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Unlocking the Gates of Eurasia: China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Its Implications for U.S. Grand Strategy

Unlocking the Gates of Eurasia: China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Its Implications for U.S. Grand Strategy

What is the Belt and Road Initiative and what implications could it have for America’s grand strategy? As many observers have pointed out, China’s Belt and Road suffers from a number of problems and ambiguities. However, it is a much more coherent, potent,…

Disentangling Grand Strategy: International Relations Theory and U.S. Grand Strategy

Disentangling Grand Strategy: International Relations Theory and U.S. Grand Strategy

This article assesses the underlying sources of disagreement among competing scholarly treatments of U.S. grand strategy. It argues that much of the debate centers on differing conceptions of the roles of power and domestic and international institutions in…

What Is Grand Strategy? Sweeping a Conceptual Minefield

What Is Grand Strategy? Sweeping a Conceptual Minefield

Amidst acute geopolitical flux, the study of grand strategy is necessary for scholars and strategists alike. As a framework for scholarship, it trains attention on the highest-order questions of international relations: why, how, and for what purposes states…

Choosing Primacy: U.S. Strategy and Global Order at the Dawn of the Post-Cold War Era

Choosing Primacy: U.S. Strategy and Global Order at the Dawn of the Post-Cold War Era

Newly declassified U.S. government records shed some light onto U.S. strategic thinking about the post-Cold War era and the infamous Defense Planning Guidance.

The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives

The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives

By the end of the 19th century, the study of strategy had become routine for practitioners, but of little interest for theorists. By the end of the 20th century, it had become a matter of endless fascination for theorists, but a puzzle for practitioners.

The Meaning of Strategy, Part I: The Origins

The Meaning of Strategy, Part I: The Origins

The word "strategy," which is now commonplace, only first came into use to understand military affairs at the beginning of the 19th century in Europe. Since then, its meaning has changed in important ways.

Too Much History: American Policy and East Asia in the Shadow of the Past

Too Much History: American Policy and East Asia in the Shadow of the Past

East Asian countries have a tendency to recall their historical grievances with rival nations, thus increasing the risk of eventual conflict. American policy toward East Asia, on the other hand, tends to have too short of a memory.

Why Did America Cross the Pacific? Reconstructing the U.S. Decision to Take the Philippines, 1898-99

Why Did America Cross the Pacific? Reconstructing the U.S. Decision to Take the Philippines, 1898-99

A closer examination of what led President William McKinley to take the Philippines reveals a series of deliberate and thoughtful choices that have often been overlooked or ignored.

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                    [post_content] => The Belt and Road Initiative, an unprecedented infrastructure program that extends across and beyond the Eurasian continent, has elicited increasingly hostile reactions in the West and come to symbolize U.S. leaders’ disillusionment regarding Beijing’s growing assertiveness and authoritarianism under Xi Jinping.[1] However, the initiative’s nature and its potential repercussions remain unclear. What is Belt and Road? What implications could it have for America’s grand strategy?[2] This article investigates these questions with a particular focus on security dynamics, arguing that, despite multiple problems and ambiguities, Belt and Road spearheads a coherent Chinese grand strategy that could weaken the foundations of America’s post-World War II hegemony but also advance some U.S. interests.[3]

Many observers view Beijing’s initiative as a threat. The Trump administration, whose December 2017 National Security Strategy declared China a “revisionist” power that aims “to erode American security and prosperity,” has vehemently denounced Beijing’s predatory economic practices and, along with some allies and partners, is developing alternative investment projects.[4] Likewise, most scholars are skeptical about Chinese intentions. Some perceive Belt and Road as an opportunity.[5] Others stress that its primary goal is to advance China’s domestic economic growth.[6] Yet, many believe that under the guise of spreading prosperity Beijing intends to centralize global economic activity, weaken America’s alliances, and erode the U.S.-led international order, with baleful consequences.[7]

At the same time, most experts contend that China’s prospects of success are slim. Belt and Road’s closest equivalent, the Marshall Plan for Western Europe, which the United States launched while at the height of its power, had a much narrower financial reach and timeline (1947 – 1951) and covered far fewer nations — but ones that were economically stronger.[8] While some scholars anticipate that Belt and Road will generate modest returns,[9] many criticize it as a mere slogan or an “endless list of unrelated activities” that will drain Beijing’s finances and damage recipient countries.[10]

In this article, I engage this conversation and argue that, for all its flaws, the Belt and Road Initiative is much more coherent, potent, and resilient than many believe. First, it leverages China’s unique geoeconomic assets, such as state control over national actors, a vast national market, and growth rates superior to those of most countries, to circumvent Washington’s military primacy.[11] Second, Belt and Road works in tandem with Beijing’s industrial modernization, defense buildup, omni-directional engagement, and sophisticated propaganda, thereby transcending the U.S. military-centric approach. Third, the initiative advances a hybrid cross-regional geostrategy that yields powerful sea-land synergies, in contrast with America’s more circumscribed vision. Finally, China’s initiative exploits Washington’s post-Cold War overreach — militarization, political and neoliberal interference — and the strains in its alliance network. Left unchecked, Belt and Road could erode America’s post-World War II hegemony. However, it also offers opportunities that could be leveraged to advance some U.S. interests.

This article makes two contributions to the literature. First, and most important, its multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach helps capture Belt and Road’s mutually reinforcing foundations. Excellent studies have addressed the genesis and contours of China’s initiative in general terms, or have explored its implementation in specific domains (e.g., finance and technology), geographic areas (e.g., Pakistan and Southeast Asia), or projects, like Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.[12] However, investigating its historical and cultural roots, multidimensional nature, synergy with other Chinese policies, and geostrategic manifestations altogether against the backdrop of America’s hegemony helps uncover why Beijing’s endeavor is more coherent, potent, and sustainable than many believe.

Second, the article stresses the role of geoeconomics in grand strategy. Leading scholars have shown how economic assets can elevate a state’s international position.[13] Recent studies have demonstrated how “deeper, faster … and more integrated” markets impact foreign policy, or have compared the U.S.-China competition to the contest between Germany and Great Britain in infrastructure, technology, trade, and finance in the late 19th century.[14] However, endorsing the realist paradigm that “effective power is [essentially] a function of … military forces,”[15] many experts “shy away” from economic analysis.[16] To them, grand strategy mostly relies on “military remedies,”[17] “concentrates … on how the military instrument should be employed,”[18] and necessitates the ability to “use … force internationally.”[19] This analysis builds on these vital contributions but, it reintroduces geoeconomics into the picture.

The article proceeds in three sections. First, it outlines Belt and Road’s progress, its position within China’s grand strategy and strategic culture, and its resilience. Second, it explores how Belt and Road helps protect the foundations of Beijing’s power. Third, it investigates how the initiative allows China to project influence abroad. In each section, the article also discusses the impact of Beijing’s ambitions on the interdependent levers of influence — military, economic, diplomatic, and geostrategic — that have underpinned America’s post-World War II hegemony. It concludes with policy recommendations for U.S. leaders.

Belt and Road: More than a Slogan

Despite its many problems, the Belt and Road Initiative relies on powerful drivers that are sources of coherence, strength, and sustainability. After a brief overview of Belt and Road, this section discusses the initiative’s position within China’s grand strategy and strategic culture, and its resilience in the face of uncertainties, setbacks, and rising competition. Emerging Features The Belt and Road Initiative was launched in the fall of 2013. At its core, it seeks to use trade and foreign direct investment, most of which emanate from state-owned banks, to build connectivity across Eurasia. Its two main branches, the Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt, initially radiated in six directions: the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, the China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor, the China-Central Asia-Western Asia Corridor, the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, and the New Eurasian Land Bridge. As formalized in March 2015, Beijing intends to develop transport, energy, and telecommunication infrastructure to bolster commerce, financial integration, policy coordination, and “people-to-people bonds.”[20] [quote id="1"] One oft-cited description of the Belt and Road Initiative portrays a multidecade undertaking of $4 trillion spanning areas that represent 70 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of the global economic output, and 75 percent of the planet’s energy reserves. Another study predicted that Belt and Road funding would ultimately exceed $8 trillion.[21] These estimates are speculative. However, the initiative has already become a concrete reality. Beijing spent $138 billion in investments — meant to acquire “ownership stake[s]” — and $208 billion in construction projects conducted for third parties in Belt and Road countries between 2014 and 2017, compared to $76 billion and $140 billion, respectively, between 2010 and 2013. Belt and Road’s share in China’s foreign direct investments rose from less than 20 percent in 2017 to 40 percent in 2018, although that increase partly resulted from expanding membership in the initiative.[22] Moreover, Belt and Road trade exceeded $1.3 trillion in 2018, a 16.3 percent jump that dwarfed China’s 12.6 percent overall trade increase.[23] The scope and content of the initiative are ambiguous and in constant flux. However, these characteristics do not necessarily handicap it. Belt and Road’s membership — currently more than 100 countries — continues to expand. Although many observers have derided the vagueness of its Memoranda of Understanding, these documents have real political value and initiate processes that can gain momentum over time. Moreover, many actors located outside Belt and Road’s boundaries are collaborating with China’s initiative, including the Saudi government, British banks, and American companies.[24] Finally, Belt and Road works in conjunction with Beijing’s industrial modernization, economic and diplomatic outreach, propaganda, and military expansion. Observers rightly point out that the initiative lacks transparency and that its projects are impacted — sometimes corrupted — by Chinese substate actors who compete against each other to serve their own agendas.[25] Indeed, the post-1978 “fragmentation, decentralization and internationalization of … state apparatuses” in China has allowed bureaucracies and state-owned companies to work around governmental directives, and has left provinces free to engage internationally without much oversight.[26] Furthermore, Chinese government elites themselves use Belt and Road to build “discourses of hopes and fears” that shift the domestic narrative away from growing economic difficulties.[27] However, Beijing’s authorities are highly committed to rationalizing the process. Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao, involved his own legitimacy in Belt and Road, enshrined the latter into the national constitution, created a high-level committee that regularly intervenes to address the initiative’s dysfunctions, and presented Belt and Road to the rest of the world as a symbol of China’s rise and credibility.[28] To be sure, problems will persist, but they are likely to remain under control. Some experts emphasize that Belt and Road is merely a slogan because many of the methods and projects that it encompasses existed before its launch. Indeed, the initiative doubles down on state control of the national economy and exploitation of Beijing’s foreign commercial appeal. It resonates with the Western development strategy, designed in the late 1990s to reduce inequalities between China’s coastal and continental provinces; the “Going Out” investment plan for strategic assets, begun in the 2000s; growth-seeking infrastructure campaigns launched in 1997 and 2008; and rhetorical catchphrases, such as “peaceful rise,” promoted in the mid-2000s.[29] The same can be said of specific projects. For instance, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor builds upon a long friendship rooted in a common interest in encircling India. Yet, these continuities suggest a real degree of coherence. Additionally, Belt and Road is taking past endeavors to new heights. Moreover, the initiative publicizes China’s emerging global ambitions at a time of widespread perception of America’s relative decline. Belt and Road’s Position Within China’s Grand Strategy and Strategic Culture The coherence of the Belt and Road Initiative also stems from its symbiotic integration within the arc of Communist China’s grand strategy. That strategy was largely defined by the “century of humiliation” — the period between the start of the First Opium War in 1839 and the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 — which destroyed the “extraordinarily high … civilizational self-regard in which the Celestial Empire had for so long insisted on holding itself.”[30] The trauma generated a “post-imperial ideology” of victimization,[31] and convinced many Chinese that their country’s “destiny” was to recover “global status and power.”[32] This perspective reflects important facets of China’s strategic culture itself. Beijing’s leaders have long claimed to have a unique “pacifist, non-expansionist, and purely defensive” orientation.[33] Endorsing this assessment, many experts who delved into the writings of traditional figures such as Confucius or Sun Tzu stressed a national preference for “strategic defense,” “diplomatic intrigue,” “alliance building,” and “the restrained application of force for clearly enunciated political ends.”[34] Those virtues are often contrasted with Western civilization’s allegedly aggressive outlook. Indeed, according to some scholars, Chinese leaders developed a “siege mentality” that they now direct toward the United States, which they consider to be in opposition to Beijing’s resurgence.[35] Belt and Road aligns with this intellectual framework. China promotes it to pursue “strategic hedging” — optimizing its ability to handle potential threats coming from the international system’s hegemon without taking explicit military action.[36] More broadly, Belt and Road is being used to “shape [an] environment that is conducive to … [Beijing’s] economic, social, and political development.”[37] In doing so, the initiative departs from the Western strategic tradition, which stresses “force on force.”[38] Designed to circumvent U.S. military superiority, its geoeconomic thrust, omni-directional engagement, and hybrid maritime-continental orientation reflect centuries-old tactics, such as “forestalling hostile coalitions … seeking relative advantage rather than high-risk confrontations,”[39] and “[using] the soft and gentle to overcome the hard and strong.”[40] Moreover, Belt and Road conveys a narrative of peaceful benevolence.[41] Honoring the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, the initiative officially welcomes everyone, offers “win-win cooperation,” and promotes “friendship, shared development, peace, harmony and a better future.”[42] This lofty rhetoric obliquely refers to the tribute system that helped China dominate Asia via “civilizational attraction” from the 3rd century B.C. to the mid-19th century.[43] [quote id="2"] However, this narrative could be curtailed by other facets of Beijing’s strategic culture. To begin with, that culture is characterized by a Sino-centrism stretching back to the third millennium B.C. according to which all those who lived beyond China’s peripheries were “subordinate barbarians.”[44] Those patterns have been exacerbated by the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology and nationalism. In fact, Belt and Road’s early implementation has shown some propensity to ignore local expectations in recipient countries. Additionally, the initiative perpetuates China’s perennial “pull between closure and openness,” as illustrated by its lack of transparency or by the promotion of authoritarian standards via the Digital Silk Road.[45] Most important, Belt and Road constitutes an open “counter-hegemonic” effort.[46] Breaking with the “hide and bide” approach defined by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, Xi Jinping publicly announced a plan to achieve “global [leadership] in … comprehensive national power” by 2049.[47] This declaration marks the end of the “strategy of transition,” which was adopted after the 1996 Taiwan crisis to help China emerge “within … a unipolar international system.”[48] Xi’s growing assertiveness could illustrate what some leading scholars have presented as the dominant face of China’s strategic culture, one that heavily relies on violence and offensive warfare.[49] After all, over the centuries, many Chinese leaders have conducted “campaigns of conquest” and built their legitimacy on territorial expansion.[50] Some aspects of Belt and Road might reflect that logic. For one thing, as illustrated by recent controversies, the initiative could facilitate economic coercion.[51] Moreover, it is working in tandem with a strong military buildup and an expanding defense doctrine, and it might help Beijing establish a foreign base network. However, even the experts who argue that China’s strategic culture is predominantly aggressive explain that such impulses are tempered by “posturing that stresses … disinterested and violence-averse benevolence,” and by “a conscious sensitivity to changing relative capabilities.”[52] Additionally, in some ways Beijing still wants to let a declining America assume the costly responsibilities of maintaining the international order.[53] Considering all of these aspects, Belt and Road is useful in that it allows the defensive and offensive facets of China’s dual strategic culture to cohabitate while keeping all options open for the future. However, other cultural characteristics deserve attention as well when examining Beijing’s initiative. Chinese leaders have often privileged long-term vision over immediate gains and tended to approach strategic issues with “the whole situation in mind” rather than one single battlefield. They also focus less on specific assets than on the way these assets “work … in concert” in a logic of encirclement or counter-encirclement.[54] Such elements might help reveal the potency of Belt and Road. Although the initiative’s ambiguous and disaggregated aspects have attracted valid criticism, over time synergies may emerge between its various dimensions, its regional manifestations, and the other instruments of Beijing’s grand strategy. Consider, for instance, how the nascent Polar Silk Road and the combination of infrastructure investments in continental Eurasia, the Suez Canal, and European port terminals might propel China’s commercial penetration of wealthy northwestern European economies.[55] Likewise, a growing naval presence, new land corridors through Pakistan and Myanmar, and a rising influence in island states like Sri Lanka and the Maldives could turn Beijing into a “resident power” in the Indian Ocean region.[56] Admittedly, none of these outcomes is predetermined. But they seem reasonably plausible and, should they materialize, could have far-reaching implications for the United States. Belt and Road’s Resilience Observers have expressed legitimate doubts about Belt and Road’s sustainability in view of Beijing’s domestic difficulties, its setbacks in recipient states, and rising alternatives. However, although those challenges could potentially cripple the Chinese initiative, it may nevertheless prove resilient if Beijing’s leaders make certain adjustments. One of Belt and Road’s key challenges stems from China’s domestic troubles. These include an economic slowdown, debt, corruption, inequality, and a rapidly aging population. Additionally, traditional measurement methods like Gross Domestic Product (GDP) have overestimated the strength of the Chinese economy.[57] Furthermore, Xi Jinping’s centralization of power could compromise the regime’s effectiveness, not to mention its system of succession. Each of these problems could single-handedly derail the country’s trajectory.[58] Belt and Road itself could exacerbate those tensions by diverting money that might better be used at home. Beijing’s economy could also suffer from the graft, rent-seeking, and domestic agendas of the initiative’s foreign recipients.[59] In fact, the steep fall of Chinese overseas investments since 2016 might jeopardize Belt and Road’s future.[60] Yet, those problems must be put into perspective. China has made phenomenal progress since the 1980s. Moreover, it repeatedly disproved the experts who prophesied its demise, and its economy still has major assets including competent leadership, low government debt, vast foreign exchange reserves, manufacturing dominance, a much-underestimated ability to innovate, and solid growth — whether measured in GDP or alternative methods such as “inclusive wealth.”[61] As for Belt and Road, it is likely to prove financially sustainable. While considerable, the amount of money involved in the initiative pales in comparison to the $5.9 trillion that the United States has spent on the global war on terrorism since 2001 or will inevitably spend in the form of interest rates, veterans’ care, and other obligations.[62] Some of Belt and Road’s losses were anticipated from the start and, despite the controversies surrounding China’s failures, many of its projects could yield high returns. Moreover, Beijing’s recent foreign direct investment review may optimize decision-making.[63] Forecasts put annual Belt and Road investments and construction contracts at $50 billion and $60 billion, respectively. Such predictions seem rather reasonable given China’s low stock-to-GDP ratio — 10.9 percent versus America’s 28.9 percent — and private investments could push them further.[64]  Therefore, drawing any conclusions from Beijing’s current difficulties would be highly premature. The future of Belt and Road could also be compromised by the growing tensions observed in recipient states. China’s promises have not always materialized and corrupt projects make the headlines, stirring disappointment among local populations. Beijing’s nondiscriminative approach means lower governance standards than those of Western institutions like the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, especially when it comes to transparency and social responsibility. Additionally, Chinese actors capture most of Belt and Road’s contracts at the expense of local companies.[65] Furthermore, the massive loans extended to recipient states can create what many observers have called a “debt trap,” as illustrated by China’s takeover of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port in December 2017, and skyrocketing national debt levels in countries like the Maldives, Djibouti, or Montenegro.[66] Local discontent has torpedoed major contracts, including Pakistan’s $14 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam in November 2017 and Malaysia’s $20 billion East Coast Rail Line in May 2018. Discord could intensify as Belt and Road loans near expiration and as China gets embroiled in regional rivalries — such as the one between Saudi Arabia and Iran — and local politics. Finally, Chinese citizens have been the target of terrorist or insurgent attacks, for example in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. [quote id="3"] Yet, Belt and Road’s appeal remains strong. To begin, the initiative’s relevance is guaranteed by the fact that projected global infrastructure needs from 2013 to 2030 may amount to $57 trillion.[67] Additionally, Western-led organizations have long neglected building infrastructure and have been highly risk-averse, which led them to ignore many poor countries, a gap that Beijing is now trying to bridge.[68] Moreover, while the criticism of China deserves attention — after all, it uses its economic power to gain leverage and some of its practices are dangerous — its development financing has had positive effects. This impact, which includes economic growth, job creation, and providing alternatives to austerity in times of crisis, explains Beijing’s undeniable popularity in Africa and Latin America.[69] As for the “debt trap” accusations, they have their limits. Seeking too many bankruptcies would not make sense for China as it would cripple its finances. Authoritative institutions such as the Center for Global Development concluded that Belt and Road “is unlikely to cause a systemic debt problem.”[70] In fact, Beijing’s credit from 2000 to 2016 only counted for 2 percent of the developing countries’ $6.9 trillion accumulated debt, which largely results from the West’s colonial legacies, unfair commercial terms, austerity measures, and dollar-denominated payment requirements.[71] Additionally, China is not the only actor that indulges in assets takeover, as exemplified in August 2015 when a German firm took control — with the European Union’s and the International Monetary Fund’s approval — of 14 Greek airports valued at $1.23 billion for 40 years due to Athens’ unsustainable debt.[72] Xi Jinping’s promises during the April 2019 Belt and Road summit to ameliorate some aspects of the initiative may prove to be empty words. However, his public acknowledgement of the criticism that Beijing has received might suggest otherwise, not to mention the adjustments — albeit insufficient ones — that are already under way, such as increasing local hires, improving transparency, and consulting with local leaders.[73] Importantly, early studies on foreign perceptions of the Chinese initiative are not overly alarming.[74] Despite notable hiccups, Beijing’s financial reach, non-discriminative approach, cheap technical assets, fast delivery, and anti-imperialist rhetoric often suffice to preserve Belt and Road’s appeal. For example, Middle Eastern state leaders believe that the initiative could help them exploit their energy resources, diversify their economies, create jobs, and integrate global supply chains.[75] Additionally, China’s momentum persists even in countries where severe controversies have erupted. For instance, Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s new leaders “softened” their electoral campaign criticisms of Belt and Road. Malaysia is still pursuing the $10.5 billion Melaka Gateway, resumed the $34 billion “Bandar Malaysia” project, and revived the East Coast Rail Line after obtaining a 30 percent discount, which signals Beijing’s willingness to compromise. Similarly, after years of interruption, Myanmar gave the green light to the Kyaukpyu port project — potentially worth $6 to $7 billion — in November 2017.[76] Belt and Road could also lose momentum due to the alternative infrastructure projects that are emerging. In the last two years, Western countries have expressed growing concerns about China’s low governance standards in the context of their disillusionment over Beijing’s increasing protectionism, authoritarianism, and military assertiveness. The main alternatives to Belt and Road include Japan’s “quality infrastructure” blueprint, which would invest $200 billion over five years; the Indo-Japanese Asia-Africa Growth Corridor; the European Union’s Eurasia connectivity plan; and a revamped U.S. development finance agency with a $60 billion portfolio.[77] This competition could hurt China’s endeavor given these countries’ strong expertise, economic firepower, and determination to work together. It could also create a healthy competition that would ultimately benefit recipient states and their local populations. However, these counter-initiatives may face a number of obstacles: First, most of them are still in their infancy and are progressing more slowly than Belt and Road. Second, for all the criticism of China’s practices, the West’s political and economic interferences and austerity standards have also generated their fair share of controversy among developing countries in the past. As such, the appeal of these competing projects should not be overestimated.[78] Third, while Western countries’ foreign direct investment, which originates mostly from private actors, is much higher in the aggregate, China can more easily use its foreign direct investment for strategic purposes thanks to a much tighter, if imperfect, control over national actors.[79] Fourth, these countries may have difficulty coordinating their counter-initiatives because of differing standards, priorities, and underlying strategic objectives. Fifth, domestic economic hardships could stand in the way. While China’s share in East Asia’s GDP rose from 8 percent to 51 percent between 1990 and 2014, Japan’s plunged from 72 percent to 22 percent. Meanwhile, India struggles with poverty, socio-ethnic and religious strife, and security threats.[80] Interestingly, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor proposed by Tokyo and New Delhi remains “abstract … and both governments may be de-emphasizing the idea.”[81] As for European economies, they are declining and Brussels’ Eurasia connectivity plan only offers “an increased fire-power of up to €60 billion” spread out between 2021 and 2027.[82] Finally, America’s response is blunted by deep fiscal deficits, a liberal outlook that rejects state interventionism, and the participation of powerful U.S. multinationals in Belt and Road.[83] Meanwhile, the frustrations prompted by Beijing’s commercial practices do not compromise the appeal of its market and products across the world. Moreover, the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and suspension of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations expand China’s window of opportunity. Admittedly, Washington is pushing for deals akin to the revised North American Free Trade Agreement (announced in October 2018), which forbids commercial deals with Beijing. Yet, President Donald Trump may not be able to impose his views as easily on Japan, the European Union, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), heavyweights that value economic relations with China and oppose Washington’s protectionism.[84]

Protecting the Foundations of China’s Power

The Belt and Road Initiative helps protect the foundations of Chinese national power in three areas. First, it bolsters the country’s national sovereignty and domestic stability. Second, it buttresses its economic security. Third, it enhances its industrial-military potential. These mutually reinforcing dynamics allow Beijing to hedge against potential U.S. aggressions. Border and Domestic Security Belt and Road is designed to bolster China’s border and domestic security. The vastness of the country’s western and southern peripheries, the local demographic superiority of non-Han ethnic groups, and the historical weakness of local state authority have always exposed Chinese leaders to domestic unrest and foreign interference.[85] In that light, the United States has, in recent history, been a perennial concern. Washington tried to exploit turmoil in Tibet and Xinjiang during the early Cold War.[86] Beijing has also worried for decades about America launching ideological attacks to “bring [China] into its own system.”[87] For example, in recent years, Chinese leaders have resented Washington’s decision to grant political asylum to Xinjiang activists as well as its support for the National Endowment for Democracy and Radio Free Asia.[88] Furthermore, the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia caused Beijing to pay even greater attention to its neighbors.[89] The Indo-American rapprochement, starting in the mid-2000s, compounded Sino-American tensions. Indeed, China has long competed with India across territories that stretch from Myanmar to Kashmir and Tibet, and it deeply resents New Delhi’s protection of the Dalai Lama.[90] [quote id="4"] The Belt and Road Initiative addresses those problems in several ways. First, it is likely to stimulate the economies of China’s remote provinces, thereby reducing incentives for unrest. Second, combined with a robust military buildup in Tibet, the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Beijing’s investments in Central Asia, northern South Asia, and continental Southeast Asia, are aimed at blunting regional separatist and terrorist threats.[91] Third, the Digital Silk Road, which promotes Chinese telecommunications equipment and internet standards, optimizes surveillance and repression, buttresses domestic security cooperation with like-minded regimes, including Russia, and secures data from interception by foreign governments.[92] Moreover, Belt and Road increases China’s push against New Delhi’s regional influence and could even tighten the encirclement of India, whose vulnerable northern flank, especially the Siliguri Corridor, provides strategic leverage to Beijing. Most important, the initiative reduces the harm that America could potentially inflict on Chinese peripheries.[93] However, the increase in Beijing’s border and domestic security should not pose insurmountable problems for the United States. Although Belt and Road reduces Washington’s ability to interfere in China’s backyard, doing so would have always been highly dangerous given Beijing’s nuclear status and growing power. Furthermore, as it improves China’s security, Belt and Road may allow American leaders to manage bilateral tensions more easily. The initiative has the potential to increase autocratic tendencies in Central Asia, inner Southeast Asia, and northern South Asia. However, promoting local democracy was never a priority for Washington. The United States does have an interest in backing India in its border disputes with China. Yet, beyond that specific imperative, massive regional efforts would risk diluting America’s resources in distant areas where Beijing often has a comparative advantage. Pakistan deserves attention, especially given India’s strident opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. However, given Washington’s inability to influence Islamabad — despite spending more than $33 billion in economic and military assistance since 2001  — striving to match Beijing’s local grip would be pointless.[94] China’s vested interest in stability could actually restrain the Pakistani army and facilitate a U.S. withdrawal from the deadlocked war in Afghanistan. More broadly, Belt and Road could bolster counter-terrorism efforts, help economic development, and divert (at least temporarily) some of Beijing’s resources away from areas that are of utmost strategic importance to the United States, like the Strait of Malacca. Economic Security Belt and Road is also designed to enhance China’s economic security. This effort targets multiple contingencies, but the challenges posed by America rank particularly high among them. Chinese leaders have never forgotten Washington’s trade embargo, which lasted from 1950 to 1971, nor its support of Taiwanese operations against Beijing’s sea lines of communication in the mid-1950s.[95] The United States became a tacit ally of China in the later decades of the Cold War. However, Beijing’s concerns gradually resurfaced following the fall of the Soviet Union. Washington’s persistent military encirclement of China, its debates about blockade scenarios, and its Air-Sea Battle Doctrine only aggravated those concerns.[96] Doubling down on longstanding patterns, Belt and Road targets fast-growing, underdeveloped countries to boost national growth, attenuate industrial overproduction, transition away from a low-cost, low-end production paradigm, and reduce exposure to competitors. This reorientation appears sound — Belt and Road partners’ share in global GDP rose from 21 percent to 37 percent from 1995 to 2015.[97] The trade war that the Trump administration launched in mid-2018 gave this process more urgency. However, Beijing’s ability to resist pressures is rising. Washington disrupted China’s supply chains and businesses, but its measures also hurt American companies and are unlikely to have transformative effects on Beijing’s behavior.[98] Belt and Road also optimizes Chinese trade routes. By 2015, China had already invested in two-thirds of the 50 largest container ports worldwide and represented 39 percent of the top 10 operators’ traffic.[99] Beijing has concentrated its attention on chokepoints. Indeed, 10 of its main port installations surround the South China Sea and eight command access to the Strait of Malacca, a crucial chokepoint that is exposed to the U.S. Navy. But China is also pressing for the Kra Canal in Thailand, which could more quickly link the Indian and Pacific Oceans.[100] It is expanding its influence near the straits of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb, including in Djibouti, which hosts Africa’s largest free-trade zone, and Oman’s $10.7 billion port in Duqm.[101] Likewise, Beijing acquired a 20 percent share in the Suez Canal container terminal, is erecting a second local terminal, purchased southern European port facilities, and is developing major ports and a Red Sea-Mediterranean railway with Israel. China also ramped up investments in northern Europe, including a 35 percent share in Rotterdam’s Euromax terminal.[102] Finally, the nascent Polar Silk Road could bypass current chokepoints, cut sailing time to rich northwestern European markets, and save Beijing between $533 billion and $1.274 trillion annually.[103] In parallel, Belt and Road is betting on roads, railways, and facilities across Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Turkey, and Eastern and Southern Europe. Although most Eurasian economic centers abut coastlines and maritime shipping remains more capable, affordable, and predictable,[104] land transportation, which is faster than the sea and cheaper than the air, could help the high-tech, fashion, agriculture, and heavy machinery sectors, among others. The digitization of border procedures and the ongoing logistics revolution could boost traffic further.[105] Moreover, major hybrid sea-land routes are set to emerge. For example, transportation infrastructure across Greece and the Balkans will link up with the Suez Canal maritime routes to allow products in Beijing to reach northwestern European markets eight to 12 days faster than through the Strait of Gibraltar.[106] China is also focusing on energy and food security. Beijing has leveraged America’s post-Cold War regional security architecture and the unpopularity of the war on terrorism to nurture its economic presence in the oil-rich Middle East. China’s trade in the region grew by 350 percent from 2005 to 2016 and its foreign direct investment reached $29.5 billion in 2016, compared to Washington’s $6.9 billion.[107] Saudi Arabia is gravitating toward Belt and Road: A number of bilateral deals worth $65 billion were signed during King Salman’s visit in March 2017 and Riyadh has signed agreements worth $20 billion as a preliminary investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Iran, an old ally of Beijing, has enjoyed renewed favors since the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal: China’s local foreign direct investment rose 20 percent between March 2014 and January 2018, bilateral trade soared 19 percent from 2016 to 2017, and joint ventures like the North Azadegan and Yadavaran oil fields, estimated at $5 billion, are moving forward.[108] The Trump administration’s recent sanctions have curtailed this momentum; however, Beijing — which may be joined by others, including European countries — is likely to work around them, as it has in the past. Meanwhile, China’s noninterference principles have helped to spread its regional influence, as illustrated by the fact that Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, and Iraq support Sino-Iranian ties while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel see Beijing’s relationship with, and potential leverage over, Iran as a reason to engage China diplomatically and economically.[109] Similarly, Beijing is investing in energy assets in Central Asia, Africa, Latin America, Canada, and the Arctic. It has also become the main producer of 23 of the 41 most strategically valuable metals and minerals worldwide.[110] Finally, China’s investments in Belt and Road partners’ agricultural sectors and in companies such as the Swiss Syngenta — a leader in agrochemicals, seeds, and biotech acquired for $43 billion in 2016 — improve the country’s resilience by diversifying suppliers and increasing domestic production.[111] These trends could create challenges for Washington. For example, Chinese port operators could collect intelligence on docked U.S. vessels in allied countries such as Israel. The Belt and Road Initiative will also diminish the likelihood of an American blockade by strengthening Beijing’s sea lines of communication, incentivizing littoral states to prevent trade disruptions, and, through continental pathways in Central Asia, Pakistan, and Myanmar, diversifying its shipping options.[112] More broadly, China’s gains could erode Washington’s influence since guaranteeing the “provision of [Middle Eastern] oil” has long given the United States strategic leverage over other countries.[113] Additionally, Beijing has secured “a lock on supplies of nine of the 10 [metals and minerals] judged to be at the highest risk of unavailability,”[114] and might “lock up … farmland … and food processing assets” worldwide.[115] [quote id="5"] However, the impact of these dynamics on American security should not be overestimated. In the first place, although the possibility of imposing a blockade against China has decreased, such a move would have always been highly complex and dangerously escalatory.[116] In reality, the decline of Beijing’s insecurity reduces the risk of war. Moreover, although they have given America some influence, military interventions in the Middle East since the early 1990s have incurred severe costs, destabilized local countries, diverted Washington’s attention away from East Asia, and allowed China to free-ride.[117] Admittedly, the United States retains an interest in the free flow of oil, but so does Beijing. More broadly, America has enough military assets in the region and beyond to deter misbehavior. Therefore, Belt and Road, rather than exclusively posing a threat, might in fact offer Washington an opportunity to rethink how it engages in the Middle East and to cooperate with China in efforts such as countering terrorism and fighting piracy. As for the Chinese challenge in domains like food security, access to key metals and minerals, and influence on other states, a determined geoeconomic response would go a long way toward preserving key American interests. One final way in which China is ensuring its economic security is via its investments in green energy. The Belt and Road Initiative financed “clean” projects worth $11.8 billion in 2015 and 2016, and issued a $2.15 billion climate bond in 2017. Pointing to Beijing’s skyrocketing pollution levels, most observers have castigated Belt and Road as a scheme designed to export polluting industries.[118] These critiques have merit. However, current trends might hide a deeper shift toward renewable energies.[119] Either way, a green Belt and Road would be in Washington’s interest. Although this outcome could potentially allow Beijing to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, build resilient infrastructure, curtail the appeal of the American shale gas revolution, dominate emerging industries like electric cars, and command international “regulations [and] pricing policies,” Washington could mitigate those risks by rekindling its own environmental ambitions.[120] More importantly, a green China would more proactively help fight global warming, a threat that should dwarf any other concerns. Industrial-Military Potential The Belt and Road Initiative is geared toward enhancing China’s industrial-military potential. Although multiple factors drive this effort, the United States looms large. America’s prowess during the 1990 – 1991 Gulf War, the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq gave Beijing powerful incentives to modernize. Additionally, Chinese leaders have resented Washington’s regular attempts to curtail their country’s progress, including pressuring European allies not to lift their post-Tiananmen embargo on exports of military hardware.[121] Belt and Road could facilitate Beijing’s defense modernization in several ways. Indeed, it overlaps with “Internet Plus,” a plan to integrate new technologies like big data and advanced manufacturing sectors to make China more competitive in the global markets.[122] It also works in conjunction with “Made in China 2025” — a program to dominate high-tech industries, such as semi-conductors, by increasing subsidies and attracting foreign companies that will be squeezed out of the market once their knowledge is extracted.[123] Belt and Road optimizes those efforts by opening new markets for Chinese companies, exporting technical standards, and facilitating industrial espionage.[124] However, significant obstacles remain. Beijing’s state-centric approach is plagued by inertia, talent deficits, intellectual property violations, and rising Western investment-screening mechanisms. Moreover, many foreign firms only use China to assemble components that were manufactured abroad.[125] Yet, the technological gap with the United States is narrowing. Beijing is training more STEM graduates than in the past — a projected 48 million between 2015 and 2030 compared with America’s 10 million for the same time period — attracting more graduate returnees, whose number jumped from 272,900 in 2012 to 432,500 in 2016; progressing in academic rankings; and claiming more patents than ever before, with a 28 percent increase between 2016 and 2017. Additionally, its research and development spending could overtake Washington’s by 2022.[126] Furthermore, the huge size of its national market allows China to replicate foreign technology, generate a “learning curve” effect, and collect more data, a crucial asset for artificial intelligence and biotech. Beijing, which accounted for 42 percent of the global digital economy in 2017, could soon dominate underequipped regions like Southeast Asia and the Middle East.[127] The number of Chinese enterprises ranked in a list of the 20 most valuable internet companies worldwide rose from two to nine between 2013 and 2018, and China could be the first major power to roll out 5G technology on a large scale — although recent U.S. sanctions on Huawei might delay that process.[128] Finally, despite new protections, most advanced economies and private companies remain exposed to Beijing’s foreign direct investment, espionage, and commercial appeal, while countries like Israel or Singapore have yet to ramp up their defenses.[129] The security implications of China’s technological progress are significant. Building on the Strategic Support Force, a new branch of Beijing’s military dedicated to electronics, space, and cyber, and capitalizing on its financial reach, civil-military fusion, lesser ethical concerns, and the larger amounts of data that it can collect from its population, China is investing in disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and hypersonic weapons that could diminish America’s competitive edge 15 years down the road to win “informatized wars” — conflicts whose outcome will be determined by the mastery of telecommunications and computer systems.[130] The Digital Silk Road supports these efforts by strengthening the country’s best companies and improving industrial-military espionage.[131] For example, new submarine cable projects — which jumped from representing 7 percent of the world total between 2012 and 2015 to 20 percent between 2016 and 2019 — could boost China’s intelligence and anti-submarine capabilities.[132] Likewise, Belt and Road partnerships help export and upgrade BeiDou, a satellite navigation system that will allow Beijing to “shift away from reliance on [America’s] GPS for precision strike[s]” by 2020.[133] Progress in China’s military sector is plagued by bureaucratic inertia, welfare and personnel costs, as well as the costs incurred by domestic instability. Moreover, turning economic power into military capabilities becomes more difficult as technological sophistication increases.[134] Yet Beijing, which allocated only 1.9 percent of its GDP to defense in 2018 — compared with America’s 3.2 percent — has consistently outpaced intelligence forecasts so far, and may soon pull ahead in key domains like artificial intelligence.[135] Washington, on the other hand, retains significant industrial potential and can build upon the investment stock that it has accumulated since World War II.[136] However, its defense industrial base “continues to shrink,” per-troop expenditures have soared by 50 percent in 15 years,[137] and, having “over-invested in legacy systems,” the United States must shoulder “huge financial burdens … and … [conservative] constituencies.”[138] The country’s performance is further hurt by the Trump administration’s poor record on innovation and its strained relations with tech companies.[139]

Projecting Strategic Influence

The Belt and Road Initiative not only helps China blunt potential aggressions, it also allows it to project strategic influence at the bilateral, regional, and systemic levels. Although the United States remains dominant on each of those levels, Beijing could gradually erode America’s hegemony and weaken its security system in the Indo-Pacific. Systemic Benefits Belt and Road is designed to erode America’s grip on the international governance architecture, a dominance that Beijing has long resented. Chinese-led financial bodies like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which has a $50 billion endowment and has attracted dozens of states despite U.S. attempts to stop them from joining, or Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa’s (BRICS’) New Development Bank, which has a similar endowment, accelerate the momentum generated by the Chiang Mai Initiative — an endeavor that works to decrease regional defaults in partnership with ASEAN, Japan, and South Korea — the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Interbank Consortium, and maybe soon a non-Western credit rating agency.[140] Additionally, Belt and Road has led to the signature of many bilateral commercial agreements and the creation of China-based international courts for conflict resolution. It boosted negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which could lift the barriers that separate leading Asian economies, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and ASEAN, on more than 90 percent of the products that they exchange. Finally, Beijing’s new Cross-Border Interbank Payment System and clearing centers help internationalize the RMB (or yuan, as it is commonly known).[141] Although this effort is curtailed by capital controls, the Chinese central bank’s lack of independence, Beijing’s investments in U.S. treasury bonds, and the dollar’s domination, the International Monetary Fund added the RMB to its Special Drawing Reserve, and European financial centers are positioning themselves as “‘hubs’ for its use.”[142] Meanwhile, the newly created “petro-yuan” could transform the pivotal worldwide commodity market.[143] [quote id="6"] Systemic consequences might follow from the strides Beijing has made. By offering alternatives to loan recipients, promoting infrastructure building, and distinguishing economics from politics, China-led financial institutions, in combination with Chinese bilateral development policies, could slowly weaken the austerity principles that the so-called “Washington Consensus” has dictated for decades.[144] Belt and Road’s commercial agreements could consolidate Beijing’s “agenda-setter” status.[145] Finally, while the RMB may never achieve dominance, it could erode the dollar’s supremacy, which is already threatened by America’s fiscal deficits and large-scale “economic warfare” with countries like China, Russia, and Iran, not to mention digital currencies and the BRICS’ de-dollarization campaign.[146] Washington’s security interests may be affected by those dynamics. Thanks to its leadership in international institutions — such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank — and its monetary dominance, America became a “system-maker” after 1945. Combined with the appeal of its loans, investments, and market, this status allowed the United States to borrow without consequences, navigate financial crises, offload adjustment costs, dictate lending terms, tame economic competitors, and open foreign markets.[147] In turn, these gains strengthened the foundations of America’s hard power. They also contributed to weakening Britain’s empire, maintaining Europe and Japan’s strategic dependency, and convincing most allies to fund U.S. military enterprises. They even helped punish Washington’s enemies — for example, Russia following its 2014 military aggression against Ukraine.[148] As it erodes America’s “system-maker” status, Belt and Road could reduce these benefits. Eurasian Integration Belt and Road may help China optimize its geostrategic posture in Eurasia. Breaking with its historical continental orientation, Beijing has significantly developed its sea power following the Soviet breakup, Taiwan’s democratization process, and the growing dependence of the Chinese economy on foreign resources.[149] However, there are a number of challenges to achieving maritime dominance. To begin with, building a fleet is extraordinarily costly. Moreover, many Eurasian land powers over history, including Imperial Germany and the Soviet Union, failed to command the oceans because they faced too many continental contingencies. China faces a similar predicament. It has to cope with a superior U.S. navy that “operate[s] freely on exterior lines.”[150] But it must also protect its vulnerable heartland, and a “March West” helps project influence with less risk of conflict with Washington.[151] Beijing’s current hybrid sea-land posture raises complex dilemmas in domains like threat management and resource allocation. However, provided Chinese leaders utilize the country’s huge national resources effectively, this posture could optimize China’s “independence and geostrategic flexibility.”[152] From that perspective, the nascent strategy of “using the land to control the sea, and using the seas to control the oceans” signals Beijing’s determination to make the most of both its continental depth and its location along the Eurasian rimland.[153] Belt and Road may contribute to this strategy by facilitating the integration of neighboring economies in Eurasia. Although China has encountered some issues in Central Asia due to local graft, corruption, and politics, bilateral trade, which is 30 times greater than it was in the early 1990s, covers a massive share of these countries’ GDP. Belt and Road infrastructure is also becoming indispensable for them to access markets in the region and beyond.[154] Most importantly, the Ukraine crisis has accelerated the rapprochement that China and Russia had initiated in the post-Cold War era. Indeed, the rift that it caused with the West encouraged Moscow to increase the technological sophistication of its military exports to Beijing,[155] and to endorse Belt and Road, which provides Russia with international legitimacy, lowers its reliance on the West, and fortifies its flailing Eurasian Economic Union.[156] To be sure, the two countries have a long history of strategic competition and Moscow often allied with maritime powers against Eurasian competitors. However, even prominent skeptics recognize that China and Russia “are committed to making things last.”[157] Both Moscow and Beijing uphold an authoritarian model, seek regional counter-terrorism and economic development, aspire to blunt U.S. influence, and want to minimize their border frictions to pursue ambitions elsewhere.[158] Additionally, China holds significant leverage over Russia. While their GDPs were similar in 1993, Beijing’s is now more than 10 times greater than Moscow’s. Russia’s dismal infrastructure and energy sector need Belt and Road capital, as illustrated by the 30-year, $400 billion oil deal signed in 2014 and ambitious joint ventures in the Arctic. Besides, Moscow is well aware that China could use its significant demographic superiority to infiltrate and destabilize its neighbor’s thinly populated Far East.[159] More broadly, the Middle Eastern oil industries’ growing independence from the West, Iran’s Islamic revolution, the Soviet Union’s unravelling, and China’s and India’s rise opened new opportunities for integration. The resource-rich and capital-rich countries of Eurasia complement one another, which could help lay the foundations of a “new continentalism.”[160] For example, Iran could become a major energy provider for Pakistan and E.U. countries and a critical export outlet for Central Asia and the South Caucasus.[161] This Eurasian integration is accentuated by the European Union’s post-Cold War enlargement eastward; the growing connections between western China’s supply chains and those dominated by Germany in central Europe; and the search for continental connectivity of middle powers such as South Korea, Turkey, and Kazakhstan.[162] This process, which also benefits from the “national and domestic resonance” of the ancient Silk Road in most of these countries, could thrive further under organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.[163] The latter, whose institutional prerogatives now extend to defense and diplomacy, welcomed India and Pakistan in 2017 and might soon be joined by Iran and Turkey. Likewise, Beijing’s “New Security Concept” for Asia, which stresses economic cooperation and implicitly rejects U.S. involvement, could gain momentum.[164] These trends could have important security implications. Since the early days of the post-World War II era, fears that a rising hegemon could capture Eurasia’s unmatched resources and markets have led American leaders to forge local alliances and to systematically oppose regional organizations and cross-regional energy networks. These efforts helped entrench Washington’s hegemony and have legitimized its military, political, and economic interferences across Eurasia for decades.[165] But today’s emerging “continentalism” alters this paradigm. Combined with China’s expanding security dialogues with entities such as the Arab League and the African Union and its growing responsibilities at the United Nations, including contributions to the budget and peacekeeping efforts, institutions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization could gradually weaken America’s ability to isolate its enemies.[166] Belt and Road could ultimately create a “continental zone of pre-eminent Chinese influence” and allow Beijing to concentrate on the seas.[167] These trends ought to be worrisome for Washington. However, because some of the continental geographic areas coveted by Beijing have less strategic value to American leaders, China’s efforts in those regions might (at least temporarily, but possibly much longer) divert some of its resources away from areas that are of key interest to the United States. Additionally, some of the most proactive and geographically expansive forms of engagement that Washington has adopted in Eurasia in the past led to disasters such as the Vietnam and Iraq wars, incurring enormous costs in blood, treasure, and reputation. In that sense, Beijing’s rise could help check the temptation to overreach. Moreover, a less systematic opposition to China may ease bilateral tensions and help advance other American objectives, such as economic development and counter-terrorism. Bilateral Leverage Belt and Road’s geoeconomic approach also enhances China’s bilateral leverage. Beijing’s ability to coerce other states is constrained by its insufficient, albeit significant, control over Chinese companies and bureaucracies, its competitors’ ability to find alternatives, and financial and reputational costs. Nevertheless, China has had some success steering other countries in its preferred direction. For instance, by cutting oil imports, Beijing was able to drive Iran into the 2015 nuclear deal, which facilitated Belt and Road’s development in Tehran. Similarly, economic pressures convinced Turkey to restrict the activism of its Uyghur community, which had created concerns in China. Likewise, Chinese sanctions targeting South Korea’s installation of America’s THAAD missile-defense system in 2017 persuaded Seoul to reject future deployments of this kind.[168] These coercion efforts could grow as China refines its instruments to target specific companies, institutions, sectors, and “politically salient constituencies.”[169] However, Beijing’s long-term strategy relies primarily on inducements, long-term engagement, the identification of common goals, and joint solutions that rely on China’s ability to address development gaps.[170] This approach could breed significant influence. For instance, many African and Latin American states tend to align with Beijing at the United Nations, while Taiwan has lost almost a quarter of its diplomatic partners since 2016. More broadly, despite occasional tensions, Asian states already accept most of China’s strategic interests.[171] Over time, more and more world leaders may be tempted to “pre-empt [its] demands” on various issues.[172] [quote id="7"] Finally, Belt and Road works in tandem with China’s rising military influence. Beijing has already leveraged U.S. fears of escalation to assert its claims, deploy its assets, and display an image of inevitability in the South China Sea.[173] But Belt and Road complements these dynamics by providing more instruments to pressure or incentivize other states to follow China’s interests without reaching escalatory thresholds.[174] Moreover, the global spread of its national assets requires Beijing to deploy its military and its private defense companies, and to partner with host nations in the arenas of law enforcement, intelligence, and defense. Despite the opening of a base in Djibouti in mid-2017, the dredging of fortified artificial islands in the South China Sea beginning in 2014, reports of covert military outposts in Tajikistan since 2016, news coverage of a secret agreement for facilities in Cambodia in spring 2019, and rumors about future installations on various sites, such as Pakistan’s Gwadar port, a large base network seems unlikely for now, as it would contradict Beijing’s “anti-imperialist” ideology and risk controversies.[175] However, China is likely to create more bases over time, and current arrangements, such as refueling and port of calls, already bolster its international presence. America’s global military network remains absolutely unrivaled. But current trends could constrain the mobility of U.S. forces in some areas.[176] Dislocating the U.S.-Led Maritime Security System Over time, Belt and Road could heavily impact security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, the main flashpoint of the U.S.-China contest. Washington has long maintained a robust security system that uses the “energy resources, well-situated … port facilities, large land masses, sophisticated infrastructures,” and “secure rear-basing facilities” of allies and partners in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific.[177] Combined with the “stopping power of water,” this strategy helped contain the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War.[178] But its importance increased as Asia’s share in the world’s economic output skyrocketed and as Beijing emerged as a potential competitor. China’s key objective today is to break what it sees as America’s strategic island chains to gain room for maneuvering, facilitate the projection of military power, and burnish its credibility.[179] In response to Beijing’s ambitions, the Trump administration, building on President Barack Obama’s pivot-rebalance to Asia, revived “the Quad,” a naval partnership with India, Australia, and Japan, in November 2017. It also ramped up its “Freedom of Navigation Operations” in the South China Sea. Additionally, its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in February 2019 will allow the United States to upgrade its ground-based missiles, and to expand its firepower across Asia.[180] However, Beijing’s proximity to the fields of competition means it is more able to absorb setbacks, while America’s distance means it needs key Asian powers to balance or hedge in its favor. Leading scholars have argued that most local leaders will continue to align with the United States due to the threat posed by China, the path-dependence created by past agreements, and the fact that far-flung sea hegemons often seem more benign than continental neighbors.[181] Yet, there are reasons to doubt this outcome. Balancing carries with it significant political and financial costs and can hinder strategic autonomy, while domestic strains can stymie its execution.[182] Moreover, as illustrated by China’s tribute system, balancing theories do not necessarily apply well to Asia.[183] Furthermore, despite aggressive moves like the establishment of the Air Defense Identification Zone in East Asia in 2013 and island-building in the South China Sea since 2014, Beijing today is a far cry from the threatening regime that fought the United States, South Korea, India, the Soviets, and Vietnam during the Cold War.[184] Additionally, because maritime systems advantage military defense over military offense, many local states may decide that buck-passing preserves their security more effectively than balancing.[185] Finally, most regional leaders are perceiving a “precipitous decline” in America’s influence.[186] According to the Rand Corporation’s U.S.-China Military Scorecard, “trend lines are moving against [Washington] across a broad spectrum.” Beijing’s technological progress and ability to deploy assets in more and more massive numbers threaten to overwhelm the United States’ local advantages and could compromise its resolve to fight.[187] Such assessments might even underestimate the damage caused by initial Chinese missile strikes, the degree to which America’s submarines are stretched thin across the Pacific Ocean, and China’s mine warfare capabilities.[188] However, recent U.S. defense budget increases are unlikely to change this trend. Washington’s military superiority has been receding for years despite the fact that its overall defense expenditures are more than three times the size of China’s (underreported) budget and that the People’s Liberation Army also has to deal with domestic security. Indeed, while the United States must honor commitments across the globe, Beijing only has to concentrate on its own geographic region. Moreover, America’s security paradigm seems unsustainable. The U.S. Navy’s 355-ship buildup is crippled by severe financial and industrial limitations, the Air Force fleet is older than ever, with the average airframe at 27 years of age, and the modernization of Washington’s satellite system and nuclear triad remains unbudgeted.[189] This is not to mention Trump’s tax cuts, with losses expected to reach $260 billion annually,[190] sector pensions that remain unfunded and could amount to as much as $5 trillion, and the looming exhaustion of Social Security and Medicare funds. The Congressional Budget Office itself calculates that defense expenditures could fall to 2.6 percent of GDP by the mid-2020s.[191] In sum, perceptions of the regional balance of power will most likely continue to shift against Washington, something that the Trump administration’s notoriously erratic and raucous foreign policy only aggravates. Beijing does not have an easy path ahead. Nevertheless, combined with its diplomatic outreach, propaganda, and military rise, China’s geoeconomic offensive seems poised to exploit the underlying strains of the U.S.-led regional security system. From that standpoint, some recent trends are concerning. Although Southeast Asian countries have long hedged with a preference for Washington, Beijing’s ascendance is increasingly magnifying America’s distance, receding economic clout, and unpopular efforts to promote democracy and Western governance standards locally. Most regional states, including the Philippines, have leaned closer to China since 2016.[192] In East Asia, Japan’s relative assertiveness under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe constitutes “a rear-guard attempt to slow down” Tokyo’s dramatic decline.[193] Nearly half of Japanese companies’ overseas operations are located in China, whose share in Tokyo’s exports and imports now reaches 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively, compared to America’s declining shares — 18 percent and 11 percent, respectively. In the last two years, Abe has striven to defuse diplomatic tensions with Beijing, approved a currency-swap deal worth $29 billion, decided to cooperate with Belt and Road, and distanced his government from Taiwan.[194] Similar patterns emerged in South Korea. Trade with China surged 82 percent in five years to hit $90 billion, overshadowing America’s $46 billion. Seoul also tried to delay the deployment of the THAAD missile-defense system, dismissed Washington’s “free and open Indo-Pacific,” and agreed to collaborate with Belt and Road.[195] Further away, Australia has opposed Beijing’s political interference and its influence in neighboring Pacific islands. Yet, bilateral commerce rose 29 percent in 2017 and reached 29 percent of Canberra’s foreign trade in 2018.[196] Australia estimates that China’s GDP will far surpass America’s by 2030 — $42 trillion versus $24 trillion — and that domestic politics will inhibit Washington’s response.[197] Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced a plan to “turbo-charge [the] national effort in engaging China.”[198] India rejected Belt and Road but despite ambitious projects such as the co-development of the Iranian port of Chabahar, it has struggled to offer any alternatives. Moreover, India understands that a close rapprochement with America could curtail its “strategic autonomy,” antagonize China, and disrupt relations with Russia and Iran.[199] New Delhi is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s main beneficiary, its dismal infrastructure needs investments, and booming trade with Beijing reached a record $84.4 billion in 2017, representing 22 percent of India’s foreign commerce. Combined with other facets of China’s power, such ties incentivize New Delhi to alleviate bilateral tensions.[200] Prime Minister Narendra Modi has charted a more nonaligned course since the mid-2017 Doklam plateau standoff, and according to a recent survey, only 43 percent of India’s strategic elites want “closer collaboration with [Washington] in the event of greater U.S.-China competition.”[201] [quote id="8"] The European Union recently branded Beijing a “systemic rival.” Some of its members, including France and the United Kingdom, have deployed military assets and developed ties with Japan, India, or Australia to address the “return of … power assertiveness” in the Indo-Pacific. Additionally, more and more European actors have criticized China’s commercial and industrial practices, espionage, and attempts to gain political influence.[202] However, their tone is significantly milder than that of American leaders, and Beijing’s economic appeal remains. Despite severe U.S. pressures, many European countries are reluctant to exclude Chinese companies from their 5G networks. Beijing’s leaders have also successfully approached some of the region’s smaller states on a bilateral basis, exploiting their economic hardships, rivalries, and resentment toward Brussels to divide and paralyze the European Union.[203] Italy joined Belt and Road in March 2019, while Brexit prospects boosted the appeal of China’s market in Great Britain, where London’s financial elites have already begun their “rebalancing” toward East Asia and are assisting the Chinese initiative. Finally, despite expressing reservations, the European Union, Germany, and France themselves still intend to engage Beijing, including on Belt and Road.[204] Meanwhile, prospects of transatlantic convergence are corroded by Trump’s hostility to multilateralism, free trade, environmental regulations, the Iran nuclear deal, and the European Union itself.[205]


