Mira Rapp-Hooper

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Book Review Roundtable: Is War with China Coming? Contrasting Visions

Book Review Roundtable: Is War with China Coming? Contrasting Visions

As China increasingly threatens to supplant America's place on the international stage, four scholars review Graham Allison's "Destined for War" and Thomas Wright's "All Measures Short of War."

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1. Introducing the 2017 National Security Strategy Roundtable

By William Inboden Every time an American president releases a new National Security Strategy, it provokes a round of commentary on the document itself as well as an additional round of hand-wringing over whether such strategy documents matter at all. The release earlier this week of President Donald Trump’s inaugural National Security Strategy was no exception. If anything, the commentary became even more intense because of the unusual and (it is both obligatory and hackneyed to say it) unprecedented nature of the Trump presidency. Concerning the question of whether these strategy documents bear any weight on the actual conduct of American national security policy and strategy, ultimately that will be a question for historians to decide in the fullness of time, when the archives are opened and assessments can be made of to what extent a strategy document shaped or even resembled the policies that were implemented. However, it bears noting that the extensive commentary and attention that each strategy receives — this one being no exception — indicates that the document matters at least enough for those who think and write about strategy for a living to pay it some heed. So what to make of this new National Security Strategy? First, congratulations are due to National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and his staff, especially Nadia Schadlow and Seth Center, for the intellectual energy and dispatch with which they developed and drafted this document and shepherded it through the interagency approval process. This is the first time since the National Security Strategy was mandated in 1986 by the Goldwater-Nichols Act that a new president has issued one in his first year in office. Given that many other strategy documents produced by the national security community — such as the National Defense Strategy, the National Military Strategy, the Quadrennial Defense Review, and so forth — take their cues from the National Security Strategy, the timing of its release also bodes well for the interagency process of strategy formulation. As far as evaluating the content and themes of the 2017 National Security Strategy, we have assembled an expert cast of strategists and scholars who offer their takes from a range of disciplines, expertise, and ideological commitments. Writing from the vantage point of academic realism, Emma Ashford and Joshua Shifrinson offer a sustained lament that the National Security Strategy is neither realist nor restrained but instead follows the same post-Cold War blueprint of past administrations in seeking to maintain American primacy in the international system. In their assessment, “At least on paper, Trump is little different than his predecessors.” Indeed, they contend that the president’s loudest critics who have fretted that the Trump administration is abandoning America’s historic role of leading the liberal international order should instead be relieved because “In many ways, Trump’s liberal international critics are getting almost everything they could want in this strategy.” And that, Ashford and Shifrinson argue, is the real tragedy. Andrew Hill also provides an expansive assessment of the strategy, though worries that it is beset by nostalgia. He draws on eclectic sources, such as Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, to ask whether the new strategy perhaps succumbs to too much wistfulness for a golden era in American strategy and political economy that never was. In contrast to these explorations of the large themes of the strategy, Ben Buchanan takes a focused look at how the strategy handles one particular issue: cyber-security. His question is evocative:
Does the Trump administration recognize and address that, in cyberspace, America’s adversaries are playing Calvinball* (the famous game from the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip in which there are no rules)[1] while the United States is still playing a regimented and well-defined game of chess?
Yet Buchanan’s answer is a dispirited “no,” as he particularly finds the National Security Strategy wanting for failing to address Russia’s sustained cyber-operations against the American electoral system. Zach Cooper and Mira Rapp-Hooper also direct their analysis to one particular aspect of the National Security Strategy, in this case China. Here they detect what may in fact be a seismic shift in America’s strategic posture when the strategy rejects the “responsible stakeholder” aspiration that had embodied the hopes of prior administrations that engagement with China would induce the Middle Kingdom to embrace the international system. While Cooper and Rapp-Hooper applaud this more accurate assessment of China’s intentions, they also raise a series of questions and concerns about how the National Security Strategy and the Trump administration’s actions thus far fail to translate this insight into the needful policies. Another commentator who takes up the China question is Phil Levy, who does so from the perspective of international trade. His analysis probes what he sees as the sometime disconnects between the language of the strategy and the administration’s actual practices. As he puts it,
while the National Security Strategy paints a vision of working with allies and partners to confront China, Trump administration practice to date has been to work together with China while attacking allies and partners.
Carmen Medina channels the perspective of the intelligence community, befitting her own long distinguished career in intelligence analysis. She finds much in the basic worldview of the National Security Strategy that will appeal to the intelligence community, even as she worries whether American intelligence is properly organized and equipped for taking up the intelligence demands that the strategy implies in domains such as economics. Offering a sailor’s take, Bryan McGrath focuses on the role that seapower does, or should, play in the new strategy. He is pleased to see the strategy hit many of the right notes, but is disappointed that the role of seapower is underdiscussed, despite its centrality to a nation’s ability to project force and influence:
A number of familiar campaign themes manifest themselves in the National Security Strategy’s prescriptions for promoting prosperity (fair trade deals, improving infrastructure, and reducing regulatory burdens) without much consideration of that which provides for the movement of 90 percent of world trade: freedom of the seas underwritten by dominant American seapower.
Finally, from an airman’s perspective, Lt. Gen. (ret.) David Deptula finds much to like, offering the praise that the National Security Strategy “contains the best of Ronald Reagan’s strategy of peace through strength.” He is pleased that it focuses on rebuilding America’s military strength, which has not kept pace with competitors and potential adversaries like Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Drawing on Sen. John McCain, he notes that the military services are underfunded, undersized, and unready — most especially the U.S. Air Force, which “has the oldest weapon systems, is the smallest, and it is the least ready it has ever been in its entire history” [emphasis author’s]. Deptula hopes that the strategy’s principles will be translated into material increases in the defense budget. With this document, the Trump administration has offered its argument for what drives international politics in our era, what the main threats and opportunities facing our nation are, and for why an “America First” strategy will be best for the United States and, ultimately, the world. While our commentators have offered their best initial thoughts, the final assessment of the National Security Strategy will come not from the expert pens of our contributors but from the dedicated professionals who will implement it and from the hard knocks of the international arena itself.   William Inboden is Executive Director and William Powers, Jr. Chair at the William P. Clements, Jr. Center for National Security at the University of Texas-Austin.  He also serves as Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Distinguished Scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, and Editor-in-Chief of the Texas National Security Review

2. Trump’s National Security Strategy: A Critic's Dream

By Emma Ashford and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson President Donald Trump released his administration’s first National Security Strategy on December 18, 2017 with much fanfare.[2] In the run-up to the release, Trump’s foreign policy had come in for significant hostility, with critics decrying the administration for betraying U.S. liberal internationalism and pursuing an avowedly “America First” agenda.[3] Initial reactions to the speech from much of the policy and scholarly communities have been at best ambivalent, with analysts lambasting the strategy’s “realist framing,” its emphasis on great power competition, and seeming over-reliance on the military tools of statecraft.[4] These assessments are disingenuous. Like it or not, the 2017 National Security Strategy is strongly in line with the national security agendas of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The new strategy may spend time identifying the problematic and self-harming elements of America’s post-Cold War foreign policy consensus, but it is neither realist in its logic nor restrained in its recommendations. Instead, it commits the United States to a more muscular primacist agenda. Trump’s one-time critics should now rejoice: at least on core security issues, the document reflects Trump’s formal agreement to sustain the U.S. strategic consensus. They have won the initial salvo in the grand strategy debate of this administration. The 2017 Strategy: Sui Generis or Déjà vu All Over Again? Grand strategy — the linkage of a state’s military, diplomatic, and economic tools of statecraft to help a state “produce” security for itself — is notoriously difficult to formulate, describe, and execute.[5] Although often portrayed as a formal plan by which a state assesses its interests and the means it chooses to get there, in reality, strategy evolves as external conditions, domestic and bureaucratic politics, and the ideas motivating individual policymakers wax and wane.[6] The relative importance of these factors can vary as well. States living in highly competitive international environments (think 19th century Europe) are incentivized to focus on external conditions. In contrast, states benefiting from a surfeit of security have the latitude to draw more heavily upon other factors. The modern United States falls into the latter category: a massively wealthy state surrounded by weak neighbors, wide oceans, and with no peer competitor since the early 1990s, the United States benefits from the most latent security of any actor in modern history. In the post-Cold War world, the net result has been the consolidation of a powerful grand strategic consensus in which the United States claims to act in support of a liberal world order. In theory, this system allows the United States to (1) support benevolent policies such as free-trade and regional stability; (2) prevent states from engaging in military affairs unless viewed as legitimate; and (3) integrate potential rivals into a mutually agreed-upon “rules based” system of international governance.[7] Of course, these claims were always embraced more in theory than in the breach. In practice, the United States quickly recognized the desirability of asserting American power in support of its self-defined interests irrespective of other states’ concerns. “America First” is hardly a new concept. Primacy, not benign liberal engagement, typically ruled the day. After all, the United States went to war against both Serbia and Iraq despite international opposition, and has shown a marked disinclination to let other states have a say in constructing the nominal “rules” of international governance. As a framing device, however, the post-Cold War foreign policy consensus was a mobilization device par excellence, reflecting and able to sustain popular backing through its nod to liberal values, bureaucratic support by providing substantial foreign policy funding, and political support by leaving enough maneuvering room for leaders to pursue any policy they wanted. Indeed, the appeal of this consensus was such that — as Patrick Porter shows — alternate grand strategy approaches have been largely ignored, with their proponents isolated or driven from government decision-making.[8] Despite the sound of grinding teeth, Trump’s National Security Strategy fits squarely in the post-Cold War grand strategic tradition. This is not to deny that the 2017 strategy contains some departures from past practice on domestic policies, with calls for reduced immigration, tightened border security, and economic policies suggesting more closed American homeland. Still, on core security issues related to U.S. engagement in international affairs, relations with other powerful states, and counter-terrorism and state-building efforts, Trump’s agenda is in keeping with the post-Cold War tradition. Consider 2017. Despite coming to office more overtly critical of U.S. global activism and traditional alliance relations than any American leader since 1945, Trump’s first year in office has seen Washington double-down on its commitments in the Middle East, affirm the American commitment to NATO, and reinforce the U.S.-Japanese and U.S.-South Korean relationship. The new strategy affirms these actions, noting that the United States will “compete and lead in multilateral organizations so that American interests and principles are protected.” It underscores the continued relevance of NATO, existing “partnerships” in the Middle East, and the centrality of allies in East Asia for “responding to mutual threats.”[9] In this, the document parallels past strategic declarations. The George W. Bush administration’s 2006 strategy, for instance, vowed that the United States would prioritize “pursuing American interests within cooperative relationships, particularly with our oldest and closest friends and allies.” Likewise, the Obama administration’s 2015 strategy called for the U.S. to foster a “rules-based international order” under “U.S. leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity through stronger cooperation to meet global challenges.”[10] The Trump administration has effectively committed itself to a strikingly similar approach, couched in similar language, to its predecessors. The same is true of U.S. relations with other powerful states such as India, Russia, and China. At the start of the 1990s, the U.S. government — as the draft 1992 Defense Planning Guidelines and its successors underscored — decided that it would oppose the emergence of peer competitors able to challenge American dominance.[11] As the distribution of power shifted away from the United States, this view evolved. The United States would now seek to either coopt potential competitors as allies (e.g., India) or incentivize their continued cooperation through integration into economic and security institutions. The tradeoff gradually became explicit: as the 2015 National Security Strategy explained in the context of China, the United States would otherwise “manage competition from a position of strength.”[12] In short, America would welcome cooperation from other major powers on American terms, or try to overmatch potential competitors. The 2017 strategy again falls within this post-Cold War tradition. Embracing the potential for U.S.-Indian “strategic partnership”, the report also notes that China and Russia are increasingly pursuing “revisionist” policies that imperil American dominance in Asia and Europe.[13] The two “competitors” to the United States thus need to be overmatched and contained. Even here, however, the change is less dramatic than it may appear. Although describing China and Russia as explicit “competitors” is new, the underlying theme of competition is not. After all, as far back as the 2006 National Security Strategy, the George W. Bush administration allowed in the Chinese context that “Our strategy seeks to encourage China to make the right strategic choices for its people, while we hedge against other possibilities [emphasis added].” The Obama administration’s 2015 report was even clearer in underscoring “there will be competition” with China such that the United States sought to “manage competition from a position of strength.” Labeling China and Russia “competitors” is thus an evolutionary change in U.S. policy – not a revolutionary break.[14] What of counter-terrorism and state building? The Trump-endorsed document hardly breaks the mold, committing the United States to both extensive counter-terrorism efforts — particularly against Islamist terrorism — and state-building abroad. Not only will the United States “pursue [terrorist] threats to their source” militarily, but there is a direct relationship between state-building and counter-terrorism. After all, “safe havens” in fragile states allow terrorist groups to flourish, requiring the U.S. to help develop local institutions so that direct American action is superfluous.[15] Again, this logic tracks with prior strategic guidance. Bush’s 2002 strategy, for one, espoused “direct and continuous action” against terrorist groups while calling upon the international community to “focus its efforts and resources on areas most at risk” of “spawning” terrorism.[16] Strikingly, not only did the 2006 National Security Strategy return to these themes, but so too did the 2015 version advanced by the Obama administration.[17] At least on paper, Trump is little different than his predecessors. A Critics Dream Noting that the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy is relatively consistent with that of previous administrations is one thing. As significant for the grand strategy debate, it also bears little resemblance to the images conjured by the primacists who have become some of Trump’s biggest critics. Take Tom Wright’s campaign-era overview of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, in which he argues that Trump’s election would destroy America’s post-Cold War foreign policy:
If he did get elected president, he would do his utmost to liquidate the U.S.-led liberal order by ending America’s alliances, closing the open global economy, and cutting deals with Russia and China.[18]
Or, consider Elliot Cohen, who promises that Trump will usher in a “dangerous and dispiriting chapter” for American foreign policy. Cohen notes
even barring cataclysmic events, we will be living with the consequences of Trump’s tenure as chief executive and commander in chief for decades. Damage will continue to appear long after he departs the scene.[19]
Meanwhile, Hal Brands outlines a stark potential shift in American foreign policy, a so-called “Fortress America” approach “that would actively roll back the post-war international order and feature heavy doses of unilateralism and latter-day isolationism.”[20] Yet the Trump administration has not gone down this road, in either practice or the new National Security Strategy.  Again, the document embraces America’s global alliances, noting that “allies and partners are a great strength of the United States,” and promising to “encourage aspiring partners.”[21] In contrast to the idea of embracing authoritarian states, it pushes back on them strongly through repeated statements such as “China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests.” Indeed, the language in the document is so stark on this point that Russia and China have condemned it as “imperial” and a “victory for hardliners.”[22] Even on trade, where the document perhaps makes the biggest divergence from prior policy approaches, it doesn’t come close to the dystopian visions critics have predicted. The document strongly supports the existing global trade regime, though it does promise to crack down on “cheating” countries which “adhere selectively to the rules and agreements” of free trade.[23] Though the document suggests the potential to “modernize” existing trade agreements, it offers no specifics, instead emphasizing domestic economic policies such as infrastructure investment. By any reasonable standard, this is a change of degree, not of type. Yet, just as the National Security Strategy does not actually reflect the predictions of Trump’s critics, neither does it appear to be realist in any true sense of the word. Certainly, the document claims to advance a strategy of “principled realism,” suggesting aspirations for the level-headed strategic calculations of a Henry Kissinger or George H.W. Bush. Yet realism as a concept has always been promiscuously used by experts in order to give their opinion gravitas — or as a slur. As Kissinger himself once noted, “the United States is probably the only country in which "realist" can be used as a pejorative epithet.”[24] Look no further than reactions to Donald Trump’s foreign policy statements during the campaign. In response to articles attempting to label Trump’s nationalist pronouncements as realist, both Stephen Walt and Robert Kaplan — analysts not known for their agreement on any issue — argued the same thing. In essence, each said, “I’m a realist, and Trump doesn’t represent my foreign policy views.” Despite its use of the term, however, the new National Security Strategy includes few policies that are recognizably realist as understood by scholars or savvy practitioners. Although it promises pragmatism, the strategy commits pledges to advance American values and deny “the benefits of our free and prosperous community to repressive regimes and human rights abusers.”[25] It provides prominent placement to relatively minor threats like terrorism and transnational crime, and maintains America’s commitments to conflicts in Afghanistan and elsewhere despite criticism of those conflicts as expensive side-shows by most realist analysts. And it again perpetuates the idea of safe havens, arguing that fragile states pose security threats — a claim that most realists see as a myth. In some ways, the document’s evocation of realism is reminiscent of an argument made recently in Commentary by some of Trump’s most fervent critics, Peter Feaver and Hal Brands. In arguing that realism has lost its way (and that Trump himself advocates a variant of a realist position ), the authors suggest that the solution is to ‘reclaim’ realism. They would do this by taking realism’s core precepts and adding those of liberal internationalism — from the necessity of American global leadership to maintaining U.S. alliances and spreading of American values.[26] In the same way as this approach seeks to appropriate the term realism and reallocate it to the authors’ favored policy packages, the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy uses the term “principled realism” to disguise its hodge-podge of contradictory ideas and impulses. Indeed, perhaps ironically, the document bears the strongest resemblance to the approaches favored by some of Trump’s critics. After criticizing “Fortress America,” for example, Brands go on to suggest an alternative, which he describes as a either “better nationalism” or “internationalism with a nationalist accent.”[27]. This alternative includes a tougher approach to China, renegotiation of existing trade agreements like NAFTA, reaffirmed alliance commitments, a strong military buildup and intensified anti-terror campaigns — each of which is in the new National Security Strategy. Likewise, Wright argues that his proposed grand strategy of “responsible competition” is not compatible with the Trump administration’s views.[28] Yet responsible competition is a strategy which “preserves a liberal international order” while acknowledging “the adversarial and zero-sum nature characterizing relations with rival powers,” and avoiding major conflict. This sounds remarkably similar to the National Security Strategy’s emphasis on combating powers like China and Russia, adversaries “adept at operating below the threshold of open military conflict.” Elsewhere, Wright emphasizes the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, and the need for increased military involvement in the Middle East — both of which are championed by the Trump administration. Undoubtedly, there are differences between these strategies, but there is more that unites them than divides them. This common ground between Trump and his critics also suggests a more worrying trend: that members of the foreign policy consensus and backers of the Trump administration may make common cause to sustain the primacist core of U.S. grand strategy at a time Americans are clamoring for a forthright foreign policy debate. As Brands argues, perhaps policymakers should make “an effort to minimize the most costly and frustrating aspects of American internationalism in order to sustain the broader tradition” of intensive American global engagement and efforts to structure international security on American terms. The National Security Strategy appears comfortable with a similar course, questioning long-running economic policy while advocating a muscular and unilateral approach to U.S. primacy. In many ways, Trump’s liberal international critics are getting almost everything they could want in this strategy. Is there Hope for a Realist Grand Strategy? Of course, it is fair to question whether the National Security Strategy reflects Donald Trump’s own views, and whether it will be put into practice. Tellingly, the President’s speech accompanying the release of the National Security Strategy was notably different from the text.  He spent much of his time criticizing his predecessors and calling for increased spending by NATO allies; he did not echo the document’s criticisms of China or Russia.[29] Yet in its broad strokes, the strategy mirrors the actions that the Trump administration has taken during its first year: complain about allies, suggest cozying up to Russia or China, and criticize America’s wars in the Middle East, while actually pursuing a conventional foreign policy and dialing up America’s foreign commitments. Trump’s rhetoric has never truly matched his actions.[30] And, regardless of the rhetoric, the president has accepted this strategy and put his name on it. If this is a case of advisors like Secretary of Defense James Mattis or National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster “managing up,” then they have been remarkably successful in reshaping the president’s foreign policy instincts, and maintaining the broad strokes of American primacy as a strategy. Yet, if Trump and his advisers have sought the realist imprimatur without actually embracing realist precepts, the question stands: what would a realist national security strategy entail? It is not primacy: as even the most hard-bitten realists focused on power-seeking acknowledge, pursuing primacy in global affairs is a recipe for international opposition and overreach.[31] Indeed, realism as a body of knowledge underscores the often self-defeating nature of power and the risks of actively seeking security in an uncertain world. Any realist strategy would therefore start from the point noted earlier in this paper, namely, that the United States is extremely secure. From there, the question becomes: how does seeking more power and more security in the world help, and what are we giving up or squandering in the process? For many realists, the answer is simple: a restrained grand strategy focused largely on preventing a peer competitor such as China from establishing dominance overseas, while reinforcing quiet tools of cooperation with local actors to address regional conflicts, terrorism, and other such security problems. Without locally powerful actors poised to dominate their regions, and with actors incentivized to address local problems in way conducive to U.S. interests, the United States can be far more relaxed in world affairs. Restraint — as opposed to the classic formulation of primacy or the Frankenstein version of it found in the new strategy — has much to commend it. Still, not all analysts accept that the global status quo is truly stable. Some argue that local conflicts might spin out of control; that local competitions may allow a state such as China or Russia to establish regional hegemony; or that local actors may fail to address problems such as terrorism. These are reasonable concerns. Even then, however, a truly realist grand strategy would still ask the extent to which American activism is needed to address these problems. Depending on the circumstance, some form of American action may be needed, whether combat power, diplomacy, or economic engagement. Nevertheless, it would not mandate the extensive efforts to manage all global affairs at significant cost and risk that the post-Cold War consensus calls for and the Trump administration endorses. Advocates of the foreign policy consensus have been rightly critical of many aspects of the Trump administration, from his odious and xenophobic views of immigrants to his tendency to pick fights on twitter. Trump himself is a poor spokesperson for U.S. foreign policy: his impulsiveness and self-absorption are likely to undermine foreign policy implementation throughout his term in office. Yet their criticisms of Trump’s foreign policy are misleading. The new National Security Strategy is far closer to the primacy-based strategy favored by these critics than to any recognizably realist strategy. Both Trump and his critics call for the United States to play an outsize role in global affairs because they see the world as dangerous, and believe American activism increases our power and influence. Ultimately, Trump’s critics should be thrilled. They are getting almost everything they want.   Emma Ashford is a Research Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Follow her on Twitter @emmamashford. Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson is an Assistant Professor of International Affairs with the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University.  His book, Rising Titans, Falling Giants: How Great Powers Exploit Power Shifts is being published in 2018 with Cornell University Press.

3. Nostalgia and Strategy: There Never Was a Golden Age

By Andrew Hill The desire to restore bygone glories is understandable, and such nostalgia pervades President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy.[32] The introduction frames the strategy as a way to restore an American Golden Age, presenting a historical overview of America’s rise to a golden age of power in the 20th century, and its decline since the 1990s. Thus, after the glory of a Cold War victory, the document informs us, “the United States began to drift. We experienced a crisis of confidence and surrendered our advantages in key areas.” The effects of this nostalgic framing are most evident in chapters on American economic (Pillar II) and military (Pillar III) power, which present plans to “rejuvenate” the economy and “rebuild” the military. Indeed, the entire National Security Strategy seems to pivot on the prefix “re-”: renew, rebuild, restore, recover, regain, revitalize, reverse, reestablish, rejuvenate, reemerge, recommit, etc. For a strategy that claims to provide “fresh thinking” about strategy, it is oddly rooted in the past. The trouble with such nostalgia is that it hinders understanding of present conditions, and limits strategic vision and creativity as we consider the future. If our sense of the future is bounded by our incorrect understanding of the past, we will fail to recognize the novel opportunities of the present. Nostalgia relies on a false sense of history, and it encourages an inaccurate view of the present, both of which are bad for strategy (especially the latter). An obsession with a glory that never was can blind us to the great possibilities that truly are. In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris,[33] Gil, an unhappy modern American writer, finds himself transported back to the 1920s Paris of his dreams — inhabited by the legendary artists[34] and writers of Hemingway’s moveable feast.[35] While there, Gil falls for Adriana, an aspiring fashion designer whose own city of dreams is the Paris of la belle époque.[36] Sure enough, one night the two magically find themselves in the 1890s Paris of the Moulin Rouge, gaslights, and Gaugin, where Gil has an epiphany:
Gil: I was trying to escape my present the same way you’re trying to escape yours: to a golden age.   Adriana: Surely you don’t think the twenties are a golden age?   Gil: Yeah, to me they are.   Adriana: But I’m from the twenties and I’m telling you the golden age is la belle époque.   Gil: I mean, and look at these guys. To them, their golden age is the renaissance. You know, they’d rather… they’d trade belle époque to be painting alongside Titian and Michelangelo. And those guys probably imagine life was a lot better when Kublai Khan was around… I’m having an insight now… it’s a minor one, but it explains the anxiety in my dream that I had.   Adriana: What dream?   Gil: I had a dream the other night where, it was like a nightmare, where I ran out of Zithromax, and I went to see the dentist, and he didn’t have any Novocain. You see what I’m saying? These people don’t have any antibiotics.   Adriana: What are you talking about?   Gil: Adriana, if you stay here, and this becomes your present, then pretty soon, you’ll start imagining another time was really your golden time. You know, that’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.
The longing for past glory is a persistent force in human history. For Romans of the Augustan era, the golden age was the early republic.[37] For those of the later times, Rome’s golden age was the flowering of Roman culture during the late Republic and the reign of Augustus,[38] or the reign of the good emperors, from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius, during the second century (the “most happy and prosperous” period in human history, according to Edward Gibbon).[39] 1500 years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Italian fascists traded on the Roman past by adopting a roman imperial greeting as their salute.[40] Nostalgia for past glory or past simplicity seemed a significant factor in Britain’s vote to exit the European Union.[41] And then we have American nostalgia: Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation[42] or the “Make America Great Again” slogan purveyed during Trump’s successful presidential campaign. Golden ages can be useful concepts. Certainly, there are moments when the thought of a better time can encourage and motivate people amidst terrible adversity. The thought of a golden past becomes the basis of hope for a better future. Sometimes, things really are bad, and we need to hang on to the idea that a better world, now lost to us, can be restored. But a fixation on the hazy glories of the past can also prevent leaders from recognizing the real opportunities of the present. Not only that, but the nostalgic versions of the past that we hold in our minds tend to omit crucial realities of those times. Barbara Tuchman captured this tendency in her description of the longing for pre-World War I Europe, writing in the Proud Tower:
The period was not a Golden Age or Belle Epoque except to a thin crust of the privileged class. It was not a time exclusively of confidence, innocence, comfort, stability, security and peace… Our misconception lies in assuming that doubt and fear, ferment, protest, violence and hate were not equally present. We have been misled by the people of the time themselves who, in looking back across the gulf of the War, see that earlier half of their lives misted over by a lovely sunset haze of peace and security. It did not seem so golden when they were in the midst of it.[43]
In truth, there never was a golden age. The best and worst of humanity are always with us. Life is always hard, and, as Gil observed, “a little unsatisfying.” But in historical terms, how hard is life right now for the United States? If we were to construct a sort of opportunity-loss scale for the United States on the basis of threats and strengths, what is the nation’s position relative to its past? We seem to have forgotten that America’s post-World War II ascendance as a global power occurred during a time of great power competition, when the United States faced, in the Soviet Union, an adversary that was implacably hostile, militarily more powerful (at least conventionally), and the central actor in a parallel global economic system. The Soviet Union was scary.[44] The United States fought costly wars against communism in Korea and Vietnam, and the two superpowers came close to nuclear conflict. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Americans felt uncertain about American power and its place in the world,[45] epitomized by President Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech.”[46] Given the choice between dealing with the Soviet Union of 1970 and the Russia and China of 2017, American political and military leaders (past or present) would probably take 2017 every time. That does not mean that 2017 is safe in some absolute sense. It is not. No time is. That is the point. The National Security Strategy discusses at length the challenges posed by a rising China, the strongest current competitor to the United States. China warrants our attention, yet China itself faces tremendous strategic challenges. China has deeply problematic demographics, including a wildly imbalanced gender ratio and the burden of becoming old before it becomes rich.[47] China’s relationship with Japan is complicated,[48] and other neighbors are not entirely aligned with China’s goals.[49] Notably, China shares a tense border with India, the world’s largest democracy and itself a rising world power.[50] Russia remains dangerous. Though a shell of its former self, it still has a large number of nuclear weapons and a tendency to provoke the United States.[51] Modern Russians are nostalgic for the post-World War II Soviet Union,[52] a sentiment that President Vladimir Putin both cultivates and exploits to retain an outsize vision of Russia’s importance in the world.[53] Russia has understandable concerns about its borders due to the strength of NATO. It has its own domestic problems, including a stagnant economy and an aging population, both of which may increase the risk of Russia lashing out against its neighbors. There are plenty of things to keep today’s leaders awake at night. Nuisances like Iran, North Korea, and terrorism are always with us. The present features its own novel problems, such as the disruptive consequences of a warming climate (intentionally dismissed from strategic conversations in this administration and omitted from the National Security Strategy),[54] cyber volatility, the development and proliferation of artificial intelligence,[55] and challenges to state power in areas such as the international flows of financial assets.[56] Yet, should we believe that the right way to deal with all of this is to “rebuild” ourselves based on an inaccurate assessment of our current condition, in some image of a past that never really existed? Trump’s National Security Strategy falls woefully short in its consideration of the power and the privileged position that the United States already possesses, and how that can be used to advance American security. The U.S. constitution is a model for the world,[57] and its guarantees of freedom remain a source of inspiration and power. Among developed nations, the United States remains relatively young, with a decent birthrate (for a developed nation) and net immigration.[58] It has good bankruptcy laws and liquid capital markets that foster business creation.[59] It has outstanding universities and the world’s best research infrastructure.[60] It is blessed with good neighbors in Canada and Mexico. America has abundant natural resources, plenty of arable land, and room for a growing population. It remains committed to respecting property, both physical and intellectual. Its position between two oceans and the world’s two largest markets makes it an ideal partner in the global economy. Finally, the nation (contra the National Security Strategy) has a strong military that needs transformation more than it needs rebuilding. Of course, the United States has problems too. Notably, high federal deficits and an increasing national debt, violent crime with resulting mass incarceration, and rapidly rising health care costs with relatively poor health outcomes. However on balance, America remains uniquely positioned and richly resourced to maintain its position as the preeminent world power, and to promote prosperity and freedom worldwide through constructive engagement. Doing so requires innovative and forward-thinking strategic approaches that are based in reality. It would make little sense for the executives of General Motors to recreate the capabilities that produced its dominance in the 1950s and 1960s. Consumers today would find little appealing in the beautifully designed, gas-guzzling death-traps of that era. The strategy’s nostalgic desire to “rebuild” the U.S. military to the peak capabilities it displayed in Operation Desert Storm is similarly inappropriate. The document acknowledges that, “adversaries and competitors became adept at operating below the threshold of open military conflict and at the edges of international law,” but military “readiness” remains focused on training to fight conventional military formations in open battle.[61] The emerging competitive environment is not the one that U.S. leaders faced in the past. Those were happy days, no doubt, but the tanks, manned aircraft, and aircraft carriers of that era may not be what the emerging future of warfare demands.[62] Yet that is what the military is most intent on “rebuilding” through its current acquisition programs[63] — another demonstration of the Department of Defense’s astonishing ability to justify its pre-existing force structure and platforms, despite constantly changing strategic demands.[64] This is not forward thinking. The strategy’s preoccupation with looking backward plays right to the military’s preference for sticking with what is comfortable and familiar. America has always been a nation uniquely untethered from its past, for better and for worse, but usually for better. The United States was established as a great nation with some glaring problems. It has remained so: a great nation, with glaring problems. Overstating our current difficulties or overlooking our past troubles will not help us to enlarge that greatness or to reduce the problems. We need a realistic national security strategy that takes up the present as it is.   Andrew Hill, PhD, is the inaugural Chair of Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College.  The views expressed here are his own and do not represent those of the U.S. Army War College, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or any part of the U.S. government.

