from the classical model and then faced a more unruly form of warfare for which it was poorly prepared and from which it struggled to extricate itself. Their British allies believed that they understood the requirements of Iraq based on their peacekeeping experience of Bosnia and aid to the civil power in Northern Ireland, but their scripts were also inadequate; they found themselves struggling even more than the Americans.” Freedman, The Future of War, 222. [35] Freedman, The Future of War, 18–19. [36] Freedman, The Future of War, 78–80. [37] Freedman, The Future of War, 230, 239. [38] Freedman, The Future of War, 63. [39]Thomas H. Kean and Lee Hamilton, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.: National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, 2004), 339. [40] The White House, National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, 25, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf. [41] Freedman, The Future of War, 267. [42] One plausible explanation, from H.D.S. Greenway, suggests that the United States was guilty primarily of “wish-casting” or optimistically extrapolating American values. This error predates the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the mid-19th century, a well-meaning missionary from Tennessee taught the gospel to a young man named Hong Xiuquan. Unfortunately, rather than spreading the Word as intended, Hong became convinced he was the brother of Christ and instigated the long and bloody Taiping Rebellion, leaving tens of millions dead. H.D.S. Greenway, “How the United States always ‘gets China wrong,’” Boston Globe, Apr. 13, 2018, https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/04/12/how-united-states-always-gets-china-wrong/ianuhEbqtbheIIl75Sa2IK/story.html. [43] Freedman, The Future of War, 271–273. [44] Freedman, The Future of War, 286. Consider the National Intelligence Council (NIC)’s latest Global Trends product — an unclassified assessment published every four years to help senior U.S. government leaders understand the global environment over the next two decades — which predicts a near-term transformation of the global landscape. The NIC assessment argues: “The post-Cold War era is giving way to a new strategic context. Recent and future trends will converge during the next 20 years at an unprecedented pace to increase the number and complexity of issues, with several, like cyber attacks, terrorism, or extreme weather, representing risks for imminent disruption.” Director of National Intelligence, Global Trends: Paradox of Progress (Washington, DC: National Intelligence Council, January 2017), https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/nic/GT-Full-Report.pdf, 7. Similarly, an earlier installment of Global Trends argues the international system is becoming more complex as power diffuses and actors multiply. U.S. National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2025: A World Transformed (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Intelligence Council, 2008), x-xi. See also U.S. Department of Defense, The National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2011: Redefining America’s Leadership (Washington DC: Department of Defense, 2011), 1, 5–6, 16. [45] Freedman, The Future of War, xvii–xix. [46] Due to delusions of invulnerability, belief in the inherent morality of the group’s cause, self-censorship and pressure on dissenters, and the illusion of unanimity, organizations often fail to consider alternative courses of action and employ faulty logic leading to bad decisions and sub-optimal outcomes. Irving L. Janis, Victims of Groupthink (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1972), 9. [47] Risa A. Brooks, Shaping Strategy: the Civil-Military Politics of Strategic Assessment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 2, 5, 13. [48] Keren Yarhi-Milo, Knowing the Adversary: Leaders, Intelligence, and Assessment of Intentions in International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014). [49] See John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001); Barry Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), 7-8, 239; Robert Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003); Colin Elman, “Horses for Courses: Why Not Neorealist Theories of Foreign Policy?” Security Studies 6, no. 1 (Autumn 1996): 7–5; Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: Random House, 1979), 121–122. For a review of the assumption of rationality see David A. Lake, “The State and International Relations,” in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, ed. Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 41–61. [50] These factors may include but are not limited to regime type, interest groups, bureaucratic politics, and individual presidential leadership style and personality. For a review of this approach, see Richard Rosecrance and Arthur Stein, eds., The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy (Ithaca: Cornel University Press, 1993). See also Graham Allison, “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” American Political Science Review 63 (1969): 689–718. [51]Kean and Hamilton, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 425–426. [52] Susan B. Glasser, “The Man Who Got Russia Right,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 23, 2011, http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/12/23/the-man-who-got-russia-right/. See also John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life (New York: Penguin, 2011). [53] Carlota Perez, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages (Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar, 2003). [54] Niall Ferguson, The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (London, Allen Lane: 2017). [55] Rahul Bhatia, “The Inside Story of Facebook's Biggest Setback,” Guardian, May 12, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/12/facebook-free-basics-india-zuckerberg. [56] Paul Mozur, “Blocked in China, Facebook Is Said to Seek a Shanghai Office,” New York Times, Sept. 6, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/technology/facebook-china-shanghai-office.html. [57] Mike Isaac, “Meet Facebook's Secret Propaganda Arm: The Analog Research Lab,” Wired, May 18, 2012, http://www.wired.com/2012/05/analog-research-lab/. [58] Maria Stracqualursi, “The Rise of the Public Benefit Corporation: Considerations for Start-Ups,” BC LAW LAB, http://bclawlab.org/eicblog/2017/3/21/the-rise-of-the-public-benefit-corporation-considerations-for-start-ups. [59] Dan Primack, “Unilever Buys Dollar Shave Club for $1 Billion,” Fortune, July 20, 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/07/19/unilever-buys-dollar-shave-club-for-1-billion/. [60] Leslie Hook, “Waymo-Uber Trial: What's at Stake?” Financial Times, Feb. 4, 2018, http://www.ft.com/content/be56451a-0862-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5. [61] Gary R. Hess, Presidential Decisions for War: Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 14–15. [62] Hess, Presidential Decisions for War, 61. [63] Bruce Cummings, The Korean War: A History (The Modern Library, 2011), 159. [64] Jeffery Ward and Ken Burns, The Vietnam War: An Intimate History (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), 3. [65] Ward and Burns, The Vietnam War, 3. [66] Historical Office, “Robert McNamara,” United States Office of the Secretary of Defense,  http://history.defense.gov/Multimedia/Biographies/Article-View/Article/571271/robert-s-mcnamara/ [67] Hess, Presidential Decisions for War, 134, 93. [68] “Vietnam War Allied Troop Levels 1960–73,” American War Library, https://www.americanwarlibrary.com/vietnam/vwatl.htm. [69] “Infographic: The Vietnam War: Military Statistics,” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, https://www.gilderlehrman.org/content/infographic-vietnam-war-military-statistics. [70] “History and Timeline,” Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, https://www.darpa.mil/about-us/darpa-history-and-timeline?PP=1. [71] Matt Novak, “How the Vietnam War Brought High-Tech Border Surveillance to America” Gizmodo, September 15, 2015, https://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/how-the-vietnam-war-brought-high-tech-border-surveillan-1694647526. [72] Gene I. Rochlin, Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Compterization (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 200. [73] Cheryl Pellerin, “Work: Human-Machine Teaming Represents Defense Technology Future,” DoD News, Nov. 8, 2015, https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/628154/work-human-machine-teaming-represents-defense-technology-future/. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction: A Strategist at Work, by Kori Schake 2. War May not Be Predictable, but there Are Warning Signs, by Michael Brown and Pavneet Singh 3. The Future of War Ain't What It Used to Be, by Mike Gallagher 4. Technology, the Economy, and the Future of War, by Saku Panditharatne 5. Faulty Frames and Techno-Optimism, by Heather M. Roff ) ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 3 [max_num_pages] => 1 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => 1 [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 6ca5db19fc3fbf0f153f73b70d51581b [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [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 ) )