It may take decades to parse the strategic consequences of the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s enormous endeavor will undoubtedly inspire more controversies and record more failures. It might even unravel. Yet, its coherence, potency, and resilience should not be underestimated. Belt and Road reflects core aspects of Beijing’s grand strategy and strategic culture. It deftly enhances, publicizes, and knits together China’s geoeconomic leverage, industrial-technological capacity, omni-directional diplomacy, propaganda, and military power. If Beijing can make enough adjustments to optimize returns, nurture partnerships, and sustain economic growth, Belt and Road could have far-reaching implications. Some of them may serve American interests. But, if left unchecked, China’s initiative could pull apart the interdependent levers of influence that have underpinned U.S. hegemony in the post-World War II era. Washington must develop an ambitious response to Beijing. The first step is to restore a sense of domestic bipartisanship, recognizing that a divided America will struggle to maintain credibility and prestige abroad. The second step is to strengthen the economic foundations of the United States’ power. At home, American leaders must boost investments in infrastructure, healthcare, education, and research. They should tighten technology transfer restrictions and ramp up counter-intelligence and cyber defense capabilities.[206] Cuts in the modernization of America’s overwhelmingly superior nuclear triad may be necessary. Moreover, although occasional operations will always be required, U.S. leaders should wind down what remains of the global war on terrorism, the costs of which have been overwhelming. Likewise, Washington must definitively renounce nation-building, a costly undertaking that has yielded dubious results, diverted America’s resources, and allowed China to increase its clout in Iraq and Afghanistan.[207] Additionally, the United States ought to rethink its efforts to shrink Russia’s and Iran’s resilient spheres of influence to conserve resources, reduce risks of entanglement, and refocus on Beijing. Having freed up those resources, Washington should project its geoeconomic power more ambitiously. It must re-endorse multilateralism, join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, resume negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and stop pressing allies on commercial issues. It should also more actively exploit the leverage provided by the shale gas revolution (without neglecting environmental reforms), boost foreign infrastructure financing, and shore up the economies and political systems of key allies, partners, and pivotal states.[208] Moreover, Washington ought to pursue “competitive strategies” to “channel [Beijing’s] attention, effort, and resources toward actions … that are least threatening.”[209] Reducing U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia would force China to assume costly responsibilities in its backyard. Likewise, an ambitious, but fair, communication strategy regarding Belt and Road’s abuses could compel Beijing to respond constructively. Similarly, improving relations with Russia and Iran — even to a limited extent — would help exploit their underlying competition for influence with China. By contrast, aggressive policies will only push Moscow and Tehran further into Beijing’s arms. However, Washington must also recalibrate some aspects of its China strategy toward greater conciliation. It ought to maintain its overall military superiority, support its allies, and deter misbehavior. But its “attack-in-depth” doctrine and its ambition to retain full command of the Indo-Pacific are costly, dangerous, and self-defeating, as illustrated by the steady erosion of U.S. military superiority along China’s coastline.[210] Instead of pursuing an unsustainable posture whose sudden breakdown could dramatically hurt its credibility, the United States should incrementally adapt to the structural evolution of the local balance of power. It should refrain from operations that are too aggressive, disperse some of its assets to reduce their vulnerability to potential Chinese strikes, capitalize on cheap but highly effective anti-access/area-denial capabilities for deterrence purposes, encourage allies to contribute more actively to the regional military balance, and recognize Beijing’s legitimate concerns about American encirclement. These moves may appear to be signs of decline, but combined with the aforementioned geoeconomic measures, they would boost U.S. credibility by consolidating more sustainable positions and tracing a less dangerous path. An aggressive zero-sum-game approach, on the other hand, could increase the risk of war and disincentivize other leaders from high-end collaboration with the United States.[211] Furthermore, while some aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative must be steadily opposed, U.S. leaders should acknowledge that Beijing has made some positive contributions in the developing world and that their own policies toward those countries have not always been particularly benevolent or flawless. A more open stance may yield Chinese concessions on debt, job creation, and environmental questions, and open up more business deals for American companies. By contrast, systematic attempts to portray Belt and Road as a predatory scheme are likely to isolate the United States. To be sure, Washington must continue to be vigilant. However, moderation and a keener grasp of the limits of American power would reduce the risk of catastrophic escalation, unlock cooperation opportunities, and maintain the theoretical possibility of a modus vivendi in Asia. These adjustments would help chart a more sensible and sustainable U.S. grand strategy.   Acknowledgements: For invaluable comments and suggestions, the author would like to thank Michael Beckley, Joshua Rovner, two anonymous reviewers, the editorial team at the Texas National Security Review, and participants in seminars hosted by the Center for Strategic Studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. He would also like to thank Monica Toft for her support.   Thomas P. Cavanna is a visiting assistant professor at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy in the Center for Strategic Studies. He writes on U.S. grand strategy and U.S. foreign policy toward China and South Asia. He holds a French “Agrégation” and a Master’s degree and doctorate in history from Sciences Po. He was also a Fox Fellow at Yale. Dr. Cavanna is currently working on a book on the Belt and Road Initiative and U.S. grand strategy.   Image: dcmaster [post_title] => Unlocking the Gates of Eurasia: China's Belt and Road Initiative and Its Implications for U.S. Grand Strategy [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => unlocking-the-gates-of-eurasia-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-and-its-implications-for-u-s-grand-strategy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-12 17:44:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-12 21:44:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => What is the Belt and Road Initiative and what implications could it have for America’s grand strategy? As many observers have pointed out, China’s Belt and Road suffers from a number of problems and ambiguities. However, it is a much more coherent, potent, and resilient endeavor than many experts believe. Belt and Road is deeply grounded within Chinese grand strategy and strategic culture, helps protect the foundations of China’s national power, and allows Beijing to project influence across and beyond the Eurasian continent. If left unchecked, it could erode the foundations of America’s post-World War II hegemony. However, provided U.S. leaders respond the right way, it could offer important benefits to Washington. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 3 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The scope and content of the initiative are ambiguous and in constant flux. However, these characteristics do not necessarily handicap it. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The coherence of the Belt and Road Initiative also stems from its symbiotic integration within the arc of Communist China’s grand strategy.  ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The future of Belt and Road could also be compromised by the growing tensions observed in recipient states.  ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Although Belt and Road reduces Washington’s ability to interfere in China’s backyard, doing so would have always been highly dangerous given Beijing’s nuclear status and growing power.  ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Beijing has leveraged America’s post-Cold War regional security architecture and the unpopularity of the war on terrorism to nurture its economic presence in the oil-rich Middle East. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Belt and Road is designed to erode America’s grip on the international governance architecture, a dominance that Beijing has long resented.  ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Moreover, a less systematic opposition to China may ease bilateral tensions and help advance other American objectives, such as economic development and counter-terrorism. ) [7] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Meanwhile, prospects of transatlantic convergence are corroded by Trump’s hostility to multilateralism, free trade, environmental regulations, the Iran nuclear deal, and the European Union itself. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 1818 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 285 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] On the risk of war, Graham T. Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017); Aaron L. Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2011); for a pessimistic view of America’s prospects, Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World: the Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World (London: Allen Lane, 2009); for optimistic accounts, Michael Beckley, Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018); Thomas J. Christensen, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2015); David L. Shambaugh, China Goes Global: the Partial Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). [2] At its core, grand strategy is “the intellectual architecture that lends structure to foreign policy”; Hal Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy? Power and Purpose in American Statecraft (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 1. For debates on the nature and relevance of grand strategy, see Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy? 1–16; Nina Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” Security Studies 27, no. 1 (January 2018): 27–57,; Rebecca Friedman Lissner, “What Is Grand Strategy? Sweeping a Conceptual Minefield,” Texas National Security Review 2, no. 1 (November 2018), 53–73, [3] Like primacy or preponderance, hegemony entails superior power, but it also implies acknowledgement of a state’s authority by most of the other members of the international system; G. John Ikenberry, Charles A. Kupchan, “Socialization and Hegemonic Power,” International Organization 44, no. 3 (Summer 1990): 283–315, [4] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, The White House, December 2017, 2, 25,; Jeff Smith, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Strategic Implications and International Opposition,” Heritage Foundation, Aug. 9, 2018, 9–10, [5] Gal Luft, “China’s Infrastructure Play: Why Washington Should Accept the New Silk Road,” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 5 (September/October 2016): 68–75,; Parag Khanna, "Washington Is Dismissing China's Belt and Road. That’s a Huge Strategic Mistake," Politico, April 30, 2019, [6] Peter Cai, “Understanding China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” Lowy Institute, March 2017, 1–22,; Tim Summers, “China’s ‘New Silk Roads’: Sub-National Regions and Networks of Global Political Economy,” Third World Quarterly 37, no. 9 (2016): 1628–43,; Christopher K. Johnson, “President Xi Jinping’s ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative: a Practical Assessment of the Chinese Communist Party’s Roadmap For China’s Global Resurgence,” Center for International and Strategic Studies, March 28, 2016, 19–20, v, [7] Bruno Maçães, Belt and Road: a Chinese World Order (London: Hurts & Company, 2018), 5–8; Jennifer Lind, “Life in China’s Asia: What Regional Hegemony Would Look Like,” Foreign Affairs 97, no. 2 (March/April 2018): 72–75,; Alek Chance, “American Perspectives on the Belt And Road Initiative: Sources of Concern, Possibilities for U.S.-China Cooperation,” Institute for China-America Studies, November 2016, 15–17,; Dalton Lin, “The One Belt One Road Project and China's Foreign Relations,” Carter Center, china Program Policy Paper 1, no. 2 (September  2015), [8] It cost $122 billion (current dollars); Ely Ratner, Elizabeth Rosenberg, Daniel Kliman, “The China Challenge,” Center for a New American Security, June 27, 2018, [9] Johnson, “President Xi Jinping’s ‘Belt and Road,’” vi. [10] Jonathan E. Hillman, “China’s Belt and Road is Full of Holes,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Sept. 4, 2018,; David G. Landry, “The Belt and Road Bubble Is Starting to Burst,” Foreign Policy, June 27, 2018,; Landry, “The Belt and Road Bubble”; Tanner Greer, “One Belt, One road, One Big Mistake,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 6, 2018, [11] Geoeconomics is the “use of economic instruments…to produce beneficial geopolitical results”; Robert D. Blackwill and Jennifer M. Harris, War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft (Cambridge, MA: Belknapp Press of Harvard University Press, 2016), 20. For additional information on China’s geoeconomic assets, see Blackwill and Harris, War by Other Means, 129–51. [12] For works of reference, see, Bruno Maçães, Belt and Road; and Nadège Rolland, China’s New Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2017). [13] Albert Hirschman, National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade (Berkeley: UCLA Press, 1945); Richard N. Rosecrance, The Rise of the Trading State: Commerce and Conquest in the Modern World (New York: Basic Books, 1986); Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (New York: Random House, 1987). [14] Harris and Blackwill, War by Other Means, 37; Parag Khanna, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization (New York: Random House, 2016); Markus Brunnermeier, Rush Doshi, and Harold James, “Beijing’s Bismarckian Ghosts: How Great Powers Compete Economically,” Washington Quarterly 41, no. 3 (Fall 2018): 161–76, [15] John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014), 55. [16] Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword,” 28–29. On the diminishing returns of military power, see Daniel W. Drezner, “Military Primacy Doesn’t Pay (Nearly As Much As You Think),” International Security 38, no. 1 (Summer 2013), 52–79,; for an article arguing that military capabilities are more influential than economic “dependency,” see Robert S. Ross, “Balance of Power Politics and the Rise of China,” International Security 15, no. 3 (2006), 355–95, [17] Barry Posen, Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 1. [18] Robert J. Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 2. [19] Colin Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders: Power, Culture, and Change in American Grand Strategy (Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press, 2006), 10. [20] “Xi Says Belt and Road Vision Becoming Reality,” Xinhua, May 14, 2017, [21] Gisela Grieger, “One Belt, One Road: China’s Regional Integration Initiative,” European Parliament Research Service, July 2016, 4,; Thomas S. Eder and Jacob Mardell, “Belt and Road Reality Check: How to Assess China’s Investment in Eastern Europe,” Mercator Institute for China Studies, July 7, 2018, [22] Cecilia Joy-Perez and Derek Scissors, “The Chinese State Funds Belt and Road but Does Not Have Trillions to Spare,” American Enterprise Institute, March 28, 2018, 1–2,; Derek Scissors, “Chinese Investment: State-Owned Enterprises Stop Globalizing, For Now,” American Enterprise Institute, Jan. 17 2019, 5, [23] “2018 Belt and Road Trade Reached $1.3 Trillion,” Maritime Executive, Jan. 26, 2019, [24] See later sections. [25] Richard Ghiasy and Jiayi Zhou, The Silk Road Economic Belt: Considering Security Implications and EU-China Cooperation Prospects (Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), 5, [26] Lee Jones and Yizheng Zou, “Rethinking the Role of State-Owned Enterprises in China’s Rise,” New Political Economy 22, no. 6 (2017): 744,; Shahar Hameiri and Lee Jones, “China Challenges Global Governance? Chinese International Development finance and the AIIB,” International Affairs 94, no. 3 (May 2018): 580, 584, [27] Ngai-Ling Sum, “The Intertwined Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of Hopes/Fears: China’s Triple Economic Bubbles and the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Imaginary,” Territory, Politics, Governance, published online Oct. 5, 2018, 1–2, [28] “China Moves to Define ‘Belt and Road’ Projects for the First Time”, Taiwan Straits, April 3, 2019,; Rolland, China’s New Eurasian Century, 50, 55. [29] Maçaes and Rolland, China’s New Eurasian Century, 7, 108; Alice Ekman et al., “Three Years of China’s New Silk Roads: From Words to (Re)action?” Institut français des relations, February 2017, 10, 17–21,; Johnson, “President Xi Jinping’s ‘Belt and Road,’” 5. [30] Christopher A. Ford, China Looks at the West: Identity, Global Ambitions, and the Future of Sino-American Relations (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015), 90. [31] Manjari Chatterjee Miller, Wronged by Empire: Post-Imperial Ideology and Foreign Policy in India and China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), 2. [32] Ford, China Looks at the West, 421. [33] Quoted from Andrew Scobell, China and Strategic Culture (Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 2004), 3. Strategic culture is the “central paradigmatic assumptions about the nature of conflict and the enemy and collectively shared by decision makers”; Alastair I. Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), ix. [34] Johnston, Cultural Realism, 25. [35] Scobell, China and Strategic Culture, 11–12, 17; Andrew Scobell, “China’s Real Strategic Culture: A Great Wall of the Imagination,” Contemporary Security Policy 35, no. 2 (2014): 220–21, [36] This definition largely builds upon Brock Tessman and Wojtek Wolfe, “Great Powers and Strategic Hedging: The Case of Chinese Energy Security Strategy,” International Studies Review 13, no. 2 (June 2011): 220, [37] Zhang Yuling and Tang Shiping, “China’s Regional Strategy,” in, Power Shift: China and Asia’s New Dynamics, ed. David Shambaugh (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 48. [38] David Lai, “Learning from the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China’s Strategic Concept, Shi,” Strategic Studies Institute, May 2004, 5, [39] Flynt Leverett and Wu Binging, “The New Silk Road and China’s Evolving Grand Strategy,” China Journal, no. 77 (January 2017): 113, On the People’s Liberation Army and ancient Chinese strategic thought, see, Andrea Ghiselli, “Revising China’s Strategic Culture: Contemporary Cherry-Picking of Ancient Strategic Thought,” China Quarterly, no. 233 (March 2018): 177–80, [40] Lai, “Learning From the Stones,” 5. [41] Randall L. Schweller and Xiaoyu Pu, “After Unipolarity: China’s Visions of International Order in an Era of U.S. Decline,” International Security 36, no. 1 (Summer 2011): 44, [42] “Full Text of President Xi’s Speech at Opening of Belt and Road Forum,” Xinhua, May 14, 2017, [43] Christopher A. Ford, “Realpolitik with Chinese Characteristics: Chinese Strategic Culture and the Modern Communist Party-State,” in, Strategic Asia 2016-2017: Understanding Strategic Cultures in the Asia-Pacific, ed. Michael Wills, Ashley J. Tellis, and Alison Szalwinski, (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2016), 34. [44] Julia Lovell, The Great Wall: China against the World, 1000 B.C.-A.D. 2000 (New York: Grove Atlantic, 2006), 36. [45] Lovell, The Great Wall, 348–49. [46] Leverett and Binging, “The New Silk Road,” 113. [47] Bonnie S. Glaser and Matthew Funaiole, “Xi Jinping’s 19th Party Congress Speech Heralds Greater Assertiveness in Chinese Foreign Policy,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Oct. 26, 2017, [48] Avery Goldstein, Rising to the Challenge: China’s Grand Strategy and International Security (Redwood, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 12, 38, 103, 176. [49] Johnson, Cultural Realism, x. [50] Andrew R. Wilson, “The Chinese Way of War,” in, Strategy in Asia: The Past, Present, and Future of Regional Security, ed. Thomas J. Mahnken and Dan Blumenthal (Redwood, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014), 109–11. [51] Kari Lindberg and Tripti Lahiri, “From Asia to Africa, China’s ‘Debt-Trap Diplomacy’ Was Under Siege in 2018,” Quartz, Dec. 28, 2018, [52] Ford, “Realpolitik with Chinese Characteristics,” 30; Alastair Iain Johnston, “Cultural Realism and Strategy in Maoist China,” in, Cultures of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, ed. Peter J. Katzenstein (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 219. [53] Schweller and Pu, “After Unipolarity,” 65. [54] Lai, “Learning from the Stones,” 27–28; Henry A. Kissinger, On China (New York: Penguin Press, 2011), 22–25. [55] See below. [56] David Brewster, “Silk Roads and Strings of Pearls: The Strategic Geography of China’s New Pathways in the Indian Ocean,” Geopolitics 22, no. 2 (2017): 270–71, 277–80, [57] Wei Chen et al., “A Forensic Examination of China’s National Accounts,” Brookings Institution, March 7, 2019,; Michael Beckley, “The Power of Nations: Measuring What Matters,” International Security 43, no. 2 (Fall 2018), 7–44, [58] Michael Beckley, “China’s Century? Why America’s Edge Will Endure,” International Security 26, no. 3 (2012): 33–78,; Elizabeth C. Economy, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018). [59] Alexander K. Cooley, “The Emerging Political Economy of OBOR: The Challenges of Promoting Connectivity in Central Asia and Beyond,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 2016, 1–15, [60] Louise Moon, “Chinese Overseas Deals Fall Amid Heightened Scrutiny in U.S.,” South China Morning Post, Aug. 21, 2018, [61] William H. Overholt, China’s Crisis of Success (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 70, 176, 181; Sebastian Heilmann, Red Swan: How Unorthodox Policy Making Facilitated China’s Rise (Hong-Kong: Chinese University Press, 2018); Editorial Board, “China’s Slowing Economic Growth Should Not Be a Concern,” Financial Times, Oct. 21, 2018, China’s “inclusive wealth” ratio vis-à-vis America rose from 0.6 to 0.686 between 2005 and 2018 (author’s calculation). Between 2014 and 2018, their “inclusive wealth” increased by 2.4 percent and 2 percent, respectively; Shunsuke Managi and Pushpam Kumar, eds., Inclusive Wealth Report 2018: Measuring Progress Toward Sustainability (New York: Routledge, 2018), 230, 234, 249, 252, [62] Neta C. Crawford, “United States Budgetary Costs of the Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2019: $5.9 Trillion Spent and Obligated,” Watson Center for International and Public Affairs, 1, [63] David Dollar, “Is China’s Development Finance a Challenge to the International Order?” Asian Economic Policy Review 13, no. 2 (July 2018): 283–98,; Keith Bradsher, “China Taps the Brakes on its Global Push for Influence,” New York Times, Oct. 17, 2017, [64] For now, private actors are reluctant; Joy-Perez, Scissors, “The Chinese State,” 2, 4; “Credit Suisse Says China Belt-Road Plan May Top $500 Billion,” Bloomberg News, May 4, 2017,; “China Going Global Investment Index 2017,” Economist Intelligence Unit, Undated, 23, [65] According to some sources, 89 percent of contractors are Chinese; Jonathan E. Hillman, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Five Years Later,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Jan. 25, 2018, [66] For an overview, see John Hurley, Scott Morris, and Gailyn Portelance, “Examining the Debt Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative from a Policy Perspective,” Center for Global Development, March 4, 2018, 1–37, [67] “Infrastructure Productivity: How to Save $1T a Year,” McKinsey Global Institute, January 2013, [68] Khanna, Connectography, 95; David Dollar, “Lessons for the AIIB from the Experience of the World Bank,” Brookings Institution, April 27, 2015,; Branko Milanovic, “The West is Mired in ‘Soft’ Development. China is Trying the ‘Hard’ Stuff,” Guardian, May 17, 2017, [69] Axel Dreher et al., “Aid, China, and Growth: Evidence from a New Global Development Finance Dataset,” AidData Working Paper #46, (October 2017); Deborah Brautigam, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Stephen B. Kaplan, “The Rise of Patient Capital: A Tectonic Shift in Global Finance and Developing Countries?” SSRN, June 5, 2019, 1–33, [70] Hurley, Morris, and Portelance, “Examining the Debt Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative from a Policy Perspective,” 5; Deborah Brautigam, “Is China the World’s Loan Shark?” New York Times, April 26, 2019, [71] W. Gyude Moore, “2018 FOCAC: Africa in the New Reality of Reduced Chinese Lending,” Center for Global Development, Aug. 31, 2018,; Noor El-Edroos, “Third World Debt, Deficits, Debt and the Role of the IMF,” Mount Holyoke College, Spring 2009,; El Hadji Guissé, “Effects of Debt on Human Rights,” United Nations Economic and Social Council, July 1, 2004,; Daron Acemoğlu and James Robinson, “The Economic Impact of Colonialism,” Center for Economic and Policy Research Policy Portal, Jan. 20, 2017,; Michael Mussa, “U.S. Macroeconomic Policy and Third World Debt,” CATO Journal 4, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 1984): 81–95,; J. Shola Omotola and Hassan Saliu, “Foreign Aid, Debt Relief and Africa's Development: Problems and Prospects,” South African Journal of International Affairs 16, no. 1 (2009): 91, [72] Sam Ball, “German Firm to Run Greek Airports as Sell-off Begins,” France 24, Aug. 20, 2015, [73] Jonathan E. Hillman, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Five Years Later,” Hearing Before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 115th Congress, Second Session, (Hereafter, USCESRC), Jan. 25, 2018, 48, Transcript - January 25, 2018_0.pdf; Andrew Small, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Five Years Later,” Hearing Before the USCESRC, Jan. 25, 2018, 119, Transcript - January 25, 2018_0.pdf; for a larger perspective, see Alvin A. Camba and Kuek Jia Yao, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative Paved with Risks and Red Herrings,” East Asia Forum, June 26, 2018, [74] Alicia Garcia-Herrero and Jianwei Xu, “Countries Perceptions of China’s Belt and Road Initiative: A Big Data Analysis,” Bruegel Institute, Feb. 6, 2019,; Tang Siew Mun et al., “The State of Southeast Asia: 2019 Report,” ISEAS, 18–21, [75] Maha S. 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[188] Lyle Goldstein, “The U.S.-China Naval Balance in the Asia-Pacific: An Overview,” China Quarterly, no. 232 (December 2017): 910, 920–21, [189] Geoff Ziezulewicz, “Budget Watchdog Questions Navy’s Plan for 355-Ship Fleet,” Navy Times, Oct. 24, 2018,; Steven Stashwick, “The 350-Ship Fantasy: It’s Time for the Navy to Think Radically About a Smaller Fleet,” War on the Rocks, Sept. 15, 2017,; Jim Talent, “The Budget Deal Won’t Be Enough to Get the Armed Forces Trump Wants,” National Review, Feb. 13, 2018, [190] Loren Thompson, “Five Reasons Trump Won’t Reverse the U.S. Military’s Long Decline,” Forbes, April 24, 2017, [191] Krepinevich, “Preserving the Balance,” 59–61. [192] David Shambaugh, “U.S.-China Rivalry in Southeast Asia: Power Shift or Competitive Coexistence?” International Security 42, no. 4 (Spring 2018): 126, 87, [193] Kang, American Grand Strategy and East Asian Security, 142, 145. [194] “A Chance for China and Japan to Strengthen Ties,” South China Morning Post, Aug. 19, 2018,; “Japan,” Observatory of Economic Complexity, MIT, undated,; Stuart Lau, “Taiwan: The Lonely Winter,” The Interpreter, Sept. 19, 2018,; “China, Japan Sign Currency Swap Deal,” Xinhua, Oct. 26, 2018,; Tobias Harris, Testimony, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Five Years Later,” USCESRC, 159, Transcript - January 25, 2018_0.pdf. [195] Ramon Pacheco Pardo, “Will America Lose Seoul? Redefining a Critical Alliance,” War on the Rocks, Sept. 5, 2018,; Jaechun Kim, “South Korea’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Dilemma,” The Diplomat, April 27, 2018,; Patrick Monaghan, “Is the U.S.-South Korea Alliance in Trouble?” The Diplomat, April 21, 2018, [196] Yang, “Belt and Road Initiative Warmly Welcomed in Australia’s Northern Territory,”, July 16, 2018,; “Australia Records Bumper Trade Surplus in 2018,” Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Feb. 5, 2019, [197] Hugh White, “The White Paper’s Grand Strategic Fix: Can Australia Achieve an Indo-Pacific Pivot?”, Nov. 28, 2017, [198] Jason Scott, “Australia Looks to Repair China Relationship After Huawei Spat,” Bloomberg, March 28, 2019, [199] Tanvi Madan, “Dancing with the Dragon: Deciphering India’s ‘China Reset,’” War on the Rocks, April 26, 2018,; Lara Seligman, “Washington Warns of Sanctioning India over Russian Missile System,” Foreign Policy, Aug. 29, 2018,; Rajesh Rajagopalan, “India’s Strategic Choices: China and the Balance of Power in Asia,” Carnegie India, Sept. 14, 2017, 11, 31, [200] “India Becomes Largest Recipient of AIIB Financing,” RWR Advisory Group, June 27, 2018,; “Spotlight: China-India Trade Ties Set to Deepen,” Xinhua, March 31, 2018, [201] Dhruva Jaishankar, “Survey of India’s Strategic Community,” Brookings Institution, March 1, 2019,; Derek Grossman, “India Is the Weakest Link in the Quad,” Foreign Policy, July 23, 2018,; Arzan Tarapore, “Using Uncertainty as Leverage: India’s Security Competition with China,” War on the Rocks, June 18, 2018, [202] “France and Security in the Indo-Pacific,” French Ministry of the Armed Forces, May 2019, 4,; “China and the Rules-Based International System”, U.K. House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, 16th Report of Session 2017–19, April 4, 2019, 5–7, 23–25, 46–47,; Andrew Small, “Why Europe Is Getting Tough on China,” Foreign Affairs, April 3, 2019, [203] Ellen Nakashima, “U.S. Pushes Hard for a Ban on Huawei in Europe, but the Firm’s 5G Prices Are Nearly Irresistible,” Washington Post, May 29, 2019,; Nadège Rolland, “The Belt and Road in Europe: Five Years Later,” The Diplomat, Sept. 1, 2018, [204] Jeremy Green, “The City’s Pivot to China in a Post-Brexit World: A Uniquely Vulnerable Policy,” London School of Economics Blog, June 15, 2018,; Nazvi Careem, “UK Supports the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ Behind the Scenes,” South China Morning Post, Sept. 20, 2018,; Brenda Goh, “Britain Calls China’s Belt and Road Initiative a ‘Vision,’” Reuters, April 25, 2019,; Rolland, “The Belt and Road in Europe.” [205] Small, “Why Europe Is Getting Tough on China”; Li Jie Sheng, “Where Is Britain’s Indo-Pacific Strategy?” The Diplomat, June 7, 2019, [206] Aaron L. Friedberg, “Competing with China,” Survival 60, no. 3 (2018): 39–50, [207] Joseph Sassoon, “China and Iraq,” in, The Red Star and the Crescent: China and the Middle East, ed. James Reardon-Anderson (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2018), 159, 165. [208] Blackwill and Harris, War by Other Means, 220–50; Friedberg, “Competing with China,” 27, 33. [209] Evan Braden Montgomery, “Competitive Strategies Against Continental Powers: The Geopolitics of Sino-Indian-American Relations,” Journal of Strategic Studies 36, no. 1 (2013): 77–78, [210] Michael Beckley, “The Emerging Military Balance in East Asia: How China’s Neighbors Can Check Chinese Naval Expansion,” International Security 42, no. 2 (Fall 2017): 79–81,; Avery Goldstein, “First Things First: The Pressing Danger of Crisis Instability in U.S.-China Relations,” International Security 37, no. 4 (Spring 2013), 49–89, [211] Michael D. Swaine, “Creating an Unstable Asia: The U.S. ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ Strategy,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2, 2018, ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 795 [post_author] => 235 [post_date] => 2018-11-30 05:00:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-30 10:00:40 [post_content] => The United States “stands at a crossroads in history,” the George H.W. Bush administration asserted in its National Security Strategy in January 1993. The world, it argued, had been “radically transformed” to an era that “holds great opportunities … but also great dangers.” Twenty-two years later, the Barack Obama administration stated that “at this pivotal moment, we continue to face serious challenges to our national security, even as we are working to shape the opportunities of tomorrow.” The National Security Strategy produced by Donald Trump’s administration last year similarly, if somewhat more ominously, highlights both dangers and opportunities.[1] In each strategy document, American power is seen as vital to addressing the shifting international environment. Yet there are still plenty of areas of disagreement, and outside the Beltway the debate extends even further. What is America’s role in the world? And what policies would best realize those goals? These questions are at the heart of differing conceptions of American grand strategy. Though frequently conflated, they remain distinct. As a result, while there is no shortage of statements on U.S. grand strategy, there is little consensus on the basic contours of the debate, let alone which course would best serve American interests. Disagreements frequently arise due to fuzzy thinking about whether policy prescriptions follow from different conceptions of what the national interest should be or debates about the evidence supporting competing claims. At this critical juncture — to borrow a cliché from past national security strategies — it is worth stepping back to evaluate the competing grand-strategic positions that seek to enhance America’s national interests. A more fruitful debate would focus on claims about how policy means can or cannot realize U.S. interests rather than the nature of those interests. The former task is amenable to rigorous research; the latter rests on normative judgments that must be settled through a political process. Scholars can and should contribute to that process.[2] In doing so, however, they should be clear about whether they are making a claim about a policy achieving a particular interest or whether they are agreeing with that interest. A debate built on evidence of the links between means and ends can assess the efficacy of prescriptions and help diagnose situations. By contrast, reasonable individuals can disagree on how to weigh specific values and risks.[3] This article, therefore, focuses on the former while acknowledging the importance of the latter. A debate focused on the relation between means and ends has to meet four conditions. First, there must be some agreement on America’s national interests. Second, the underlying theories for each position on grand strategy must be clearly identified. Third, scholars must then evaluate the logic of each side’s theories and derive testable propositions. Fourth, those propositions must be subjected to rigorous assessment. Currently, debate over grand strategy satisfies few, if any, of these conditions. Satisfying all four is beyond the scope of one article. Therefore, we aim to develop a framework that addresses the first two and in so doing provide a necessary foundation for future research to evaluate trade-offs across grand strategies and rigorously assess competing claims. We focus on the scholarly debate, but this is not merely an exercise in academic navel-gazing. Duke political scientist and former National Security Council staff member Peter Feaver reminds us that “every policy choice is a prediction that can be expressed in the type of theory language familiar to academic political science: if we do X then Y will (or will not) happen.” Policymakers rely on an “implicit causal theory that links inputs to outputs.”[4] Similarly, a 2011 survey of former national security officials found that they sought “frameworks for making sense of the world they have to operate in,” which social scientists would call theories.[5] True, grand strategy must be adaptive and, at times, policymakers are reduced to reaction. Even in those cases, though, leaders draw on some set of notions about how the world works as they respond to new situations.[6] Policymakers may disregard scholarly research or use it instrumentally to support their own positions, of course. The incentives and focus of scholars and policymakers are different.[7] Moreover, policymakers pressed for time are unlikely to keep up with the most recent issues of peer-reviewed journals, though increasingly there are alternative outlets through which scholars can convey their findings.[8] Attention to the role that theory plays in grand strategy is, nevertheless, useful for at least two reasons. First, it can shape the studies available to policymakers. Second, it strengthens external critiques of policies for which there is little empirical support. Building our framework requires setting aside the normative components of the debate and focusing on how different grand-strategy positions advance a common set of interests. We do so by holding national interests constant to establish a common baseline.[9] We identify four major ideal-type grand-strategy positions deductively according to their underlying theoretical principles. First, differences in conceptions of power divide the positions into two overarching camps: those that adopt some variant of balance-of-power realism and those built on hegemonic stability theory (Table 1). This dichotomy alone obscures differences between grand strategies. Thus, the second part of our argument incorporates the role of international and domestic institutions (Table 2). We label these four schools restraint, deep engagement, liberal internationalism, and conservative primacy.[10] Others have highlighted how theory shapes thinking on foreign policy and grand strategy.[11] We extend these insights to offer a novel categorization of the contemporary scholarly debate that clarifies the sources of disagreement over interests, objectives, and tools. Table 1. Power and Grand Strategy Positions [table id=7 /] Table 2. Institutions and Grand Strategy Positions [table id=8 /] Parsing the contemporary grand-strategy debate this way is useful for several reasons. First, it provides a general and clear understanding of the landscape. Moreover, critics of our categorization can use this as a foil to make explicit what additional theories should be considered to generate alternative grand-strategy positions. Second, our deductive approach allows the identification of four positions in the debate that inductive approaches can obscure. For example, scholars who agree on one prescription, such as a robust U.S. military presence abroad, may disagree on others, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Third, our framework clarifies the links between the oft-conflated concepts of theory, interests, objectives, and policy tools. Separating the debate along these conceptual levels adds the precision needed to transform broad visions into specific propositions. It also helps to clarify when scholars’ policy prescriptions hinge on normative preferences as opposed to theory and evidence. In mapping how diverse worldviews inform grand strategy, we cannot address every aspect of the debate. We do not seek to demonstrate the superiority of one position or its potential domestic public appeal, and we necessarily gloss over minor disagreements in the interest of outlining ideal-types.[12] We are also unable to engage critical treatments of grand strategy.[13] Finally, we do not attempt an account of grand strategy in the Trump administration. A lively discussion of this subject is ongoing, with widely divergent conclusions.[14] We nevertheless provide a baseline with which to judge when the Trump administration is proposing novel positions of grand strategy, borrowing from discrete (and perhaps contradictory) approaches, and when policy is actually very much in line with existing formulations. For example, our framework could account for a more assertive nationalist position that blended elements of hegemonic stability (deep engagement, liberal internationalism, and conservative primacy) with skepticism toward the importance of both domestic and international institutions (restraint). We leave the ultimate categorization to others. The rest of this article proceeds in three parts. First, we develop our argument by unpacking the terms we use to characterize the dimensions of the debate. Next, we use this framework to outline four grand-strategy positions. We conclude by summarizing major areas of disagreement and ways to advance the debate.

The Framework

In this section, we separate and define the concepts of interests, objectives, and policy tools. Interests are the highest purposes of the state that grand strategy seeks to attain. To achieve their interests, states set objectives (such as preventing a Eurasian hegemon) and utilize specific policy tools (such as alliance commitments) to attain objectives. There is considerable disagreement over how to define grand strategy.[15] Hal Brands reviews multiple definitions and concludes that grand strategy is “the conceptual logic that ensures that [foreign policy] instruments are employed in ways that maximize the benefits for a nation’s core interests.”[16] In an important recent article, Nina Silove argues that scholars and practitioners have employed three discrete concepts of grand strategy over time, which she labels grand principles, grand plans, and grand behavior. All three share a focus on long-term and multiple elements of state power, as well as the relationship between ends and means.[17] Our emphasis on underlying theoretical principles highlights the role of grand principles. We suggest that in order to advance the grand strategy debate it is necessary to demonstrate how underlying principles guide both behavior and plans to advance the national interest. Specifically, by pursuing objectives with a particular set of policy tools. We adapt these definitions to the United States, defining grand strategy as the U.S. theory of how it can maximize American security, prosperity, and liberty. The assumption that U.S. interests are constant is controversial, so we want to unpack our logic.[18] First, this assumption establishes a baseline for competing grand-strategy prescriptions. Without this assumption, it is impossible to isolate the impact of each side’s theoretical assumptions on its prescribed policy prescriptions.[19] For instance, one might consider U.S. alliance commitments as a tool that may help obtain certain objectives. By contrast, labeling a U.S. alliance commitment as an interest indicates that whether the alliance helps or harms U.S. objectives does not matter; the alliance commitment is itself an intrinsic interest to pursue.[20] Social science tools are ill-suited to assess whether a national interest is normatively appropriate or not. We therefore focus on the theoretical links between specific tools and objectives that advance a particular policy interest. In other words, we examine how variation in worldviews informs disagreements over what objectives and policy levers will best maximize U.S. interests, rather than what those interests should be. [quote id="5"] The second virtue in limiting U.S. core interests to security, domestic prosperity, and domestic liberty is that most participants in the debate explicitly or implicitly adopt these interests. Generally, advocates for expansive grand strategies argue that these have been and should be U.S. national interests.[21] And even those favoring a reduced U.S. role in the world frequently assert interests beyond security. For example, Stephen Walt writes that the “central purpose of U.S. foreign policy is to make Americans safer and richer, and to preserve our political values here at home.”[22] Similarly, Christopher Preble argues that a less activist grand strategy would enhance American security, prosperity, and liberty.[23] Barry Posen defines security to include a state’s power position, which is in turn the “sum total of a state’s capabilities … [including] population size, health, and skill [and] economic capacity of all kinds.”[24] Domestic prosperity thus finds its way into security. To be sure, there is disagreement on the content of these concepts. For instance, domestic liberty has various meanings and the number of Americans who could claim liberty has expanded over time. Yet, as Henry Nau notes, “the core classical liberal belief in individual liberty and equality … binds all Americans, conservatives and liberals alike.”[25] We assume that the core U.S. interests are the security, prosperity, and liberty of the American people, not the world. As Posen notes, advancing “the economic welfare or liberty of people abroad” may enhance U.S. interests, but that need not be the case.[26] Much of the debate over grand strategy centers on the presence or absence of links between advancing stability, welfare, and freedom abroad with the well-being of the United States at home. Importantly, this is a narrower use of the term “interests” than is common in the policy discourse. Here we refer strictly to core U.S. values, as opposed to more instrumental objectives (e.g., preventing the rise of a Eurasian hegemon) that — although commonly referred to as “interests” — are pursued as means of maximizing the core interests we identify. This distinction helps to clarify how the schools of grand strategy differ more on how to achieve core U.S. interests than on what those core interests ought to be. We define grand strategy objectives as the real-world outcomes a state seeks to achieve in order to advance its interests. Objectives are instrumental to interests: Choosing which objectives to pursue depends on one’s theory of what objectives will best maximize interests given internal and external constraints. For example, some argue that maintaining stability in Eurasia is both affordable and necessary for attaining U.S. interests, while others argue that it is too costly or unnecessary. Finally, policy levers or tools are the instruments states employ to realize their objectives. A state’s choice to invest in its diplomatic corps or military forces is a lever that can affect the probability of realizing a given objective that would further an interest. Moreover, just as objectives are instrumental to interests, the specific policies a state adopts are means to realizing its objectives. We restrict our analysis to four specific policy levers: military force structure, security commitments, military deployments, and the use of force. States can rely on additional grand strategy tools, but we focus on military tools for several reasons. Much of the grand-strategy debate centers on the role of military power, and the most intense schisms involve the deployment of military forces and the extension of alliance commitments. This is not surprising: Extending alliance commitments, deploying troops, fighting, and acquiring the necessary military capabilities for each involve significant political, economic, moral, and human costs. There is also a practical concern: No article can focus on every U.S. policy tool. Limiting the focus allows us to more specifically describe and define the differences between grand strategies.

Four Grand Strategies

In this section, we outline each of the ideal-types of grand strategies. We focus on each strategy’s underlying theory and its relation to objectives and policy levers. Table 3 summarizes the arguments along each dimension. Table 3. Grand Strategy Types [table id=9 /] Restraint Theoretical Anchor Balance-of-power realism provides the intellectual foundation for restraint, or what some label an “offshore balancing” grand strategy. This theoretical anchor makes several core assumptions: The international system is anarchic, states cannot fully know the intentions of other states, and states want to survive. “Because there is no government to protect them and they cannot know the intentions of others,” write Sebastian Rosato and John Schuessler, “great powers must ultimately provide for their security.”[27] One state’s efforts to make itself more secure can create insecurity for others. This is the basis of the security dilemma that plays an important role for the restraint position.[28] Systemic constraints and the distribution of power are the key causal factors in shaping international outcomes, while international and domestic institutions play a marginal role. Alongside, but distinct from, the focus on the international system, the restraint position argues that nationalism remains a powerful motivating force.[29] The desire to survive imbues societies with strong incentives to resist outside influence. That is why states tend to balance rather than bandwagon. States with sufficient means work to block or undermine opponents by building up their own military capabilities, allying with states, or militarily challenging an opponent’s interests. Efforts to project power and counterbalancing occasionally lead to escalating spirals of hostility that can result in an arms race or conflict. There is disagreement about which behaviors provoke balancing, but there is consensus that the more geographically proximate and active a state is, the more likely it is that its actions will provoke reactions by capable states.[30] The emphasis on ability to balance is critical. Weak states not directly targeted by a great power may be able to do little and, therefore, simply bandwagon or stay out of the way until they find themselves directly in a great power’s crosshairs.[31] The basic balancing logic can extend to non-state actors, which will use asymmetric strategies (e.g., terrorism) to challenge the great-power policies they oppose.[32] Many link this restraint position to defensive realism.[33] Yet the U.S. geographic and power positions allow offensive realists to coherently advocate a policy of restraint. Offensive realism predicts that states will seek to expand when the benefits outweigh the costs. The United States’ position as the only major power in the Western Hemisphere provides a high level of security and prosperity. The costs associated with U.S. activism therefore outweigh the minimal benefits in the absence of a potential hegemon abroad. Objectives The focus on balancing and nationalism directly informs the restraint position’s contention that a short list of objectives best advances American interests. First, restraint focuses on thwarting any major threats to the American homeland. Second, the United States must prevent the emergence of a hegemon in Europe, Northeast Asia, or the Middle East. A rival could utilize the region’s power potential to endanger U.S. territory or block U.S. commerce. A hegemon in the Middle East, for example, could endanger energy flows, raising the global price of key commodities, which would in turn harm the U.S. economy.[34] Finally, the United States must deny another state the ability to command the global commons of the “sea, space, and air.”[35] If others command the commons, then the United States might find its homeland vulnerable to attack. In the long run, this could also undermine the U.S. economy. Restraint looks at the world today and sees few states capable of threatening these objectives. Distance and the American nuclear arsenal deter major assaults on U.S. territory. No state can unite European or Asian power potential in the near term, though China may be able to do so in the medium to long term, necessitating a cautious balancing approach.[36] Preventing the emergence of a hegemon in the Middle East requires minimal U.S. investment because the regional powers are very weak. Moreover, global markets are robust and not easily disrupted.[37] [quote id="6"] The restraint position does not identify regional stability as a grand-strategy objective.[38] To begin with, instability abroad does not directly affect American security. Moreover, the tendency to balance causes others to contest U.S. efforts to impose stability, generating security dilemmas that actually can generate instability. Restraint prefers letting regional actors balance other regional actors. This may lead to conventional arming, the formation of new alliances, and even nuclear proliferation as others supply their own security. As more states provide for their own security, the United States can reduce its defense burden, enhancing U.S. prosperity and liberty without sacrificing security.[39] U.S. allies do not behave this way today, the restraint position argues, because they are “cheap-riding” while the United States foots the bill for security.[40] Worse, these actions may be creating a moral hazard, emboldening allies to act recklessly, which can in turn entrap the United States. Restraint considers terrorism an enduring challenge but not one that rises to the level of a grand-strategy objective. This grand-strategy position takes “seriously the threat from international terrorism,” notes Michael Desch, but it “also put[s] it into perspective.”[41] Expansive counterterror policies can provoke backlash. As Robert Pape argues, “U.S. ground forces often inadvertently produce more anti-American terrorists than they kill.”[42] Although terrorist acquisition of a nuclear weapon would be a “game changer,” the probability of that occurring is low.[43] States are unlikely to allow their nuclear weapons or fissile material to fall into the hands of a terrorist organization and risk losing control over how the material is used or risk potential retaliation from the terrorist’s target.[44] Rather than relying on military tools, the United States can help secure stockpiles and prevent accidents by sharing safeguard technology and best practices with other nuclear capable states.[45] Although few restraint proponents advocate nuclear proliferation, most do not consider nonproliferation a grand-strategy objective. Aggressive nonproliferation efforts are likely to encourage proliferation among hostile states as they seek to balance the United States.[46] Additionally, restraint adopts the nuclear-optimist position that nuclear weapons reduce conflict.[47] As long as the United States maintains its nuclear arsenal, deterrence will prevent nuclear attacks. Regional nuclear-armed states can deter regional aggression. Thus, Posen accepts that with the restraint position, “some nuclear proliferation would be tolerated.”[48] This may cause the United States to lose some power-projection ability, but restraint prefers that the United States do less in the current international environment. Restraint also does not count democracy promotion or humanitarian intervention among its objectives. Restraint does not oppose democracy or foreign aid, but its proponents believe that promoting either is inappropriate as part of a grand strategy. Whereas democracy promotion is difficult and unnecessary for advancing U.S. interests, humanitarian interventions can create failed states, generate havens for terrorists, and invite diplomatic backlash. A number of alternative diplomatic and foreign aid initiatives may, in the end, be more effective and save more lives. Policy Levers The restraint approach seeks to reduce U.S. defense commitments, forward deployments of troops, the frequency of using force, and the size of the U.S. military. Despite sharing a common theoretical base and set of objectives, individual scholars within this domain differ on the scope of reduction. The broadest divide is between those advocating modest versus major reductions. This reflects diversity in assessments of the balance of power, technology, preferences for hedging against geopolitical uncertainties, and estimates of domestic political feasibility. While these differences are important, they are outside the shared theoretical framework.[49] We do not, therefore, treat these differences as discrete grand strategies. Proponents of restraint argue in favor of reducing U.S. security commitments and forward deployments of troops. At the extreme end of the spectrum, scholars in this group advocate ending nearly all military commitments and bringing U.S. troops home.[50] More moderate positions agree on reducing the U.S. role in NATO and Europe, where Russian weakness and Western European wealth negate the need for U.S. involvement. U.S. air and naval power may remain in the Middle East, but the United States would remove ground forces and no longer support regimes against domestic opposition. Only in Asia, as a hedge against the rise of China, would sizable U.S. forces — primarily air and sea — and defense commitments potentially remain.[51] The objectives of restraint suggest the United States ought to use force rarely. It would do so only if a state stands poised to attain hegemony in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East, or if a state makes a bid to command the commons. Additionally, the United States would use minimal force to degrade and contain terrorist organizations that have the desire and ability to strike the United States.[52] The limited global role would allow significant reductions in the current U.S. force structure. In particular, force structure would shift to one that privileges the Navy and Air Force with light, highly mobile ground forces that proponents of restraint contend would result in large savings. Deep Engagement Theoretical Anchor Hegemonic stability theory provides the underlying principles for the deep engagement approach to grand strategy.[53] This position shares much with what some have labeled “selective engagement.”[54] Deep engagement draws on a separate branch of realism than the restraint position and argues that balancing is not feasible when one state’s material capabilities far exceed those of all others. States are more likely to bandwagon with, rather than balance against, the hegemon. Not only is balancing unlikely, according to this framework, but the world is more peaceful and prosperous when there is a preponderance of power.[55] The hegemon can utilize its superior military and economic tools to provide public goods, such as regional security, that underwrite a stable international order. The provision of security alleviates regional security dilemmas and deters aspiring powers from challenging the hegemon’s authority.[56] Absent the hegemon’s presence, regional balances of power will not form and costly arms races will occur. Moreover, a distant hegemon will be dragged into the conflict, thereby harming its interests. Globally, the clear preponderance of power makes conflicts over prestige unlikely, removing another source of war. Thus, escalating spirals of hostility are unlikely at both the global and regional levels. Advocates of deep engagement argue that the benefits of maintaining the hegemonic order outweigh the costs. Costs are low because other states are unlikely to balance and military spending is not a major drain on resources.[57] Moreover, peripheral wars are choices rather than necessities, and so do not generate major costs for this strategy so long as the hegemon exercises prudence.[58] The hegemon also benefits from increased security, extracts enormous privileges from the system, and enriches itself through the rise in global prosperity.[59] The hegemon’s ability to shape international institutions facilitates order and lowers transaction costs for managing the international system. For instance, the hegemon can use economic institutions to mold the global economic system to its comparative advantage.[60] International security institutions allow the hegemon to coordinate with allies to maintain regional stability.[61] However, in contrast to liberal internationalism, proponents of deep engagement argue that such institutions are unlikely to be effective in the absence of a hegemonic state powerful enough to underwrite them. Objectives Deep engagement aims to deter threats to the homeland and the global commons. It also focuses on maintaining stability in three key regions — Asia, Europe, and the Middle East — rather than just preventing a hegemon from emerging. Thus, Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth advocate economic globalization, promoting institutions, defending allies, and preventing conflict that would threaten the U.S.-led international order.[62] Proponents of deep engagement argue that the United States can, and should, continue to lead the international order: It can because it remains the only superpower and its position is durable;[63] it should because its presence stabilizes economic and security relations between states. Without a hegemon, regional actors will fail to balance potential peer competitors, harming U.S. security and prosperity. Finally, changes to the status quo adversely affect the United States because the system reflects American interests. Maintaining a stable, open, and U.S.-led order in the world’s core regions requires that the United States pursue several objectives. First, the United States must oppose the emergence of a regional hegemon and work to dampen strictly regional security competition in key areas. Without U.S. leadership, local balancing will be inefficient. Moreover, security competition generates negative externalities — such as conventional arms racing, nuclear proliferation, and trade disruption — that increase the risk of regional and global instability. In contrast to the restraint approach, deep engagement adopts nuclear pessimism, which highlights the dangers of nuclear accidents, inadvertent escalation, and loose nuclear weapons. These risks outweigh any potential stabilizing effects of nuclear weapons.[64] Thus, deep engagement contends that paying the costs associated with protecting American allies helps to deter and contain potential peer competitors and regional instability. This also gives the United States leverage over its allies, minimizing the risk of entrapment.[65] [quote id="1"] Second, deep engagement aims to protect the United States and its allies from terrorism and violent domestic instability. But it does not view these threats outside of the core regions as major dangers. For example, the risk of a terrorist attack or civil conflict in sub-Saharan Africa is a smaller concern than it would be in Saudi Arabia. Deep engagement might support efforts to prevent failed states, civil war, ethnic conflict, and humanitarian disasters, but only if such outcomes have the potential to threaten stability in the core regions. Deep engagement supports the spread of democracy but does not view it as a grand-strategy objective because overt democracy promotion can undermine support for other U.S. objectives.[66] Efforts to protect human rights through humanitarian intervention or democracy promotion distract leaders from core objectives and may lead policymakers to pursue unnecessary or impossible objectives, squander resources, and produce negative externalities. Policy Levers Supporters of deep engagement seek to construct a military capable of maintaining existing alliance commitments and troop deployments abroad. These tools serve as the backbone of U.S. influence by deterring adversaries and reassuring allies. Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth make the point clearly:
The United States’ overseas presence gives it the leverage to restrain partners from taking provocative action. Perhaps more importantly, its core alliance commitments also deter states with aspirations to regional hegemony from contemplating expansion and makes its partners more secure, reducing their incentive to adopt solutions to their security problems that threaten others and thus stoke security dilemmas.[67]
To this end, the United States has constructed a set of commitments that include formal defense pacts with 68 countries that, together with the United States, represent 75 percent of world economic output.[68] America’s commitment to NATO and the security structures in the Middle East and Asia should continue. Moreover, contrary to the restraint approach, the deep-engagement position argues that forward-deployed forces are necessary to maintain command of the commons and allow the U.S. presence to surge in an emergency. International commitments and U.S. troop presence also encourage intelligence sharing and cooperation in counterterrorism efforts, as well as reducing domestic instability in these regions. Proponents of deep engagement argue that critics overstate the costs of this grand strategy. For one thing, offsetting arrangements with allies defrays the financial costs of deploying troops abroad. In terms of terrorism, U.S. troops may contribute to anti-Americanism, as some claim, but they are hardly the decisive factor.[69] Were most U.S. troops to come home tomorrow, the terrorist threat would not disappear, nor would much money be saved. Regarding entrapment, alliances allow the United States significant freedom to maneuver and tend to give Washington more influence over its weaker partners.[70] In this framework, military force is a tool to maintain, not alter, the status quo. Hence, deep engagement supports the use of force to protect existing commitments but does not support using military force to spread democracy or, except in extreme cases, remove human rights violators from power. As Brooks and Wohlforth write,
[T]hose who advocate ambitious projects to assertively spread democracy and liberal principles and foster dramatic improvement in human rights, by the sword if necessary, make the same mistakes as proponents of pulling back: they fail to appreciate the major benefits America derives by sustaining its long-standing grand strategy.[71]
Proponents of deep engagement seek to maintain U.S. force-structure projections made toward the end of the Obama administration but are not opposed to modest increases. This level of military power is necessary to maintain existing commitments and deployments, and it requires an amount of military spending that is both affordable and likely to decrease as a percentage of GDP over time.[72] A larger military is unnecessary because deep engagement does not seek to undertake new military missions or commitments outside core regions. Liberal Internationalism Theoretical Anchor Liberal internationalism rests on a combination of hegemonic stability theory and neoliberal institutionalism. This view of grand strategy depends on the “decentralized model” of hegemonic stability, in which it is the hegemon’s “benevolent leadership” more than its coercion of states that ultimately maintains the international order.[73] Liberal internationalism’s central tenet is that the hegemon creates and maintains an order built on “rules and institutions that advance collective security and cooperation among democracies.”[74] It holds that a stable international order can arise when a hegemon is able and willing to use its power to overcome collective action problems — in which states each have an incentive to free ride on the efforts of others — and provide international stability as a public good. Liberal internationalism does not accept that the hegemon’s power alone is sufficient, instead arguing that hegemonic leadership must command legitimacy. That legitimacy depends on upholding the interests of the other states in the system rather than coercing states to adhere to the hegemon’s rules. To accomplish this, the hegemon must tie its own hands by adhering to the same rules as other states and allowing a role for non-state actors.[75] By constructing effective, relatively flat (as opposed to hierarchical) international institutions, the hegemon restrains its ability to act coercively, which in turn enhances the legitimacy and stability of the order. Institutions also facilitate cooperation by reducing transaction costs, monitoring and enforcing agreements, and overcoming collective-action problems. Ultimately, a thick web of institutions can lock in the order and allow it to outlive the hegemon’s inevitable decline. Rising great powers can then be co-opted into supporting and perpetuating this order.[76] Institutions help overcome the nefarious consequences of anarchy touted by balance-of-power realists. Liberal international-relations theories of the economic and domestic-political underpinnings of international cooperation strongly inform liberal internationalism.[77] In particular, proponents of liberal internationalism contend that the promotion of open and free trade (economic liberalism) and the global spread of democracy (republican liberalism) are critical pillars of a stable and peaceful international order. As Anne-Marie Slaughter argues, the “origins of international conflict and cooperation lie in the political and economic micro-foundations of individual societies.”[78] Democratic states are unlikely to go to war with one another and can cooperate to form security communities.[79] Market democracies will pursue globalization with the free flow of goods, services, and ideas across borders. This type of economic interdependence not only promotes peace, by raising the costs of conflict, but also enhances prosperity. Objectives The core objective of liberal internationalism is the maintenance and expansion of a U.S.-led liberal international order embedded within a dense network of international institutions.[80] As Slaughter has written, the “next U.S. president should adopt a grand strategy of building and maintaining an open international order based on three pillars: open societies, open governments, and an open international system.”[81] Thus liberal internationalism parts company with deep engagement by considering the incorporation of liberal elements into the international order the very bedrock of U.S. grand strategy. Liberal internationalism considers the end of unipolarity and the rise of one or more rival great powers to be inevitable, but in contrast to the other grand strategies it opposes efforts to contain them.[82] Instead, proponents of liberal internationalism argue that by building a thick web of international institutions, the United States can co-opt potential rivals into the existing order and provide them a stake in maintaining it. The end of the Cold War created a unique historical moment and an unparalleled opportunity for the United States to lock in an international order amenable to its interests.[83] During this window of opportunity, the United States should use its power for building institutions, advancing democratic institutions and norms, promoting free markets, and reducing barriers to international trade — albeit while acting within the rules of the order it has constructed. Institutions, proponents of liberal internationalism argue, are “sticky.” Once states become enmeshed in a sufficiently thick, rules-based liberal international order, the benefits this order provides and the costs of dismantling it create powerful incentives for future great powers to continue to support it.[84] Friends and potential rivals gain from the hegemon’s provision of global public goods like security and stability. Institutions also reassure other states that U.S. leadership is benign by constraining U.S. behavior. Although the United States may possess the military and economic power to violate institutional rules, doing so would undermine its international legitimacy.[85] [quote id="2"] Liberal internationalism considers the spread of democracy and globalization a keystone to global stability and a central grand-strategy objective. Liberal internationalism therefore advocates protecting established and nascent democracies, even to the point of providing military support to domestic democratic opponents of autocratic regimes. This democratizing impulse was the basic rationale behind the Clinton administration’s “democratic enlargement” policy, which expanded NATO eastward in the 1990s.[86] As Slaughter puts it, the United States must continue its policy of “supporting liberal democratic parties and institutions in countries determining their own political future. … The twenty-first century, like the twentieth century, must be made safe for democracy.”[87] Promoting globalization can also foster the development of a middle class, a core constituency for democratization in developing countries. Liberal internationalism highlights the importance of maintaining regional stability. Regional arms races and conventional conflict undermine the rules-based international order and end up sucking the United States into conflict. History has shown that “aggressors in faraway lands, if left unchecked, would someday threaten the United States.”[88] For liberal internationalism, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks demonstrated how internal and external stability can create conditions that can lead to direct harm to the United States. Proponents of liberal internationalism consider international terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and gross human rights violations to be significant threats to global order. These concerns are compounded by general suspicions of authoritarian and illiberal groups and a skepticism that they can reliably be deterred. Nuclear proliferation and terrorism can combine in particularly pernicious ways. Ikenberry and Slaughter assert that the “threat of nuclear terrorism looms greater than any other nuclear threat because of the limits of traditional concepts of deterrence against adversaries who would willingly martyr themselves.”[89] To states, on the other hand, nuclear proliferation generates instability and imposes limits on America’s ability to act against challengers to the liberal international order. Human rights violations can undermine nascent liberal movements and breed regional instability. Policy Levers Liberal internationalism holds that U.S. military dominance currently underwrites the liberal international order. The United States must, therefore, maintain the military capabilities and alliances necessary to deter and defend against revisionist, anti-liberal challengers.[90] As Ikenberry and Slaughter write, liberal internationalism’s objectives “require a continued high level of U.S. defense spending.”[91] The United States should maintain and expand its commitments and, where necessary, its troop presence. This is particularly true for nascent democracies outside Western Europe. “The United States,” Ikenberry argues, “should recommit to and rebuild its security alliances. … The updating of these alliance bargains would involve widening the regional or global missions in which the alliance operates and making new compromises over the distribution of formal rights and responsibilities.”[92] Although the regional emphasis may differ by scholar, liberal internationalism supports an expansion of troops in specific cases as a hedge against potential illiberal challenges. For instance, as noted by Michèle Flournoy, former U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, and Janine Davidson, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans, “The cornerstone of forward engagement [is] positioning U.S. troops in vital regions to help deter major conflicts and promote stability, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.”[93] At times it will be necessary to use force to attain American objectives. This can include the defense of emerging democracies, but liberal internationalism does not advocate the constant use of force to spread democracy. It emphasizes multilateralism, though not necessarily universal support, as a way to build legitimacy for any use of force. Thus Slaughter contends that “if the need for international action is great, the international community must turn to broadly representative regional institutions to authorize and implement intervention.”[94] Democratic communities can legitimize U.S. action when broader forums are not supportive.[95] Concerns over human rights violations led many proponents of liberal internationalism to support the Iraq War in 2003 and the intervention in Libya in 2011.[96] As Slaughter notes, “R2P, [the Responsibility to Protect] has gone deeply out of fashion, but that is surely temporary.”[97]  The initial stages of humanitarian intervention may require the kind of forces that only the United States is in a position to supply. Conservative Primacy Theoretical Anchor Conservative primacy is a broad family that includes, but is not limited to, neoconservatives, conservative internationalists, and conservative realists.[98] It is consistent with much of what Brands labels “a better nationalism” and Colin Dueck calls “conservative nationalism.”[99] To be sure, there are a number of disagreements between self-described members of each group. Those disagreements are narrow enough — and the differences with alternative grand-strategy positions wide enough — to justify treating them together as an ideal-type grand strategy. We adopt the term conservative primacy because it captures the core shared theoretical underpinnings driving several, though by no means all, self-labeled conservative positions.[100] [quote id="3"] Specifically, conservative primacy formulations of all types combine classical liberal assumptions and hegemonic stability theory to arrive at more assertive grand-strategic prescriptions. These prescriptions rest on a variant of hegemonic stability theory that combines “benevolent” and “coercive” elements.[101] The hegemon’s rule must be benevolent in that the international order it establishes must command legitimacy among other states. This legitimacy arises when core liberal values are shared. Because liberal, democratic states have a shared set of interests, a liberal democratic hegemon’s efforts to establish an international order will command legitimacy even when this requires the unilateral exercise of military force. Indeed, the hegemon’s legitimacy rises among its fellow liberal democracies when it exercises power to defend the international order against nondemocratic challengers. Absent this leadership, dangerous threats will multiply. As Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, and Brian Hook state, a “strong United States is essential to the maintenance of the open global order under which this country and the rest of the world have prospered since 1945 … the alternative is not a self-regulating machine of balancing states, but a landscape marked by eruptions of chaos and destruction.”[102] Conservative primacy shares with liberal internationalism a focus on domestic institutions but parts company when it comes to international institutions. For conservative primacy, behavior is largely driven by regime type rather than the distribution of power. “Democracies,” Charles Krauthammer wrote, “are inherently more friendly to the United States, less belligerent to their neighbors, and generally more inclined to peace” than illiberal regimes.[103] International institutions are suspect, particularly those that grant equal status to both democracies and autocracies, as they empower and legitimize tyrannical regimes. Because democratic regimes are more likely than autocratic ones to be bound by international rules, international institutions restrain the states that need a free hand to uphold the international order, while permitting challengers of the liberal order greater freedom of action. Thus, international institutions can have an important effect on state preferences (contra restraint) but only among democratic states (contra liberal internationalism).[104] In sum, conservative primacy’s various permutations share several core features. First, a belief that illiberal (both politically and economically) state and non-state actors are sources of danger. In the wake of the Iraq War, however, there has been disagreement on how aggressively to promote democracy abroad and widespread skepticism of regime-change adventures. Second, proponents of conservative primacy see the use of American military power as a necessary component of hegemony. Finally, under this grand-strategy position, there is a pronounced skepticism of international institutions. Objectives Conservative primacy, like its liberal counterpart, favors the promotion of an international order based on liberal characteristics; in particular, the spread of democracy, capitalism, and free trade. As Condoleezza Rice put it, “An international order that reflects our values is the best guarantee of our enduring national interest.”[105] Conservative primacy does not consider such an “international order” to be a rules-based order built on international institutions. In fact, it warns that faith in institutions could lead the United States to abrogate its leadership role while failing to constrain illiberal regimes. The United States ought to remain the sole superpower, albeit sharing the stage with several great powers. Even with a variety of challenges, that hegemonic status is, in this view, durable.[106] Conservative primacy prioritizes the spread of democracy and opposition to authoritarian regimes. Unlike liberal internationalism, which argues that democracies can resolve conflicts of interest through peaceful negotiation, conservative primacy holds that maintaining a U.S.-led international order is a globally shared interest and that democratic governments best channel popular support for U.S. hegemony. Authoritarian and “rogue” regimes, on the other hand, are unrepresentative of the populations they govern and therefore do not share the citizenship’s interest in maintaining the international political-economic order established by the United States. Proponents of conservative primacy do not rule out spreading democracy by the sword — many supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq — but they caution against ill-conceived or constant efforts to do so. Because non-democratic regimes are both illegitimate and naturally inimical to the established and popularly supported international order, their very existence is a security threat to the United States and its democratic allies. Conservative primacy posits that the stability of the international order rests on U.S. power. U.S. primacy and preventing the rise of a great-power rival, particularly an illiberal great power, are therefore core objectives. The focus on regime type and the importance placed on U.S. preeminence in the international system suggests a strategy toward China, for example, that would combine elements of engagement and regime transformation (similar to liberal internationalism) and a balancing approach (similar to deep engagement and, increasingly, restraint). The result is a strategy comparable to Aaron Friedberg’s “better balancing” approach, which “combines continued attempts at engagement with expanded and intensified balancing.”[107] It differs from other grand-strategic positions by assuming that engagement is the best tool for moving China toward democracy, when coupled with assertive balancing, and that U.S. balancing efforts do not risk escalation or require reassurance. Aggressive counter-terrorism is a necessary objective of conservative primacy. According to Dueck, “jihadist terrorists” must be preempted: “The nature of this particular enemy leaves no superior alternative other than an assertive and determined strategy of rollback.”[108] Advocates of conservative primacy see an essential link between terrorism and “rogue” states that sponsor terrorist organizations and, therefore, favor strategies that focus on that link. For example, the Bush administration rapidly shifted focus to Iraq after the 9/11 attacks despite Iraq’s lack of connection to those attacks. James Mann describes the thinking of then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz as: “[F]orces behind terrorism in the Middle East were all interconnected … If the United States could defeat [Hussein], it would weaken terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. The issue was broader than Al Qaeda.”[109] Nonproliferation is also a critical objective because conservative primacy doubts the efficacy of deterrence when it comes to authoritarian and rogue states. Proponents of this grand strategy are supportive of preventive military action as well as ballistic missile defenses and nuclear counterforce capabilities. Concerns about proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons were at the center of the Bush administration’s case to invade Iraq. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, advocates of the neoconservative strain of conservative primacy within the administration expressed particular concern about “rogue” states such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons. This interacted with the terrorist threat to raise additional worry and played a central role in the development of the Bush Doctrine. More than a decade later, it has informed critiques of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action addressing Iran’s nuclear program.[110] Policy Levers Conservative primacy highlights the value of using U.S. military power to achieve American objectives. The tendency to bandwagon will dominate incentives to balance, so there are increasing returns to U.S. global activism with little risk of blowback. By this thinking, a robust troop presence would reassure skittish allies, deter and compel potential adversaries, and establish the means to defeat them should coercion fail.[111] As Robert Kagan notes, the
American presence enforced a general peace and stability in two regions [Europe and Asia] that for at least a century had known almost constant great-power conflict. … When the United States appears to retrench, allies necessarily become anxious, while others look for opportunities.[112]
As for the Middle East, Peter Feaver argues that the U.S. shift to an offshore balancing strategy “proved disastrous for American interests and paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State, forcing Obama to shift back once again to an onshore balancing in the region.”[113] Conservative primacy emphasizes alliances with democracies rather than autocracies but makes room for compromise on this issue. Mann explains how conservatives shifted during the Cold War from a position largely consistent with the one set forth in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s landmark 1979 Commentary article and toward more assertively supporting democracy even when it meant challenging the domestic security of anti-communist regimes supportive of the United States.[114] Similarly, Nau argues that although “critics often attack such cooperation” with authoritarian regimes “as hypocrisy,” it is necessary to set priorities and be sensitive to “the limitations of both resources and public will to support the end of tyranny everywhere at once.”[115] Thus, support for U.S. commitments to non-democratic allies in the Middle East and elsewhere is not inconsistent with the overall tenets of conservative primacy. Conservative primacy’s emphasis on military power leads to a large force structure and a willingness to use military force to advance U.S. objectives. This view of grand strategy emphasizes what Nau calls “armed diplomacy.”[116] The ability and resolve to use force “during negotiations and before an attack when it is a choice, not just after negotiations and in retaliation to an attack when it is a necessity,” is essential to “succeed in negotiations that move freedom forward.” This does not mean conservative primacy favors greater use of force overall. Rather, Nau argues that what is preferable is “the earlier and perhaps more frequent use of smaller force to deter, preempt, and prevent the later use of much greater force.”[117] Put differently, conservative primacy focuses on the risk of acting too late, while other grand strategies put greater weight on the risk of acting too soon. A large military is, therefore, essential, allowing the United States to act and bargain from a position of strength.[118] The conservative-primacy position contends that current U.S. spending on defense is low by historical standards and can be increased without undermining the domestic economy.