4. Cyber and Calvinball: What’s Missing from Trump’s National Security Strategy?

By Ben Buchanan President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy[65] is out, and the contours of the hot takes are familiar: Which adversaries got big coverage? Which didn’t? What will it mean for the budgets of Agency X, the Department of Y, or Program Z? And every take is, of course, subject to hand-wringing about whether the strategy matters at all (always a lively discussion, but a question that is especially relevant with a president who might not have read the document). I’ll leave this more traditional territory to others and focus on a different question: Does the new strategy grasp the current state of affairs in international cyber-security and outline America’s plan to manage it? Specifically, does the Trump administration recognize and address that, in cyberspace, America’s adversaries are playing Calvinball* (the famous game from the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip in which there are no rules)[66] while the United States is still playing a regimented and well-defined game of chess? The short answer is no. The strategy’s relevant sections are all about the classical and well-defined mechanics, broadly speaking, of American cyber-security. Its stated priorities are risk management, network defense, deterrence, information sharing, and establishing layered defenses. Though the discussion in these areas is fairly solid, this ground is so well-trodden that it is as hard as concrete. Many of the proposed steps forward are fairly predictable, such as pledging to streamline authorization and “improve the integration of authorities and procedures across the U.S. government so that cyber operations against adversaries can be conducted as required.” Done right, these sorts of actions are useful, but the devil is in the details — something that a strategy document rarely contains. Most worryingly, though, the document misses the opportunity to make strategic sense of what happened in cyber-operations in 2016. The foreign hacking activity that should have served as a wake-up call and an indication that previous American strategies needed revising is mostly ignored. In so doing, the strategy mostly sidesteps three of the most pressing national security questions the United States faces: First, how can America deter adversaries, particularly Russian hackers emboldened by their successful interference in the 2016 election, from acting similarly again? Second, how can it defend American electoral networks from foreign penetration? And third, how can it manage the clear and present threat of information operations enabled in part by hacking, a danger that strikes at the very heart of the democratic process? A few years ago, these questions and their answers would have seemed fairly speculative and out of place in the national security strategy. It was taken as a given that American elections were secure from foreign intelligence agencies, or that those agencies would likely be deterred from interference. While the flaws in American voting infrastructure deserved attention, it felt like a matter of domestic politics and policy more than an international concern. Large-scale information operations at home were far from the minds of most American national security policymakers. Information operations practitioners were mostly concerned with what the United States could do to improve its image in the Muslim world and undermine violent extremism. But that world has given way to a different one. In this new world, where the old rules and assumptions about adversary behavior no longer apply, this document should outline what Washington’s strategy will be. There is an opportunity for strategic answers to these questions. One natural option is to re-establish some rules through deterrence. It is reported, for example, that President Barack Obama threatened Russia just before the election in order to assure that its hackers did not manipulate the vote tallies.[67] Does the Trump administration believe deterrence worked in that case, and would similar warnings work again? The Obama administration punished Russia by expelling “diplomats” and seizing compounds likely involved in intelligence activity. Will that be part of the Trump administration’s new strategy? More generally, can attempts at cyber deterrence even constrain adversary behavior, or is that a distraction in the no-holds-barred world of cyber-security? The section on deterrence in the national security strategy is largely silent on these important points, instead reciting vague language about consequences and resilience. But not only does the strategy not address how the United States should engage in cyber Calvinball, it doesn’t seem to even acknowledge that Calvinball is the game du jour. There’s not even direct mention of the election hacking activities in 2016. The document addresses Russian interference in domestic political affairs, but with the distancing caveat that the Russian activity occurs “around the world.” The next sentence focuses on Eurasia, suggesting the authors’ reluctance to acknowledge that such interference happened in the United States and could well happen again. The discussion of foreign information operations calls out Russia (even if the president will not) — which is good — but again includes the distancing language of “around the globe.” Most of the priority actions in this section are improving American information operation overseas, something which would be nice but which will do little to stop Russian efforts to sow division within our borders. Even where the strategy does acknowledge how foreign hacking “can undermine faith and confidence in democratic institutions,” it once again misdirects. The priority actions in this section refer to improving attribution — not an area of dispute for Russia’s 2016 anti-democratic activities for anyone outside the Trump orbit — bolstering government hiring and retention, and streamlining American cyber-operations and authorities. These would all be good things to do, but, once again, they are chess moves. In the end, Calvin and Hobbes devised a single rule for Calvinball: You can’t play it the same way twice. Unfortunately, that rule doesn’t apply in cyber-security. Adversaries can employ the same tactics again and again with success. And, until U.S. strategy recognizes that and stops them, they will.   *This analogy comes from a conversation earlier this year on Twitter between myself and @TheGrugq.[68]   Ben Buchanan is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University’s Cybersecurity Project, where he conducts research on the intersection of cybersecurity and statecraft. His first book, The Cybersecurity Dilemma,[69] was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. Previously, he has written on artificial intelligence, attributing cyber-attacks, deterrence in cyber operations, cryptography, election cybersecurity, and the spread of malicious code between nations and non-state actors.

5. China, America, and the End of the Responsible Stakeholder Theory

By Zack Cooper and Mira Rapp-Hooper As observers of Asian security peruse the National Security Strategy,[70] many will wonder what to make of the document. There is no shortage of expert opinions. Micah Zenko argues that the strategy should be “ignored.”[71] Eliot Cohen suggests that the strategy “offers a few clues, and that is about it.”[72] Richard Haass asserts that it will have “a fairly short shelf life.”[73] On the issue of China, however, the strategy’s message is blunt and could be of lasting significance. For decades, the United States has sought to make China a “responsible stakeholder” in the existing regional and international order.[74] By incorporating China into existing institutions and power structures, this narrative held, the international order would help to make China a benign major power. At the very least, the order would change China more than China would change it. The most consequential China-related statement in the 2017 National Security Strategy is the declaration that this strategy has failed. As the document notes in its introduction
[T]he assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners… turned out to be false.
This statement has potentially momentous ramifications for U.S. strategy. If the “responsible stakeholder” approach has been rejected, then the United States must adopt an entirely new strategy — one that is presumably embraces competition with China and seeks to contain its influence. Despite this lofty charge, however, four obvious challenges plague the Strategy’s new approach to China. First, having discarded the “responsible stakeholder” premise, the National Security Strategy does not actually lay out a new strategy. Second, the administration would be well-advised to avoid approaches that force Asian states to choose between China and the United States.  Third, a more competitive approach will be difficult with shrinking pools of resources and personnel. Finally, the administration must contend with the current U.S. president’s unpredictability and tendency to take a soft line towards Beijing. For these reasons, discussed in more detail below, the Trump administration will likely struggle to make its rhetorical shift into a strategic reality. The End of the Responsible Stakeholder Theory In 2005, then-Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick called on China to be a “responsible stakeholder” and welcomed a “confident, peaceful, and prosperous China.”[75] Zoellick was giving voice to a set of assumptions that had basically guided U.S. policy towards China since the 1970s: China’s rise was inevitable, but if the United States worked to shape its ascent, it could forestall the antagonism that so often plagues major power shifts. Republican and Democratic administrations alike adhered to the view that the United States should engage Beijing in order to integrate China into the regional and global order, giving it a stake in the institutions, rules, and norms the United States had built, rather than give it incentive to oppose them. Zoellick’s view was rooted in four assertions: First, China did not spread anti-American ideologies. Second, China did not seek to undermine democracies. Third, China did not seek to undermine capitalism. And last, China did not “believe that its future depends on overturning the fundamental order of the international system.” The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy appears to reject each of these assertions. Whereas some previous administrations were divided between national security hawks and economic doves, China policy appears to be the one area where the Trump administration’s security internationalists and the economic nationalists agree. The security internationalists (including the lead authors of the National Security Strategy), see China as a “revisionist power” that “seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.” The economic nationalists view China as an economic threat, noting that “competitors such as China steal U.S. intellectual property valued at hundreds of billions of dollars.” Security internationalists worry that Chinese leaders will “change the international order in their favor.” Economic nationalists believe that they already have, noting that China “exploited the international institutions we helped to build.” These two camps of China thinkers have not always agreed on specific policies towards Beijing, but a tougher China line now appears to unify the administration’s competing camps. One need look no further than the second page of the strategy, which states that China is “attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” The administration sees China as fusing its own security and economic policies, noting
China is using economic inducements and penalties… to persuade other states to heed its political and security agenda. China’s infrastructure investments and trade strategies reinforce its geopolitical aspirations.
In many other areas, the Trump administration has two sets of competing policies, one from the security internationalists and another from the economic nationalists (and sometimes another from the president himself). Yet in this document, the Trump administration is embracing one China policy. Or at least it is trying. Matching Rhetoric and Reality Following the release of the National Security Strategy, the Chinese Foreign Ministry countered by noting: “Cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the United States… We urge the U.S. side to stop intentionally distorting China’s strategic intentions.”[76] Yet, some Asia experts in Washington are already hailing the Trump administration’s shrewd shift on China policy. Mike Green calls the document “the beginnings of a coherent strategy.”[77] Patrick Cronin goes so far as to anoint the strategy as the “most strategic published by any administration.”[78] Nevertheless, turning this new strategic premise into a tangible U.S. foreign policy approach will prove challenging for four reasons. First, having discarded the old China strategy, the administration will now have to develop a new approach, and has not done so in this document. The Trump administration is breaking with decades of U.S. strategy, but its pessimism about the “responsible stakeholder” approach actually reflects an emerging consensus in Washington. Few experts still believe that the United States can shape China’s rise the way Washington once hoped.[79] Most agree that China will be whatever type of major power it wants to be.[80] In some areas, Chinese and U.S. interests may be directly and increasingly conflictual; in others, they may remain somewhat aligned. But the National Security Strategy does not address the central question at hand: If China is not going to integrate into the existing order, then what is the logic of U.S. engagement? Does the United States seek to exclude China from existing aspects of the international order in which it was previously included? Will it form new power structures that reject Beijing’s influence? And what specific policies will the administration implement to pursue this vision? If Trump’s buoyant visit to China last month is any indicator, the administration is still figuring out how to translate its ideas into action. Second, despite its new premise, the administration is still shackled to certain balance of power realities in Asia: It should avoid a Manichean strategy that forces regional states to choose between China and the United States. China’s actions over the last decade have caused concern in Washington and in other foreign capitals. In the words of former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, China has erected “a great wall of self-isolation.”[81] The strategy argues that this has driven regional states to call for “for sustained U.S. leadership.” But if the United States is seen as being overly confrontational, it will risk the support of the vulnerable states in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines,[82] that are critical to its strategy. At present, China is attempting to position itself as the more dependable great power in the region, and a more predictable alternative to the United States.[83] The United States can only counter this narrative if it presents a positive agenda for the region, rather than simply seeking to undermine China’s role. Getting this balancing act right will be challenging, particularly for a president who is critical of trade agreements[84] and skeptical of alliances[85] — two traditional pillars of U.S. foreign policy in Asia. Third, if the Trump administration wishes to implement a more competitive approach to China, this will necessarily require more personnel and resources than past strategies, despite the fact that both are currently in short supply. Changing any U.S. government policy is difficult, but particularly so with a policy as central as the premise that has long guided the U.S. approach to China. The shortage of trusted Asia hands in the government will accentuate these difficulties. With few confirmed high-level officials, the administration lacks the human resources to communicate how China policy is changing or what the practical implications of a new approach will be. One can also presume that a more competitive China strategy would rely more heavily on the U.S. military presence in Asia, yet this document does not hint at how the American defense role might change, and Congress is unlikely to authorize a radical increase in defense spending. Moreover, the most sustainable approach to competition with China would rely heavily on cooperation with allies and partners, yet regional states are unlikely to take kindly to the strategy’s insistence that they should “shoulder a fair share of the burden of responsibility to protect against common threats.” Again, the absence of an affirmative regional agenda will make a competitive approach all the more burdensome, with no indication of how the administration intends to defray those costs. Fourth, and perhaps most significantly, the declaration that the United States is abandoning the “responsible stakeholder” approach will be of little consequence if the president himself continues to undermine the efforts of the administration’s China hawks. On his November trip to Asia, Trump’s national security team attempted to unfurl the beginnings of a new approach to the region, relying on an “Indo-Pacific Security Framework,”[86] that implied close cooperation with democratic allies and an alternative to Chinese leadership, presaging the National Security Strategy. While in Beijing, however, the president abandoned his own tough, anti-China campaign rhetoric, heaping praise on Xi Jinping, extolling their personal relationship, and absolving China of its most discriminatory economic practices.[87] Despite statements to the contrary, Trump has wrangled few concessions from Beijing on North Korea, and has taken only modest action on trade policy. In practice, the Trump administration has been surprisingly soft on China in its first year in office. As many analysts have observed,[88] the president holds the power to quickly undermine the new China framework the National Security Strategy has laid out.[89] If his past instincts are any indication, he is likely to do so in short order.   Dr. Zack Cooper is the Senior Fellow for Asian Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper is a Senior Research Scholar at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

6. Economics in the National Security Strategy: Principles vs. Practices

By Phil Levy To date, the Trump administration’s approach to international trade and global economic interaction has seemed anything but strategic. The president floated bold (if alarming) campaign ideas such as high tariffs on China and Mexico, only to abandon the plans once in office. An investigation into the national security impacts of steel and aluminum trade was launched with fanfare,[90] only to linger incomplete, six months after its original due date. Within days last month, President Donald Trump went from saying China was blameless in its economic behavior[91] to publicly attacking China’s predatory practices.[92] A near-withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement seemed to reveal an ongoing internal battle between nationalist and internationalist economic advisers, perhaps explaining the schizophrenic approach to policy.[93] If there is a virtue to grand vision documents, such as a National Security Strategy,[94] it is the possibility that conflicting internal positions may be sorted out. Given the dominance of the United States in the international economic sphere, other countries have been desperately trying to make sense of the conflicting signals emanating from the new administration. While the new strategy will give them much to mull over, and a few signs of hope, it ultimately will not deliver either the clarity or reassurance they crave. International trade and economic competition earn a starring role in the Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy. As the president said in his speech unveiling the strategy, “For the first time, American strategy recognizes that economic security is national security.”[95] International economic engagement emerges as an important component of “America First” in its own right — restoring American prosperity — and then again as a key strategic tool in the guise of economic diplomacy. Many of the economic principles espoused in the document fit easily into the American post-war tradition, just with a liberal sprinkling of the adjectives “fair” and “reciprocal” tossed in. The United States prospered because of “political and economic triumphs built on market economies and fair trade.” The United States will “compete and lead in multilateral organizations so that American interests and principles are protected.” And if one wanted to take statements out of context, the inveighing against the damage of “significant government intrusion in the economy” could be used as a warning against the adoption of new trade barriers. In fact, if one did not know better, one could combine a few statements in the strategy and conclude that the Trump administration is ready to erect some sort of Trans-Pacific Partnership. For example, the document states, “By strengthening the international trading system and incentivizing other countries to embrace market-friendly policies, we can enhance our prosperity.” It further notes that “when America does not lead, malign actors fill the void to the disadvantage of the United States.” It also commits the United States to “work with partners to build a network of states dedicated to free markets.” Of course, Trump intends nothing of the sort. In his unveiling speech he bragged, “We have withdrawn the United States from job-killing deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” This illustrates the danger of mining a strategy document for nuggets of reassurance and searching for a logic that is not actually there. Before turning to further inconsistencies between principle and practice, though, it is worth considering some additional principles that offer a contrast with past tradition, either apparent or real. First, the illusory contrast:
[T]he United States will no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating, or economic aggression. We must work with like-minded allies and partners to ensure our principles prevail and the rules are enforced so that our economies prosper.
While purporting to mark a sharp break with past practice, this profession of ardor for trade enforcement has become a cliché for new occupants of the Oval Office. President Barack Obama certainly promised to reverse the Bush administration’s alleged lapses in trade enforcement vigor. The problems tend to come in implementation.[96] The true principled departure from the post-war consensus — and from generally accepted economics — in Trump’s thought lies in the emphasis on trade imbalances. Here, though, the National Security Strategy is remarkably low-key: “We will insist upon fair and reciprocal economic relationships to address trade imbalances.” When they put it that way, it seems tame enough to encompass Obama administration efforts at the G-20 to coax Germany and China to address their current account surpluses.[97] The strategy’s statement that the “trade deficit grew as a result of several factors, including unfair trade practices” is dramatically toned-down from “job-killing deals.” But since the President is still using the stronger language, one wonders how significant the instance of written restraint might be. The National Security Strategy sets moderation aside in its depiction of a world of friends and foes. This seems more novel in the economic realm than in the more traditional security context. The villain, of course, is China:
As we took our political, economic, and military advantages for granted, other actors steadily implemented their long-term plans to challenge America and to advance agendas opposed to the United States, our allies, and our partners. We stood by while countries exploited the international institutions we helped to build. They subsidized their industries, forced technology transfers, and distorted markets.
The document accuses predecessors, both Democrat and Republican, of naïveté, noting that these actions
require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades — policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners. For the most part, this premise turned out to be false.
While the plural here allows for the inclusion of North Korea, Russia, and Iran, none of them are significant economic actors. This is clearly about China.[98] The indictment raises a number of important questions, most too broad to treat adequately here: Was it a mistake to bring China into the World Trade Organization? How much economic damage did China’s inclusion do to the United States?[99] What alternative strategies would have yielded superior outcomes? Has China consistently violated the rules of the global trading system? Or do those outdated rules just fail to forbid Chinese behavior we currently find objectionable? How, exactly, will the United States alter Chinese economic behavior going forward? In the strategy context, the most relevant of these questions are the ones asking about policy alternatives. Presumably, a good strategy helps one make such choices. Certainly, prior to the release of the National Security Strategy, the Trump administration’s behavior toward China has not offered much clarity. At different points, the Trump administration has seemed to have different and conflicting objectives in its relationship with China.[100] Is it more important to punish China for its policies toward U.S. companies, incentivize China to help with North Korea, or thank China for promises of new commercial deals? The one actual accomplishment of the administration in this arena was a relatively quick and minor trade deal that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross described as a “Herculean accomplishment.”[101] The Chinese could have been forgiven for thinking that, between head-of-state summitry and that deal, relations with the Trump administration were fairly copacetic. They will not think that now, but they won’t have a very clear idea where the Trump administration intends to go, either.[102] Contrast the treatment of the Chinese foe in the National Security Strategy with the treatment of friends. The strategy notes, “We recognize the invaluable advantages that our strong relationships with allies and partners deliver.” Not only do we value these allies, we will work together in international settings. For example:
Maintaining America’s central role in international financial forums enhances our security and prosperity by expanding a community of free market economies, defending against threats from state-led economies, and protecting the U.S. and international economy from abuse by illicit actors … Prosperous states are stronger security partners who are able to share the burden of confronting common threats.
To read this, one might think the United States was preparing to launch a new initiative at the World Trade Organization, or perhaps getting ready to strike plurilateral deals with like-minded Atlantic and Pacific partners. The timing of the National Security Strategy claims is a bit awkward, however, after the recent conclusion of a WTO meeting in which the United States, for the first time in the post-war era, seemed to show a striking disdain for the body.[103] It is in the treatment of allies that the contrast between the economic goals espoused in the National Security Strategy and the actual practice of the Trump administration is starkest. If one went by the actual trade policies of the last year, one would think the greatest economic threat to the United States came from Canada. While the National Security Strategy speaks of renegotiating trade deals, the only formal renegotiation underway is of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Canada and Mexico. The national security trade review of steel and aluminum trade seems most likely to hit Canada, as the top supplier of imported steel (17 percent of U.S. supply in 2016, versus 3 percent from China).[104] The Trump administration revived a dispute over imports of Canadian softwood lumber[105] and seemed to encourage another dispute over passenger aircraft.[106] Close behind Canada in the competition for “top Trump trade target” would be Mexico (NAFTA) and South Korea (demands for trade agreement renegotiation).[107] Japan faced rejection through the dismissal of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Europe, which had been negotiating a free trade deal with the Obama administration, has seen it set aside under Trump. In the section discussing the Indo-Pacific region, the National Security Strategy declares, “We will pursue bilateral trade agreements on a fair and reciprocal basis.” This is consistent with the vision that President Trump has espoused repeatedly — a turn away from the unfairness of multilateral deals to a new world of fair bilateral bargains. There are at least five major problems with this vision, however. First, you need a lot of bilaterals to make up for a multilateral. Between the 28 countries of Europe and the 11 other participants in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the United States was in trade talks with 39 countries a year ago. Now that number is down to two (Canada and Mexico). No other deals are underway. Second, the difficult experience of the NAFTA renegotiation shows there is no plan to realize the vision of a “fair and reciprocal” trade approach that fixes trade imbalances. Even the controversial proposals tabled by the United States in those negotiations offer no policies to achieve trade balance. Further, the novel Trump proposals are generally seen as unacceptable both by partner countries and by U.S. industry.[108] Third, the NAFTA experience has deterred others. While the Trump administration has expressed interest in a bilateral deal with Japan, the sentiment is unrequited.[109] Fourth, bilateral deals, unlike multilateral pacts, are generally too varied to establish new global rules. It is exactly such rulemaking that is required to deal with the China challenge that the National Security Strategy highlights. Finally, there is no time to execute this strategy.[110] Even if other countries were willing and the Trump negotiators had a viable approach, trade deals take a long time. This is not because U.S. negotiators are inefficient. It’s because Congress requires extensive periods of notification and consultation before, during, and after a deal is struck. It is also worth noting here, that under the Constitution, it is Congress that sets strategy on trade policy.[111] To summarize, while the National Security Strategy paints a vision of working with allies and partners to confront China, Trump administration practice to date has been to work together with China while attacking allies and partners. The vision of an alternative approach with allies cannot be realized in theory, much less in practice. The final concern about the Trump administration’s written strategy lies in the president’s unwillingness to be constrained by principled argument. In economic matters, the president took office with strong preconceptions at a tactical level: Bilateral deals were better than multilateral deals; the NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership were terrible; and China was cheating. To date, these tactical impulses have overwhelmed strategic considerations. The real test of the new National Security Strategy from an economic perspective will not be whether the strategies are feasible, but whether the embedded principles can successfully be invoked to temper some of the President’s more destructive urges. If so, the exercise will have been worthwhile.   Phil Levy is Senior Fellow on the Global Economy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Adjunct Professor of Strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He previously served as senior trade economist for President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers and was on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Policy Planning Staff.

7. The National Security Strategy and a Return to the Golden Age of Spycraft

By Carmen Medina President Donald Trump’s new National Security Strategy[112] should come as no surprise to the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community. If the interagency process had worked as it should, the intelligence community would have had a substantial role in drafting and coordinating the document. Most of this work would have fallen to the offices of the director of national intelligence, including the National Intelligence Council, but the CIA would have had an official coordinating responsibility. I suspect the CIA would have liked much of what it saw in the National Security Strategy. The document is a fine example of what I like to think of as the CIA’s “house ideology”— the world is a dangerous place full of enemies out to get the United States. I was in the CIA when the Cold War ended and witnessed its struggles to validate its mission once the Soviet Union had fallen. Former CIA Director James Woolsey’s observation that, having slayed the dragon, the United States now faced a jungle full of poisonous snakes was a clever reframing of the house ideology.[113] Of course, the rise of Al Qaeda and ISIL soon eliminated the need for CIA directors to deal in metaphors. This National Security Strategy differs markedly from those of previous administrations with its emphasis on American greatness and on preserving the “American Way of Life.” By my count, that phrase appears 15 times in the current National Security Strategy, compared to no mentions in the 2015 strategy.[114] The 2017 policy goals tend to shift the weight of the strategy toward economic issues: competitiveness, better trade deals, and maintaining the U.S. technology edge. As far as the CIA is concerned, this emphasis, in my view, may not play to its strengths. Economic intelligence has a problematic history in the intelligence community. When China and the Soviet Union were closed economies, CIA officers developed bespoke techniques to figure out their economic strength and productivity. There are still unknowns in the Chinese and Russian economies today, but economic analysts in the intelligence community generally rely on the same types of open source information used by financial analysts everywhere. This will make it that much harder for economic intelligence to differentiate itself from other, more easily-accessible financial analyses. Providing enough value-added on international economic issues will likely be a challenge as CIA seeks to satiate the Trump administration’s likely hunger for actionable intelligence. The CIA’s recent reorganization is another complicating factor. The analytic component of the agency has long struggled with how best to organize for its mission. Is it better to organize by geographical region or by disciplines, such as economic, military, and political? Geographically-based units tend to match better with how policymakers are deployed but niche experts such as economists or technologists can get lost in a unit dominated by military or political experts. Now that the CIA is organized by mission centers, uniting collectors and analysts, it may prove even harder to give economic intelligence its due. I wouldn't be surprised if the CIA decided in the near future to reestablish a separate unit devoted to economic intelligence. Two other interesting aspects of the National Security Strategy as it relates to intelligence are worth mentioning. First, the document notes that the intelligence community must, “continuously pursue strategic intelligence to anticipate geostrategic shifts.” I did not find the phrase “strategic intelligence” in the National Security Strategy from 2015. I, for one, welcome calling out the need for over-the-horizon intelligence and hope the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community heed this call. There is no more important responsibility for intelligence analysts than to help policymakers anticipate future challenges and opportunities. As the pace of change accelerates, the need becomes ever greater to think hard about how individual trends can combine to create unsettling new realities. Second, the National Security Strategy also contains an intriguing nod to the value of open-source information. In a section entitled “Harness all Information at our Disposal,” the strategy calls upon the United States to, “use the information-rich open-source environment to deny the ability of state and non-state actors to attack our citizens.” The language is unclear, but the discussion of intelligence sources and methods is nevertheless striking. The next paragraph calls for the United States to, “fuse information and analysis to compete more effectively on the geopolitical stage.” It seems clear that the Trump administration finds something lacking in current intelligence efforts. Finally, the document makes clear that the world is essentially an arena for competition among sovereign nation-states. Unlike the Obama administration’s National Security Strategy, there is no section devoted to the international order or a discussion of the emergence of mega-cities. The Trump administration’s traditional orientation will be music to the ears of intelligence officers who enjoy competing against the intelligence services of other nation-states. It promises a return to the golden age of spycraft, not just for the United States, but for all our peer competitors.   Carmen Medina is a former deputy director of intelligence for the CIA. During her 32 years at the CIA, she was known as a contrarian and as an advocate of intelligence reform.