We argue that key disagreements over grand strategy hinge on theoretical disagreements about the role of power and institutions in international politics. Regarding power, the core disagreement is between the restraint position, which relies on balance-of-power realism, and the other three grand-strategy positions, which adopt variations of hegemonic stability theory. A focus on power alone, however, would lead to an incorrect portrayal of important elements of the debate. Equally significant are the roles that international and domestic institutions play in international politics. Different understandings of those roles have enormous implications for what specific objectives the United States ought to pursue to maximize its interests. Liberal internationalism focuses on spreading liberal economic, domestic, and international institutions, relying on all three pillars of what scholars label the Kantian tripod.[119] Conservative primacy draws on classical liberalism and agrees on the importance of spreading liberal economic and domestic institutions. In contrast to liberal internationalism, proponents of conservative primacy argue that international institutions dangerously constrain U.S. action while allowing illiberal states to pursue agendas inimical to U.S. interests. Deep engagement, on the other hand, is the mirror position of conservative primacy: For its proponents, spreading liberal domestic institutions is often a costly distraction from achieving core objectives. At the same time, deep engagement borrows some insights from institutionalism. Advocates of restraint argue that it is unnecessary, and perhaps even counterproductive, to use military tools to underwrite liberal international or domestic institutions to secure U.S. interests. Our framework makes several contributions to advancing the grand strategy debate. First, by holding interests constant, we identify four grand strategies that lead to a number of policy prescriptions that claim to maximize a given set of U.S. interests. Having done so, future research will be better able to assess which grand strategy offers the best mix of policies to maximize these interests. One could identify a different set of interests, but whatever interests one identifies must be consistent and carefully separated from objectives. Two recent works help illustrate how failing to adopt this framework can lead to conceptual confusion. In his important book outlining the tenets of a restraint grand strategy, Posen argues that foreign policy “may have many goals beyond security, including the prosperity of Americans at home,” but that grand strategy seeks to maximize security alone. Yet, as noted earlier, his definition of security includes “power position,” which in turn includes “economic capacity.”[120] Posen ultimately suggests that economic capacity, then, is both a means and an end.[121] This is problematic because, if it is an end, Posen would need to demonstrate that the objectives of restraint lead it to better advance U.S. economic capacity compared with alternative grand strategies. If it is a means, it would be necessary to make clear that there may be a trade-off between security and prosperity in favor of the former. It would also be necessary to specify the severity of this trade-off to assess whether it is sharp enough to undermine security in the long run. Yet Posen largely sidesteps these issues. In short, on his own terms, Posen’s treatment of the restraint position is incomplete. By clearly identifying and examining the issues that our framework highlights, scholars and policymakers will be better able to directly compare the costs and benefits of each grand strategy to maximize a given set of interests. [quote id="4"] The conflation of interests and objectives is apparent in other works as well. In their careful treatment of deep engagement, Brooks and Wohlforth have done just this, writing that “managing the external environment to reduce near- and long-term threats to U.S. national security” is one of three core U.S. grand-strategy interests that are essential for furthering U.S. security.[122] This argument borders on a tautology: The best way to preserve U.S. security is to reduce the threat to U.S. security. More important, it, like Posen, conflates means and ends. Managing the external security environment is a means for maximizing the U.S. interest of security; it is not an end itself. As our framework makes clear, interests or ends must be treated as constant, whereas means should vary depending on evidence regarding their effectiveness in realizing those interests. It is critical for future research on grand strategies to separate means from ends so that officials can clearly understand whether scholars are making claims about what interests the United States should adopt as opposed to what means would maximize a given end. Next, our framework reveals why analysts across grand-strategy positions may agree on some policy prescriptions but not others. For example, paying attention to underlying theories helps reveal why the policy prescriptions of some restraint proponents, such as John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Barry Posen, overlap with the policy prescriptions of proponents of more robust grand-strategy positions regarding China but not elsewhere.[123] This is intellectually consistent: The restraint position focuses on the importance of preventing hegemons from emerging in areas where regional actors are incapable of mustering sufficient power. In such cases, the balance-of-power logic at the heart of restraint points to the necessity of a powerful outside actor to intervene. Thus, in an early post-Cold War statement of restraint, Eugene Gholz, Daryl Press, and Harvey Sapolsky recognized that an expansive American role was necessary when there was a Soviet peer competitor but was no longer needed once America’s relative power surged after the fall of the Soviet Union.[124] It follows that if China occupies a similar geopolitical position, then many restraint proponents would accept a larger U.S. role in balancing against China. Absent that type of peer-competitor, however, restraint’s underlying logic remains centered on allowing regional power balancing to deal with local challenges. To the extent that individual analysts within each grand-strategy position disagree on specific propositions, those divides stem from additional factors — such as disagreements over relative power, changing technology, or normative preferences — that lie outside those underlying theories. Finally, this article provides a framework for how best to apply existing research to the grand-strategy debate and what additional research should be undertaken. We illustrate this with two examples drawn from each axis of the debate. First, if a U.S. presence abroad provoked rival nuclear proliferation more than it limited allied proliferation this would support the restraint position while undermining alternative approaches to grand strategy. The converse, however, is not necessarily the case. If reduced American involvement caused more proliferation among allies, advocates of restraint may find that acceptable, arguing that it increases regional stability through mutual deterrence. It would then be necessary to consider research from the enduring debate on the consequences of nuclear proliferation for regional (in)stability as well as whether nuclear-driven (in)stability positively or negatively affected American interests. That is, it would be necessary to show how these changes would affect America’s ability to achieve other objectives and interests. Several studies examine U.S. nonproliferation tools, but more fine-grained analyses addressing the effectiveness of individual and combined policy levers are needed.[125] It would be informative, for instance, for research to disentangle whether a U.S. security commitment is sufficient to provide leverage (supporting deep engagement), or if it must be coupled with a global/regional institutional order and specific regime types (supporting liberal internationalism), or a strong commitment to use force against potential proliferators (supporting conservative primacy). A second example draws from the legitimacy axis of the debate. The different grand-strategic positions disagree on whether international legitimacy matters in determining whether U.S. strategies, such as troop deployments and the use of military force, are likely to be stabilizing or destabilizing (or have no effect on stability either way). Liberal internationalism holds that the use of American military force abroad promotes stability when the United States exercises self-restraint and adheres to international norms and the rules and processes of inclusive international institutions such as the U.N. Security Council. Conservative primacy, on the other hand, argues that U.S. military force can be carried out unilaterally and will command legitimacy among democracies so long as its exercise is consistent with liberal ends. For example, conservative primacy would predict that the U.S. failure to intervene in Syria after Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in 2013 would undermine U.S. legitimacy and generate greater instability by inviting challenges to U.S. leadership. Alternatively, liberal internationalism would predict that unilateral U.S. efforts to roll back North Korean nuclear and missile achievements ought to promote instability by undermining alliances and provoking adversaries. Conservative primacy would expect the opposite result: that allies would be heartened by these measures and adversaries cowed. In each example, researchers can test the competing claims against international outcomes in terms of stability and public and elite opinion abroad as a measure of international legitimacy. In sum, this article’s focus on why proponents prefer a given set of grand-strategic objectives and corresponding levers will allow future research to better assess the relative effectiveness of these objectives and levers for attaining U.S. interests. It is necessary not only to test individual relationships between tools and objectives, but also to assess how those relationships interact with one another to highlight the various trade-offs inherent in any grand strategy that attempts to establish priorities, balance competing demands, and bring a diverse set of policies into an overarching agenda. This is more demanding than narrow hypothesis-testing but has the potential to fill a critical gap between scholarship and policy and move us closer to the ideal of evidence-based policy.   Acknowledgements: For helpful discussions and suggestions, the authors would like to thank Michael Beckley, Stephen Brooks, Michael Desch, Eugene Gholz, Kelly Greenhill, Henry Nau, Jacqueline Hazelton, Alexander Lanoszka, Barry Posen, Miranda Priebe, Andrew Ross, Joshua Rovner, John Schuessler, Joshua Shifrinson, Nina Silove, William Wohlforth, the three anonymous reviewers, and the Texas National Security Review editors.   Paul C. Avey is assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech. Jonathan N. Markowitz is an assistant professor in the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. Robert J. Reardon is assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University. [post_title] => Disentangling Grand Strategy: International Relations Theory and U.S. Grand Strategy [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => disentangling-grand-strategy-international-relations-theory-and-u-s-grand-strategy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-10 13:04:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-10 17:04:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => This article assesses the underlying sources of disagreement among competing scholarly treatments of U.S. grand strategy. It argues that much of the debate centers on differing conceptions of the roles of power and domestic and international institutions in international politics. In addition, it cuts through conceptual confusion that clouds much of the debate by clearly delineating interests, objectives, and policy levers. This framework will allow existing and future research to more usefully address and advance the debate. Finally, it provides a baseline with which to assess initiatives by U.S. administrations. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Proponents of deep engagement argue that the United States can, and should, continue to lead the international order... ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Liberal internationalism considers the end of unipolarity and the rise of one or more rival great powers to be inevitable, but in contrast to the other grand strategies it opposes efforts to contain them. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Conservative primacy shares with liberal internationalism a focus on domestic institutions but parts company when it comes to international institutions. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => It is critical for future research on grand strategies to separate means from ends... ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Much of the debate over grand strategy centers on the presence or absence of links between advancing stability, welfare, and freedom abroad with the well-being of the United States at home. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The focus on balancing and nationalism directly informs the restraint position’s contention that a short list of objectives best advances American interests. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 1283 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 235 [1] => 236 [2] => 237 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] The rhetoric can diverge from policy. See: National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington, DC: White House, 1993),; National Security Strategy (Washington, DC: White House, 2015),; and National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington, DC: White House, 2017), [2] They may face an uphill battle trying to do so, however. See, for example, Daniel Drezner, The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats Are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). [3] For similar points, see Alexander L. George, Bridging the Gap: Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1993). [4] Peter Feaver, “What Do Policymakers Want from Academic Experts on Nuclear Proliferation,” Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, July 8, 2014, Stephen Walt similarly notes that “policymakers who are contemptuous of ‘theory’ must rely on their own (often unstated) ideas about how the world works in order to decide what to do.” Stephen M. Walt, “International Relations: One World, Many Theories,” Foreign Policy no. 110 (Spring 1998): 29, [5] Paul C. Avey and Michael C. Desch, “What Do Policymakers Want from Us? Results of a Survey of Current and Former National Security Decision Makers,” International Studies Quarterly 58, no. 2 (June 2014): 244, [6] These frameworks can arise from multiple sources, but the key is that there is some framework for understanding the world. For discussions of how general visions informed grand strategy or specific policies see, for example, John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); 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); Elizabeth N. Saunders, Leaders at War: How Presidents Shape Military Interventions (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014); Jennifer Mitzen, “Illusion or Intention? Talking Grand Strategy into Existence,” Security Studies 24, no. 1 (2015): 61–94,; and Brendan Rittenhouse Green, “Two Concepts of Liberty: U.S. Cold War Grand Strategies and the Liberal Tradition,” International Security 37, no. 2 (Fall 2012): 9–43, [7] For a recent discussion on these issues see Hal Brands, “The Real Gap,” American Interest 13, no. 1 (September/October 2017): 44–54,; and John Glaser, “Truth, Power, and the Academy: A Response to Hal Brands,” War on the Rocks, March 26, 2018, [8] For example, Marc Lynch, “Political Science in Real Time: Engaging the Middle East Policy Public,” Perspectives on Politics 14, no. 1 (March 2016): 121–31,; Daniel Byman and Matthew Kroenig, “Reaching Beyond the Ivory Tower: A How To Manual,” Security Studies 25, no. 2 (May 2016): 289–319,; and Michael Horowitz, “What Is Policy Relevance?” War on the Rocks, June 17, 2015, [9] As noted, we acknowledge that there are normative differences over national interests. This analytical move allows us to establish a baseline to assess the degree to which grand-strategy prescriptions differ according to theoretical disagreements rather than different conceptions of the national interest. [10] Representative examples of each are Barry R. Posen, Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014); Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth, America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011); and Henry R. Nau, Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy Under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013). [11] Barry R. Posen and Andrew L. Ross, “Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy,” International Security 21, no. 3 (Winter 1996/1997): 5–53,; Nina Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” Security Studies 27, no. 1 (2018): 27–57,; Lukas Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Jack Snyder, “One World, Rival Theories,” Foreign Policy, no. 145 (November/December 2004): 53–62,; Walt, “International Relations: One World, Many Theories.” [12] Posen and Ross, “Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy,” 5; Stacie E. Goddard and Ronald R. Krebs, “Rhetoric, Legitimation, and Grand Strategy,” Security Studies 24, no. 1 (2015): 5–36, [13] For discussions on these points see Pascal Vennesson, “Is Strategic Studies Narrow? Critical Security and the Misunderstood Scope of Strategy,” Journal of Strategic Studies 40, no. 3 (2017): 358–91,; Eric Van Rythoven, “The Perils of Realist Advocacy and the Promise of Securitization Theory: Revisiting the Tragedy of the Iraq War Debate,” European Journal of International Relations 22, no. 3 (2016): 487–511,; Rodger A. Payne, “Cooperative Security: Grand Strategy Meets Critical Theory?” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 40, no. 3 (2012): 605–24, [14] See, for example, “Policy Roundtable: What to Make of Trump’s National Security Strategy,” Texas National Security Review, Dec. 21, 2017,; Barry R. Posen, “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony: Trump’s Surprising Grand Strategy,” Foreign Affairs 97, no. 2 (March/April 2018),; Hal Brands, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2018); Elizabeth N. Saunders, “Is Trump a Normal Foreign-Policy President? What We Know After One Year,” Foreign Affairs Snapshot, Jan. 18, 2018,; Matthew Kroenig, “The Case for Trump’s Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs 96, no. 3 (May/June 2017),; Randall L. Schweller, “A Third-Image Explanation for Why Trump Now: A Response to Robert Jervis’s ‘President Trump and IR Theory,’” H-Diplo|ISSF Policy Series, Feb. 8, 2017, [15] Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword”; Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. [16] Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy, 4. [17] Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword,” 46, see also 34–47. [18] For a general discussion on U.S. interests, see the contributions in this Aug. 19, 2015, National Interest symposium: “What Should Be the Purpose of American Power?” [19] Charles L. Glaser, Rational Theory of International Politics: The Logic of Competition and Cooperation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 15. [20] Anne-Marie Slaughter, “How to Succeed in the Networked World: A Grand Strategy for the Digital Age,” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 6 (November/December 2016), For a similar point, see Jennifer Lind, “Article Review 52 on ‘The Myth of Entangling Alliances,’” H-Diplo|ISSF, April 13, 2016, [21] For example, Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 1; Michael Beckley, “The Myth of Entangling Alliances: Reassessing the Security Risks of U.S. Defense Pacts,” International Security 39, no. 4 (Spring 2015): 7–48, Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, “Don’t Come Home, America: The Case Against Retrenchment,” International Security 37, no. 3 (Winter 2012/2013): 7–51,; Anne-Marie Slaughter, “A Grand Strategy of Network Centrality,” in America’s Path: Grand Strategy for the Next Administration, ed. Richard Fontaine and Kristin M. Lord (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, 2012), [22] Stephen M. Walt, “Lax Americana,” Foreign Policy, Oct. 23, 2015, [23] Christopher A. Preble, The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009). See also Eugene Gholz, “Restraint and Oil Security,” in US Grand Strategy in the 21st Century: The Case for Restraint, ed. A. Trevor Thrall and Benjamin H. Friedman (London: Routledge, 2018), 59. [24] Posen, Restraint, 3. [25] Nau, Conservative Internationalism, 13–14. [26] Posen, Restraint, 2. [27] Sebastian Rosato and John Schuessler, “A Realist Foreign Policy for the United States,” Perspectives on Politics 9, no. 4 (December 2011): 805, [28] Eugene Gholz, Daryl G. Press, and Harvey M. Sapolsky, “Come Home, America: The Strategy of Restraint in the Face of Temptation,” International Security 21, no. 4 (Spring 1997): 5–48, [29] Posen, Restraint, 22, 50–54; Stephen M. Walt, “Nationalism Rules,” Foreign Policy, July 15, 2011, [30] John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior U.S. Grand Strategy,” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 4 (July/August 2016): 70–83,; Posen, Restraint, 18–22; Stephen M. Walt, Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005), chap. 2; John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 2014). [31] Mearsheimer, Tragedy of Great Power Politics, 162–65. [32] Robert A. Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2006). [33] For example, Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth, “Don’t Come Home, America.” [34] Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing”; Posen, Restraint; Rosato and Schuessler, “A Realist Foreign Policy for the United States.” [35] Barry R. Posen, “Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony,” International Security 28, no. 1 (Summer 2003): 7–8, [36] Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing,” 81; Posen, “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony,” 27; Richard K. Betts, “American Strategy: Grand vs. Grandiose,” in America’s Path: Grand Strategy for the Next Administration, ed. Richard Fontaine and Kristin M. Lord, 39–40. [37] For example, Eugene Gholz and Daryl G. Press, “The Effects of Wars on Neutral Countries: Why It Doesn’t Pay to Preserve the Peace,” Security Studies 10, no. 4 (2001): 1–57,; Eugene Gholz and Daryl G. Press, “Protecting ‘The Prize’: Oil and the U.S. National Interest,” Security Studies 19, no. 3 (2010): 453–85,; Gholz, “Restraint and Oil Security,” in US Grand Strategy in the 21st Century, ed. Thrall and Friedman. [38] Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing,” 73; Rosato and Schuessler, “A Realist Foreign Policy for the United States,” 812–13; Walt, Taming American Power, 222. [39] Joseph M. Parent and Paul K. MacDonald, “The Wisdom of Retrenchment: America Must Cut Back to Move Forward,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 6 (November/December 2011), [40] Posen, Restraint, 35–50. [41] Michael C. Desch, “America’s Liberal Illiberalism: The Ideological Origins of Overreaction in U.S. Foreign Policy,” International Security 32, no. 3 (Winter 2007/2008): 40, See also Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing,” 77. [42] Robert A. Pape, “It’s the Occupation, Stupid,”, Oct. 18, 2010, [43] John J. Mearsheimer, “America Unhinged,” National Interest, no. 129 (January/February 2014): 12, [44] Walt, Taming American Power, 224–40. For empirical discussions, see Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “Why States Won’t Give Nuclear Weapons to Terrorists,” International Security 38, no. 1 (Summer 2013): 80–104,; John Mueller, Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), chaps. 12–15. [45] Posen, “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony,” 27. [46] Harvey Sapolsky, Benjamin H. Friedman, Eugene Gholz, and Daryl G. Press, “Restraining Order: For Strategic Modesty,” World Affairs (Fall 2009): 91,; Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing,” 79; Posen, Restraint, 31, 61; Walt, Taming American Power, 239–40. [47] On nuclear optimism, see Kenneth Waltz’s contributions in Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: An Enduring Debate (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013). [48] Posen, Restraint, 167. [49] As noted, our framework cannot account for every permutation in the grand-strategy debate and, instead, seeks to highlight how two factors can account for a large amount of the variation. [50] Gholz et al., “Come Home, America,” 17–29; Christopher Layne, The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006),188–89. [51] Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing”; Posen, Restraint, 90–91, 100–13, 159; Parent and MacDonald, “The Wisdom of Retrenchment”; Betts, “American Strategy: Grand vs. Grandiose,” 37–40. [52] Posen, Restraint, 86. [53] Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981); William C. Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” International Security 24, no. 1 (Summer 1999): 5–41, [54] Robert J. Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003). [55] Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World.” [56] Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 89–102. [57] Carla Norrlof and William C. Wohlforth, “Is US Grand Strategy Self-Defeating? Deep Engagement, Military Spending, and Sovereign Debt,” Conflict Management and Peace Science (November 2016), [58] Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 122–33. [59] Carla Norrlof, America’s Global Advantage: US Hegemony and International Cooperation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Michael Mastanduno, “Preserving the Unipolar Moment: Realist Theories and U.S. Grand Strategy After the Cold War,” International Security 21, no. 4 (Spring 1997): 49–88, [60] Michael Mastanduno, “System Maker and Privilege Taker: U.S. Power and the International Political Economy,” World Politics 61, no. 1 (January 2009): 121–54, [61] Art, A Grand Strategy for America, 163–65, 247. [62] Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 1–2. [63] Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” 23–25; Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad; Michael Beckley, The Unipolar Era: Why American Power Persists (unpublished manuscript). [64] On nuclear pessimism, see Scott Sagan’s contributions to Sagan and Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons. [65] Beckley, “The Myth of Entangling Alliances.” [66] Art, A Grand Strategy for America, 46, 69–73, 145; Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 74. [67] Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth, “Don’t Come Home, America,” 34. See also Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World”; Art, A Grand Strategy for America, 8–9, 138–45, 231–32; Robert J. Art, “Selective Engagement in the Era of Austerity,” in America’s Path: Grand Strategy for the Next Administration, ed. Richard Fontaine and Kristin M. Lord, 15–18. [68] Beckley, “The Myth of Entangling Alliances,” 7. [69] Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 141–43. [70] Beckley, “The Myth of Entangling Alliances,” 18–22. [71] Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 74. [72] Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad; Norrlof and Wohlforth, “Is U.S. Grand Strategy Self-Defeating?[73] Duncan Snidal, “The Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory,” International Organization 39, no. 4 (Autumn 1985): 588–89, [74] G. John Ikenberry, “Woodrow Wilson, the Bush Administration, and the Future of Liberal Internationalism,” in The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. G. John Ikenberry et al. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 2. [75] Slaughter, “How to Succeed in the Networked World,” 84–86; G. John Ikenberry, “The Future of the Liberal World Order: Internationalism After America,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 3 (May/June 2011): 56–68,; G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). [76] Ikenberry, After Victory; Ikenberry, “The Future of the Liberal World Order.” See also Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984). [77] Andrew Moravcsik, “Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory of International Politics,” International Organization 51, no. 4 (Autumn 1997): 513–53, [78] Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century,” in The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. G. John Ikenberry et al., 105. [79] Charles Lipson, Reliable Partners: How Democracies Have Made a Separate Peace (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), esp. chap. 2. [80] G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Project on National Security, 2006), 14–16; Slaughter, “A Grand Strategy of Network Centrality,” in America’s Path, ed. Fontaine and Lord, 46–47. [81] Slaughter, “How to Succeed in the Networked World,” 77. [82] G. John Ikenberry, “The Rise of China and the Future of the West: Can the Liberal System Survive?” Foreign Affairs 87, no. 1 (January/February 2008),; Ikenberry, “The Future of the Liberal World Order.” [83] Ikenberry, After Victory, 55–56. [84] Ikenberry, After Victory, 65. [85] Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan. [86] Douglas Brinkley, “Democratic Enlargement: The Clinton Doctrine,” Foreign Policy no. 106 (Spring 1997),; Ikenberry, “Woodrow Wilson, the Bush Administration, and the Future of Liberal Internationalism,” in The Crisis of American Foreign Policy, ed. Ikenberry et al., 20–22. [87] Slaughter, “Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century,” in The Crisis of American Foreign Policy, ed. Ikenberry et al., 97, 109. [88] Ikenberry and Slaughter, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, 16. [89] Ikenberry and Slaughter, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law. [90] Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan, 301–06; Ikenberry, After Victory, chap. 3. [91] Ikenberry and Slaughter, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, 29–30. [92] Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan, 354–55. [93] Michèle Flournoy and Janine Davidson, “Obama’s New Global Posture: The Logic of U.S. Foreign Deployments,” Foreign Affairs 91, no. 4 (July/August 2012): 56, [94] Slaughter, “Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century,” in The Crisis of American Foreign Policy, ed. Ikenberry et al., 114. [95] Slaughter, “Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century,” in The Crisis of American Foreign Policy, ed. Ikenberry et al., 98–100; Ikenberry and Slaughter, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, 7. [96] Slaughter, “Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century,” in The Crisis of American Foreign Policy, ed. Ikenberry et al., 109. [97] Slaughter, “How to Succeed in the Networked World,” 89. [98] For recent examples, see Eliot A. Cohen, The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force (New York: Basic Books, 2017); Nau, Conservative Internationalism; and Colin Dueck, The Obama Doctrine: American Grand Strategy Today (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). The “neoconservative” label has always been contested. It fell deeply out of fashion in the aftermath of the Iraq War, inspiring efforts to highlight distinctions with neoconservatism. See, for example, Justin Vaisse, Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); and Michael C. Desch, “Neoconservatism Rebaptized,” American Conservative, Nov. 20, 2013,; as well as Nau’s reply, “Conservative Internationalism Is Not Bushism,” Nov. 20, 2013,, which was published in the same issue. [99] Brands, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump, 114–22; Dueck, The Obama Doctrine, 176–96. Dueck notes that in the postwar era conservative nationalists and internationalists have made common cause, and this combination forms the basis for what he labels “conservative realism.” See 186, 196, and chap. 5. [100] We do not label this position “Primacy” alone because we agree with Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth (“Don’t Come Home, America,” 13–14) that primacy is a material condition that permits various grand strategies. While this position is frequently championed by those on the political right, not all conservatives support conservative primacy. Nor do we suggest that all conservative thinkers fall into this ideal-type. For instance, many self-described conservatives and liberals can be found in other grand-strategy positions such as restraint and deep engagement. [101] Snidal, “The Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory.” [102] Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, and Brian Hook, Choosing to Lead: American Foreign Policy for a Disordered World (Washington, DC: John Hay Initiative, 2015), 6. See also Cohen, The Big Stick; Hal Brands and Peter D. Feaver, “Should America Retrench? The Risks of Retreat,” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 6 (November/December 2016): 168,; Dueck, The Obama Doctrine, 207–08. [103] Quoted in Vaisse, Neoconservatism, 244–45. See also 233. [104] Nau argues in Conservative Internationalism, 52, that “legitimacy in foreign affairs derives from the free countries making decisions independently or working together through decentralized institutions,” whereas liberal internationalism sees legitimacy as stemming from “participating and voting in universal organizations” that include authoritarian regimes on an equal footing. [105] Condoleezza Rice, “Rethinking the National Interest,” Foreign Affairs 87, no. 4 (July/August 2008): 26, [106] Cohen, The Big Stick, 63; Dueck, The Obama Doctrine, 203–12; Robert J. Lieber, Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), esp. chap. 6. [107] Aaron L. Friedberg, “The Debate Over U.S. China Strategy,” Survival 57, no. 3 (2015): 107, [108] Dueck, The Obama Doctrine, 236–37. [109] James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 302. [110] On the Bush Doctrine and Iraq, see Robert Jervis, “Understanding the Bush Doctrine,” Political Science Quarterly 118, no. 3 (Fall 2003): 365–88,; F. Gregory Gause III, The International Relations of the Persian Gulf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 186–238; Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy? chap. 4. On the Iran nuclear agreement see, for example, Eliot A. Cohen, Eric S. Edelman, and Ray Takeyh, “Time to Get Tough on Tehran: Iran Policy After the Deal,” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 1 (January/February 2016): 64–75, [111] Dueck, The Obama Doctrine, chap. 5. [112] Robert Kagan, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire: What Our Tired Country Still Owes the World,” New Republic, May 26, 2014, [113] Peter Feaver, “A Grand Strategy Challenge Awaits Trump,” Foreign Policy, Nov. 29, 2016, [114] Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, 352; Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” Commentary, November 1979, [115] Nau, Conservative Internationalism, 55. [116] Nau, Conservative Internationalism, 6. [117] Nau, Conservative Internationalism, 7. Emphasis in original. [118] Cohen, The Big Stick; Nau, Conservative Internationalism, 179–81; Vaisse, Neoconservatism, 235. [119] John R. O’Neal and Bruce Russett, “The Kantian Peace: The Pacific Benefits of Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations, 1885–1992,” World Politics 52, no. 1 (October 1999): 1–37, [120] Posen, Restraint, 2–3. [121] Posen, Restraint, 69. [122] Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 1. [123] For example, Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing,” 81; Posen, “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony,” 27. Also see Christopher Layne, “This Time It’s Real: The End of Unipolarity and the Pax Americana,” International Studies Quarterly 56, no. 1 (March 2012): 203–13,; Michael Beckley, “China’s Century? Why America’s Edge Will Endure,” International Security 36, no. 3 (Winter 2011/2012): 41–78,; William C. Wohlforth, “How Not to Evaluate Theories,” International Studies Quarterly 56, no. 1 (March 2012): 219–22, [124] Gholz et al., “Come Home, America,” 5. [125] For a discussion see Francis J. Gavin, “Strategies of Inhibition: U.S. Grand Strategy, the Nuclear Revolution, and Nonproliferation,” International Security 40, no. 1 (Summer 2015): 9–46, ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 805 [post_author] => 241 [post_date] => 2018-11-12 05:00:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-12 10:00:46 [post_content] => Does the United States have a grand strategy? Scholars, analysts, and policymakers vigorously debate this question, and for good reason: The answer has profound implications for American foreign policy, both in theory and in practice. After nearly three decades in which overwhelming grand-strategic continuity rendered the “Kennan Sweepstakes” little more than an inside-the-Beltway parlor game, Washington faces raised geopolitical stakes. The unipolar moment is undoubtedly over, and the United States must now advance its interests as the most powerful state in an increasingly multipolar international system characterized by sharpening competition among great powers. Meanwhile, social, political, and economic fractures at home create a faulty foundation for a renewed grand-strategic consensus.[1] While the election of Donald Trump did not create these challenges, his presidency has exacerbated them through two years of policy uncertainty, rhetorical whiplash, and strategic drift. Despite some of the chief executive’s long-standing proclivities — antagonism toward free trade, antipathy for American alliances, admiration for strongmen — these preferences have not always served as a reliable guide to his administration’s policy.[2] Instead, the Trump doctrine is best characterized by its ethos: a “tactical transactionalism” in pursuit of apparent foreign policy “wins”;[3] a chauvinistic militarism;[4] and an assertion that “We’re America, Bitch.”[5] In short, the need for an American grand strategy is great at the very moment when its feasibility is diminished. There is thus no better time to revisit the vast literature on grand strategy — a field that spans multiple academic disciplines as well as the realm of policy analysis — and consider how it might help extract the United States from its grand-strategic deficit.[6] An assessment of this literature’s accumulated wisdom yields decidedly mixed results. Grand-strategy scholarship is rightly critiqued for employing its animating concept inconsistently, which has hindered the advancement of social-scientific attempts to “describe, explain, and predict” the causes and effects of grand strategy.[7] Yet, focusing unduly on the incoherence of the grand-strategy literature obscures the coalescence of its three component research agendas: those that treat grand strategy as a variable, process, and blueprint. Each of these agendas offers a distinct lens for scholars and practitioners of international relations. The “grand strategy as variable” agenda provides a prism through which academics may study the origins of state behavior, with particular attention to the perennial question of how agency and structure interact to produce grand-strategic outcomes. Far from a theoretical abstraction, this question has immediate relevance for policy practitioners who seek to understand other states’ grand strategies as well as influence the trajectory of their own. The “grand strategy as process” agenda foregrounds the importance of grand strategizing, whether as a governmental strategic-planning process or as a more generic mode of decision-making. In training attention on formulation, this line of inquiry assumes both that grand strategy matters and that individuals can influence its design; consequently, it seeks to extract procedural principles that maximize the likelihood of “good” grand strategy. Finally, the “grand strategy as blueprint” agenda proffers broad visions in hopes of influencing future governmental behavior. These prescriptions may entail defenses of the status quo or — more often — recommendations for redirecting the ship of state. Identifying these component research agendas and placing them in dialogue highlights ripe opportunities for future research. Despite inquiry into the origins of grand strategy, historical case studies, and examination of grand-strategic planning, the literature bears too little insight into the determinants of effectiveness. What distinguishes successful grand strategies from those that have foundered, whether in their encounters with international or domestic hurdles? And while international obstacles are well theorized, domestic political constraints are much less so. Although Trump’s election initially appeared to be a death knell for American global leadership, public support for internationalism has actually increased since he took office. How will Trump’s presidency and the highly polarized political environment over which he presides shape the future of U.S. grand strategy — including the likelihood that a novel blueprint will be adopted? Lastly, as this article amply demonstrates, the field focuses overwhelmingly on American grand strategy. Although the United States is certainly a crucial case, all three research agendas would benefit from a wider international aperture. The literature’s faults, gaps, and ambiguities notwithstanding, this article concludes with a defense of the continued study of grand strategy. Studying grand strategy trains academics’ and analysts’ sights on the highest-order questions of international relations: why, how, and for what purposes states employ their national power, including the crucible of military force. For academics, this focus counterbalances growing tendencies toward narrowly construed, methodologically myopic, or policy-irrelevant research in political science and history. For policymakers, grand strategy persists as an essential enterprise. Even if grand strategy is seldom discussed as such in the White House Situation Room, an overarching strategic vision defines a nation’s international role, guides the alignment of means and ends, and serves as a lodestar for discrete foreign policy decisions. Consequently, strategists within and outside the ivory tower share the task of advancing the study of grand strategy, so as to better inform both scholarship and policy. This task begins by clarifying the meaning of grand strategy and distinguishing among the vast literature’s component research agendas.

What Is ‘Grand Strategy’?

The study of grand strategy constitutes a rich and growing literature. Yet a confounding breadth of subjects fall under what is nominally a single conceptual umbrella.[8] In many cases, works on grand strategy talk past each other, use definitional quibbles to invalidate competing ideas, and define alternative explanations selectively. Notably, these divergences occur despite a remarkable degree of agreement over the basic definition of grand strategy. Indeed, two complementary definitions are cited by nearly every major recent study of grand strategy. The first is from Paul Kennedy and draws on earlier work by Edward Mead Earle and Basil Liddell Hart[9] to contend, “The crux of grand strategy lies therefore in policy, that is, in the capacity of the nation’s leaders to bring together all of the elements, both military and nonmilitary, for the preservation and enhancement of the nation’s long-term (that is, in wartime and peacetime) best interests.”[10] The second is by Barry Posen, who draws on a similar strategic tradition and offers an even more succinct definition: Grand strategy is “a state’s theory about how it can best ‘cause’ security for itself.”[11] These definitions co-exist comfortably without intrinsic contradictions. Their complementarity is well demonstrated by Hal Brands’ elaboration of the conception of grand strategy in his study of the subject:
At its best, then, a grand strategy represents an integrated scheme of interests, threats, resources, and policies. It is the conceptual framework that helps nations determine where they want to go and how they ought to get there; it is the theory, or logic, that guides leaders seeking security in a complex and insecure world.[12]
Accordingly, grand strategy is, as Nina Silove argues, long term in its vision, holistic in its treatment of all instruments of national power, and important in its focus on the most consequential interests.[13] These attributes distinguish grand strategy from its narrower cognates — strategy and military strategy — as well as from foreign policy and statecraft. The concept of strategy has a long genealogy: Its ancient precursors date to Thucydides and Polybius. First appearing in European military analyses in the late 18th century, it evolved from an exclusively military character to incorporate political objectives after World War I. Strategy then assumed a general meaning over the course of the 20th century.[14] “Military strategy” has come to occupy the historical domain of “strategy” in referring exclusively to the employment of military force: In Liddell Hart’s words, “[T]he art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy.”[15] Strategy, by contrast, is a generic term without clear temporal, instrumental, or substantive dimensions; rather, it refers to the process of careful marshalling of means to achieve desired ends in pursuits as diverse as football, poker, and marketing.[16] Nor is “grand strategy” synonymous with foreign policy and statecraft. Foreign policy lacks the time horizon and emphasis on vital interests intrinsic to grand strategy: The United States may, for example, have a foreign policy toward Bolivia that is short-term and of minor consequence.[17] Finally, statecraft — though rarely defined — typically refers to the practical conduct of international relations, with a focus on tools and implementation.[18] [quote id="1"] Even as most scholars who research and write about grand strategy agree on its basic definition, they employ the concept in markedly different ways, each associated with a component research agenda within the grand-strategy literature. The “grand strategy as variable” camp seeks to develop analytical arguments that explain the origins of states’ grand strategies and account for their change over time. The “grand strategy as process” camp sees the strategic planning process as the essence of grand strategy and focuses on the improvement and/or generalization of such processes. Finally, a “grand strategy as blueprint” camp outlines prescriptive broad visions for grand strategy, particularly in the United States. Of course, this article is not the first attempt to bring clarity to the study of grand strategy.[19] While most review the literature without clearly delineating the various meanings of grand strategy, Silove’s recent contribution presents an alternative tripartite typology focused on “theories of the concept of grand strategy.” Based on a careful intellectual history, Silove describes how scholars often subtly diverge on whether grand strategy refers to detailed plans (“grand plans”), general organizing principles (“grand principles”), or emergent patterns of state behavior (“grand behavior”).[20] This contribution, though important, is primarily methodological: Plans, principles, and behavior are distinguished by the standard of evidence required to establish the existence of grand strategy. What’s more, these three categories are not easily distinguished from each other in practice, as Silove readily admits:
Grand plans specify ends and the means by which to achieve them in detail. Grand principles do the same in more general terms. Grand behavior is a pattern in the relative allocation of means to certain ends, regardless of whether that pattern is the result of a grand plan, a grand principle, or some other factor.[21]
In more concrete terms, this means that America’s early Cold War grand strategy was simultaneously animated by grand principles (containment), detailed in grand plans (NSC-68), and manifested in grand behavior (the Korean War, defense budgets, and so on). These three methods of measuring grand strategy as a phenomenon may assist in answering different research questions, but they do not in themselves qualify as distinct research agendas.[22] Despite its methodological contribution, therefore, the three meanings of grand strategy Silove identifies provide little help for those seeking to organize the major debates in the current grand-strategy literature. Instead, analysts will find greater value in recognizing the thematic coherence in a field that frequently coalesces around similar research puzzles — a task better served by the variable-process-blueprint typology developed here.

Agenda 1: Grand Strategy as Variable

Social scientists have produced a vast literature that treats grand strategy as a subject to be explained — that is, as a dependent variable. Scholars in this vein focus predominantly on the origins of grand strategy: theorizing where grand strategy comes from and the conditions under which it might change. This emphasis trains scholars’ attention on cases in which states (usually great powers) engage in major strategic pivots. Consider the most salient 20th-century examples: Why did Japan turn toward autarky in the late 1930s?[23] Why did Germany seek to overturn the European order through expansionism in the years leading up to World War II?[24] Why did Britain abandon its initial strategy of appeasement in favor of a more confrontational posture toward Nazi Germany?[25] Why did Russia turn toward “new thinking” in the 1980s?[26] Within the international relations literature, theories of grand strategy track closely with broader debates about whether the sources of state behavior lie at the international, domestic, or individual level. Scholars debate the role of the international environment in determining states’ grand strategies, as compared with domestic considerations such as public opinion, bureaucratic politics, strategic culture, or political leadership that may explain why states respond differently when they face similar international circumstances. Distinguishing between arguments about how grand strategy is generated is more than an exercise in rehashing the contest between the “isms” of international relations theory; rather, it reveals practically relevant assumptions about whether grand strategy is an output or a tool. If grand strategy is merely an output, there is little room for strategic choice. If future Chinese grand strategy were determined by Beijing’s relative power position, it matters little whether the nation is guided by Xi Jinping or another leader. Similarly, American grand strategy would dramatically reorient only if international conditions change, notwithstanding Trump’s heterodox designs. If grand strategy is a tool, however, individual agency may change the course of history by developing and implementing grand strategies that transcend structural constraints — or prove ill-equipped to surmount them. According to the structural-realist perspective, grand strategy is essentially the conveyor belt between systemic incentives and state behavior — or, an output. When John Mearsheimer contends that states “are aware of their external environment and they think strategically about how to survive in it,”[27] he is referring to a process of automatic adaption according to a predictable pattern of state behavior. Grand strategy changes when the international system changes. The act of strategizing has no place in this view of grand strategy. Because grand strategy derives directly from the structure of the international system, any apparently intentional acts of grand-strategic articulation are merely epiphenomenal — in other words, they may reflect underlying factors but have no independent influence on observed outcomes. Indeed, structural-realist, or neorealist, theories of international relations emphasize the role of the international system in determining states’ grand strategies. Material attributes of the system — most importantly, the distribution of power — create pressures that “shape and shove” strategic choice.[28] For offensive realists like Mearsheimer, the anarchic, self-help nature of the international system yields constant great power competition, as each major state seeks to maximize its share of world power. While all major powers desire hegemony, they may temporarily adopt strategies oriented to maintain the status quo when “the costs and risks of trying to shift the balance of power are too great, forcing great powers to wait for more favorable circumstances.”[29] Defensive realists also treat the international system as determinative, but they describe the attributes of the system with more nuance and make more sanguine assumptions about states’ default grand-strategic modes, emphasizing the quest for security rather than hegemony.[30] [quote id="2"] The fundamental problem with structural theories of grand strategy, of course, is that they explain very little. As Aaron Friedberg has noted, “structural considerations provide a useful point from which to begin analysis of international politics rather than a place at which to end it.”[31] A great power may seek security or hegemony in countless ways. Faced with a rising challenger, for instance, a state may initiate a preventive war, but it may also cooperate or even retrench.[32] Much depends on how states perceive their international environment and the domestic pressures that condition their response. Considering these domestic dimensions can clarify how states perceive the structure of their external environments, as well as the conditions under which grand strategy may change even as structural circumstances remain the same. Understanding this variation is important, and interesting, for scholars and strategists alike. Consequently, most recent work on grand strategy incorporates state-level attributes when explaining its origins. Neoclassical-realist scholarship accepts the importance of broad strategic parameters set by the international system but incorporates domestic-level factors into explanations of states’ particular grand-strategic choices.[33] Typically characterized as “intervening variables” that mediate the translation of systemic incentives into state behavior, domestic variables take one of two forms. The first is domestic politics. Whether a function of state capacity,[34] party preferences,[35] or sectoral interests,[36] this view of grand strategy is only moderately more dynamic than the structural one. By allowing the possibility of choice from a menu of grand-strategic options,[37] these theories seem to create greater space for agency — but once domestic-political variables are introduced as intervening or interacting forces, grand strategy regains its status as an output. In explaining why American grand strategy transitioned from selective engagement during the Bill Clinton administration to offensive war in the George W. Bush administration, for example, Peter Trubowitz does not credit distinct presidential designs. Instead, he argues, the difference lay in domestic politics: Although both Clinton and Bush were president at times of few geopolitical constraints, Clinton’s Democratic Party profited politically from investing in social services (butter over guns) while Bush’s Republican Party benefited from defense spending (guns over butter).[38] Grand strategy emerged from the crucible of domestic and international pressures rather than leadership by the president or other senior policymakers. A second type of neoclassical-realist theory emphasizes the intervening variable of strategic culture, a subject of increasing attention among scholars of grand strategy. Some studies treat strategic culture as an essentially fixed mediator between international constraints and grand-strategic outcomes. Evaluating the American case, for example, Christopher Layne points to “Open Door economic and ideological expansion” in explaining why the United States has continuously pursued a grand strategy of “extraregional hegemony” since World War II, and Patrick Porter attributes the continuity of American post-Cold War grand strategy to a primacist monoculture among Washington’s foreign policy establishment.[39] These are essentially theories of continuity; they provide little traction in explaining the conditions for change.[40] A more dynamic approach to the American case introduces multiple strategic cultures and examines how they compete with each other for influence over grand strategy — whether the rival poles of Woodrow Wilson’s idealism and Theodore Roosevelt’s realpolitik, Enlightenment rationalism and Christian theology, or classical liberalism and the “limited liability” foreign policy tradition, as characterized by Henry Kissinger, Walter McDougall, and Colin Dueck, respectively.[41] This genre of argument intriguingly highlights the rhyme and repetition that so frequently characterize grand-strategy debates in the United States.[42] Moreover, it acknowledges the fundamental importance of international conditions without succumbing to determinism: The United States’ historical repertoire provides multiple narratives for leaders or strategists to draw upon while also holding out the possibility of influential new formulations. Nevertheless, as Sara Plana argues, strategic cultural theories of grand strategy remain underdeveloped and often unfalsifiable. More work is needed to identify the conditions required for change between strategic subcultures,[43] as well as the mechanisms by which culture translates into grand-strategic outcomes.[44] Finally, historians — and only rarely political scientists — attribute the origins of grand strategy to the designs of individuals.[45] Such works vary in the relative weight they attribute to structure or agency. Some scholars take international structure as the starting point, which then filters through leaders’ perspectives and preferences. This view is characteristic of Hal Brands’ work, which explores the interaction between international dynamics and the worldviews of American presidents and their advisers in the post-World War II period.[46] Others focus more intently on the grand-strategic interventions of individuals. These scholars acknowledge international constraints but contend that strategists can see through structural forces in crafting their grand designs. John Gaddis’ discussion of George Kennan’s development of containment exemplifies this view, as does his recent work celebrating the grand-strategic triumphs of leaders such as Elizabeth I and Abraham Lincoln. Similarly, Charles Edel portrays John Quincy Adams as an architect of American grand strategy in the early decades of the republic.[47] What insights does the “grand strategy as variable” research agenda offer to scholars and policymakers? For scholars, this research amounts to less than the sum of its parts. These studies tend to develop their own approach to operationalizing and measuring grand strategy.[48] While some studies conceive of grand strategy as a state’s approach to international order or the balance of power, others operationalize grand strategy at the level of specific foreign policy choices.[49] This ad hoc treatment makes it difficult to competitively test rival theories against each other and, in turn, accumulate knowledge about where grand strategy comes from and why it changes. For policymakers, this sub-literature provides alternate lenses through which to assess the origins of other states’ grand strategies, as well as the conditions under which allies and adversaries may pursue different tacks in the future. It also foregrounds the structural constraints that grand strategists face at the international and domestic levels, emphasizing the importance of designing grand strategies that account realistically for such limitations, rather than wishing them away. The balance of evidence indicates that it is these constraints — more so than the blue-sky creativity of virtuosic policy intellectuals — that determine a nation’s grand-strategic course, though individuals do occasionally distinguish themselves by designing grand strategies that intelligently navigate this bounded pathway.

Agenda 2: Grand Strategy as Process

A second research agenda treats grand strategy as a process rather than a subject. This perspective conceives of grand strategy primarily in terms of its mode of formulation and only secondarily — in some cases, not at all — in the substance of the strategy itself. By focusing on decision-making processes, these works reject structural determinism and embrace the possibility that choices made by individuals and organizations can alter a state’s grand-strategic course. One group sees grand strategy as a “common sense” method of decision-making and looks to history for universal principles applicable to a wide range of pursuits. Another sub-literature equates strategic planning with grand strategy, focusing primarily on the United States. The broadest conception of grand strategy as process entails the generalization of grand strategy as a generic method of leadership and decision-making.[50] This school of thought echoes the tradition of 19th-century theorists who sought to develop universal principles of military strategy.[51] By studying great commanders, these writers distilled genius into teachable guidelines, transforming strategy from an art to a science. Today, this tradition is most closely associated with Yale’s Grand Strategy program. Gaddis, a don of the Yale program, encapsulates this approach:
Grand strategy is the calculated relationship of means to large ends. It’s about how one uses whatever one has to get to wherever it is one wants to go. Our knowledge of it derives chiefly from the realm of war and statecraft. … But grand strategy need not apply only to war and statecraft: it’s potentially applicable to any endeavor in which means must be deployed in the pursuit of important ends.[52]
Careful study of grand strategy can thus yield principles relevant to a wide range of pursuits; this approach amounts to “teaching common sense.”[53] By generalizing insights from military and diplomatic history, the common-sense school mirrors the transformation of strategy from a specifically military term into a generic one. But while scholars and strategists can surely extract universal lessons from military and diplomatic history, it does not necessarily follow that it is possible to have a grand strategy of just anything. Rather, to stretch the concept in this manner is to render it indistinguishable from the contemporary concept of strategy. Consider the similarities — in both content and level of abstraction — between advice offered to decision-makers by business strategist Richard Rumelt and by Gaddis, a scholar of grand strategy. Where Gaddis advises against directly opposing an adversary’s strengths and “respecting constraints,” Rumelt cautions strategists to “define the challenge competitively” and avoid “failure to recognize or take seriously the fact that resources are scarce.”[54] Each of these insights is worthy and wise, but following them entails acting strategically, not grand strategically. To retain its meaning and avoid the conceptual muddle that plagues its sister concept, grand strategy must remain substantively anchored in the realm of statecraft. [quote id="3"] By contrast, another cluster of scholarship and policy analysis conceives of grand strategy in terms of strategic planning. Echoing Dwight Eisenhower’s maxim about planning, for this sub-literature, grand strategizing is everything. Among military theorists, grand strategy has long-standing associations with planning: Basil Liddell Hart, in his original definition, explains the role of grand strategy as “to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, toward the attainment of the political object of the war.”[55] Despite some critics’ contention that decision-making assumes a qualitatively different cast under conditions of peace rather than war, the extrapolation of grand strategy to include peacetime strategic planning has become common.[56] Scholars and policy analysts in this camp typically conceive of grand strategy as the method by which a government articulates its national security strategy. Debates about strategic planning in the U.S. government offer a prime example, given the enormity of American global interests and national capabilities, but these dynamics are by no means exclusive to the United States or to great powers generally.[57] Often, debates about grand-strategic planning in Washington center on the congressionally mandated national security strategy. Much of the literature on the national security strategy focuses on the utility of mobilizing the American national security apparatus for such strategic-planning exercises.[58] Proponents such as James Goldgeier and Jeremy Suri contend that the national security strategy is vital to the practice of grand strategy:
Without a clear strategy statement, the next president will find it difficult to align U.S. capabilities behind core national interests. Without a clear strategy statement, the next president will fail to set a foreign policy course for his/her new administration that leverages U.S. resources and allies, escaping the damaging tendency to do a little everywhere and seek to stamp out fires wherever they burn.[59]
Publication of each administration’s national security strategy cues a chorus of critics who decry the degradation of the grand-strategy process into an exercise in banality and bureaucratic consensus-building, divorced from the crucial work of implementation.[60] For the most part, however, national security strategy critics believe that strategic planning is a virtuous exercise; their gripe centers on the consistent failure of the national security strategy and related processes to produce anything resembling grand strategy.[61] A process optimized to effectively link ends, ways, and means might, for example: lean into, rather than shy away from, difficult trade-offs; always contain a classified component where priorities are explicitly enumerated; and translate into clear implementation guidance, including budgetary requirements. Despite wide recognition of these deficiencies, however, there has been little progress toward reform, implicitly revealing a set of political — rather than geostrategic — priorities that drive the planning process.[62] First, the national security strategy, like many strategy documents, is mandated by Congress; every presidential administration is required to produce it. Second, planning advocates ascribe value to the process for its own sake, saying it forces policymakers to think beyond their inboxes and engage strategic questions with their counterparts across the national security bureaucracy, which improves day-to-day decision-making even if it doesn’t produce a coherent strategic vision. Third, the national security strategy is a vessel for communicating with audiences at home and abroad. Domestically, the national security strategy can guide interagency decision-making and inform public debate. Internationally, the document signals the broad direction of U.S. foreign policy to allies and adversaries. Constrained by these political imperatives, there is little incentive for policymakers to make hard grand-strategic choices. Indeed, little changes between presidential administrations, even as reams of studies explore means of improving U.S. strategic competence.[63] Some skeptics contend that U.S. incompetence may actually be salutary: Grand-strategic planning, they argue, yields dangerously constraining and inflexible foreign policy doctrines. Building on Richard Betts’s critiques of strategy and doctrine,[64] David Edelstein and Ronald Krebs argue that strategic planning imposes dangerous rigidity on policymaking: “The ritual of crafting strategy encourages participants to spin a narrative that magnifies the scope of the national interest and exaggerates global threats.”[65] Ionut Popescu characterizes grand strategy as a model of national security decision-making whereby governments “formulate and implement a long-term coherent plan to accomplish the nation’s highest goals.”[66] He contrasts this approach with a superior alternative model of “emergent strategy” that rejects long-term planning in favor of incrementalism, short-term adaptation, and crisis response.[67] James Graham Wilson uses history to make a similar case, characterizing the end of the Cold War as a “triumph of improvisation” rather than grand strategy.[68] Simon Reich and Peter Dombrowski herald the “end of grand strategy” because the coherence it requires is at odds with the operational processes of the U.S. military, particularly the Navy.[69] These critics are undoubtedly correct that grand strategy should not impose undue rigidity on policymaking. Yet, advocates of emergent strategy or case-by-case pragmatism are arguing against a straw man: Proponents of grand-strategic planning do not propose that policymakers engage in an exquisite design process that anticipates every contingency, nor is there historical evidence to support this caricature of grand strategy. Instead, planning documents like the national security strategy tend to be statements of grand-strategic principles while glossing over questions of implementation. Indeed, focusing unduly on plans themselves risks missing the fundamental point of grand strategy: As Brands and Porter have argued, “grand strategy is best understood not as a formal planning process, but as a guiding intellectual framework. … It is an ecological worldview, formed from a mix of different influences — experience, study, values, ideology — that helps officials make sense of complexity and bring resources and commitments into alignment.”[70] In this sense, planning may contribute to that framework — for example by elaborating a set of principles or inculcating a strategic subculture — but grand strategy is not reducible to even a well-executed strategic planning process. What insights does the “grand strategy as process” research agenda offer to scholars and policymakers? For academics, this sub-literature usefully highlights the temporal dimension of grand strategy: Whereas scholars tend to focus on only the early stages of grand-strategy formulation, they ought to take a broader view that includes implementation — the phase at which strategic designs tend to founder in encounters with resource constraints, bureaucratic resistance, or other barriers.[71] This research agenda is also notable for what it lacks: rigorous studies of the qualities that render grand-strategic planning processes more or less successful.[72] Indeed, from a policymaking perspective, the grand-strategy-as-process research agenda should pick up where the grand-strategy-as-variable agenda left off. It should elucidate the methods by which individuals and organizations can effectively diagnose the international and domestic environments, then develop grand strategies that seize on opportunities and circumvent constraints. Yet the literature lacks this kind of how-to guide for grand-strategic planning beyond the strategic aphorisms put forth by the common-sense school. Finally, the debate over the utility of grand strategizing emphasizes the dangers associated with following rigid doctrines or strategic plans for their own sake. Nevertheless, the recommendation to replace grand strategy with “pragmatism” or “emergent strategy” does not withstand scrutiny. There is no intrinsic reason why grand strategy — in the United States or elsewhere — cannot entail a design process that is long-term in its vision, disciplined in its prioritization, and pragmatically flexible in its implementation. An ad hoc alternative is hardly preferable.

Agenda 3: Grand Strategy as Blueprint

The final strand of the grand-strategy literature is grand strategy as blueprint.[73] The works in this category provide recommendations that seek to guide the future course of a given state’s foreign policy. Whereas the grand-strategy-as-variable research agenda is descriptive and the grand-strategy-as-process agenda is both descriptive and prescriptive, this agenda is entirely prescriptive. Like the process literature, discussions of grand strategy as blueprint assume that grand strategy is a tool, rather than an automatic output, and therefore can be manipulated by agents who enact intentional designs. As with strategic planning, debates about grand-strategic blueprints are ongoing around the world.[74] This article uses the United States as an example because U.S. grand strategy is the primary concern of American scholars of international relations and, given the predominant U.S. role in the world, it is also the most consequential. The heart of current scholarly debate is between advocates of a restrained grand strategy, often described as “retrenchment” or “offshore balancing,”[75] and proponents of variants of liberal internationalism, referred to as “deep engagement,” “liberal hegemony,” and “primacy.”[76] Liberal internationalism is, in the words of Stephen Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William Wohlforth, the devil we know. Its three core tenets have guided U.S. grand strategy since World War II:
Managing the external environment to reduce near- and long-term threats to U.S. national security; promoting a liberal economic order to expand the global economy and maximize domestic prosperity; and creating, sustaining, and revising the global institutional order to secure necessary interstate cooperation on terms favorable to U.S. interests.[77]
Proponents of this grand strategy point to the past seven decades as evidence of its remarkable success; the peace and prosperity it has offered represent a departure from the “economic mercantilism, political conflict, and repeated war” that characterized much of world history.[78] Even in the post-Cold War context, advocates defend its record: As Brands writes, “for all its travails, American strategy has played a central role in making the post-Cold War international system more stable, more liberal, and more favorable to U.S. interests and ideals than it would otherwise have been — and certainly in bringing about a more benign international environment than many expert observers expected when the post-Cold War period began.”[79] [quote id="4"] Advocates of retrenchment disagree with this characterization of liberal internationalism’s record of success, as well as the costs and risks ascribed to it. In his book-length treatise making the case for offshore balancing, Layne takes aim at the core liberal internationalist assumption that national security requires the United States to police a world order amenable to American values, institutions, and economic penetration.[80] As Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue, “By pursuing a strategy of ‘offshore balancing,’ Washington would forgo ambitious efforts to remake other societies and concentrate on what really matters: pre­serving U.S. dominance in the Western Hemisphere and countering potential hegemons in Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf.”[81] But even in forestalling the rise of a Eurasian hegemon, the first line of defense would be regional powers, and the United States would intervene only if absolutely necessary. Offshore balancers differ in their approaches toward nuclear proliferation and counter-terrorism, but overall they agree that the rewards of pulling back from global engagement would outweigh the risks. The resulting savings, based on the military strategy and force structure outlined in Barry Posen’s Restraint, would enable the United States to cut its defense budget to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product from the current level, 3.62 percent of GDP.[82] Beyond the grand debate between restraint and deep engagement, there are important divergences within each camp. Even among those who laud the U.S. strategic successes of the past 70 years, there is disagreement about the best way forward for U.S. leadership of a liberal international order under increasing stress from both global power shifts and the growing salience of transnational challenges. Brands and Eric Edelman advocate a major defense recapitalization to sustain U.S. military primacy, credibly maintain American commitments overseas even when challenged by increasingly capable great-power adversaries, and, in so doing, uphold the existing international order.[83] In contrast, Bruce Jentleson argues that while the United States is not in terminal decline, changes in the global landscape ineluctably diminish American influence abroad. He proposes a strategy of “recalibration,” which rejects both retrenchment and calls for the United States to reclaim global primacy in favor of a subtler and more selective application of American power in service of clearly defined interests.[84] Paul Stares advocates a strategy of “preventive engagement” to manage global threats without resorting to costly uses of military force.[85] Others examine U.S. interests in the context of transnational security challenges, advocating constraints on American power in service of a truly global, rather than U.S.-dominated, order. Richard Haass calls for progress toward a “world order 2.0” in which states move beyond the Westphalian system and accept “sovereign obligations” for managing the globalized consequences of domestic policies.[86] Thomas Weiss goes further, contending that transnational problems require more muscular global governance, centered on empowered (and reformed) international organizations.[87] Anne-Marie Slaughter advocates a networked grand strategy that complements state-to-state interaction with a “web of commercial, educational, cultural, and human relations.”[88] What insights does the grand-strategy-as-blueprint agenda hold for scholars and policymakers? Unlike the other two, this research agenda presupposes that grand strategies can be intentionally designed and provides preconceived prescriptions for such interventions. Yet, the blueprint debates remain oddly divorced from parallel discussions about the origins of grand strategy. This disconnect is particularly stark among realist scholars who engage in the study of grand strategy as variable in addition to blueprint. Mearsheimer, for example, predicts in his academic work that states will act as power maximizers, strive for hegemony, and preclude the rise of other hegemons; these are not choices but, rather, the inevitable consequence of an anarchic international system.[89] When he turns to prescription, however, Mearsheimer recommends that the United States restrain its own quest for power by retrenching from its forward positions around the globe and seeking hegemony only in the Western Hemisphere.[90] Yet the proposition that the United States is pursuing an inefficient or even dangerous grand strategy of liberal hegemony would seem to contradict the core neorealist assumption that states respond rationally and consistently to their international environments. Meanwhile, the suggestion that the United States should pursue more limited grand-strategic aims is at odds with the prediction that states seek to maximize their power. The juxtaposition of these arguments suggests a logical double bind: Either Mearsheimer’s recommendations are superior to the current course of American grand strategy, which calls into question his explanatory theory, or his theory of grand strategy is accurate, which calls into question the wisdom of his recommendations. For policymakers, such distinctions may seem arcane and pedantic, but they matter a great deal: Those advocating prescriptions derived from structural realism have the loudest academic voices in debates about American grand strategy, as well as the prospects for U.S.-China competition, and partial alignment with Trump’s heterodox international outlook may amplify their influence over policy.[91] More broadly, any grand-strategic prescriptions ought to be transparent about their assumptions, and when those assumptions prove faulty the attendant recommendations should be updated or discounted accordingly. When grand-strategic blueprints are well crafted, however, they can challenge conventional wisdom, refine extant doctrines, and provide a lodestar for policy.

Opportunities for Future Research

Three separate research agendas thus characterize the grand-strategy literature, with the variable, process, and blueprint camps each centering on different questions: Where does grand strategy come from? What are the procedural characteristics of grand strategy’s formulation and execution? And what should a particular state’s grand strategy be? By reorganizing what is nominally a single literature into three component research agendas, the preceding sections should help scholars adjudicate disagreements endemic in existing work and identify their main interlocutors in future work. Recognition of these dividing lines ought to facilitate the clash of ideas, particularly in debates over processes and blueprints. For the grand-strategy-as-variable school to advance through competitive theory testing, however, differentiation from the process and blueprint camps is only a first step. Further conceptual clarification remains necessary through a more disciplined approach to definition, operationalization, and measurement. [quote id="5"] Despite the value of acknowledging these divisions, it would be a mistake to reify them or ignore their intersections. A single academic work may speak to more than one research agenda, and many thinkers have contributed to more than one of the three camps. Scholars should therefore remain attuned to opportunities for synthesis and integration, especially where assumptions linking explanatory and normative approaches to grand strategy are implicitly or explicitly interdependent. In particular, there are three promising avenues for future research into the determinants of effectiveness, the domestic politics of grand strategy, and grand strategy beyond the United States. The Determinants of Grand-Strategic Effectiveness Despite the vast literature on grand strategy, scholars know remarkably little about the determinants of effectiveness. Does grand strategy truly influence the practice of statecraft and, if so, under what conditions is it successful? As Williamson Murray notes, “Those who have developed successful grand strategies in the past have been much the exception.”[92] Moreover, for grand strategy to matter, it must be distinct from predetermined forms of advantage and perhaps even overcome material deficits.[93] There is no more policy-consequential question for scholars than the ingredients of these rare strategic triumphs. Historians and, to a lesser extent, political scientists, have identified and analyzed cases of grand-strategic success: both wartime success, such as the Allies’ grand strategy during World War II,[94] and long-term imperial-hegemonic endurance, like that of the British and Roman Empires.[95] But at the theoretical level, existing work provides little insight into the general determinants of grand-strategic effectiveness. To account for success, scholars generally point to the careful balance of means and ends.[96] This approach is problematic, however, because it conflates definitional and causal claims.[97] If grand strategy is defined as statecraft that astutely balances means and ends, and if well-balanced grand strategy is necessarily successful, then there is no space to study variation in grand-strategic effectiveness. The debate becomes about the presence or absence of grand strategy rather than the efficacy of a given grand strategy. To be useful as a variable, grand strategy cannot be a normatively laden term. Future work can fill this gap by examining grand strategy as an independent, rather than dependent, variable. Of what effects is grand strategy the cause? Those interested in theorizing grand strategy can begin by searching for hypotheses in the process literature, which implicitly or explicitly describes the criteria for successful strategic planning but rarely evaluates these criteria rigorously or comparatively across cases.[98] Risa Brooks’ scholarship on the influence of civil-military cooperation on the effectiveness of strategic planning and Popescu’s evaluation of the comparative effectiveness of grand strategy and emergent strategy provide models for much-needed future work in this area.[99] The Domestic Politics of Grand Strategy The shock of Trump’s election in November 2016 spotlighted the perennial uncertainty surrounding the domestic politics of grand strategy. Regarding Trump specifically, a significant proportion of American voters proved willing to elect a presidential candidate who brazenly rejected core elements of the post-World War II elite foreign policy consensus on trade, alliances, and other issues. But while Trump’s election creates the temptation to pronounce the death of American global leadership, there is evidence that popular support for internationalism persists — raising the possibility that some voters supported Trump despite, not because of, his heterodox foreign policy positions.[100] Scholars can help clarify whether Trump’s election is a harbinger of structural shifts in the domestic politics of foreign policy — or an aberration. Toward that end, future studies could revisit two long-standing debates in the literature on public opinion and American grand strategy. First is the power of what Theodore Roosevelt famously called the “bully pulpit.” All presidents advocate their preferred foreign policies, whether Harry Truman’s aid to Greece and Turkey, Ronald Reagan’s support for Nicaraguan contras, Clinton’s pursuit of NATO enlargement, George W. Bush’s march to war in Iraq, or Barack Obama’s lobbying for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Yet, the varying successes of these efforts demonstrate the limits of presidential powers of persuasion. What, then, determines why some efforts succeed while others fail? In contemporary terms, why has public opinion grown more favorable toward long-standing American alliances and the Iran nuclear deal since Trump’s election, even as he has denigrated them from the White House?[101] A potential answer lies in the politics of persuasion. Stacie Goddard and Krebs contend that the process of public legitimation constrains the range of available grand-strategy choices.[102] Krebs investigates these boundaries of legitimacy in his book-length study of narrative and the making of U.S. national security. National security narratives catch on, he argues, during times of crisis, when presidents tell stories that help their citizens impose order on seemingly chaotic circumstances. Krebs’ analysis of ripe narrative moments and the importance of presidential authority is helpful, but the core contribution lies in his focus on the mechanics of storytelling as contrasted with argumentation — a dimension of politics that rarely captures the attention of scholars of international relations but that warrants consideration, particularly among those confounded by the political failures of their grand-strategic prescriptions.[103] Second, scholars can continue to investigate polarization’s influence on the domestic politics of grand strategy. Whereas public opinion studies in the early Cold War showed limited correlation between domestic and foreign policy views, greater partisan consistency began to emerge around the time of the Vietnam War.[104] Since then, partisan polarization has grown and sharpened with the rise of across-the-aisle antipathy, also known as “affective polarization.”[105] Future research could investigate how widening polarization might alter the domestic dynamics of grand strategy.[106] One avenue for investigation entails the interaction between policy expertise and partisan polarization — in particular, whether elites retain the ability to persuade the public to accept their preferred grand strategy. Rather than a wholesale death of expertise, recent research indicates that — especially on controversial issues — citizens remain attentive to experts, but only those who share their partisan affiliation.[107] This finding would suggest that as long as a bipartisan elite consensus on grand strategy endures, the public is likely to follow. In light of many Republicans’ resistance to central elements of the Trump administration’s national security agenda, however, additional scholarship should explore citizens’ response to elite dissent within political parties on matters of foreign policy or grand strategy. Researchers can also turn their attention to polarization’s consequences for grand strategy. Kenneth Schultz contends that polarization will introduce greater volatility in American foreign policy and diminish the effectiveness of Washington’s diplomatic signaling, opening the door to myriad opportunities for additional theoretical elaboration and empirical testing.[108] Grand Strategy Beyond the United States Finally, the grand-strategy literature suffers needlessly from American parochialism. As a case study, U.S. grand strategy is undoubtedly crucial: The United States’ rise to global power, its response to victory in two world wars, and its emergence as a unipolar hegemon with unprecedented power are unique moments of world-historic significance. Nonetheless, as a matter of theory, policy, and history, all three veins of the grand-strategy research agenda would benefit from a wider aperture. The grand-strategy-as-variable camp should expand to include more non-Western cases and to more ambitiously aspire to generalizability across time periods and national contexts. Even explanatory theories specific to non-U.S. cases could help illuminate the grand-strategic courses, choices, and cultures of allies and adversaries alike.[109] By looking beyond the United States, the grand-strategy-as-process camp could shed light on strategic planning in comparative perspective and especially on the vital question of whether autocratic regimes are more capable of effective grand strategy than democracies. Finally, grand-strategy debates are likely to proliferate and amplify as power continues to diffuse over the coming decades. Scholars of international relations have much to contribute to blueprint debates beyond the United States, especially among allies and partners, and prescriptions for the future of American grand strategy would benefit from richer understanding of other states’ visions for their own power.

Conclusion: The Necessity of Grand Strategy

The literature of grand-strategic studies is vast and frequently disjointed — yet, for all its flaws, grand strategy remains an attractive object of scholarly attention. Academic programs focused on grand strategy are flourishing: Yale’s program celebrated its 15th year in October 2016,[110] and similar institutions continue to proliferate.[111] Meanwhile, a sense of acute geopolitical flux and uncertainty about the future character of international politics has renewed the “Kennan Sweepstakes” for the post-post-Cold War era. Experts are keen to offer their grand-strategic analysis in popular and academic publications, present blueprints for grand strategy, and advise governments on the formulation and execution of grand strategy. These trends may indicate that continued study of grand strategy is inevitable — but it is also beneficial for several reasons. First, grand strategy as a field of study is inherently relevant to policy.[112] By illuminating the origins of state behavior, theories of grand strategy help policymakers understand the drivers of allies’ and adversaries’ foreign policies, as well as the conditions for change in their own countries’ grand strategies. Meanwhile, studying grand strategy requires academics to engage with policymakers, who provide insight into real-world processes of grand-strategy development and implementation. Rather than alienate these practitioners with inscrutable research methods, all three grand-strategy research agendas invite engagement by practitioners. At a time when international relations continues to fight off the cult of the irrelevant, the study of grand strategy provides a useful corrective against the field’s growing obsession with mid-range theory and hypothesis testing.[113] Second, grand strategy is inherently interdisciplinary. The rich grand-strategy literatures in history and political science invite dialogue between two fields that share many interests but are too often estranged by methodological differences. Studying grand strategy encourages social scientists to mine historians’ work for case studies and encourages historians to engage social scientists’ theories. As Brands and Porter argue, the historical record contains much variation that political scientists can leverage: “History offers instructive examples of effective grand-strategic behavior, where states have effectively brought power and commitments into balance, either by expanding means (resources, alliances, opinion) to meet ends, or refocused depleted resources to strengthen its core security interests.”[114] Grand strategy also invites dialogue with the literatures of psychology, organizational studies, and business administration — connections that have yet to be fully explored and exploited.[115] [quote id="6"] Similarly, a focus on grand strategy can help policymakers think in a more interdisciplinary — which is to say, interagency — manner. Breaking down entrenched barriers between diplomatic, military, informational, and economic activities will be necessary as the United States grapples with the intensification of competition and aggression below traditional conflict thresholds. From island-building in the South China Sea and economic coercion, to election interference and proxy warfare in Ukraine, China, and Russia have already shown the capability and willingness to challenge American interests in the “gray zone.” Despite the growing prevalence of such measures short of war, however, the United States is ill prepared to respond.[116] As the National Defense Strategy Commission wrote, “Because gray-zone challenges combine military and paramilitary measures with economic statecraft, political warfare, information operations, and other tools, they often occur in the ‘seams’ between DOD and other U.S. departments and agencies, making them all the more difficult to address.”[117] As a policymaking framework, grand strategy can help overcome this challenge by integrating — first conceptually and then practically — the work of government agencies responsible for the United States’ myriad tools of national power. Third, grand strategy as a field illustrates the value of methodological diversity in international relations. Qualitative methods, especially process tracing, are suited to the study of grand strategy.[118] Unpacking the complexity of grand strategies and the factors that drive their continuity or change requires in-depth historical knowledge and attention to micro-processes that are difficult to capture with quantitative data or to test using an experiment. As such, the study of grand strategy helps to demonstrate the importance of pluralistic approaches to causal inference, with preference for the method best suited to the subject. Of course, grand strategy also has its flaws. As a corollary to its bias toward qualitative methods, studies of grand strategy are not amenable to cutting-edge quantitative methodologies and may never be taken seriously by political scientists outside of international relations who rely on methodological sophistication as a proxy for scholarly value. More charitably, the overdetermined nature of many grand-strategic choices may legitimately erode scholars’ ability to draw high-confidence causal inferences. Beyond methodological issues, grand strategy is laden with significant political baggage. The predominance of right-leaning funders in seeding programs for its study, the recent interest of the Koch foundation, and grand strategy’s long-standing association with Henry Kissinger can create the appearance of a political agenda that  intellectuals on the left find objectionable.[119] Finally, grand strategy should not be projected onto governmental decision-making where it does not exist, and critics are correct to warn against overselling grand strategy’s potential for elegant implementation or its transformative effects.[120] Even so, while scholars of grand strategy should be cognizant of this context, these objections do not justify rejecting wholesale either the study or practice of grand strategy. Indeed, scholarly engagement with grand strategy is gravely necessary. Foreign policy elites broadly agree that the tenets that have guided American grand strategy since the end of the Cold War, and in many ways since the end of World War II, are under great strain and may no longer be tenable. Trump’s presidency seems both to ratify concerns about adverse trends and to raise the possibility that his leadership will accelerate them. For the first time in decades, it is plausible that the U.S. theory of national security that has guided a liberal-hegemony strategy since the dawn of the Cold War may be reevaluated. From this perspective, previous “revolutions” in American foreign policy, which entailed adjustments to subordinate grand-strategic assumptions, seem small by comparison.[121] Whether or not such seismic changes ultimately materialize, the time is ripe for serious study of grand strategy. To fully seize this opportunity, those of us who study grand strategy must place the field on stronger conceptual ground. This article represents an initial step toward strengthening that foundation.   Acknowledgements: For helpful discussions and suggestions, the author would like to thank Jon Askonas, Hal Brands, David Edelstein, John Gaddis, Michael Horowitz, Richard Immerman , Bruce Jentleson, Charlie Kupchan, Sarah Maxey, John McNeill, Sara Plana, Brad Potter, Mira Rapp-Hooper, Jim Steinberg, Marin Strmecki, Stephen Wertheim, Micah Zenko, two anonymous reviewers, the Texas National Security Review editors, and participants in seminars convened by International Security Studies at Yale University, Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Carnegie International Policy Scholars Consortium. Particular thanks to Frank Gavin for his enthusiastic support.    Rebecca Friedman Lissner will be an assistant professor at the Naval War College (beginning in January 2019).      Image: Chris Goldberg [post_title] => What Is Grand Strategy? Sweeping a Conceptual Minefield [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => what-is-grand-strategy-sweeping-a-conceptual-minefield [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-10 13:33:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-10 17:33:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => Amidst acute geopolitical flux, the study of grand strategy is necessary for scholars and strategists alike. As a framework for scholarship, it trains attention on the highest-order questions of international relations: why, how, and for what purposes states employ their national power, including the crucible of military force. For policymakers, grand strategy defines a nation’s international role, guides the alignment of means and ends, and serves as a lodestar for discrete foreign policy decisions. Yet, despite its importance, the proliferation of academic and policy-analytical work on grand strategy has left the field disjointed, conceptually inconsistent, and difficult to navigate. This article resolves that confusion by distinguishing between three component research agendas within the grand strategy literature: those that treat grand strategy as a variable, process, and blueprint. The “grand strategy as variable” agenda provides a prism through which academics may study the origins of state behavior, with particular attention to the perennial question of how agency and structure interact to produce grand-strategic outcomes. The “grand strategy as process” agenda foregrounds the importance of grand strategizing, whether as a governmental strategic-planning process or as a more generic mode of decision-making. Finally, the “grand strategy as blueprint” agenda proffers broad visions in hopes of influencing future governmental behavior. Identifying these component research agendas and placing them in dialogue yields important policy insights and highlights ripe opportunities for future research. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Even as most scholars who research and write about grand strategy agree on its basic definition, they employ the concept in markedly different ways... ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => According to the structural-realist perspective, grand strategy is essentially the conveyor belt between systemic incentives and state behavior — or, an output. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Despite some critics’ contention that decision-making assumes a qualitatively different cast under conditions of peace rather than war, the extrapolation of grand strategy to include peacetime strategic planning has become common. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => [D]iscussions of grand strategy as blueprint assume that grand strategy is a tool, rather than an automatic output, and therefore can be manipulated by agents who enact intentional designs. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Despite the vast literature on grand strategy, scholars know remarkably little about the determinants of effectiveness. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => [A] sense of acute geopolitical flux and uncertainty about the future character of international politics has renewed the “Kennan Sweepstakes” for the post-post-Cold War era. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 1291 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 241 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Rebecca Friedman Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper, “The Day after Trump: American Strategy for a New International Order,” Washington Quarterly 41, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 7–25, [2] For distillations of these proclivities: Thomas Wright, “Trump’s 19th Century Foreign Policy,” Politico Magazine, Jan. 20, 2016,; Colin Kahl and Hal Brands, “Trump’s Grand Strategic Train Wreck,” Foreign Policy, Jan. 31, 2017, On the gap between the president’s views and his administration’s policy statements, particularly the 2017 National Security Strategy, see: Peter Beinart, “Trump Doesn’t Seem to Buy His Own National Security Strategy,” Atlantic, Dec. 19, 2017,; Hal Brands, “Trump Doesn’t Believe in His Own Foreign Policy. Does That Matter?” Foreign Policy, Jan. 16, 2018,; Rebecca Friedman Lissner, “The National Security Strategy Is Not a Strategy,” Foreign Affairs, Dec. 19, 2017, [3] Micah Zenko and Rebecca Friedman Lissner, “Trump Is Going to Regret Not Having a Grand Strategy,” Foreign Policy, Jan. 13, 2017,; Rebecca Friedman Lissner and Micah Zenko, “There Is No Trump Doctrine, and There Will Never Be One,” Foreign Policy, July 21, 2017, [4] Stephen Wertheim, “Quit Calling Donald Trump an Isolationist. He’s Worse Than That,” Washington Post, Feb. 17, 2017, [5] Jeffrey Goldberg, “A Senior White House Official Defines the Trump Doctrine: ‘We’re America, Bitch,’” Atlantic, June 11, 2018, [6] The term “grand strategic deficit” is borrowed from John Lewis Gaddis: John Lewis Gaddis, “What Is Grand Strategy?” (Karl von der Heyden Distinguished Lecture, Duke University, Feb. 26, 2009). [7] Nina Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” Security Studies 27, no. 1 (2018): 27–57,; Thierry Balzacq, Peter Dombrowski, and Simon Reich, “Is Grand Strategy a Research Program? A Review Essay,” Security Studies (2018): 58–86, [8] For in-depth conceptual analyses, see: Lukas Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought (Oxford University Press, 2016); Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy.’[9] According to Earle: “Strategy is the art of controlling and utilizing the resources of a nation — or a coalition of nations — including its armed forces, to the end that its vital interests shall be effectively promoted and secured against enemies, actual, potential, or merely presumed. The highest type of strategy — sometimes called grand strategy — is that which so integrates the policies and armaments of the nation that the resort to war is either rendered unnecessary or is undertaken with the maximum chance of victory.” Edward Mead Earle, “Introduction,” in Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler, ed. Edward Mead Earle, Gordon A. Craig, and Felix Gilbert (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1944), viii. For his part, Liddell Hart offered this definition: “Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the economic resources and manpower of nations in order to sustain the fighting services. Also the moral resources — for to foster the peoples’ willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power. ... Moreover, fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand strategy — which should take account of and apply the power of financial pressure, of diplomatic pressure, of commercial pressure, and, not least of ethical pressure, to weaken the opponent’s will... It should not only combine the various instruments, but so regulate their use as to avoid damage to the future state of peace — of its security and prosperity.” See: Basil Liddell Hart, Strategy (New York: Praeger, 1967), 322. [10] Paul Kennedy, “Grand Strategy in War and Peace: Toward a Broader Definition,” in Grand Strategies in War and Peace, ed. Paul Kennedy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), 5. [11] Posen proffers a slightly different formulation in Restraint: “A grand strategy is a nation-state’s theory about how to produce security for itself.” Barry R. Posen, Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 1. [12] 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), 3. [13] Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” 19–23. [14] Lawrence Freedman, “The Meaning of Strategy, Part I: The Origins,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 1 (November 2017),; Lawrence Freedman, “The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 2 (February 2018),; Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. [15] Liddell Hart, Strategy, 321. On the distinction between military strategy and grand strategy, see: Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” 19–21. Nevertheless, this distinction can be muddled by scholars who operationalize grand strategy as military strategy; Balzacq et al. call this the “classicist tradition of grand strategy.” Balzacq, Dombrowski, and Reich, “Is Grand Strategy a Research Program? A Review Essay,” 11–14. [16] An exception to the means-ends conception of strategy is that used by game theorists. When Thomas Schelling employed the word “strategy,” he clarified: “The term ‘strategy’ is taken, here, from the theory of games … The term is intended to focus on the interdependence of the adversaries’ decisions and on their expectations about each other’s behavior. This is not the military usage.” Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), 3 fn 1. [17] Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” 21. [18] Statecraft lacks a widely accepted definition but is frequently invoked in the context of particular instruments of national power, such as “economic statecraft.” [19] For example: Kennedy, “Grand Strategy in War and Peace: Toward a Broader Definition”; Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy?; William C. Martel, Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice: The Need for an Effective American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. [20] For instance: the “grand plans” camp is exemplified by the work of military historians such as Paul Kennedy and Basil Liddell Hart, as well as iconic government documents like National Security Council Paper 68 (NSC-68) and Eisenhower’s Project Solarium; “grand principles” are manifest in studies that treat containment as a grand strategy, those that examine the strategic ideas of seminal leaders like John Quincy Adams, and the prescriptive literature on American grand strategy; and “grand patterns” are instantiated by the work of particular scholars, including Edward Luttwak and Christopher Layne, who are united less by their subject than their use of evidence. Silove even points to different conceptualizations of grand strategy within the oeuvre of a single prominent scholar, Hal Brands. Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” 8. [21] Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” 19. [22] Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” 25–26. [23] Jeffrey W. Legro, Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), 122–42; Jack Snyder, Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 112–53; Charles A. Kupchan, The Vulnerability of Empire (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994). [24] Snyder, Myths of Empire, 66–112; Legro, Rethinking the World, 84–122; Dennis E. Showalter, "Total War for Limited Objectives: An Interpretation of Germany Grand Strategy," in Grand Strategies in War and Peace, ed. Kennedy, 105–25; Thomas U. Berger, Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); John S. Duffield, World Power Forsaken: Political Culture, International Institutions, and German Security Policy After Unification (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998). Glaser identifies Nazi Germany’s bid for power as a crucial case: Charles L. Glaser, Rational Theory of International Politics: The Logic of Competition and Cooperation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 221–27. [25] E.g., Stacie E. Goddard, “The Rhetoric of Appeasement: Hitler’s Legitimation and British Foreign Policy, 1938–39,” Security Studies 24, no. 1 (2015): 95–130,; Arthur A. Stein, “Domestic Constraints, Extended Deterrence, and the Incoherence of Grand Strategy: The United States, 1938–1950,” in The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy, ed. Richard Rosecrance and Arthur A. Stein (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993); Randall L. Schweller, Unanswered Threats: Political Constraints on the Balance of Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), chap. 3. [26] Condoleezza Rice, “The Evolution of Soviet Grand Strategy,” in Grand Strategies in War and Peace, ed. Paul Kennedy, 145–67; Snyder, Myths of Empire, 212–55; Legro, Rethinking the World, 142–60. Matthew Evangelista, “Internal and External Constraints on Grand Strategy: The Soviet Case,” in The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy, ed. Rosecrance and Stein; Chris Miller, The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016). [27] John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), 31. [28] Kenneth N. Waltz, “Structural Realism after the Cold War,” International Security 25, no. 1 (Summer 2000): 24, [29] Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, 2. For additional articulations of offensive realism: Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999); Peter Liberman, “The Spoils of Conquest,” International Security 18, no. 2 (Fall 1993): 125–53, [30] Robert Jervis, “Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 30, no. 2 (January 1978): 167–214,; Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986); Stephen M. Walt, The Origins of Alliances (Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 1987); Snyder, Myths of Empire; Stephen Van Evera, Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 1999); Charles L. Glaser, “Realists as Optimists: Cooperation as Self-Help,” International Security 19, no. 3 (Winter 1994): 50–90, [31] Aaron L. Friedberg, The Weary Titan: Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline, 1895–1905 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 8. [32] Paul K. MacDonald and Joseph M. Parent, “Graceful Decline? The Surprising Success of Great Power Retrenchment,” International Security 35, no. 4 (Spring 2011): 7–44, [33] Gideon Rose, “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” World Politics 51, no. 1 (1998): 144–72,; Colin Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders: Power, Culture, and Change in American Grand Strategy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008); Peter Trubowitz, Politics and Strategy: Partisan Ambition and American Statecraft (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011). [34] Zakaria, From Wealth to Power. [35] Trubowitz, Politics and Strategy. [36] Kevin Narizny, The Political Economy of Grand Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2007). [37] I borrowed this metaphor from Gideon Rose: Rose, “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” 147. [38] Trubowitz, Politics and Strategy, 97–105, 120–28. [39] Christopher Layne, The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2007); Patrick Porter, “Why America’s Grand Strategy Has Not Changed: Power, Habit and the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment,” International Security 42, no. 4 (2018): 9–46, [40] Porter traces the “habit of primacy” to the final years of World War II and argues that a primacy grand strategy was “interrupted only occasionally” since then. Porter, “Why America’s Grand Strategy Has Not Changed: Power, Habit and the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment,” 9. Layne traces “strategic internationalism” to “at least 1940.” Layne, The Peace of Illusions, 7. [41] Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (Simon & Schuster, 1994), chap. 2; Walter A. McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997); Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders. Walter Russell Mead goes beyond Kissinger’s dichotomy to propose four American traditions of grand strategy: Wilsonian, Hamiltonian, Jacksonian, and Jeffersonian. Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (New York: Random House, 2001). John Gaddis also identifies continuities in American grand-strategic culture, though in less taxonomic terms: John Lewis Gaddis, Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). [42] Christopher Hemmer, American Pendulum: Recurring Debates in U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2015); Stephen Sestanovich, Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014). [43] Although Legro frames his argument in terms of ideas about international society rather than strategic culture, his work is a model for future study in this area: Legro, Rethinking the World. [44] Sara Plana, “Making Sense of Grand Strategy,” paper presented at the 2018 International Studies Association annual convention, 12–14. [45] Among political scientists who study leaders, only Dan Byman and Ken Pollack attribute grand-strategic choice to individuals. Others usefully develop the causal mechanisms linking leaders’ preferences and attributes with state behavior but focus on more narrowly construed dimensions of foreign policy. Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack, “Let Us Now Praise Great Men: Bringing the Statesman Back In,” International Security 25, no. 4 (Spring 2001): 107–46; Elizabeth N. Saunders, Leaders at War: How Presidents Shape Military Interventions (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2011); Jessica L.P. Weeks, Dictators at War and Peace (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2014); Michael C. Horowitz, Allan C. Stam, and Cali M. Ellis, Why Leaders Fight (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015). [46] Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy?; Hal Brands, Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post-Cold War Order (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016). [47] John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War, rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); John Lewis Gaddis, On Grand Strategy (New York: Penguin, 2018); Charles N. Edel, Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic (Cambrdige, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). [48] For elaborations on this problem, see: Balzacq, Dombrowski, and Reich, “Is Grand Strategy a Research Program? A Review Essay”; Silove, “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy’”; Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. [49] I call these the first- and second-order dimensions of grand strategy. See: Rebecca Lissner, “Rethinking Grand Strategic Change,” paper presented at the 2018 International Studies Association annual convention. [50] Stephen Wertheim, “Grand Strategy: An American Power Politics,” in Rethinking Grand Strategy, ed. Elizabeth Borgwardt, Christopher McKnight-Nichols, and Andrew Preston (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming). [51] Freedman, “The Meaning of Strategy, Part I: The Origins”; Freedman, “The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives.” [52] Gaddis, “What Is Grand Strategy?” [53] Charles Hill, Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010); Linda Kulman, Teaching Common Sense: The Grand Strategy Program at Yale University (Prospecta Press, 2016). [54] Rumelt cited in: Walter A. McDougall, “Can the United States Do Grand Strategy?” Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Telegram, April 13, 2010,; Gaddis, On Grand Strategy, chap. 2. [55] Liddell Hart, Strategy, 321–22. [56] Timothy Andrews Sayle, “Defining and Teaching Grand Strategy,” Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Telegram, Jan. 15, 2011, [57] On strategic planning in a cross-national context, see: William I. Hitchcock, Melvyn P. Leffler, and Jeffrey W. Legro, eds., Shaper Nations: Strategies for a Changing World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016). [58] Jordan Tama, “Does Strategic Planning Matter? The Outcomes of U.S. National Security Reviews,” Political Science Quarterly 130, no. 4 (2015): 735–66, [59] James Goldgeier and Jeremi Suri, “Revitalizing the U.S. National Security Strategy,” Washington Quarterly 38, no. 4 (2015): 35–55, On the relationship between the National Security Strategy and American grand strategy, see also: Hemmer, American Pendulum, 3–6. [60] Lissner, “The National Security Strategy Is Not a Strategy”; Richard Fontaine and Shawn Brimley, “Don’t Expect Too Much From Obama’s National Security Strategy,” Foreign Policy, Feb. 5, 2015,; Raphael S. Cohen, “Why Strategies Disappoint—and How to Fix Them,” Lawfare, March 19, 2017, [61] Cohen, “Why Strategies Disappoint—and How to Fix Them”; Fontaine and Brimley, “Don’t Expect Too Much From Obama’s National Security Strategy.” [62] On the lack of reform, see: Raphael S. Cohen, Air Force Strategic Planning: Past, Present, and Future (RAND Corp., 2017),; Joe Gould, “QDR Dead in 2017 Defense Policy Bill,” DefenseNews, April 25, 2016, [63] Daniel W. Drezner, ed., Avoiding Trivia: The Role of Strategic Planning in American Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2009); Andrew F. Krepinevich and Barry D. Watts, Regaining Strategic Competence (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2009),; Aaron L. Friedberg, “Strengthening U.S. Strategic Planning,” Washington Quarterly 31, no. 1 (Winter 2007–2008): 47–60,; Flournoy and Brimley, “Strategic Planning for US National Security: A Project Solarium for the 21st Century”; McDougall, “Can the United States Do Grand Strategy?[64] Leslie H. Gelb and Richard K. Betts, The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2016), 365. See also: Richard K. Betts, “Is Strategy an Illusion?” International Security 25, no. 2 (Fall 2000): 5–50, [65] David M. Edelstein and Ronald R. Krebs, “Delusions of
Grand Strategy,” Foreign Affairs 94, no. 6 (November/December 2015), [66] Ionut Popescu, Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy: How American Presidents Succeed in Foreign Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), 6. [67] Popescu, Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy, 19. [68] James Graham Wilson, The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev’s Adaptability, Reagan’s Engagement, and the End of the Cold War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014). [69] Simon Reich and Peter Dombrowski, The End of Grand Strategy: US Maritime Operations in the 21st Century (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018). [70] Hal Brands and Patrick Porter, “Why Grand Strategy Still Matters in a World of Chaos,” National Interest, Dec. 10, 2015, [71] Michael J. Green offers a good example of an evolutionary perspective on grand strategy. See his By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017). [72] Risa Brooks’ work provides a model for future scholarship. See: Shaping Strategy: The Civil-Military Politics of Strategic Assessment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008). [73] Although blueprints may emerge from a strategic planning process, the two are generally addressed separately in international relations literature, as those who attend to planning think that such a process should be open-ended whereas those who advocate a particular doctrine believe the “right answer” is already evident. [74] Hitchcock, Leffler, and Legro, eds., Shaper Nations. [75] Scholars on both sides of this debate agree that this is the core dimension of disagreement: Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, “Don’t Come Home, America: The Case Against Retrenchment,” International Security 37, no. 3 (2013): 10,; Barry R. Posen, “A New U.S. Grand Strategy,” Boston Review, July 1, 2014, As examples of the case for retrenchment, see: Posen, Restraint; Barry R. Posen, “Pull Back: The Case for a Less Activist Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs 92, no. 1 (January/February 2013),; Barry R. Posen, “The Case for Restraint,” American Interest 3, no. 2 (2007): 7–32,; Stephen M. Walt, “Taming American Power,” Foreign Affairs 84, no. 5 (September/October 2005): 105–20,; John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior U.S. Grand Strategy,” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 4 (July/August 2016): 70,; Eugene Gholz, Daryl G. Press, and Harvey M. Sapolsky, “Come Home, America: The Strategy of Restraint in the Face of Temptation,” International Security 21, no. 4 (Spring 1997): 5–48,; Layne, The Peace of Illusions; Christopher Layne, “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy,” International Security 22, no. 1 (Summer 1997): 86–124,; Christopher A. Preble, The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2011). [76] Brooks and Wohlforth provide a particularly nuanced parsing of these distinctions: Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth, America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). For additional examples of the variants of liberal hegemony, see: Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth, “Don’t Come Home, America”; Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, “Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement,” Foreign Affairs 92, no. 1 (January/February 2013),; Robert J. Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Cornell University Press, 2003); Robert J. Lieber, Power and Willpower in the American Future: Why the United States Is Not Destined to Decline (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Robert J. Lieber, Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Eliot A. Cohen, The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force (New York: Basic Books, 2017). [77] Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth, “Don’t Come Home, America,” 11. [78] Fareed Zakaria, “Trump Is Changing the International Order,” CNN, Jan. 27, 2017, [79] Hal Brands, “The Pretty Successful Superpower,” American Interest 12, no. 3 (November 2016), [80] Layne, The Peace of Illusions, 30. [81] Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior U.S. Grand Strategy.” [82] Posen, Restraint. [83] Hal Brands and Eric Edelman, “Avoiding a Strategy of Bluff: The Crisis of American Military Primacy,” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2017, [84] Bruce W. Jentleson, “Strategic Recalibration: Framework for a 21st-Century National Security Strategy,” Washington Quarterly 37, no. 1 (2014): 115–36, [85] Paul B. Stares, Preventive Engagement: How America Can Avoid War, Stay Strong, and Keep the Peace (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017). [86] Richard Haass, A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order (London: Penguin Press, 2017). [87] Thomas G. Weiss, Governing the World? Addressing Problems Without Passports (New York: Paradigm Publishers, 2014). [88] Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 19. [89] Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, chap. 2. [90] Mearsheimer and Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior U.S. Grand Strategy.” [91] On the influence of structural realists on the grand-strategy debate inside and outside the ivory tower, see: Hal Brands, “The Real Gap: Why Scholars and Policymakers Disagree,” American Interest 13, no. 1 (2017),; Hal Brands and Peter Feaver, “Saving Realism from the So-Called Realists,” Commentary, Aug. 14, 2017, On the debate over alignment between realist restrainers and the Trump administration, see: Stephen M. Walt, “The Foreign-Policy Establishment Reeks of Desperation,” Foreign Policy, Nov. 5, 2018,; Hal Brands, “Intellectuals Who Hate the ‘Blob’ Have a Lot in Common With Trump,” Bloomberg Opinion, Oct. 31, 2018, [92] Williamson Murray, “Thoughts on Grand Strategy,” in The Shaping of Grand Strategy: Policy, Diplomacy, and War, ed. Williamson Murray, Richard Hart Sinnreich, and James Lacey (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 3–4. Emphasis added. Krasner makes a similar point: Stephen D. Krasner, “An Orienting Principle for Foreign Policy,” Policy Review, no. 163 (October/November 2010): 3, [93] Betts, “Is Strategy an Illusion?” 18. [94] On British grand strategy, see, for example: Michael Howard, “British Grand Strategy in World War I,” in Grand Strategies in War and Peace, ed. Paul Kennedy; Eliot A. Cohen, “Churchill and Coalition Strategy in World War II,” in Grand Strategies in War and Peace, ed. Paul Kennedy. On U.S. and Allied grand strategy, see footnote 44. [95] The literature on each is vast. On the Roman Empire, for example: Edward N. Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century A.D. to the Third (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979). For an alternate view: Kimberly Kagan, “Redefining Roman Grand Strategy,” Journal of Military History 70, no. 2 (2006): 333–62, On the British Empire, for example: Layne, The Peace of Illusions; Layne, “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy”; Charles P. Kindleberger, “International Public Goods without International Government,” American Economic Review 76, no. 1 (1986): 1–13; Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (London: Penguin, 2017). [96] For example: Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine, 24–25. [97] Silove makes a similar point in “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of ‘Grand Strategy,’” 35–37. [98] On the value of an explicitly comparative approach: Balzacq, Dombrowski, and Reich, “Is Grand Strategy a Research Program? A Review Essay,” 28. [99] Brooks, Shaping Strategy; Popescu, Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy; Ionut C. Popescu, “Grand Strategy vs. Emergent Strategy in the Conduct of Foreign Policy,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 3 (2018): 438–60, [100] Hal Brands, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump (Brookings Institution Press, 2018), chap. 4; Friedman Lissner and Rapp-Hooper, “The Day after Trump: American Strategy for a New International Order.” [101] Chicago Council on Global Affairs, “America Engaged,” Oct. 2, 2018, [102] For the introduction to a special issue of Security Studies devoted to this topic: Stacie E. Goddard and Ronald R. Krebs, “Rhetoric, Legitimation, and Grand Strategy,” Security Studies 24, no. 1 (2015): 11, [103] Ronald R. Krebs, Narrative and the Making of US National Security (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Studies in International Relations, 2015). [104] Ole R. Holsti, “Public Opinion and Foreign Policy: Challenges to the Almond-Lippmann Consensus,” International Studies Quarterly 36, no. 4 (December 1992): 457–58, [105] Carroll Doherty, “7 Things to Know About Polarization in America,” Pew Research Center’s FactTank blog, June 12, 2014,; Shanto Iyengar, Gaurav Sood, and Yphtach Lelkes, “Affect, Not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization,” Public Opinion Quarterly 76, no. 3 (2012): 405–31,; Lilliana Mason, “‘I Disrespectfully Agree’: The Differential Effects of Partisan Sorting on Social and Issue Polarization,” American Journal of Political Science 59, no. 1 (January 2015): 128–45,; Alan I. Abramowitz and Steven Webster, “The Rise of Negative Partisanship and the Nationalization of U.S. Elections in the 21st Century,” Electoral Studies 41 (March 2016): 12–22, [106] Rebecca Friedman Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper, “The Day After Trump,” working paper, December 2018. [107] Alexandra Guisinger and Elizabeth N. Saunders, “Mapping the Boundaries of Elite Cues: How Elites Shape Mass Opinion Across International Issues,” International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 2 (June 2017): 425–41,; Daniel W. Drezner, The Ideas Industry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). [108] Kenneth A. Schultz, “Perils of Polarization for U.S. Foreign Policy,” Washington Quarterly 40, no. 4 (2017): 7–28, [109] There are, of course, some notable contributions on China, for example: Alastair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998); Michael D. Swaine and Ashley J. Tellis, Interpreting China’s Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 2000),; Avery Goldstein, Rising to the Challenge: China’s Grand Strategy and International Security (Stanford University Press, Studies in Asian Security, 2005); M. Taylor Fravel, “Shifts in Warfare and Party Unity: Explaining China’s Changes in Military Strategy,” International Security 42, no. 3 (Winter 2017–2018): 37–83,; Sulmaan Wasif Khan, Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018). On Japan, see: Richard J. Samuels, Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 2008); Michael J. Green, Japan’s Reluctant Realism: Foreign Policy Challenges in an Era of Uncertain Power (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001); Adam P. Liff, “Japan’s Defense Policy: Abe the Evolutionary,” Washington Quarterly 38, no. 2 (2015): 79–99, [110] Ziba Kashef, “Grand Strategy Program Celebrates 15 Years of Promoting Global Leadership,” YaleNews, Oct. 18, 2016, [111] E.g., King’s College London Centre for Grand Strategy, “About” page, n.d.,; “Introducing the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs,” Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, n.d., [112] Feaver also makes the case for grand strategy’s utility in bridging theory and practice: Peter Feaver, “What Is Grand Strategy and Why Do We Need It?” Foreign Policy, April 8, 2009, [113] Alexander L. George, Bridging the Gap: Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1993); Stephen M. Walt, “Rigor or Rigor Mortis? Rational Choice and Security Studies,” International Security 23, no. 4 (Spring 1999): 5–48; Lawrence M. Mead, “Scholasticism in Political Science,” Perspectives on Politics 8, no. 2 (June 2010): 453–64,; Francis J. Gavin, “Politics, History and the Ivory Tower–Policy Gap in the Nuclear Proliferation Debate,” Journal of Strategic Studies 35, no. 4 (2012): 573–600,; Francis J. Gavin and James B. Steinberg, “Mind the Gap: Why Policymakers and Scholars Ignore Each Other, and What Should Be Done About It,” Carnegie Reporter 6, no. 4 (Spring 2012): 10–17,; Daniel Byman and Matthew Kroenig, “Reaching Beyond the Ivory Tower: A How To Manual,” Security Studies 25, no. 2 (2016): 289–319,; Paul C. Avey and Michael C. Desch, “What Do Policymakers Want From Us? Results of a Survey of Current and Former Senior National Security Decision Makers,” International Studies Quarterly 58, no. 2 (2014): 227–46,; Joseph S. Nye Jr., “Scholars on the Sidelines,” Washington Post, April 13, 2009,; Nicholas Kristof, “Professors, We Need You!” New York Times, Feb. 15, 2014, For a different view, see: Byman and Kroenig, “Reaching Beyond the Ivory Tower: A How To Manual,” 304. [114] Brands and Porter, “Why Grand Strategy Still Matters in a World of Chaos.” [115] Popescu begins to bridge the gap between corporate and state strategy by drawing on relevant business literature: Popescu, “Grand Strategy vs. Emergent Strategy in the Conduct of Foreign Policy.” [116] Thomas Wright, All Measures Short of War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017). [117] Eric Edelman and Gary Roughead, Providing for the Common Defense: The Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2018), 9, [118] Layne, The Peace of Illusions, 10–11; Alexander L. George and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005). [119] For example: Wertheim, “Grand Strategy: An American Power Politics”; Thomas Meaney and Stephen Wertheim, “Grand Flattery: The Yale Grand Strategy Seminar,” Nation, May 28, 2012, [120] Reich and Dombrowski, The End of Grand Strategy, x–8; Popescu, Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy, chap. 1; Cohen, The Big Stick, 203–6. [121] Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005). ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 436 [post_author] => 9 [post_date] => 2018-02-06 04:00:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-06 09:00:44 [post_content] => In early 1992, the Pentagon’s primary policy office — the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy — prepared a draft classified document known as the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG).[1] In late February and early March, that document was leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which published extensive excerpts. Those excerpts, which highlighted the most striking language and themes of the document, detailed a blueprint for American strategy in the post-Cold War era. The United States would not retrench dramatically now that its superpower rival had been vanquished. Instead, it would maintain and extend the unchallenged supremacy it had gained when the Soviet empire collapsed. Washington would cultivate an open, democratic order in which it remained firmly atop the international hierarchy. It would discourage any competitor from challenging for global leadership. It would prevent emerging or resurgent threats from disrupting a broadly favorable environment. And to protect this advantageous global order, America would retain unrivaled military power. In essence, the DPG outlined an unabashed program for perpetuating U.S. primacy.[2] For this reason, and also because it immediately became caught up in election-year politics, the DPG ignited controversy when it was leaked, drawing harsh appraisals from critics on both the left and right. Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden condemned the document as a radical assertion of American hegemony — “literally a Pax Americana.”[3] Patrick Buchanan, a prominent conservative pundit and Republican presidential candidate, alleged that the DPG represented “a formula for endless American intervention in quarrels and war when no vital interest of the United States is remotely engaged.”[4] More than a decade later, the episode still smoldered. Writing after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, journalist Craig Unger described the DPG as the product “of a radical political movement led by a right-wing intellectual vanguard.” Another assessment labeled the DPG a “disturbing” manifestation of a “Plan…for the United States to rule the world.”[5] More recently, the DPG has received less breathless treatment from insightful academic observers and former U.S. officials.[6] But even from some scholars, the DPG has continued to draw sharp invective. One leading diplomatic historian has critiqued the DPG as a radical rejection of multilateralism and a plan for Washington to serve as the world’s policeman.[7] Another has termed it a program to “remake the world,” “exterminate the evil-doers,” and forge “the Second American Empire.”[8] As former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman observes, “Probably no defense planning document since the end of World War II, with the possible exception of NSC-68…has received as much attention and discussion.”[9] Yet if the DPG has long been a fount of controversy, only now is declassification of relevant U.S. government records making it possible to fully understand the document’s role in the development of U.S. strategic thinking about the post-Cold War era during the administration of George H.W. Bush. That development actually began before the Cold War ended, as the administration pondered the requirements of U.S. security and global order in a remarkably fluid environment. It subsequently continued amid profound international crises in Europe and the Persian Gulf, which led the administration to refine key aspects of its geopolitical thinking. That thinking was brought into more comprehensive form with the DPG, which outlined a holistic approach to post-Cold War strategy and which was — despite the public furor sparked by its disclosure — broadly affirmed by the administration during its final months. The DPG, then, did not stand alone. It was one important piece of the larger process by which the Bush administration crafted a strategy of American primacy. This essay re-creates that process, examining the evolution of Bush-era strategic thinking. It explores the more formal planning and strategy processes the administration undertook, as well as the ways that key crises, long-standing beliefs, and other influences shaped official views of America’s place in the post-Cold War world. It does so primarily by examining newly declassified documents that illuminate the administration’s strategic outlook and offer a more detailed portrait of how America selected a unipolar strategy for a unipolar order. This is an important subject for historians. Although political scientists widely agree that the United States pursued a strategy meant to sustain its geopolitical preeminence after the Cold War, and historians have begun to analyze how key initiatives such as German reunification served this objective, there has yet to be a comprehensive examination, based on the archival record, of how that strategy emerged.[10] This essay not only puts the DPG in its proper context; it also traces the origins of America’s approach to the post-Cold War world. Three arguments emerge from this analysis. First, the DPG was not, as is commonly believed, a radical document or an outlier from Bush administration strategic thinking. It was, in many ways, the logical culmination of that thinking. From the outset, Bush and his advisers had believed that America should not pull back geopolitically as the Cold War ended. Rather, they insisted that America should lean forward to advance its interests and values and ward off new or resurgent dangers. In their view, the United States should double down on the globalist endeavors of the post-World War II era in the favorable but uncertain climate of the post-Cold War world. These core themes were reinforced by two major international crises — the collapse of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany, and the Persian Gulf crisis and war — which underscored the logic of American primacy. In this context, the DPG served primarily to weave together the various intellectual threads of U.S. strategic thinking. The document’s sharp language and undisguised ambition provoked concern and criticism (including from some within the administration), but its basic content represented merely the most unvarnished and coherent articulation of an assertive approach to post-Cold War geopolitics. [quote id="1"] Second, this primacist strategy flowed from a potent mix of influences. It had its deepest roots in ingrained beliefs about the imperative of promoting American values abroad and the long-standing U.S. role in upholding the liberal international order that had emerged after World War II. As Bush’s presidency unfolded, these firmly held ideas were reinforced by strong perceptions of both opportunity and danger. Events of the Bush years made clear that America had tantalizing opportunities to lock in its Cold War victory and shape a uniquely favorable international environment, but they also raised the specter of upheaval and instability. In these circumstances, the administration concluded that a grand strategy based on consensual and preeminent American leadership offered the best — indeed the only — approach for grabbing hold of great possibilities, while also ensuring that one period of great danger did not simply lead to another. Third, the choice of a primacist strategy was, on the whole, a reasonable one. That choice was based on a plausible and intellectually defensible reading of what the end of the Cold War meant for the world and for U.S. policy. Moreover, the problems of American primacy over the past 25 years should not obscure the fact that some key premises of the strategy devised by the Bush administration held up relatively well over time. Whether American primacy and the international system it supports will continue to endure amid the growing challenges the United States confronts today remains to be seen. But with a quarter-century of hindsight, the Bush administration’s strategic thinking — with the DPG as its most candid articulation — seems fairly incisive.

Early Thinking About Post-Cold War Strategy

In retrospect, the choice of a primacist grand strategy can seem overdetermined or even inevitable, given the many influences that ultimately pushed the Bush administration in that direction. But as the Cold War ended, there was a wide-ranging public debate over what international role America should play. Paul Kennedy’s 1987 best-seller, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, had popularized the notion that America risked succumbing to “imperial overstretch” brought on by excessive global commitments.[11] These arguments were often reinforced by the rise of economic competitors such as Japan, which had — many critics alleged — exploited America’s postwar largesse and was poised to displace Washington as global economic leader. “The Cold War is over,” one common saying went. “Japan and Germany won.”[12] Moreover, given that many features of America’s globalism had emerged in the context of the superpower contest with Moscow, the winding down of that competition produced calls for a reassessment of Washington’s global role. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, commentators as varied as Jeane Kirkpatrick and Patrick Buchanan on the right, and Bill Clinton and Al Gore on the left, argued for greater strategic restraint, based on the idea that America lacked the ability or the need to carry on such an ambitious global project after the Cold War. There was “a widespread awareness that we have come to the end of the postwar era,” Clinton said in 1988. “We don’t dominate as we once did.”[13] Likewise, Kirkpatrick argued in a prominent article in 1990 that “it is time to give up the dubious benefits of superpower status” and again become “a normal country in a normal time.”[14] As the 1980s ended, calls for retrenchment were often accompanied by demands for dramatic reductions in America’s alliance commitments, overseas presence, and military spending. Analysts with respected think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, and even former secretaries of defense such as Harold Brown, suggested that the United States could reduce defense spending by as much as half if the Soviet threat continued to fade.[15] Democrat Charles Schumer, then a U.S. representative from New York, talked about “deep reductions in the defense budget.”[16] Other respected congressional observers, such as Sen. Sam Nunn and Rep. Les Aspin, called for lesser but still significant cuts.[17] These arguments were contested by defense hawks and analysts, such as the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, who argued for a more muscular approach to the post-Cold War world.[18] But throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, demands would persist for a substantial “peace dividend” and a more circumscribed U.S. foreign policy. This was not, however, the approach that the Bush administration chose. Amid the erosion and eventual collapse of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe, Bush and his top aides were consumed with superpower relations and crisis management almost from the outset of his presidency, and key officials — Bush included — sometimes seemed wary of declaring the bipolar competition over during much of 1989.[19] Even so, during the first 18 months of Bush’s presidency U.S. officials frequently discussed — in forums both public and private, in ways both systematic and not — what sort of international environment might follow the Cold War and what strategic approach Washington should take in that environment. And even when the outlines of the post-Cold War world were but dimly apparent, these discussions converged around an unmistakable theme: that the United States should not retrench geopolitically, but should lean forward to exploit advantageous change, repress incipient dangers, and mold the new international order. From the start, the sources of this idea were ideological as well as geopolitical. Like countless U.S. officials before him, Bush believed that America had a distinctive moral calling to advance human freedom and well-being and that this responsibility required a self-confident, assertive foreign policy. “We just must not lose sight…of our own raison d’etre as a nation,” he had written in his diary in 1975. “We must be Americans. We must be what we are.”[20] Indeed, while Bush was generally not considered a highly ideological figure, he was certainly part of a long-standing ideological consensus on the moral necessity of U.S. power. America had been the “dominant force for good in the world,” Bush declared during his 1988 campaign, and would remain so in the future.[21] The administration’s early thinking was equally framed by another enduring idea: that American power was indispensable to the preservation of a stable, prosperous, democratic world order. Bush and key aides such as Brent Scowcroft and James Baker were products of World War II and the Cold War. They believed that U.S. engagement had been essential to defeating Nazism and communism, to reconciling former enemies and taming historical antagonisms in Europe and Asia after 1945, and to providing the climate of security and prosperity in which the West had thrived.[22] And just as the drafters of NSC-68 had written that U.S. leadership would be needed “even if there were no Soviet threat,” the Bush administration believed that the imperative of maintaining and advancing a stable, liberal world environment would outlast the Cold War. “America has set in motion the major changes under way in the world today,” Bush asserted in 1988. “No other nation, or group of nations, will step forward to assume leadership.”[23] Or, as a senior National Security Council staffer put it in early 1990, “it’s not as though somehow our postwar responsibilities have ended and our mission is at a conclusion” even though the Soviet threat was waning.[24] From the time Bush took office, these ingrained ideas were reinforced by perceptions of prevailing international trends. In some ways, these changes seemed all to the good. The ebbing of superpower tensions was removing long-standing threats to American interests and raising the possibility that the Cold War would soon end decisively, on U.S. terms. “Containment is being vindicated,” an early classified directive signed by Bush stated, “as the peoples of the world reject the outmoded dogma of Marxism-Leninism in a search for prosperity and freedom.”[25] Looking beyond superpower relations, the rapid spread of democracy and free markets over the previous decade had rendered the international environment more reflective of U.S. values and created openings to advance American security and influence. In the coming years, Robert Zoellick, then State Department counselor, wrote in 1989, “we must concentrate on building a new age of peace, democracy, and economic liberty.”[26] Bush himself asked in a major speech in May of that year:
What is it we want to see? It is a growing community of democracies anchoring international peace and stability, and a dynamic free-market system generating prosperity and progress on a global scale.[27]
At the same time, administration officials also argued that Washington must remain vigilant. In early 1989, Bush and his national security adviser, Scowcroft, were particularly concerned that positive changes in Soviet policy under Mikhail Gorbachev might ultimately be reversed, confronting Washington with a revived challenge. Bush wrote in an early study directive on U.S. defense policy:
It would be reckless to dismantle our military strength and the policies that have helped to make the world less dangerous and foolish to assume that all dangers have disappeared or that any apparent diminution is irreversible.”[28]
Looking beyond the Soviet Union, there were other potential threats. “Security threats were not invented by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney said, “and threats will remain long after that party’s gone out of business.”[29] Studies commissioned by the Defense Department in the late 1980s emphasized the potential proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the eruption of crises and wars in the Middle East or South Asia, the growth of international terrorism and drug trafficking, and even resurgent economic or political frictions in Europe and East Asia.[30] If anything, the breakdown of bipolarity might encourage such disorder by removing the geopolitical constraints that had long structured world politics. As Peter Rodman, counselor to the National Security Council, put it in a background briefing for reporters in early 1990, “We see a new era of uncertainties, new possible sources of instability, new concerns.”[31] If allowed to fester, these concerns might eventually grow into first-order security challenges in their own right. From the earliest months of the Bush administration, there was thus a consensus that reduced Cold War tensions did not imply a dramatic U.S. retrenchment. In January 1989, Secretary of State James Baker reminded a Cabinet meeting that the “U.S. is both an Atlantic and Pacific power with allies in both regions.”[32] In July, Bush privately reassured the South Korean defense minister that “the U.S. will continue to be a Pacific power with many friends in the region.”[33] Similarly, he made clear that whatever changes occurred in Europe, the United States would remain strategically and militarily engaged so as to discourage a resurgence of historical tensions. “West European countries see the U.S. presence as stabilizing,” Bush explained in a conversation with Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia. “Our view…is that we shouldn’t withdraw and declare peace.”[34] The end of the Cold War might mark a radical break with the past, U.S. officials believed, but it should not usher in radical change in U.S. grand strategy. Rather, Washington should essentially double down on its successful postwar initiatives — the maintenance of alliances and favorable geopolitical balances in key regions, the commitment to playing a leadership role in key international institutions, the efforts to shape a global environment ideologically and economically congenial to the United States — in the more favorable climate that was emerging. These themes were ubiquitous as the administration initiated more systematic planning for post-Cold War strategy. Bush’s first National Security Strategy was drafted by Scowcroft’s staff in late 1989 and early 1990. It represented the administration’s first opportunity to offer a comprehensive assessment of America’s role in a rapidly evolving world, and it was written as the administration grappled with momentous changes in the Soviet bloc. Unsurprisingly, then, the report dealt at length with those changes, arguing that they vindicated the containment strategy pursued since the late 1940s. Yet the National Security Strategy also looked past the Cold War, arguing that America must “help shape a new era, one that moves beyond containment and that will take us into the next century.” Change — “breath-taking in its character, dimension, and pace” — was certain and the United States was likely to confront a range of emerging or resurgent threats. But U.S. global interests were enduring and so Washington would sustain its core alliances and forward military deployments in Europe and East Asia, and it would encourage the further spread of democracy and markets, while also taking the lead in addressing new sources of international tension. “The pivotal responsibility for ensuring the stability of the international balance remains ours,” the National Security Strategy affirmed, “even as its requirements change in a new era.”[35] The counterpart to the National Security Strategy was a major defense review carried out from 1989 to 1990, largely under the leadership of Gen. Colin Powell, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The need for such an exercise was obvious as the easing of superpower tensions exerted downward pressure on the defense budget. “We know it will get smaller,” said Powell. “That is inevitable.”[36] Bush himself argued to resist efforts to “naively cut the muscle out of our defense posture,” but as early as by late 1989 Cheney was conceding that the administration might have to cut as much as $180 billion (out of a total defense budget of roughly $300 billion) over a period of six years.[37] The task, then, was to fashion a new defense concept that could reconcile the realities of coming budget cuts with the enduring requirements of global stability and American influence. “Our challenges,” the 1990 National Security Strategy explained, were to adapt America’s military strength “to a grand strategy that looks beyond containment, and to ensure that our military power, and that of our allies and friends, is appropriate to the new and more complex opportunities and challenges before us.”[38] [quote id="2"] The result of this process — which emerged after significant bureaucratic and inter-service wrangling — was the “Base Force” concept for sizing the U.S. military. The Base Force accepted non-trivial reductions in U.S. military power, envisioning eventual cuts of approximately 25 percent in personnel levels, reductions in carrier battle groups and other power-projection tools, and withdrawal of portions of the American contingent in Europe. Yet as Pentagon officials stressed, unchallenged U.S. military power underwrote global security commitments, dampened long-standing rivalries in key regions, and gave Washington immense diplomatic leverage. Moreover, while there was now less chance of war with Moscow, the potential for conflict remained in the Korean Peninsula; the Persian Gulf; and even Central America, where U.S. forces had recently toppled Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. The Base Force thus preserved large-scale overseas deployments in Europe and East Asia; maintained the critical air, naval, and logistical capabilities necessary to dominate the global commons and project power overseas; and preserved intensive research and development efforts to sustain America’s military-technological edge, particularly at the higher ends of the conventional spectrum.[39] “America must possess forces able to respond to threats in whatever corner of the globe they may occur,” Bush said in unveiling the Base Force concept in 1990; it must “protect the gains that 40 years of peace through strength have earned us.”[40] The logic of the Base Force prefigured a great deal of post-Cold War strategic thinking. Its key architects — Powell, Lt. Gen. Lee Butler, and others — rooted their recommendations in the idea that the declining Soviet danger might simply be replaced by the “rise of new hegemonic powers” in regions of strategic importance. They believed that “the United States was the only power with the capacity to manage the major forces at work in the world.” And so they concluded that a high degree of military dominance was critical to preserving the international stability and geopolitical gains offered by the end of the Cold War. In fact, the “Base Force” label was meant to make clear that there was a minimum level of military primacy below which America “dare not go” (as Powell put it) if it were to maintain and expand the stable, liberalizing international order that Washington had built in the West after World War II. “What we plan for,” Powell subsequently explained of the strategy, “is that we’re a superpower. We are the major player on the world stage with responsibilities around the world, with interests around the world.” All of these ideas would figure prominently in subsequent Pentagon planning efforts under Bush and later.[41] Early in Bush’s presidency, then, there was broad internal agreement that America would continue to act as guarantor and stabilizer of the international system. It would encourage favorable trends, hold back threatening ones, and keep the unequaled hard power necessary to do so effectively. This mind-set would influence how the administration approached key crises in 1989-1990. Those crises, in turn, would sharpen official views on America’s global role.