8. The National Security Strategy’s Implications for Seapower

By Bryan McGrath The 2017 National Security Strategy[115] released Monday is a statement of Trump administration priorities, and its central tenets can be directly traced to statements made by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, albeit now framed in more genteel terms. National security experts are busily analyzing the strategy to discern its insights, pivots, oversights, inconsistencies, and priorities. This essay, however, concerns itself solely with the strategy’s implications for American seapower. Seapower advocates have long made the case for freedom of the seas and the security and prosperity benefits that such freedom provides. The strategy comes out of the blocks strong on this front, stating, “Americans have long recognized the benefits of an interconnected world, where information and commerce flow freely” (p. 7). But this recognition is quickly qualified:
Engaging with the world, however, does not mean the United States should abandon its rights and duties as a sovereign state or compromise its security. Openness also imposes costs, since adversaries exploit our free and democratic system to harm the United States.
Here we find the fundamental tension between worldwide freedom of the seas (provided by globally deployed American seapower), and the Trump administration’s view that the United States is often taken advantage of, a tension that is never satisfactorily resolved in the document. Where the U.S. Navy Is Going and Why The document outlines U.S. strategy region-by-region: In the Indo-Pacific, the strategy is decidedly forward-leaning, with assurances not only of robust and powerful forward-deployed U.S. forces, but of cooperation, the importance of alliances, and the need to help build partner capacity. Not so in Europe. Our NATO allies are again reminded of their political commitments on defense spending even after a sober discussion of the multiple threats posed by Russia. A Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study released earlier this year (and summarized in War on the Rocks[116]) entitled Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy[117] showed conclusively, that a navy the size of that advocated by the president in his campaign (350 ships) is warranted only if the Navy returns to Europe in force, with routine presence in both the Mediterranean and the approaches to Northern Europe. This document would have been a useful place to lay the groundwork for that return. In the Middle East, the importance of forward-deployed power is reinforced without reference to the capability of our friends and allies there to provide it for themselves. South and Central Asia are handled separately from the Indo-Pacific, perhaps due to the abidingly continental nature of the former and the maritime nature of the latter. Thus, there is little in the South and Central Asia section that relates to seapower. In the Western Hemisphere, the failure to mention the role of the Coast Guard (except by inference) is notable. In Africa, the ability to support counter-terrorism forces from the sea is, similarly, inferred. While the strategy document acknowledges that a strong economy “protects the American people, supports our way of life, and sustains American power,” it does not offer any substantial discussion of how military power works to protect and sustain economic prosperity. Yet, no other aspect of military power is as closely connected with prosperity. This symbiotic relationship between seapower and prosperity was bluntly stated centuries ago by Sir Walter Raleigh:
[W]hosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.[118]
American seapower apostle Alfred Thayer Mahan packaged this view more diplomatically for statesmen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though no less emphatically.[119] No such emphasis is to be found in this document. Instead, seapower is simply treated as one of several instruments of military power that must be better resourced without any indication of priority. Meanwhile, a number of familiar campaign themes manifest themselves in the National Security Strategy’s prescriptions for promoting prosperity (fair trade deals, improving infrastructure, and reducing regulatory burdens) without much consideration of that which provides for the movement of 90 percent of world trade: freedom of the seas underwritten by dominant American seapower.[120] A New Era of Great Power Competition on the Seas Although the document fails to discuss the unique peacetime, regulatory functions performed by globally postured American seapower and their impact on prosperity (not to mention the force structure required to perform these functions), it does reveal the Trump administration’s reasons for calling for a military buildup: to prevent and prepare for war with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and to conduct ongoing operations against jihadist terrorists. It is a compelling case, such as it is, and it provides some hopeful signs for those advocating for dominant American seapower. The strategy recognizes that we have entered a new age of great power competition. Calling out China and Russia is helpful because it not only identifies the threats that U.S. forces will likely face, but it also suggests a range of military objectives against which these nations might move. Understanding threat and objectives helps military planners determine the right size (capacity) and mix (capability) of the force. One statement, in particular, resonates:
China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favor (p. 25).
Displacing the United States in the Indo-Pacific region is no mean task, and the military component of this Chinese objective is abidingly maritime in nature. If it is indeed the desire of the United States not to be displaced, American seapower will have to shoulder a disproportionate share of the load. The language regarding the Russian threat is equally strong, and makes clear to national security planners that Europe is once again a theater of concern after several decades of relative peace. A New Deterrence Posture The document introduces a sophisticated argument for a new conventional deterrence posture that has significant implications for American seapower:
We must convince adversaries that we can and will defeat them—not just punish them if they attack the United States. We must ensure the ability to deter potential enemies by denial, convincing them that they cannot accomplish objectives through the use of force or other forms of aggression (p.28).
This shift from an emphasis of deterrence by punishment to one that stresses denial of enemy objectives echoes the central theme of the CSBA report mentioned above. This study was conducted in response to tasking in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act directing the Defense Department to commission a series of reports on alternative fleet architectures. The CSBA report was unique among the three studies[121] in that the entire fleet architecture was built around a central proposition: that the current approach to conventional deterrence would be ineffective against the numerous, important — but limited — military objectives available to China and Russia in their near abroad. In other words, the threat of punishment would be insufficient to deter, and the ability of U.S. forces in the region to deny or delay aggression must be increased in order to raise the costs of aggression. This is not a subtle shift. In fact, deterrence by denial demands the availability of nearby force that can be employed quickly and lethally, a primary attribute of forward-deployed American seapower. The CSBA’s architecture provides an option for a more muscular conventional deterrent against not only China and Russia, but also Iran and North Korea. Growing the U.S. Fleet The National Security Strategy also makes it clear that when it comes to military force, size matters. Criticizing previous administrations, the strategy states:
We also incorrectly believed that technology could compensate for our reduced capacity — for the ability to field enough forces to prevail militarily, consolidate our gains, and achieve our desired political ends. We convinced ourselves that all wars would be fought and won quickly, from stand-off distances and with minimal casualties (p. 27).
Critics of growing the U.S. fleet have for years fallen back on the notion that, because individual ships are more capable today than ships in the past, fewer of them are needed. The strategy strikes a blow against the false choice of “capacity vs. capability,” advocating that both are important. Whether both are important across the spectrum of military power is an open question. The strategy states that, “The Joint Force must remain capable of deterring and defeating the full range of threats to the United States” (p. 29). At first glance, the statement seems unobjectionable. Of course U.S. forces must be capable of deterring and defeating the full range of threats. That said, it could also provide cover to avoid making hard choices and answering tough questions: Are all threats equally dangerous and proximate? Must we be equally capable of deterring and defeating all of them simultaneously? The answer to these questions is “of course not.” The strategy also discusses the importance of strategic nuclear forces and nuclear deterrence, a crucial topic as the nation considers the considerable cost of modernizing and operating its nuclear triad.[122] Coming as it does after an earlier insightful discussion of conventional deterrence and what is necessary to deter by denial rather than from punishment, this emphasis on strategic deterrence raises the question of cost and priority. Interestingly, within the Navy, there appears to be no question of priority. The chief of naval operations Adm. John Richardson has repeatedly stated that recapitalizing the nation’s fleet of ballistic missile capable submarines is his top acquisition priority.[123] However, this priority of strategic deterrence over conventional deterrence is being called into question. Earlier this week, my colleague Seth Cropsey and I released a Hudson Institute Center for American Seapower monograph entitled Maritime Strategy in a New Era of Great Power Competition.[124] In it, we argue
for a new theory of deterrence, one that revises the Cold War approach in which the Soviet Union was deterred from large-scale conventional attack by the threat of nuclear escalation. Under that rubric, one could justifiably say that America’s conventional deterrent was dependent on its strategic deterrent. Today, the decapitating “bolt from the blue” strike is even more remote than it was in the Cold War, and to the extent that nuclear exchange between great powers is conceivable, it is far more likely to flow from conventional conflict that has gone awry. Therefore, to deter nuclear war, we must deter conventional war. No aspect of American military power will be more critical to deterring either nuclear or conventional super-power war than seapower.
By this reckoning and the administration’s rightful emphasis on a new theory of conventional deterrence, care must be taken to ensure that the modernization of strategic nuclear forces does not unduly crowd out resources more wisely applied to conventional capabilities. Historically speaking, one of the nation’s most useful tools for exerting its influence around the world has been its fleet. The fleet reminds allies that we are engaged, warns potential aggressors that we have interests we will protect, and provides the capability to support diplomacy and development along the coastlines, where the vast majority of the world’s population lives. Yet, these attributes are virtually ignored by the strategy document to its detriment. Conclusion While aiming to offer a sober assessment of the 2017 National Security Strategy on American seapower, I share the reservations Dan Drezner expressed Tuesday in a Washington Post article, in which he lays bare the many contradictions between the content of the strategy and the words and publicly expressed views of the president who signed it.[125] Nowhere was this disconnect more obvious to me than in the president’s one-and-a-half-page introductory letter. In it, North Korea, Iran, and ISIL are called out by name, but Russia and China are only referred to vaguely as “…undermining American interests around the globe.” This is in stark contrast to the substance of the strategy, in which both nations are named and shamed for their depredations upon U.S. interests, the international system, and their neighbors. If the people of this nation are to be convinced to rebuild the nation’s military strength, they are going to have to be persuaded by the leadership of the president. Few Americans will actually read the president’s strategy, but most are open to his influence. As long as he continues to soft-peddle the threat posed by the revisionist regimes in Moscow and Beijing, and so long as he continues to warmly embrace their authoritarian leaders, the massive contradiction between him and his National Security Strategy will remain, and the military buildup will not be achieved. The National Security Strategy tells a realistic story. It would be nice if the president agreed with it.   Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, and the Deputy Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower.

9. An Airman’s View of the New National Security Strategy

By David A. Deptula The new National Security Strategy[126] is a well-written treatise that appropriately embraces a “whole of government approach” to meeting the nation’s global security needs. Henry Kissinger famously said that, “The attempt to separate diplomacy and power results in power lacking direction and diplomacy being deprived of incentives.”[127] However, the bottom line is that the U.S. military is the backbone of our national security strategy. Thus, it is heartening to see that the Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy contains the best of Ronald Reagan’s strategy of peace through strength. A combination of U.S. national security interests combined with a challenging threat environment demands that our military must be the best-trained, best-led, best-armed, and most capable armed force in the world. Failing to do this will see the United States at risk, with adversaries becoming ever-more aggressive at the cost of global stability. This is not an academic proposition. The U.S. military advantage in terms of capabilities and capacity relative to potential threats around the world has been shrinking. Aggression in the South China Sea, an increasingly belligerent North Korea and Iran, a resurgent Russia, and numerous other developments can be traced back to an erosion of U.S. power. Competing states realize America faces major military capacity and capability challenges and are eager to advance their interest in the resulting void. This situation must be reversed. Conventional deterrence is achieved by possessing the capability to win a fight 99 to 1. While building a force to win 51 to 49 may be less expensive in the short term, the higher potential of conflict it engenders will result in enormously greater costs in the long term. If you think maintaining the peace is expensive, consider the expense of war. Look at the result of the past 17 years of continual combat: over one trillion dollars expended, thousands of lives lost, and tremendous positive potential ceded due to decisions that confused the number of boots on the ground with strategy. Military requirements should be set at levels necessary to support the fundamental tenets of America’s national security strategy, as opposed to allowing arbitrary budget restrictions drive our national security strategy. In this regard, it would be wise to recall the astute words of Sir John Slessor:
It is customary in democratic countries to deplore expenditure on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of the social services.  There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free.[128]
There are three enduring tenets of our national security strategies over the years that have served the United States well: First, maintain sufficient military forces and capabilities to engage around the world to encourage peace and stability. Second, in the event of a necessary confrontation, ensure the fight happens away from U.S. territory in a fashion that puts the enemy’s centers of gravity at risk. And finally, be able to win more than one major regional conflict at a time. To accomplish these, the United States needs a set of robust, capable, and ready forces with a rotational base sufficient to sustain operations. So, let’s cut to the chase. As well stated in the new National Security Strategy, the government of the United States has for too long underfunded its military. As Sen. John McCain said even before the new National Security Strategy was released, the U.S. military is — in addition to being underfunded — undersized and unready. It is now incumbent upon President Donald Trump to set budget guidelines that meet the challenges that he has so well outlined in his new National Security Strategy. The world is on fire and the proposed increases to the current defense budget are not even close to meeting those challenges. In fact, the funding is only fractionally higher than Obama’s budget extended. While all the services are under-resourced, some need attention ahead of others.  Among all the armed forces, the Air Force has been the hardest hit by the past 25 years of underfunding. As a result, today it has the oldest weapon systems, is the smallest, and it is the least ready it has ever been in its entire history. Unlike the other services, the Air Force has been at war without a break since January 1991, not just since September 11, 2011. The Air Force has not had a break from constant combat for over 26 years. The Air Force has become the indispensable force in the conduct of military operations. No U.S. military operation can be conducted successfully without the U.S. Air Force because it provides the global vigilance, global reach, and global power that all joint commands require to succeed. It also presents leaders options that are vital when seeking to project effective, prudent power — especially when it comes to avoiding unnecessary wars of occupation. However, today the Air Force is operating a geriatric force that is becoming more so every day — bombers and tankers over 50 years of age, trainers over 40, and fighters and helicopters over 30. For comparison purposes the average age of the U.S. airline fleet is about 10 years — and they don’t stress their aircraft by operating them at 6 to 9 times the force of gravity on a daily basis, as do our fighters. If World War II-era B-17s had flown in Desert Storm, they’d have been younger than the B-52s and tankers we are using in contingency operations today. During Operation Desert Storm — America’s last quick and decisive victory — the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons. Today it has 55. That is a 60 percent reduction in forces.  Thirty-eight fighter squadrons participated in Desert Storm — 70 percent of today’s total.  Desert Storm was one major regional conflict in a world and against a threat far less complex than those we face today. Today, thanks to Congressional underfunding, less than 50 percent of the Air Force is ready to fight tonight. Part of the Air Force plan regarding readiness is to move from where it is today at 320,000, to 350,000 people over seven years. That will only get us to what the Air Force manning requirements are for today, much less to set the conditions for the improved readiness across the Air Force — in all mission areas — necessary to match the demands called for in the new National Security Strategy. To consider the real impact of the shortfall, it is worth looking at the security demand signal. The scale and scope of the challenge can best be appreciated by considering the global environment at the turn of the century in 2000. Russia and China were not aggressively seeking to dominate their respective regions through overt power projection. The present flavor of terrorism had yet to manifest itself in a large scale. The threat posed by Iran and North Korea was nowhere near the scale of the present set of concerns. Regions like the Arctic were not on the minds of Pentagon leaders. And cyberspace was in nascent form. While operations like those undertaken in Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo were not without their unique challenges, the security environment looked quaint from a comparative perspective. While the world was by no means a safe place 18 years ago, it did not pose the number and variety of serious threats — many existential in nature — seen in today’s security environment. The security environment facing the United States fundamentally shifted with the attacks of September 11, 2001. American forces engaged in a broad array of operations, with efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq standing as the most visible activities. This period also saw the often-underappreciated rise of nation states with interest directly opposed to those of the United States: a resurgent Russia, an aggressive China, and the nuclear threat posed by Iran and North Korea. Seventeen years later, the United States Air Force now finds itself stretched thin trying to manage a challenging set of threats around the globe with much fewer resources than it possessed in less challenging times. The Air Force requires serious recapitalization — bombers, fighters, trainers, surveillance aircraft — but not just aircraft. The Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force is over 40 years old. Nuclear forces need modernization. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance forces are growing in demand. Additional Air Force space assets are essential to providing a global utility in the form of GPS, critical communications, and satellites must be modernized to survive modern threats. Finally, there is the growing demand for cyber-warriors and associated capabilities. Rebuilding the geriatric U.S. Air Force to meet the demands of the new strategy will be expensive, but the only thing more expensive than a first-rate air force is a second-rate air force. With a first-rate air force, we deter conflict. With a second-rate air force, we encourage conflict, and to a growing degree, risk failure. War is the most costly and wasteful of endeavors so it is best to actualize the tenets ensconced in the new strategy to achieve peace through strength — or Washington needs to change its expectations. The first responsibility of the United States government is the security of the American people. As the preamble of the Constitution states, the government was established to “provide for the common defense,” and subsequently to “promote the general welfare.” Congressional decisions have confused this prioritization, with the Budget Control Act of 2011 taxing defense spending at a rate greater than twice its percentage of the total federal budget. The release of the new National Security Strategy has given the United States an opportunity to return to first principles and get our priorities straight. For too many years, arbitrary spending limits have decided U.S. military force structure when it should have been determined by the national security strategy. As a result, prior administrations and Congresses have created a growing strategy-resource mismatch. Having issued a well-designed National Security Strategy, the Trump administration now needs to work with Congress to resource our military, economic, information, and diplomatic arms to execute it and assure its success against any foreseeable adversary, but more importantly, with the necessary levels of capacity and capability that will deter any adversary from initiating conflict in the first place. If the United States wants to avoid future conflict and maintain key interests around the globe, the price of those aims is a fully resourced strategy.   David A. Deptula, is a retired Air Force Lt. General, with over 3000 flying hours, planned the Desert Storm air campaign, orchestrated air operations over Iraq and Afghanistan, oversaw the dramatic increase in Air Force drone forces in the mid 2000’s, and is now dean of the AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Power Studies. Image: U.S. Air Force [post_title] => Policy Roundtable: What to Make of Trump's National Security Strategy [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => policy-roundtable-make-trumps-national-security-strategy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-02 10:46:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-02 15:46:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=378 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => We at TNSR have assembled an all-star cast of experts from a variety of backgrounds to analyze the Trump administration's National Security Strategy. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Policy [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 22 [1] => 109 [2] => 110 [3] => 111 [4] => 112 [5] => 113 [6] => 15 [7] => 115 [8] => 116 [9] => 117 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Calvin and Hobbes, “Very Sorry,” retrieved December 20, 2017, http://www.picpak.net/calvin/oldsite/images/verysorry.jpg. [2] 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 media coverage, see, e.g., CBS News, “Trump Outlines New National Security Strategy,” December 18, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/live-trump-delivers-national-security-strategy-speech-live-stream/. [3] For representative discussions, see David Frum, “A National-Security Strategy Devoid of Values,” The Atlantic, December 12, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/a-national-security-strategy-devoid-of-values/548219/; James Jay Carafano, “What Should Trump’s National Security Strategy Look Like?” The National Interest, December 10, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/what-should-trumps-national-security-strategy-look-23585; Thomas Wright, “What Would An Honest National Security Strategy Say,” War on the Rocks, December 12, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/12/honest-national-security-strategy-say/; Steven Metz, “Linking Trump’s National Security Strategy to Reagan is a Roll of the Dice,” World Politics Review, December 8, 2017, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/23784/linking-trump-s-national-security-strategy-to-reagan-is-a-roll-of-the-dice; Kate Brannen, “Trump’s National Security Strategy is Decidedly Non-Trumpian,” The Atlantic, December 8, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/trump-nss-diplomacy-security-foreign-policy/547937/. [4] Paul Pillar, “America Alone,” The National Interest, December 19, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/america-alone-23726; Andrew E. Kramer, “Russia and China Object to New ‘America First’ Security Doctrine,” New York Times, December 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/world/europe/russia-china-america-first-doctrine.html; Daniel Twining, “Does Trump’s National Security Strategy Have a Value’s Deficit?” Foreign Policy, December 19, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/18/trumps-national-security-strategy-has-a-values-deficit/; Roger Cohen, “Trump’s National Security Strategy is a Farce,” New York Times, December 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/opinion/trump-national-security-strategy-tillerson-haley.html; Editorial, “Trump’s National Security Strategy Isn’t Much of a Strategy at All,” Washington Post, December 19, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trumps-national-security-strategy-isnt-much-of-a-strategy-at-all/2017/12/19/eac50556-e4e9-11e7-ab50-621fe0588340_story.html?utm_term=.af589929bd37. [5] Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), 3–6; Hal Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy?: Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014). [6] For the critique of grand strategy as a formal plan, see Ionut Popescu, “Grand Strategy is Overrated,” Foreign Policy, December 11, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/11/grand-strategy-is-overrated-trump-national-security-strategy-nss/. [7] For such discussions, see G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, eds., Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century: Final Report of the Princeton Project on National Security (Princeton: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 2006). [8] Patrick Porter, “Why America's Grand Strategy Has Not Changed: Power, Habit and the Foreign Policy Establishment,” International Security (forthcoming). [9] National Security Strategy 2017, 4, 40, 46–49. [10] The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March 2006, 35, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/64884.pdf; The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, February 2015, 2, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2015_national_security_strategy_2.pdf. [11] Eric S. Edelman, “The Strange Career of the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance,” in In Uncertain Times: American Foreign Policy After the Berlin Wall and 9/11, ed. Melvyn P Leffler and Jeffrey Legro (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011), 63–77. [12] National Security Strategy 2015, 24. See also National Security Strategy 2006, 40–42. [13] National Security Strategy 2006, 42; National Security Strategy 2015, 24. [14] National Security Strategy 2017, 27. [15] National Security Strategy 2017, 39. [16] The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002, 6, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/nss/2002/. [17] National Security Strategy 2006, 8-10; National Security Strategy 2015, 9-10. [18] Thomas Wright, “Trump’s 19th Century Foreign Policy,” Politico, January 20, 2016, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-foreign-policy-213546?o=2. [19] Elliot Cohen, “Trump is Ending the American Era,” The Atlantic, October 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/is-trump-ending-the-american-era/537888. [20] Hal Brands, “US Grand Strategy in an Age of Nationalism: Fortress America and its Alternatives,” Washington Quarterly (Spring 2017): 74. [21] National Security Strategy 2017, 37–38. [22] “China Reacts to Trump’s National Security Strategy.” CBS News, December 19, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-china-national-security-strategy-victory-hardliners-us-isolationism/; “Russia blasts Trump’s “imperial” national security strategy,” CBS News, December 19, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/russia-donald-trump-imperial-national-security-strategy/. [23] National Security Strategy 2017, 17. [24] Henry Kissinger, “Implementing Bush’s Vision,” Washington Post, May 16, 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/15/AR2005051500811.html. [25] National Security Strategy 2017, 42. [26] Hal Brands and Peter Feaver, “Saving Realism from the So-Called Realists,” Commentary, August 14, 2017, https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/saving-realism-called-realists/. [27] Brands, “Strategy in an Age of Nationalism”: 83. See also Hal Brands, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2017). [28] Thomas Wright, All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-First Century and the Future of American Power (Yale University Press, 2017), 227. [29] “Remarks by President Trump on the Administration’s National Security Strategy,” White House (website), December 18, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-administrations-national-security-strategy/. [30] For illustration, see Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, “Trump and NATO: Old Wine in Gold Bottles?” H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Series, September 29, 2017, https://issforum.org/roundtables/policy/1-5ba-nato. 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[95] “Remarks by President Trump on the Administration’s National Security Strategy,” White House (website), December 18, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-administrations-national-security-strategy/. [96] Doug Palmer, “Trade Enforcement: Obama vs. Bush,” Politico, August 23, 2014, https://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/barack-obama-trade-enforcement-110277. [97] Howard LaFranchi, “Why World Leaders Smacked Down Obama at G20 Summit,” Christian Science Monitor, November 12, 2010, https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2010/1112/Why-world-leaders-smacked-down-Obama-at-G20-summit. [98] Shawn Donnan, “Trump’s China Strategy: Trade War or American Game,” Financial Times, December 18, 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/d6cebf7e-e449-11e7-97e2-916d4fbac0da. [99] Phil Levy, “Did China Trade Cost the United States 2.4 Million Jobs?” Foreign Policy, May 8, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/08/did-china-trade-cost-the-united-states-2-4-million-jobs/. [100] Levy, “Steel Confusion.” [101] The Associated Press, “Commerce Secretary Ross Calls the New U.S.-China Trade Deal a ‘Herculean Accomplishment,” Fortune, May 12, 2017, http://fortune.com/2017/05/12/china-us-poultry-trade-deal/. [102] Emily Rauhala and Andrew Roth, “China Left Wondering What ‘America First’ Foreign Policy Actually Means,” Washington Post, December 19, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/rival-china-left-wondering-what-america-first-foreign-policy-actually-means/2017/12/19/ad76bc8a-e43a-11e7-927a-e72eac1e73b6_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.d058839b03fc. [103] Phil Levy, “The Trump Administration’s Artless Dealing with the WTO,” Forbes, December 16, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/phillevy/2017/12/16/the-trump-administrations-artless-dealing-with-the-wto/ - cd0e17742580. [104] Levy, “Steel Confusion.” [105] Phil Levy, “Why Is the Trump Administration Faking a Trade War with Canada?” Forbes, April 26, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/phillevy/2017/04/26/why-fake-a-trade-war/ - 46073a3d1be5. [106] Reuters, “Boeing-Bombardier Dispute Ramps Up at U.S. Trade Hearing,” CNBC, December 18, 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/18/boeing-bombardier-dispute-ramps-up-at-us-trade-hearing.html. [107] Phil Levy, Trump Is Considering the Worst Possible Response to the North Korea Threat,” Foreign Policy, September 6, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/09/06/trump-is-considering-the-worst-possible-response-to-the-north-korean-threat/. [108] Phil Levy, “NAFTA Negotiations from the Other Side: What Mexico and Canada Can Do,” Forbes, November 28, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/phillevy/2017/11/28/nafta-negotiations-from-the-other-side-of-the-table/ - 2fbaaa0c1948. [109] Leika Kihara, “U.S., Japan Fail to Bridge Gap on Trade in Economic Talks,” Reuters, October 16, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-japan-dialogue/u-s-japan-fail-to-bridge-gap-on-trade-in-economic-talks-idUSKBN1CL2FM. [110] Phil Levy, “NAFTA Isn’t Dead Yet, but Trump’s Vision of One-On-One Trade Deals May Be,” Forbes, October 17, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/phillevy/2017/10/17/die-another-day-nafta-pauses-and-the-world-waits/ - 1ffcdddc5cd1. [111] U.S. Constitution, art. I, § 8, retrieved December 21, 2017, https://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_A1Sec8.html. [112] 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. [113] Douglas Jehl, “C.I.A. Nominee Wary of Budget Cuts,” New York Times, February 3, 1993, http://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/03/us/cia-nominee-wary-of-budget-cuts.html. [114] The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States, February, 2015, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2015_national_security_strategy_2.pdf. [115] 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. [116] Bryan Clark and Bryan McGrath, “A Guide to the Fleet the United States Needs,” War on the Rocks, February 10, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/02/a-guide-to-the-fleet-the-united-states-needs/. [117] Bryan Clark, Peter Haynes, Bryan McGrath, Craig Hooper, Jesse Sloman, and Timothy A. Walton, “Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy,” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, February 9, 2017, http://csbaonline.org/research/publications/restoring-american-seapower-a-new-fleet-architecture-for-the-united-states-. [118] Sir Walter Raleigh, “A Discourse of the Invention of Ships, Anchors, Compass, &c.,” The Works of Sir Walter Raleigh, vol. 8, (1829, reprinted 1965), 325. [119] Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783 (1890; repr., New York: Dover Publications, 1987). [120] “International Maritime Organization Profile,” UN-Business Action Hub, accessed December 20, 2017, https://business.un.org/en/entities/13. [121] “Statement by SASC Chairman John McCain on U.S. Navy Fleet Architecture Studies,” Senate Office of John McCain, February 10, 2017, https://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/2/statement-by-sasc-chairman-john-mccain-on-u-s-navy-fleet-architecuture-studies. [122] Congressional Budget Office, “Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046,” October 31, 2017, https://www.cbo.gov/publication/53211. [123] Jon Harper, “Cost of New Submarine Could Threaten Navy Fleet Expansion,” National Defense, March 22, 2017, http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/3/22/cost-of-new-submarine-could-threaten-navy-fleet-expansion. [124] Seth Cropsey and Bryan McGrath, Maritime Strategy in a New Era of Great Power Competition (Washington D.C.: Hudson Institute, 2018). [125] Daniel W. Drezner, “A Straussian National Security Strategy,” Washington Post, December 19, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/12/19/a-straussian-national-security-strategy/?utm_term=.700b1e045ed0 [126] 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. [127] Henry Kissinger, “Withdrawal is not an Option,” International Herald Tribune, January 18, 2007, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/KissingerTestimony070131.pdf. [128] Sir John Cotesworth Slessor, Strategy for the West (New York: Morrow and Company, 1954), 75. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction, by William Inboden 2. Trump's National Security Strategy: A Critic's Dream, by Emma Ashford and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson 3. Nostalgia and Strategy: There Never Was a Golden Age, by Andrew Hill 4. Cyber and Calvinball: What's Missing from Trump's National Security Strategy? by Ben Buchanan 5. China, America, and the End of the Responsible Stakeholder Theory, by Zack Cooper and Mira Rapp-Hooper 6. Economics in the National Security Strategy: Principles vs. Practices, by Phil Levy 7. The National Security Strategy and a Return to the Golden Age of Spycraft, by Carmen Medina 8. The National Security Strategy's Implications for Seapower, by Bryan McGrath 9. An Airman's View of the New National Security Strategy, by David A. Deptula ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 308 [post_author] => 93 [post_date] => 2017-11-01 03:45:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-01 07:45:07 [post_content] => Editorial Note: It is our pleasure to present our first book review roundtable, in which one or two books are reviewed by various experts from their perspectives. Van Jackson, one of our associate editors and senior lecturer in international relations at Victoria University of Wellington, chairs this first roundtable. In this and our other book review roundtables, the authors of the books will be given an opportunity to respond.