The Collapse of the Bloc and German Reunification

The first such crisis involved the collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe and the redrawing of the region’s political map. This crisis began in mid-1989, with the accelerating breakdown of the Communist regimes, and intensified with the opening of the Berlin Wall in November. That event raised the prospect of German reunification, which then proceeded via an internal track made up of rapidly increasing ties between the two German states, and an external track of multilateral diplomacy primarily involving the United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union. By the fall of 1990, Germany was reunified within NATO, and the Warsaw Pact was disintegrating as countries throughout Eastern Europe initiated democratic and free-market reforms and requested withdrawal of Soviet troops. In roughly a year, the bipolar order in Europe had been transformed.[42] U.S. policy played little role in initiating those transformations. Bush admitted to Gorbachev in December 1989, “We were shocked by the swiftness of the changes that unfolded.”[43] As events raced ahead, however, the administration became deeply engaged, endorsing and actively pushing for German reunification under Western auspices. “No approach on our part toward Germany is without risk,” Scowcroft wrote in a memo to Bush, “but at this point the most dangerous course of all for the United States may be to allow others to set the shape and character of a united Germany and or the future structure of European security.”[44] By mid-1990 and after, the administration was even considering eventual expansion of NATO further into the former Warsaw Pact area to discourage post-Cold War instability and foster political and economic reform.[45] Existing scholarship has explored the contours of U.S. policy on these issues.[46] More salient here is that events in Europe in 1989 and 1990 powerfully interacted with the main currents in American thinking about the post-Cold War world. In one sense, the breakdown of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe provided a breathtaking demonstration of just how immense the possibilities might be in this emerging era. “We were witnessing the sorts of changes usually only imposed by victors at the end of a major war,” Scowcroft later wrote in his memoir. Reunification on Western terms, he had observed contemporaneously, in November 1989, would “rip the heart out of the Soviet security system” in Eastern Europe and mark a “fundamental shift in the strategic balance.”[47] Moreover, the transitions underway in Eastern Europe were underscoring the possibility for further advances by free markets and free political systems. “We are witnessing the transformation of almost every state in Eastern Europe into more democratic societies, dominated by pluralistic political systems matched to decentralized economies,” Scowcroft wrote in a memo to the president.[48] This prospect was a principal driver of U.S. policy in 1989 and 1990. U.S. officials studiously engaged Moscow in the multilateral diplomacy surrounding reunification, and they carefully avoided humiliating Gorbachev over the catastrophic retreat of Soviet influence. Privately, however, Bush and Scowcroft intended to exploit U.S. strength and Soviet weakness to remake the European order on American terms. “The Soviets are not in a position to dictate Germany’s relationship with NATO,” Bush said at a meeting with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in early 1990. “To hell with that. We prevailed and they didn’t.”[49] Accordingly, the administration encouraged Kohl to move briskly toward reunification, while also pressing Moscow to accept reunification within NATO and decisively rejecting Soviet proposed alternatives such as a neutralized Germany. As they did so, American officials treated Gorbachev with great respect in their bilateral dealings, and Bush and Kohl arranged for concessions — especially German financial assistance to Moscow — to ensure Soviet acquiescence. Yet the guiding assumption remained that Washington and its allies must move decisively to lock in epochal changes. “There is so much change in Eastern Europe,” Bush said in January 1990. “We should seize the opportunity to make things better for the world.”[50] [quote id="3"] The process of German reunification thus offered tantalizing opportunities to ensure American dominance in post-Cold War Europe. At the same time, that process also reinforced the idea that such strategic assertiveness was necessary to manage emerging dangers. Reunification was deeply worrying to Poland, France, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, which feared that a united Germany might once again dominate Europe. As NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner privately warned Bush as the diplomacy surrounding reunification heated up, “The Old Pandora’s box of competition and rivalry in Europe” might be reopened.[51] More broadly, there were widespread fears that the collapse of Soviet authority in Eastern Europe could unleash ethnic violence or resurgent nationalist rivalries within that region. “The outlines of ancient European antagonisms are already beginning to emerge,” Scowcroft wrote in late 1989. A “power vacuum is developing” as Soviet influence receded.[52] For the Bush administration, these concerns powerfully underscored the need not to retract U.S. influence but to maintain and expand it. By this logic, keeping a reunified Germany within NATO would preclude resurgent instability by tying the new German state to the West and thereby eliminating the competitive security dynamics that might otherwise emerge. As Baker warned, “Unless we find a way to truly anchor Germany in European institutions we will sow the seeds for history to repeat itself.”[53] Moreover, integrating a reunified Germany into NATO would ensure that the alliance remained relevant after the Cold War, thereby also ensuring a continued role for U.S. power in Europe. The alternatives, Scowcroft warned Bush in a key memorandum, were dangerous: “Twentieth century history gives no encouragement to those who believe the Europeans can achieve and sustain this balance of power and keep the peace without the United States.”[54] From late 1989 onward, this perspective propelled efforts not simply to bring a reunified Germany into NATO but also to adapt that alliance to preserve its utility after the Cold War. Amid German reunification, the Bush administration secured alliance reforms meant to make a strong and vibrant NATO more acceptable to a retreating Soviet Union. The alliance adjusted its force posture to take account of the decreasing Soviet threat, deemphasized the role of nuclear weapons, and stressed NATO’s political (as opposed to strictly military) functions. Likewise, the administration took steps to accommodate European desires for greater influence over their own security affairs in the post-Cold War era, while reaffirming NATO’s primacy on European defense. “Our essential goal,” noted one administration strategy memo from 1990, was “a viable NATO that is the foundation for Atlantic cooperation on political and security concerns and maintains the position of the United States as a European power.[55] What made this goal achievable was that there was widespread European support for a strong and perhaps expanded U.S. role. Although the French did seek a more independent European security identity as the Cold War ended, neither they nor any other ally sought the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Europe. As British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd would say in 1990, “European security without the United States simply does not make sense.”[56] Even the Soviets and their erstwhile allies agreed. Although he initially resisted German reunification within NATO (and Moscow would later object to NATO expansion during the 1990s and after), Gorbachev ultimately concluded that a united Germany tied to Washington was preferable to an independent, neutral Germany. “The presence of American troops can play a containing role,” Gorbachev acknowledged in a conversation with Baker.[57] And as early as the spring of 1990, Warsaw Pact countries such as Poland and Hungary were inquiring about eventual NATO membership as a guarantee of their own security.[58] The United States did not immediately undertake NATO expansion in the early 1990s, largely for fear of antagonizing Moscow at a time when Soviet troops had yet to be fully withdrawn from Eastern Europe, and because U.S. officials had yet to study or debate the issue in sufficient detail to reach internal consensus.[59] But even in 1990 and 1991, the Bush administration was tentatively taking exploratory steps, such as extending NATO military liaison relationships to the bloc countries, and the basic geopolitical logic of expansion was starting to take hold. The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the State Department Policy Planning Staff believed, as the National Security Council’s director for European security affairs, Philip Zelikow, put it in October 1990, that it was important “to keep the door ajar and not give the East Europeans the impression that NATO is forever a closed club.”[60] Internal documents argued that expansion would help avoid nationalist frictions and security dilemmas in Eastern Europe. Moreover, as one State Department official subsequently wrote in 1992,
Democratization and economic development have a better chance of succeeding if national security concerns in the Eastern democracies were reduced by credible, multilateral security guarantees.[61]
In several respects, then, the European crisis of 1989 to 1990 underscored and helped to clarify key elements of Bush administration thinking. This episode reinforced the idea that U.S. ascendancy and the weakening of traditional rivals had created a moment of transition in which Washington could act decisively to achieve lasting structural changes. It affirmed the notion that American influence and U.S.-led institutions could serve a critical stabilizing purpose amid geopolitical uncertainty. Finally, this episode offered evidence for the idea that insofar as U.S. power promoted stability in the international system, its maintenance and even expansion after the Cold War might be more welcomed than resisted. Many of these ideas would soon reappear in the American reaction to a second major international crisis.

The Persian Gulf Crisis and War

The Persian Gulf crisis and war of 1990 to 1991 followed hard upon German reunification. It had an equally pronounced impact on U.S. views of the post-Cold War order. On Aug. 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait in a bid to bring that oil-rich kingdom under Iraqi control and thereby redress the Baathist regime’s desperate financial and domestic plight. The United States, however, promptly spearheaded a decisive response. The Bush administration mobilized a diverse diplomatic coalition against Iraq while also coordinating a multinational military deployment used first to protect Saudi Arabia and then to evict Saddam from Kuwait. Washington would ultimately deploy nearly 550,000 personnel, 2,000 tanks, 1,990 aircraft, and 100 warships to the Persian Gulf. Its coalition partners would contribute 270,000 troops, 66 warships, 750 combat aircraft, and 1,100 tanks. When, after several months of military preparations and crisis diplomacy, Saddam refused to withdraw, the U.S.-led coalition prosecuted a brief but punishing war to force him out. That conflict did not ultimately oust Saddam from power, as some U.S. officials had hoped, but it did liberate Kuwait and leave Iraq far weaker and more isolated than before.[62] If German reunification primarily demonstrated the opportunities of the new era, the Gulf crisis primarily highlighted the dangers. Most immediately, Saddam’s invasion threatened the security of critical Gulf oil supplies. It also highlighted larger post-Cold War perils. The crisis showed, as Bush noted in a speech on Aug. 2, that “threats…can arise suddenly, unpredictably, and from unexpected quarters.”[63] More specifically, the invasion raised the prospect that aggressive dictatorships, armed with unconventional weapons, might exploit the fluidity of the post-Cold War world to make bold plays for hegemony in crucial regions. Saddam “has clearly done what he has to do to dominate OPEC, the Gulf and the Arab world,” Cheney said at a National Security Council meeting on Aug. 3.[64] This fear of incipient chaos and destabilizing aggression pushed U.S. officials toward a strong response. “This is the first test of the post [-Cold] war system,” Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger commented. “If [Saddam] succeeds, others may try the same thing. It would be a bad lesson.”[65] As early as Aug. 2, Bush framed the crisis as an illustration of why the United States needed to maintain globe-spanning military power, capable of “rapid response” to crises.[66] Similarly, officials continually reiterated that U.S. engagement was essential to ensuring that the end of bipolarity ushered in something better and not something worse. “We did not stand united for forty years to bring the Cold War to a peaceful end in order to make the world safe for the likes of Saddam Hussein,” Baker said in late 1990. America should defend the position of strategic advantage that its Cold War victory had enabled.[67] The Gulf crisis further affirmed that belief by revealing, far more starkly than before, that only Washington could play the crucial stabilizing role. For all the talk during the 1980s about the economic rise of Japan and Germany, when the Gulf crisis broke only America was uniquely capable of spearheading a decisive multilateral response. U.S. diplomacy was central to mobilizing the Gulf War coalition by providing subsidies for key members such as Egypt, offering diplomatic cover to vulnerable participants, and persuading reluctant actors such as the Soviet Union and China not to stand in the way.[68] U.S. power was even more central in the military arena: No other country had the forces necessary to confront Saddam in his own backyard. “It’s only the United States that can lead,” Bush noted in his diary in September. “All countries in the West clearly have to turn to us.”[69] What the Gulf crisis equally demonstrated was robust global demand for such U.S. leadership. Twenty-seven nations ultimately provided military forces for the coalition effort. Coalition partners also provided $53.8 billion in monetary support and in-kind contributions, nearly covering the total U.S. bill of $61.1 billion.[70] This historic multilateral support for U.S. policy was partially a function of easing Cold War gridlock in the U.N. Security Council and partially reflected the heinous nature of Saddam’s aggression. Yet it also showed that the energetic use of U.S. power was widely seen as vital to upholding stability and safeguarding public goods such as global oil flows in the post-Cold War era. “We are protecting their interest as well as ours,” one administration memo explained, “and it is only fair that they share the burden.”[71] Foreign officials acknowledged this dynamic. “The Japanese people, in the last 45 years, have been used to peace provided by you,” Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki told Bush at a meeting in September 1990. The Gulf crisis showed that this reliance had hardly ended.[72] [quote id="4"] The realization that Washington had a chance to establish a model of assertive but consensual primacy was at the forefront of U.S. policy in the Gulf crisis. The administration’s multilateralism and talk of a “New World Order” sometimes gave the impression that Bush believed that the United Nations would be the primary provider of international security in the 1990s.[73] Yet in reality, that multilateralism rested on a growing belief that the end of the Cold War was making it possible to gain broader international support — including through institutions such as the United Nations — for energetic American leadership in pursuit of both U.S. interests and global security. As Bush and Scowcroft later acknowledged, their diplomacy was meant to give “a cloak of acceptability to our efforts and mobilize world opinion behind the principles we wished to project.” Scowcroft expanded on this idea. “The United States henceforth would be obligated to lead the world community to an unprecedented degree,” he wrote. It should therefore “pursue our national interest, wherever possible, within a framework of concert with our friends and the international community.”[74] This concept of enlightened American primacy would soon reappear in the DPG and other administration planning documents. In the meantime, the war underscored just how pronounced that primacy was. Saddam’s roughly million-man army was eviscerated by U.S. forces, which had built advanced, high-tech weapons and capabilities for use against the Soviets in Central Europe and were now deploying them against a weaker regional adversary. In particular, the Gulf War showcased American dominance in high-intensity conventional conflict, made possible by unparalleled strengths in capabilities ranging from precision-guided munitions to infra-red technology. It further demonstrated how the training and doctrinal reforms made since Vietnam had allowed U.S. forces to utilize these capabilities with astonishing lethality. As one postwar assessment noted, Operation Desert Storm revealed that America had achieved “a revolutionary advance in military capability.”[75] Combined with the fact that the Soviet Union, consumed by internal turmoil, had largely been left on the sidelines, the result was to display just how significant the emerging post-Cold War power disparity was between Washington and any potential rival. “The U.S. clearly emerges from all of this as the one real superpower in the world,” Cheney observed in April 1991.[76] Ironically, this military dominance did not secure quite the result U.S. officials had sought, as Saddam Hussein survived the war in power, with a much-reduced but still-threatening military. The Bush administration declined the opportunity to double down on operational success by pursuing Saddam’s forces to Baghdad or otherwise explicitly seeking regime change. In part, this was because the administration hoped — and had, from intelligence sources, some reason to believe — that the historic drubbing Saddam had suffered would cause the Iraqi military to overthrow him. “We genuinely believed…that the magnitude of the defeat was so overwhelming that the army would take out Saddam when the war was over,” Robert Gates, Bush’s deputy national security adviser, later recalled.[77] Bush also mistakenly believed, as he told French officials at the time, that Saddam’s “armor was so decimated that they no longer constitute a military threat to their neighbors.”[78] Yet from a broader perspective, this restraint owed to the fact that an administration fully committed to perpetuating American leadership in the post-Cold War era was also wary of going too far. Bush did not want to fragment the Gulf War coalition by exceeding its U.N. mandate. He and his advisers also worried that ridding Iraq of Saddam might require a full-scale military occupation for which there were no existing plans. “We do not want to screw this up with a sloppy, muddled ending,” Bush said.[79] This restraint was later criticized, for contrary to what Bush and his commanders had expected, a significant portion of Saddam’s forces — including elite Republican Guard divisions and Iraqi armor — had escaped destruction. Moreover, the war was followed not by a Sunni military coup but by Shia and Kurdish uprisings that caused Saddam’s generals to rally around him as the only figure who could preserve a unified Iraq.[80] The Bush administration declined to intervene in this bloody civil war, fearful that doing so might fracture the Iraqi state and bring Iranian-backed Shia groups to dominance. The concern, one State Department adviser recalled, was that “this was going to create a new Lebanon.”[81] As a result, Saddam clung to power and remained capable of threatening the Gulf. “Even in its presently weakened state,” Assistant Secretary of Defense Henry Rowen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee several months after the conflict, “Iraq is still much stronger than any of its neighbors to the south.”[82] In fairness to Bush — and in light of later U.S. experience invading and occupying Iraq — prudence may still have been the better part of wisdom in 1991. In any event, the somewhat muddled outcome of the Persian Gulf War simply increased the tendency to expand U.S. activism after the Cold War. In particular, it ensured that Washington would retain a sizable military presence in the Gulf — where it had previously relied on a light-footprint, “over the horizon” approach — as a way of keeping Saddam’s regime contained. “Saddam Hussein is sanctioned forever,” Bush told European officials in April 1991.[83] And in general, the Gulf War further set the stage for an ambitious post-Cold War strategy. The imperative of unmatched U.S. military power; the need for decisive action to head off emergent upheaval; the sense that there was no good alternative to American leadership; the evidence that leadership employed for the collective good could enjoy broad international acceptance: All of these components of the administration’s strategic paradigm gained strong support from the crisis. As administration officials subsequently attempted a more systematic expression of post-Cold War policy, they would draw heavily on this mind-set.

To the Defense Planning Guidance

Official thinking about such a policy statement occurred in the context of two key developments in 1991 and 1992. The first was the terminal decline of the Soviet Union. As scholars have noted, the administration’s policy toward Moscow in 1991 was often hedged and tentative, in part because of internal disagreements between the State and Defense Departments. Partially as a result, U.S. policy played only a marginal role in the Soviet disintegration.[84] Yet that disintegration further clarified America’s global position. America’s long-standing competitor had collapsed and Washington was now without military or ideological peers. “We were suddenly in a unique position,” Scowcroft later wrote, “without experience, without precedent, and standing alone at the height of power.”[85] The need to articulate a strategy for this new situation took on greater salience. That imperative was strengthened by issues at home. The Gulf War had, in many ways, shown the value of U.S. military dominance. Yet as the Soviet Union unraveled, calls for a post-Cold War peace dividend intensified; many observers, including most candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, advocated cuts significantly beyond what the Base Force envisioned. Clinton advocated cutting military spending by one-third over five years. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown advocated a 50 percent cut over the same period; Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa called for 50 percent cuts over ten years.[86] In these circumstances, it seemed essential to identify a persuasive paradigm for global engagement after the passing of the Soviet threat. That task fell to the Pentagon — particularly Wolfowitz’s Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy — which attempted to offer a coherent statement of American purpose in its classified Defense Planning Guidance. Wolfowitz’s staff took the drafting of the report as an opportunity to assess the “fundamentally new situation” in global affairs and to “set the nation’s direction for the next century.”[87] Preparatory work began as early as mid-1991 and, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Wolfowitz’s staff (led by adviser Zalmay Khalilzad) drew up a nearly final version by mid-February 1992.[88] The strategic vision conveyed by the DPG was based on an unvarnished reading of global power dynamics. With the “collapse of the Soviet Union,” “the discrediting of Communism as an ideology with global pretensions and influence,” and the success of American arms in the Gulf, the United States had established an enviable power position. Moreover, the United States led a “system of collective security and…democratic ‘zone of peace’” that bound the developed West tightly to it. All this amounted to what Cheney publicly described as unprecedented “strategic depth” — a dearth of existential threats, combined with tremendous leeway and influence in shaping global events.[89] The core aim of U.S. strategy, then, should be to extend this situation well into the future. As the DPG stated:
Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival…that poses a threat on the order of that formerly posed by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration…and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.
Washington must therefore prevent any adversary from commanding Europe, East Asia, or the Persian Gulf; it should prevent a new hostile superpower from reasserting control over the territory of the former Soviet Union. The goal, in other words, was to avoid a return to bipolarity or multipolarity, and to lock in a U.S.-led unipolar order.[90] The United States should also seek to sustain and even improve this unipolar order by thwarting other emerging threats and further transforming global politics to American advantage. According to the DPG, America would “limit international violence” by confronting dangers such as regional conflict, international terrorism, and the proliferation of nuclear arms as well as other advanced weapons. It would also make the international environment still more congenial by advancing “the spread of democratic forms of government and open economic systems,” particularly in key regions such as the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The Kremlin had “achieved global reach and power” because a totalitarian regime had consolidated control of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Preventing another such threat from arising entailed extending the “democratic zone of peace” into the former Soviet empire and beyond.[91] The DPG was a Pentagon document, but it was not blind to the fact that achieving these ambitious goals would require more than military power. Proactive diplomacy and economic statecraft would be essential to promoting democracy and markets, countering terrorism, and impeding proliferation. Most important, maintaining American primacy would require convincing other leading nations to support rather than oppose it. As Khalilzad wrote,
We must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order.
The United States should thus promote a positive-sum global economy that would help other countries prosper. It should provide international security, leadership in addressing critical challenges, and other common goods that would persuade key second-tier nations to welcome American preeminence. In essence, the DPG made a version of the argument that would later gain currency among international-relations scholars: that unipolarity need not invite concerted counterbalancing so long as Washington used its power to support a benign and broadly beneficial global system.[92] The DPG, then, was a more nuanced document than some critics later claimed. Yet there was no mistaking another core message: that unrivaled American military might was the hard-power backbone of the post-Cold War order. U.S. force deployments and alliance commitments provided stability and influence in key regions from East Asia to Europe to the Persian Gulf; the DPG even raised the prospect of extending security guarantees to former members of the Soviet bloc. American military dominance fostered a peaceful international environment in which open markets and open political systems could prosper; it would also dissuade potential rivals from seeking to challenge American leadership. “We must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role,” the DPG stated. Finally, given the enduring uncertainty of global affairs, unrivaled military primacy would provide the ability to address emerging threats and dangers before they fundamentally disrupted the post-Cold War system. America would not be “righting every wrong,” the document stated, but:
We will retain the preeminent responsibility for addressing selectively those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends, or which could seriously unsettle international relations.[93]
To be clear, the DPG did not advocate unrestrained interventionism, for such a view would have been badly out of step with the instincts of key administration leaders. Bush had declined to intervene militarily amid the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in mid-1991, on grounds that there was no vital U.S. interest at stake. “We don’t want to put a dog in this fight,” he wrote in his diary.[94] Similarly, Cheney and Wolfowitz had long understood that any perception that Washington was going about in search of monsters to destroy would drain public support for an assertive post-Cold War policy. “One of the reasons the [Gulf] operation was so successful was that its purposes were very clear and it had public support,” Wolfowitz had commented in 1991. “That doesn’t translate into a blank check to go around the world using force.” Powell, for his part, had argued that same year that America should use force only in cases where U.S. forces could win decisively and then exit the scene, avoiding the sort of open-ended, indecisive missions that had led to such a fierce domestic backlash in Vietnam. “If…military force regrettably turns out to be” necessary, he said, “I think it should be used in a decisive way.”[95] Both halves of the DPG’s formulation regarding the role of American military power were thus important. “The world order,” the document stated forthrightly, “is ultimately backed by the U.S.”[96] But preserving domestic support for such a strategy required avoiding unnecessary interventions and using American power selectively. So how much military power was required to pursue the DPG strategy? The document was somewhat fuzzy regarding specifics, but it left no uncertainty that Washington needed a superiority that was not just unmatched but unrivaled. An initial draft of the document, from September 1991, had stated that “U.S. forces must continue to be at least a generation ahead.”[97] The February 1992 version emphasized the imperative of winning decisively in confrontations with Saddam-like challengers — who might be armed with nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction — as well as the role of vast technological superiority in upholding deterrence. Furthermore, the document affirmed that the United States would act on a multilateral basis when possible but that it must be able “to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated or when an immediate response is…necessary.”[98] In its totality, the DPG expressed a strikingly ambitious vision for American strategy. Yet it was nonetheless basically aligned with the Bush administration’s broader perspective as expressed to date. So many core themes of the document — the promotion of democracy and market economics, the need for globe-spanning and preponderant military power, the idea that Washington could pursue an enlightened sort of leadership that would invite support rather than opposition — were reiterations or refinements of earlier ideas. Nor was the idea of precluding the rise of a new hostile superpower particularly novel. It drew on the same logic that had impelled Bush to prevent Saddam from dominating the Persian Gulf, and thereby amassing dangerous levels of geopolitical power, and the basic concept of using the Cold War’s end to lock in a more favorable international order. (It also drew on an older U.S. strategic concept, dating to World War II, of preventing rivals from controlling key regions of the world.[99]) In effect, the DPG drew together the administration’s core post-Cold War concepts and linked them to a more explicit overall ambition of preserving U.S. international supremacy. It was not a sharp break with the administration’s strategic thinking; it can more properly be seen as the culmination thereof. [quote id="5"] Yet the February 1992 DPG was also still a draft document, and for a time it appeared to be dead on arrival. Late that month the document leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post. Reacting to the DPG’s more striking language and ideas — which were emphasized in the media reporting — critics lambasted the Pentagon’s blueprint. Biden declared that “what these Pentagon planners are laying out is nothing but a Pax Americana.”[100] Sen. Alan Cranston memorably accused the administration of seeking to make America “the one, the only main honcho on the world block, the global Big Enchilada.”[101] The Washington Post editorial board lamented the DPG’s “muscle-flexing unilateralism” as a rejection of Gulf War-era multilateralism.[102] Sen. Edward Kennedy charged that the DPG “aimed primarily at finding new ways to justify Cold War levels of military spending.”[103] Other observers noted that the DPG seemed focused on stymieing the rise not only of American adversaries but also of traditional allies such as Germany and Japan and non-hostile powers such as India.[104] Blindsided by the leak and subsequent chorus of boos, the Bush administration wavered. National Security Council talking points encouraged Bush to play down the DPG in an upcoming meeting with German officials. “Kohl may express displeasure about the leaked Pentagon paper suggesting that the U.S. wants to block the rise of any new superpower, including German-led Europe,” NSC officials wrote in March 1992. “You should explain that we want to see a stronger, more united Europe.”[105] In public, Bush explained that he had not formally approved — or even read — Khalilzad’s draft. Cheney and Wolfowitz subsequently called upon a top Pentagon aide, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, to rewrite the February 1992 draft. The redraft toned down the language of the earlier version while also playing up the importance of alliance relationships and multilateralism. By May, leading newspapers were reporting that the administration had pulled back from its radical vision. “Pentagon Drops Goal of Blocking New Superpowers,” the New York Times proclaimed.[106] The reality, however, was different. The DPG was not, after all, some great substantive departure from administration views on post-Cold War strategy. As noted earlier, many of the key military concepts expressed in the document — the imperative of maintaining military primacy based on high-end technological superiority and the need to head off the emergence of new regional hegemons — had played key roles in the development of the Base Force. Similarly, a document finalized by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in January 1992 significantly foreshadowed the DPG, arguing that America must “preserve a credible capability to forestall any potential adversary from competing militarily with the United States.”[107] During early 1992, moreover, Powell and Cheney had publicly advocated some of the core themes of the DPG in speeches and congressional testimony. “We are…the world’s sole remaining superpower,” Powell had said. “Seldom in our history have we been in a stronger position relative to any challengers we might face. This is a position we should not abandon.”[108] These views were not held solely by Pentagon officials. The president himself largely kept quiet about the DPG in public. But Bush did nonetheless convey that he “was broadly supportive of the thrust of the Pentagon document” once he learned of it following the leaks, one reporter noted in March, and his private statements confirm this assessment. “We must remain the active leader of the entire world,” he wrote in a note to White House aides that month. “We must not only have the convictions about democracy and freedom, but we must have a strong National Defense posture.”[109] As discussed subsequently, Bush would also strongly endorse many key tenets of the report in his final National Security Strategy. Likewise, at the State Department, James Baker implicitly affirmed other aspects of the DPG. He noted in early April that although multilateralism would always be the first preference, America would never relinquish the right to act unilaterally when necessary. “We can hardly entrust the future of democracy or American interests exclusively to multilateral institutions,” he said.[110] This is not to say that there was no internal debate or controversy over the DPG. State Department officials — still smarting from intense internal debates over how to handle the breakup of the Soviet Union — offered some anonymous critiques of the DPG, terming the language overblown and counterproductive to the goal of maintaining positive relationships with rising powers such as India.[111] The DPG also leaned further forward than some U.S. officials would have liked with respect to the potential future expansion of NATO. At the NSC, Scowcroft, a stickler for good process, was displeased that the document had leaked and that the debate had played out publicly as opposed to privately. Similarly, Bush and those around him understood that the muscular language of the document was likely to cause political problems for leaders of allied countries, such as Germany and Japan, that the DPG seemed to identify as potential future competitors. “I know the leak of this draft Pentagon report didn’t help,” read Bush’s suggested talking points for the aforementioned meeting with Kohl.[112] Finally, administration higher-ups were clearly nonplussed that the rhetoric of the DPG occasionally seemed to undercut the emphasis on multilateralism that had characterized U.S. policy during the Gulf War. The administration had always recognized that such multilateralism was both dependent on, and a means of advancing, American leadership. But the DPG’s blunt advocacy of preserving American primacy seemed likely to dispel the warm feelings Washington had earned through its reliance on the U.N. Security Council during the Gulf crisis, and to present the image of a superpower determined to maintain hegemony for its own narrow purposes. This was presumably why Scowcroft termed the DPG “arrogant” (as he later put it) and likely to cause diplomatic headaches.[113] Yet these concerns pertained mainly to language, process, and atmospherics, and not to core strategic content. Put differently, it would have been hard to identify any leading officials who did not think that the United States should maintain unrivaled military capabilities, favorable power balances in key regions, and a global network of security alliances, while also working to promote a stable international environment in which democracy and markets were prevalent and U.S. influence was unsurpassed. Scowcroft, for instance, may have criticized the DPG after the fact (and after the Iraq War of 2003 had soured his relationship with Cheney), but at the time his NSC staff does not seem to have objected to the basic ideas — as distinct from the language — conveyed in the report. Indeed, when a revised version of the document — which was substantively quite similar — was subsequently submitted for clearance, the White House approved it with only minor edits.[114] And though State Department officials would later offer, in an end-of-administration review, a vision of post-Cold War policy that placed greater emphasis on international economics and other non-military challenges (as was appropriate in a State Department document), the core premises of the analysis were not dramatically different from those of the DPG. One collection of State Department papers noted, for instance, that “for the first time in fifty years we do not face a global military adversary” and stressed the remarkably advantageous nature of that situation. It spoke of the need to prevent proliferation of WMD to authoritarian regimes, for “such a development would dramatically destabilize important parts of the world, and could even threaten the physical security of the United States.” It stressed the importance of promoting free markets and free political institutions. Above all, it argued that no one else could lead in these tasks:
The bottom line is that in this time of uncertainty, the United States has a unique role to play — as a provider of reassurance and architect of new security arrangements; as an aggressive proponent of economic openness; as an exemplar and advocate of democratic values; as a builder and leader of coalitions to deal with the problems of a chaotic post-Cold War world.[115]
In sum, there was far more consensus than debate about the basic merits of the strategy described in the DPG.[116] As all this indicates, efforts — whether at the time or later — to sharply distinguish between the primacist strategy embodied by the DPG and the liberal internationalist approach favored by other observers rest on a false dichotomy. For the DPG did advance a strategy of liberal internationalism. It emphasized maintaining U.S. leadership of alliances and other institutions, promoting liberal norms, and fostering an open and inclusive international order, in part by ensuring that America retained the preponderant military power and strategic influence needed to accomplish these goals. In the same way, the State Department papers just referenced recognized that American leadership and power were essential components of promoting a cooperative, stable international environment, just as Bush and Scowcroft had recognized during the Gulf War that any “New World Order” would ultimately have to rest on the unrivaled might and unequaled exertions of the United States. The Bush administration recognized, in other words, what some scholars would subsequently become prone to ignoring — that liberal internationalism and U.S. hegemonic leadership were two sides of the same coin.[117] Yet if all this is true, then what caused the public blowup when the DPG was leaked? Much of that furor stemmed from the same factors that had caused insiders some discomfort. Because the administration had used such high-flown multilateral rhetoric during the Persian Gulf War — albeit as a way of asserting American leadership — the DPG’s unembarrassed support for U.S. geopolitical superiority was unavoidably jarring to many outside observers. “I was a little surprised somebody would put this kind of thing down on paper,” the diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis told a reporter.[118] The political context simply fanned the flames. On the right, the DPG landed in the middle of a surprisingly competitive Republican presidential primary, in which Buchanan was calling for geopolitical retrenchment and a more narrowly nationalistic approach to foreign affairs.[119] The leak of the DPG also occurred amid heated debates about military spending levels and as Democratic presidential candidates sought to outdo each other in their critique of Bush’s foreign policy. It was hardly a coincidence that key players in these debates were among the harshest critics of the DPG. Paul Tsongas publicly blasted the administration for ignoring the United Nations; Clinton’s deputy campaign manager, George Stephanopoulos, labeled the DPG exercise “an excuse for big budgets.”[120] The controversy’s intensely political nature would become clear after Clinton won the presidency — and proceeded to follow a national security policy that tracked fairly closely with what the document recommended. Contrary to what the New York Times reported, in fact, the DPG was quietly affirmed by the Bush administration in its final months in office. Wolfowitz and Cheney accepted Libby’s revised draft, which was then approved (notwithstanding minor edits) by the White House. A public version was published in January 1993 as the Pentagon’s Regional Defense Strategy.[121] Although the revised paper had tamer language, Wolfowitz assured Cheney, “It is still a rather hard-hitting document which retains the substance you liked in the February 18th draft.”[122] Indeed, the Regional Defense Strategy fully committed to preserving American primacy in support of an open and congenial order. “America’s strategic position is stronger than it has been for decades,” it averred; Washington must “maintain the strategic depth that we won through forty years of the Cold War.” Likewise, the Regional Defense Strategy reaffirmed the value of U.S. alliances and forward deployments, and it made clear that America must be able to “preclude hostile nondemocratic powers from dominating regions critical to our interests.” The document emphasized protecting the post-Cold War order by confronting terrorism and weapons proliferation, and by extending “the remarkable democratic ‘zone of peace.’” While paying due regard to American alliances and international institutions, the Regional Defense Strategy also left no doubt that Washington would use force — alone, if need be — to defeat serious threats to its interests. Finally, the strategy made explicit the idea that America should “dominate the military-technological revolution” as a means of sustaining its preeminence and deterring current or potential rivals. The Regional Defense Strategy, in other words, was simply the DPG in another guise.[123] Admittedly, the document did not explicitly restate the idea that Washington should prevent the rise of any new hostile superpower.[124] Yet this was a distinction without a difference because the goal of preventing hostile nondemocratic powers from dominating key regions — which ran throughout the document — amounted to the same thing. [quote id="6"] At the close of Bush’s presidency, the administration found other ways of conveying this basic commitment to a primacist strategy. In late 1992, Bush dispatched U.S. troops to provide humanitarian assistance to starving civilians in Somalia. He had done so reluctantly, out of fears that this deployment would result in the sort of open-ended mission he had earlier resisted in the Gulf and the Balkans. As a result, while humanitarian concerns ultimately drove Bush to approve the mission, he sought to define it as narrowly as possible — to limit it to the delivery of aid and the creation of infrastructure for future deliveries. He made clear in two major policy addresses that Washington should always be wary of “running off on reckless, expensive crusades.” But Bush also used these addresses, in December 1992 and January 1993, to further spell out his now-familiar vision for global strategy, a vision that was premised on using unrivaled U.S. influence to promote geopolitical stability, avoid a return to the more threatening climate of earlier decades, and “win the democratic peace…for people the world over.”[125] Bush’s final National Security Strategy put forward much the same idea. The 1993 iteration was Bush’s foreign policy valedictory, issued in the name of the president himself. It represented his concluding effort to enshrine a prudent yet ambitious post-Cold War strategy. Lest there be any thought that the Regional Defense Strategy did not reflect administration policy, or that it was issued simply as a sop to Cheney’s Defense Department as Bush’s tenure expired, the National Security Strategy explicitly endorsed the approach laid out in that document, and even echoed — verbatim — concepts including the importance of “strategic depth” and the democratic “zone of peace.” The lessons of the new era, the National Security Strategy argued, were already clear:
that we cannot be sure when or where the next conflict will arise; that regions critical to our interests must be defended; that the world must respond to straightforward aggression; that international coalitions can be forged, though they often will require American leadership; that the proliferation of advanced weaponry represents a clear, present, and widespread danger; and that the United States remains the nation whose strength and leadership are essential to a stable and democratic world order.
To this end, the document endorsed the retention of critical power-projection capabilities and overweening military power; it called for the United States to promote the forces of global “integration” against threatening “fragmentation.” The National Security Strategy made clear that post-Cold War stability would ultimately rest on “an enduring global faith” in America, and it left little doubt that the United States intended to leave behind an era of balanced power and geopolitical divisions, and to shape a unipolar order in its own image. “Our policy has one overriding goal: real peace — not the illusory and fragile peace maintained by a balance of terror, but an enduring democratic peace based on shared values.”[126] That vision, it turned out, long outlasted Bush’s presidency. There was initially some indication that the Clinton administration might undertake a more effacing approach to world affairs, and on the stump Clinton had pledged to pursue defense cuts far greater than those made by Bush. Yet, as the Clinton administration found itself facing largely the same global panorama as its predecessor, it ultimately embraced a strategy very similar to that charted during the Bush years. As early as September 1993, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake gave a major address noting that the defining “feature of this era is that we are its dominant power” and arguing that Washington must use that dominance to promote continued global stability, to prevent aggressive dictators from menacing the post-Cold War order, and to aggressively promote free markets and democracy. “We should act multilaterally where doing so advances our interests,” Lake added, “and we should act unilaterally when that will serve our purpose.”[127] Likewise, the Pentagon committed to retaining the capacity to defeat two major regional aggressors nearly simultaneously, and in 1996 the Joint Chiefs of Staff released a document advocating “full spectrum dominance” to mold the international environment and constrain potential rivals.[128] All of these concepts could have been ripped straight from the 1992 DPG. Indeed, the outcome of the Pentagon’s Bottom Up Review, undertaken in 1993, demonstrates the strength of the lineage between Bush-era planning efforts and those that followed. Clinton’s first secretary of defense, Les Aspin, had initiated a thoroughgoing review of U.S. military strategy as part of an effort to further reduce defense spending. But as his Pentagon considered the opportunities and imperatives of the post-Cold War world, it ended up embracing its predecessor’s strategy. The final report of the Bottom Up Review emphasized the importance of preventing aggressive authoritarians from dominating key regions. It concluded that America “must field forces capable, in concert with its allies, of fighting and winning two major regional conflicts that occur nearly simultaneously.” This “two MRC” construct was deemed crucial because, as Aspin wrote, “We do not want a potential aggressor in one region to be tempted to take advantage if we are already engaged in halting aggression in another.” Moreover, maintaining a two-MRC capability would serve as insurance against the prospect that any major power might seek to compete militarily with Washington. It would
provide a hedge against the possibility that a future adversary might one day confront us with a larger-than-expected threat, and then turn out, through doctrinal or technological innovation, to be more capable than we expect, or enlist the assistance of other nations to form a coalition against our interests.
Maintaining this dominant force, in turn, was necessary so that
we can replace the East-West confrontation of the Cold War with an era in which the community of nations, guided by a common commitment to democratic principles, free-market economics, and the rule of law, can be significantly enlarged.[129]
The continuity of basic strategy, moreover, was more than rhetorical. U.S. military spending would decline somewhat under Clinton, to around 3 percent of gross domestic product by the late 1990s (although this decline was partially due to the robust economic growth of that decade). But because most other countries reduced their defense spending faster than Washington did, the United States still accounted for roughly 35 to 40 percent of global defense spending, and it preserved military capabilities far in excess of those of all U.S. rivals combined.[130] Like the Bush administration, the Clinton administration also repeatedly proved willing to use those capabilities to face down threats to stability in critical regions, such as when it dispatched additional troops to the Persian Gulf in 1994 after Saddam Hussein once again threatened Kuwait, or when it dispatched two carrier strike groups to the Western Pacific after China sought to use military exercises and missile tests to intimidate Taiwan in 1995 and 1996. That latter episode represented a deliberate display of American primacy. As Secretary of Defense William Perry announced, “Beijing should know, and this [U.S. fleet] will remind them, that while they are a great military power, the premier military power in the Western Pacific is the United States.”[131] More broadly, the Clinton administration would undertake a range of policies that fit squarely within the framework laid down by the Bush administration: retention and updating of U.S. alliances in the Asia-Pacific, expansion of NATO in Europe, promotion of democratic concepts and market reforms in countries from Haiti to Russia, active containment of Saddam’s Iraq and other aggressive authoritarian regimes, and efforts to stymie nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere. And rhetorically, the Clinton administration embraced the idea of America as the “indispensable nation,” the country with a unique responsibility for upholding global peace and security — and the unique privileges that came with that role.[132] Administrations changed, but the basic logic of post-Cold War strategy endured. In fact, as scholars have now extensively documented, a commitment to maintaining American primacy, and to using that primacy to shape an eminently favorable global environment, became a theme of fundamental, bipartisan continuity throughout the post-Cold War era. This is not to say that there was no change in U.S. strategy from the early 1990s onward, for particular policies and rhetorical and diplomatic styles did shift considerably over time — witness the approaches of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama to Iraq, for instance. Similarly, which of the three key regions of Eurasia would receive the greatest attention from U.S. policymakers also shifted during this period. But the first-order judgments about American strategy remained remarkably consistent, and many core objectives and initiatives persisted as well.[133] Long after the initial firestorm touched off by the leak of the DPG had been mostly forgotten, the basic ideas and policies the document propounded remained quite relevant.


Twenty-five years after it was drafted, the DPG remains a source of controversy in some circles. While some historians and other analysts have begun to better understand the content and nature of that document, critics have continued to see it as “unsettling” and even “Strangelovian.” Likewise, some scholars persist in deeming the DPG an unprecedented assertion of American hegemony.[134] As a review of the declassified record demonstrates, however, the reality was more prosaic — but also, perhaps, more interesting. The DPG offered a program for the retention and improvement of America’s post-bipolar primacy, but it was hardly unique in its arguments. Rather, the DPG fit comfortably within the dominant strategic paradigm of the Bush administration, even if the rhetoric was sharper than many officials would have liked. Even before the superpower conflict ended, Bush and his advisers had argued that the United States must lean forward in shaping a promising but potentially perilous post-Cold War world. The logic of American primacy was then reinforced by crises in Europe and the Persian Gulf. After the Soviet collapse, the DPG drew together the key elements of a coalescing strategic mind-set and made the case for American primacy in its starkest and most explicit terms. The DPG thus encapsulated the Bush administration’s choice of an ambitious post-Cold War strategy, one that was reaffirmed by subsequent administrations. Interestingly, then, a review of Bush administration strategic planning makes the DPG appear both more and less important than it was often seen to be at the time. The document was arguably more important in the sense that it represented the earliest, most comprehensive, and most candid statement of American strategy after the Soviet collapse, and in the sense that its core concepts would endure. Yet it was arguably less important than sometimes thought in the sense that its basic content was not particularly controversial within the administration and that it was only one element of a much larger process by which Bush and his advisers came to identify and articulate a post-bipolar approach to global statecraft. The Bush administration’s choice of that strategy, in turn, drew on a mix of important factors. There were, certainly, the long-standing beliefs — both ideological and geopolitical — about America’s role in the world, which influenced the administration’s outlook from the outset. More immediately, there was the potent cocktail of optimism and wariness that shaped U.S. strategic thinking at the dawn of a new era. Bush and his aides clearly perceived that Washington had a historic opportunity to solidify a post-bipolar order in which U.S. interests and values would be far more privileged than before; they also worried that any lack of assertive American leadership would open the door to multipolar instability and tumult. The result was to push the United States toward an expansive approach meant to reap the benefits while avoiding the dangers of the post-Cold War world. If nothing else, the emerging record of the Bush administration’s approach to global strategy indicates that some interpretations of the forty-first president’s statecraft need to be revised. For years, the standard depiction of Bush’s foreign policy, offered by eminent scholars such as Jeremi Suri as well as former policymakers such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, was that Bush was an adept crisis manager but lacked the vision to identify a new global role for America. Yet in light of the evidence presented here — as well as recent assessments by scholars such as Jeffrey Engel — this interpretation is no longer persuasive.[135] Over the course of his presidency, Bush and his advisers did establish a clear and relatively coherent vision for post-Cold War strategy. That vision was quite ambitious; it was readily apparent in administration strategy documents and key policies. And it would persist, in its broad outlines, long after Bush left office. [quote id="7"] But was this a wise strategy? Since the early 1990s, there has developed a substantial literature critiquing the U.S. decision to pursue a primacist strategy, and thus critiquing — implicitly or explicitly — the Bush administration’s role in making that choice.[136] A full assessment of post-Cold War strategy would require more extensive analysis than is possible here.[137] With the perspective of a quarter-century, however, a more positive view of the Bush administration’s strategic decision-making seems warranted. For one thing, that decision-making was rooted in a generally reasonable assessment of the international environment and America’s role therein as the Cold War ended. As Bush-era officials were acutely aware, this was indeed a moment when the geopolitical tectonic plates were shifting more rapidly and disruptively than at any time since World War II. Many leading international relations scholars were predicting that the post-Cold War world would be a nasty place characterized by multipolar instability, rampant nuclear proliferation, and great-power revisionism by Germany and Japan.[138] Moreover, the major international crises of this period demonstrated that the United States did have a unique capacity to provide stability and leadership amid profound uncertainty and that there was fairly widespread international support for Washington to play this role. In these circumstances, it was hardly surprising or unreasonable that the Bush administration chose a form of consensual but assertive American primacy as the best approach to protecting international security and U.S. interests. Nor was it surprising that subsequent presidents affirmed this basic concept. And in retrospect, many key judgments and premises of that approach have fared passably well with time. Bush administration decision-making was, for instance, based on a fairly accurate assessment of the durability of American primacy. At the dawn of the post-Cold War era, leading academic observers often predicted that unipolarity would rapidly give way to a multipolar system in which Japan, Germany, or a united Europe balanced against the United States.[139] Yet for more than a quarter-century after the Cold War, the United States remained by far the most powerful and capable actor in international affairs. Today, the ongoing rise of China has narrowed America’s lead but not nearly erased it. As the most systematic assessment of global power dynamics today concludes, “Everyone should start getting used to a world in which the United States remains the sole superpower for decades to come.”[140] The Bush administration believed that American preeminence could last for some time; the trajectory of international politics over the course of a generation affirms that judgment more than it undercuts it. The trajectory of international politics also affirmed a second belief, which was that assertive American leadership would attract more countries than it repelled. Today, of course, rivals such as Russia and China are contesting American primacy, as part of an effort to assert their own prerogatives. Yet what is remarkable is that the post-Cold War era has not, at least so far, produced a concerted, multilateral counter-balancing campaign against the dominant country in the international system, and that many key second- and third-tier states have continued to align with Washington. Japan, Germany, and other major industrial countries have remained largely content to be part of the strategic and economic community led by the United States. Front-line states in Eastern Europe and other regions have often seemed to fear American abandonment more than American domination. As Zachary Selden has argued, the dominant tendency has been to balance with the United States against threats to the international system — like those now posed by Russia and China — rather than to balance against the preeminent power that America has wielded.[141] Finally, there is now significant scholarship to support the idea that a primacist strategy indeed accomplished some of the most important goals the Bush administration initially set out. In a recent book, Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth provide a robust body of evidence and analysis demonstrating that the persistence of assertive American engagement did have the effect of suppressing security competitions and instability in key strategic theaters while also providing the overall climate of reassurance in which the international economy could continue to thrive.[142] Other scholars have noted the role of America’s post-Cold War policies in assisting the continued spread of democracy and market institutions, and in limiting nuclear proliferation in East Asia and Eastern Europe.[143] Not least, even consistent critics of America’s post-Cold War strategy, such as John Mearsheimer, have acknowledged that a persistent U.S. presence in key regions such as Europe and East Asia helped to avoid the major interstate wars that characterized many earlier historical eras, and to avert a rapid return to the more unstable and violent climate that many observers feared when the Cold War ended.[144] All of these points could, surely, be debated at length. Yet if a key premise of a primacist strategy was that assertive American engagement would help produce a more stable and liberal international order than one might otherwise have expected, then there is a defensible argument to be made that this premise, too, looks fairly good twenty-five years later. A primacist strategy has never been without its problems, from the economic costs associated with a global military presence to the fact that the United States has periodically succumbed to the temptation to overuse its tremendous power. Today, moreover, the United States faces more serious challenges to its primacy and global interests than at any other time in the post-Cold War era, from a rising China, a resurgent Russia, and an international rogues’ gallery that is more empowered and better armed than at any moment since Saddam Hussein’s defeat in 1991. Not least, there is some uncertainty as to whether American leaders and the body politic still support such an engaged and assertive strategy, and the policies and mannerisms of the Trump administration may well pose their own challenge to U.S. effectiveness and leadership on the global stage.[145] Yet when one considers the more constructive effects that a primacist strategy has arguably had, and the fact that some of its foundational premises have proven fairly solid over time, one does, perhaps, gain a greater degree of appreciation for the logic of America’s post-Cold War strategy, and for the Bush administration’s role in shaping that strategy at a moment of great promise and uncertainty in international affairs. Hal Brands is a Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He is the author or editor of several books, including Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post-Cold War Order (2016), What Good is Grand Strategy? Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (2014), Latin America’s Cold War (2010), From Berlin to Baghdad: America’s Search for Purpose in the Post-Cold War World (2008), and The Power of the Past: History and Statecraft (co-edited with Jeremi Suri, 2015). He was a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow from 2015 to 2016. He has also consulted with a range of government offices and agencies in the intelligence and national security communities. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Wikimedia Commons [post_title] => Choosing Primacy: U.S. Strategy and Global Order at the Dawn of the Post-Cold War Era [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => choosing-primacy-u-s-strategy-global-order-dawn-post-cold-war-era-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 14:01:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 19:01:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => Newly declassified U.S. government records shed some light onto U.S. strategic thinking about the post-Cold War era and the infamous Defense Planning Guidance. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 2 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The DPG was not, as is commonly believed, a radical document or an outlier from Bush administration strategic thinking. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => From the earliest months of the Bush administration, there was thus a consensus that reduced Cold War tensions did not imply a dramatic U.S. retrenchment. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => There were widespread fears that the collapse of Soviet authority in Eastern Europe could unleash ethnic violence or resurgent nationalist rivalries within that region. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The Gulf crisis demonstrated robust global demand for U.S. leadership. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The DPG was nonetheless basically aligned with the Bush administration’s broader perspective as expressed to date. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The DPG was quietly affirmed by the Bush administration in its final months in office. ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The DPG encapsulated the Bush administration’s choice of an ambitious post-Cold War strategy, one that was reaffirmed by subsequent administrations. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 554 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 9 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] This article significantly expands on arguments first made in the author’s recent book. See Hal Brands, Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post-Cold War Order (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016). [2] See Draft of FY 94-99 Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), in Vesser to Secretaries of Military Departments, CJCS, et al., Feb. 18, 1992, Electronic Briefing Book (EBB) 245, National Security Archive (NSA). [3] Barton Gellman, “Keeping the U.S. First,” Washington Post, March 11, 1992. [4] Quoted in Joshua Muravchik, The Imperative of American Leadership: A Challenge to Neo-Isolationism (Washington: American Enterprise Institute Press, 1996), 136. [5] Craig Unger, The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America’s Future (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 148; David Armstrong, “Dick Cheney’s Song of America: Drafting a Plan for Global Dominance,” Harper’s, October 2002, 76, [6] See Melvyn P. Leffler, “Dreams of Freedom, Temptations of Power,” in The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989, ed. Jeffrey A. Engel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 132-69; Eric S. Edelman, “The Strange Career of the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance,” in In Uncertain Times: American Policy After the Berlin Wall and 9/11, edited by Melvyn P. Leffler and Jeffrey W. Legro (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011); Paul Wolfowitz, “Shaping the Future: Planning at the Pentagon, 1989-1993,” in In Uncertain Times, edited by Leffler and Legro, 44-62; Zalmay Khalilzad, The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016), Chapter 7; James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (New York: Penguin, 2004), 198-215. [7] Lloyd Gardner, The Long Road to Baghdad: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy From the 1970s to the Present (New York: The New Press, 2008), 98-100. [8] Richard Immerman, Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism From Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 218-20. [9] Edelman, “Strange Career,” 63. There is also a smaller body of literature arguing that the DPG was not as important as all this attention might make it seem. See, for instance, Ionut Popescu, Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy: How American Presidents Succeed in Foreign Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), 123-25. [10] Political scientists differ considerably on whether that strategy has been wise. See, variously, Barry Posen, Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014); John Mearsheimer, “Imperial by Design,” National Interest 111 (January/February 2011): 16-34; Peter Feaver, “American Grand Strategy at the Crossroads: Leading From the Front, Leading From Behind, or Not Leading at All,” in America’s Path: Grand Strategy for the Next Administration, eds. Richard Fontaine and Kristin Lord (Washington: Center for a New American Security, 2012), 59-70. On German reunification and NATO expansion, see Mary Elise Sarotte, “Perpetuating U.S. Preeminence: The 1990 Deals to ‘Bribe the Soviets Out’ and Move NATO In,” International Security 35, no. 1 (2010): 110-37; Joshua Shifrinson, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion,” International Security 40, no. 4 (Spring 2016): 7-44. [11] Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Vintage, 1987); Peter Schmeisser, “Taking Stock: Is America in Decline?” New York Times, April 17, 1988, [12] Quoted in Homer A. Neal, Tobin Smith, and Jennifer McCormick, Beyond Sputnik: U.S. Science Policy in the Twenty-First Century (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 81. [13] Schmeisser, “Taking Stock: Is America in Decline?”; Patrick Buchanan, “America First — and Second, and Third,” National Interest 19 (Spring 1990): 77-82. [14] Jeane Kirkpatrick, “A Normal Country in a Normal Time,” National Interest 21 (Fall 1990): 40-44. [15] See Patrick Tyler, “Halving Defense Budget in Decade Suggested,” Washington Post, Nov. 21, 1989. [16] Alan Murray and Jeffrey Birnbaum, “Post-Cold War Budget Is Here, So Where Is the Peace Dividend?” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 29, 1990. [17] Patrick Tyler and Molly Moore, “Soviet Defense Spending Cut As Promised, CIA Reports,” Washington Post, Nov. 15, 1989; Helen Dewar, “Nunn Warns Pentagon to Fill Blanks in Budget,” Washington Post, March 23, 1990. [18] Charles Krauthammer, “Universal Dominion: Toward a Unipolar World,” National Interest 18 (Winter 1989-1990): 46-49. [19] Michael R. Beschloss and Strobe Talbott, At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993). [20] Bush Diary, Feb. 15, 1975, in George H.W. Bush, All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings (New York, 1999), 215. [21] “Bush: ‘Our Work Is Not Done; Our Force Is Not Spent,’” Washington Post, Aug. 19, 1988. [22] Jeffrey A. Engel, “A Better World…but Don’t Get Carried Away: The Foreign Policy of George H.W. Bush Twenty Years On,” Diplomatic History 34, no. 1 (2010): 25-46. [23] Andrew Rosenthal, “Differing Views of America’s Global Role,” New York Times, Nov. 2, 1988; “A Report to the National Security Council by the Executive Secretariat on United States Objectives and Programs for National Security,” April 14, 1950, [24] “Foreign Press Center Background Briefing,” March 20, 1990, CF00209, Peter Rodman Files, George H.W. Bush Library (GHWBL). [25] National Security Review-3, “Comprehensive Review of U.S.-Soviet Relations,” Feb. 15, 1989, NSR File, GHWBL. [26] RBZ (Robert B. Zoellick) Draft, “Points for Consultations with European Leaders,” Nov. 27, 1989, Box 108, James A. Baker III Papers, Mudd Library, Princeton University. [27] Remarks at U.S. Coast Guard Academy, May 24, 1989. [28] NSR-12, “Review of National Defense Strategy,” March 3, 1989, NSR File, GHWBL. [29] Cheney Remarks to American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 4, 1990, Federal News Service transcript. [30] See The Future Security Environment: Report of the Future Security Environment Working Group, submitted to the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy (Washington: Government Printing Office, October 1988). [31] “Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official,” March 20, 1990, CF00209, Peter Rodman Files, GHWBL; also Michael Hayden to Scowcroft, March 15, 1990, CF00209, Peter Rodman Files, GHWBL. [32] “Talking Points: Cabinet Meeting — January 23, 1989,” Box 108, Baker Papers, Princeton. [33] Memorandum of Conversation (MemCon) between Bush and Lee Sang Hoon, July 20, 1989, OA/AD 91107, Presidential MemCon Files, Brent Scowcroft Collection, GHBWL. [34] MemCon between Bush and Vaclav Havel, Feb. 20, 1990, OA/AD 91107, Presidential MemCon Files, Brent Scowcroft Collection, GHBWL. [35] National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990), 1-2; also Hayden to Scowcroft, March 15, 1990, CF00209, Peter Rodman Files, GHWBL. [36] Powell Remarks to National Press Club, June 22, 1990, Federal News Service transcript. [37] Alan Murray and David Wessel, “Bush Is Likely to Seek Defense Increase For ’91, Despite Reduction in Tensions,” Wall Street Journal, Nov. 28, 1989; David Hoffman, “Bush Cautions Against Big Defense Cuts,” Washington Post, Jan. 13, 1990. [38] National Security Strategy (1990), 23. [39] Lorna S. Jaffe, The Development of the Base Force, 1989-1992 (Washington: Joint History Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1993); Wolfowitz, “Shaping the Future,” 48-54; Michael Gordon, “Pentagon Drafts Strategy for Post-Cold War World,” New York Times, Aug. 2, 1990. [40] Remarks in Aspen, Colorado, Aug. 2, 1990. Coincidentally, this speech was delivered less than 24 hours after Saddam Hussein’s forces had invaded Kuwait. [41] Don Oberdorfer, “Strategy for Solo Superpower: Pentagon Looks to ‘Regional Contingencies,’” Washington Post, May 19, 1991; Jaffe, Development of the Base Force, 7-8, 29. For a similar assessment, see Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Military Strategy of the United States (January 1992), [42] See State Department Bureau of Public Affairs, “Movement Toward German Unification, March 1989-July 1990,” Box 2, Zelikow-Rice Files, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. [43] Excerpts from Soviet Transcript of Malta Summit, Dec. 2-3, 1989, EBB 296, NSA. [44] Scowcroft to Bush, undated, CF00182, Robert Blackwill Files, GHWBL. [45] The debate over what, precisely, the Bush administration promised Moscow regarding future NATO enlargement during 1989 to 1990 has generated a substantial literature of its own. What can briefly be said here is that Washington never provided the Soviets with a formal pledge that NATO would not expand further into Eastern Europe, and U.S. policymakers certainly did not believe that they were constrained from doing so. During negotiations with Gorbachev in February 1990, Baker did float — as a trial balloon — the idea that Moscow might accept reunification of Germany within NATO in exchange for NATO not expanding its military structures into the former East Germany. But even that more limited assurance was overtaken within days as it quickly became clear that a reunified Germany could not sit half inside and half outside of NATO. The argument that the United States subsequently violated an agreement not to expand NATO is, therefore, inaccurate. Some Russian observers, however, may have believed that there was some type of informal understanding on NATO expansion (in part because, in early 1990, West German officials sometimes floated this idea publicly), and the perception that such an assurance had existed played some role in the subsequent souring of U.S.-Russian relations. Moreover, in the early 1990s, the Clinton administration appears to have told Russian officials that expansion was not being contemplated, which led to increased Russian annoyance once expansion unfolded. See Mark Kramer, “The Myth of a No-NATO-Enlargement Pledge to Russia,” Washington Quarterly 32, no. 2 (2009): 39-61; Mary Elise Sarotte, “Not One Inch Eastward? Bush, Baker, Kohl, Genscher, Gorbachev, and the Origin of Russian Resentment Toward NATO Enlargement in February 1990,” Diplomatic History 34, no. 1 (2010): 119-40; James Goldgeier, “Promises Made, Promises Broken? What Yeltsin Was Told About NATO in 1993 and Why It Matters,” War on the Rocks, July 12, 2016, [46] See Mary Elise Sarotte, 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009); Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice, Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995). [47] Scowcroft to Bush, Nov. 29, 1989, OA/ID 91116, Chron Files, Brent Scowcroft Collection, GHWBL; George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (New York: Vintage, 1999), 230. [48] Scowcroft to Bush, undated (late 1989), OA/ID 91116, Chron Files, Brent Scowcroft Collection, GHWBL; also Bush to Kohl, undated, CF00717, Condoleezza Rice Files, GHWBL. [49] Bush and Scowcroft, World Transformed, 253. [50] MemCon between Bush and Douglas Hurd, Jan. 29, 1990, OA/ID 91107, Presidential MemCon Files, Brent Scowcroft Collection, GHWBL. See also Sarotte, “Perpetuating U.S. Preeminence”; Joshua Shifrinson, “Deal or No Deal?” [51] MemCon between Bush and Wörner, Feb. 24, 1990, OA/ID 91107, Presidential MemCon Files, Brent Scowcroft Collection, GHWBL; also Gorbachev-Mitterrand TelCon, Nov. 14, 1989, EBB 293, NSA; Thatcher-Gorbachev Conversation, Sept. 23, 1989, EBB 293, NSA; Meeting between Kohl and Walesa, Nov. 10, 1989, Cold War International History Project. [52] Scowcroft to Bush, Dec. 22, 1989, OA/ID 91116, Chron Files, Brent Scowcroft Collection, GHWBL. [53] Bush and Scowcroft, World Transformed, 273. [54] Scowcroft to Bush, Dec. 22, 1989, OA/ID 91116, Chron Files, Brent Scowcroft Collection, GHWBL. [55] Zelikow to Gates, Nov. 28, 1990, OA/ID CF00293, Heather Wilson Files, GHWBL; also “President’s Intervention on the Transformation of the North Atlantic Alliance,” July 1990, CF00290, Heather Wilson Files, GHWBL. [56] London to State, Dec. 11, 1990, CF01468, Philip Zelikow Files, GHWBL. [57] Gorbachev-Baker Meeting, Feb. 9. 1990, in Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989, eds. Svetlana Savranskaya, Thomas Blanton, and Vladislav Zubok (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010), 683; also USDEL Secretary Namibia to State, March 20, 1990, Department of State FOIA Electronic Reading Room. [58] “Summit Intervention Statement,” undated (1991), CF01693, Summit Briefing Books, NSC Files, GHWBL; also Sicherman to Ross and Zoellick, March 12, 1990, Box 176, Baker Papers, Princeton; MemCon between Baker and Mr. Balladur, June 3, 1991, Box 110, Baker Papers, Princeton. [59] “Points to Be Made for Working Dinner With Prime Minister Mulroney in Canada,” undated, CF01010-CF01010-009, Briefing Books/Briefing Materials, European and Soviet Directorate Files, GHWBL. [60] Zelikow to Gates, Oct. 26, 1990, OA/ID CF00293, Heather Wilson Files, NSC Files, GHWBL. [61] Stephen Flanagan to Ross and Zoellick, May 1, 1992, OA/ID CF01526, Barry Lowenkron Files, GHWBL; also “Rome Declaration on Peace and Cooperation,” Nov. 8, 1991, CF01526, Barry Lowenkron Files, GHWBL. [62] Max Boot, War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today (New York: Penguin, 2006), 337-38; “Sharing of Responsibility for the Coalition Effort in the Persian Gulf (Feb 8 Update),” OA/ID CF01110 to CF01362, Virginia Lampley Files, Box 53, FOIA 1998-0099-F, GHWBL. Other helpful sources include Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Kevin Woods, The Mother of All Battles: Saddam Hussein’s Strategic Plan for the Persian Gulf War (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008); Christian Alfonsi, Circle in the Sand: Why We Went Back to Iraq (New York: Doubleday, 2006); Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, The Generals’ War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995); and many others. [63] Remarks in Aspen, Colorado, Aug. 2, 1990, APP. [64] NSC Meeting, Aug. 3, 1990, Richard Haass Files, Box 42, FOIA 1998-0099-F, GHWBL. [65] NSC Meeting, Aug. 3, 1990, Richard Haass Files, Box 42, FOIA 1998-0099-F, GHWBL. [66] Remarks in Aspen, Colorado. As noted previously, this was the same speech in which Bush publicly introduced the Base Force. [67] James Baker, “America’s Strategy in the Persian Gulf Crisis,” Department of State Dispatch, Dec. 10, 1990, [68] James A. Baker III, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War, and Peace, 1989-1992 (New York: Putnam, 1995), 1-16, 275-99. [69] Bush Diary, Sept. 7, 1990, in Bush, All the Best, 479. [70] Office of Management and Budget, “United States Costs in the Persian Gulf Conflict and Foreign Contributions to Offset Such Costs,” Report No. 20, October 1992, in Darman to Bush, Oct. 15, 1992, Department of Defense FOIA Electronic Reading Room. [71] “Talking Points” for Bush’s meeting, undated, Box 1, CF00946, Robert Gates Files, GHWBL; also “Executive Summary,” Aug. 27, 1990, Box 1, CF00946, Robert Gates Files, GHWBL. [72] Bush-Kaifu MemCon, Sept. 29, 1990, Digital National Security Archive (DNSA). [73] Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the Persian Gulf Crisis and the Federal Budget Deficit, Sept. 11, 1990. [74] Bush and Scowcroft, World Transformed, 491, 400. [75] William J. Perry, “Desert Storm and Deterrence,” Foreign Affairs 70, no. 4 (1991): 66-67,; also Department of Defense, Conduct of the Persian Gulf War: Final Report to Congress, April 1992, Department of Defense FOIA Electronic Reading Room. [76] Cheney Remarks to American Business Council Conference, April 9, 1991, Federal News Service; also “America’s Postwar Agenda in Europe,” March 1991, CF01468, Zelikow Files, GHWBL. [77] Robert Gates Oral History, 59, Presidential Oral History Program, Miller Center, University of Virginia. [78] Bush-Dumas MemCon, Feb. 28, 1991, GHWBL. [79] Herbert S. Parmet, George Bush: The Life of a Lone Star Yankee (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2001), 483. See also Gates Oral History, 59; Richard Cheney Oral History, June 21, 2006, 27, Box 7, Baker Oral History Collection, Mudd Library, Princeton; Alfonsi, Circle in the Sand, 172-76. [80] See Gordon and Trainor, Generals’ War, 416-29, 444-46. These issues were compounded by the decision of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf — who handled the cease-fire negotiations in the absence of detailed instructions — to permit Iraqi forces to fly helicopters in the struggle against rebellious forces. [81] Dennis Ross Oral History, Aug. 2, 2001, 42-43, Presidential Oral History Program, Miller Center, University of Virginia. [82] Rowen Statement to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, June 6, 1991, CF01391, Virginia Lampley Files, GHWBL. [83] Bush-Santer-Delors MemCon, April 11, 1991, GHWBL. [84] James M. Goldgeier and Michael McFaul, Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy Toward Russia After the Cold War (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2003), 18-40. [85] Bush and Scowcroft, World Transformed, 564. [86] Alan Murray, “Growth Formulas: Democratic Candidates Offer Host of Proposals to Spark the Economy,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 6, 1992; “Differences Among the Democratic Candidates,” New York Times, Feb. 16, 1992; Norman Kempster, “U.S. Candidates’ Stand on Foreign Issues,” Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1992. [87] Draft of FY 94-99 DPG; Barton Gellman, “Keeping the U.S. First; Pentagon Would Preclude a Rival Superpower,” Washington Post, March 11, 1992. The version of the DPG quoted here consists of the text that was released to the National Security Archive through the FOIA process as well as the text that earlier became available through media leaks. [88] On the process and context, see Wolfowitz, “Shaping the Future”; Edelman, “Strange Career”; see also Popescu, Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy, 123-25. [89] Draft of FY 94-99 DPG; Cheney Remarks to Senate Budget Committee, Feb. 3, 1992, Federal News Service. [90] Draft of FY 94-99 DPG. [91] Draft of FY 94-99 DPG. [92] Ibid.; also William Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” International Security 24, no. 1 (Summer 1999): 5-41; G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011). [93] Draft of FY 94-99 DPG; Patrick Tyler, “U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop,” New York Times, March 8, 1992. [94] Diary entry, July 2, 1991, in Bush, All the Best, George Bush, 527; Bush-Wörner MemCon, June 25, 1991, GHWBL. [95] Quotes from Don Oberdorfer, “Strategy for Solo Superpower: Pentagon Looks to ‘Regional Contingencies,’” Washington Post, May 19, 1991. [96] Draft of FY 1994-1999 DPG; Patrick Tyler, “U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop,” New York Times, March 8, 1992. [97] Dale Vesser to Libby, Sept. 3, 1991, EBB 245, NSA. [98] Draft of FY 94-99 DPG. [99] See Melvyn P. Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992). [100] Melissa Healy, “Pentagon Cool to U.S. Sharing Its Power,” Los Angeles Times, March 9, 1992. [101] Barton Gellman, “Aim of Defense Plan Supported by Bush: But President Says He Has Not Read Memo,” Washington Post, March 12, 1992. [102] “The New Pentagon Paper,” Washington Post, May 27, 1992. [103] Barton Gellman, “Pentagon War Scenario Spotlights Russia,” Washington Post, Feb. 20, 1992. [104] Gellman, “Aim of Defense Plan Supported by Bush”; also Tyler, “U.S. Strategy Plan.” [105] See Scowcroft, “Meeting with Chancellor Kohl of Germany,” March 19, 1992, OA/ID CF01414, Hutchings Country Files, GHWBL. [106] Patrick Tyler, “Pentagon Drops Goal of Blocking New Superpowers,” New York Times, May 24, 1992; “Pentagon Abandons Goal of Thwarting U.S. Rivals,” Washington Post, May 24, 1992; Memo to Cheney, March 26, 1992, EBB 245, NSA; “Issues in the Policy and Strategy Section,” April 14, 1992, EBB 245, NSA. [107] Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Military Strategy of the United States, January 1992, [108] “The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1992), 367; also Cheney and Powell Remarks to Senate Budget Committee, Feb. 3, 1992, Federal News Service. [109] Bush note to speechwriters, March 14, 1992, in Bush, All the Best, George Bush, 551; Gellman, “Aim of Defense Plan.” [110] Baker Remarks to Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, April 2, 1992, Box 169, Baker Papers. [111] Patrick Tyler, “Senior U.S. Officials Assail Lone-Superpower Policy,” New York Times, March 11, 1992; also Edelman, “Strange Career.” [112] “Chancellor Kohl of Germany,” undated (March 1992), OA/ID CF01414, Country Files, Hutchings Files, GHWBL. [113] On Scowcroft’s views, see Bartholomew Sparrow, The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security (New York: Hachette, 2015), 485-86. [114] See Memo from Don Pulling, April 23, 1992, in EBB 245, NSA; also Wolfowitz to Cheney, May 5, 1992; Wolfowitz to Cheney, May 13, 1992, EBB 245, NSA. [115] See Lawrence Eagleburger to Warren Christopher, Jan. 5, 1993, Freedom of Information Act, in author’s possession. I thank Jim Goldgeier for sharing this document with me. [116] Partially in response to the DPG saga, there was a wider-ranging academic debate over the value of U.S. primacy.  Robert Jervis, “International Primacy: Is the Game Worth the Candle?” International Security 17, no. 4 (Spring 1993): 52-67; Samuel P. Huntington, “Why International Primacy Matters,” International Security 17, no. 4 (Spring 1993): 68-83. [117] On this debate, see G. John Ikenberry, “The Future of the Liberal World Order: Internationalism After America,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 3 (May/June 2011): 56-68; vs. Robert Kagan, The World America Made (New York: Vintage, 2012). [118] Peter Grieg, “Hot Debate Over U.S. Strategic Role: Draft Pentagon Paper Stirs Up Controversy on How, and Why, Military Funds Are Spent,” Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 1992. [119] On Buchanan’s views, see, for instance, Robin Toner, “Buchanan, Urging New Nationalism, Joins ’92 Race,” New York Times, Dec. 11, 1991. [120] Patrick Tyler, “Lone Superpower Plan: Ammunition for Critics,” New York Times, March 10, 1992. [121] Dick Cheney, Defense Strategy for the 1990s: The Regional Defense Strategy, January 1993, EBB 245, NSA. [122] Wolfowitz to Cheney, May 5, 1992; also, Wolfowitz to Cheney, May 13, 1992; Memo from Don Pulling, April 23, 1992, all in EBB 245, NSA. In his own account, Wolfowitz recalls that the Department of Defense could not get the revised version approved by the White House or other interagency actors. In fact, the revised DPG (which was subsequently published as the Regional Defense Strategy) was approved by the White House in the spring of 1992. And as Wolfowitz himself notes, “Far from being an extreme strategy developed by a small group of Defense Department officials, the DPG not only reflected the consensus thinking of the first Bush administration but became generally accepted defense policy under President Clinton.” See Wolfowitz, “Shaping the Future,” 59, 206. [123] Dick Cheney, Defense Strategy for the 1990s: The Regional Defense Strategy, January 1993, EBB 245, NSA. [124] On this point, see Popescu, Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy, 123-24. [125] Remarks at Texas A&M University, Dec. 15, 1992; remarks at West Point, Jan. 5, 1993. [126] National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1993), ii, 1, 6, 13. [127] Anthony Lake, “From Containment to Enlargement,” Sept. 21, 1993, [128] Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review, May 1997, Section 3, “Defense Strategy”; Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2010, 2; also Alexandra Homolar, “How to Last Alone at the Top: U.S. Strategic Planning for the Unipolar Era,” Journal of Strategic Studies 34, no. 2 (2011): 202-12. [129] Les Aspin, Report on the Bottom Up Review, issued by Defense Department, October 1993, iii-iv, 7-8. [130] For military spending figures, consult the data available through the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s annual reports and military spending database, available at; also Homolar, “How to Last Alone at the Top.” [131] Art Pine, “U.S. Faces Choices on Sending Ships to Taiwan,” Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1996. [132] On Clinton-era statecraft, see Andrew J. Bacevich, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of American Diplomacy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002); Patrick Porter, “The American Way: Power, Habit, and Grand Strategy,” International Security, forthcoming. [133] See, on this continuity, Leffler, “Dreams of Freedom, Temptations of Power”; Brands, Making the Unipolar Moment; P. Edward Haley, Strategies of Dominance: The Misdirection of U.S. Foreign Policy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006); Posen, Restraint. [134] Eugene Jarecki, The American War of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril (New York: Free Press, 2008), 12; also Joan Hoff, A Faustian Foreign Policy From Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush: Dreams of Perfectibility (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 138. [135] Jeremi Suri, “American Grand Strategy From the Cold War’s End to 9/11,” Orbis (Fall 2009): 611-27; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Second Chance: The Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower (New York: Basic Books, 2007). For another early interpretation that has been overtaken, see Hal Brands, From Berlin to Baghdad: America’s Search for Purpose in the Post-Cold War World (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2008). For a more positive recent take, see Jeffrey Engel, When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2017). [136] For instance, Posen, Restraint; Mearsheimer, “Imperial by Design”; Stephen Walt, “The End of the American Era,” National Interest 116 (2011): 6-16. [137] But see Hal Brands, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2018), Chapter 1. [138] John Mearsheimer, “Why We Will Soon Miss the Cold War,” Atlantic Monthly, August 1990, 35-50. [139] Kenneth Waltz, “The Emerging Structure of International Politics,” International Security 18, no. 2 (1993): 44-79; Christopher Layne, “The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Rise,” International Security 17, no. 4 (1993): 5-51. [140]  Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth, “The Once and Future Superpower: Why China Won’t Overtake the United States,” Foreign Affairs 95, no. 3 (2016): 91-104. [141] Zachary Selden, “Balancing Against or Balancing With? The Spectrum of Alignment and the Endurance of American Hegemony,” Security Studies 22, no. 2 (2013): 330-64. [142] Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth, America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). [143] See Paul Miller, “American Grand Strategy and the Democratic Peace,” Survival 52, no. 2 (2012): 49-76; John Dumbrell, Clinton’s Foreign Policy: Between the Bushes, 1992-2000 (New York: Routledge, 2009), 41-61; Mark Kramer, “Neorealism, Nuclear Proliferation, and East-Central European Strategies,” in Unipolar Politics: Realism and State Strategies After the Cold War, edited by Ethan Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 385-463. [144] John Mearsheimer, “Why Is Europe Peaceful Today?” European Political Science 9, no. 2 (2010): 387-97. [145] See Hal Brands, “Is American Internationalism Dead? Reading the National Mood in the Age of Trump,” War on the Rocks, May 16, 2017, ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 413 [post_author] => 59 [post_date] => 2018-02-01 04:00:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-01 09:00:52 [post_content] => In discussing the subject of “the objective” in war it is essential to be clear about, and to keep clear in our minds, the distinction be­tween the political and military objective. The two are different but not separate. Nations do not wage war for war’s sake, but in pursuance of policy. The military objective is only the means to a political end. — Basil Liddell Hart, Strategy: The Indirect Approach (1967)   Liddell Hart’s famous book, which includes this observation, was first published as The Decisive Wars of History in 1929.[1] Here was found the early version of his much-quoted definition of strategy as the “art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy.”[2] André Beaufre later recalled the impact the book made on him as a young French officer after World War I, disillusioned with the state of French strategic thinking.[3] Before the war, Ferdinand Foch, who became commander in chief of Allied forces, had made his name directing the École de Guerre, formulating what Beaufre described as a “Prussian school.” Foch insisted upon the necessity of a “decisive battle” achieved through “bloody sacrifice” and this had resulted in a “systematically extreme strategy.” After the war, a new school, led by Marshal Philippe Pétain, dismissed strategy as irrelevant to modern warfare and concentrated instead on assessing “tactics and matériel.” This was the context in which Beaufre picked up his French translation of Liddell Hart’s book. He found it a “breath of fresh air” and vital to the “rediscovery of strategy.” Later in his career Beaufre became an acclaimed strategic thinker, with his own definition that followed Liddell Hart in accepting the centrality of politics. For Beaufre, strategy was the “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute.”[4] Liddell Hart continues to be cited whenever strategy is being defined. Arthur Lykke is responsible for a definition popular in military circles: “Strategy equals ends (objectives toward which one strives) plus ways (courses of action) plus means (instruments by which some end can be achieved).” In making the case for this definition, Lykke argued that:
Military strategy must support national strategy and comply with national policy, which is defined as “a broad course of action or statements of guidance adopted by the government at the national level in pursuit of national objectives.” In turn, national policy is influenced by the capabilities-and limitations of military strategy.[5]
Here he used the Liddell Hart quote with which this article opens as his authority for his contention that military means must serve political ends. That strategy has something to do with translating political requirements into military plans now appears to be self-evident, yet for the period from the Napoleonic Wars up to the aftermath of World War I, it played no part in discussions of the meaning of strategy. Instead prevailing definitions concentrated on how best to prepare forces for battle, with tactics coming into play once battle was joined. In a previous article, I considered the origins of this earlier approach, demonstrating that while strategy first entered the modern European lexicon in 1771, the word itself would not have posed any difficulty to an audience schooled in the classics of Greek and Roman military literature and already familiar with cognate terms such as stratagem.[6] The early use of the term reflected the stratagem tradition, referring to ruses and other indirect means of avoiding pitched battles. The term also helped to fill a gap in the lexicon, distinguishing the higher military art from the more mechanical requirements of tactics. The meaning shifted during the first decades of the 19th century under the influence of the Napoleonic wars and the theories of Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini as well as Carl von Clausewitz. This is how strategy became linked with battle, stressing the importance of defeating the enemy forces in order to achieve a decisive result. In this article, I show how little the general meaning of the term changed during the 19th century. Throughout Europe, discussion about strategy and tactics continued to be shaped by the sharp focus on battle and what this required of commanders. Whereas the early discussions concerning strategy in the late 18th century opened up new possibilities for thinking about the changing art of war, later discussion shut it down and thus constrained thinking. Despite the strong nationalist sentiments that shaped thinking about war, the participants in this debate were normally senior military figures who were still serving or were recently retired and were primarily concerned with officer education. They read each other’s books, if necessary in translation, and studied the same great battles of history from which they drew similar lessons.[7] The stress on the importance of military history, which meant careful study of the great battles of the past, taken out of their wider context, encouraged a profoundly conservative approach to strategy. The accepted Jominian view was expressed in the mid-19th century in a moderately influential book by a Swiss general with French training. Gen. Guillame-Henri Dufour explained how strategy looked back while tactics must look forward. Strategy, he suggested, was subject to timeless principles, while tactics was changing all the time and so varied with the “arms in use at different periods.” This meant that:
Much valuable instruction in strategy may therefore be derived from the study of history: but very grave errors would result if we attempt to apply to the present days the tactics of the ancients. [8]
Leaving aside the question of whether the principles of strategy were really timeless when new technologies were transforming the practice of war, this view helps explain why there was far more focus on tactics than strategy. It reflects the practical nature of the literature, which was full of detailed advice, illustrated with diagrams, on how to cope with all battlefield contingencies. Accepting the limitations of Google N-gram,[9] the graph below is illustrative in terms of the relative importance attached to military tactics and military strategy over the past couple of centuries in the English language (a French version produces a similar result). It demonstrates that, until World War II, tactics appeared far more often than strategy in books on military matters. Regular discussion of strategy only really began in the run up to World War I. This is not surprising, as the basic focus was on the need to prepare officers to lead troops into battle. The starting point for the debate on strategy (or grand tactics) was how to raise the sights of those who were normally preoccupied with the drills and maneuvers necessary for battle, but also needed to understand the challenges involved in getting forces in the optimum position when the moment for battle came. At a time when symmetry in the composition and capabilities of armies was assumed, as was the convention that the decision of battle would be accepted, tactical competence could make all the difference. This practical focus came at the expense of the theoretical. With such a sharp focus there was little interest in exploring alternatives ways of resolving differences by force. In order to demonstrate the stagnant nature of 19th century writing on military strategy, I first turn to the British discourse of the period. At this time, the British were largely consumers of foreign concepts. The definition of strategy that initially had the most influence, and that lingered for the rest of the century, was that developed by the Prussian Dietrich von Bülow. He distinguished between strategy and tactics largely in terms of whether the operations in question were undertaken within sight of the enemy.[10] Conceptually, Jomini was the larger influence. His works were required reading for the officer class of Europe and the United States. Bülow’s contribution was not acknowledged because his core theories were so dated. Although Clausewitz’s work was known, it took until late in the century before his ideas began to have a strong and palpable influence. I then examine the challenge that came from two major conflicts — the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War — noting how the largely apolitical view of strategy was not dislodged by reflections on these experiences. By the start of the 20th century, the idea that strategy and policy represented two distinct competencies was being challenged, in part as a delayed reaction to these wars, but also because of the looming prospect of another great European war. Up to this point, the occasional references to grand strategy in the literature were no more than etymological false positives. In other words, these usages meant something different from our current understanding of the term.[11] Only the British maritime strategist Julian Corbett saw the possibilities in the run-up to World War I. After the war, the combined efforts of John Fuller and Liddell Hart not only established grand strategy as essential to thinking about war, but also redefined strategy so that it was no longer linked directly to battle. Strategy could now address many contingencies and so became an arena for intense theorizing.

The British Consume Strategy

In Part I of this article, I drew attention to the 18th century belief that classical authors provided vital keys to military wisdom.[12] This was reflected in the reading habits of British officers. During the course of that century, there was a growing interest in foreign — in particular French — authors. This included the Chevalier de Folard, Marshal de Saxe, Frederick the Great, and Comte de Guibert.[13] The sensitivity to foreign publications meant that the arrival of the concept of strategy in France and Prussia was also noted in Britain. A 1779 article in the Critical Review, for example, discussed the introduction to the German edition of Leo’s Taktiká by Johann von Bourscheid.[14] This is where the French distinction (from Guibert) between greater and lesser tactics was reported along with a complaint that the “ancients” were better at finding great commanders. Was this, the anonymous author asked, because there was once a “comprehensive and systematical theory of instruction while our modern generals merely confine themselves to mechanical exercises?” The answer from Bourscheid was that this “defect” could only be addressed by a “systematical instruction in strategy.” This is why he had translated a “didactic work on that subject.”[15] A couple of years later, however, when the same journal reviewed translations of Guibert and Joly de Maizeroy,[16] there was no reference to strategy. The review of Guibert opened with a complaint that would appear regularly over the next century: The principles of tactics, “or the art of war in general,” had “hitherto hardly been established with any tolerable degree of certainty or precision.”[17] It is also important to keep in mind when evaluating the British debate that during the Napoleonic years, while the French were demonstrating the possibilities of new forms of warfare, this was not matched by any advances in the concept of “strategy.” One of the most important French texts during this period was Gay de Vernon’s Traité élémentaire d’art militaire et de fortification, which gained its authority from being approved by the emperor himself. Vernon did not write of strategy or even of grand tactics but of “la tactique générale.”[18] In the translation available from 1817, this appeared as “grand tactics” and related to the rules of “attack and defence of two hostile corps d’armée acting on uniform ground.”[19] Over the first years of the 19th century, there was little discussion of the concept in Britain, and even then it appeared as part of an effort to introduce an apparently parochial English military audience to current debates in countries where the discussion of these matters was more advanced. Thus, the British Military Library described itself as “comprehending a complete body of military knowledge,” including selections “from the most approved and respectable foreign military publications.” The editors had “spared no expense to procure the most respectable Military Journals and other works published upon the Continent.” In 1804, it included extensive excerpts from Bülow, without attribution and excluding his discussion of how best to define strategy, but with lots of diagrams and formulae. Strategy was described as commencing with establishing a base, and tactics as commencing with the unfolding of the line of order of battle.[20] Another publication, The New Military Dictionary, also advertised its adoption of French terminology. In the first edition, in 1802, there was no mention of strategy, but it did define tactics as the “knowledge of order, disposition, and formation, according to the exigency of circumstances in warlike operations.” The item on tactics referred to a higher branch — la grande tactique — that should be thoroughly understood by all general officers, although it was sufficient for more junior officers to look at the less demanding minor tactics. There was also, following the practice of other dictionaries, a lengthy discussion of stratagems, described as one of the “principal branches of the art of war,” related to surprise and deception, plus the obligatory minor reference to stratarithmometry.[21] In 1805, strategy made an appearance as “the art or science of military command.” The editor observed that the term did “not exist in any of our English lexicographers,” and there was no agreed view. “Neither the dogmatic authors nor the military [agree] unanimously of its nature and definition; Some give too much, and the others too little extended and the whole consonant with the strategy.” Strategy was the “art of knowing how to command, and how to conduct the different operations of war.” The readers were introduced to Nockhern de Schorn’s distinction between grande and petite strategie, the higher and the lower, the one for the “officer of superior rank, whose mind is well stored with military theory,” and the second that “appertains to the staff and to a certain proportion of the subaltern officers.”[22] In 1810, however, preceding the entry for strategy in the New Military Dictionary was strategics, using Malorti de Martemont’s translation of Bülow, distinguishing between what was in and out of the visual circle. Tactics was now defined as “the distribution of things by mechanical arrangement to make then subservient to the higher principles of military science, i.e., of strategy.”[23] [quote id="1"] Bülow was the first in the field largely by virtue of this relatively early translation. Clausewitz’s On War was not translated until 1873, although a review did appear in the Metropolitan Magazine in 1835.[24] Jomini’s Precis was published in English translation in 1862 (in a U.S. edition), before his Treatise in 1865, although sections of the Treatise had become available in an English translation as early as 1823.[25] This did not mean that their work was ignored in the English debate. Officers were often fluent in French and occasionally in German. Moreover, two of the most influential commentators, both former major-generals, William Napier and John Mitchell, were au fait with the continental literature. Napier, an accomplished military historian, was one of the few in Britain at the time who could have written an original book on strategy; but, though he was asked to do so, he declined.[26] He introduced Jomini to a British audience in a lengthy, anonymous article about The Treatise in 1821, focusing on Jomini’s consideration of the vital importance of directing the mass of the army against a decisive point. Napier also reaffirmed the importance of military genius. “It is in strategy,” he wrote, “that the great qualities with which a general may be endowed will have ample room to display themselves: fine perception, unerring judgement, rapid decision, and unwearied activity both of mind and body, are here all requisite.”[27] Thereafter, his own approach to strategy was largely based on the maxims of Napoleon as interpreted by Jomini. He endorsed a book by a civilian, Edward Yates, who sought to produce a treatise on the military sciences “on the model of the best treatises on the Mathematical sciences.”[28] Mitchell[29] was an avowed follower of Georg Heinrich von Berenhorst and familiar with the work of Clausewitz. He wrote that Clausewitz contributed “a very able, though lengthy, and often obscure book on War.” Clausewitz was destined to be represented as something of an intellectual challenge. For the rest of the century, whenever he was mentioned, it came with a warning that he was difficult to follow.  Mitchell deplored the lack of a British contribution to the “science of arms” despite the country’s accomplishments in other fields. The idea that “generals, like poets, must be born such; and that learning and knowledge are but secondary objects to a military man” he dismissed as “excuses for ignorance.” When it came to strategy and tactics, he added what had also become a standard comment, that
no two writers have in our time, agreed about the exact meaning of either; a fact which already tells against modern pretension, for no science ever made any great progress so long as its most important technical terms remained vague and undefined.[30]
He then went on to offer his contribution, essentially by delineating the tasks that went under each heading. Tactics was the “science that instructs us in the choice, power, effect, and combination of arms.” It was about “how the individual soldier is to be trained” so that the “thousands” could be instructed “to execute the commands of the one with exact and simultaneous uniformity.” It therefore included “everything that is, or should be, taught on the drill-ground, in order to render the soldier, whether acting individually or in mass, as formidable a combatant as may be consistent with his moral and physical powers.” Strategy, by contrast, was the “art [not a science] of marching with divisions, or with entire armies.” It was about
employing the tactical soldier to the best advantage against the enemy; and, therefore, presupposes in the strategist a perfect knowledge of tactics; it is generalship, in fact, and includes of course what has lately been termed the science of battles.[31]
This did not catch on. From 1846 to 1851, a committee of officers from the Royal Engineers produced three volumes for an Aide-mémoire to the Military Sciences in order “to supply, as far as practicable, the many and common wants of Officers in the Field, in the Colonies, and remote Stations, where books of reference are seldom to be found.” In the first volume, Lt. Col. C. Hamilton Smith provided a “Sketch of the Art and Science of War.” This contained an early reference to “great operations” (the French concept of grande tactique) and then a reference to strategics, “a term to which it has been vainly endeavored to affix a strict definition” from Folard to Klausewitz [sic], Dufour, and Jomini. A “dialectician,” noted Smith, “might hint that a distinction might be pointed out between Strategics and Strategy, or Strategique and Strategie; but no inconvenience seems to have arisen from the promiscuous use of both.” He attempted to distinguish between Jomini making war upon a map as strategics, while activities that are then
strategical in their direction, and tactical in the execution, such as landings, march manoeuvres, passage of rivers, retreats, winter-quarters, ambuscades, and convoys, might take the denomination of Strategy, so long as they are executed without the presence of an enemy prepared for resistance; for then they become Tactics.
Here strategy would be comparable to grand tactics. He set out essentially Jominian principles, adding that:
The study of all past wars, ancient and modern, the systems of war of Frederick the Great, of the French Revolution, of Napoleon, and, finally, of the Duke of Wellington, will all be found to have derived their success and glory by conducting the armies in harmony with these principles ; and the loss of battles, failures in campaigns and entire wars, will be seen to originate in the non-observance of them, either through the prejudices raised by ignorance or routine, political interference, or unavoidable geographical causes.[32]
This was the “clearest general strategic statement likely to be known to British officers” in the early 1850s.[33] The Crimean War (1853-56), conducted incompetently by the British army, still “failed to initiate much serious thought … about its strategic role or tactical doctrine.”[34] Military history was viewed as “a great quarry of principles and examples to be judiciously selected to bolster pre-conceived idea or traditional doctrines.”[35]

The Unchanging Meaning of Strategy

The debate, such as it was, often concerned the boundary line between strategy and tactics. In 1856, Lt. Col. Patrick McDougall, superintendent of studies at the Royal Military College and Napier’s son-in-law, noted wearily that although the “science of war” had been divided into these two branches, “no very cogent reason exists for such separation, the objects as well as the principles of both being identical.” The distinction between strategy and tactics was “arbitrary,” because in both cases “the aim was to place a body of troops in the right position at the right time in fighting order superior to that body which your enemy can there oppose you.” Nonetheless, “such distinction having been made, it is better to preserve it.” Here he displayed the (unacknowledged) influence of Bülow, distinguishing between strategy and tactics according to whether one was in the “actual presence or eyesight of an enemy, however great or small the distances which separate them.” McDougall approached the issue largely in terms of demands on a commander’s time. Tactical activity was quite rare, despite handling troops in the presence of the enemy being the most “prominent and showy quality in a commander.” By contrast, the preparation of troops for battle, as opposed to directing them in battle, was “called forth and exercised in the ratio of twenty to one.” That was why he was so preoccupied with looking after the army, marching, bivouacking, provisions, and movement.[36] Col. Edward Hamley’s The Operations of War became the core British Army text for much of the rest of the century. It was much more substantial than McDougall’s book and earned an international reputation.[37] Until 1894, his was the sole text used in the entrance examination for the Camberley Staff College. In 1907, it was revived as an essential primer on strategy for the army, though not readopted at the Staff College.[38] Hamley — a professor of military history, strategy, and tactics at the Staff College, and its commandant from 1870-1878 — was a clever and versatile writer, yet still looked back to the practice of the Napoleonic Wars. Unlike McDougall, he stressed the importance of actual fighting. There was no point in getting an army into “situations which it cannot maintain in battle.” His view of strategy was that it did its job by reducing the need for actual fighting. The aim, which was pure Jomini (whose influence pervades the book), was to “effect superior concentrations on particular points,” getting the army into such a position that it enjoyed critical advantages. Otherwise, too much would be left to tactics. Yet, like McDougall, he was not convinced of the need for a sharp separation of tactics and strategy. His concern was that an officer untrained in strategy would rely simply on the routines of military affairs. Strategy meant moving beyond precedent, that is, beyond existing scripts, to be able to “meet new circumstances with new combinations.” This was why it deserved careful study.[39] Gen. Francis Clery’s book, Minor Tactics, first published in 1875, went through many editions (the 13th in 1896) and was based on a “course of lectures delivered to sub-Lieutenants studying at Sandhurst.” In this work, Clery distinguished strategy and tactics largely on the basis of size, though as always, “The issue, to which all military operations tend, is a battle.”[40] The lack of a fixed view about the terminology, though not the underlying issue, can be illustrated by Col. G. F. R. Henderson, considered one of the ablest military historians of his time and a charismatic teacher at the Staff College, Camberley. His concern was that officer education was failing to develop the skills necessary for great generalship. While this was a consistent theme, Henderson’s approach to terminology evolved rapidly. In a lecture to the United Services Institute in 1894, he noted that officers learned about minor tactics to pass examinations for promotion.[41] He complained that “the higher art of generalship, that section on military science to which formations, fire, and fortifications are subordinate, and which is called grand tactics, has neither manual nor text-book.” Henderson regretted that he could not find an exact definition of the difference between minor and grand tactics. He offered his own:
Minor Tactics includes the formation and disposition of the three arms for attack and defence, and concern officers of every rank; whilst Grand Tactics, the art of generalship, includes those stratagems, manoeuvres, and devices by which victories are won, and concern only those officers who may find themselves in independent command. [42]
Minor tactics were more or less mechanical, while grand tactics were less predetermined, that is they could not be identified by following the standard scripts.
They are to Minor Tactics what Minor Tactics are to drill, i.e. the method of adapting the power of combination to the requirements of battle; they deal principally with moral forces; and their chief end is the concentration of superior force, moral and physical, at the decisive point.
Henderson’s thinking was influenced by his studies of the Civil War. As a company officer, he wrote The Campaign of Fredericksburg: A Tactical Study for Officers, the focus of which was indicated by the subtitle. In 1898, now at the Staff College, he wrote an admired biography of Stonewall Jackson.[43] Grand tactics was forgotten, and strategy came to the forefront. His descriptions still combined elements of Bülow (what was and was not in the enemy’s sight) with Jomini (with references to strategy being worked out on the map).[44] In 1898, Henderson lectured on how strategy should be taught. As I note below, this lecture was interesting for its observations on the interaction of strategy and policy, but it also reflected Henderson’s conviction that the status of strategy needed to be elevated. The tactician, he noted, was the “more popular personage than the strategist, poring over his map, and leaving to others the perils and the glories of the fight.” The strategist only really came into his own when looking beyond the principles of warfare — “which to a certain extent are mechanical, dealing with the manipulation of armed bodies” — to what he called the “spirit of warfare.” This involved the moral element that could inspire troops, the elements of “surprise, mystery, strategem.” Henderson criticized Hamley for his neglect of these elements, for they were not “mere manoeuvres,” but in practice were “the best weapons of the strategist.” The published version of his lecture included an appendix on “strategical procedure,” which began: “The object of the strategist is to concentrate superior force on the field of battle.” [45] In 1902, Henderson wrote the entry on strategy for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Here he observed that civilians continually confounded strategy with tactics.[46] Despite his earlier complaint that grand tactics lacked definition, when it came to strategy, the problem was the opposite: “Almost every military writer of repute has tried his hand at it, and the only embarrassment is to choose the best.” As such, he adopted the definition employed by the official text-book of the British infantry. Strategy was “the art of bringing the enemy to battle, while tactics are the methods by which a commander seeks to overwhelm him when battle is joined.” This meant that “while the two armies are seeking to destroy each other it remains in abeyance, to spring once more into operations as soon as the issue is decided.” Thus, the end of strategy was “the pitched battle,” and the aim was to gain every “possible advantage of numbers, ground, supplies, and moral” to ensure the “enemy’s annihilation.” Thus, throughout the 19th century, British definitions encouraged the view that there was no sharp distinction between strategy and tactics, for the same unit would be involved in one and then the other. At issue were the requirements of officer education, and in particular the balance between mechanical drills, with their fixed scripts, and the need to move beyond those scripts. This required a flexibility of mind and imagination to be able to handle the larger challenges that would be faced in a campaign. This occurred at the strategic level, but the demands of strategy also involved paying attention to very practical matters for which the texts offered clear guidance: how to move forces over long distances, paying attention to medical needs, as well as food and accommodation. When it came to the very highest levels of command, knowledge of military history — looking back rather than forward — was seen as the best form of instruction. The effect was to reinforce the fixation with battle in military discourse, which continued throughout the 19th century. The fact that Henderson could make exactly the same points talking about grand tactics in 1894 and then strategy in 1902 (using the same reference to Napoleon’s observation in his published maxims that this level required the study of military history) was telling.

The Impact of the Civil War

The most likely challenge to the established frames of reference for thinking about war and strategy was a major conflict. The Napoleonic Wars had set the frames for the century. The wars that followed this set of great and iconic battles lacked the unexpected and distinctive features sufficient to challenge these frames. The Civil War, by virtue of its length and ferocity, posed more of a challenge, yet its impact on how strategy was conceptualized was also limited, even in the United States. Russell Weigley notes that “the experience of the Civil War failed to inspire any impressive flowering of American strategic thought.” The output from West Point reflected stagnation. American writers stuck to unimaginative concepts of European-style war, not even exploring whether the Indian wars had much to say about strategy.[47] American strategic thought had a strong French influence from the start. The first textbook at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was a translation of Gay de Vernon’s Traité élémentaire d’art militaire et de fortification, which included a separate section on grand tactics written by the translator.[48] A key position at West Point was the chair of civil and military engineering (a focus which itself says something about the practical nature of officer training). Dennis Mahan occupied it from 1832-1871. One of Mahan’s protégés was Henry Halleck, who became known as a cautious Union general during the Civil War. In 1846, he published a series of lectures, entitled the Elements of Military Art and Science. In this work, he observed that strategy could be “regarded as the most important, though least understood, of all the branches of the military art.”[49] Mahan’s writings adopted a similar Jominian framework.[50] Yet little time was spent by West Point cadets actually studying strategy, and there was a general distrust of the learned professional soldier as opposed to the inspired military genius. Col. Henry L. Scott’s Military Dictionary simply expanded the standard definitions to provide a reminder of the topics that might come under the headings:
The art of concerting a plan of campaign, combining a system of military operations determined by the end to be attained, the character of the enemy, the nature and resources of the country, and the means of attack and defense.
Having quickly disposed of strategy, Scott’s next entry on “street-fighting” was far longer as this was clearly a more enthralling topic. An earlier entry on battle discussed at greater length the views of “Professors of Strategy” on how battle was best approached.[51] Whether Jomini’s ideas as interpreted by his American followers influenced the conduct of the Civil War has been questioned, not least by Carol Reardon.[52] Carl von Decker’s Tactics of the Three Arms[53] was considered better for instruction, while another writer who had fought with Napoleon, Marshal Marmont, had not only reached a far higher rank but also had a more dynamic style.[54] Nor did Jomini play much of a role in the lively debate that lasted the course of the Civil War in the North on how that war should be best conducted. My concern, however, is with definitions of strategy. As with most definitions (including that of Clausewitz), Jomini’s definition alluded to a wider theory, but was not dependent upon it. Despite the experience of the war, in its aftermath no other work commanded the same authority. The war highlighted the importance of political context and showed how it affected strategy, but not to the extent of forcing a reappraisal of strategy’s essentially military character. Cornelius J. Wheeler, who took over at West Point from Mahan in 1865 and held the position until 1884, showed more interest in war as a political phenomenon, but the stress was still on following Jomini.[55] Only with his successor, James Mercur, do we start to see new possibilities. The first object of the “art of war,” he explained was “to determine the time, place and character of battles and conflicts so that the greatest benefit may result from victory and the least injury from defeat.” This was to be accomplished by strategy, including logistics. The second objective was “[t]o make one’s self stronger than the enemy at the time and place of actual combat.” This required “Logistics, Discipline, Grand and Minor Tactics, and Military Engineering.”[56] Strategy took priority, but without knowledge of the other branches its limitations could not be understood. Mercur opened his discussion of strategy by setting as its first goal taking “advantage of all means for securing success.” The second aim was to “cause the greatest benefits to result from victory and the least injury from defeat.” The first involved “questions of statesmanship and diplomacy.” Mercur’s list of what this entailed would feature in later considerations of grand strategy, such as “managing the military resources of a nation”; and “conducting international intercourse that when war becomes necessary or desirable, favorable alliances may be made with strong power, and hostile combinations of nations may be avoided.” He urged that due weight be given to “financial and commercial considerations” including when choosing campaign objectives, and when deciding on how to organize and train military forces.[57]  He even discussed what would now be called the “security dilemma.”[58] The organization of armies may “constantly suggest an early conflict, and thus produce an irritation which may soon lead to open hostility.” He observed that when it came to choosing when to accept or avoid conflict “statesmanship becomes strictly strategical.” Yet after that promising opening, the analysis became entirely orthodox, with the “hostile army” selected as the strategic objective.[59] Mercur’s book was only used as a text for a short period and is now largely forgotten. [quote id="2"] The only book-length study of any note, according to Weigley, was Capt. Bigelow’s Principles of Strategy: Illustrated Mainly from American Campaigns.[60] Bigelow was amongst those who took the view that a grasp of strategy was essential for officers of all grades, writing that, “A lieutenant in charge of a scouting party may be confronted with problems which nothing but generalship will enable him to solve.” Although his basic definition of strategy — the art of conducting war beyond the presence of the enemy — was entirely conventional, he sought to redress the balance between tactics and strategy, complaining that too many writers favored tactical skill at the expense of strategic skill. Most importantly, he divided strategy into three kinds: “regular, political, and tactical.” Tactical strategy was about getting “better men than the enemy’s upon the field of battle,” while political strategy focused on “undermining the political support of the opposing army, or at effecting recall from the war.” These forms of strategy were normally practiced in combination. He was not proposing a new hierarchy, and his discussions suggested that the tactical and political forms of strategy were all, in the end, geared toward the purpose of regular strategy, which was to destroy the hostile army. Yet in his discussion of Gen. William T. Sherman’s campaign, Bigelow was at least starting to assess variations on the standard scripts.[61] Sherman wrote a war memoir published as a magazine article with the intriguing but, to modern eyes, misleading title of “The Grand Strategy of the Wars of the Rebellion.” Despite the fact that his Georgia campaign challenged assumptions about how wars should be fought — with the morale of the adversary’s population the target as much as the adversary army — he stressed that the principles of war were fixed and unchanging. They were “as true as the multiplication table, the law of gravitation, or of virtual velocities, or any other invariable rule of natural philosophy.” He found that his best guide was a treatise by France J. Soady, which was actually a compilation of thoughts extracted from major texts, although it did refer to Sherman as a “man of genius” and gave a favorable account of his Georgia campaign.[62] The lack of progress in the American debate is illustrated by an article published in 1908 titled, “The Conduct of War.” In it, the author, Capt. Matthew Steele, argued that it was better to read military history than military textbooks. Military writers undertook to define strategy, yet it resulted in “definitions as various as the writers were numerous.” With each, the term meant what most suited the author’s treatise. Steele adduced that the term could not be defined. Instead, “its meaning must be arrived at by [a] sort of process of absorption.” According to him, there was only one principle of strategy that has “undergone no alteration either real or apparent.” In the end, it all came down to being “strongest at the decisive point.”[63]

The Impact of the Franco-Prussian War

The other great conflict that might have been expected to have a major influence on thinking about warfare was the Franco-Prussian War. The shock to the French led to urgent efforts to reform the army and restore an interest in strategy. To the fore was Gen. Jules Louis Lewal, who became director of the revived École de Guerre and at one point became minister of war.[64] His project included developing a professional general staff and encouraging a hitherto dormant interest in Clausewitz. A new translation of Clausewitz’s work was published in French in 1886.[65] Lewal, according to Luvaas, “was reluctant to admit the existence of strategy as such,” and eventually came to see it as little more than mobilization, doubting that there would be much choice as to where a battle would actually be fought.[66] The debate was substantial, but the inclination was still to look backward rather than forward, returning to the Napoleonic era and the spirit of that time. Victor Derrécagaix summarized the debate on strategy in the late 1880s by observing that some who were “desirous of finding in new arguments a remedy for past mistakes” had sought new theories. He continued:
Others have denied that there is such a thing as strategy, and attributed all the results of war to tactics. For a small number strategy is the conception, and tactics is the execution. According to some writers strategy is the science of operations; tactics, that of battles.
Derrécagaix concluded that it was best to stick with Jomini. Strategy was about maneuvering armies in the theater of operations, while tactics was about disposing them upon the battlefield. His contribution was to identify the principles of Napoleon’s system and note that Field Marshal Helmuth Graf von Moltke had achieved victory through their sound application.[67] This debate, therefore, reaffirmed the importance of eliminating the enemy army as a fighting force. The intellectual and emotional effort went into demonstrating how offensive élan could contribute to a weaker force overcoming a stronger. While still instructing young officers at the start of the 20th century, Ferdinand Foch stressed the importance of tactics over strategy. “Following a study which has led to so many learned theories," he asserted that “fighting is the only means of reaching the end.” Strategy was “not worth anything without tactical efficiency.”[68] The stress elsewhere in the military literature was also on battle: According to Gen. Jules Lewal, the objective in warfare “was to win, overwhelm the adversary materially and morally, to oblige him to ask for mercy,” while for Gen. Adolphe Messimy, “Victory is not achieved through the possession of a town or territory, but through the destruction of the adversarial forces.” For Lt. Col. Léonce Rousset, “One has to think exclusively of battle. All efforts, all thoughts, all preparations have to pertain to its success.” Lt. Col. Hippolyte Langlois added that the main aim was “to ensure that one wins the battle.”[69] The German debate was more substantial, although established definitions of strategy remained intact. The architect of the Prussian victory in the wars of German unification, Field Marshal Moltke, was more cautious in drawing lessons from his successful campaign, and had a subtle understanding of strategic practice. As a follower of Clausewitz, he shared the view that tactical successes drove strategic outcomes. That is why, to him, strategy was a “system of expedients.” Preparations for battle must be meticulous. But whereas Clausewitz saw the completion of battle as a task for strategy, it was Moltke’s view that once battle began strategy became “silent” as tactics took over. Only once battle was over could strategy come back into play.[70] A number of those who worked closely with Moltke wrote their own books on strategy, including Wilhelm von Blume and Gen. Bronsart von Schellendorf.[71] They followed established definitions of the term. Blume warned against disregarding “the nature of strategy to seek to transform it into a learned system exactly determined,” and stressed the importance of tactics as dealing with the “proper ordering” of the action of troops “towards the object of fighting.” He asserted that all that was “not embraced under the head of tactics is strategy.” This included the “decision as to when and for what object battle shall be joined, the assembly of the necessary forces, and the reaping of the proper result.” One of the more thoughtful contributions was Prince Kraft’s Letters on Strategy. Kraft, who had held more junior roles during the wars of 1866 and 1870 but now had access to Moltke’s papers, observed how the strategist, while not at personal risk, must decide “whether a battle is to be fought or not; on his fiat depends the lives of thousands.” Although he took the accepted line that “it must always be the aim of strategy to unite the greatest possible strength for the tactical blow,” and that it was impossible to be too strong for a decisive battle, he also allowed that there were occasions when actions might have to be taken for purely political reasons, such as storming a particular fortress. He was also aware of campaigns that lacked declarations of war or a concluding peace treaty, or when fighting occurred when there was no actual war. This raised in his mind whether other ideas might one day be held “upon what we now describe as Peace and War, Policy and Strategy.”[72] [quote id="5"] One vital question addressed in the German debate was whether the second phase of the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War represented the future more than the first. After the French army had been comprehensively defeated in a conventional battle at Sedan, there followed a period of irregular French resistance. Moltke remained troubled for the rest of his life by the thought that the 1866 war against Austria marked the end of Kabinetskrieg, a Cabinet War — one decided upon and settled by governments and fought by professional armies. Instead, future war would take the form of a Volkskrieg, with the whole nation engaged in the military effort, rendering it bloodier and harder to conclude. Any peace negotiations would be less straightforward than those following the complete elimination of the enemy army. Yet he did not see any alternative strategic objective. This theme was picked up in one of the most influential books of the period. Colmar von der Goltz, a rising star in the German army, explored the implications in Das Volk in Waffen.[73] The logic pointed to the exhaustion of the belligerent nations rather than victory through a few great decisive battles, until the exhaustion itself created the conditions for one side to make a breakthrough. The entire resources of the nation would be engaged, and conscript armies would be formed. Battle would still be necessary, however, and that remained the business of strategy. The counter to Goltz’s pessimism was to put the effort into developing an even bolder plan for the opening stage of a war so that it could be won on conventional lines before it was allowed to turn into such a titanic struggle. This was the approach taken by Moltke’s successor, Count Alfred von Schlieffen, who worked on a plan to ensure the “annihilation” of the French Army in the event of a war, warning that failure to do so would mean an “endless war.”[74] In 1879, a young historian, Hans Delbrück, reviewed Frederick the Great’s Military Testament and concluded that Frederick had been no fan of battle. For him, it had been at most an occasional and necessary evil. This was a provocative claim, for Frederick had been portrayed as setting the path that Napoleon followed, thus pointing to the modern way of warfare. Goltz was one of the first to respond. The debate over Frederick’s philosophy of war and its implications for strategy continued for the next three decades. As Foley notes, Delbrück succeeded in uniting an otherwise fragmented officer corps against him.[75] He also came up with another heresy: He suggested that Clausewitz himself had seen the possibility of an alternative to winning through decisive battle (based on his reading of Clausewitz’s notes about revising On War). Delbrück set out his challenge to established German views in an 1889 article arguing that it was possible to win wars by maneuver as well as great battles.[76] Here came the distinction between Niederwerfungsstrategie, a strategy of annihilation that would eliminate the enemy’s army as a fighting force through battle, and Ermattungsstrategie, a strategy of exhaustion (or attrition) in which battles would not be decisive, but there would instead be an accumulation of pressure that would wear the enemy down. The implication of Delbrück’s argument was that, whatever the general staff’s preferences, the conditions might not fit the plans and war might take a quite different form to the one intended. At issue was also a definition of strategy. The military’s view was that there was a “single, correct and legitimate form of strategy,” geared toward battle, such that Delbrück’s exploration of how, employing Clausewitz’s schema, a different policy might lead to a different strategy missed the point. [77] Looking back over the strategic thinkers of the 19th century, Lt. Gen. Rudolf von Caemmerer of the German Army mocked Bülow for having claimed at its start to be writing in the spirit of the age. In practice, argued Caemmerer, Bülow completely failed to understand the century’s new spirit, as exemplified by Napoleon. Instead of looking forward to an age of decisive battles, he was looking back to a war of positions.[78] Caemmerer did not entertain the thought that the same mistake was being repeated, by assuming that the great encounters of the previous century were setting the terms for 20th century wars. He failed to consider the possibility that some equally transformational changes were underway.