1. Introduction: To War or Not to War? U.S.-Chinese Relations as the Central Question of Our Times

By Van Jackson The future of the Asia-Pacific hinges, to a great extent, on the interaction of U.S. and Chinese foreign policy. Yet articulating what either state’s foreign policy will or ought to be requires assessing a number of connected and underlying issues, including the trajectory of U.S. and Chinese power, the balance of resolve between them, and the durability of an international rules-based order. The disagreements that have surfaced about these analytical issues provide a useful way of understanding the vast disparity in the content of scholarly counsel on U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific. Enter the four contributors to our roundtable review of Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? and All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-First Century and the Future of American Power, by Graham Allison and Thomas Wright respectively. Each one teases out the relative merits of the advice these books offer to policymakers. In so doing, however, our contributors reveal just how much the big questions about U.S. foreign policy and the future of Asia hinge on debatable assumptions and historical interpretations. Each emphasizes different analytical assumptions and insights from the two books that, in turn, suggest different answers to the question of what the United States ought to do. Do the United States and China feel structural pressures that favor war, or are they deterred from war while still experiencing a high-stakes competition? Our contributors disagree. The former argument resonates with Australian National University’s Hugh White, who believes the United States is in a competition with China that it cannot win short of disastrous war, while Neville Morley — a classicist at the University of Exeter — challenges the logic of such a claim. Mira Rapp-Hooper of Yale and Rosemary Foot of Oxford suggest the United States and China share incentives to cooperate as much as they share incentives to fight, making it unlikely that structural pressures will determine Asia’s future. The contributors also raise questions about the uses of history to illuminate the present moment. Morley takes issue with Allison’s use of historical analogy between today and Thucydides’ time, in part because of how the world has changed, but also because of the analytical distortions that arise from admitting evidence from the highly contested historiography of the Peloponnesian War generally. Foot, Morley, and Rapp-Hooper all find fault in Allison’s interpretation of specific historical cases occurring between the Peloponnesian War and today. Foot in particular comments on the multi-causal narrative that Thucydides himself presents, an implicit criticism of modern scholars and policymakers quick to reduce his monumental History of the Peloponnesian War to a sparse structural model. And yet White dissents, believing the present moment ought to be simplified from the complexity of modern life to a historical essence—the balance of resolve between the United States and China. Finally, on the question of lessons for U.S. policy, the contributors render different assessments. While the power transition thesis convinces White that the only way for the United States to avoid a conflict is to cede ground to a rising China, Rapp-Hooper views Wright’s “responsible competition” approach as the necessary path forward. If anything, Rapp-Hooper sees the competitive approach Wright recommends as insufficient to preserve U.S. centrality amid China’s growing sphere of influence in Asia. She makes the same observation as Foot: that “responsible competition” differs little from President Barack Obama’s policy of “rebalancing” to Asia. Morley, meanwhile, cautions that a belief in structurally induced conflict could lead to prescriptions for “military expansion and more aggressive responses to perceived challenges” rather than accommodation. Indeed, the entire realist theoretical tradition has been built on such expectations. The question hovering over both Destined for War and All Measures Short of War is how to view and respond to the present moment in world politics. This roundtable review suggests neither book has the answer, but both are a good place to start.

2.Two Differing Views on U.S.-China Conflict Find Common Ground in their Solutions

By Rosemary Foot Inter-state war is on our minds again, despite the decline in the incidence of such conflicts. This is hardly surprising. Sweden’s fears of Russia in the face of its belligerence in the Baltics are steadily and understandably rising; in East Asia North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons’ programs evoke spine-chilling language and threaten dystopian outcomes. Two stimulating and timely books, Graham Allison’s Destined for War  and Thomas J. Wright’s All Measures Short of War,[1] are similarly preoccupied by the prospects for major inter-state conflict. Both focus on the possibility of war, especially between China and the United States, though they align themselves at different points on the spectrum in relation to those prospects. For Allison, “a disastrous war between the United States and China in the decades ahead is not just possible, but much more likely than most of us are willing to allow.”[2] Indeed, Allison reinforces the sense of this possibility in his choice of title for the book, in his inside flap description which warns that “China and the United States are heading toward a war neither wants” and in his constant reminders that 12 of the 16 cases of power transition that are in his and the Belfer Center’s “Thucydides’s Trap Case File” (TTCF)[3] have resulted in war. The most salient frame for understanding what is going on, Allison argues, is the structural crisis that accompanies a power transition between rising and status quo powers, especially when the former is dissatisfied, and the latter in decline. Allison’s world-view encompasses much of Thucydides’ perspective on the ways of the powerful: the strong do what they can while the weak suffer what they must. Wright, on the other hand, writing about China, Russia, and parts of the Middle East (especially Iran), argues that the future challenge to the United States will not take the form of a major conflagration because all of the great powers want and intend to avoid it. Instead, they will “compete fiercely to gain an upper hand in ways short of a major war.”[4] For this, they will use a range of measures including coercive diplomacy, economic leverage, cyber tools, and perhaps even engaging in proxy wars. Wright also exhorts his readers to focus their attention at the regional level, for it is the “health of regions” that will determine the overall condition of global order. When it comes to China, Wright suggests the United States needs to view Beijing primarily as a peacetime test that pertains almost entirely to East Asia and that pits China’s preference for a spheres-of-influence system against the continuation of the U.S.-led liberal world order. At the global level of the international system, he notes areas where China is either deeply integrated or willing to cooperate. But within its own region, the country is enacting a strategy that represents a subtler contest of U.S. predominance: Beijing is working, Wright states, to avoid a war that would be “massively counterproductive” in order to achieve its primary goal of gradually shifting the balance of power in its favor.[5] Wright’s frame of reference is the emergence of a geo-political competition in global politics reminiscent of the Cold War. However, if we add to that the characteristics we associate with globalization, this becomes a global arena where Beijing and Washington — to recast Thucydides for the contemporary era — cooperate where they can and compete where they must. Thus, the two books have different visions of the current order and its proneness to war. Moreover, with respect to the U.S.-China relationship, where Allison sees America in decline and a wrenching power transition in progress, Wright sees the United States not in decline, but rather as a key actor in shaping the condition of regional order(s), the outcomes of which define and constitute the global system. Despite these different assumptions, however, the two authors come together in unexpected ways. These instances of overlap emerge most obviously when both engage in commendable attempts to find a way out of this dangerous era in world politics. Allison, in particular, has taken on a mission to educate the elites in both China and the United States about the dangers they face if they get this relationship wrong. And he seems to have caught the ear of policy makers on both sides, with top Chinese and U.S. officials referring to the concept of the Thucydides Trap, and the need to avoid its pitfalls.[6] In addition, Allison urges the need for deeper reflection on a range of strategies to deal with these challenging circumstances, which include accommodating China, working to overthrow the party/state regime, crafting a form of Cold-War style détente and redefining the relationship such that it encourages the two countries to work together to address a number of severe 21st-century global problems. Wright’s main aim is more straightforward and is designed to encourage U.S. policy makers to recognize the benefits the country has derived from playing a pivotal role in supporting the liberal international order, although this task is proving increasingly difficult in the Trump era. But he also advocates that a policy of “responsible competition” be developed in the U.S., in which the areas of competition are restrained by internal and external balancing strategies and U.S. allies play important roles. The desired outcome is to create a “global situation of strength” to incentivize competitors to cooperate on key global issues. Since either accommodating China or working for regime overthrow seem unlikely to be high on Allison’s list of preferred strategies, the remaining options appear to land him quite close to the position that Wright is advocating. There are yet other areas where the two authors come together. One is in their assessments of China’s strategy. As stated earlier, Wright notes Chinese efforts and desire to shift the balance of power in its favor.  To do this, he argues, Beijing will work to ensure it makes marginal gains that are without major consequence. Surprisingly, given Allison’s preoccupation with war as a likely outcome, he also argues that China seeks victory “not in a decisive battle but through incremental moves designed to gradually improve their position,”[7] often referencing Sun Tzu to illustrate the historical basis for this preference. In addition, both Allison and Wright acknowledge that war may come through miscalculation. On the economic front, they both tend to treat that dimension of the Sino-American relationship not as a basis for cooperation, but more as a source of tension, complaint or leverage. [quote id="1"] Both Destined for War and All Measures Short of War are rich and provocative contributions to the debate about one of the most crucial issues in global politics. However, there are some inconsistencies in the arguments and points that are underdeveloped. In Allison’s book, for example, there is a tension between his argument concerning power transition and that relating to his assessment of China’s strategic world-view, outlined briefly in my previous paragraph. The conclusion to the book unexpectedly downplays the causal role of severe structural stress as the likely trigger for a Sino-American conflict, reminding us that Thucydides’ history “provides a factual record of the choices Pericles and his fellow Athenians made of their own free will,” noting that “Different choices would have produced different results.”[8] However, the main concern with Destined for War relates to the thorny issue of case selection and interpretation. Consider the former Soviet Union, a major dissatisfied power that was overtaken in size by China, Germany, and Japan in the late 20th century, and yet, does not qualify for consideration in the Thucydides’ Trap Case File. Russia is not rising but has been in economic and demographic decline for some time. Nevertheless, Moscow remains capable of testing and undermining many of the central pillars of the post-war order, including non-use of force except in self-defense, the inviolability of territorial integrity except in extreme conditions, and the capacity of institutions built for deterrence to hold the ring. These are critical challenges that are capable of transforming the post-1945 world order. Indeed, the Russia example and others like it raise a number of issues about the cases chosen for placement in the TTCF. Such critiques of case selection and the ambiguities that arise from power measurement have been made before: Steve Chan, for example, in his valuable examination of power transition theory published in 2008, notes that the United States by the 1870s had overtaken the United Kingdom to become the world’s largest economy with the most dynamic industries, but was not recognized as a central contender prior to 1914. If it had been so recognized, then Germany’s overtaking of the U.K. would not have qualified as a central transition challenge on which to concentrate.[9] The example of World War I and Germany’s rise is also worth deeper exploration given that several prominent scholars have offered other explanations for that devastating conflict, many of which point to Germany’s fear of Russia’s rising power.[10] Allison himself at times concedes the historical complexity of the matter of causation, though the topic is not given sufficient emphasis because of his overwhelming determination to focus on the Anglo-German power transition. Another potential case is that of Japan, which posed a major economic challenge to the United States from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. Japan’s rise to become the second largest economy in the world does not feature in this first stage of Allison’s project; yet the country’s rise led Paul Kennedy to feature a cartoon on the dust jacket of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers showing a Japanese national supplanting “Uncle Sam” from the pinnacle of power.[11] More importantly, Tokyo’s rise led U.S. policy makers and commentators to rage against a Japan that allegedly had taken advantage of the liberal order, failed to offer reciprocal benefits and, in addition, had worked to subvert that order through its continued adherence to a value system antithetical to America’s own. Apparently, some 68 per cent of Americans in 1990 believed Tokyo’s economic threat to be greater than that of the military threat from the former Soviet Union.[12] According to Wright, Bill Clinton’s main challenger in the democratic presidential primaries, Paul Tsongas, used as his slogan “the Cold War is over and Japan won.”[13] Neo-realist international relations scholars fully expected Tokyo quickly to acquire the full spectrum of great power capabilities, raising — for the neo-realists at least — the distinct possibility of a future war between the United States and its formal ally. That conflict between Japan and the United States did not come to pass, of course. Factors aiding the move towards stability and peace included the Clinton administration’s decision in 1995 to undertake a detailed review of its East Asian strategy as well as the Japanese government’s decision the same year to conduct its first comprehensive defense review in 20 years. The two governments thus confronted the broader implications of their seriously strained relationship and, in 1997, adopted revised guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation. This case, among others, raises the central importance of issues other than structural stress during transitions in power as potential triggers for war, such as state agency, strategic choice, and historical context. There is also the matter of Thucydides’ own interpretation of the causes of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides actually offers a multi-causal explanation of that war, including the pressure of allies, Pericles’ refusal to give way over Megara, and a range of grievances. Nevertheless, the Athenian general insists that the dominant reason for Sparta’s decision to go war against Athens was the fear that growing Athenian power inspired, despite there being no direct evidence offered for that Spartan perception, or a weighing of this conclusion against other plausible explanations. Allison promises to consider a number of additional cases in the next stage of the power transition project. However, the problem is that his elaboration of the Thucydidian foundation, based on an “unacknowledged” cause, as Thucydides puts it, together with the “12 out of 16 cases” refrain, have both been promoted with such vigor that this interpretation may have begun to take on the status of an iron law. Perhaps it should be viewed instead as something that is as malleable as copper. Although Wright’s thesis is more compelling, he too could have dug a little deeper into various components of his argument. His statement that the United States is not in decline is nowhere seriously investigated, but his argument about U.S. promotion of “healthy regions” requires the dependability and application of a wide range of U.S. power resources — both material and social. He also argues that, until recently, there was a “great convergence” toward the liberal international order. This is typical of the assumptions made in the early post-Cold War era and reflects the fact that too many of us in the West have relied heavily on those writings that come predominantly from within our own geographic regions. Those writing outside of the liberal West have long been offering competing conceptions of justice in a post-colonial world, especially once the redistribution of power and globalization of technology had generated greater opportunities to express a range of interests and values. Finally, Wright’s definition of “responsible competition” sounds remarkably similar to the Obama administration’s “rebalance to Asia” strategy. That Obama strategy combined elements of balancing, the development of networked relationships with allies and friendly states in the Indo-Pacific, frequent summitry, and the search for areas of cooperation with Beijing. However, it was viewed in China as threatening — a form of encirclement and containment. Wright could profitably explain why his version of this strategy might have a more positive outcome. Both books also would benefit from a deeper exploration of the Sino-American economic relationship. Certainly, both governments may seek to use some dimensions of that economic relationship for the purposes of competition and leverage, but the relationship is also vital to Beijing and Washington in ways that constrain that leverage. The U.S.-China Business Council estimates that U.S. exports to China will rise from $165 billion in goods and services in 2015 to about $525 billion in 2030 — a faster rate of growth in exports than available elsewhere in the world. In 2016, some 29 states in the United States exported goods worth more than $1 billion to China and 12 states exported services worth more than $1 billion.[14] On the other side of the economic ledger, economic performance remains vital as a form of political legitimacy for a Chinese government determined to break out of the “middle-income” trap. This makes the country reluctant to disturb relations with its major trading market and growing investment partner. Chinese cumulative investment in America has gone from virtually nothing in 2000 to over $100 billion in 2016.[15] Moreover, there is a steady move in academic circles and countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to explore the consequences of China’s central involvement in global supply chains, often as final assembler of inputs that originate elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific. China’s envelopment in networked trade imposes political constraints, and should also change our estimates of the true size of the U.S. trade deficit with China, cutting it in half if we take into account the foreign components of the products China sells in America. Those working on the globalization of production describe economic interdependence as qualitatively different from past forms of such interdependence, implying that references to Norman Angell’s The Great Illusion should be laid to rest. As John Ravenhill has argued, the implications of this networked production for the outbreak of conflict are potentially profound. Not only would there be damage to or loss of access to export markets, but also loss of access to inputs, to distribution and marketing channels, as well as to brand names, all of which critically affect levels of international economic competitiveness.[16] Robert Jervis wrote in 2011 that optimism is “generally derided in the cynical academic community,”[17] and there is little to be optimistic about these days. However, we could conduct a thought experiment and begin our consideration of the contemporary Sino-American relationship from the basis of the elements that help with the management of these great power relations and that may even result in something between cooperation and a cold peace. We could start with the question, what is it that engenders cooperation despite geopolitical competition? This approach could form a useful alternative to an assumption of the deep-rootedness of conflict and the movement toward war. We may end up in a similar place; but by approaching the relationship from these perspectives we may better understand the decision-making dilemmas of policymakers who have to operate within a complex and hybrid world order.

3. History Can’t Always Help to Make Sense of the Future

By Neville Morley What does history, let alone the history of classical antiquity, have to offer the study of contemporary global politics? It’s common practice in this context to invoke George Santayana, who wrote: “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” (Graham Allison paraphrases this in Destined for War as “only those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it”).[18] The conventional understanding of Santayana’s claim departs a fair distance from his original discussion in The Life of Reason, where he focuses on humans learning from their own experiences as the basis of progress, an idea he subsequently applies by extension to the “life-cycle” of nations and religions.[19] Santayana then offers a Nietzschean counterpoint about the necessity of forgetting and the dangers of a vain repetition of the past, because “in a moving world, readaptation is the price of longevity.” In brief, this maxim is not about history in any scholarly or literary sense, and, insofar as we might want to read it in those terms anyway, it offers a warning against assuming that the past can tell us all we need to know to make sense of the present. Obviously, the idea of learning from history or applying it to present-day problems can’t be dismissed simply on the basis of the deficiencies of its favorite slogan. It isn’t only historians, desperate to defend their corner against the encroachments of other disciplines and the demands of governments that justify their existence, who make such claims about the usefulness and relevance of knowledge about the past. Our sense of ourselves, as individuals, social groups, or nations, is grounded in stories we tell or are told about where we have come from; and the attempt to learn from experience and precedent, to pose counterfactuals like “if we had done this, then x would have happened” or “unless we do this, y will occur,” is an established pattern of human thought. Indeed, academic historians are as likely to find themselves criticizing the way that others are using the past, objecting to excessive simplification and insisting that “it’s actually more complicated than that,” as they are to be promoting themselves as purveyors of “lessons from the past” or “applied history.”[20] The most straightforward role for historical knowledge is broadening our understanding of the present by exploring how it came to be: the origins of institutions, the background to relations between states, the roots of ruling ideas and assumptions, and so forth. Thomas Wright’s All Measures Short of War offers a clear example of this, establishing his view of the current state of the world through a survey of key global developments over the past few decades, especially in relation to his core theme of the end of convergence and the changing nature of geopolitical competition. Of course, like any account of the past, this is a version rather than the version, emphasizing some events rather than others and offering his interpretation of the connections between them; criticism of his argument from those with deeper specialist knowledge than I possess will certainly include, if not focus upon, alternative accounts of this period of history, and therefore draw different conclusions about the present. The timeframe of Wright’s analysis is, uncontroversially, restricted to the recent past. He makes passing reference to the wider context of modernity, the period of technological, economic, and societal change that has made such global convergence and interdependence possible, but his focus is primarily on the events of a few decades — long enough to detect significant medium-term changes rather than getting caught up in the flood of individual events, short enough so that these changes don’t disappear from view. He offers a few broader historical generalizations — “History suggests that instability is at its greatest in the early phases of a new paradigm,” “what was it about an age of convergences that distinguished it from all other eras in modern history?” or “historical order is created by powerful states — it never emerges organically or by accident” — but these are presented as starting points for detailed discussion of the present situation rather than as the foundations of substantive claims or normative laws. The function of such phrases is primarily rhetorical, to present certain observed tendencies in the present as predictable and others as unusual or unprecedented, and above all to emphasize the complexity of the world and the openness of the future: we can’t reduce everything to single relationships or simple invariable principles. We need to look at the situation in sufficient depth and detail to discern what is actually going on. One welcome consequence of this focus on recent history is the absence of essentializing claims about “the Chinese world view” or “the nature of the Chinese state,” based on a schematic and patchy overview of several thousand years of history.[21] It wouldn’t occur to anyone working on such a topic to generalize about “American attitudes” as something unchanging since the 18th century — indeed, it seems likely that Wright’s emphasis on continuity of policy across the 42nd, 43rd, and 44th presidencies will strike some as excessively simplified, ignoring significant differences for the sake of generalization — let alone to interpret U.S. foreign policy in terms of values and concepts extracted from ancient Greek philosophy. The idea that the decisions of the Chinese regime can be usefully anticipated through a broad-brush summary of Confucianism is surprisingly prevalent and it’s nice not to have to wade through another version. Allison’s Destined for War makes far stronger claims for the continuing relevance of the past as a guide to the future, and moreover a different kind of claim: not only that the prior history of a state or a situation can illuminate its present, but also that entirely unconnected events in the more distant past can illuminate our present. In terms of its content, this approach is familiar to mainstream social science: a normative principle is elaborated in the present and, if framed in sufficiently general and transhistorical terms (for example, general realist principles of International Relations, rather than a context-specific idea like nuclear deterrence), it can be applied to past societies as well. This is sometimes done as an aid to historical interpretation — historians argue extensively about whether or not modern social scientific theories and concepts can usefully be applied to pre-modern and non-western societies — sometimes as a form of disciplinary imperialism (as the essayist Thomas de Quincey once proudly declared, offering his reading of an obscure passage of the ancient philosopher Theophrastus, “it was not Greek, it was political economy, that could put it to rights!”), and sometimes as a source of confirmatory evidence for the theory.[22] The crucial issue is always how far one emphasizes continuity — the existence of a universal human nature or of the eternal validity of certain principles of economic behavior, that provides grounds for viewing different historical contexts as sufficiently comparable — and privileges this over change and the undeniable differences between historical societies. Yet Allison’s presentation of his revised version of power transition theory is rather different from the norm; the central idea of Destined for War is presented as arising from the study of the past rather than being applied retrospectively to it. Indeed, he goes further: the central idea is one that was first developed nearly two and a half thousand years ago, and is now seen to have been fully endorsed by subsequent events. Not only does Allison name his idea “Thucydides’s Trap,” he persistently invokes the fifth-century BCE Greek author by quoting him at the head of every chapter, creating the impression that Thucydides had foreseen everything and had already formulated insights that go to the heart of our present situation. There is a long tradition of readers feeling that they recognize their own times in Thucydides’ account of the war between the Athenians and the Spartans: his depiction of civil war in Corcyra has spoken to the experiences of warring Italian city states, the wars of religion in Germany, and the French Revolution, for example, while the Melian Dialogue is evoked in every confrontation between a greater and a lesser power, most recently in Ukraine, the Greek economic crisis, and Brexit negotiations.[23] The idea that Thucydides was a pioneering political theorist rather than a “historian” is also not new; for nearly a century, especially in the developing field of international relations, he has been read as someone whose primary aim was to identify normative laws of inter-state relations or political systems — “ever since the days of Thucydides…” has become a cliché of Realist analysis.[24] This is despite the fact there is no statement or elaboration of any such laws in his account beyond a few pithy aphorisms — most of them spoken by Thucydides’ characters, and therefore not to be taken at face value or assumed to reflect his own views. The modern view of Thucydides, inside and outside academia, is to a great extent based on the circulation of such maxims as “the strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must,” many of them based on questionable translations of the original Greek, and a fair number of them spurious (such as the line about “peace is only an armistice in an endless war” featured in the recent Wonder Woman film). [quote id="2"] Thucydides was not a modern social scientist — but he was not a modern historian either, despite the claims of 19th century readers that he had pioneered “History as science.”[25] In important respects, he was sui generis even in relation to his own times. One way in which his work is more consonant with social science than with conventional historiography is that, however one translates the convoluted syntax of 1.22.3, he clearly did intend his account of past events to be useful, to provide knowledge or understanding that extends beyond the facts as an end in themselves.[26] Thucydides believed in the existence of recurrent patterns in human events, and so he believed a detailed, accurate account of past events would allow his readers to recognize and understand such patterns. What patterns did he intend us to recognize? For Allison, Thucydides’ work is primarily concerned with the reasons why the Athenians and Spartans went to war (the fact that most of the work is concerned with the subsequent course of that war suggests that it’s about a great deal more, but certainly the cause is one of the many things Thucydides was interested in) and with identifying the true rather than merely proximate cause, the structural stress when a rising power confronts a ruling power: “What made war inevitable was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta.” Again, there are issues of translation and interpretation here.[27] Thucydides certainly distinguishes different sorts of causes, but there is ongoing debate about whether the ambiguous Greek terms he used were meant to contrast: true causes and pretexts; immediate and long-term causes; visible and less visible causes; or some combination thereof. His subsequent narrative makes it clear that it is the interaction of different factors, the structural pressures, the alleged characters of different Greek states, the personalities and decisions of key individuals, and chance events, that leads to war. Thucydides does not label this development “inevitable,” but rather “compelled” or ‘forced,” and his account constantly encourages the reader to consider how things could have turned out differently — a reading which actually suits Allison’s overall thesis better than a crude notion of deterministic structural factors making war inevitable. So, Thucydides does offer us something like the “Thucydides Trap” model, prefiguring power transition theory (as has long been claimed by scholars like Robert Gilpin).[28] This observation could have served Allison as an inspiration or theoretical grounding for a discussion of the current state of U.S.-China relations, and indeed he devotes substantial parts of Destined for War to doing precisely that — but he also seeks to argue that this is no mere theory or speculative idea, but an objective characteristic of human affairs, whose truth is established by multiple historical instances. This is potentially a stronger argument, at least for an audience who might be skeptical of “mere” theory: “history tells us” that our situation is more perilous than we realize. But it rests on a number of problematic assumptions. Allison must establish not only that Thucydides identified the underlying cause of the Peloponnesian War, but that his analysis was correct. The fact that Donald Kagan disagrees is certainly not — contra Arthur Waldron’s particularly intemperate review of Destined for War — evidence that there is no such thing as the Thucydides Trap, but it ought to raise questions about the infallibility of Thucydides’ account.[29] Thucydides offers a version of events that makes his understanding of them plausible, but it does leave certain things out and underemphasizes others.[30] The problem with the Peloponnesian War is that we have Thucydides’ account and not a lot else; fragmentary evidence that raises questions about some of what he says, and possible suspicions about his motives. As we move into later historical periods, we have vastly more evidence to draw upon, and multiple interpretations of events. This is clearly a problem for Allison’s argument as he seeks to establish the existence of a series of situations analogous to fifth-century Greece where the Thucydides Trap theory can be tested. Of course there have been multiple situations in human history which can be represented in terms of a rising power confronting a ruling power, and that is how they are represented here — but this is not the same as saying that they were like that, and they could always be represented differently. Some of these case studies seem less plausible than others, even at this high level of generality; World War I presented as the outcome of Anglo-German rivalry, with the interests and actions of the other great European powers either ignored or reduced to facets of that confrontation, or worse, the idea of the United Kingdom and France as a unitary ruling power confronting Germany in the 1990s. But even if one focuses on the instances that are more obviously bipolar, this is still a case of reading past events through the theory and representing them in those terms, then claiming that they demonstrate the theory’s validity. A similar criticism can be applied to the third stage of Allison’s argument, the claim that we are in a Thucydides Trap situation and therefore the same dynamics are more likely than not to apply. Of course the current global situation can be represented in these terms, seeing everything as secondary to the confrontation of the U.S. and China — but it can also be represented in other terms, as in Wright’s insistence on the continuing importance of different regions and multiple interdependent relationships. One might argue that Allison’s view of world politics is quite an old-fashioned one, focused on the individual decisions and actions of great powers, constrained only by their own resources and the dynamics of the relationship between them. Indeed, this is the point of the model, to reject the idea that today’s world is essentially different from the past; despite globalization and economic interdependence, despite nuclear weapons, despite cultural and intellectual changes, we remain as vulnerable as ever to falling back into war — perhaps more so, as “we” (the comfortable West, at least) have come to take a certain sort of peace for granted, just as Stefan Zweig described his own generation at the beginning of the twentieth century.[31] Allison’s claim that war may be more likely than we imagine is not in itself problematic; as Wright argues in more detail, complacent Western assumptions about interdependence being a one-way street and a source of ever-decreasing tensions are certainly questionable today. Wright does offer a more nuanced prediction that the new nationalist competition could take different forms, with actual war the most extreme possibility, where Allison offers a stark choice between war and peace — in part, one might suppose, because that is what makes sense in most historical contexts, as economic competition and cyberwarfare are essentially modern phenomena. One might also wonder about the different consequences if their warnings are taken seriously; “prepare for war” has different implications from “prepare for increased competition,” and there must be a risk that the former starts to drive military expansion and more aggressive responses to perceived challenges rather than renewed efforts to prevent conflict and escalation. What is striking about Destined for War is not Allison’s interpretation of the present situation, but the fact that he devotes so much space to alleged historical analogies — even though this opens him up to innumerable objections from historians, disputing his accounts of their periods, and to analysts of contemporary global politics, arguing that so much has changed in the last hundred years, let alone the last two and a half thousand, that past case studies have nothing useful to offer the present. Ultimately, the turn to Thucydides seems to be primarily a rhetorical move, drawing power from the claims that “history shows…” and “Thucydides says…”; the assumption that the accumulation of past experience points the way forward, and that the Man Who Knows — the powerful image of Thucydides as the illusionless, all-seeing observer and analyst of human folly, for example in Auden’s poem 1 September 1939 — has endorsed this reading of the present.
Exiled Thucydides knew All that a speech can say About Democracy, And what dictators do, The elderly rubbish they talk To an apathetic grave; Analysed all in his book, The enlightenment driven away, The habit-forming pain, Mismanagement and grief: We must suffer them all again.[32]
Would that history, much less U.S.-China relations, were so simple.

4. A Long-Term Asia Strategy is Long Overdue

By Mira Rapp-Hooper International relations scholars scarcely need a reintroduction to Thucydides’ cautionary tale of Athens and Sparta, or — given all the publicity it has received recently —  to Destined for War, Graham Allison’s swift account of the potential for conflict in the U.S.-China relationship. Thomas Wright’s All Measures Short of War is just as thoughtful, and diagnoses the nature of great power competition in the 21st century, offering a new framework for engaging in it. According to Allison, the Thucydides Trap is “the severe structural stress caused when a rising power threatens to upend a ruling one.” He argues that under these conditions, unexpected and ordinary events alike can trigger major conflict.[33] There is a whiff of a strawman in Allison’s initial framing: he argues at once that the risk of war between the United States and China is underappreciated, and that officials in Washington oversimplify these dangers when they declare that war is “not inevitable.”[34] Policymakers do not simply reject the inexorability of conflict out of hand, of course, but have devoted substantial energy to reducing its risk through diplomatic, economic, and defense agreements. Few would quibble with the premise that a major power shift makes conflict more likely: when a great power rises in economic and military terms, it becomes able to assert its interests in new ways as it closes the gap between itself and the dominant state. The dominant state has been the one to set the rules of the international system; the rising state can now contest them, and as the power gap continues to close, each is beset with uncertainties about where and how the other intends to advance its aims. It is primarily a structural problem, fueled by major material changes, but one that usually requires misperception, inadvertence, or accident to become a war. After all, a rising power need not resort to conflict today if it will be stronger tomorrow; for the dominant state, the rationale for war may indeed exist (it is better to fight now while stronger), but the cure may also prove worse than the disease. While preventive motivations certainly factor in numerous great power wars, it is hard to point to cases where a declining power attacks a rising one with exclusively preventive designs, and rarely does a ruling state permanently derail the rise of a competitor. U.S leaders certainly do not think this possible or desirable in the case of present-day China. If the reader is familiar with this structural argument, s/he is therefore somewhat surprised to arrive at Allison’s explanation of the proximate triggers of conflict in the U.S.-China relationship — that is, the exacerbating factors that will spark the powder keg. In an unexpected deviation from most power transition accounts, Allison turns to a Huntington-like sub-thesis, arguing that Washington and Beijing may come to blows through a civilizational clash. Independent of the Thucydides Trap, Allison argues that profound cultural differences make the bilateral relationship harder to manage. There is no rule that dictates that a proximate cause of war must have the same paradigmatic origins as the structural one (cultural and material variables can happily coexist in the same thesis), but Allison does not invoke cultural variables in any of his other case studies. In the U.S.-China case, however, Allison presents a chart comparing each country’s cultural characteristics along nine dimensions, reducing each to a single word or phrase.[35] If these cultural distillations are catalysts for conflict, similar charts should appear alongside other historical examples, helping to explain both war and non-war outcomes. Allison devotes substantial energy to analyzing Xi Jinping’s “China Dream,” calling it a “civilizational creed” that aims to place China at the center of the universe, while ejecting the United States from Asia. For Allison, China’s recent foreign policy muscularity appears to be driven largely by these cultural grievances; Wright sees these more as instrumental parts of China’s effort to carve itself a sphere of influence in Asia. At times, Allison compares Xi’s “China Dream” to Trump’s “America First” catchphrase — a juxtaposition that only occasions the reader to wonder why either should be a proximate cause of war at all.[36] The analogy reminds us that both are empty political vessels into which either leader can pour his current agenda. While not nearly as mercurial as — and far more politically secure than — Trump, Xi’s articulation of the China Dream is not immutable, and it provides neither a fulsome accounting of nor indelible blueprint for China’s rise. Thucydides sympathizers are left wishing that Allison had used these pages to explore where U.S. and Chinese interests may be incompatible, as Wright’s treatment does nicely.[37]  Allison’s case studies of previous power transitions are free of civilizational arguments; cultural reductions are not terribly compelling catalysts for global conflagration. Allison’s final chapters refresh. He rejects the standard structure of the Washington-facing policy tome, declining to present a ready-packaged new strategy to govern U.S.-China relations. Instead, he draws upon his case study work to derive 12 lessons that may help the bilateral relationship.[38] In “Twelve Clues for Peace,” Allison tops his structural and cultural argument with dollops of institutionalism, as he notes the merits of mediation and the value of international organizations in mitigating friction. As Wright argues, however, Chinese leaders have tended to prefer bilateral diplomacy and deal-making to maximize their relative advantage, which may in turn mean that they are less inclined to leave their vital interests to institutions, but that does not obviate the assertion that multilateralism has proved useful in past power shifts.[39] Allison also acknowledges the important critique that the nuclear age has transformed major powers’ incentives for war, potentially making power transitions less dangerous (if higher-stake). Rather than presenting us with a roadmap for the bilateral relationship, Allison calls for a years-long strategic review — a proposition that may be politically and bureaucratically fraught in practice, particularly in an administration whose foreign policy in general and China policy in particular have been matters of intense controversy.[40] Allison’s call for a review hardly guarantees that U.S. policymakers will get the bilateral relationship “right,” but it does acknowledge the enormity of the task at hand. Allison lays out four broad lenses U.S. policymakers may adopt for the U.S.-China relationship: accommodation, undermining, a negotiated peace, or a relationship redefinition.[41] Each approach has elements that are hyper-stylized and politically difficult, but the exercise is nonetheless useful. It leads Allison to observe that America’s post-Cold War China strategy to “engage and hedge” admits everything and proscribes nothing (and that in so doing, the United States has avoided defining its strategic interests in Asia). Allison’s survey also leads him to note that American strategy has always assumed that China will grow friendlier and more democratic as it rises. It is with this very premise that Thomas Wright begins. All Measures Short of War commences with an idea gone awry. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers believed in “convergence”: as countries embraced globalization, they would become more responsible members of the international order and would liberalize domestically with time. Major powers would stop treating one another as rivals and the post-World War II order would become so universal as to survive the decline of the United States itself.[42] The convergence logic was fatally flawed, according to Wright: Some states have not perceived the U.S.-led order as benign and Russia and China in particular believe it has deprived them of the ability to craft spheres of influence. In Wright’s assessment, convergence has failed, and major powers will now compete with one another to transform world order and carve spheres of influence while avoiding serious conflict.[43] [quote id="3"] Wright seeks to diagnose the problems short of war that beset the liberal international order in three critical regions: Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Following his audit of regional events and U.S. responses, he concludes that the question facing American policymakers is whether the United States wants to remain a liberal superpower. Wright’s answer is unequivocal: a U.S.-led liberal order is more conducive to American and global interests than any other organizing principle could be.[44] He advances an approach called Responsible Competition, which he describes as a liberal internationalism for a more competitive world. In this framework, the United States would seek to prevent rivals from impinging on its vital interests, while continuing to advance its own geopolitical aims.[45] As Allison notes, however, U.S. policymakers have generally avoided defining America’s vital regional interests, and this is a necessary precursor to Responsible Competition. One need not self-identify as a liberal internationalist to judge Wright’s counsel wise. Wright’s application of Responsible Competition to Asia is uncontroversial. He argues that the United States should not allow China to carve out a regional sphere of influence, for example, by taking control of the East or South China Sea. Wright correctly observes that China requires war avoidance to achieve its goals, and that the United States has room to push back on Beijing without triggering conflict.[46] Many strategists and Asia-watchers have shared this belief for some time, although Allison might disagree, worrying that any pushback could precipitate conflict. Wright’s diagnosis is perfectly sensible, but Responsible Competition is a bit short on novelty. Wright’s counsel to U.S. policymakers is that they use alliances and arms sales to counterbalance China while reinvesting in the American-backed regional order, such as a successor trade pact to the Trans Pacific Partnership.[47] Former Obama Administration officials will find little to disagree with on this menu. Yet precisely because the failure of convergence and threat of spheres of influence are such enormous strategic challenges, one worries that a more concerted application of familiar tools cannot steady the rapidly shifting order in Asia. The task will be positively foreboding four years hence. Wright’s account is thoughtful and knits together some of the most important ideas of the day: the return of major power competition, the startling halt in liberalism’s teleology, the risks that revisionism short of large-scale conflict may pose to international order. There is, however, a nagging tension in his conclusions.  Wright asserts that the United States must remain a liberal superpower that upholds the international order with minimal dependence on illiberal actors like Russia and China — the costs of failure are simply too great. At the same time, he acknowledges that the United States can and must cooperate with China on global issues like climate change and nonproliferation, a contention with which few would disagree.[48] After all, the United States has cooperated with China in global institutions for decades, even as it has become a competitor in Asia. Yet to sanction global cooperation alongside regional competition is to admit that America’s autocratic competitors are already very much inside the international order. Wright never defines “liberal international order,” and his argument is primarily concerned with regional order, but liberal international principles will necessarily be challenged when the autocratic competitors in question are not really outsiders at all. Illiberal states like Russia and China will retain their leadership roles in global institutions, and while these may still be based on liberal principles, the institutions will not transform them. China’s managed, nonmarket economy, for example, will continue to pose challenges to the international trade regimes to which it is a party. Doubling down on liberalism won’t solve this problem. There is value in reading Allison and Wright’s accounts as juxtaposed companions. Allison tends to overstate China’s material triumph, measuring its economy in terms of GDP, for example, and declaring it will surpass the United States by 2023. In so doing, he underweights its demographic, economic, and social burdens, and may overpredict a global power transition, when in fact this is a major power shift short of full eclipse. Wright, for his part, is sunnier on the question of whether the United States can maintain its position in Asia, pointing to the fact that American primacy can be challenged without being surpassed. According to Wright, innovation, education, and soft power serve as ballasts to American influence. Allison’s quasi-structural (but paradigmatically eclectic) account bears realism’s pessimistic watermark; Wright betrays a certain optimism as he seeks to repurpose liberalism for a contested world. When it comes to an epochal strategic change like China’s rise, one can afford to be sobered and stiffened in equal measure. The question of whether the United States and China are headed for a full power transition is a profoundly important one, and has direct implications for U.S. strategy and the management of the bilateral relationship. China’s rapid ascent decidedly poses structural challenges to U.S. primacy in Asia, yet Beijing will not replace Washington as a global hegemon any time soon. The essence of the problem may therefore lie somewhere in between Allison and Wright’s distillations: how does the United States manage its role in Asia as it comes under increasing stress, knowing that it will remain globally preponderant for several decades? These are the conditions that policymakers must accept as they craft long-term strategy. To be sure, there is a risk that miscalculation could lead to conflict over the East China Sea, South China Sea, Taiwan, or the Korean Peninsula, but cultural differences seem unlikely to bring these two great powers to blows. The risk of full-blown conflict is genuine, but both understand how truly grave an outcome this would be, and nuclear weapons only induce greater caution: sub-conventional competition seems the far more likely outcome, at least for the time being. Moreover, Wright touches on, but neither author adequately explores, the fact that there are plenty of issues where these structural changes do not bring these two countries’ interests into diametric opposition. China’s desire to build new regional economic and development institutions does not directly threaten the United States, and in some areas, may complement its objectives, so long as the projects are transparent and well-governed. And even on central regional security flashpoints, the contours of U.S.-China competition are not wholly immutable: Ironically, as North Korea completes its sprint for a mature and deliverable nuclear weapons capability, they increasingly share incentives to work to restrain it, even if their interests do not converge perfectly. If the problem is narrow and lofty — who will rule Asia? — the answer is singularly fractious. If some issues are amenable to a different query — where is managed, peaceful change possible and desirable, and where do national interests prevent it? — the result is less dire. The greatest payoff to reading Allison and Wright as a pair may be the realization that two accomplished strategists with distinct worldviews have, in the end, converged on the same question: In a world of contested American primacy, where potential U.S. adversaries are sphere-of-influence-seeking autocracies, how do we structure and organize international politics? Allison and Wright are skilled diagnosticians and provide us with early guidance. They also exhort us to get to work.

5. To Deter China, U.S. Policy-Makers Need to Show that America is Willing to Go to War

By Hugh White The debate about China in and around Washington seems to be shifting. For a long time, American policy towards China has been based on the judgment that China’s rise would not require any major shifts in U.S. aims and posture in Asia.[49] The assumption appears to have been that, despite occasional nationalist stirrings, China had neither the power nor the motive to undermine an order which has been so good for China for so long. President Obama’s so-called “pivot” to Asia assumed that America could deter any Chinese bid for primacy in Asia  simply by affirming that America was determined to maintain primacy itself. The pivot was supposed to send that message with a series of low cost, low risk gestures that were expected to convince Beijing of Washington’s resolve, as well as increase China’s stake in the status quo by offering deeper bilateral and multilateral engagement and closer economic connections. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Beijing has gone its own way economically and diplomatically, and responded with a series of provocative actions which have turned the tables and tested Washington’s resolve instead. America’s weak responses have done nothing effective to stop China’s provocations. This has weakened America’s regional leadership credentials, and strengthened China’s. Thus, it has become clear that China’s challenge is much more formidable than was assumed, and that consequently an effective response will entail much greater costs and risks than most in Washington had envisaged. The questions now are what are those costs, whether or not they are justified and sustainable, and what happens if they are not? Graham Allison and Thomas Wright[50] both make important contributions, in rather different ways, to answering these questions. There is a great deal to admire in both books, and much to learn from them. Both recognize that America faces a serious challenge from China and that that means U.S. grand strategy in Asia needs to be rethought. And both understand that the risk of war with China must take a central place in assessing how best to respond. The way Thomas Wright confronts his question shows he is basically an optimist. Insofar as his book relates to Asia, Wright’s core point is that America can preserve U.S. leadership in Asia without running a serious risk of conflict. That is not because he doesn’t take China’s challenge seriously. He understands that China is serious about building a “new model of great power relations” and he recognizes that it can apply formidable power to achieving that objective. But he is optimistic that this can be managed without serious risk of war because neither America nor China want to go to war. On the contrary, both sides understand that it would be disastrously counterproductive. Hence the title of his book, All Measures Short of War. It is true that neither America nor China wants a war, but does that mean a war cannot happen? History suggests not. Wars often occur when neither side wants to fight. That’s not because they happen “by accident” — wars are always and necessarily the result of deliberate choices to fight on each side. It is because countries — or their leaders — often choose to go to war even when they don’t want to, when going to war, bad as it is, looks better than the alternative. That means the risk of war depends less on whether countries want to fight than on the chances that leaders find themselves facing this kind of choice. This is what many believe happened in the last week of July 1914.[51] None of the key players really wanted war, but each hoped they could get what they wanted without one because they expected their rivals to back off. By the time they realized the truth, their national credibility was so invested that backing down would destroy their country’s international standing, and each decided that they would go to war rather than accept that. There are uncomfortable parallels here with America and China today. Neither side wants war, but each is inclined to believe that the other side wants it even less. That leads each to believe they can achieve their objectives without risking a conflict. Every American policy-maker who assumes China will always back off has a counterpart in Beijing who believes the same of America. And such Chinese beliefs will have been reinforced by many recent features of U.S. policy and politics, both at home and abroad. The scope for mutual misperception and disastrous error on both sides, July 1914-style, is thus rather high. This leads to an important conclusion for U.S. policy-makers. If they are serious about resisting China’s challenge in Asia and preserving U.S. leadership, they will need to do a lot more to convince Beijing that America is willing to go to war to do so. The more clearly it can convince China of that, the more likely China is to be deterred from any serious challenge, and the less likely the United States will actually have to go to war to defend its role in Asia. Moreover — and this is a particularly dark thought — America must convince China that it is willing to fight a war that crosses the nuclear threshold. That is because America can no longer be confident of swift and clear victory in a localized conventional conflict with China, so any conflict is likely to escalate as, once conflict had begun, both sides would face strong pressures not to accept a stalemate which looked like a defeat. No sane leader would risk escalating a conflict with a nuclear adversary without contemplating the possibility of crossing the nuclear threshold. If the Chinese do not believe America is willing to do that, it will be that much less likely to believe that America is willing to fight at all. The situation America faces in Asia today is therefore not so different from the one it faced in the Cold War. America sustained its position on the key fronts of the Cold War in Europe and Asia against immense Soviet pressure because it convinced the Soviets, and its own allies, that it was willing to fight a nuclear war, and accept devastating nuclear strikes on the United States itself, to prevent even slight Soviet gains. It did that not just by building and deploying massive nuclear forces, but by making very clear that it had the resolve to use them. That resolve was made clear to the Soviets and to U.S. allies by generations of U.S. political leaders, who believed America’s security and, indeed, its survival as a free society, depended on preventing the Soviets from taking over key power centers in Europe and Asia. Today we may speculate about whether that was really true, but we can hardly doubt that Americans at the time believed it to be true, and that the Soviets knew this and were deterred. [quote id="4"] It seems to me that America would have to do the same kind of thing today to deter China from challenging the current U.S.-led order in Asia. Indeed, Wright himself seems to acknowledge this in an exceptionally clear passage where he sets out the “problem of revisionism” and concludes that America, facing a revisionist China, will face a series of choices between risking conflict with a nuclear power or accommodating them and undermining the order it seeks to preserve.[52] Later, when he cautions against setting red lines to check Chinese revisionism, he makes clear what choice he thinks America would make, and that threatening war to deter China would be “disproportionate, unwise and not credible.”’[53] How then is China to be deterred, and its challenge to the U.S.-led order resisted, if not by just this kind of threat? And how can such threats be made credible? Is America willing and able to do what is necessary to convince China of its resolve in Asia? It is tempting to think that this can be done on the cheap, by bluffing. But that is not a sustainable long-term posture, because it is too easy for China to detect the bluff by testing American resolve — indeed that is what it is doing in the South China Sea right now. In the long run, China will only be deterred if America is genuinely willing to fight a nuclear war to preserve the status quo in Asia. There is no consensus on this in America today. Indeed, the question has scarcely been discussed in these terms, even by the experts. Beginning this discussion is the essential starting point for deciding how to respond to China’s challenge. The outcome of such a debate is not to be taken for granted, but the fact that it has been evaded for so long suggests what the answer will be. It seems to me very unlikely that Americans will decide they are willing to shoulder again the appalling risks of nuclear rivalry unless they can convince themselves, as they did in the Cold War, that doing so is vital to their own security at home. If it is not — if, as Wright suggests, America’s stake in Asia today relates to its vision of global order rather than its own security[54] — then it seems unlikely that it would be willing to fight a nuclear war to sustain the status quo, and thus America’s chances of deterring China’s challenge in Asia are low. Here then is the real difference between today’s predicament and the Cold War. It is not, as Wright argues, that the costs of upholding the status quo are lower[55] but that the imperative to do so is lower. That is because China today, for all its strength, does not pose the kind of threat to America’s own security that the Soviets did in their heyday.  This is not just a question of whether China’s ambitions spread so far. It is also a question of power. Unlike the Soviets, or the Axis of World War II before them, China has no chance of imposing the kind of outright domination over Eurasia, which American strategists have traditionally and correctly identified as necessary to pose that kind of threat. That is because, unlike them, it faces such formidable powers as Russia, India and Europe that would resist Chinese hegemony. It won’t be enough for America to show that it is willing to use “all measures short of war” to maintain its leadership in Asia. Wright’s argument that it will presupposes the Chinese will show the same restraint. But the more confident the Chinese are of America’s restraint, the less restrained they will be. After all, the stakes for them are very high — as high as the stakes America has traditionally had in preserving the Monroe Doctrine in the Western Hemisphere. Those are stakes for which they would risk a great deal.  For this reason, it would be unwise for U.S. strategists to expect China to limit itself to the kind of limited confrontations that arguably characterized its border confrontations with India, the Soviets, and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. The contest between the U.S. and China is not a border dispute, but a contest for primacy over an entire strategic system. Much more is at stake for both sides. Graham Allison understands this perfectly. His book extends and amplifies the warning he has been sounding for some years now about the nature of the rivalry emerging in Asia between America and China, and the dangers that it poses. The key lesson he draws from his extended analysis of analogous events throughout history is that contests between rising and declining major powers over their respective places in the international system are precisely why they have most often gone to war with one another, with disastrous consequences. Allison does not believe that the escalating rivalry between America and China makes war “inevitable.” [56] Rather, he perceives a serious risk of war when such contests arise because great powers see their deepest national interests at stake. He argues quite convincingly that this is exactly the kind of contest we now see between America and China. He rebuts the argument that China lacks the power or resolve to challenge the United States in Asia, and he sees no reason to assume that in the contest that is consequently unfolding either side will limit itself to “measures short of war.” Therefore, the danger of escalating rivalry and conflict with China is real, and the consequences of a conflict when both powers have nuclear forces is incalculable. That means our first concern must be to find ways to avoid conflict with China. All this, I think, is right. To address this question, Allison extends his work on previous episodes of great power rivalry to focus not just on those that did result in war, but also on those that did not. His aim is to help us see how competing great powers avoided war in the past, looking for lessons that apply today. Although he doesn’t put it quite this way, the key conclusion to be drawn from his study is very simple: war can be avoided when a rising power confronts an established one, but only by real compromise and accommodation on both sides. Hence while war is not inevitable when a new great power arises, major changes in the international order are. The mistake of current U.S. policy is not to see this, but instead to assume — as Wright does — that the current status quo of American leadership can be preserved without risking a major war. Americans must therefore ask themselves whether, as Allison puts it, “maintaining U.S. primacy in the western Pacific [is] truly a vital national interest?”[57] He concludes that it isn’t. He argues that America should therefore abandon its ambition to preserve the status quo, and instead accept a significant change in its role in Asia through some kind of understanding with China. In his book’s penultimate chapter, he offers several suggestions about how this might be done. He mentions accommodating China, negotiating a long peace, or redefining the relationship to focus on common threats. All of these seem to me to be versions of the same idea — to accept China as at least a co-equal leading power in Asia. That means preserving a strong U.S. role in Asia while being willing to adjust American aims and purposes to respect what China sees as its core interests and objectives in the region. But is this credible? Could America really reach that kind of understanding with China, one that would involve maintaining a major U.S. strategic role in Asia while reducing the risk of conflict?  I have argued in the past that it could, and I still believe it would be very much in Asia’s interests if it did.[58] But America’s bargaining position would be rather weak on any issue over which it could not convince China it was willing to go to war. Unless there is something in Asia that Americans can convince China they are willing to fight a nuclear war over, negotiations would be rather one-sided. America would find itself edging towards withdrawal from any substantial strategic role in Asia altogether. Allison does not really address this issue. He thus does not really confront just how stark the choices facing America in Asia today actually are. The harsh fact is that China’s rise poses a question that is more challenging even than Allison acknowledges: not whether the United States can preserve its long-accustomed primacy in Asia, but whether it can preserve any significant strategic role there at all at a cost it is willing to sustain. So, the debate in and around Washington about how to respond to China still has a long way to go. Many of us who live on the Western side of the Pacific deeply hope that, if and as that debate unfolds, America will find a way to remain a major strategic actor in Asia. But we can no longer afford to take that for granted.     Rosemary Foot was elected to an Emeritus Fellowship of St Antony's College in October 2014. She is a Senior Research Fellow at Oxford's Department of Politics and International Relations and a Research Associate at the Oxford China Centre. Previously Professor of International Relations, and the John Swire Senior Research Fellow at St Antony's College, she has been a Fellow of the College since 1990. She was Senior Tutor from 2003-2005, and was Acting Warden of the College from January-October 2012. In 2014, she held the Visiting Sir Howard Kippenberger Chair in Strategic Studies at the University of Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand, and a Visiting Fellowship at the Nobel Institute, Oslo, Norway.   Van Jackson is an American scholar, strategist, and policy expert specializing in Asian security and defense affairs. He is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Defence & Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies, also at Victoria. He is also author of the Cambridge University Press book Rival Reputations: Coercion and Credibility in U.S.-North Korea Relations. Dr. Jackson hosts the podcast series Pacific Pundit, and holds additional affiliations as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington. He is an Associate Editor at the Texas National Security Review, as well as a Senior Editor for War on the Rocks   Neville Morley is a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Exeter and author of such significant works on classical antiquity as Civil War and Succession Crisis in Roman Beekeeping and Thucydides, History and Historicism in Wilhelm Roscher. His main research interests are in the modern reception and reinterpretation of antiquity, especially within the social sciences and in ancient economic and social history, as well as in the theory and methodology of history more generally, and the significance of the past for the present. Dr. Morley is currently working on a book on Marx and Antiquity and a shorter account of Classics: Why it Matters, as well as developing a research project on Thucydides and modern political theory. He is an Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universitaet Berlin, as part of an ongoing collaboration with colleagues there studying change and instability in the ancient world and its modern interpretation.   Mira Rapp-Hooper is a Senior Research Scholar in Law at Yale Law School, as well as a Senior Fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center. She studies and writes on US-China relations and national security issues in Asia. Dr. Rapp-Hooper was formerly a Senior Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a Fellow with the CSIS Asia Program, and the Director of the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. She was also a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Rapp-Hooper’s academic writings have appeared in Political Science Quarterly, Security Studies, and Survival. Her policy writings have appeared in The National Interest, Foreign Affairs, and The Washington Quarterly, and her analysis has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and on NPR, MSNBC, and the BBC. Dr. Rapp-Hooper was the Asia Policy Coordinator for the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. She is a David Rockefeller Fellow of the Trilateral Commission, an associate editor with the International Security Studies Forum, and a senior editor at War on the Rocks. She holds a B.A. in history from Stanford University and an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.   Hugh White is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University. He has worked on Australian and regional strategic, defense, and foreign policy issues since 1980. He has been an intelligence analyst, journalist, ministerial adviser, departmental official, think tanker and academic. In the 1990s he served as International Relations Adviser to Prime Minister Bob Hawke and as Deputy Secretary of Defence for Strategy and Intelligence. He was the principal author of Australia’s 2000 Defence White Paper. His recent publications include Power Shift: Australia’s Future between Washington and Beijing published by Black Inc in September 2010, and The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power, published in Australia by Black Inc in 2012, and by OUP in 2013. The China Choice has also been published in Chinese and Japanese. In the 1970s Hugh White studied philosophy at Melbourne and Oxford Universities. He was awarded an AO in the Queen’s Birthday honors in 2014. Image: U.S. State Department [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: Is War with China Coming? Contrasting Visions [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => war-with-china-contrasting-visions [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-02 10:48:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-02 15:48:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=308 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => As China increasingly threatens to supplant America's place on the international stage, four scholars review Graham Allison's "Destined for War" and Thomas Wright's "All Measures Short of War." [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => [T]he two books have different visions of the current order and its proneness to war. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => There is a long tradition of readers feeling that they recognize their own times in Thucydides’ account of the war between the Athenians and the Spartans ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Allison and Wright are skilled diagnosticians and provide us with early guidance. They also exhort us to get to work. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => China’s rise poses a question that is more challenging even than Allison acknowledges. ) ) [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 93 [1] => 24 [2] => 17 [3] => 15 [4] => 16 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2017); Thomas Wright, All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-First Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017). [2] Allison, 184. [3] “Thucydides’s Trap Case File,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, accessed October 18, 2017, https://www.belfercenter.org/thucydides-trap/case-file [4] Wright, xi. [5] Wright, 77. [6] For two examples see “Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Exclusive Interview with the Financial Times,” January 29, 2014, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/zxxx/t1124367.shtml, and Daniel R. Russel’s remarks at “China’s Growing Pains” at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, April 22, 2016, accessed October 23, 2017, http://china.usc.edu/daniel-russel-“remarks-usci’s-china’s-growing-pains-conference”-april-22-2016 [7] Allison, 149. [8] Allison, 233. [9] Steve Chan, China, the U.S. and the Power-Transition Theory: A Critique, (London: Routledge, 2008), 3-4. [10] For one recent example and one that references the “Thucydides’ Trap” see Charles S. Maier, “Thucydides, Alliance Politics, and Great Power Conflict,” in The Next Great War? The Roots of World War I and the Risk of U.S.-China Conflict, eds Richard N. Rosecrance and Steven E. Miller, (Cambridge, Mass: the MIT Press, 2015), 91-9. [11] Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, (New York: Vintage, 1989) [12] Michael Mastanduno, “Do Relative Gains Matter? America’s Response to Japanese Industrial Policy,” International Security 16, no. 1 (Summer 1991): 73-113. [13] Wright, 9. [14] Oxford Economics, “Understanding the US-China Trade Relationship,” January 10, 2017, The U.S.-China Business Council, https://www.uschina.org/sites/default/filesOE%20US%20Jobs%20and%20China%20Trade%20Report.pdf.  See also “U.S.-China Business Council 2017 State Export Report,” The U.S.-China Business Council, accessed October 23, 2017, https://www.uschina.org/reports/us-exports/national. [15] Thilo Hanemann and Cassie Gao, “Record Deal Making in 2016 Pushes Cumulative Chinese FDI in the US above $100 Billion,” Rhodium Group, December 30, 2016 http://rhg.com/notes/record-deal-making-in-2016-pushes-cumulative-chinese-fdi-in-the-us-above-100-billion.” [16] John Ravenhill, “Production Networks in Asia,” in The Oxford Handbook of the International Relations of Asia, eds Saadia Pekkanen, John Ravenhill, and Rosemary Foot (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 358-9. See also John Ravenhill, “Economics and Security in the Asia-Pacific Region,” The Pacific Review, 26, no. 1, (March 2013):1-15. [17] Robert Jervis, “Force in our Times,” International Relations, 25, no. 4, (December 2011), 410-11. [18] 2017: xvii. [19] The Life of Reason: or, the phases of human progress. Vol. I: Reason in common sense (New York: Charles Scribner, 1905), 284. [20] Useful discussions of the possible uses of history in Richard E. Neustadt & Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: the uses of history for decision-makers (New York: Free Press, 1986) and Jo Guldi & David Armitage, The History Manifesto (Cambridge: CUP, 2014). [21] Cf. T. Greer, “The Chinese Strategic Tradition: a Research Programme,” The Scholar’s Stage, May 26, 2015, http://scholars-stage.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/the-chinese-strategic-tradition.html. [22] Thomas de Quincey, Logic of Political Economy [1844], in Collected Writings, ed. D. Masson (London, 1896-97), IX, 194. On the uses of the classical past in the study of modernity, Morley, Antiquity and Modernity (Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). [23] Thucydides in the Ukraine: Sir Tony Brenton, “Putin Will Have Calculated on a Response Strong on Rhetoric,”” Financial Times, March 5, 2013, https://www.ft.com/content/22e85546-a2ef-11e3-ba21-00144feab7de. Thucydides and Greece: Johanna Hanink, The Classical Debt: Greek antiquity in an age of austerity (Cambridge MA: Harvard UP, 2017) and Yanis Varoufakis, And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe’s crisis and America’s economic future (London: Bodley Head, 2016). Thucydides and Brexit: Neil Wilson, “Brexit Talks Begin: a Modern-Day Melian Dialogue,” June 19, 2017, https://medium.com/@etx.seo/brexit-talks-begin-a-modern-day-melian-dialogue-483d51e20bee. Further examples of the application of Thucydides to the modern world are regularly collected at http://thesphinxblog.com. [24] See David A. Welch, “Why International Relations theorists should stop reading Thucydides,” Review of International Studies, 29.2 (2003): 301-319. [25] “Thucydides came to be at home in the ‘modern’ way of thinking,” claimed J.B. Bury, the leading historian in England, in 1909. The French scholar Jules Girard argued in 1861 that “he conceives of history not only as the exact science of facts, but as a new science.” Discussed, with many other examples, in Morley, Thucydides and the Idea of History (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014). [26] Allison’s preferred translation is clearly designed to establish Thucydides as “the original ‘applied historian’: “If my history be judged useful by those who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to understanding the future – which in the course of human affairs must resemble if it does not reflect it – I shall be content.” A more literal version would be: “If it is judged useful by those who will want to have a clear understanding of what happened – and, such is the human condition, will happen again at some time in the same or in a similar pattern – I shall be content.” The differences between these versions are not insignificant, but the central point is the same. [27] Cf. S.N. Jaffe, “The Risks and Rewards of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War,” War on the Rocks, July 6, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/07/the-risks-and-rewards-of-thucydides-history-of-the-peloponnesian-war/, and in more detail his new book, Thucydides on the Outbreak of War: character and context (Oxford: OUP, 2017). [28] War and Change in International Relations (Cambridge: CUP, 1981), 191. [29] Waldron, “There is no Thucydides Trap,” http://supchina.com/2017/06/12/no-thucydides-trap/, citing Donald Kagan, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1969). [30] It’s a little odd, for example, to see Allison’s account of the run-in to war emphasize the Megarian Decree, when this is widely identified as one of Thucydides’ most puzzling and suspicious admissions. [31] Die Welt von Gestern [1942], trans. Anthea Bell (London: Pushkin Press, 2011). [32] 1 September 1939, stanza 3, from Another Time (New York: Random House, 1940). On the modern image of Thucydides, see Morley, “The idea of Thucydides in the Western tradition,” in Christine Lee & Neville Morley, eds., Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides (Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), 591-604. [33] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (Houghton Mifflin, 2017), xvi. [34] Allison, xvii [35] Allison, 141. [36] Allison, 133-153 [37] Thomas J. Wright, All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-First Century and the Future of American Power (Yale University Press, 2017), 206-212. [38] Allison, 188-216 [39] Wright, 86 [40] Alison, 214-221 [41] Allison, 221-213 [42] Wright, 1-8 [43] Wright, 16-31 [44] Wright, 187-196 [45] Wright, 196-222 [46] Wright, 206-208 [47] Wright, 208-210 [48] Wright, 218-222. [49] See for example Hillary Clinton, “America’s Pacific Century,” Foreign Policy, October 11, 2011, http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/10/11/americas-pacific-century/. Although this strategy has been challenged by some, the view that China posed a systemic threat has never prevailed in policy debates. See, for example, Robert Kagan, “What China Knows That We Don’t,” The Weekly Standard, January 20, 1997 http://carnegieendowment.org/1997/01/20/what-china-knows-that-we-don-t-case-for-new-strategy-of-containment-pub-266; Andrew F. Krepinevich, “China’s Finlandization Strategy in the Pacific,” Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2010, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704164904575421753851404076; and Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes, Red Star Over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010).    [50] Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’ Trap? (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2017; Thomas Wright, All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-First Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017). [51] See for example T.G. Otte, July Crisis: The World’s Descent into War Summer 1914, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014). [52]Wright, 158-161 [53] Wright, 209 [54] Wright, 154 [55] Wright, 157 [56] Allison, x [57] Allison, 235 [58] Hugh White, The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power, (London: Oxford University Press, 2013) ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction, By Van Jackson 2. Two Differing Views on U.S.-China Conflict Find Common Ground in their Solutions, By Rosemary Foot 3. History Can't Always Help to Make Sense of the Future, By Neville Morley 4. A Long-Term Asia Strategy is Long Overdue, By Mira Rapp-Hooper 5. To Deter China, U.S. Policy-Makers Need to Show that America is Willing to Go to War, By Hugh White ) ) ) [post_count] => 2 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 378 [post_author] => 22 [post_date] => 2017-12-21 18:55:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-21 23:55:19 [post_content] =>