Strategy and Policy

The argument between Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and Moltke about the best approach to take toward French resistance after September 1870 raised the issue of the extent to which military operations should be shaped by political considerations. Moltke insisted that while policy must set the goals “in its action, strategy is independent of policy as much as possible. Policy must not be allowed to interfere in operations.”[79] The evident flaw in Moltke’s argument, which Bismarck pointed out, was that the political considerations then in play, including the possibility of other states coming to the aid of France as irregular French resistance continued, had little to do with preparing to fight a pitched battle. Bismarck confessed that he had not read Clausewitz, but he saw clearly the continuing role of politics once war had begun. He wrote:
To fix and limit the objects to be attained by the war, and to advise the monarch in respect of them, is and remains during the war just as before it a political function, and the manner in which these questions are solved cannot be without influence on the conduct of the war.[80]
This remained the view of the German army. While the militarist Gen. Friedrich von Bernhardi accepted that war was a means to an end that existed “entirely outside its domain” and so could “never itself lay down the purpose by fixing at will the military object,” he was clear that politicians should not “interfere in the conduct of war itself and attempt to order to take a particular course to actually reach the military targets. Attempts to do so put at risk military success.”[81] The sentiment of political non-interference was universal across European armies. The regularity and insistence with which it was expressed betrayed an underlying anxiety that it was not the easiest position to defend. In addition, the more Clausewitz was read, the more the relationship between strategy and policy came to the fore. However, this was a slow process, and did not get beyond the formula that, though the statesman set the objectives, the general must have independence when deciding on action.[82] This was also the position reached in the British debate, although influenced more by the Civil War than the Franco-Prussian War.[83] President Abraham Lincoln, after all, had not only hired and fired generals according to their strategic competence, but also had engaged directly on what needed to be done to win the war. In a classic example of the inseparability of strategy and policy, when Gen. George Meade, the victor of Gettysburg, spoke triumphantly of driving “the invaders from our soil,” Lincoln was distressed that the Confederate States Army had been able to retreat. The generals needed to get that idea out of “their heads,” he complained, for the “whole country is our soil.” The enemy was “within your easy grasp,” he wrote to Meade, “and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely.”[84] A biography of Lincoln by his two secretaries published in 1890 observed that “talk of military operations without the direction and interference of an Administration is as absurd as to plan a campaign without recruits, pay, or rations.”[85] Yet in his review of the evident tensions between the generals and the political leadership on both sides during this war, British commentator G. F. R. Henderson reasserted the importance of preventing politicians from interfering in military decision-making:
That the soldier is but the servant of the statesman, as war is but an instrument of diplomacy, no educated soldier will deny. Politics must always exercise a supreme influence on strategy; yet it cannot be gainsaid that interference with the commander in the field is fraught with the gravest danger.[86]
At the same time, Henderson was acutely aware of the growing importance of the contextual factors that would determine whether it would be possible to get into an optimal position for battle. In his lecture “Strategy and its Teaching,” for all its concluding conformity, Henderson underlined how much good strategy depended on good statesmanship. “It is difficult, if not impossible, to divorce soldiering and statesmanship. The soldier must often be the adviser of the statesman.” Strategy should be “concerned as much with preparation for war as with war itself.” He spoke of these preparations as the “Peace Strategy” (that is, strategy pursued at a time of peace as opposed to one geared toward achieving peace). [87] This aspect of strategy was given more attention, as the state of alliances became more salient in assessing the likely character of a future war. Thus T. Miller Maguire, a barrister, who was a regular commentator on international affairs, referred to “international strategy” in a lecture he gave at the Royal United Services Institution in 1906.[88] The poor performance of the British army in the Boer War led to introspection as well as respect for Germany’s growing strength and the leading role of its general staff, and interest in German military thinking. This interest resulted in the translation of key German texts into English. Maguire, quoted above, even complained about the unwarranted influence of German ideas in British military doctrine:
We are overwhelmed with translations of the literary labours of German generals; our tables groan beneath the ponderous and dreadfully dull tomes of a generation of writers who seem to thrive on knowledge of the minutest details of two campaigns — 1866 and 1870 — and of these only. [89]
The greater awareness of Clausewitz brought with it his insistence on war as a continuation of politics, although as much, if not more, interest was shown in his discussions of friction and the interaction of the offense and the defense.[90] Stewart Murray, who provided a short guide to Clausewitz, insisted that during actual operations the statesman should exercise the greatest possible restraint, and avoid all interference, except when demanded by overwhelming political necessity.” If pre-war preparations were inadequate, that would clearly be a political failure more so than a military one. Politicians were responsible for the war as much as the peace policy, for “preparing, ordering, guiding, and controlling of war.” [91] Moreover, as Lt. Col. Walter James observed, it was, at times, advantageous to follow a more political than purely military strategy to bring home to an enemy the futility of resistance.[92] The established view depended on a clear division of labor between the statesman and the commander. This would only work if they understood one another. A debate at the Staff College among senior officers in 1911 indicated the extent to which questions of politics kept on intruding into strategic matters. The received view was that the education of officers required that they write “strategical papers, referring to military operations in which they might one day be engaged,” but as they did so they should keep clear of political matters. Yet one officer, Col. Launcelot E. Kiggell, observed that when studying and teaching war “politics were at the back of all strategical problems.”[93]

The Naval Contribution

The period beginning in the late 1880s also saw a growing influence of naval thinking on wider strategy. It was surprising that it took so long, given the well-established importance of the Royal Navy to Britain’s international standing. Introducing a book published in 1891, Rear Adm. Philip Columb observed that there had been an abundance of literature describing war on land — here he mentioned Hamley — but little attention had been given to naval war: “Of writers of naval strategy there were absolutely none; writers on naval tactics were few and far between.”[94] He did not offer his own definition of strategy, other than to refer in passing to the standard distinction between strategy “determining the locality of battle,” and tactics its “conduct.”[95] In his introduction, Colomb expressed his pleasure at the recent publication of what he described as a work complementary to his own, written by an American, Alfred Thayer Mahan, the son of Dennis Mahan. The younger Mahan developed his theories at a relatively late age after being put in charge of the new U.S. Naval War College in 1886.[96] He focused on the importance of control of the sea to Britain’s rise as a great power, thus providing a broad and historical context to naval operations. By advocating that America follow the British example, he can be seen as a pioneer of grand strategy, although this was only by implication. It was not a term he used.[97] In 1911, Mahan published his original lectures in a revised and expanded form under the title Naval Strategy, but the revisions did not extend to his definition of strategy, which he had developed in his first book. When he began, Stephen Luce, the first president of the Naval War College, urged him to follow Jomini, although he appears to have required little persuading to do so. In his introduction to The Influence of Sea Power, Mahan identified the point of contact between armies or fleets as “the dividing line between tactics and strategy.” He shared Jomini’s belief in the permanence of the general principles that came under the heading of strategy. This is why they could be deduced from history. Tactics, by contrast, were more subject to the “unresting progress of mankind.”[98] When it came to battle, the organized forces of the enemy provided the strategic objective, just as they would do on land. His definition of grand tactics was taken directly from Jomini: “the art of making combinations preliminary to battle as well as during their progress.” [quote id="3"] Yet there was one sense in which Mahan did accept a difference between naval and military strategy. Military strategy tended to be confined to a “combination, either or wholly distinct or mutually dependent, but always regarded as actual or immediate scenes of war.” This could be considered too narrow for the naval sphere. Here there were positions that could be occupied at times of peace that would be of value at times of war. From this came his definition of the goals of naval strategy: “to found, support, and increase, as well in peace as in war, the sea power of a country.”[99] This was somewhat circular, as the purpose of strategy was to increase the power that made the strategy possible. Nevertheless, the stress on peacetime was significant. If the opportunity could be taken to establish naval bases at critical points across the globe, for example, then wartime operations should be much easier. In fact, as with Henderson, the importance of peacetime preparedness as an aspect of strategy was already being picked up by army theorists. As Mahan noted, the importance of certain geographical points as “strategic” in their importance went back to early 19th century strategists such as the Archduke Charles. In Colomb’s work, great stress also was placed on the importance of advantageous strategic positions. Mahan worked with a narrow definition of strategy while emphasizing the potential political and economic consequences of naval operations. This stress on the wider context and the importance of peacetime dispositions pushed naval thought to a more expansive definition of strategy. This was an opportunity to build upon Clausewitz’s view of politics and war, which his disciples in the German general staff had found awkward, but Mahan came to Clausewitz late, and his works had little evident influence on Mahan’s thinking. This was not the case with the British maritime theorist Sir Julian Corbett, an influential civilian who studied Clausewitz.[100] Corbett believed that naval and military strategy should be considered in relation to each other, and that both needed to be released from the fallacy “that war consists entirely of battles between armies and fleets.” He went back to the assumption of the pre-Napoleonic period that the main objective was territory and not the enemy armed forces, whose destruction was at most a means to an end. Thus, he defined strategy as “the art of directing forces to the ends in view.” In 1906, in his “Strategical Terms and Definitions Used in Lectures on Naval History” pamphlet, Corbett divided strategy into “major” (or “grand”) dealing with ulterior objects and “minor” dealing with “primary objects,” which were essentially concerned with war plans and operational plans respectively. The vital feature of major/grand strategy was that it involved the “whole resources of the nation for war” and not just armed force. In 1911, when he revised these notes, he left it as a distinction between major and minor.[101] The distinction, however, represented a breakthrough in thinking about strategy. The ends of major or grand strategy were a matter for the statesman while the army or navy was responsible for the minor strategy, whose purpose was how to achieve those ends. The ulterior and primary objects had to be kept in mind when planning operations. With major strategy, there was a tension between the use of the army and navy as instruments in war while keeping in view the politico-diplomatic position of the country, along with the commercial and financial. This led to the “deflection of strategy by politics” and was “usually regarded as a disease.” This was, however, “inherent in war:” Neither strategy nor diplomacy ever had a clean slate. This interaction had to be accepted by commanding officers as part of the inevitable “friction of war.”[102]

After the Great War

There was no evident need to reappraise the concept of strategy after the end of World War I.[103] Despite the fact that at the war’s start the “narrow political vision” of the soldiers was “matched by the remarkable military ignorance of the political leaders,”[104] the interaction of strategy and policy was still being viewed as it had been prior to the war. One widely read book by Maj. Gen. Wilkinson Bird still kept the political and military aspects of war-making separate. He defined strategy “as the direction or management of war” and divided his definition into a peace strategy so “that should war take place it may be waged with every prospect of success.” This would involve questions of funding and alliances, as well as describing the interests to be protected and the “localities where the enemy may be struck.” In the event of war, “the primary purposes of military strategy are to allot and dispose the forces so that the victory in battle will be probable, and if gained will be decisive.” He expressed concern with the fact that “non-military considerations” formed “a large item in the broader aspects of policy” and would encourage “the tendency to meddle with the conduct of operations which some statesman appear to have found difficulty in resisting.”[105] Even by 1927, the diplomat, politician, and military historian, Sir William Oman, recognized he was being controversial when he urged the need for “the directing classes in any nation” to “have a certain general knowledge of the history of the Art of War” and not feel “bound to accept blindfold the orders of their military mentors.” He was aware that he was ignoring warnings of “amateur strategy.” Still, he could not accept the view that once a political leader set down the political ends of war, it could “wash his hands of the whole matter, and make no comment, criticism, or interference on what the military authority may do.” It was not good enough to see the political role as simply making sure that the military had “whatever men, money and munitions as required.” The military were as fallible as anybody else. However sparingly used, the civilian leadership “must retain some power to comment, to criticize, even to quash.” It was dangerous to lay down a strict and rigid rule of non-interference by the civil power.[106] The views of Col. John “Boney” Fuller and Capt. Basil Liddell Hart had both been shaped by the fighting on the Western Front and they originally made their names by developing ideas for the mechanization for the Army. In 1923, Fuller, the senior and more original of the two, picked up on Corbett’s reference to grand strategy.[107] Once it was accepted that the effectiveness of the military instrument had to be discussed in the context of the other instruments of state policy, then it was clear that a military victory was no longer adequate. The focus of war, insisted Fuller, should be “to enforce the policy of the nation at the least cost to itself and to the enemy and, consequently, to the world.” The grand strategist had to understand commerce and finance, as well as politics, culture, and history, in order to “form the pillars of the military arch which it is his duty to construct.” Fuller offered a completely new approach to warfare in his 1926 book, The Foundations of the Science of War.[108] The ambition and complexity of the book’s arguments limited its appeal. In the book, Fuller argued that the aim of military operations was to encourage a form of nervous breakdown on the enemy side rather than to emerge victorious from battle. With grand strategy, “the political object” was to win the war, while with grand tactics the object was the “destruction of the enemy’s plan.” The object of strategy was “to disintegrate the enemy’s power of cooperation” and of tactics “to destroy his activity.” Yet while this was a bolder conceptual framework, Fuller’s actual understanding of strategy remained orthodox. In lectures given in the early 1930s, he was still describing strategy in terms of battle: “the advance to the battlefield is a strategical act.” As soon as there was contact, tactics would “begin to shape themselves.”[109] It is important to note that, although grand tactics has been compared to contemporary descriptions of the “operational level,” for Fuller it does not appear simply as an intermediate stage between strategy and minor tactics. Minor tactics, he explained, reflected a “different expression of force.” Whereas grand tactics were concerned with the “mental destruction” of the enemy, minor tactics came into play when it was necessary to move into physical destruction (“when the mind of the enemy’s commander can only be attacked through the bodies of his men”).[110] As Milevski notes, Fuller’s use of the term strategy is often “odd.” Fuller admitted to Liddell Hart that "'I find it most difficult to suggest a suitable definition of strategy.’”[111] On strategy, Liddell Hart, though more derivative in his ideas, produced sharper and, in the end, more lasting language.[112] The key conceptual breakthrough came in a short piece written in June 1924 titled “The Napoleonic Fallacy,” which was published in a relatively obscure journal, although it was eventually reworked (as was Liddell Hart’s habit) in his first theoretical book, Paris; Or the Future of War[113] and in subsequent books. There was no new definition of strategy, but, following Fuller, he established that the objective of war was a good peace — an “honourable, prosperous, and secure existence.” This set as the military’s aim to subdue the enemy’s “will to resist, with the least possible human and economic loss.” On this basis, and in contrast to “The Napoleonic Fallacy,” the “destruction of the enemy’s armed forces is but a means and not necessarily an inevitable or infallible one to the attainment of the real objective.” It was “the function of grand strategy to discover and exploit the Achilles’ heel of the enemy nation; to strike not against its strongest bulwark but against its most vulnerable spot.”[114] [quote id="4"] In a letter in late November 1927, Liddell Hart denied that he was offering a “one-sided refutation of battle as a means of victory,” but more an argument “to remedy the lopsidedness which has arisen through over-emphasis on battle as the all-important means to victory.” Here he identified for the first time his theory of “The Strategy of the Indirect Approach,” according to which “the dislocation of the enemy’s moral, mental or material balance is the vital prelude to an attempt at his overthrow.”[115] This was the theme of his most lasting book, The Decisive Wars of History,[116] in which he rejected Clausewitz’s definition — “the employment of battle as a means to gain the object of war” because this took for granted the necessity of battle. He preferred a definition he attributed to Moltke: “the practical adaptation of the means placed at a general’s disposal to the attainment of the object.”[117] From this definition, he formulated his own: “the distribution and transmission of military means to fulfill the ends of policy.” Much later, “transmission” was replaced by “employment.”[118] He limited tactics to matters concerned with “the fighting.” Grand strategy was about the coordination and direction of all the resources of the nation to the attainment of the political object of the war. Unlike Fuller, Liddell Hart saw no need for a separate concept of grand tactics. His definitions were part of a package of propositions geared to the promotion of his indirect approach so as to avoid desperate frontal assaults. In his wariness of battle, he was looking back to the 18th century and some of the ideas that animated the earliest discussions of strategy. But the advantage of his definitions was that they did not require accepting the whole package. The key shift was to accept that there were a number of ways to use armed force, and that the most advantageous way in a given scenario depended on a keen understanding of the political context. During the interwar years, references to grand strategy became increasingly frequent. This was the combined result of more thought being given to World War I and the rise of aggressive militarism in the 1930s. In a book published during World War II, the historian Cyril Falls did not seem to understand that the term grand strategy was of comparatively recent origin. He considered strategy to be a matter for the “commander-in-chief, and described tactics as the “art of fighting,” beginning where strategy ended. This left the demarcation point between the two hard to identify. This was an observation that could have been made a century earlier. Or else, Falls suggested, perhaps strategy referred to what was done on a great scale and tactics on a minor scale, or else strategy was “the province of the virtuoso, tactics that of the artisan.” In practice, the strategic choices were usually limited, and so it was the slog of tactics that got results.[119] Also during the war, Field Marshall Lord Wavell, who had begun his military career in the Boer War and ended it as commander-in-chief for India, challenged Liddell Hart’s view that strategy was gaining in importance: “I hold that tactics, the art of handling troops on the battlefield, is and always will be a more difficult and more important part of the general’s task than strategy, the art of bringing forces to the battlefield in a favorable position.”[120] It was after World War II that Liddell Hart’s definition began to stick, helped by his growing reputation as a prophet of limited war and the publication of his classic book on strategy in 1967. In a volume published in 1970 titled Problems of Modern Strategy, Michael Howard opened his essay observing that Liddell Hart’s definition was “as good as any, and better than most.”[121]


In the same volume as Howard’s essay, the French political theorist Raymond Aron noted that the appropriate contrast for strategy was tactics, but that “modern authors” tended to contrast it instead with “policy.” The result was that there was “now no difference between what was once called a policy and what one now calls strategy.”[122] In 2005, Hew Strachan made a similar point. The view of strategy developed by the early 20th century was “based on universal principles, institutionalized, disseminated, and at ease with itself.” Strategy was only one of the components of war, but it was “the central element sandwiched between national policy on the one hand and tactics on the other.” If there was a problem it “lay not in its definition but in its boundaries with policy.”[123] This was a natural consequence of the decline of the soldier-sovereigns and the need to manage relations between the civil and military spheres, each with its distinct role and responsibilities. As this article has shown, there was a boundary problem on the other side as well. Numerous writers observed that the distinction between strategy and tactics was hardly clear-cut. It was difficult to separate out the preparations for fighting and actual fighting, or to distinguish activities according to the responsible level of command. This was why ideas of grand tactics kept on intruding. It was also the area in which writers on colonial wars saw the most significant difference with regular warfare. The impact of colonial wars, which was the main preoccupation of the army, was more ambiguous because these wars tended to be seen as special cases.[124] This particular boundary problem, unlike that with policy, was manageable because all the activities were military responsibilities. The boundary problem between strategy and policy went to the heart of civil-military relations and by the start of the 20th century was increasingly hard to play down. The proper relationship was supposed to involve the government setting policy which would be handed down as the objectives of the war to the military commanders responsible for strategy. They would then turn them into war plans. The basic problem, perhaps more in theory than in practice, was that war plans were always expected to come down to the elimination of the enemy army as a fighting force. That is how strategy was presented for purposes of officer education. Without such a sharp focus on defeating the enemy army, discussions of strategy would have opened up earlier. In that case, however, the need to cover a great variety of types of engagement would have undermined all efforts to provide detailed advice on standardized operations. The narrow approach therefore facilitated the military curriculum but at the expense of failing to prepare officers for contingencies other than those of a pitched battle. After World War I, a narrow approach to strategy appeared inadequate. Historian Edward Mead Earle brought scholars interested in the increasingly pressing questions of national security to a seminar in Princeton, where a broader view of the subject emerged. In his introduction to his landmark collection of essays, Makers of Modern Strategy, published in 1943, Earle explained that, narrowly defined, strategy was “the art of military command, of projecting and directing a campaign,” where tactics was “the art of handling forces in battle.” But war and society had “become more complicated,” and so “strategy has of necessity required increasing consideration of nonmilitary factors, economic, psychological, moral, political, and technological.” Strategy, therefore, was not “an inherent element of statecraft at all times.” His definition tended toward grand strategy:
In the present-day world, then, strategy is the art of controlling and utilizing the resources of a nation — or a coalition of nations — including its armed forces, to the end that its vital interests shall be effectively promoted and secured against enemies, actual, potential, or merely presumed.[125]
As Strachan pointed out in another article, the category of grand strategy was not always helpful because it suggested that it was in some way comparable to military strategy.[126] The original concept was closely connected to war and could be taken to refer to all of those things, including military preparations and action, required to prosecute war effectively. This included peacetime preparations for conflict, such as allocating military budgets and forming alliances. But these preparations might be undertaken in such a way that they made war unlikely (deterrence) and so, over time, could be hard to distinguish from a more general foreign and defense policy. Thus, just as strategy lost its specificity when it became unhinged from battle, so too did grand strategy lose its specificity as it became detached from war. Instead of discussions on strategy staying close to those on tactics they moved to a much higher plane. In the period under discussion, an “operational level” was not identified.[127] A number of theorists did write about grand tactics, largely referring to the more demanding actions needed prior to actual battle, at which point ordinary tactics would come into play. Strategy itself best covered what is now considered the operational level, and the introduction of the latter can be seen as a response to the loss of a purely military definition of strategy.[128] These different categories — grand strategy/policy, strategy, grand tactics/operations, tactics — could be seen as representing different levels of command, and so serve as a way of delineating the responsibilities of each. But the issue was always the dynamic interaction between these distinct concepts, and the more categories, the more complicated that interaction became. When strategy only entailed preparing for battle, it was a chapter heading, a set of practical issues that any commander would need to address when moving large bodies of men, properly equipped and provisioned, into position for the coming encounter. Once battle was no longer the certain objective and the relationship between military means and political ends was opening up a range of operational possibilities, the topic of strategy became more challenging for purposes of officer education. But for the same reasons it also became much more interesting for theorists. Instead of looking to the past to help deduce the unchanging principles of war, strategy came to mean looking to the future to explore new ways in which changing political circumstances might interact with new forms of armed force. There is an unavoidable tension between strategy as theory, a way of thinking about the interplay of political and military affairs, and strategy as guidance, a way of preparing for likely contingencies. The first breaks down boundaries. The second requires boundaries to keep the task manageable. By the end of the 19th century, the study of strategy had become routine for practitioners, but of little interest for theorists. By the end of the 20th century, it had become a matter of endless fascination for theorists, but a puzzle for practitioners.   Sir Lawrence Freedman is professor emeritus of war studies at King’s College London. Freedman became professor of war studies at King’s College in 1982. In 2002, he became head of the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy at King’s College. In June 2009, he was appointed to serve as a member of the official inquiry into Britain and the 2003 Iraq War. Before joining King’s College, Freedman held research appointments at Nuffield College Oxford, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, and the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. Elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1995, he was appointed official historian of the Falklands Campaign in 1997. His most recent books are Strategy: A History (2013) and The Future of War: A History (2017). ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: The British Library [post_title] => The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => meaning-strategy-part-ii-objectives [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 14:00:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 19:00:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => By the end of the 19th century, the study of strategy had become routine for practitioners, but of little interest for theorists. By the end of the 20th century, it had become a matter of endless fascination for theorists, but a puzzle for practitioners. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 2 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The item on tactics referred to a higher branch — la grande tactique — that should be thoroughly understood by all general officers ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Military writers undertook to define strategy, yet it resulted in “definitions as various as the writers were numerous.” ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The period beginning in the late 1880s saw a growing influence of naval thinking on wider strategy. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => During the interwar years, references to grand strategy became increasingly frequent. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The German debate was more substantial, although established definitions of strategy remained intact. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 561 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 59 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] I am grateful to Beatrice Heuser and Hew Strachan for their comments on an earlier draft of this article. [2] Basil Liddell Hart, Strategy: The Indirect Approach (London: Faber, 1967), 351. In the original version published in The Decisive Wars of History (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1929), strategy was defined as the art of “the distribution and transmission of military means.” [3] Général d’Armée André Beaufre, “Liddell Hart and the French Army, 1919-1939,” The Theory and Practice of War: Essays Presented to Captain B. H. Liddell Hart on his 70th Birthday, ed. Michael Howard (London: Cassell, 1965). [4] André Beaufre, Introduction à la stratégie (Paris: Libraire Armand Colin, 1963). Published in English as Introduction to Strategy (New York: Praeger, 1965) [Introduction à la stratégie, Paris, 1963)]. [5] Col. Arthur Lykke Jr., “Strategy = E + W + M,” Military Review LXIX, no. 5 (May 1989): 2-8. [6] Lawrence Freedman, “The Meaning of Strategy, Part I: The Origins,” Texas National Security Review 1, no. 1 (October 2017), [7] Beatrice Heuser, The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 120-121. [8] Guillame-Henri Dufour, Strategy and Tactics, trans. William Craighill (New York: Van Nostrand, 1864), 8. [9] The Google Books N-gram Viewer displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books over the selected years. [10] Dietrich Heinrich von Bülow, The Spirit of the Modern System of War, trans. Malorti de Martemont (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013). [11] Lukas Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). [12] Freedman, “The Meaning of Strategy, Part I." [13] Ira Gruber, Books and the British Army in the Age of the American Revolution (University of North Carolina Press, 2010), Part I. [14] Johann W. von Bourscheid, trans. Kasier Leo des Philosophen Strategie und Taktik in 5 Bänden (Vienna: Jospeh Edler von Kurzboeck, 1777-1781). [15] “Foreign Articles,” The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature 48 (October 1779): 310,;view=1up;seq=23. [16] Joly de Maizeroy, A System of Tactics, Practical, Theoretical and Historical, trans. Thomas Mante (London: Cadell, 1781); Comte de Guibert, A General Essay on Tactics, trans. Lt. Douglas (London: J. Millar, 1781). [17] It is notable that the reviewer clearly found the section of Guibert dealing with politics more interesting than that on the purely military issues. It did refer to elementary and “great,” rather than “grand” tactics. The Critical Review: Or, Annals of Literature 52 (December 1781). Another review of Maizeroy [The Monthly Review, Or, Literary Journal: Vol. 71: From July to December, Inclusive, 1784 (London: R. Griffiths, 1785)] noted his enthusiasm for classical texts and wondered whether these could provide guidance of tactics under modern conditions, and regretted the concentration on the higher tactics while taking the knowledge of the elementary for granted. [18] Simon-François Gay de Vernon, Traité élémentaire d’art militaire et de fortification: à l'usage des élèves de l’École polytechnique, et des élèves des écoles militaries, 2 vols. (Paris: Libr. Allais, 1805), 79. [19] John Michael O’Connor, A Treatise on the Science of War and Fortification (New York: J. Seymour, New York, 1817), 104. [20] British Military Library, 2 vols. (London: Richard Phillips, 1804). [21] Charles James, New and Enlarged Military Dictionary, Part I (London: T Egerton, 1802), The now lost word “stratarithmometry,” which was spelled in a number of different ways, was concerned with drawing up an army or any part of it in a geometric figure. [22] Charles James, New and Enlarged Military Dictionary, 2nd ed. (London: T Egerton, 1805), 915-916. Milevski notes its appearance, but not the fact that this was borrowed directly from Nockhern de Schorn. Milevski, Evolution, 15. [23] Charles James, New and Enlarged Military Dictionary, 3rd. ed. (London: T Egerton, 1810), [24] Unsigned review of Carl von Clausewitz, "On War," Metropolitan Magazine (May and June, 1835): 64-71, 166-176; this was also published in the Military and Naval Magazine of the United States V and VI (August and September issues, 1835): 426-436, 50-63. Clausewitz’s The Campaign Of 1812 In Russia, trans. Francis Egerton (London: John Murray, 1843) was translated into English in 1843, so he was appreciated at first largely as a military historian more than theorist; Christopher Bassford, The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America, 1815-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). [25] J. A. Gilbert, An Exposition of the First Principles of Grand Military Combinations and Movements, Compiled from the Treatise upon Great Military Operations by the Baron de Jomini (London: T. Egerton, 1825). [26] Jay Luvaas, The Education of an Army: British Military Thought, 1815-1940 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1964), 18. The proposed title was “The Philosophy of War.” [27] William Napier, “Review of Traité des grandes opérations militaires,” Edinburgh Review XXXV (1821): 377-409. [28] Edward Yates, Elementary Treatise on Tactics and on Certain Parts of Strategy (London: Boone, 1855), 1. His distinction between strategy and tactics owes much to Bülow: “Strategy is that division of the science of war, which superintends the direction of all operations and the construction of all combinations, except during the intervals of action; the instant at which the opposing forces, of whatever magnitude, come into sight of one another.” At this point, strategy left “its presidency,” until the two armies lost sight of one another, and then it would return. Tactics was what was left over; it was “that division of the science of war which presides over all operations over whatever strategy does not preside.” [29] Luvaas, Education, Chapter 2. [30] John Mitchell, Thoughts on Tactics (London: Longman et al., 1838), [31] Mitchell, Thoughts. Brian Holden Reid has emphasized the anti-intellectual culture of the army over the 19th century in Brian Holden Reid, Studies in British Military Thought: Debates with Fuller and Liddell Hart (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), 67, 70. [32] Committee of the Corps of Royal Engineers, eds., Aide-memoire to the military sciences, 3 vols. (London: John Weale, High Holbern, 1846-52), 5-7. For another example of guidance on strategy involving repetition of Jomini, see Hon. F A Thesiger, Strategy, A lecture delivered at the United Services Institute of West India, Poona, 1862 (Bombay, Alliance Press, 1863). [33] Hew Strachan, “Soldiers, Strategy and Sebastopol,” The Historical Journal 21, no. 2 (1978): 307. [34] Brian Bond, The Victorian Army and the Staff College, 1854–1914 (London: Eyre Methuen, 1972). For a less damning verdict see Hew Strachan, From Waterloo to Balaclava: Tactics, Technology, and the British Army 1815-1854 (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985). [35] A. W. Preston, “British Military Thought 1856–1890,” The Army Quarterly 89, no. 1 (October 1964), 60. [36] Lt. Col. P. L. McDougall, The Theory of War: Illustrated by Numerous Examples from Military History (London: Longmans, 1856), 2-3. [37] Edward Bruce Hamley, The Operations of War: Explained and Illustrated (London: William Blackwood, 1866). It was read by Moltke. [38] Luvaas, Education, 151. It stayed in print until 1923. [39] Hamley, The Operations of War, 55-7. Hamley struck a modern note with his stress on the need to “read the theatre of war” and references to the “narrative of campaigns” — essentially a way of thinking through the demands of strategy. [40] Maj. Gen. C. Francis Clery, Minor Tactics, 13th ed. (London: Kegan Paul, 1896), 1. [41] Here Henderson had Clery in mind. [42] Col. G. F. R. Henderson, “Lessons from the Past for the Present,” Lecture at the United Services Institution, May 25, 1894, published in a collection of his essays: Col. G. F. R. Henderson, Science of War: A Collection of Essays and Lectures 1891-1903, ed. Neill Malcom (London: Longmans, Green & Co.: 1906), 168. [43] Lt. Col. G. F. R. Henderson, Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War, 2 vols. (London: Longman Green, 1898). For an appreciation of Henderson, see Jay Luvaas, “G. F. R. Henderson and the American Civil War,” Military Affairs 20, no. 3 (Autumn 1956): 139-15. Also, see Luvaas, Education, Chapter 7. [44] He noted that “strategy, unfortunately, is an unpopular science, even among soldiers, requiring both in practice and in demonstration constant and careful study of the map, the closest computation of time and space, a grasp of many factors, and the strictest attention to the various steps in the problems it presents … the determining factor in civilised warfare …trained common sense.” [45] Lt. Col G. F. R. Henderson, “Strategy and its Teaching,” Journal of the Royal United Services Institution XLII (July 1898), 761. [46] Strategy, from the Encyclopedia Britannica supplement 1902. Reprinted in Henderson, Science of War. While strategy was clearly the higher art Henderson was strongly of the view that this did not mean that strategy was “the province of the few” while “tactics of the many,” so that only those expecting high command “need trouble about what is perhaps the most important branch of the art of war.” Yet soldiers could not know if circumstances would push them into command at a critical moment. Those without this knowledge would be “terribly one-sided creatures.” [47] Russell F. Weigley, “American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War,” Makers of Modern Strategy, ed. Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 438-9. See also Brian McAllister Linn, The Echo of Battle (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009). [48] This was unusual as a key text first translated into English by an American (see footnotes 18 and 19). Michael Bonura, Under the Shadow of Napoleon: French Influence on the American Way of Warfare from Independence to the Eve of World War II (New York: NYU Press, 2012), 76. [49] Henry Hallek, Elements of the Military Art and Science (New York: 1846). See Azar Gat, The Development of Military Thought: The Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 16-22. Halleck did note the importance of the “Policy of War,” or “the relations of war with the affairs of state.” [50] Dennis Mahan, Elementary Treatise on Advanced Guard, Outposts, and Detachment Service of Troops (New York: Wiley, 1847; revised, 1862). [51] Col. H. L. Scott, Military Dictionary (New York: Van Nostrand, 1861), 574. This had not been prepared “in view of the existing disturbances.” [52] Carol Reardon, With a Sword in One Hand and Jomini in the Other: The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012). [53] Carl von Decker, The Three Arms or Divisional Tactics, Maj. Inigo Jones, trans. (London: Parker, Furnivall, and Parker, 1848). The translator, Maj. Inigo Jones, had improved the text, however, by interspersing Decker’s thoughts with some from Jomini. [54] Interestingly there was both a Union translation and edition: Marshal Marmont, The Spirit of Military Institutions, trans. Henry Coppee (Philadelphia: J P. Lippincott, 1862); and one from the Confederacy: Marshal Marmont, The Spirit of Military Institutions, trans. Col. Frank Schaller (Columbia, S.C.: Rvans and Cogswell, 1864). Marmont worked with established definitions of strategy. [55] Junius Wheeler, A course of instruction in the elements of the art and science of war. For the use of cadets of the United States military academy (New York: Van Nostrand, 1878), 11. He defined strategy as “the science of directing, with promptitude, precision and clearness, masses of troops to gain possession of points of importance in military operations.” [56] James Mercur, The Art of War: Prepared for the Cadets of the United States Military Academy (New York: John Wiley, 1898), 16, 140. Grand tactics referred to “planning battles, perfecting the preliminary arrangements, conducting them during their process and securing the results of victory, or avoiding the consequences of defeat.” [57] Mercur, The Art of War, 272. [58] Ken Booth and Nicholas Wheeler, The Security Dilemma: Fear, Cooperation and Trust in World Politics (London: Palgrave, 2007). [59] Mercur, The Art of War, 272. [60] Russell F. Weigley, “American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War,” in Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy, 438-9. Linn also accepts that Bigelow was “insightful and original.” [61] John Bigelow Jr., Principles of Strategy: Illustrated Mainly from American Campaigns (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1894). [62] Gen. W. T. Sherman, “The Grand Strategy of the Wars of the Rebellion,” The Century Magazine (February 1888): 582-597. Lt. Col. Frances Soady, Lessons of war as taught by the great masters and others; selected and arranged from the various operations of war (London: W. H. Allen, 1870). [63] Capt. Matthew Steele, “The Conduct of War,” Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States XVII (1908): 22-31. Here he was quoting from Colmar Freiherr Von der Goltz, The Conduct of War, trans. Maj. G. F. Lereson (London: Kegan Paul et al, 1899), whose work is discussed below. Steele noted that strategy could “not even be held to a military sense; there is a political as well as a military strategy, and they both fall within the scope of the conduct of war.” [64] J. L. Lewal, Introduction à la partie positive de la stratégie (Paris: Librarie Militaire Baudoin, 1892). See Gat, The Development of Military Thought, 123. [65] Published as Théorie de la Grande Guerre, trans. Lt. Col. De Vatry. See Beatrice Heuser, Reading Clausewitz (London: Pimlico, 2002), 15. A much earlier edition was out of print. [66] Jay Luvaas, “European Military Thought and Doctrine,” in Howard, ed., The Theory and Practice of War, 78. [67] Victor Bernard Derrécagaix, Modern War, Vol. 1 Strategy, trans. C. W. Foster (Washington: James Chapman, 1888), 3-4. [68] Marshal Foch, The Principles of War, trans. Hilaire Belloc (New York: Henry Holt, 1920). This was first published in French in 1903. [69] Cited in Heuser, Evolution, 144-5. [70] Antonio Echevarria II, After Clausewitz: German Military Thinkers Before the Great War (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2000), 142. [71] Wilhelm von Blume, Strategie (Berlin: E.S. Mittler und Sohn, 1882); Gen. Bronsart von Schellendorff, The Duties of the General Staff, 4th ed. (London: H.M.S.O., 1905), 2 vols. (London: Kegan Paul, 1877-1880). [72] Kraft fought in the wars of German unification, but did not exercise senior command. Gen. Prince Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen, Letters on Strategy, 2 vols. (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner &​ Co., Ltd., 1898), 1-2, 11. [73] Colmar von der Goltz, Das Volk in Waffen (Berlin: R. von Decker, 1883). Published in Britain in 1905 (based on 5th edition in 1898), trans. Philip Ashworth (London: Hugh Rees, 1906). [74] Robert T. Foley. ed., Alfred von Schlieffen’s Military Writings (London: Frank Cass, 2003), 172 [75] Robert J. Foley, German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870–1916 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 39-40; Gat, The Development of Military Thought; Echevarria II, After Clausewitz. [76] Hans Delbrück, “Die Strategie des Perikles erläutert durch die Strategie Friedrichs des grossen,” Preußische Jahrbücher 64 (1889). [77] Arden Bucholz, Hans Delbrück & the German Military Establishment (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1985), 35. Delbrück’s magnum opus, Geschichte der Kriegskunst im Rahmen der politischen Geschichte, was published in 4 vols. from 1900 to 1920. A further 3 vols. in the series were completed by other writers by 1936. Delbrück had a limited influence on British and American debates. His significance was first identified in Gordon A. Craig, "Delbrück: The Military Historian," Edward Mead Earle, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy; Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy. His work did not begin to appear in English until 1975: Hans Delbrück, trans. Walter J. Renfroe, Jr., History of the Art of War within the Framework of Political History, 4 vols. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975-1985). [78] Lt. Gen. Rudolf von Caemmerer, The Development of Strategical Science During the 19th century (Berlin: Baensch, 1904), trans. Lt. Gen. Karl von Donat (London: Hugh Rees, 1905). [79] Daniel Hughes, Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1995), 35. See also Barry Quintin, Moltke and his Generals: A Study in Leadership (Solihull, Helion & Co., 2015). [80] Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 105-7. [81] Friedrich von Bernhardi, Vom heutingen Kriege (Berlin: Mittler, 1912); Friedrich von Bernhardi, On War of To-day, trans. Karl von Donat, 2 vols. (London: Hugh Rees, 1912-13), vol. 2. [82] See, for example, Commandant Mordacq, Politique et stratégie dans une démocratie (Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1912); Benoît Durieux, Clausewitz en France: Deux siècles de réflexion sur la guerre (1807-2007) (Paris: Bibliothèque Stratégique, 2008). [83] In Luvaas, Education, 109, he notes that MacDougall was the first European to include lessons from the Civil War into a military text. Hamley was criticized in a Spectator article for his inaccuracies on the American war: “Hamley’s Operations of War,” The Spectator 39 (June 23, 1866), 695-696. [84] Eliot Cohen, Supreme CommandSoldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), 40-41. [85] John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History IV (New York: The Century Co., 1890), 359-360. [86] Henderson, Stonewall Jackson, Vol. 1, Chapter 7. [87] Lt. Col. G. F. R. Henderson, “Strategy and its Teaching,” Journal of the Royal United Services Institution XLII (July 1898): 761. [88] T. Miller Maguire, “International Strategy Since 1891 and its Present Condition,” Journal of the Royal United Services Institution 50, no. 1 (1906): 637-655. [89] T. Miller Maguire, Our Art of War as Made in Germany (London: Simpkin, Marshall, 1900), 2. The timing suggests he had Goltz particularly in mind. Maguire was unusual in seeing strategy as a way for the weaker power to avoid battle on unfavorable terms. Geoffrey Demarest, T. Miller Maguire and the Lost Essence of Strategy (U.S. Army War College, Strategy Research Paper, 2008). [90] See Bassford, The Reception of Clausewitz. For example, Henderson described Clausewitz as “the most profound of all writers on war,” but “geniuses and clever men have a distressing habit of assuming that everyone understands what is perfectly clear to themselves.” As Henderson was thinking of instructing officers, he observed the Prussian’s uselessness for men of “average intelligence.” [91] Stewart Murray, The Reality of War: A Companion to Clausewitz (London: Hugh Rees, 1914), 128-133, [92] Lt. Col. Walter James, Modern Strategy: An Outline of the Principles Which Guide the Conduct of Campaigns (London: Blackwood, 1903), 17, 18. Though James had a conventional view of strategy as being “concerned with the movement of troops before they come into actual collision,” his description of what this involved indicated just how broad the discussion was becoming. It included “the selection of the country in which to fight” and “the objects against which the armies should be directed.” [93] Bond, Victorian Army, 266. [94] Rear-Adm. P. H. Colomb, Naval Warfare: Its Ruling Principles and Practice Historically Treated (London: W. H. All, 1891), v-viii. [95] Rear-Adm. P. H. Colomb, Naval Warfare, 76. [96] Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1890) and The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793–1812 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1892). Robert Seager, Alfred Thayer Mahan: The Man and His Letters (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1977). For a collection of his writings, see Alfred Thayer Mahan, Mahan on Naval Strategy: Selections from the Writings of Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, with an introduction by John Hattendorf (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1991). [97] Jon Tetsuro Sumida, Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer Mahan Reconsidered (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1999). Milevski, Evolution, 29, describes Mahan as implying grand strategy. [98] Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power, 8. [99] Alfred Thayer Mahan, Mahan on Naval Strategy, 22. [100] J. J. Widen, Theorist of Maritime Strategy: Sir Julian Corbett and His Contribution to Military and Naval Thought (Abingdon; Routledge, 2016); Donald M. Schurman, Julian S. Corbett, 1854–1922 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1981). See also Azar Gat, Development of Military Thought. [101] In an earlier work, he had referred to “higher” strategy. Milevski, Evolution, 37. [102] Julian Corbett, Some Principles of Maritime Strategy (Longmans, Green & Co., 191), 308. The “The Green Pamphlet” of 1909 appears as an appendix. [103] See for example William Keith Naylor, Principles of Strategy with Historical Illustrations (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: General Services School Press, 1921): ‘‘The division between strategy and tactics is generally known and everyone fairly knows under which head to place any single act, without knowing distinctly the grounds on which the classification is founded.” Naylor stuck with Jomini. German military writing kept the old definitions. [104] Hew Strachan, The First World War, Vol. I: To Arms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 99. [105] Gen. W. Bird, The Direction of War: A Study of Strategy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1920), 14, 27, 43. The list of authorities he provides are largely those mentioned in this study based on the Napoleonic wars. He does not include Corbett. This was, however, part of a series of which Corbett was the general editor. [106] Sir Charles Oman, “A Defence of Military History,” The Study of War for Statesmen and Citizens, ed. Sir George Aston (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1927), v-vi, 40-1. The former Foreign Secretary, Viscount Grey of Fallodon, introduced the volume observing that civilians who may play a part in government in time of war should study the principles of war, and particularly the great mistakes that civilian governments have made in military and naval strategy (adding he must share responsibility for some of those in the recent war). [107] J. F. C. Fuller, The Reformation of War (London: Hutchinson and Co, 1923), 214. On Fuller, see Gat, Fascists and Liberal Visions of War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998) and Brian Holden Reid, Studies in British Military Thought. [108] J. F. C. Fuller, The Foundations of the Science of War (London: Hutchinson, 1926). [109] Reid, Studies in British Military Thought, 107-8, 154-5. [110] J. F. C. Fuller, Foundations, 110. [111] Milevski, Evolution, 51. [112] His first effort at definitions was unsuccessful. In 1923, he distinguished between tactics as the “domain of weapons” and concerned with destruction, while strategy was the “the science of communications,” largely concerned with movement. B. H. Liddell Hart, “The Next Great War,” Royal Engineers Journal XXXVIII (March 1924). An excellent source on the development of Liddell Hart’s concepts is Lt. Col. Richard M. Swain, B. H. Liddell Hart; Theorist for the 21st Century (Fort Leavenworth, KA: Advanced Operational Studies School for Advanced Military Studies, U. S. Command and General Staff College, 1986). See also Swain’s “B. H. Liddell Hart and the Creation of a Theory of War, 1919-1933,” Armed Forces & Society 17, no. 1 (1990): 35-51 and Brian Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of his Military Thought (London: Cassell,1977). [113] B.H. Liddell Hart, Paris: Or, The Future of War (London: Dutton, 1925). [114] B. H. Liddell Hart, “The Napoleonic Fallacy; The Moral Objective in War,” Empire Review 1 (May 1925), 510-520. For the date of composition, see B. H. Liddell Hart, Memoirs, 2 vols. (London: Cassell, 1965), I, 75. [115] Swain, “B. H. Liddell Hart,”42. The extent to which Liddell Hart’s ideas derived from Corbett and Fuller is well-known. Less appreciated, perhaps, is his debt to Sun Tzu, which he read for the first time in 1927. He later attested to Sun Tzu’s impact upon him and quoted him liberally. “In one short book,” he observed, “was embodied almost as much about the fundamentals of strategy and tactics as I had covered in more than twenty books.” B. H. Liddell Hart, “Foreword” in Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. Samuel B. Griffith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), vii. See also Derek M. C. Yuen, Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read the Art of War (London: Hurst & Co, 2014). The links between Sun Tzu’s formulations and his own are pronounced. [116] B. H. Liddell Hart, The Decisive Wars of History (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1929). [117] Robert Foley has been unable to trace this quote and notes that Liddell Hart’s source is unclear, and is possibly a poor translation. “Can Strategy be Reduced to a Formula of S=E+W+M?” Defence in Depth (November 2014), [118] “Transmission” was removed in the 1954 version, published as “Strategy: The Indirect Approach” (always his preferred title). The 1967 edition has the definition now generally used. [119] Cyril Falls, Ordeal by Battle (London: Methuen, 1943), vol. 5, 74. He mentions Fuller in passing but not Liddell Hart, although there is a slighting reference to the indirect approach: “the neophyte may imagine that the ideal procedure would be to march straight round the enemy’s flank and get astride his communications. … But it would only serve against an army which could be relied upon to submit tamely to the process.” [120] Lord Wavell, Soldiers and Soldiering (London: Jonathan Cape, 1953), 47. Cited in Bernard Brodie, Strategy in the Missile Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959), 12-14. [121] Michael Howard, “The Classic Strategists,” Problems of Modern Strategy, ed. Alastair Buchan (London: Chatto & Windus for the Institute for Strategic Studies, 1970), 47. He also opened with Liddell Hart in Michael Howard, “The Forgotten Dimensions of Strategy,” Foreign Affairs (Summer 1979), 975-986. A reader for the National Defense University published in 1980, while including a rather long-winded definition of strategy from the Joint Chiefs, opened with Howard’s essay and a number of extracts from Liddell Hart’s book. Col. George Holt Jr. and Col. Walter Milliken, Strategy: A Reader (Washington, DC: National Defense University, 1980), iii. The Joint Chiefs’ definition was: “the art and science of developing and using political, economic, psychological, and military forces as necessary during peace and war, to afford maximum support to policies, in order to increase the probabilities and favorable consequences of victory and to lessen the chances of defeat.” [122] Raymond Aron, “The Evolution of Modern Strategic Thought,” in Buchan, Problems of Modern Strategy, 14-15. [123] Hew Strachan, “The lost meaning of strategy,” Survival 47, no. 3 (2005), 36. [124] “It is a singular feature of small wars that from the point of view of strategy the regular forces are upon the whole at a distinct disadvantage as compared to their antagonists.” Col. C. E. Callwell, Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice (London: HMSO, 1896). [125] Edward Meade Earle, “Introduction,” Makers of Modern Strategy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1943), viii. On Earle see Michael Finch, ‘'Edward Mead Earle and the Unfinished Makers of Modern Strategy,” Journal of Military History 80, no. 3 (2016): 781-814; David Ekbladh, “Present at the Creation: Edward Mead Earle and the Depression Era Origins of Security Studies,” International Security 36, no. 3 (Winter 2011/12): 107–141. [126] Hew Strachan, “Strategy and Contingency,” International Affairs 87, no. 6 (2011): 1281-1296. Strachan’s writing on these issues were collected together in The Direction of War: Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013). [127] Justin Kelly and Mike Brennan identify a reference in the 1982 Field Manual 100-5 to an “operational level of war,” which involved “planning and conducting campaigns” as the source of what they consider to be a major confusion. Alien: How Operational Art Devoured Strategy (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2009). The idea, however, had already been introduced by Edward N. Luttwak, “The Operational Level of War,” International Security 5, no. 3 (Winter 1980-1981): 61-79. [128] Jean Colin saw grand tactics as having a place between strategy and tactics. Strategy was about the general control of operations. It “concerns itself with the combining of movements regulated so as to obtain a predetermined result.” Grand tactics concerns itself with the combined movements which prepare battle, and also organizes the march of divisions up to the point where they become engaged. Jean Colin, The Transformations of War, trans. Bvt. Maj. L.H.R. Pope-Hennessy (London: High Rees, 1912). ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 300 [post_author] => 59 [post_date] => 2017-11-26 03:45:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-26 08:45:27 [post_content] => At the heart of the historical study of strategy is a tension between the consideration of strategy as practice, which is bound up with the history of human conflict, and strategy as theory.[1] The theorists can draw on all the practice, but their task is complicated by the fact that many practitioners did not describe themselves as strategists or, if they did, the term meant something different from how it is now understood.[2] The word “strategy” first came into use in discussions of military affairs in Europe during the 1770s,[3] but it was not until the 20th century that it acquired the broad meanings now attributed to it and that now tend to be applied retrospectively to past practitioners. Prior to World War I, the term had a specifically military character. Only later did it become concerned with the relationship between military means and political ends. Eventually the term became so detached from its military origins to be applied to all fields of human endeavor from sports to business,[4]  which is why it has now become necessary to talk of “military strategy” as a sub-category of this much broader field. The much narrower and largely apolitical early usage needs to be kept in mind when contemporary practitioners of military strategy turn to the classics of the Napoleonic period, especially Carl von Clausewitz, when seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their trade. It is best to do this critically, recognizing the specific issues these earlier theorists were addressing and the conceptual framework with which they were working. In this, the first of two articles, I explore how “strategy” was understood when it first appeared. I first consider why it would not have been difficult to introduce strategy into the military lexicon at this time. As the value of the word was to help distinguish the higher levels of command from the lesser levels of command, I show how the concept of strategy developed in tandem with that of tactics. One issue was whether this higher level was the domain of natural creativity, normally spoken of as “military genius,” or else involved principles that could be learned and applied in a variety of different situations. The first of these was more of a French approach and the second more German. Both, however, were superseded by the focus on the decisive battle that was a feature of the work of both Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini and Clausewitz, inspired by the campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte. In a second article, I will show — largely by looking at discussions of strategy in Britain and the United States — how much a consensus on the general meaning of the term, if not a precise definition, was established during the first half of the 19th century and why this changed little during the second half. Once it was established that strategy was essentially about preparing forces for a decisive battle, this constrained — rather than liberated — thinking. Scholars now routinely use the word “strategy” to discuss how wars were fought in the past, enabling them to explore continuities in practice and compare cases over time and space. Such explorations are undertaken, however, with a contemporary understanding of the term, which stresses the importance of using military means to achieve political objectives. In the period considered in this article, the general assumption was that any political objectives for which it was worth going to war could be achieved through the defeat of the enemy in battle. It is also important to keep in mind that even during this period, those practicing strategy by and large did not use the term. This is certainly the case with Napoleon, whose campaigns shaped the way strategy came to be viewed in the 19th century. When he eventually pondered the term in exile, he did not find it useful, reflecting his suspicion of attempts to over-intellectualize the art of war. The question of how strategy should be defined and understood, therefore, was largely a matter for military theoreticians. The theoreticians had military experience of their own, and in the case of the two great figures Jomini and Clausewitz, their ideas developed through their participation in the campaigns of the Napoleonic War. But their theories were still reflections on the practice of others and were not forged through their own practice. Clausewitz, for example, had worked out his definitions of strategy and tactics by 1805, and they had not varied significantly by the time he came to write “On War,” although his broader understanding of warfare undoubtedly did mature over this period.[5] Jomini insisted that the innovations in warfare were in the realm of tactics, while strategy had timeless characteristics. One of the striking features of this story is the lack of interaction between particular military events and the use of the term. All authors drew on military history to make their points, although at first the examples were as likely to be drawn from the ancient world as recent experience. In the concluding section of my Strategy: A History, I considered strategies as scripts. In cognitive psychology, a script is defined as “a predetermined, stereotyped sequence of actions that define a well-known situation.”[6] The basic idea is that when we come across a situation we think we recognize, we draw on an available mental script that creates expectations about how events are likely to unfold. It offers guidance on how others will behave and how we, in turn, should behave, at least until we start to note deviations from the script. Then, improvisation is required. My discussion of the advantage of thinking of strategy as a script was meant not only to explain why much strategy was intuitive, but also to point to the importance of adaptability and flexibility as it became more deliberative. [quote id="1"] Scripts are also appropriate with regard to the material considered in this article. The tactical manuals used to prepare forces for battle were often set out as scripts on the appropriate responses to defined situations. An efficient army required an almost intuitive mechanical response to the challenges of warfare. Appropriate responses were drilled into troops who were trained to follow orders mechanically so that they knew without asking how to wheel, form squares, defend, and attack, and when to fire and charge. In the manuals, the scripts were set out in meticulous detail, with diagrams and recommended formations. The purpose of drill was to make all of these actions second nature to the troops so that they would always know what was expected of them and would move expeditiously into position, neither flinching nor breaking in the face of the enemy. The more these scripts were internalized by the fighting units, the more effective they would be in a campaign. The drills became increasingly demanding in the face of the complexity of potential maneuvers and the need for disciplined responses in the face of fire that was becoming heavier. But this created its own problems when circumstances arose in which mechanical responses were inadequate and improvisation was needed. By the middle of the 18th century it was apparent that command at the higher levels must have a creative aspect. This was the level at which opportunities that might be fleeting or missed by a duller eye could be seized boldly with speed and confidence. This was where “military genius” made its mark. For those engaged in officer education, this posed a problem because not every officer would be a genius. It was here that one could address the key question of whether genius was a gift bestowed upon a few great commanders or whether there were rules and principles that could be followed that could get the commander close to genius-like decisions without actually being a genius. This was the level that came to be described as “strategic.” The context in which these issues came to be identified and addressed has been well described and explored elsewhere.[7] The spirit of the enlightenment era demanded a more scientific approach to all human affairs, even war. The systematic study of phenomena such as war required careful classification of its different branches, better to explore its differences. Innovations in cartography allowed generals to work out how they might advance from their home base to confront an enemy, with an eye to logistics, and then plot the conduct of battle. In Britain, for example, the need for better maps for war-making had been underlined during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. What became known as the Ordnance Survey began in 1790, under the Board of Ordnance, the government body responsible for the defence of the realm.[8] The growing size and complexity of modern armies demanded far more attention to the problems of how they were to be drilled, moved, sustained, deployed, and commanded. The first general staff designed to support the commander-in-chief was introduced in Austria after the 1750s, although it was the Prussians who made the system work most effectively.[9] Lastly, the War of the Austrian Succession (1740 to 1748) and then the Seven Years War (1756 to 1763) involved tactical innovations, notably in the campaigns of Frederick the Great. In the 1757 Battle of Rossbach, Prussian forces under Frederick defeated a combined French and Holy Roman Empire force twice their size, imposing massive losses while suffering few themselves.[10] After this, the French avoided further combat with Prussia and an introspective debate began into the failings of the French military system and the need for reform. Demands for reform extended to the wider political and economic system, leading to the upheavals resulting from the French Revolution. This provided the setting for Napoleon’s wars of conquest, pushing all the issues connected with strategy to the fore, as the defeat of the enemy army in battle became the prime objective.

"Strategy" Enters the Lexicon

The agreed view is that the word “strategy” arrived in the modern European lexicon in 1771 when the French officer Paul Gédéon Joly de Maizeroy published his translation of the Byzantine emperor Leo VI’s Taktiká. This included references to strategía as well as taktiké. Strategía, previously discussed as the science of the general, was now transliterated simply as stratégie. A word was born.[11] By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, “strategy” was in use by military theorists across Europe. When Clausewitz came to discuss the question of strategy and tactics at the opening of Book 2 of On War, he was almost apologetic, assuming that what he had to say was now familiar. Strategy and tactics were so “closely related” that any careful distinction would be considered “superfluous” by many readers. People knew of the distinction (“now almost universal”) and could distinguish between the two (“everyone knows fairly where each particular factor belongs”), even if they could not always understand why the distinction was being made.[12] Black notes an appearance in a Danish military dictionary in 1810. It was present in Italy by 1817, in Spain and Holland by 1822 and a bit later in Portugal.[13] As we will see in my next article for this journal, the new word was noted almost immediately in Britain, although not actively discussed until the first years of the 19th century. Why was the adoption of “strategy” so widespread and so rapid? The first reason is that it was not really a neologism and would have been understood (if not always in the same way) without much explanation. Those who aspired to contribute to the theory of war in the 18th century were likely to have a firm grounding in the classic Greek and Roman writing on the subject. The key words came from Greek. Taktiké meant “order” while strategos and strategía referred to generals and the things generals did.[14] They would have read Polybius (c.200 to 118 BCE), whose treatise on tactics was lost, but regular reference was made to it in his subsequent histories of the wars of the Greeks and the Romans.[15] The Greek Aelian of the second century provided a detailed discussion of Greek tactics, which was an important source for later writers concerned with the organization of their own forces.[16] Aelian in turn influenced Arrian (86 to 180), who discussed the concept in his History of Alexander and also wrote a treatise on Roman tactics, Techne Taktike.[17] The Roman Senator Frontinus (40 to 103) wrote a wide-ranging work on strategy, which was lost, but an extract covering stratagems survived.[18] Stratagems were also addressed in Onasander’s Strategikos  from the first century.[19] Frontitus’s writings, including possibly his lost work, influenced Flavius Vegetius Rematus of the late fourth century. Vegetius’s De Re Militari (“The Military Institutions of the Romans”) never lost its popularity and by the 18th century was seen as a vital guide to the military art.[20] As Christopher Duffy has observed, “intelligent officers knew far more about classical military history than they did about the events of their own time.” Vegetius had become “effectively an eighteenth century author.”[21] A study of the reading habits of British officers during the course of the 18th century confirms the predominant role for the classics (Polybius, Arrian, Frontinus, Vegetius, etc.) that only latterly gave way to more contemporary authors.[22] [quote id="2"] So even before the words strategy and tactics made their way to the center of military theory over the final three decades of the 18th century, they would not have been alien to those educated in the classics.[23] It did not take a great etymological leap for strategía and taktiké to turn into strategy and tactics. It might have been common, as with Sir John Cheke’s 1554 translation of Leo‘s Taktiká from Greek into Latin, to refer to the art of the general or of command (ars imperatoria),[24] but elsewhere, variants of the Greek word were in use. They just did not employ contemporary spelling. One known instance comes from the early 17th century. James Maxwell translated Herodian of Alexandria’s History of the Roman Empire. Against the following words in the text, “All Places of Martiall command they gave to brave noble Captains and Souldiers expert in Marshalling of Armies and Military Exploits,” the translator added his own marginal note: “In which words the author hath couched both the parts of war: viz, tactick and Strategmatick.”[25] As we will see when other cognate words were used, there was always this dichotomous relationship between the derivatives of strategía and taktiké. Although the greatest interest has been in the emergence of strategy, it should be noted that tactics was also not in regular use until well into the 18th century. Up to that point, it was largely used in connection with the wars of antiquity. French dictionaries beginning in 1694 defined “tactiques” by reference to “the Ancients,” as “L'art de ranger des troupes en bataille.” (“The art of putting troops into battle.”)[26] The key figure in persuading Europe that tactics were “worthy of serious study” is considered to be the Chevalier de Folard.[27] He published his Nouvelles découvertes sur la guerre in 1724. This was followed by a new translation of Polybius’s History, which Folard had commissioned and for which he contributed comments of his own.[28] In Britain, John Harris’s Lexicon Technicum, published in 1723, defined tactics as “the Art of Disposing any Number of Men into a proper form of Battle.” Harris reported that the Greeks were very “skilful” in this branch of the military art, “having Public Professors of it,” who were called Tactici.[29] He referred to the Emperor Leo VI, as well as Aelian and Arrias. The word “tacticks” appeared, but not with its own entry, in Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary,[30] under the heading of “Evolutions,” a term used to describe the point when an army shifted its position, for example to move from attack to defense or defense to attack:
The motion made by a body of men in changing their posture, or form of drawing up, either to make good the ground they are upon, or to possess themselves of another; that so they may attack the enemy, or receive his onset more advantageously. And these evolutions are doubling of ranks or files, countermarches, and wheelings.[31]
There was no reference to tactics in Humphrey Bland’s 1727 A Treatise of Military Discipline or in Lt. Col. Campbell Dalrymple’s 1761 “Military Essay.”[32] Nor was there a mention in the most influential British work on the Seven Years War, by Major-General Henry Lloyd.[33] It was, however, introduced when Lloyd added new material as a second part of the book in 1781. Then, he described his outline of the principles of war as “the foundation of all tactics, which alone can offer us some certain and fixed principles to form and conduct an army.”[34] The most admired commander of his day, Frederick the Great of Prussia, wrote his General Principles of War applied to Tactics and the Discipline of Prussian troops, in 1748. Written in French, it was not translated into German until 1753 and then at first issued only to his generals. It was widely published in 1762, late in the Seven Year’s War, after a copy had been taken from a captured general. Despite the title, the text did not actually discuss tactics (and discipline was clearly the highest priority). In his Élements de Castramétrie et de Tactique, published in German in 1771, he considered as tactics issues that would soon come under the heading of strategy.[35] Therefore, when it came to new ways of thinking about the art of war, tactics had a definite head start over strategy, and could cover the same ground, but the lead was not that substantial.

The Origins of "Strategy"

As for strategy, close cousins of the word were already in use. There were at least two important derivations from the original strategía in the lexicon prior to 1771. The first, which was well-established, was stratagem. Strategy and stratagem had the same origins but over time developed separately.[36] The Oxford English Dictionary (an invaluable source on these matters) identifies stratagem’s first English use in 1489 in a military sense (“Whiche subtilites and wylis are called Stratagemes of armes”).[37] It soon came to refer to any cunning ploy or ruse, in some ways suffering the same fate as the modern strategy as a term with a military meaning that became adopted more generally. This can be seen in Shakespeare. In “All’s Well That Ends Well,” it is used in a military sense (“If you think your mystery in stratagem can bring this instrument of honour again into his native quarter, be magnanimous in the enterprise and go on”) and then in a wider sense (“for the love of laughter, let him fetch his drum; he says he has a stratagem for't”).[38] Samuel Johnson referred regularly to stratagems, in a wide and not uniquely military way. Stratagem, however, not only remained an essential element in the art of war, but also there were a number of derivations, identified by the Oxford English Dictionary, in use from the 16th through the 18th centuries — stratagematic, stratagematical, strategematist, and stratagemical.[39] Another related word, now wholly obsolete, was stratarithmetrie (made up of the Greek words for army, number, and measure). This was a form of military arithmetic. John Dee, a highly influential mathematician and an important figure in the Elizabethan Court, wrote an introduction to a new translation of Euclid in 1570 in which he explained the relevance of its principles to a variety of human affairs, including war. He distinguished between “Stratarithmetrie” and “Tacticie,” and in so doing referred to the Emperor Leo VI’s work (this was not long after Sir John Cheke’s Latin translation had been published). Stratarithmetrie, according to Dee, offered a way “by which a man can set in figure, analogicall to any Geometricall figure appointed, any certaine number or summe of men.” It would be possible to choose the best geometrical figure (perfect square, triangle, circle, etc.) that had been used in war “for commodiousness, necessity, and advantage.” It differed from the “Feate Tacticall” that would necessitate the “wisedome and foresight, to what purpose he so ordreth the men.”[40] Dee was cited as an authority on this matter long after he died. The word was used as he intended, for example, in 1652:
Stratarithmetrie is the skill appertaining to the warre to set in figure any number of men appointed: differing from Tacticie, which is the wisdom and the oversight.[41]
The potential of mathematics as a guide to the optimum organization of troops for military engagements was a familiar theme in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was satirized by Shakespeare in Othello with Iago’s disparaging comments about Michael Cassio, a “great arithmetician” who “never set a squadron in the field/Nor the division of a battle knows more than a spinster—unless the bookish theoric.”[42] Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopædia, the first edition of which was in 1728, contained a reference to tactics, taken directly from Harris’s Lexicon Technicum. Unlike Harris, however, Chambers also included as items stratagem (a “military wile”), stratarithmetry (“the art of drawing up an Army or any part of it, in any given Geometric figure”) and, lest the origins of the word be forgotten, strategus (as one of the two appointed Athenians who would “command the troops of the state”).[43] Thereafter, it was hard to find a dictionary without similar or replicated entries as they were habitually copied. In Britain, similar references were found in Chambers’ competitors, for example in Rees’s Cyclopaedia,[44] and the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published from 1788 to 1797.[45] This edition was reproduced in its entirety as Dobson's Encyclopædia, published in the United States from 1799. [quote id="3"] The first edition in 1694 of the authoritative Dictionary of the French Academy had a reference to stratagem as “ruse de guerre,” repeated in later editions. The 5th edition in 1798 made no mention of stratégie.[46] The great Encyclopédie, compiled by Denis Diderot, was originally intended as a French translation of Chambers, and the eventual version, first published in 1765, had a number of items attributed to Chambers. These included entries for “stratagem” and “stratarithmetry,” noting that the latter was not used in France.[47] There was also a discussion of the role of the strategos.[48] Unlike Chambers, however, there was a long section on tactics. This was described as “the science of military movements,” and then, with reference to Polybius, “the art of matching a number of men destined to fight, to distribute them in rows and rows, and to instruct them in all the manoeuvres of war.” This discussed at length the practices of the Romans, the more recent application of the core principles, and addressed the issue of whether or not the French should imitate Prussian methods, clearly an issue after the defeat of French forces in the Seven Years war.