1. Introducing the 2017 National Security Strategy Roundtable

By William Inboden Every time an American president releases a new National Security Strategy, it provokes a round of commentary on the document itself as well as an additional round of hand-wringing over whether such strategy documents matter at all. The release earlier this week of President Donald Trump’s inaugural National Security Strategy was no exception. If anything, the commentary became even more intense because of the unusual and (it is both obligatory and hackneyed to say it) unprecedented nature of the Trump presidency. Concerning the question of whether these strategy documents bear any weight on the actual conduct of American national security policy and strategy, ultimately that will be a question for historians to decide in the fullness of time, when the archives are opened and assessments can be made of to what extent a strategy document shaped or even resembled the policies that were implemented. However, it bears noting that the extensive commentary and attention that each strategy receives — this one being no exception — indicates that the document matters at least enough for those who think and write about strategy for a living to pay it some heed. So what to make of this new National Security Strategy? First, congratulations are due to National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and his staff, especially Nadia Schadlow and Seth Center, for the intellectual energy and dispatch with which they developed and drafted this document and shepherded it through the interagency approval process. This is the first time since the National Security Strategy was mandated in 1986 by the Goldwater-Nichols Act that a new president has issued one in his first year in office. Given that many other strategy documents produced by the national security community — such as the National Defense Strategy, the National Military Strategy, the Quadrennial Defense Review, and so forth — take their cues from the National Security Strategy, the timing of its release also bodes well for the interagency process of strategy formulation. As far as evaluating the content and themes of the 2017 National Security Strategy, we have assembled an expert cast of strategists and scholars who offer their takes from a range of disciplines, expertise, and ideological commitments. Writing from the vantage point of academic realism, Emma Ashford and Joshua Shifrinson offer a sustained lament that the National Security Strategy is neither realist nor restrained but instead follows the same post-Cold War blueprint of past administrations in seeking to maintain American primacy in the international system. In their assessment, “At least on paper, Trump is little different than his predecessors.” Indeed, they contend that the president’s loudest critics who have fretted that the Trump administration is abandoning America’s historic role of leading the liberal international order should instead be relieved because “In many ways, Trump’s liberal international critics are getting almost everything they could want in this strategy.” And that, Ashford and Shifrinson argue, is the real tragedy. Andrew Hill also provides an expansive assessment of the strategy, though worries that it is beset by nostalgia. He draws on eclectic sources, such as Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, to ask whether the new strategy perhaps succumbs to too much wistfulness for a golden era in American strategy and political economy that never was. In contrast to these explorations of the large themes of the strategy, Ben Buchanan takes a focused look at how the strategy handles one particular issue: cyber-security. His question is evocative:
Does the Trump administration recognize and address that, in cyberspace, America’s adversaries are playing Calvinball* (the famous game from the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip in which there are no rules)[1] while the United States is still playing a regimented and well-defined game of chess?
Yet Buchanan’s answer is a dispirited “no,” as he particularly finds the National Security Strategy wanting for failing to address Russia’s sustained cyber-operations against the American electoral system. Zach Cooper and Mira Rapp-Hooper also direct their analysis to one particular aspect of the National Security Strategy, in this case China. Here they detect what may in fact be a seismic shift in America’s strategic posture when the strategy rejects the “responsible stakeholder” aspiration that had embodied the hopes of prior administrations that engagement with China would induce the Middle Kingdom to embrace the international system. While Cooper and Rapp-Hooper applaud this more accurate assessment of China’s intentions, they also raise a series of questions and concerns about how the National Security Strategy and the Trump administration’s actions thus far fail to translate this insight into the needful policies. Another commentator who takes up the China question is Phil Levy, who does so from the perspective of international trade. His analysis probes what he sees as the sometime disconnects between the language of the strategy and the administration’s actual practices. As he puts it,
while the National Security Strategy paints a vision of working with allies and partners to confront China, Trump administration practice to date has been to work together with China while attacking allies and partners.
Carmen Medina channels the perspective of the intelligence community, befitting her own long distinguished career in intelligence analysis. She finds much in the basic worldview of the National Security Strategy that will appeal to the intelligence community, even as she worries whether American intelligence is properly organized and equipped for taking up the intelligence demands that the strategy implies in domains such as economics. Offering a sailor’s take, Bryan McGrath focuses on the role that seapower does, or should, play in the new strategy. He is pleased to see the strategy hit many of the right notes, but is disappointed that the role of seapower is underdiscussed, despite its centrality to a nation’s ability to project force and influence:
A number of familiar campaign themes manifest themselves in the National Security Strategy’s prescriptions for promoting prosperity (fair trade deals, improving infrastructure, and reducing regulatory burdens) without much consideration of that which provides for the movement of 90 percent of world trade: freedom of the seas underwritten by dominant American seapower.
Finally, from an airman’s perspective, Lt. Gen. (ret.) David Deptula finds much to like, offering the praise that the National Security Strategy “contains the best of Ronald Reagan’s strategy of peace through strength.” He is pleased that it focuses on rebuilding America’s military strength, which has not kept pace with competitors and potential adversaries like Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Drawing on Sen. John McCain, he notes that the military services are underfunded, undersized, and unready — most especially the U.S. Air Force, which “has the oldest weapon systems, is the smallest, and it is the least ready it has ever been in its entire history” [emphasis author’s]. Deptula hopes that the strategy’s principles will be translated into material increases in the defense budget. With this document, the Trump administration has offered its argument for what drives international politics in our era, what the main threats and opportunities facing our nation are, and for why an “America First” strategy will be best for the United States and, ultimately, the world. While our commentators have offered their best initial thoughts, the final assessment of the National Security Strategy will come not from the expert pens of our contributors but from the dedicated professionals who will implement it and from the hard knocks of the international arena itself.   William Inboden is Executive Director and William Powers, Jr. Chair at the William P. Clements, Jr. Center for National Security at the University of Texas-Austin.  He also serves as Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Distinguished Scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, and Editor-in-Chief of the Texas National Security Review

2. Trump’s National Security Strategy: A Critic's Dream

By Emma Ashford and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson President Donald Trump released his administration’s first National Security Strategy on December 18, 2017 with much fanfare.[2] In the run-up to the release, Trump’s foreign policy had come in for significant hostility, with critics decrying the administration for betraying U.S. liberal internationalism and pursuing an avowedly “America First” agenda.[3] Initial reactions to the speech from much of the policy and scholarly communities have been at best ambivalent, with analysts lambasting the strategy’s “realist framing,” its emphasis on great power competition, and seeming over-reliance on the military tools of statecraft.[4] These assessments are disingenuous. Like it or not, the 2017 National Security Strategy is strongly in line with the national security agendas of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The new strategy may spend time identifying the problematic and self-harming elements of America’s post-Cold War foreign policy consensus, but it is neither realist in its logic nor restrained in its recommendations. Instead, it commits the United States to a more muscular primacist agenda. Trump’s one-time critics should now rejoice: at least on core security issues, the document reflects Trump’s formal agreement to sustain the U.S. strategic consensus. They have won the initial salvo in the grand strategy debate of this administration. The 2017 Strategy: Sui Generis or Déjà vu All Over Again? Grand strategy — the linkage of a state’s military, diplomatic, and economic tools of statecraft to help a state “produce” security for itself — is notoriously difficult to formulate, describe, and execute.[5] Although often portrayed as a formal plan by which a state assesses its interests and the means it chooses to get there, in reality, strategy evolves as external conditions, domestic and bureaucratic politics, and the ideas motivating individual policymakers wax and wane.[6] The relative importance of these factors can vary as well. States living in highly competitive international environments (think 19th century Europe) are incentivized to focus on external conditions. In contrast, states benefiting from a surfeit of security have the latitude to draw more heavily upon other factors. The modern United States falls into the latter category: a massively wealthy state surrounded by weak neighbors, wide oceans, and with no peer competitor since the early 1990s, the United States benefits from the most latent security of any actor in modern history. In the post-Cold War world, the net result has been the consolidation of a powerful grand strategic consensus in which the United States claims to act in support of a liberal world order. In theory, this system allows the United States to (1) support benevolent policies such as free-trade and regional stability; (2) prevent states from engaging in military affairs unless viewed as legitimate; and (3) integrate potential rivals into a mutually agreed-upon “rules based” system of international governance.[7] Of course, these claims were always embraced more in theory than in the breach. In practice, the United States quickly recognized the desirability of asserting American power in support of its self-defined interests irrespective of other states’ concerns. “America First” is hardly a new concept. Primacy, not benign liberal engagement, typically ruled the day. After all, the United States went to war against both Serbia and Iraq despite international opposition, and has shown a marked disinclination to let other states have a say in constructing the nominal “rules” of international governance. As a framing device, however, the post-Cold War foreign policy consensus was a mobilization device par excellence, reflecting and able to sustain popular backing through its nod to liberal values, bureaucratic support by providing substantial foreign policy funding, and political support by leaving enough maneuvering room for leaders to pursue any policy they wanted. Indeed, the appeal of this consensus was such that — as Patrick Porter shows — alternate grand strategy approaches have been largely ignored, with their proponents isolated or driven from government decision-making.[8] Despite the sound of grinding teeth, Trump’s National Security Strategy fits squarely in the post-Cold War grand strategic tradition. This is not to deny that the 2017 strategy contains some departures from past practice on domestic policies, with calls for reduced immigration, tightened border security, and economic policies suggesting more closed American homeland. Still, on core security issues related to U.S. engagement in international affairs, relations with other powerful states, and counter-terrorism and state-building efforts, Trump’s agenda is in keeping with the post-Cold War tradition. Consider 2017. Despite coming to office more overtly critical of U.S. global activism and traditional alliance relations than any American leader since 1945, Trump’s first year in office has seen Washington double-down on its commitments in the Middle East, affirm the American commitment to NATO, and reinforce the U.S.-Japanese and U.S.-South Korean relationship. The new strategy affirms these actions, noting that the United States will “compete and lead in multilateral organizations so that American interests and principles are protected.” It underscores the continued relevance of NATO, existing “partnerships” in the Middle East, and the centrality of allies in East Asia for “responding to mutual threats.”[9] In this, the document parallels past strategic declarations. The George W. Bush administration’s 2006 strategy, for instance, vowed that the United States would prioritize “pursuing American interests within cooperative relationships, particularly with our oldest and closest friends and allies.” Likewise, the Obama administration’s 2015 strategy called for the U.S. to foster a “rules-based international order” under “U.S. leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity through stronger cooperation to meet global challenges.”[10] The Trump administration has effectively committed itself to a strikingly similar approach, couched in similar language, to its predecessors. The same is true of U.S. relations with other powerful states such as India, Russia, and China. At the start of the 1990s, the U.S. government — as the draft 1992 Defense Planning Guidelines and its successors underscored — decided that it would oppose the emergence of peer competitors able to challenge American dominance.[11] As the distribution of power shifted away from the United States, this view evolved. The United States would now seek to either coopt potential competitors as allies (e.g., India) or incentivize their continued cooperation through integration into economic and security institutions. The tradeoff gradually became explicit: as the 2015 National Security Strategy explained in the context of China, the United States would otherwise “manage competition from a position of strength.”[12] In short, America would welcome cooperation from other major powers on American terms, or try to overmatch potential competitors. The 2017 strategy again falls within this post-Cold War tradition. Embracing the potential for U.S.-Indian “strategic partnership”, the report also notes that China and Russia are increasingly pursuing “revisionist” policies that imperil American dominance in Asia and Europe.[13] The two “competitors” to the United States thus need to be overmatched and contained. Even here, however, the change is less dramatic than it may appear. Although describing China and Russia as explicit “competitors” is new, the underlying theme of competition is not. After all, as far back as the 2006 National Security Strategy, the George W. Bush administration allowed in the Chinese context that “Our strategy seeks to encourage China to make the right strategic choices for its people, while we hedge against other possibilities [emphasis added].” The Obama administration’s 2015 report was even clearer in underscoring “there will be competition” with China such that the United States sought to “manage competition from a position of strength.” Labeling China and Russia “competitors” is thus an evolutionary change in U.S. policy – not a revolutionary break.[14] What of counter-terrorism and state building? The Trump-endorsed document hardly breaks the mold, committing the United States to both extensive counter-terrorism efforts — particularly against Islamist terrorism — and state-building abroad. Not only will the United States “pursue [terrorist] threats to their source” militarily, but there is a direct relationship between state-building and counter-terrorism. After all, “safe havens” in fragile states allow terrorist groups to flourish, requiring the U.S. to help develop local institutions so that direct American action is superfluous.[15] Again, this logic tracks with prior strategic guidance. Bush’s 2002 strategy, for one, espoused “direct and continuous action” against terrorist groups while calling upon the international community to “focus its efforts and resources on areas most at risk” of “spawning” terrorism.[16] Strikingly, not only did the 2006 National Security Strategy return to these themes, but so too did the 2015 version advanced by the Obama administration.[17] At least on paper, Trump is little different than his predecessors. A Critics Dream Noting that the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy is relatively consistent with that of previous administrations is one thing. As significant for the grand strategy debate, it also bears little resemblance to the images conjured by the primacists who have become some of Trump’s biggest critics. Take Tom Wright’s campaign-era overview of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, in which he argues that Trump’s election would destroy America’s post-Cold War foreign policy:
If he did get elected president, he would do his utmost to liquidate the U.S.-led liberal order by ending America’s alliances, closing the open global economy, and cutting deals with Russia and China.[18]
Or, consider Elliot Cohen, who promises that Trump will usher in a “dangerous and dispiriting chapter” for American foreign policy. Cohen notes
even barring cataclysmic events, we will be living with the consequences of Trump’s tenure as chief executive and commander in chief for decades. Damage will continue to appear long after he departs the scene.[19]
Meanwhile, Hal Brands outlines a stark potential shift in American foreign policy, a so-called “Fortress America” approach “that would actively roll back the post-war international order and feature heavy doses of unilateralism and latter-day isolationism.”[20] Yet the Trump administration has not gone down this road, in either practice or the new National Security Strategy.  Again, the document embraces America’s global alliances, noting that “allies and partners are a great strength of the United States,” and promising to “encourage aspiring partners.”[21] In contrast to the idea of embracing authoritarian states, it pushes back on them strongly through repeated statements such as “China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests.” Indeed, the language in the document is so stark on this point that Russia and China have condemned it as “imperial” and a “victory for hardliners.”[22] Even on trade, where the document perhaps makes the biggest divergence from prior policy approaches, it doesn’t come close to the dystopian visions critics have predicted. The document strongly supports the existing global trade regime, though it does promise to crack down on “cheating” countries which “adhere selectively to the rules and agreements” of free trade.[23] Though the document suggests the potential to “modernize” existing trade agreements, it offers no specifics, instead emphasizing domestic economic policies such as infrastructure investment. By any reasonable standard, this is a change of degree, not of type. Yet, just as the National Security Strategy does not actually reflect the predictions of Trump’s critics, neither does it appear to be realist in any true sense of the word. Certainly, the document claims to advance a strategy of “principled realism,” suggesting aspirations for the level-headed strategic calculations of a Henry Kissinger or George H.W. Bush. Yet realism as a concept has always been promiscuously used by experts in order to give their opinion gravitas — or as a slur. As Kissinger himself once noted, “the United States is probably the only country in which "realist" can be used as a pejorative epithet.”[24] Look no further than reactions to Donald Trump’s foreign policy statements during the campaign. In response to articles attempting to label Trump’s nationalist pronouncements as realist, both Stephen Walt and Robert Kaplan — analysts not known for their agreement on any issue — argued the same thing. In essence, each said, “I’m a realist, and Trump doesn’t represent my foreign policy views.” Despite its use of the term, however, the new National Security Strategy includes few policies that are recognizably realist as understood by scholars or savvy practitioners. Although it promises pragmatism, the strategy commits pledges to advance American values and deny “the benefits of our free and prosperous community to repressive regimes and human rights abusers.”[25] It provides prominent placement to relatively minor threats like terrorism and transnational crime, and maintains America’s commitments to conflicts in Afghanistan and elsewhere despite criticism of those conflicts as expensive side-shows by most realist analysts. And it again perpetuates the idea of safe havens, arguing that fragile states pose security threats — a claim that most realists see as a myth. In some ways, the document’s evocation of realism is reminiscent of an argument made recently in Commentary by some of Trump’s most fervent critics, Peter Feaver and Hal Brands. In arguing that realism has lost its way (and that Trump himself advocates a variant of a realist position ), the authors suggest that the solution is to ‘reclaim’ realism. They would do this by taking realism’s core precepts and adding those of liberal internationalism — from the necessity of American global leadership to maintaining U.S. alliances and spreading of American values.[26] In the same way as this approach seeks to appropriate the term realism and reallocate it to the authors’ favored policy packages, the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy uses the term “principled realism” to disguise its hodge-podge of contradictory ideas and impulses. Indeed, perhaps ironically, the document bears the strongest resemblance to the approaches favored by some of Trump’s critics. After criticizing “Fortress America,” for example, Brands go on to suggest an alternative, which he describes as a either “better nationalism” or “internationalism with a nationalist accent.”[27]. This alternative includes a tougher approach to China, renegotiation of existing trade agreements like NAFTA, reaffirmed alliance commitments, a strong military buildup and intensified anti-terror campaigns — each of which is in the new National Security Strategy. Likewise, Wright argues that his proposed grand strategy of “responsible competition” is not compatible with the Trump administration’s views.[28] Yet responsible competition is a strategy which “preserves a liberal international order” while acknowledging “the adversarial and zero-sum nature characterizing relations with rival powers,” and avoiding major conflict. This sounds remarkably similar to the National Security Strategy’s emphasis on combating powers like China and Russia, adversaries “adept at operating below the threshold of open military conflict.” Elsewhere, Wright emphasizes the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, and the need for increased military involvement in the Middle East — both of which are championed by the Trump administration. Undoubtedly, there are differences between these strategies, but there is more that unites them than divides them. This common ground between Trump and his critics also suggests a more worrying trend: that members of the foreign policy consensus and backers of the Trump administration may make common cause to sustain the primacist core of U.S. grand strategy at a time Americans are clamoring for a forthright foreign policy debate. As Brands argues, perhaps policymakers should make “an effort to minimize the most costly and frustrating aspects of American internationalism in order to sustain the broader tradition” of intensive American global engagement and efforts to structure international security on American terms. The National Security Strategy appears comfortable with a similar course, questioning long-running economic policy while advocating a muscular and unilateral approach to U.S. primacy. In many ways, Trump’s liberal international critics are getting almost everything they could want in this strategy. Is there Hope for a Realist Grand Strategy? Of course, it is fair to question whether the National Security Strategy reflects Donald Trump’s own views, and whether it will be put into practice. Tellingly, the President’s speech accompanying the release of the National Security Strategy was notably different from the text.  He spent much of his time criticizing his predecessors and calling for increased spending by NATO allies; he did not echo the document’s criticisms of China or Russia.[29] Yet in its broad strokes, the strategy mirrors the actions that the Trump administration has taken during its first year: complain about allies, suggest cozying up to Russia or China, and criticize America’s wars in the Middle East, while actually pursuing a conventional foreign policy and dialing up America’s foreign commitments. Trump’s rhetoric has never truly matched his actions.[30] And, regardless of the rhetoric, the president has accepted this strategy and put his name on it. If this is a case of advisors like Secretary of Defense James Mattis or National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster “managing up,” then they have been remarkably successful in reshaping the president’s foreign policy instincts, and maintaining the broad strokes of American primacy as a strategy. Yet, if Trump and his advisers have sought the realist imprimatur without actually embracing realist precepts, the question stands: what would a realist national security strategy entail? It is not primacy: as even the most hard-bitten realists focused on power-seeking acknowledge, pursuing primacy in global affairs is a recipe for international opposition and overreach.[31] Indeed, realism as a body of knowledge underscores the often self-defeating nature of power and the risks of actively seeking security in an uncertain world. Any realist strategy would therefore start from the point noted earlier in this paper, namely, that the United States is extremely secure. From there, the question becomes: how does seeking more power and more security in the world help, and what are we giving up or squandering in the process? For many realists, the answer is simple: a restrained grand strategy focused largely on preventing a peer competitor such as China from establishing dominance overseas, while reinforcing quiet tools of cooperation with local actors to address regional conflicts, terrorism, and other such security problems. Without locally powerful actors poised to dominate their regions, and with actors incentivized to address local problems in way conducive to U.S. interests, the United States can be far more relaxed in world affairs. Restraint — as opposed to the classic formulation of primacy or the Frankenstein version of it found in the new strategy — has much to commend it. Still, not all analysts accept that the global status quo is truly stable. Some argue that local conflicts might spin out of control; that local competitions may allow a state such as China or Russia to establish regional hegemony; or that local actors may fail to address problems such as terrorism. These are reasonable concerns. Even then, however, a truly realist grand strategy would still ask the extent to which American activism is needed to address these problems. Depending on the circumstance, some form of American action may be needed, whether combat power, diplomacy, or economic engagement. Nevertheless, it would not mandate the extensive efforts to manage all global affairs at significant cost and risk that the post-Cold War consensus calls for and the Trump administration endorses. Advocates of the foreign policy consensus have been rightly critical of many aspects of the Trump administration, from his odious and xenophobic views of immigrants to his tendency to pick fights on twitter. Trump himself is a poor spokesperson for U.S. foreign policy: his impulsiveness and self-absorption are likely to undermine foreign policy implementation throughout his term in office. Yet their criticisms of Trump’s foreign policy are misleading. The new National Security Strategy is far closer to the primacy-based strategy favored by these critics than to any recognizably realist strategy. Both Trump and his critics call for the United States to play an outsize role in global affairs because they see the world as dangerous, and believe American activism increases our power and influence. Ultimately, Trump’s critics should be thrilled. They are getting almost everything they want.   Emma Ashford is a Research Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Follow her on Twitter @emmamashford. Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson is an Assistant Professor of International Affairs with the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University.  His book, Rising Titans, Falling Giants: How Great Powers Exploit Power Shifts is being published in 2018 with Cornell University Press.

3. Nostalgia and Strategy: There Never Was a Golden Age

By Andrew Hill The desire to restore bygone glories is understandable, and such nostalgia pervades President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy.[32] The introduction frames the strategy as a way to restore an American Golden Age, presenting a historical overview of America’s rise to a golden age of power in the 20th century, and its decline since the 1990s. Thus, after the glory of a Cold War victory, the document informs us, “the United States began to drift. We experienced a crisis of confidence and surrendered our advantages in key areas.” The effects of this nostalgic framing are most evident in chapters on American economic (Pillar II) and military (Pillar III) power, which present plans to “rejuvenate” the economy and “rebuild” the military. Indeed, the entire National Security Strategy seems to pivot on the prefix “re-”: renew, rebuild, restore, recover, regain, revitalize, reverse, reestablish, rejuvenate, reemerge, recommit, etc. For a strategy that claims to provide “fresh thinking” about strategy, it is oddly rooted in the past. The trouble with such nostalgia is that it hinders understanding of present conditions, and limits strategic vision and creativity as we consider the future. If our sense of the future is bounded by our incorrect understanding of the past, we will fail to recognize the novel opportunities of the present. Nostalgia relies on a false sense of history, and it encourages an inaccurate view of the present, both of which are bad for strategy (especially the latter). An obsession with a glory that never was can blind us to the great possibilities that truly are. In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris,[33] Gil, an unhappy modern American writer, finds himself transported back to the 1920s Paris of his dreams — inhabited by the legendary artists[34] and writers of Hemingway’s moveable feast.[35] While there, Gil falls for Adriana, an aspiring fashion designer whose own city of dreams is the Paris of la belle époque.[36] Sure enough, one night the two magically find themselves in the 1890s Paris of the Moulin Rouge, gaslights, and Gaugin, where Gil has an epiphany:
Gil: I was trying to escape my present the same way you’re trying to escape yours: to a golden age.   Adriana: Surely you don’t think the twenties are a golden age?   Gil: Yeah, to me they are.   Adriana: But I’m from the twenties and I’m telling you the golden age is la belle époque.   Gil: I mean, and look at these guys. To them, their golden age is the renaissance. You know, they’d rather… they’d trade belle époque to be painting alongside Titian and Michelangelo. And those guys probably imagine life was a lot better when Kublai Khan was around… I’m having an insight now… it’s a minor one, but it explains the anxiety in my dream that I had.   Adriana: What dream?   Gil: I had a dream the other night where, it was like a nightmare, where I ran out of Zithromax, and I went to see the dentist, and he didn’t have any Novocain. You see what I’m saying? These people don’t have any antibiotics.   Adriana: What are you talking about?   Gil: Adriana, if you stay here, and this becomes your present, then pretty soon, you’ll start imagining another time was really your golden time. You know, that’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.
The longing for past glory is a persistent force in human history. For Romans of the Augustan era, the golden age was the early republic.[37] For those of the later times, Rome’s golden age was the flowering of Roman culture during the late Republic and the reign of Augustus,[38] or the reign of the good emperors, from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius, during the second century (the “most happy and prosperous” period in human history, according to Edward Gibbon).[39] 1500 years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Italian fascists traded on the Roman past by adopting a roman imperial greeting as their salute.[40] Nostalgia for past glory or past simplicity seemed a significant factor in Britain’s vote to exit the European Union.[41] And then we have American nostalgia: Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation[42] or the “Make America Great Again” slogan purveyed during Trump’s successful presidential campaign. Golden ages can be useful concepts. Certainly, there are moments when the thought of a better time can encourage and motivate people amidst terrible adversity. The thought of a golden past becomes the basis of hope for a better future. Sometimes, things really are bad, and we need to hang on to the idea that a better world, now lost to us, can be restored. But a fixation on the hazy glories of the past can also prevent leaders from recognizing the real opportunities of the present. Not only that, but the nostalgic versions of the past that we hold in our minds tend to omit crucial realities of those times. Barbara Tuchman captured this tendency in her description of the longing for pre-World War I Europe, writing in the Proud Tower:
The period was not a Golden Age or Belle Epoque except to a thin crust of the privileged class. It was not a time exclusively of confidence, innocence, comfort, stability, security and peace… Our misconception lies in assuming that doubt and fear, ferment, protest, violence and hate were not equally present. We have been misled by the people of the time themselves who, in looking back across the gulf of the War, see that earlier half of their lives misted over by a lovely sunset haze of peace and security. It did not seem so golden when they were in the midst of it.[43]
In truth, there never was a golden age. The best and worst of humanity are always with us. Life is always hard, and, as Gil observed, “a little unsatisfying.” But in historical terms, how hard is life right now for the United States? If we were to construct a sort of opportunity-loss scale for the United States on the basis of threats and strengths, what is the nation’s position relative to its past? We seem to have forgotten that America’s post-World War II ascendance as a global power occurred during a time of great power competition, when the United States faced, in the Soviet Union, an adversary that was implacably hostile, militarily more powerful (at least conventionally), and the central actor in a parallel global economic system. The Soviet Union was scary.[44] The United States fought costly wars against communism in Korea and Vietnam, and the two superpowers came close to nuclear conflict. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Americans felt uncertain about American power and its place in the world,[45] epitomized by President Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech.”[46] Given the choice between dealing with the Soviet Union of 1970 and the Russia and China of 2017, American political and military leaders (past or present) would probably take 2017 every time. That does not mean that 2017 is safe in some absolute sense. It is not. No time is. That is the point. The National Security Strategy discusses at length the challenges posed by a rising China, the strongest current competitor to the United States. China warrants our attention, yet China itself faces tremendous strategic challenges. China has deeply problematic demographics, including a wildly imbalanced gender ratio and the burden of becoming old before it becomes rich.[47] China’s relationship with Japan is complicated,[48] and other neighbors are not entirely aligned with China’s goals.[49] Notably, China shares a tense border with India, the world’s largest democracy and itself a rising world power.[50] Russia remains dangerous. Though a shell of its former self, it still has a large number of nuclear weapons and a tendency to provoke the United States.[51] Modern Russians are nostalgic for the post-World War II Soviet Union,[52] a sentiment that President Vladimir Putin both cultivates and exploits to retain an outsize vision of Russia’s importance in the world.[53] Russia has understandable concerns about its borders due to the strength of NATO. It has its own domestic problems, including a stagnant economy and an aging population, both of which may increase the risk of Russia lashing out against its neighbors. There are plenty of things to keep today’s leaders awake at night. Nuisances like Iran, North Korea, and terrorism are always with us. The present features its own novel problems, such as the disruptive consequences of a warming climate (intentionally dismissed from strategic conversations in this administration and omitted from the National Security Strategy),[54] cyber volatility, the development and proliferation of artificial intelligence,[55] and challenges to state power in areas such as the international flows of financial assets.[56] Yet, should we believe that the right way to deal with all of this is to “rebuild” ourselves based on an inaccurate assessment of our current condition, in some image of a past that never really existed? Trump’s National Security Strategy falls woefully short in its consideration of the power and the privileged position that the United States already possesses, and how that can be used to advance American security. The U.S. constitution is a model for the world,[57] and its guarantees of freedom remain a source of inspiration and power. Among developed nations, the United States remains relatively young, with a decent birthrate (for a developed nation) and net immigration.[58] It has good bankruptcy laws and liquid capital markets that foster business creation.[59] It has outstanding universities and the world’s best research infrastructure.[60] It is blessed with good neighbors in Canada and Mexico. America has abundant natural resources, plenty of arable land, and room for a growing population. It remains committed to respecting property, both physical and intellectual. Its position between two oceans and the world’s two largest markets makes it an ideal partner in the global economy. Finally, the nation (contra the National Security Strategy) has a strong military that needs transformation more than it needs rebuilding. Of course, the United States has problems too. Notably, high federal deficits and an increasing national debt, violent crime with resulting mass incarceration, and rapidly rising health care costs with relatively poor health outcomes. However on balance, America remains uniquely positioned and richly resourced to maintain its position as the preeminent world power, and to promote prosperity and freedom worldwide through constructive engagement. Doing so requires innovative and forward-thinking strategic approaches that are based in reality. It would make little sense for the executives of General Motors to recreate the capabilities that produced its dominance in the 1950s and 1960s. Consumers today would find little appealing in the beautifully designed, gas-guzzling death-traps of that era. The strategy’s nostalgic desire to “rebuild” the U.S. military to the peak capabilities it displayed in Operation Desert Storm is similarly inappropriate. The document acknowledges that, “adversaries and competitors became adept at operating below the threshold of open military conflict and at the edges of international law,” but military “readiness” remains focused on training to fight conventional military formations in open battle.[61] The emerging competitive environment is not the one that U.S. leaders faced in the past. Those were happy days, no doubt, but the tanks, manned aircraft, and aircraft carriers of that era may not be what the emerging future of warfare demands.[62] Yet that is what the military is most intent on “rebuilding” through its current acquisition programs[63] — another demonstration of the Department of Defense’s astonishing ability to justify its pre-existing force structure and platforms, despite constantly changing strategic demands.[64] This is not forward thinking. The strategy’s preoccupation with looking backward plays right to the military’s preference for sticking with what is comfortable and familiar. America has always been a nation uniquely untethered from its past, for better and for worse, but usually for better. The United States was established as a great nation with some glaring problems. It has remained so: a great nation, with glaring problems. Overstating our current difficulties or overlooking our past troubles will not help us to enlarge that greatness or to reduce the problems. We need a realistic national security strategy that takes up the present as it is.   Andrew Hill, PhD, is the inaugural Chair of Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College.  The views expressed here are his own and do not represent those of the U.S. Army War College, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or any part of the U.S. government.

4. Cyber and Calvinball: What’s Missing from Trump’s National Security Strategy?

By Ben Buchanan President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy[65] is out, and the contours of the hot takes are familiar: Which adversaries got big coverage? Which didn’t? What will it mean for the budgets of Agency X, the Department of Y, or Program Z? And every take is, of course, subject to hand-wringing about whether the strategy matters at all (always a lively discussion, but a question that is especially relevant with a president who might not have read the document). I’ll leave this more traditional territory to others and focus on a different question: Does the new strategy grasp the current state of affairs in international cyber-security and outline America’s plan to manage it? Specifically, does the Trump administration recognize and address that, in cyberspace, America’s adversaries are playing Calvinball* (the famous game from the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip in which there are no rules)[66] while the United States is still playing a regimented and well-defined game of chess? The short answer is no. The strategy’s relevant sections are all about the classical and well-defined mechanics, broadly speaking, of American cyber-security. Its stated priorities are risk management, network defense, deterrence, information sharing, and establishing layered defenses. Though the discussion in these areas is fairly solid, this ground is so well-trodden that it is as hard as concrete. Many of the proposed steps forward are fairly predictable, such as pledging to streamline authorization and “improve the integration of authorities and procedures across the U.S. government so that cyber operations against adversaries can be conducted as required.” Done right, these sorts of actions are useful, but the devil is in the details — something that a strategy document rarely contains. Most worryingly, though, the document misses the opportunity to make strategic sense of what happened in cyber-operations in 2016. The foreign hacking activity that should have served as a wake-up call and an indication that previous American strategies needed revising is mostly ignored. In so doing, the strategy mostly sidesteps three of the most pressing national security questions the United States faces: First, how can America deter adversaries, particularly Russian hackers emboldened by their successful interference in the 2016 election, from acting similarly again? Second, how can it defend American electoral networks from foreign penetration? And third, how can it manage the clear and present threat of information operations enabled in part by hacking, a danger that strikes at the very heart of the democratic process? A few years ago, these questions and their answers would have seemed fairly speculative and out of place in the national security strategy. It was taken as a given that American elections were secure from foreign intelligence agencies, or that those agencies would likely be deterred from interference. While the flaws in American voting infrastructure deserved attention, it felt like a matter of domestic politics and policy more than an international concern. Large-scale information operations at home were far from the minds of most American national security policymakers. Information operations practitioners were mostly concerned with what the United States could do to improve its image in the Muslim world and undermine violent extremism. But that world has given way to a different one. In this new world, where the old rules and assumptions about adversary behavior no longer apply, this document should outline what Washington’s strategy will be. There is an opportunity for strategic answers to these questions. One natural option is to re-establish some rules through deterrence. It is reported, for example, that President Barack Obama threatened Russia just before the election in order to assure that its hackers did not manipulate the vote tallies.[67] Does the Trump administration believe deterrence worked in that case, and would similar warnings work again? The Obama administration punished Russia by expelling “diplomats” and seizing compounds likely involved in intelligence activity. Will that be part of the Trump administration’s new strategy? More generally, can attempts at cyber deterrence even constrain adversary behavior, or is that a distraction in the no-holds-barred world of cyber-security? The section on deterrence in the national security strategy is largely silent on these important points, instead reciting vague language about consequences and resilience. But not only does the strategy not address how the United States should engage in cyber Calvinball, it doesn’t seem to even acknowledge that Calvinball is the game du jour. There’s not even direct mention of the election hacking activities in 2016. The document addresses Russian interference in domestic political affairs, but with the distancing caveat that the Russian activity occurs “around the world.” The next sentence focuses on Eurasia, suggesting the authors’ reluctance to acknowledge that such interference happened in the United States and could well happen again. The discussion of foreign information operations calls out Russia (even if the president will not) — which is good — but again includes the distancing language of “around the globe.” Most of the priority actions in this section are improving American information operation overseas, something which would be nice but which will do little to stop Russian efforts to sow division within our borders. Even where the strategy does acknowledge how foreign hacking “can undermine faith and confidence in democratic institutions,” it once again misdirects. The priority actions in this section refer to improving attribution — not an area of dispute for Russia’s 2016 anti-democratic activities for anyone outside the Trump orbit — bolstering government hiring and retention, and streamlining American cyber-operations and authorities. These would all be good things to do, but, once again, they are chess moves. In the end, Calvin and Hobbes devised a single rule for Calvinball: You can’t play it the same way twice. Unfortunately, that rule doesn’t apply in cyber-security. Adversaries can employ the same tactics again and again with success. And, until U.S. strategy recognizes that and stops them, they will.   *This analogy comes from a conversation earlier this year on Twitter between myself and @TheGrugq.[68]   Ben Buchanan is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University’s Cybersecurity Project, where he conducts research on the intersection of cybersecurity and statecraft. His first book, The Cybersecurity Dilemma,[69] was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. Previously, he has written on artificial intelligence, attributing cyber-attacks, deterrence in cyber operations, cryptography, election cybersecurity, and the spread of malicious code between nations and non-state actors.

5. China, America, and the End of the Responsible Stakeholder Theory

By Zack Cooper and Mira Rapp-Hooper As observers of Asian security peruse the National Security Strategy,[70] many will wonder what to make of the document. There is no shortage of expert opinions. Micah Zenko argues that the strategy should be “ignored.”[71] Eliot Cohen suggests that the strategy “offers a few clues, and that is about it.”[72] Richard Haass asserts that it will have “a fairly short shelf life.”[73] On the issue of China, however, the strategy’s message is blunt and could be of lasting significance. For decades, the United States has sought to make China a “responsible stakeholder” in the existing regional and international order.[74] By incorporating China into existing institutions and power structures, this narrative held, the international order would help to make China a benign major power. At the very least, the order would change China more than China would change it. The most consequential China-related statement in the 2017 National Security Strategy is the declaration that this strategy has failed. As the document notes in its introduction
[T]he assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners… turned out to be false.
This statement has potentially momentous ramifications for U.S. strategy. If the “responsible stakeholder” approach has been rejected, then the United States must adopt an entirely new strategy — one that is presumably embraces competition with China and seeks to contain its influence. Despite this lofty charge, however, four obvious challenges plague the Strategy’s new approach to China. First, having discarded the “responsible stakeholder” premise, the National Security Strategy does not actually lay out a new strategy. Second, the administration would be well-advised to avoid approaches that force Asian states to choose between China and the United States.  Third, a more competitive approach will be difficult with shrinking pools of resources and personnel. Finally, the administration must contend with the current U.S. president’s unpredictability and tendency to take a soft line towards Beijing. For these reasons, discussed in more detail below, the Trump administration will likely struggle to make its rhetorical shift into a strategic reality. The End of the Responsible Stakeholder Theory In 2005, then-Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick called on China to be a “responsible stakeholder” and welcomed a “confident, peaceful, and prosperous China.”[75] Zoellick was giving voice to a set of assumptions that had basically guided U.S. policy towards China since the 1970s: China’s rise was inevitable, but if the United States worked to shape its ascent, it could forestall the antagonism that so often plagues major power shifts. Republican and Democratic administrations alike adhered to the view that the United States should engage Beijing in order to integrate China into the regional and global order, giving it a stake in the institutions, rules, and norms the United States had built, rather than give it incentive to oppose them. Zoellick’s view was rooted in four assertions: First, China did not spread anti-American ideologies. Second, China did not seek to undermine democracies. Third, China did not seek to undermine capitalism. And last, China did not “believe that its future depends on overturning the fundamental order of the international system.” The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy appears to reject each of these assertions. Whereas some previous administrations were divided between national security hawks and economic doves, China policy appears to be the one area where the Trump administration’s security internationalists and the economic nationalists agree. The security internationalists (including the lead authors of the National Security Strategy), see China as a “revisionist power” that “seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.” The economic nationalists view China as an economic threat, noting that “competitors such as China steal U.S. intellectual property valued at hundreds of billions of dollars.” Security internationalists worry that Chinese leaders will “change the international order in their favor.” Economic nationalists believe that they already have, noting that China “exploited the international institutions we helped to build.” These two camps of China thinkers have not always agreed on specific policies towards Beijing, but a tougher China line now appears to unify the administration’s competing camps. One need look no further than the second page of the strategy, which states that China is “attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” The administration sees China as fusing its own security and economic policies, noting
China is using economic inducements and penalties… to persuade other states to heed its political and security agenda. China’s infrastructure investments and trade strategies reinforce its geopolitical aspirations.
In many other areas, the Trump administration has two sets of competing policies, one from the security internationalists and another from the economic nationalists (and sometimes another from the president himself). Yet in this document, the Trump administration is embracing one China policy. Or at least it is trying. Matching Rhetoric and Reality Following the release of the National Security Strategy, the Chinese Foreign Ministry countered by noting: “Cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the United States… We urge the U.S. side to stop intentionally distorting China’s strategic intentions.”[76] Yet, some Asia experts in Washington are already hailing the Trump administration’s shrewd shift on China policy. Mike Green calls the document “the beginnings of a coherent strategy.”[77] Patrick Cronin goes so far as to anoint the strategy as the “most strategic published by any administration.”[78] Nevertheless, turning this new strategic premise into a tangible U.S. foreign policy approach will prove challenging for four reasons. First, having discarded the old China strategy, the administration will now have to develop a new approach, and has not done so in this document. The Trump administration is breaking with decades of U.S. strategy, but its pessimism about the “responsible stakeholder” approach actually reflects an emerging consensus in Washington. Few experts still believe that the United States can shape China’s rise the way Washington once hoped.[79] Most agree that China will be whatever type of major power it wants to be.[80] In some areas, Chinese and U.S. interests may be directly and increasingly conflictual; in others, they may remain somewhat aligned. But the National Security Strategy does not address the central question at hand: If China is not going to integrate into the existing order, then what is the logic of U.S. engagement? Does the United States seek to exclude China from existing aspects of the international order in which it was previously included? Will it form new power structures that reject Beijing’s influence? And what specific policies will the administration implement to pursue this vision? If Trump’s buoyant visit to China last month is any indicator, the administration is still figuring out how to translate its ideas into action. Second, despite its new premise, the administration is still shackled to certain balance of power realities in Asia: It should avoid a Manichean strategy that forces regional states to choose between China and the United States. China’s actions over the last decade have caused concern in Washington and in other foreign capitals. In the words of former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, China has erected “a great wall of self-isolation.”[81] The strategy argues that this has driven regional states to call for “for sustained U.S. leadership.” But if the United States is seen as being overly confrontational, it will risk the support of the vulnerable states in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines,[82] that are critical to its strategy. At present, China is attempting to position itself as the more dependable great power in the region, and a more predictable alternative to the United States.[83] The United States can only counter this narrative if it presents a positive agenda for the region, rather than simply seeking to undermine China’s role. Getting this balancing act right will be challenging, particularly for a president who is critical of trade agreements[84] and skeptical of alliances[85] — two traditional pillars of U.S. foreign policy in Asia. Third, if the Trump administration wishes to implement a more competitive approach to China, this will necessarily require more personnel and resources than past strategies, despite the fact that both are currently in short supply. Changing any U.S. government policy is difficult, but particularly so with a policy as central as the premise that has long guided the U.S. approach to China. The shortage of trusted Asia hands in the government will accentuate these difficulties. With few confirmed high-level officials, the administration lacks the human resources to communicate how China policy is changing or what the practical implications of a new approach will be. One can also presume that a more competitive China strategy would rely more heavily on the U.S. military presence in Asia, yet this document does not hint at how the American defense role might change, and Congress is unlikely to authorize a radical increase in defense spending. Moreover, the most sustainable approach to competition with China would rely heavily on cooperation with allies and partners, yet regional states are unlikely to take kindly to the strategy’s insistence that they should “shoulder a fair share of the burden of responsibility to protect against common threats.” Again, the absence of an affirmative regional agenda will make a competitive approach all the more burdensome, with no indication of how the administration intends to defray those costs. Fourth, and perhaps most significantly, the declaration that the United States is abandoning the “responsible stakeholder” approach will be of little consequence if the president himself continues to undermine the efforts of the administration’s China hawks. On his November trip to Asia, Trump’s national security team attempted to unfurl the beginnings of a new approach to the region, relying on an “Indo-Pacific Security Framework,”[86] that implied close cooperation with democratic allies and an alternative to Chinese leadership, presaging the National Security Strategy. While in Beijing, however, the president abandoned his own tough, anti-China campaign rhetoric, heaping praise on Xi Jinping, extolling their personal relationship, and absolving China of its most discriminatory economic practices.[87] Despite statements to the contrary, Trump has wrangled few concessions from Beijing on North Korea, and has taken only modest action on trade policy. In practice, the Trump administration has been surprisingly soft on China in its first year in office. As many analysts have observed,[88] the president holds the power to quickly undermine the new China framework the National Security Strategy has laid out.[89] If his past instincts are any indication, he is likely to do so in short order.   Dr. Zack Cooper is the Senior Fellow for Asian Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper is a Senior Research Scholar at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

6. Economics in the National Security Strategy: Principles vs. Practices

By Phil Levy To date, the Trump administration’s approach to international trade and global economic interaction has seemed anything but strategic. The president floated bold (if alarming) campaign ideas such as high tariffs on China and Mexico, only to abandon the plans once in office. An investigation into the national security impacts of steel and aluminum trade was launched with fanfare,[90] only to linger incomplete, six months after its original due date. Within days last month, President Donald Trump went from saying China was blameless in its economic behavior[91] to publicly attacking China’s predatory practices.[92] A near-withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement seemed to reveal an ongoing internal battle between nationalist and internationalist economic advisers, perhaps explaining the schizophrenic approach to policy.[93] If there is a virtue to grand vision documents, such as a National Security Strategy,[94] it is the possibility that conflicting internal positions may be sorted out. Given the dominance of the United States in the international economic sphere, other countries have been desperately trying to make sense of the conflicting signals emanating from the new administration. While the new strategy will give them much to mull over, and a few signs of hope, it ultimately will not deliver either the clarity or reassurance they crave. International trade and economic competition earn a starring role in the Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy. As the president said in his speech unveiling the strategy, “For the first time, American strategy recognizes that economic security is national security.”[95] International economic engagement emerges as an important component of “America First” in its own right — restoring American prosperity — and then again as a key strategic tool in the guise of economic diplomacy. Many of the economic principles espoused in the document fit easily into the American post-war tradition, just with a liberal sprinkling of the adjectives “fair” and “reciprocal” tossed in. The United States prospered because of “political and economic triumphs built on market economies and fair trade.” The United States will “compete and lead in multilateral organizations so that American interests and principles are protected.” And if one wanted to take statements out of context, the inveighing against the damage of “significant government intrusion in the economy” could be used as a warning against the adoption of new trade barriers. In fact, if one did not know better, one could combine a few statements in the strategy and conclude that the Trump administration is ready to erect some sort of Trans-Pacific Partnership. For example, the document states, “By strengthening the international trading system and incentivizing other countries to embrace market-friendly policies, we can enhance our prosperity.” It further notes that “when America does not lead, malign actors fill the void to the disadvantage of the United States.” It also commits the United States to “work with partners to build a network of states dedicated to free markets.” Of course, Trump intends nothing of the sort. In his unveiling speech he bragged, “We have withdrawn the United States from job-killing deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” This illustrates the danger of mining a strategy document for nuggets of reassurance and searching for a logic that is not actually there. Before turning to further inconsistencies between principle and practice, though, it is worth considering some additional principles that offer a contrast with past tradition, either apparent or real. First, the illusory contrast:
[T]he United States will no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating, or economic aggression. We must work with like-minded allies and partners to ensure our principles prevail and the rules are enforced so that our economies prosper.
While purporting to mark a sharp break with past practice, this profession of ardor for trade enforcement has become a cliché for new occupants of the Oval Office. President Barack Obama certainly promised to reverse the Bush administration’s alleged lapses in trade enforcement vigor. The problems tend to come in implementation.[96] The true principled departure from the post-war consensus — and from generally accepted economics — in Trump’s thought lies in the emphasis on trade imbalances. Here, though, the National Security Strategy is remarkably low-key: “We will insist upon fair and reciprocal economic relationships to address trade imbalances.” When they put it that way, it seems tame enough to encompass Obama administration efforts at the G-20 to coax Germany and China to address their current account surpluses.[97] The strategy’s statement that the “trade deficit grew as a result of several factors, including unfair trade practices” is dramatically toned-down from “job-killing deals.” But since the President is still using the stronger language, one wonders how significant the instance of written restraint might be. The National Security Strategy sets moderation aside in its depiction of a world of friends and foes. This seems more novel in the economic realm than in the more traditional security context. The villain, of course, is China:
As we took our political, economic, and military advantages for granted, other actors steadily implemented their long-term plans to challenge America and to advance agendas opposed to the United States, our allies, and our partners. We stood by while countries exploited the international institutions we helped to build. They subsidized their industries, forced technology transfers, and distorted markets.
The document accuses predecessors, both Democrat and Republican, of naïveté, noting that these actions
require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades — policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners. For the most part, this premise turned out to be false.
While the plural here allows for the inclusion of North Korea, Russia, and Iran, none of them are significant economic actors. This is clearly about China.[98] The indictment raises a number of important questions, most too broad to treat adequately here: Was it a mistake to bring China into the World Trade Organization? How much economic damage did China’s inclusion do to the United States?[99] What alternative strategies would have yielded superior outcomes? Has China consistently violated the rules of the global trading system? Or do those outdated rules just fail to forbid Chinese behavior we currently find objectionable? How, exactly, will the United States alter Chinese economic behavior going forward? In the strategy context, the most relevant of these questions are the ones asking about policy alternatives. Presumably, a good strategy helps one make such choices. Certainly, prior to the release of the National Security Strategy, the Trump administration’s behavior toward China has not offered much clarity. At different points, the Trump administration has seemed to have different and conflicting objectives in its relationship with China.[100] Is it more important to punish China for its policies toward U.S. companies, incentivize China to help with North Korea, or thank China for promises of new commercial deals? The one actual accomplishment of the administration in this arena was a relatively quick and minor trade deal that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross described as a “Herculean accomplishment.”[101] The Chinese could have been forgiven for thinking that, between head-of-state summitry and that deal, relations with the Trump administration were fairly copacetic. They will not think that now, but they won’t have a very clear idea where the Trump administration intends to go, either.[102] Contrast the treatment of the Chinese foe in the National Security Strategy with the treatment of friends. The strategy notes, “We recognize the invaluable advantages that our strong relationships with allies and partners deliver.” Not only do we value these allies, we will work together in international settings. For example:
Maintaining America’s central role in international financial forums enhances our security and prosperity by expanding a community of free market economies, defending against threats from state-led economies, and protecting the U.S. and international economy from abuse by illicit actors … Prosperous states are stronger security partners who are able to share the burden of confronting common threats.
To read this, one might think the United States was preparing to launch a new initiative at the World Trade Organization, or perhaps getting ready to strike plurilateral deals with like-minded Atlantic and Pacific partners. The timing of the National Security Strategy claims is a bit awkward, however, after the recent conclusion of a WTO meeting in which the United States, for the first time in the post-war era, seemed to show a striking disdain for the body.[103] It is in the treatment of allies that the contrast between the economic goals espoused in the National Security Strategy and the actual practice of the Trump administration is starkest. If one went by the actual trade policies of the last year, one would think the greatest economic threat to the United States came from Canada. While the National Security Strategy speaks of renegotiating trade deals, the only formal renegotiation underway is of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Canada and Mexico. The national security trade review of steel and aluminum trade seems most likely to hit Canada, as the top supplier of imported steel (17 percent of U.S. supply in 2016, versus 3 percent from China).[104] The Trump administration revived a dispute over imports of Canadian softwood lumber[105] and seemed to encourage another dispute over passenger aircraft.[106] Close behind Canada in the competition for “top Trump trade target” would be Mexico (NAFTA) and South Korea (demands for trade agreement renegotiation).[107] Japan faced rejection through the dismissal of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Europe, which had been negotiating a free trade deal with the Obama administration, has seen it set aside under Trump. In the section discussing the Indo-Pacific region, the National Security Strategy declares, “We will pursue bilateral trade agreements on a fair and reciprocal basis.” This is consistent with the vision that President Trump has espoused repeatedly — a turn away from the unfairness of multilateral deals to a new world of fair bilateral bargains. There are at least five major problems with this vision, however. First, you need a lot of bilaterals to make up for a multilateral. Between the 28 countries of Europe and the 11 other participants in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the United States was in trade talks with 39 countries a year ago. Now that number is down to two (Canada and Mexico). No other deals are underway. Second, the difficult experience of the NAFTA renegotiation shows there is no plan to realize the vision of a “fair and reciprocal” trade approach that fixes trade imbalances. Even the controversial proposals tabled by the United States in those negotiations offer no policies to achieve trade balance. Further, the novel Trump proposals are generally seen as unacceptable both by partner countries and by U.S. industry.[108] Third, the NAFTA experience has deterred others. While the Trump administration has expressed interest in a bilateral deal with Japan, the sentiment is unrequited.[109] Fourth, bilateral deals, unlike multilateral pacts, are generally too varied to establish new global rules. It is exactly such rulemaking that is required to deal with the China challenge that the National Security Strategy highlights. Finally, there is no time to execute this strategy.[110] Even if other countries were willing and the Trump negotiators had a viable approach, trade deals take a long time. This is not because U.S. negotiators are inefficient. It’s because Congress requires extensive periods of notification and consultation before, during, and after a deal is struck. It is also worth noting here, that under the Constitution, it is Congress that sets strategy on trade policy.[111] To summarize, while the National Security Strategy paints a vision of working with allies and partners to confront China, Trump administration practice to date has been to work together with China while attacking allies and partners. The vision of an alternative approach with allies cannot be realized in theory, much less in practice. The final concern about the Trump administration’s written strategy lies in the president’s unwillingness to be constrained by principled argument. In economic matters, the president took office with strong preconceptions at a tactical level: Bilateral deals were better than multilateral deals; the NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership were terrible; and China was cheating. To date, these tactical impulses have overwhelmed strategic considerations. The real test of the new National Security Strategy from an economic perspective will not be whether the strategies are feasible, but whether the embedded principles can successfully be invoked to temper some of the President’s more destructive urges. If so, the exercise will have been worthwhile.   Phil Levy is Senior Fellow on the Global Economy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Adjunct Professor of Strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He previously served as senior trade economist for President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers and was on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Policy Planning Staff.

7. The National Security Strategy and a Return to the Golden Age of Spycraft

By Carmen Medina President Donald Trump’s new National Security Strategy[112] should come as no surprise to the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community. If the interagency process had worked as it should, the intelligence community would have had a substantial role in drafting and coordinating the document. Most of this work would have fallen to the offices of the director of national intelligence, including the National Intelligence Council, but the CIA would have had an official coordinating responsibility. I suspect the CIA would have liked much of what it saw in the National Security Strategy. The document is a fine example of what I like to think of as the CIA’s “house ideology”— the world is a dangerous place full of enemies out to get the United States. I was in the CIA when the Cold War ended and witnessed its struggles to validate its mission once the Soviet Union had fallen. Former CIA Director James Woolsey’s observation that, having slayed the dragon, the United States now faced a jungle full of poisonous snakes was a clever reframing of the house ideology.[113] Of course, the rise of Al Qaeda and ISIL soon eliminated the need for CIA directors to deal in metaphors. This National Security Strategy differs markedly from those of previous administrations with its emphasis on American greatness and on preserving the “American Way of Life.” By my count, that phrase appears 15 times in the current National Security Strategy, compared to no mentions in the 2015 strategy.[114] The 2017 policy goals tend to shift the weight of the strategy toward economic issues: competitiveness, better trade deals, and maintaining the U.S. technology edge. As far as the CIA is concerned, this emphasis, in my view, may not play to its strengths. Economic intelligence has a problematic history in the intelligence community. When China and the Soviet Union were closed economies, CIA officers developed bespoke techniques to figure out their economic strength and productivity. There are still unknowns in the Chinese and Russian economies today, but economic analysts in the intelligence community generally rely on the same types of open source information used by financial analysts everywhere. This will make it that much harder for economic intelligence to differentiate itself from other, more easily-accessible financial analyses. Providing enough value-added on international economic issues will likely be a challenge as CIA seeks to satiate the Trump administration’s likely hunger for actionable intelligence. The CIA’s recent reorganization is another complicating factor. The analytic component of the agency has long struggled with how best to organize for its mission. Is it better to organize by geographical region or by disciplines, such as economic, military, and political? Geographically-based units tend to match better with how policymakers are deployed but niche experts such as economists or technologists can get lost in a unit dominated by military or political experts. Now that the CIA is organized by mission centers, uniting collectors and analysts, it may prove even harder to give economic intelligence its due. I wouldn't be surprised if the CIA decided in the near future to reestablish a separate unit devoted to economic intelligence. Two other interesting aspects of the National Security Strategy as it relates to intelligence are worth mentioning. First, the document notes that the intelligence community must, “continuously pursue strategic intelligence to anticipate geostrategic shifts.” I did not find the phrase “strategic intelligence” in the National Security Strategy from 2015. I, for one, welcome calling out the need for over-the-horizon intelligence and hope the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community heed this call. There is no more important responsibility for intelligence analysts than to help policymakers anticipate future challenges and opportunities. As the pace of change accelerates, the need becomes ever greater to think hard about how individual trends can combine to create unsettling new realities. Second, the National Security Strategy also contains an intriguing nod to the value of open-source information. In a section entitled “Harness all Information at our Disposal,” the strategy calls upon the United States to, “use the information-rich open-source environment to deny the ability of state and non-state actors to attack our citizens.” The language is unclear, but the discussion of intelligence sources and methods is nevertheless striking. The next paragraph calls for the United States to, “fuse information and analysis to compete more effectively on the geopolitical stage.” It seems clear that the Trump administration finds something lacking in current intelligence efforts. Finally, the document makes clear that the world is essentially an arena for competition among sovereign nation-states. Unlike the Obama administration’s National Security Strategy, there is no section devoted to the international order or a discussion of the emergence of mega-cities. The Trump administration’s traditional orientation will be music to the ears of intelligence officers who enjoy competing against the intelligence services of other nation-states. It promises a return to the golden age of spycraft, not just for the United States, but for all our peer competitors.   Carmen Medina is a former deputy director of intelligence for the CIA. During her 32 years at the CIA, she was known as a contrarian and as an advocate of intelligence reform.

8. The National Security Strategy’s Implications for Seapower

By Bryan McGrath The 2017 National Security Strategy[115] released Monday is a statement of Trump administration priorities, and its central tenets can be directly traced to statements made by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, albeit now framed in more genteel terms. National security experts are busily analyzing the strategy to discern its insights, pivots, oversights, inconsistencies, and priorities. This essay, however, concerns itself solely with the strategy’s implications for American seapower. Seapower advocates have long made the case for freedom of the seas and the security and prosperity benefits that such freedom provides. The strategy comes out of the blocks strong on this front, stating, “Americans have long recognized the benefits of an interconnected world, where information and commerce flow freely” (p. 7). But this recognition is quickly qualified:
Engaging with the world, however, does not mean the United States should abandon its rights and duties as a sovereign state or compromise its security. Openness also imposes costs, since adversaries exploit our free and democratic system to harm the United States.
Here we find the fundamental tension between worldwide freedom of the seas (provided by globally deployed American seapower), and the Trump administration’s view that the United States is often taken advantage of, a tension that is never satisfactorily resolved in the document. Where the U.S. Navy Is Going and Why The document outlines U.S. strategy region-by-region: In the Indo-Pacific, the strategy is decidedly forward-leaning, with assurances not only of robust and powerful forward-deployed U.S. forces, but of cooperation, the importance of alliances, and the need to help build partner capacity. Not so in Europe. Our NATO allies are again reminded of their political commitments on defense spending even after a sober discussion of the multiple threats posed by Russia. A Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study released earlier this year (and summarized in War on the Rocks[116]) entitled Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy[117] showed conclusively, that a navy the size of that advocated by the president in his campaign (350 ships) is warranted only if the Navy returns to Europe in force, with routine presence in both the Mediterranean and the approaches to Northern Europe. This document would have been a useful place to lay the groundwork for that return. In the Middle East, the importance of forward-deployed power is reinforced without reference to the capability of our friends and allies there to provide it for themselves. South and Central Asia are handled separately from the Indo-Pacific, perhaps due to the abidingly continental nature of the former and the maritime nature of the latter. Thus, there is little in the South and Central Asia section that relates to seapower. In the Western Hemisphere, the failure to mention the role of the Coast Guard (except by inference) is notable. In Africa, the ability to support counter-terrorism forces from the sea is, similarly, inferred. While the strategy document acknowledges that a strong economy “protects the American people, supports our way of life, and sustains American power,” it does not offer any substantial discussion of how military power works to protect and sustain economic prosperity. Yet, no other aspect of military power is as closely connected with prosperity. This symbiotic relationship between seapower and prosperity was bluntly stated centuries ago by Sir Walter Raleigh:
[W]hosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.[118]
American seapower apostle Alfred Thayer Mahan packaged this view more diplomatically for statesmen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though no less emphatically.[119] No such emphasis is to be found in this document. Instead, seapower is simply treated as one of several instruments of military power that must be better resourced without any indication of priority. Meanwhile, a number of familiar campaign themes manifest themselves in the National Security Strategy’s prescriptions for promoting prosperity (fair trade deals, improving infrastructure, and reducing regulatory burdens) without much consideration of that which provides for the movement of 90 percent of world trade: freedom of the seas underwritten by dominant American seapower.[120] A New Era of Great Power Competition on the Seas Although the document fails to discuss the unique peacetime, regulatory functions performed by globally postured American seapower and their impact on prosperity (not to mention the force structure required to perform these functions), it does reveal the Trump administration’s reasons for calling for a military buildup: to prevent and prepare for war with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and to conduct ongoing operations against jihadist terrorists. It is a compelling case, such as it is, and it provides some hopeful signs for those advocating for dominant American seapower. The strategy recognizes that we have entered a new age of great power competition. Calling out China and Russia is helpful because it not only identifies the threats that U.S. forces will likely face, but it also suggests a range of military objectives against which these nations might move. Understanding threat and objectives helps military planners determine the right size (capacity) and mix (capability) of the force. One statement, in particular, resonates:
China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favor (p. 25).
Displacing the United States in the Indo-Pacific region is no mean task, and the military component of this Chinese objective is abidingly maritime in nature. If it is indeed the desire of the United States not to be displaced, American seapower will have to shoulder a disproportionate share of the load. The language regarding the Russian threat is equally strong, and makes clear to national security planners that Europe is once again a theater of concern after several decades of relative peace. A New Deterrence Posture The document introduces a sophisticated argument for a new conventional deterrence posture that has significant implications for American seapower:
We must convince adversaries that we can and will defeat them—not just punish them if they attack the United States. We must ensure the ability to deter potential enemies by denial, convincing them that they cannot accomplish objectives through the use of force or other forms of aggression (p.28).
This shift from an emphasis of deterrence by punishment to one that stresses denial of enemy objectives echoes the central theme of the CSBA report mentioned above. This study was conducted in response to tasking in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act directing the Defense Department to commission a series of reports on alternative fleet architectures. The CSBA report was unique among the three studies[121] in that the entire fleet architecture was built around a central proposition: that the current approach to conventional deterrence would be ineffective against the numerous, important — but limited — military objectives available to China and Russia in their near abroad. In other words, the threat of punishment would be insufficient to deter, and the ability of U.S. forces in the region to deny or delay aggression must be increased in order to raise the costs of aggression. This is not a subtle shift. In fact, deterrence by denial demands the availability of nearby force that can be employed quickly and lethally, a primary attribute of forward-deployed American seapower. The CSBA’s architecture provides an option for a more muscular conventional deterrent against not only China and Russia, but also Iran and North Korea. Growing the U.S. Fleet The National Security Strategy also makes it clear that when it comes to military force, size matters. Criticizing previous administrations, the strategy states:
We also incorrectly believed that technology could compensate for our reduced capacity — for the ability to field enough forces to prevail militarily, consolidate our gains, and achieve our desired political ends. We convinced ourselves that all wars would be fought and won quickly, from stand-off distances and with minimal casualties (p. 27).
Critics of growing the U.S. fleet have for years fallen back on the notion that, because individual ships are more capable today than ships in the past, fewer of them are needed. The strategy strikes a blow against the false choice of “capacity vs. capability,” advocating that both are important. Whether both are important across the spectrum of military power is an open question. The strategy states that, “The Joint Force must remain capable of deterring and defeating the full range of threats to the United States” (p. 29). At first glance, the statement seems unobjectionable. Of course U.S. forces must be capable of deterring and defeating the full range of threats. That said, it could also provide cover to avoid making hard choices and answering tough questions: Are all threats equally dangerous and proximate? Must we be equally capable of deterring and defeating all of them simultaneously? The answer to these questions is “of course not.” The strategy also discusses the importance of strategic nuclear forces and nuclear deterrence, a crucial topic as the nation considers the considerable cost of modernizing and operating its nuclear triad.[122] Coming as it does after an earlier insightful discussion of conventional deterrence and what is necessary to deter by denial rather than from punishment, this emphasis on strategic deterrence raises the question of cost and priority. Interestingly, within the Navy, there appears to be no question of priority. The chief of naval operations Adm. John Richardson has repeatedly stated that recapitalizing the nation’s fleet of ballistic missile capable submarines is his top acquisition priority.[123] However, this priority of strategic deterrence over conventional deterrence is being called into question. Earlier this week, my colleague Seth Cropsey and I released a Hudson Institute Center for American Seapower monograph entitled Maritime Strategy in a New Era of Great Power Competition.[124] In it, we argue
for a new theory of deterrence, one that revises the Cold War approach in which the Soviet Union was deterred from large-scale conventional attack by the threat of nuclear escalation. Under that rubric, one could justifiably say that America’s conventional deterrent was dependent on its strategic deterrent. Today, the decapitating “bolt from the blue” strike is even more remote than it was in the Cold War, and to the extent that nuclear exchange between great powers is conceivable, it is far more likely to flow from conventional conflict that has gone awry. Therefore, to deter nuclear war, we must deter conventional war. No aspect of American military power will be more critical to deterring either nuclear or conventional super-power war than seapower.
By this reckoning and the administration’s rightful emphasis on a new theory of conventional deterrence, care must be taken to ensure that the modernization of strategic nuclear forces does not unduly crowd out resources more wisely applied to conventional capabilities. Historically speaking, one of the nation’s most useful tools for exerting its influence around the world has been its fleet. The fleet reminds allies that we are engaged, warns potential aggressors that we have interests we will protect, and provides the capability to support diplomacy and development along the coastlines, where the vast majority of the world’s population lives. Yet, these attributes are virtually ignored by the strategy document to its detriment. Conclusion While aiming to offer a sober assessment of the 2017 National Security Strategy on American seapower, I share the reservations Dan Drezner expressed Tuesday in a Washington Post article, in which he lays bare the many contradictions between the content of the strategy and the words and publicly expressed views of the president who signed it.[125] Nowhere was this disconnect more obvious to me than in the president’s one-and-a-half-page introductory letter. In it, North Korea, Iran, and ISIL are called out by name, but Russia and China are only referred to vaguely as “…undermining American interests around the globe.” This is in stark contrast to the substance of the strategy, in which both nations are named and shamed for their depredations upon U.S. interests, the international system, and their neighbors. If the people of this nation are to be convinced to rebuild the nation’s military strength, they are going to have to be persuaded by the leadership of the president. Few Americans will actually read the president’s strategy, but most are open to his influence. As long as he continues to soft-peddle the threat posed by the revisionist regimes in Moscow and Beijing, and so long as he continues to warmly embrace their authoritarian leaders, the massive contradiction between him and his National Security Strategy will remain, and the military buildup will not be achieved. The National Security Strategy tells a realistic story. It would be nice if the president agreed with it.   Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, and the Deputy Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower.

9. An Airman’s View of the New National Security Strategy

By David A. Deptula The new National Security Strategy[126] is a well-written treatise that appropriately embraces a “whole of government approach” to meeting the nation’s global security needs. Henry Kissinger famously said that, “The attempt to separate diplomacy and power results in power lacking direction and diplomacy being deprived of incentives.”[127] However, the bottom line is that the U.S. military is the backbone of our national security strategy. Thus, it is heartening to see that the Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy contains the best of Ronald Reagan’s strategy of peace through strength. A combination of U.S. national security interests combined with a challenging threat environment demands that our military must be the best-trained, best-led, best-armed, and most capable armed force in the world. Failing to do this will see the United States at risk, with adversaries becoming ever-more aggressive at the cost of global stability. This is not an academic proposition. The U.S. military advantage in terms of capabilities and capacity relative to potential threats around the world has been shrinking. Aggression in the South China Sea, an increasingly belligerent North Korea and Iran, a resurgent Russia, and numerous other developments can be traced back to an erosion of U.S. power. Competing states realize America faces major military capacity and capability challenges and are eager to advance their interest in the resulting void. This situation must be reversed. Conventional deterrence is achieved by possessing the capability to win a fight 99 to 1. While building a force to win 51 to 49 may be less expensive in the short term, the higher potential of conflict it engenders will result in enormously greater costs in the long term. If you think maintaining the peace is expensive, consider the expense of war. Look at the result of the past 17 years of continual combat: over one trillion dollars expended, thousands of lives lost, and tremendous positive potential ceded due to decisions that confused the number of boots on the ground with strategy. Military requirements should be set at levels necessary to support the fundamental tenets of America’s national security strategy, as opposed to allowing arbitrary budget restrictions drive our national security strategy. In this regard, it would be wise to recall the astute words of Sir John Slessor:
It is customary in democratic countries to deplore expenditure on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of the social services.  There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free.[128]
There are three enduring tenets of our national security strategies over the years that have served the United States well: First, maintain sufficient military forces and capabilities to engage around the world to encourage peace and stability. Second, in the event of a necessary confrontation, ensure the fight happens away from U.S. territory in a fashion that puts the enemy’s centers of gravity at risk. And finally, be able to win more than one major regional conflict at a time. To accomplish these, the United States needs a set of robust, capable, and ready forces with a rotational base sufficient to sustain operations. So, let’s cut to the chase. As well stated in the new National Security Strategy, the government of the United States has for too long underfunded its military. As Sen. John McCain said even before the new National Security Strategy was released, the U.S. military is — in addition to being underfunded — undersized and unready. It is now incumbent upon President Donald Trump to set budget guidelines that meet the challenges that he has so well outlined in his new National Security Strategy. The world is on fire and the proposed increases to the current defense budget are not even close to meeting those challenges. In fact, the funding is only fractionally higher than Obama’s budget extended. While all the services are under-resourced, some need attention ahead of others.  Among all the armed forces, the Air Force has been the hardest hit by the past 25 years of underfunding. As a result, today it has the oldest weapon systems, is the smallest, and it is the least ready it has ever been in its entire history. Unlike the other services, the Air Force has been at war without a break since January 1991, not just since September 11, 2011. The Air Force has not had a break from constant combat for over 26 years. The Air Force has become the indispensable force in the conduct of military operations. No U.S. military operation can be conducted successfully without the U.S. Air Force because it provides the global vigilance, global reach, and global power that all joint commands require to succeed. It also presents leaders options that are vital when seeking to project effective, prudent power — especially when it comes to avoiding unnecessary wars of occupation. However, today the Air Force is operating a geriatric force that is becoming more so every day — bombers and tankers over 50 years of age, trainers over 40, and fighters and helicopters over 30. For comparison purposes the average age of the U.S. airline fleet is about 10 years — and they don’t stress their aircraft by operating them at 6 to 9 times the force of gravity on a daily basis, as do our fighters. If World War II-era B-17s had flown in Desert Storm, they’d have been younger than the B-52s and tankers we are using in contingency operations today. During Operation Desert Storm — America’s last quick and decisive victory — the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons. Today it has 55. That is a 60 percent reduction in forces.  Thirty-eight fighter squadrons participated in Desert Storm — 70 percent of today’s total.  Desert Storm was one major regional conflict in a world and against a threat far less complex than those we face today. Today, thanks to Congressional underfunding, less than 50 percent of the Air Force is ready to fight tonight. Part of the Air Force plan regarding readiness is to move from where it is today at 320,000, to 350,000 people over seven years. That will only get us to what the Air Force manning requirements are for today, much less to set the conditions for the improved readiness across the Air Force — in all mission areas — necessary to match the demands called for in the new National Security Strategy. To consider the real impact of the shortfall, it is worth looking at the security demand signal. The scale and scope of the challenge can best be appreciated by considering the global environment at the turn of the century in 2000. Russia and China were not aggressively seeking to dominate their respective regions through overt power projection. The present flavor of terrorism had yet to manifest itself in a large scale. The threat posed by Iran and North Korea was nowhere near the scale of the present set of concerns. Regions like the Arctic were not on the minds of Pentagon leaders. And cyberspace was in nascent form. While operations like those undertaken in Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo were not without their unique challenges, the security environment looked quaint from a comparative perspective. While the world was by no means a safe place 18 years ago, it did not pose the number and variety of serious threats — many existential in nature — seen in today’s security environment. The security environment facing the United States fundamentally shifted with the attacks of September 11, 2001. American forces engaged in a broad array of operations, with efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq standing as the most visible activities. This period also saw the often-underappreciated rise of nation states with interest directly opposed to those of the United States: a resurgent Russia, an aggressive China, and the nuclear threat posed by Iran and North Korea. Seventeen years later, the United States Air Force now finds itself stretched thin trying to manage a challenging set of threats around the globe with much fewer resources than it possessed in less challenging times. The Air Force requires serious recapitalization — bombers, fighters, trainers, surveillance aircraft — but not just aircraft. The Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force is over 40 years old. Nuclear forces need modernization. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance forces are growing in demand. Additional Air Force space assets are essential to providing a global utility in the form of GPS, critical communications, and satellites must be modernized to survive modern threats. Finally, there is the growing demand for cyber-warriors and associated capabilities. Rebuilding the geriatric U.S. Air Force to meet the demands of the new strategy will be expensive, but the only thing more expensive than a first-rate air force is a second-rate air force. With a first-rate air force, we deter conflict. With a second-rate air force, we encourage conflict, and to a growing degree, risk failure. War is the most costly and wasteful of endeavors so it is best to actualize the tenets ensconced in the new strategy to achieve peace through strength — or Washington needs to change its expectations. The first responsibility of the United States government is the security of the American people. As the preamble of the Constitution states, the government was established to “provide for the common defense,” and subsequently to “promote the general welfare.” Congressional decisions have confused this prioritization, with the Budget Control Act of 2011 taxing defense spending at a rate greater than twice its percentage of the total federal budget. The release of the new National Security Strategy has given the United States an opportunity to return to first principles and get our priorities straight. For too many years, arbitrary spending limits have decided U.S. military force structure when it should have been determined by the national security strategy. As a result, prior administrations and Congresses have created a growing strategy-resource mismatch. Having issued a well-designed National Security Strategy, the Trump administration now needs to work with Congress to resource our military, economic, information, and diplomatic arms to execute it and assure its success against any foreseeable adversary, but more importantly, with the necessary levels of capacity and capability that will deter any adversary from initiating conflict in the first place. If the United States wants to avoid future conflict and maintain key interests around the globe, the price of those aims is a fully resourced strategy.   David A. Deptula, is a retired Air Force Lt. General, with over 3000 flying hours, planned the Desert Storm air campaign, orchestrated air operations over Iraq and Afghanistan, oversaw the dramatic increase in Air Force drone forces in the mid 2000’s, and is now dean of the AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Power Studies. Image: U.S. Air Force [post_title] => Policy Roundtable: What to Make of Trump's National Security Strategy [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => policy-roundtable-make-trumps-national-security-strategy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-02 10:46:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-02 15:46:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=378 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => We at TNSR have assembled an all-star cast of experts from a variety of backgrounds to analyze the Trump administration's National Security Strategy. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Policy [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 22 [1] => 109 [2] => 110 [3] => 111 [4] => 112 [5] => 113 [6] => 15 [7] => 115 [8] => 116 [9] => 117 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Calvin and Hobbes, “Very Sorry,” retrieved December 20, 2017, http://www.picpak.net/calvin/oldsite/images/verysorry.jpg. [2] 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 media coverage, see, e.g., CBS News, “Trump Outlines New National Security Strategy,” December 18, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/live-trump-delivers-national-security-strategy-speech-live-stream/. [3] For representative discussions, see David Frum, “A National-Security Strategy Devoid of Values,” The Atlantic, December 12, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/a-national-security-strategy-devoid-of-values/548219/; James Jay Carafano, “What Should Trump’s National Security Strategy Look Like?” The National Interest, December 10, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/what-should-trumps-national-security-strategy-look-23585; Thomas Wright, “What Would An Honest National Security Strategy Say,” War on the Rocks, December 12, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/12/honest-national-security-strategy-say/; Steven Metz, “Linking Trump’s National Security Strategy to Reagan is a Roll of the Dice,” World Politics Review, December 8, 2017, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/23784/linking-trump-s-national-security-strategy-to-reagan-is-a-roll-of-the-dice; Kate Brannen, “Trump’s National Security Strategy is Decidedly Non-Trumpian,” The Atlantic, December 8, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/trump-nss-diplomacy-security-foreign-policy/547937/. [4] Paul Pillar, “America Alone,” The National Interest, December 19, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/america-alone-23726; Andrew E. Kramer, “Russia and China Object to New ‘America First’ Security Doctrine,” New York Times, December 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/world/europe/russia-china-america-first-doctrine.html; Daniel Twining, “Does Trump’s National Security Strategy Have a Value’s Deficit?” Foreign Policy, December 19, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/18/trumps-national-security-strategy-has-a-values-deficit/; Roger Cohen, “Trump’s National Security Strategy is a Farce,” New York Times, December 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/opinion/trump-national-security-strategy-tillerson-haley.html; Editorial, “Trump’s National Security Strategy Isn’t Much of a Strategy at All,” Washington Post, December 19, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trumps-national-security-strategy-isnt-much-of-a-strategy-at-all/2017/12/19/eac50556-e4e9-11e7-ab50-621fe0588340_story.html?utm_term=.af589929bd37. [5] Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), 3–6; Hal Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy?: Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014). [6] For the critique of grand strategy as a formal plan, see Ionut Popescu, “Grand Strategy is Overrated,” Foreign Policy, December 11, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/11/grand-strategy-is-overrated-trump-national-security-strategy-nss/. [7] For such discussions, see G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, eds., Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century: Final Report of the Princeton Project on National Security (Princeton: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 2006). [8] Patrick Porter, “Why America's Grand Strategy Has Not Changed: Power, Habit and the Foreign Policy Establishment,” International Security (forthcoming). [9] National Security Strategy 2017, 4, 40, 46–49. [10] The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March 2006, 35, https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/64884.pdf; The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, February 2015, 2, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2015_national_security_strategy_2.pdf. [11] Eric S. Edelman, “The Strange Career of the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance,” in In Uncertain Times: American Foreign Policy After the Berlin Wall and 9/11, ed. Melvyn P Leffler and Jeffrey Legro (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011), 63–77. [12] National Security Strategy 2015, 24. See also National Security Strategy 2006, 40–42. [13] National Security Strategy 2006, 42; National Security Strategy 2015, 24. [14] National Security Strategy 2017, 27. [15] National Security Strategy 2017, 39. [16] The White House, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002, 6, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/nss/2002/. [17] National Security Strategy 2006, 8-10; National Security Strategy 2015, 9-10. [18] Thomas Wright, “Trump’s 19th Century Foreign Policy,” Politico, January 20, 2016, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-foreign-policy-213546?o=2. [19] Elliot Cohen, “Trump is Ending the American Era,” The Atlantic, October 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/is-trump-ending-the-american-era/537888. [20] Hal Brands, “US Grand Strategy in an Age of Nationalism: Fortress America and its Alternatives,” Washington Quarterly (Spring 2017): 74. [21] National Security Strategy 2017, 37–38. [22] “China Reacts to Trump’s National Security Strategy.” CBS News, December 19, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-china-national-security-strategy-victory-hardliners-us-isolationism/; “Russia blasts Trump’s “imperial” national security strategy,” CBS News, December 19, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/russia-donald-trump-imperial-national-security-strategy/. [23] National Security Strategy 2017, 17. [24] Henry Kissinger, “Implementing Bush’s Vision,” Washington Post, May 16, 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/15/AR2005051500811.html. [25] National Security Strategy 2017, 42. [26] Hal Brands and Peter Feaver, “Saving Realism from the So-Called Realists,” Commentary, August 14, 2017, https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/saving-realism-called-realists/. [27] Brands, “Strategy in an Age of Nationalism”: 83. See also Hal Brands, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2017). [28] Thomas Wright, All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-First Century and the Future of American Power (Yale University Press, 2017), 227. [29] “Remarks by President Trump on the Administration’s National Security Strategy,” White House (website), December 18, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-administrations-national-security-strategy/. [30] For illustration, see Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, “Trump and NATO: Old Wine in Gold Bottles?” H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Series, September 29, 2017, https://issforum.org/roundtables/policy/1-5ba-nato. [31] For the most forthright argument, see the conclusion to John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001). [32] 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. [33] Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen (Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures, 2011), DVD. [34] Stephen Cleary, “Writers in Paris,” British Library, May 25, 2016, https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/writers-in-paris. [35] Charles Poore, “Ernest Hemingway’s Memoir of Paris in the Twenties,” New York Times, May 5, 1964, http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/07/04/specials/hemingway-feast.html. [36] Kim Willsher, “Monet, Cabaret and Absinthe: Paris Years for ‘la Belle Époque,’” The Guardian, February 15, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/15/paris-1900-belle-epoque-exhibition-petit-palais [37] Livy, History of Rome, book 1, trans. Rev. Canon Roberts (New York City, NY: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1912), http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0026. [38] Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Latin Literature,” accessed December 20, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/art/Latin-literature - ref244285. [39] Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, 1776, retrieved December 20, 2017, http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/gibbon/01/daf01012.htm. [40] Deutsche Welle, “Italy’s Parliament Votes to Outlaw Fascist Symbols, Roman Salute,” September 13, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/italys-parliament-votes-to-outlaw-fascist-symbols-roman-salute/a-40486690. [41] Michael Enright, “Is the Brexit vote Nostalgia for the Bygone Glories of the British Empire?” CBC Radio, June 26, 2016, http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/who-s-voting-trump-nostalgia-for-brittannia-ad-blockers-are-killing-the-internet-the-poet-who-hates-poetry-1.3649955/is-the-brexit-vote-nostalgia-for-the-bygone-glories-of-the-british-empire-1.3649960; Samuel Earle, “The Toxic Nostalgia of Brexit,” The Atlantic, October 5, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/10/brexit-britain-may-johnson-eu/542079/; Gideon Rachman, “Brexit Reinforces Britain’s Imperial Amnesia,” Financial Times, May 27, 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/e3e32b38-0fc8-11e7-a88c-50ba212dce4d; Lord Ashcroft, “How the United Kingdom Voted on Thursday…and Why,” Lord Ashcroft Polls, June 24, 2016, http://lordashcroftpolls.com/2016/06/how-the-united-kingdom-voted-and-why/; [42] Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation, (New York City, NY: Random House, 1998). [43] Barbara Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the war, 1890-1914 (New York City, NY: Random House, 1996). [44] Mike Rowe, “The Most,” The History Channel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm0yQg1hS_w&feature=youtu.be; Duck and Cover, U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration, 1951, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFT8hLjHtuE&feature=youtu.be. [45] “Public Uncertain, Divided Over America’s Place in the World,” Pew Research Center, May 5, 2016, http://www.people-press.org/2016/05/05/8-perceptions-of-u-s-global-power-and-respect/. [46] Jimmy Carter, “Address to the Nation on Energy and National Goals: ‘The Malaise Speech,’” July 15, 1979, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=32596. 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The National Security Strategy's Implications for Seapower, by Bryan McGrath 9. An Airman's View of the New National Security Strategy, by David A. 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