Why the Concept of Strategy Was Readily Adopted

Thus, when Maizeroy used “strategie” by itself and without translation in his 1771 translation of Leo VI’s Taktiká, its appearance would not have posed great difficulties for the more educated students of warfare in the late 18th century. There was the same contrast with tactics as before. Was there, however, also continuity in meaning? Through the 18th century, stratagem had been recognized as an important part of the art of war, fitting in with a preference for what later became known as an indirect approach. According to this approach it was usually best to avoid a pitched battle but if this was not possible then every available ruse should be used to fight only in the most propitious circumstances. The classics encouraged this view, and also emphasized the use of skillful techniques to outsmart the enemy. When Polybius discussed tactics in his histories, he referred to one encounter during the Punic Wars that illustrated the difference “between scientific and unscientific warfare: between the art of a general and the mechanical movements of a soldier.” At issue was not the ability to fight with fury and gallantry, but the use of tactics that helped avoid a “general engagement” by relying instead on wearing the enemy down through surprise ambushes and pushing them into positions where they could neither escape nor fight and risked starvation. Frontinus described strategy (strategikon) as “everything achieved by a commander, be it characterized by foresight, advantage, enterprise, and resolution,” of which stratagem (strategematon) was a subset, including aspects of trickery but was more generally about how success could be achieved by “skills and cleverness.”[49] A key  theme for Vegetius was the need to avoid battle unless necessary: “Good officers decline general engagements where the danger is common, and prefer the employment of stratagem and finesse to destroy the enemy as much as possible in detail and intimidate them without exposing our own forces.” Stratagem was thus one way of waging war, distinct from more direct action.[50] Onasander’s “Strategikos” described ruses designed to mislead an enemy into misapprehensions about the size of the army, or to maintain the morale of troops by demonstrating that things were not as bad as they might suppose. In this way, the “world of war” was one of “deceit and false appearances.” This was the tradition carried through the great works of Byzantium. The Strategikon of Byzantine Emperor Maurice (582 to 602) contained the same theme of relying on cunning rather than brute force to gain victory:
Warfare is like hunting. Wild animals are taken by scouting, by nets, by lying in wait, by stalking, by circling around, and by other such stratagems rather than by sheer force. In waging war we should proceed in the same way, whether the enemy be many or few. To try to simply overpower the enemy in the open, hand in hand and face to face, even though you may appear to win, is an enterprise which is very risky and can result in serious harm.
In addition: “A wise commander will not engage the enemy in pitched battle unless a truly exceptional opportunity or advantage presents itself.”[51] Here was a distinction between strategy and military skill. Strategy made use of times and places, surprises and various tricks to outwit the enemy with the idea of achieving its objectives even without actual fighting. It was “essential to survival and is the true characteristic of the intelligent and courageous general.”[52] The “Strategikon” was not known to Europe’s military innovators as they mined the classics for useful ideas, but, along with Onasander, it influenced the later Emperor Leo VI’s work, completed in the 10th century, with the same key themes (although it had a greater emphasis on the need to pray before battle).[53] As the Russians had followed Byzantine usage, for them the art of the general was very much bound up with stratagem.[54] The Chevalier de Folard, while gaining his notoriety by his promotion of the column as a way to win battles, also shared the classical view that battle was best avoided.[55] Black describes Folard as debating Vegetius “as if he was a contemporary.”[56] One of the best known works of military theory of the mid-century, Count Turpin’s “Essay on the Art of War” included strong advocacy of stratagems to help generals get out of difficult situations.[57] Frederick the Great also had seen battle as subject to too many chance factors to be embraced as a preferred method.[58] The overlap between stratagem and strategy is evident in Chambers’ entry for stratagem, although this also indicates that changes in the nature of warfare might require a different approach. “The Ancients dealt mightily in Stratagems; the Moderns wage War more openly, and on the Square.”[59] Thus, when Maizeroy translated Leo’s Taktiká, he was taking on a work heavily influenced by the stratagem tradition. The prolific Maizeroy took the view that the French had paid far too much attention to other European armies and not enough to the ancients. When later he came to identify the rules of strategy, the links with stratagem became clear:
not to do what one’s enemy appears to desire; to identify the enemy’s principal objective in order not to be misled by his diversions; always to be ready to disrupt his initiatives without being dominated by them; to maintain a general freedom of movement for foreseen plans and for those to which circumstances may give rise; to engage one’s adversary in his daring enterprises and critical moments without compromising one’s own position; to be always in control of the engagement by choosing the right time and place.[60]
One additional factor that might possibly have affected the debate about strategy and stratagems in the early 1770s was the publication of the first Western translation of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War by Father Joseph Amiot, a Jesuit missionary and sinologist. This was one of a number of texts grouped together in a more general collection entitled, Military Art of the Chinese.[61] According to one source, this was received with considerable enthusiasm, with one reviewer describing this as containing “all the elements of the great art which had been written by Xenophon, Polybius, and de Saxe.”[62] Yet, other accounts suggest that the positive response was fleeting, and there was even less impact when it was re-published a decade later.[63] Little admirable was seen in Chinese military practice at this time. Despite claims that it was read by Napoleon, there is no evidence of this, and it would certainly be stretching a point to suggest he was at all influenced.[64] Amiot’s translation is now considered to be poor,[65] and not based on the most reliable version of the text. In this translation, neither the terms tactics nor strategy appear, though they were prominent in later English translations. There were a few references to stratagems.[66] Nonetheless, if this translation had any impact, it would have been to reinforce a stratagem-based, indirect approach that saw battles as events to be avoided if at all possible.

"Strategy" Gave a Name to the "Higher" Parts of War

In addition to the familiarity with the language and the stratagem tradition, a third reason why the concept of strategy was adopted so readily lay in its value in filling a gap in contemporary discussions about the problem of levels of command. Marshal Maurice de Saxe’s My Reveries Upon the Art of War was written in 1736, but only published posthumously in 1756. Saxe was one of the most successful French generals of the 18th century. In his Reveries, he referred to neither strategy nor tactics, but did distinguish between the “higher” and “lesser” parts of war. He argued that commanders must understand the lesser parts, though elemental and mechanical, covering methods of fighting and discipline, as they provided the “base and the fundamentals of the military art.” Once Saxe had dealt with those in the first part of his book, he then moved on to the higher — “sublime” — parts, which he suspected might interest only experts. This meant moving beyond the “methodical,” suitable for ordinary minds, to the “intellectual,” with which the ordinary might struggle. This is why war was like the other “sublime arts.” Application was not enough. There must be talent and excellence.[67] What this part lacked was a name. This sense that there was a level of activity that lacked a proper name is evident in Maizeroy’s prolific output from the 1760s to the 1780s, which included not only his translation of Leo VI, but also editions of his Cours de tactique, théoretique, pratique et historique, first published in 1766, as well as works on stratagems and his own Théorie de la Guerre.[68] Maizeroy, a lieutenant colonel in the French army who had served as a captain under Saxe, explored the distinction between the higher and lesser forms of the art of war. The lesser was,
Merely mechanical, which comprehends the composing and ordering of troops, with the matter of encamping, marching, manoeuvring and fighting … may be deduced from principles and taught by rules.
In his Traité de tactique, published in 1767, he referred to the higher as “military dialectics,” including “the art of forming the plans of a campaign, and directing its operations.”[69] By the time of his 1777 Théorie de la Guerre, and following his translation of Leo, the higher form was strategy, which was “quite sublime” (using Saxe’s word) and resided “solely in the head of the general, as depending on time, place and other circumstances, which are essentially varying, so as never to be twice the same in all respects.” Here is how he distinguished between the two:
Tactics is easily reduced to firm rules because it is entirely geometrical like fortifications. Strategy appears to be much less susceptible to this, since it is dependent upon innumerable circumstances – physical, political, and moral – which are never the same and which are entirely the domain of genius.[70]
Thus, tactics could depend on scripts that could be developed in advance and followed mechanically. It was extremely important, but intellectually undemanding. Strategy, however, came into play when there was no script, when the circumstances were unique and varied. [quote id="4"] A number of authors also addressed the potential value of the term strategy. In 1779, the Portuguese Marquis de Silva published Pensées sur la Tactique, et la Stratégique. For Silva, strategy was the science of the generals and employed and combined the different branches of tactics. [71] In 1783, there was the first reference to “grand strategy,” although in a book now largely forgotten, by Colonel Nockhern de Schorn. He defined strategy as, “The knowledge of commanding armies, one comprehending the higher and the other the lower branches of the art.” He then divided strategy into the higher (La Grande Stratégie) and lower (La Petite Stratégie) in the following way:
The first embraces all that a commander in chief, and all that his subordinate generals should be acquainted with; and the second, which may be called le petit guerre, the diminutive of the first, appertains to the staff and to a certain proportion of the subaltern officers.[72]
Yet when it came to classification, the most influential work of the 1770s dealt with the distinction between the higher and the lesser parts of the art of war without reference to strategy. In his Essai Général de Tactique, published in 1772, Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte, Comte de Guibert, made his distinction solely on the basis of tactics. Tactics were the “foundation” of the science of war, “since they teach how to constitute troops, appoint, put in motion, and afterwards to fight them.” He divided tactics into two parts: “the one elementary and limited, the other composite and sublime.” Again, note the use of Saxe’s word “sublime.” Elementary tactics contained “all detail of formation, instruction, and exercise of a battalion, squadron, or regiment.” The higher level, to which all other parts were “secondary,” contained “every great occurrence of war” and was “properly speaking … the science of the generals.” This part was “of itself everything, since it contains the art of conveying action to troops.”[73] What was art and what was science was constantly in flux over this period, and the terms often seemed to be used interchangeably,[74] yet if generalship was a matter of science and not just genius, then there was a possibility of a script that could help the general think through possibilities. In 1779, Guibert, in Défense du Système de Guerre Moderne, referred to la stratégique.[75] But this book was largely ignored. It was the earlier Essai Général de Tactique that remained the most influential text of this period. As noted below, it was Guibert’s original classification that stuck with Napoleon Bonaparte.

The German Development of Strategy

The Francophone debate, therefore, was bound up with this question of levels of command and the role of the sublime or genius. In the German-speaking world, the development was different. The Austrian Johann W. von Bourscheid, who translated Leo‘s Taktika into German in 1777, also referred to “strategie” and urged readers to develop their understanding of this approach to military affairs.[76] One of the more original contributions to the German literature of this period was made by Georg Heinrich von Berenhorst (1733 to 1814). He was wary of extreme rationalism, stressing genius rather than a search for rules to unlock the secrets to military success. Too much depended on factors that were “unpredictable and incalculable,” including “blind chance.”[77] He followed Guibert in failing to discuss strategy, but not in relying on a sharp distinction between a higher and lower form. Instead, he identified many potential subdivisions of the art of war.[78] The most influential figure in establishing strategy as a distinctive realm of analysis was Heinrich von Bülow, son of a minor nobleman, who had served in the Prussian army. His military career had not advanced far and his independence of mind did not endear him to the authorities. He ended up in prison for his criticisms of the Prussian failure at Austerlitz. His Spirit of the Modern System of War, published in 1799, was in the Stratarithmetrie” tradition, involving the application of geometrical and mathematical principles. Commentators have not been kind to Bülow. Clausewitz considered him a charlatan and dismissed his book as the “Children’s military companion.”[79] Even his English translator was skeptical. Yet, according to Palmer, Bülow can be credited with “giving currency, as words of distinct meaning” to strategy and tactics, though his definitions were not “generally accepted.”[80] It was certainly the case that his work reached Britain before other continental works, with the appearance of Malorti de Martemont’s translation in 1806, and his influence lingered through the 19th century. His mathematics was suspect, while his resistance to the idea of battle put him at odds with the developing Napoleonic method. (“If we find ourselves obliged to fight a battle, mistakes must have been committed previously.”) Yet, if it was not quite in the spirit of its time, in some respects it now has a contemporary feel. At his theory’s heart was an army’s relation to its base, objective, and “lines of operations.” Rather than fight a “hostile army,” better to attack the means by which this army kept itself supplied, which meant that the “flanks and rear must be the objective of operations,” even in an offensive war, and frontal operations should be avoided. In a rare sign of a debate about potentially different meanings of the term, Bülow saw his concepts of “Strategics” as different from the French concept of “la stratégique.” In an observation, significant in the light of my earlier discussion, he considered the French concept as being too limited for it was defined by “the science of the stratagems of war.” Alternatively, he noted, that: “Some, tracing the term to its origins, have denominated it the General’s Art.” Bülow deemed this to be too extensive, “for the General’s Art comprehends the whole art of war, which consists of Strategics and Tactics, sciences being essentially different.”[81] His view was that this was not a matter of sublime military genius, but the sensible application of mathematical models: “the sphere of military genius will at last be narrowed, that a man of talents will no longer be willing to devote himself to this ungrateful trade.”[82] This need not be a “sublime” art, but a disciplined application of set mathematical formulae. The importance of Bülow, therefore, lay in his insistence that scripts were possible and necessary. Good strategy could follow well-founded scripts. He also established the circumstances in which these scripts were relevant. In his opening chapter, he had asserted that,
all operations of which the enemy was the object, were operations of Tactics; and that those of which he was merely the aim and not the direct object, were made a part of Strategics.
Later, he saw a problem in that it was possible to march in column formation preparatory to battle without actually engaging (this being a time when the range of sight was longer than the range of cannon). So, “a general may manoeuvre tactically before an army, and in sight of it, to make a show of attacking it, without having the least intention of it. Here we have Tactics, and no battle.” Bülow, therefore, put aside the question of intent and made his definition on the basis of position and proximity. He defined strategics as “the science of the movements in war of two armies, out of the visual circle of each other, or, if better liked, out of cannon reach.” By contrast, tactics were “the science of the movements made within sight of the enemy, and within reach of his artillery.”[83] With strategics, there should be no apprehension of attack, and so no immediate readiness to fight. It consisted of “two principal parts; marching and encamping.” There were also two parts to tactics — “the forming of the order of battle, and battles, or actual attack and defence.” Taken together, this constituted the whole of the art of war:
Tactics are the completion of Strategics; they accomplish what the other prepares; they are the ultimatum of Strategics, these ending and in a manner flowing into those. The rules of one were applicable to the other. The focus was geographical, giving priority to the importance of the land held, which explains his lack of enthusiasm for battle.
In both these respects, a focus on the land held and the potential value of mathematics, Bülow was followed by the Austrian Archduke Charles, one of the more accomplished Habsburg generals. In his 1806 Principles of the Higher Art of War, published as advice for generals, he showed his interest in “mathematical, evident truths” and in holding positions as much as defeating the enemy (a criticism Napoleon made forcibly of his practice). His Grundsätze der Strategie (“Principles of Strategy”), which appeared in 1814 and was soon widely translated (although not into English) must also take some credit for the dissemination of the term.[84] This may have been largely because of the prestige of the author as much as the novelty of the content. What was agreed was that strategy was the responsibility of the “supreme commander,” while tactics, “the way in which strategic designs are to be executed” was the responsibility of “each leader of troops.”[85] Napoleon soon provided good reason to doubt both Bülow and Charles. He encouraged the idea that military genius was essential to military success, and that the test of success was the annihilation of the enemy army. Napoleon spoke of this genius as an inborn talent with which he had been fortunately blessed. It was the ability to see at a glance the opportunities for battle. This was the issue addressed by Clausewitz and Jomini, both of whom had fought in the Napoleonic wars, as it was unsatisfactory for the purposes of theory if this aptitude was intuitive and exceptional. They had to hold on to the possibility that it could be developed through experience and education, otherwise their writing had no purpose. [86] Clausewitz published an anonymous review of Bülow in 1805 that included his formulation on the relationship between strategy and tactics, from which he did not deviate, and which made intent important. This had little impact at this stage. “Tactics constitute the theory of the use of armed forces in battle; strategy forms the theory of using battle for the purposes of the war.”[87] The same formulation appeared in some of his notes in 1811 and then in On War, where his formulation was far subtler than anything else produced by this time, moving beyond simple classification of activities.[88] He emphasized the need to think of fighting not as a single act but as a number of single acts — or “engagements” — each complete in itself. Tactics were about the form of an individual engagement, so it could be won, strategy about how an engagement was to be used, and therefore its significance in terms of the overall objective of the campaign. He gave the example of ordering a column to head off in a particular direction with an engagement in mind, as being strategy, while the form taken by the column on its travels by way of preparation for the engagement would be tactics.[89] [quote id="5"] In terms of levels of command, strategy was clearly superior to tactics, yet the point of his analysis in On War was that however much the strategist might set the terms for coming battles, the strategy would have to respond to the outcomes of the battles. Capturing perfectly the idea of a strategic script, Clausewitz explained that the strategist wrote a plan for the war, but it could only be in draft.[90] Tactical outcomes shaped strategic outcomes, which could only take shape “when the fragmented results have combined into a single, independent whole.”[91] Clausewitz did not make further subdivisions. In notes written in 1804, he had distinguished between elementary and higher tactics, the first appropriate to small units and the second to larger formations.[92] There is just a trace of this in On War, with a mere reference at one point to “elementary tactics.” Clausewitz’s approach depended on the dialectical relationship of tactics and strategy. One could not be considered independently of the other.[93] It took time before Clausewitz was appreciated, and readers were often warned of the difficulty of his analysis. By contrast, the Swiss Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini was generally considered a more straightforward and valuable thinker. Jomini, along with most of the new wave of military theorists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, developed his thinking through a consideration of the campaigns of Frederick the Great of Prussia, although Napoleon’s victory over the Austrians at Marengo in Italy in 1800 gave him his ideas on how the Napoleonic method might work.[94] He was stimulated by Bülow, although took a completely different tack. In his first major book, Traité de Grande Tactique (a title that betrays the influence of Guibert), he began to work out his theory.[95] He described war as being made up of “three combinations.” The first was the “art of adjusting the lines of operations in the most advantageous manner, which has been improperly called ‘the plan of campaign.’”[96] The second, “generally understood by strategy,” was “the art of placing the masses of an army in the shortest space of time on the decisive point of the original or accidental line of operations.” He saw this as no more than providing the “means of execution.” The third was the “art of combat,” which had been “styled tactics” and was the “art of combining the simultaneous employment of masses upon the important point of the field of battle.” He did not suggest that these were alternative levels of command, only that a general accomplished in one of these combinations might be less effective with the other two.[97] His ideas were fully formed in his Precis de l’Art de la Guerre, published in 1838. Here, Jomini defined strategy in terms of the preparation for battle, while tactics was bound up with the actual conduct of battle, a sequence that again followed Bülow. However, his approach was focused on annihilating the enemy army. Jomini’s description of strategy was about making war “upon the map,” taking a view of the whole theatre of operations and working out where to act. “Grand tactics” was about implementation. It was
the art of posting troops upon the battle-field according to the accidents of the ground, of bringing them into action, and the art of fighting upon the ground, in contradistinction to planning upon a map.
In his most concise formulation:
Strategy decides where to act; logistics brings the troops to this point; grand tactics decides the manner of execution and the employment of the troops.[98]
In contrast to Bülow, therefore, strategy was geared toward the campaign’s overall concept rather than its execution, and it was not a substitute for grand tactics. At the same time, he also accepted that strategy did not depend solely on a general’s genius, but could benefit through the application of timeless principles which he, Jomini, had been able to discern. Thus, he wrote in the Traité de Grande Tactique that while new inventions threatened a “great revolution in army organization, armament and tactics,” strategy would “remain unaltered, with its principles the same as under the Scipios and the Caesars, Frederick and Napoleon, since they are independent of the nature of the arms and the organization of the troops.”[99] And then in the Précis, he suggested that strategy “may be regulated by fixed laws resembling those of the positive sciences.”[100] This conclusion, which actively discouraged conceptual innovation, depended on a fixation with battle. As with Clausewitz, he was aware of the possibility of exceptions, but the model of war he most had in mind involved the destruction of the enemy’s army so that they had no choice but to seek a political settlement on the victor’s terms. This sharp focus on battle clarified the tasks for both tactics and strategy, and the forms of their potential interaction.


Napoleon Bonaparte, who had provided the stimulus for these thoughts, gave little away while he was earning his reputation. And, for that matter, not much was revealed after his defeat at Waterloo. What was known about his approach to war was contained in a set of published maxims. In one of these, the emperor distinguished between what an “engineer or artillery officer” might need to know, which could “be learned in treatises,” whereas “grand tactics” (Guibert’s phrase) required experience and study of “the campaigns of all the great captains.”[101] Once exiled on St. Helena after his defeat at Waterloo, he kept himself informed on developments in military theory. His comments, generally bad-tempered and disparaging about the many authors he read, were well-recorded. Only once did he discuss strategy, and it was when considering Archduke Charles’s book on the subject. “I hardly bother with scientific words,” he remarked, “and cannot care less about them.” He was skeptical about the value of books — there should not be so much “intellect” in war. “I beat the enemy without so much intellect and without using Greek words.” Nor could he make sense of the Archduke’s distinction between strategy and tactics, as the science and art of war. He had a higher opinion of Jomini’s formulation — “strategy is the art of moving troops and tactics the art of engaging them.” He then offered his own, and only known, definition: “strategy is the art of plans of campaign and tactics the art of battles.”[102] It left little scope for serious consideration of how to conduct war when the annihilation of the enemy army was neither practical nor appropriate. For practitioners like Napoleon who seemed to have little use for the word, and theorists who analyzed its place in the operations of war, there was no agreed early definition of strategy, and its emergence was not announced with any great fanfare. It seeped into discussions of military strategy, but only really became a way of framing these discussions at the start of the 19th century, in part under the influence of Bülow and the Archduke Charles and the pressing need to make sense of Napoleon’s string of victories. All the early efforts at definition saw strategy as a purely military concept, interacting with tactics but not with policy. This included Clausewitz, who understood better than most how political ends shaped military means. This is why there is a divergence between studies of strategy in practice over the 18th and 19th centuries, which invariably look at the interaction with policy, and the development of strategy as theory.[103] This limitation was important not because it precluded theorizing about the relationship of policy to war, for Clausewitz showed how this could be done, but because it shaped the education of the officer class in Europe and North America, and the way in which they were encouraged to think about the responsibilities and possibilities of command. The Napoleon-Jomini view that the scripts of strategy could only be learned by studying those that worked well in the past meant that rather than being a new way of thinking, exploring the implications of a changing political context as well as technological innovations, strategy became profoundly conservative, looking to replicate the triumphs of the past. In my second article, I will demonstrate the impact of this narrow and conservative approach on British and American thinking on strategy in the 19th century, so that even when wars took place that might have questioned its validity, notably the 1861-1865 American Civil War and the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War, they did not. They did not lead to any revisions of the concept of strategy. It was only the shocking experience of World War I that led to attempts to broaden the meaning of strategy and seek new definitions.   Sir Lawrence Freedman is professor emeritus of war studies at King's College London. Freedman became professor of war studies at King's College in 1982. In 2002, he became head of the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy at King's College. In June 2009, he was appointed to serve as a member of the official inquiry into Britain and the 2003 Iraq War. Before joining King's College, Freedman held research appointments at Nuffield College Oxford, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, and the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. Elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1995, he was appointed official historian of the Falklands Campaign in 1997.  His most recent books are Strategy: A History (2013) and The Future of War: A History (2017). ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Wikimedia Commons [post_title] => The Meaning of Strategy, Part I: The Origins [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => meaning-strategy-part-origin-story [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 13:36:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 18:36:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => The word "strategy," which is now commonplace, only first came into use to understand military affairs at the beginning of the 19th century in Europe. Since then, its meaning has changed in important ways. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Once it was established that strategy was essentially about preparing forces for a decisive battle, this constrained – rather than liberated — thinking. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => By the end of the Napoleonic Wars, “strategy” was in use by military theorists across Europe. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The potential of mathematics as a guide to the optimum organization of troops for military engagements was a familiar theme in the 17th and 18th centuries. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => In 1783, there was the first reference to “grand strategy.” ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Clausewitz’s approach depended on the dialectical relationship of tactics and strategy. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 456 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 59 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] =>   [1] I am indebted to comments from Jeremy Black, Ryan Evans, Beatrice Heuser and Benedict Wilkinson. [2] Beatrice Heuser described “strategy” as a word in evolution to which she casts with a small “s,” as opposed to a practice in evolution, when she gives it a capital “S.” This article is about small “s” strategy and, for that matter, small “t” tactics. Beatrice Heuser, The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 3. [3] Beatrice Heuser, The Evolution of Strategy, and The Strategy Makers: Thoughts on War and Society from Machiavelli to Clausewitz (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2010). [4] It was used in other contexts during the 19th century, but (as with revolutionary strategy) with a military analogy in mind. For the history of the concept see Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History, (New York: OUP, 2013). [5] Hew Strachan, Clausewitz's on War (London: Atlantic Books, 2007). [6] Freedman, Strategy; Roger Schank and Robert Abelson, Scripts, Plans, Goals, and Understanding: An Inquiry into Human Knowledge Structures (UK: Psychology Press, 1977), 41. [7] In addition to Heuser’s work, see: Azar Gat, The Origins of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to Clausewitz (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1989); Azar Gat, The Development of Military Thought: The Nineteenth Century (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1992); Hew Strachan, “The Lost Meaning of Strategy,” Survival, 47, no. 3 (2005), reprinted with other relevant essays in Hew Strachan, The Direction of War: Contemporary Strategy in Historical perspective (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014). [8] Rachel Hewitt, Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (London: Granta, 2010). [9] Martin van Creveld, Command in War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985). [10] Dennis Showalter, Frederick the Great: A Military History (London: Frontline Books, 2012). [11] This has been most definitively established by Heuser in The Evolution of Strategy as well as The Strategy Makers. [12] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 128. [13] Jeremy Black, Plotting Power; Strategy in the Eighteenth Century (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017). The Russians had never really lost the word, because of the Byzantine influence, although, as noted below, this was more closely associated with stratagem. [14] Edward Luttwak, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), 239. Luttwak notes that the Greek word does not have the same connotation as the modern word. He suggests this would have been strategike episteme (general’s knowledge) or strategon sophia (general’s wisdom). [15] Fridericus Hultsch and Evelyn S. Shuckburgh, The Histories of Polybius (London: Macmillan, 1889). [16] Christopher Matthew, The Tactics of Aelian (London: Pen & Sword Military, 2012). [17] Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander, trans. Aubrey de Selincourt (London: Penguin, 2003). [18] Sextus Julius Frontinus, The Stratagems and The Aqueducts of Rome, trans. Charles E. Bennett (London: William Heinemann, 1980). [19] Smith, C.J., “Onasander On How To Be A General,” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 42, no. S71 (1998): 151-166. [20] Flavius Vegetius Renatus, The Military Institutions of the Romans (De Re Militari), ed. Thomas R. Phillips, trans. John Clark (Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino, 2011). [21] Christopher Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul), 39. [22] Ira Gruber, Books and the British Army in the Age of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010). [23] Although Latin was much more in use than Greek, recent scholarship suggests that Greek was better known than had previously been supposed. Micha Lazarus, “Greek Literacy in Sixteenth-Century England,” Renaissance Studies 29 (2014), 433-58. I am grateful to Dr. Naoise MacSweeney of Leicester University for this reference and also for her observation that strategos may well have been one of the first words that students of Greek might have learned, as it is a regular second declension noun and suitable for teaching. She suggests that it is possible that a much wider set of people had a sense of strategos and strategia than would necessarily have had a working knowledge of Greek. [24] Heuser, The Evolution of Strategy, 4-5. [25] Herodian of Alexandria, his History of twenty Roman Caesars and emperors (of his time.), trans. James Maxwell (London: Printed for Hugh Perry, 1629). [26] Le Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1694. By the 1798 version camping and making evolutions had been added to the definition. The appearance of words in French dictionaries can be explored on [27] Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason, 40. [28] History of Polybius, newly translated from Greek by Dom Vincent Thuillier, with a commentary or a body of military science enriched with critical and historical notes by F. de Folard (1729). [29] John Harris, Lexicon Technicum: or, A Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences: Explaining Not Only the Terms of Art, But the Arts Themselves, Vol. II, 2nd ed. (London: Brown, 1723). [30] Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (London: 1755), Johnson gives Harris as his authority. [31] Frederick II ("the Great") of Prussia, "General Principles of War" (1748/1753), accessed at [32] Humphrey Bland, A Treatise of Military Discipline: In Which is Laid Down and Explained the Duties of Officer and Soldier (London: 1727). This book, which was essential reading in the British army and went through a number of editions, does contain a chapter, “Evolutions of the Foot, with an Explanation, and General rules for Wheeling;” Campbell Dalrymple, A Military Essay: Containing Reflections On The Raising, Arming, Cloathing, And Discipline Of The British Infantry And Cavalry (London: D. Wilson, 1761). [33] Major-General Lloyd, The History of the Late War in Germany Between The King Of Prussia, And The Empress Of Germany And Her Allies, Vol. 1 (London: S. Hooper, 1781). This part was first published in 1766. [34] Major-General Lloyd, Continuation of the History of the Late war in Germany, Part II (London: S. Hooper, 1781), 20. [35]Castramétrie (Castramation) referred to laying out of a military camp. [36] Everett L. Wheeler, Stratagem and the Vocabulary of Military Trickery, Mnemoseyne supplement 108 (New York: Brill, 1988). [37] William Caxton, C. de Pisan's Book Fayttes of Armes, (1489). [38] William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well, First Folio (England: 1623),, [39] Richard Collier, The Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical and Poetical Dictionary; Being a Curious Miscellany of Sacred and Prophane History (London: Henry Rhodes, 1701). In 1701, Collier referred to a Frederick Marabotti as “a good soldier, and particularly considerable in the Stratagemical Part of War.” This was originally a translation from the French of Louis Moréri's encyclopedia, The Great Historical Dictionary, or Curious Anthology of Sacred and Secular History (first published in 1674). The usage here is Collier’s. [40] John Dee, The Mathematicall Praeface to The Elements Of Geometrie of the most auncient Philosopher EVCLIDE of Megara (London: John Daye, 1570), accessed at [41] Silvanus Morgan, Horlogiographia optica (London:  Andrew Kemb and Robert Boydell, 1652). [42] William Shakespeare, Othello, First Folio (England: 1623), I, i. [43] Ephraim Chambers, Cyclopædia, or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (London: J. and J. Knapton, 1728), 135. [44] Abraham Rees, The Cyclopaedia; or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and Literature (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brow). [45] Encyclopaedia Britannica: or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, 3rd ed., ed. Colin MacFarquhar and George Gleig, 1797. This contained a tiny reference to tactics in general although a long section on naval tactics. [46] Le Dictionnaire de l'Académie française. Sixième Éd. It only made an appearance in the 6th edition, published in 1835 (“Faire une belle disposition, de belles dispositions, des dispositions savantes, etc., Disposer habilement son armée pour combattre”). [47] It did include a similar word, Strataryhmetrie, as “the art of placing a battalion in battle on a given geometrical figure, and of finding the number of men contained in this battalion, whether we see them closely, or we see them from afar.” [48] Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 15, 541. A dictionary published in 1801 of new words had nothing on strategy, but included tactican as (the art of training soldiers to form various military evolution); William Dupré, Lexicographia-neologica gallica (London: Baylis, 1801). [49] Frontinus had long been available in French. A new edition was published in 1765. An English translation was not published until 1811, although later superseded, but it was well known as a Latin text. [50] Clarke’s translation was first published in 1767. It had a single mention of tactics, with reference to the Athenian schools of tactics, but a number on stratagem. An English translation was published by Caxton in 1489. [51] Emperor Maurice, Strategikon: Handbook of Byzantine Military Strategy, trans. George T. Dennis (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), 65, 86; Edward Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). Luttwak discusses relational manoeuvre as an alternative to attrition and to stratagems. [52] Ibid, 23. [53] Edward Luttwak, The Taktika of Leo VI, trans. George T. Dennis (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Texts, 2014), Chapter 12. Paradoxically, Dennis notes, Maurice’s Strategikon was mainly about tactics (as defined by the Byzantines), and Leo’s Taktiká was mainly about strategy. One possibility is that the works would not have had titles and that librarians with limited knowledge of the subject mislabeled the two works in their catalogues. [54] Black, Plotting Power, 255. [55] Ibid, 122. [56] Ibid, 122. [57] Count Turpin, An Essay on the Art of War, trans. Joseph Otway (London: W. Johnston, 1761). First published in French in 1754. [58] He had provided a list of the tricks and stratagems of war intended to “oblige the enemy to make unnecessary marches in favour of our own designs. Our own intentions are to be studiously concealed, and the enemy misled by our affecting plans which we have no wish to execute.” Frederick the Great, Instructions for his Generals, 1797. On French tactical debates, see Robert S. Quimby, The Background of Napoleonic Warfare: The Theory Of Military Tactics In Eighteenth-Century France (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956). [59] The importance of the Infantry Square, as a means of dealing with cavalry charges had been underlined during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701 to 1714). The formation of an effective square required considerable skill and discipline. It was dealt with extensively in Bland, A Treatise of Military Discipline, 90, in his discussion of how infantry should cope with “Attacks of Horse.” Bland referred to stratagems as feints a number of times in this book. The most elaborate discussion of the Infantry Square over this period was in General Richard Kane, A New System of Military Discipline for a Battalion of Foot on Action (London: J. Millan, 1743) published posthumously. Kane had fought in the War of the Spanish Succession. [60] Joly De Maizeroy, Théorie de la guerre (Lausanne: Aux dépens de la Société, 1777), 304-5. [61] Joseph Marie Amiot, Art militaire des Chinois, ou, Recueil d’anciens traités sur la guerre: composés avant l’ere chrétienne, par différents généraux chinois (Paris: Didot l’ainé,1772). Bachmann, “Jean Joseph Marie Amiot Introduces ‘The Art of War’ to the West,” The Shelf, January 28, 2014, See also “Sun-tse: Les treize articles sur l’art militaire,” Chine Ancienne, accessed October 2017, [62] Corneli, Alessandro, “Sun Tzu and the Indirect Strategy,” Rivista di Studi Politici Internazionali 54, no. 3 (1987): 419-445. For a suggestion of the influence of Amiot’s translation on French plans to wage guerrlla war in Britain in the 1790s, see Sylvie Kleinman, “Initiating insurgencies abroad: French plans to ‘chouannise’ Britain and Ireland, 1793–1798,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 25, no. 4 (2013): 663. [63] “1772, Sun Tzu atteint l’Occident,” accessed October 2018, [64] There is, for example, no reference to Amiot’s translation in Bruno Colson, Napoleon on War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). [65] When Lionel Giles later translated the book into English, he described this “so-called translation” to “be little better than an imposture. It contains a great deal that Sun Tzu did not write, and very little indeed of what he did.” Sun Tzu on The Art of War. Amiot is also blamed for assigning to Sun Tzu a traditional Western title The Art of War, already used for Machiavelli and soon to be used by Jomini. [66] For a comparison of the Roman and Byzantine texts on stratagems with Sun Tzu, see David A. Graff, “Brain over Brawn: Shared Beliefs and Presumptions in Chinese and Western ‘Strategemata,’” Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident, no. 38 (2014): 47-64. Smith, op.cit., makes a similar point. [67] Marshal Maurice de Saxe, My Reveries Upon the Art of War, trans. Brig. Gen. Thomas R. Phillips, Roots of Strategy, 1 (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1985), 191, 248. On Saxe, see Jon Manchip White, Marshal of France: The Life and Times of Maurice, Comte de Saxe, 1696-1750 (Sevenoaks: Pickle Partners, 2011). [68] On Maizeroy, see David, Alexandre. ‘“L’interprète des plus grands maîtres: Paul-Gédéon Joly de Maizeroy l’inventeur de la stratégie,” Stratégique  99 (2010/11); Black, Plotting Power, 129-133; and Gat, The Origins of Military Thought, 39-43. [69] Paul Gédéon Joly de Maizeroy, Traité de tactique, Two volumes (Paris: J. Merlin, 1767). [70] Maizeroy, Theorie de la guerre. [71] Marquis de Silva, Pensées sur la Tactique, et la Stratégique (Impr. Royale, 1778). On Silva, see Black, Plotting Power, 133-35. [72] F. De Nockhern Schorn, Dees Raisonnees Sur Un Systeme General Suivi Et De Toutes Les Connoissances Militaires Et Sur Une Methode Etudier Lumineuse Pour La Science De La Guerre Avec Ordre Et Discernement En Trois Parties Avec Sept Tables Methodiques (Nuremberg et Altdorf: chez George Pierre Monath, 1783), 198-9. In his detailed discussion of the French debate of the time Black does not mention this book. [73] Jacques Antoine Hippolyte Comte de Guibert, Essai général de Tactique (1770). Translation in Heuser, The Strategy Makers, 161. This is based on Lt. Douglas’s translation from 1781. See also Jonathan Abel, Guibert: Father of Napoleon's Grande Armée (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016); Beatrice Heuser, Strategy Before Clausewitz: Linking Warfare and Statecraft, 1400-1830 (London: Routledge, 2017). [74] Beatrice Heuser, “Theory and Practice, Art and Science in Warfare: An Etymological Note,” ed. Daniel Marston and Tamara Leahy, War, Strategy and History: Essays in Honour of Professor Robert O’Neill (Canberra: ANU Press, 2016). [75]  R. R. Palmer, “Frederick the Great, Guibert, Bülow: From Dynastic to National War,” Peter Paret ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 107. [76] Johann W. von Bourscheid, trans. Kasier Leo des Philosophen Strategie und Taktik in 5 Bänden (Vienna: Jospeh Edler von Kurzboeck, 177-1781); Heuser, The Strategy Makers, 3; Hew Strachan, “The Lost Meaning of Strategy,” Survival 47 no. 3 (August 2005): 35; J-P Charnay in Andre Corvisier, A Dictionary of Military History and the Art of War, ed., John Childs (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 769. [77] Gat., The Origins of Military Thought, 155. [78]These were: the “elementary,” which was essentially about how to prepare soldiers for battle; the movement of larger formations, such as a battalion, in order of battle and ‘lets them advance towards the enemy who is within a shot’s or a throw’s reach, or lets them retreat’; the “higher” science of war, based on tactics, and involving the “art of marching with the entire army or substantial parts thereof, to advance, to retreat … of establishing … strongholds; of choosing campsites; of using the surface of the earth’; and, lastly, the great art of making apposite, reliable plans and to … adapt them cleverly to new developments, or to abandon them and to replace them by others.” Georg Heinrich von Berenhorst, Betrachtungen über die Kriegskunst, über ihre Fortschritte, ihre Widersprüche und ihre Zuverlässigkeit, (Osnabrück, Biblio Verlag, 1978), 7f. Citation and translation from Heuser, Etymology, 181-2. On Berenhorst see Gat, The Origins of Military Thought, 150-5. [79] Carl von Clausewitz, “On the Life and Character of Scharnhorst,” in Historical and Political Writings, ed. and trans. Peter Paret and Daniel Moran (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992), 103. In On War, it became a “toy,” resting ‘on a series of substitutions at the expense of truth,” 409. Howard describes it as “rococo absurdity.” Michael Howard, Studies in War and Peace (London: Temple Smith, 1970), 25. On von Bülow, see Gat, The Origins of Military Thought, 79-94. [80] Palmer, op.cit., 115. [81] Dietrich Heinrich von Bülow, The Spirit of the Modern System of War, trans. Malorti de Martemont, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013). [82] Ibid, 228. [83] Ibid, 88. [84] A Grundsätze der Kriegskunst für die Generale (1806) had been published as Principles of War. Daniel Radakovich, who has translated it (Nimble Books, 2010) suggests a more accurate title would refer to “higher warcraft.” [85] Archduke Charles, Habsburg Commander in the wars against Napoleon, in 1806. Cited in Heuser, Evolution of Strategy, 6. [86] Clifford J. Rogers, "Clausewitz, Genius, and the Rules," The Journal of Military History 66 (October 2002): 1167-1176; Jon T. Sumida, “The Clausewitz Problem,” Army History (Fall 2009): 17-21. [87] Cited by Peter Paret, Essays on Clausewitz and the History of Military Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 100. The review was published anonymously. His ideas were developed in an unpublished manuscript, under the heading Strategie, and contains the same theme. Donald Stoker, Clausewitz: His Life and Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 32-5. [88] Hew Strachan, Carl von Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography (London: Atlantic Books, 2007), 108. [89] Clausewitz, On War, 128-132. [90] Ibid, 177 [91] Ibid, 206-8. [92] Strachan, Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, 87. [93] Antulio J. Echevarria II, Clausewitz & Contemporary War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 140. [94] He later described a meeting with Napoleon in 1806 in which he told the emperor how he thought the Jena campaign would unfold. When asked who had told him, he replied “the map of Germany, Your Highness, and your campaigns of Marengo and Ulm.” For a skeptical view of the relationship between Napoleon and Jomini, noting that all the evidence comes from the latter, see Gat, The Origins of Military Thought, 132-3. [95] On the interaction of von Bülow and Jomini, see Peter Paret, The Cognitive Challenge of 1806 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 110-111. [96] He disliked the idea of a plan, as it was “impossible in a plan of operations to see beyond the second movement.” [97] Henri Jomini, Traité de grande tactique, ou, Relation de la guerre de sept ans, extraite de Tempelhof, commentée at comparée aux principales opérations de la derniére guerre; avec un recueil des maximes les plus important de l'art militaire, justifiées par ces différents évenéments (Paris: Giguet et Michaud, 1805). In English translation as: Jomini, Antoine-Henri, trans. Col. S.B. Holabird, U.S.A., Treatise on Grand Military Operations: or A Critical and Military History of the Wars of Frederick the Great as Contrasted with the Modern System, 2 vols (New York: D. van Nostrand, 1865), 277, 432. This was published in English after the Art of War. [98] Jomini did envisage other “operations of a mixed nature,” including “passages of streams, retreats, surprises, disembarkations, convoys, winter quarters, the execution of which belongs to tactics, the conception and arrangement to strategy.” Antoine Henri de Jomini, The Art of War, trans. G.H. Mendell and W.P. Craighill [1838] (Texas: El Paso Norte Press, 2005), 79–100. [99] Jomini, Treatise, 48. On this point see Gat, The Origins of Military Thought, 114-5. [100] Charles, The Art of War, 321. [101] In the original French, this is “la grande tactique.” Maximes de Guerre de Napoleon (Paris: Chez Anselin, 1830)., accessed at This English translation, from Colonel D’Aguilar, first published as The Officer’s Manual: Military Maxims of Napoleon (Dublin: Richard Milliken & Son, 1831), replaces “la grande tactique” with the “science of strategy.” [102] Colson, Napoleon on War, 84. [103] Black, Plotting Power, is quite explicit on this point. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 129 [post_author] => 20 [post_date] => 2017-11-26 03:40:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-26 08:40:21 [post_content] => The great genius but also the Achilles’ heel of American diplomacy is an irrepressible “can do” optimism — a conviction that every problem has a solution, that no conflict is too wicked or too intractable to defy resolution. De Tocqueville observed that Americans “have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man. ... They all consider society as a body in a state of improvement.”[1] That view has propelled America to great achievement in forging an era of peace and prosperity for nearly three-quarters of a century after World War II, ending wars and brokering peace among apparently implacable foes, and building institutions to tame economic cycles and interstate rivalries. Much of that optimism stems from our “eyes forward” approach to contemporary challenges, a conviction that the past is not prologue and that past performance is not indicative of future results. This optimism is rooted in our earliest experiences as a nation, a belief that the New World could and should forge a fresh approach to foreign policy, one not snared in the ancient quarrels of the Old World, but springing from an enlightened vision of harmonious relations among free peoples. It was an approach fitting for a nation whose very founding was an attempt to escape from the past. As Thomas Paine noted, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”[2]  The founders were not ignorant of history — they simply were determined not to be shackled by it. [quote id="3"] That inclination to put history behind us, to focus on present interests rather than past slights, has been and remains evident in the U.S. approach to East Asia. It was reflected in our willingness to enter into an alliance with Japan only a decade after it launched a surprise attack on our homeland; it could be seen in the decision to normalize relations with a Communist China which had fought us in Korea, because contemporary security and economic interests were more important than past grievances; and in the decision to reconcile with Vietnam, two decades after a bloody war came to a bitter end for the United States. But to our friends and interlocutors in East Asia, as T. S. Eliot observed, “Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past.”[3] Their national narratives as well as their perspectives on self and others are deeply rooted in their historical experience. It is a history that in most cases — from China, Japan, and Korea to Thailand (Siam) and Cambodia (Khmer Empire) — is measured in centuries and even millennia. These images are powerful forces both constraining the choices available to policymakers and providing tools that policymakers can use to justify their actions and mobilize their publics. Scholars have long debated whether history influences policymakers’ perceptions and choices,[4] including whether and to what extent a historically based “strategic culture” shapes contemporary policy.[5] As Robert Jervis has written, “Previous international events provide the statesman with a range of imaginable situations and allow him to detect patterns and causal links that can help him understand his world.”[6] Some go beyond the impact of history on individual decisionmakers to suggest that a historically based strategic culture” can shape national choices.[7]  Although there are skeptics (A.J.P.  Taylor observed “men use the past to prop up their own prejudices,”[8]), there seems to be little doubt that images of self and others drawn from the past heavily infuse the contemporary debate about the future of East Asian security. [quote id="1"] Nowhere is this more evident than in modern China. President Xi Jinping’s first evocation of the “China Dream” came in a speech pithily entitled “To Inherit From the Past and Use It for the Future, and Continuing What Has Passed in Beginning the Future: Continue to Forge Ahead Dauntlessly Towards the Goal of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese People.”[9] Xi’s speeches frequently draw on historical images and experiences, contrasting the period of China’s greatness with the “Century of Humiliation” from the Opium War to the Nanjing massacre. Lessons are to be learned from both. What made China great — its military and economic strength and its distinctive culture — is to be put at the center of policy, while what made China vulnerable — weakness and the inability to resist foreign pressure — is to be avoided. At the center of this historic narrative is the danger posed by Japan. The “history issue” is not merely a scholarly debate but also informs China’s views of Japanese behavior today. China opposes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s effort to make Japan a “normal” nation with the usual right to pursue individual and collective self-defense, because “history” shows that an unshackled Japan is inherently a threat to its neighbors and thus is not entitled to the same rights of sovereignty enjoyed by China and others. China refused to accept the Noda administration’s 2012 decision to “nationalize” the Senkaku Islands as an effort to insulate the islands from provocative actions of the far right, led by former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara. Instead, China insisted it was proof of a more aggressive policy.[10] Nor are China’s leaders willing to let the historic lesson fade from the public mind; just three years ago, Xi led the first “national day of remembrance” for the Nanjing massacre — 77 years after the event.[11] At the speech, President Xi cautioned that “forgetting history is a betrayal.”[12] By contrast, from China’s perspective, its own breathtaking military modernization is not a threat to its neighbors (unlike Japan’s comparatively modest defense increases and operations) because “history” shows that when China was powerful in the past it did not threaten others but used its power to establish an era of peace and prosperity. Chinese officials’ resurrection of the story of Ming Dynasty Admiral Zheng He over the past decade coincided with their effort to make the case that China’s growth would be a “peaceful rise.” Chinese officials regularly insist:
During the overall course of six voyages to the Western Ocean, Zheng He did not occupy a single piece of land, establish any fortress or seize any wealth from other countries.[13]
Former President Wen Jiabao cited this example to show that “Hegemonism is at odds with our cultural tradition.”[14] Of course, for Japan, history offers quite a different story. To Japan, the story of the “divine winds” — the typhoons that thwarted China’s attempt to subjugate Japan in 1274 and 1281 — is not simply a tale of Japanese heroic resistance but, perhaps more important, a caution about the risk to Japan of a powerful China.[15] For the Republic of Korea, too, history powerfully shapes contemporary policies and choices. Despite South Korea’s strong shared interest with Japan in addressing common threats, particularly those posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, cooperation is hamstrung by lingering Korean resentment of the Japanese colonial occupation and treatment of Korean “comfort women” during World War II. This grievance is apparent not only in popular sentiment but also in the actions of Korea’s leaders. It can be seen in the decision of then-President Park Geun-hye to join China in dedicating a statue to Ahn Jeung Geun, the Korean who killed Japan’s imperial governor in 1907,[16] and her participation in the World War II commemoration parade in Beijing in 2015. Other historical disputes continue to dog cooperation between the two would-be allies: a territorial dispute over the Takeshima/Dokdo Islands[17] and even the name of the body of water between the two countries (“The Sea of Japan is established internationally as the only name” Japan’s chief cabinet secretary insisted when lodging a diplomatic protest against a South Korean video promoting the name “East Sea”).[18] Both Koreas in turn are cautious about too great a dependence on China — despite the strong economic pull exerted by Beijing — informed by a history of tensions between the two empires. The seemingly arcane dispute over whether the Goguryeo Empire was Korean or Chinese still inflames passions on both sides of the Yalu.[19] The contrast between American and East Asia worldviews was evident during the meeting between Xi and President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in April 2017. In recounting the meeting, President Trump told The Wall Street Journal
[Xi] then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years … and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that not — it’s not so easy. [20]
It could be seen in President Trump’s suggestion during the U.S. presidential campaign that it might be a good thing for Japan to acquire nuclear weapons instead of relying on U.S. extended deterrence — a suggestion that sent shock waves through East Asia.[21] Ironically, the contemporary political identity of each of the key countries of North East Asia was forged through a dramatic leap to “escape history.” For China, the strategy of leaders as diverse as Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong was not to find solutions for China’s problems in its past but, rather, to denigrate the past and to look to other models to achieve security and prosperity. Sun looked to the West, while Mao found inspiration in the Soviet Union during the early years of the People’s Republic.[22] Similarly, Meiji Japan reacted to growing pressure from the West in the mid-19th century not by trying to strengthen the traditional approaches of the shogunate that had successfully resisted foreign invasion in the past but by dramatically embracing modernity and key aspects of Western institutions and strategy, borrowing heavily from Germany, which — under Bismarck — had thrown off its own feudal past to achieve independence, unification, and prosperity. This move to “escape the past” was replicated again after World War II; under the tutelage of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Japan adopted Western institutions and strategies as varied as labor unions and women’s suffrage.[23] More recently, South Korea — the 19th-century “Hermit Kingdom” — propelled itself to the front ranks of the global stage by following in Japan’s footsteps to embrace democracy and integration in the global economy. Why does history have such a hold on contemporary relations in East Asia? After all, in other regions and other times, historic enemies have reconciled in the face of compelling contemporary challenges. Think France and Germany in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after World War II. [quote id="2"] Some might argue that the talk of history is mere rhetoric — that international relations theory would predict tensions between Japan and China in terms of the inevitable conflicts between a rising power and an established one. Others might point to domestic politics and the mobilization effect of using historic images to rally support for the governing parties based on patriotism and the need to unite against a foreign threat.[24] For many leaders in the region, bitter historic memories provide a convenient anchor (“useful adversaries” in Tom Christensen’s evocative characterization) for nationalist policies.[25] Such policies in history textbooks can indoctrinate future generations into stereotypes of others.[26] Undoubtedly, all these forces are at work. But there is reason to believe the structural tensions are exacerbated by the historic context.[27] As one scholar has observed:
the rivalry context may play a causal role in determining which arms race, power transition, etc., escalate to war.... That past conflicts condition current ones and future expectations, that leaders learn realpolitik lessons, and that peoples learn to hate each other all mean that theories of enduring rivalries are historical theories.[28]
Indeed, there is evidence to suggest the propensity for the diversionary use of force is more likely in the context of historic rivalries. “[L]eaders can capitalize on a hostile interstate environment where the relevant target public may be persuaded to consider alleged threats plausible”[29] — and the historic experience appears to establish the plausibility of the threat. Of course, the past is not necessarily prologue. At times, countries in the region have been able to overcome historic suspicions. Consider for example the decades of Sino-Japanese reconciliation that followed normalization in the 1970s, which featured little of the rhetoric of historic grievance. Similarly, Japan’s relations with Southeast Asia have improved dramatically despite the legacy of the East Asia Prosperity Sphere and the occupations of World War II. But during periods of change and uncertainty about the present and future intentions of key countries in the region, past behavior offers a convenient answer for political leaders and for publics to answer the inherent ambiguity of future actions. Thus, while one can argue about whether the perpetuation of historic grievances is cause or effect, their persistence contributes to the precarious situation in East Asia. And in the absence of concerted efforts by regional leaders to counteract this dynamic, the risk only grows of a vicious cycle leading to conflict. Fortunately, there have been a few hopeful signs. Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s statements in connection with the 70th anniversary of World War II, along with the decision (at least up to now) not to repeat the 2013 visit to the Yasakuni shrine, have helped bring about more measured Sino-Japanese relations.[30] Positive change can be seen in a joint ceremony in September 2017 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Sino-Japanese relations — an event to mark the 40th anniversary in 2012 was cancelled after the Japanese purchase of the Senkakus[31] — and Abe attended a similar event in Tokyo.[32] With the election of a new president in South Korea, and the possibility of new mandates for Xi following the 19th Party Congress in October and for Abe in the upcoming Diet election, the key leaders will be well positioned to take steps to overcome the historical legacies (or, at a minimum, to avoid fanning the historical flames further). The challenges facing East Asia are severe enough without having to refight past wars. At the same time, the U.S. administration must recognize the ever-present shadow of the past as this country seeks to build a sustainable long-term policy toward the region. President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in 2016 demonstrated that it is possible to be cognizant of the past without being trapped by it. In recent years, calls have grown for a more systematic effort to overcome U.S. ahistoricism. The proposal by Graham Allison and Niall Ferguson for a White House Council of Historical Advisers reflects one such effort. But their suggestion focuses primarily on learning from historical analogy, proposing that
the charter for the future Council of Historical Advisers begin with Thucydides’s observation that “the events of future history … will be of the same nature—or nearly so—as the history of the past, so long as men are men.”
But the problems of history in East Asia are of a different kind. The tensions between China and Japan, or between Korea and Japan, are not “of the same nature” as rivalries in other contexts; rather, they are specific to the history of these nations and these peoples. What is needed are policymakers who understand “deep” history, or “the ways in which policymakers underst[and] the historical context from which the current conflict arose.”[33] In this respect, the current disdain for the value of long-serving career officers in the Foreign Service, with deep grounding in the languages, culture, and history of key countries and regions, poses a serious risk to the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Similarly, the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate U.S. government funding for the Fulbright Hays regional studies program under Title VI of the Higher Education Act is deeply shortsighted.[34] One dinner with Xi Jinping is not enough to compensate for the loss of generations’ worth of insight if the United States is to navigate the perils of East Asia in the 21st century.   James B. Steinberg is University Professor of Social Science, International Affairs, and Law at Syracuse University, where he was dean of the Maxwell School from July 2011 until June 2016. Prior to becoming dean, he served as deputy secretary of state (2009 to 2011). From 2005 to 2008, he was dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. From 2001 to 2005, Steinberg was vice president and director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.  Steinberg served in a number of senior positions under President Bill Clinton, including deputy national security advisor and director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff. Steinberg’s most recent books are A Glass Half Full: Rebalance, Reassurance and Resolve in the US-China Relationship and Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: US-China Relations in the 21st Century, both with Michael O’Hanlon. Steinberg has an A.B from Harvard University (1973) and a J.D. from Yale Law School (1978). ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Wikimedia Commons [post_title] => Too Much History: American Policy and East Asia in the Shadow of the Past [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => much-history-american-policy-east-asia-shadow-past [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 13:43:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 18:43:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => East Asian countries have a tendency to recall their historical grievances with rival nations, thus increasing the risk of eventual conflict. American policy toward East Asia, on the other hand, tends to have too short of a memory. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => China’s leaders [are not] willing to let the historic lesson fade from the public mind. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The “history issue” is not merely a scholarly debate but also informs China’s views of Japanese behavior today. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => That inclination to put history behind us, to focus on present interests rather than past slights, has been and remains evident in the U.S. approach to East Asia. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 460 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 20 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (London: Saunders and Otley, 1835). [2] Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Appendix to the Third Edition (Philadelphia: W. and T. Bradford, 1776). [3] T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” Four Quartets (London: Faber and Faber, 1936). [4] See, for example, Robert Jervis, “How Decisonmakers Learn From History” in Perception and Misperception in International Politics, 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017). [5]In a seminal piece, Jack Snyder defined strategic culture as “the sum total of ideas, conditioned responses, and patterns of habitual behavior that members of a national strategic community have acquired through instruction or initiation and share with each other with regard to nuclear strategy.” Jack L. Snyder, The Soviet Strategic Culture: Implications for Limited Nuclear Operations (Santa Monica CA: RAND 1977). The concept has since evolved to embrace approaches to national security more broadly. See Alastair Iain Johnston, “How New and Assertive is China’s New Assertiveness?” International Security 37, No. 4 (Spring 2013). [6] Robert Jervis, “How Decisonmakers Learn From History” in Perception and Misperception in International Politics, 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017). [7] For a discussion of strategic culture and its applicability to China’s grand strategy, see Alaistair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). On the impact of strategic culture on U.S.-China relations, see James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon, Strategic Reassurance and Resolve (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 38-40. [8] Jervis, “How Decisionmakers Learn From History,” 217. [9] It is noteworthy that Xi’s initial articulation of the China Dream was a speech at an exhibition called “The Road to Revival,” dedicated to the history of China’s victimization from the Opium Wars through World War II by the West. See Camilla T.N. Sorensen, “The Significance of Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese Dream’ for Chinese Foreign Policy: From ‘Tao Guang Yang Hui’ to Fen Fa You Wei,’” Journal of China and International Relations 3, no. 1 (2015), See also Benjamin Carlson, “The World According to Xi Jinping,” The Atlantic, September 21, 2015, [10] One writer has suggested that China’s anger over the decision was exacerbated by the fact that it came during a period when China typically commemorates the Japanese aggressions of the 1930s and 1940s. See Scott Cheney-Peters, “How Japan’s Nationalization Move in the East China Sea Shaped the U.S. Rebalance,” The National Interest, October 26, 2014, [11] Agence France-Presse, “China Holds First Nanjing Massacre Memorial Day,” The Telegraph, December 13, 2014, [12] Ben Blanchard, “Set Aside Hate, China’s Xi Says on Nanjing Massacre Anniversary,” Reuters, December 12, 2014, [13] See Steinberg and O’Hanlon, Strategic Reassurance and Resolve, 39-40. Many commentators have questioned the accuracy of the official Chinese version of Zhang He’s voyages. For the exposition of China’s peaceful rise, see Zheng Bijian, “China’s ‘Peaceful Rise’ to Great-Power Status,” Foreign Affairs, September-October 2005, [14] Denny Roy, Return of the Dragon: Rising China and Regional Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 28-29. [15] During the Mongol dynasty, Emperor Kublai Khan mounted two attempts to conquer Japan. On both occasions the effort was thwarted by typhoons (“kamikaze” or “divine wind”) that severely damaged the Mongol fleet and saved Japan from invasion. [16] Emily Rauhala, “Why a Korean-Chinese Statue Is Upsetting Japan,” Time, November 25, 2013,; Steven Denney and Christopher Green, “National Identity and Historical Legacy: Ahn Jung-geun in the Grand Narrative,” SinoNK, June 2014, [17] Japan claims that it established sovereignty over the islands in the 17th century. See “Japanese Territory: Takeshima,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accessed September 2017, Korea argues that Japan has long acknowledged Korea’s sovereignty; “Not only has the East Sea designation been in continuous use for over 2,000 years, it is also inappropriate to name a sea after a single country.” “Dokdo and the East Sea,”, accessed September 2017, [18] See “South Korea Video Renaming Sea of Japan Fuels Tension,” Japan Times, Feb. 22, 2017, Tellingly, the video was titled “East Sea: The Name From the Past, of the Present and for the Future,” claiming that the body had been named the East Sea for 2,000 years. [19] Taylor Washburn, “How an Ancient Kingdom Explains Today's China-Korea Relations” The Atlantic, April 15, 2013, [20] “WSJ Trump Interview Excerpts: China, North Korea, Ex-Im Bank, Obamacare, Bannon, More,” The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2017, [21] “Now wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons” Donald Trump, Town Hall, moderated by Anderson Cooper, CNN, March 29, 2016. See also “Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on his Foreign Policy Views,” The New York Times, March 26, 2016,; Austin Ramzy, “Comments by Donald Trump Draw Fears of an Arms Race in Asia,” The New York Times, March 28, 2016, [22] Odd Arne Westad, Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750 (New York: Basic Books, 2012). [23] Fukuzawa Yukichi, one of the most prominent essayists of the Meiji era, summed it up simply: “In Japan’s present condition, there is nothing in which we may take pride vis-à-vis the West. All that Japan has to be proud of is its scenery.”  (quoted in James L. McLain, Japan: A Modern History (New York: W.W. Norton and Co. 2002)). On the influence of the Prussia experience on Meiji state building, see McLain, Japan: A Modern History, pp 191-197.  For an account of the “McArthur constitution” which re-established Japan’s political institutions along U.S. and Western parliamentary lines, see McLain, Japan: A Modern History, pp 537-550. [24] There is extensive literature on the “diversionary” effect in international relations. [25] Thomas J. Christensen, Useful Adversaries: Grand Strategy, Domestic Mobilization and Sino-American Conflict, 1947-1958 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997). [26] The Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center conducted an intensive three-year project examining the role of history textbooks in the formation of historical memory about World War II in East Asia. The results were published in 2011. See Gi-wook Shin and Daniel C. Schneider, eds., History Textbooks and the Wars in Asia: Divided Memories (New York: Routledge, 2011). Interestingly, the study found that Japanese textbooks “do not highlight patriotism, revisionism or nationalism,” in contrast to the more “passionate” accounts in Korea and China, where nation building and national-identity formation are more central. See Yves Russel’s review of the book in China Perspectives 2 (2014), 79-81, [27] Gary Goertz and Paul F. Diehl, “Enduring Rivalries: Theoretical Constructs and Empirical Patterns,” International Studies Quarterly 37, no. 2 (June 1993): 14; Sara McLaughlin and Brandon Prins, “Rivalry and Diversionary Use of Force,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 48, no. 6 (December 2004): 937-61. [28]  Gary Goertz, Contexts of International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 213. [29] Andrew J. Enterline and Kristian S. Gleditsch, “Threats, Opportunity, and Force: Repression and Diversion of Domestic Pressure, 1948-1982,” International Interactions 26, no. 1. 28 (2000). [30] Tomohiro Osaki, “Abe and His Cabinet Steer Clear of War-Linked Yasakuni Shrine on Anniversary of World War II Surrender,” Japan Times, August 15, 2017, [31] “Five Years After Nationalization of the Senkaku Islands,” Japan Times, September 11, 2017, [32] Charlotte Gao, “Abe Makes a Surprise Appearance, Hails 45 years of Japan-China Relations,” The Diplomat, September 29, 2017, [33] James B. Steinberg, “History, Policymaking and the Balkans: Lessons Imported and Lessons Learned,” in Hal Brands and Jeremy Suri, eds. The Power of the Past: History and Statecraft (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2016): 238. As I note in the chapter, this is similar to what Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May called “issue history”; Neustadt and May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (New York: Free Press, 1988). [34]  Thomas P. Pepinsky, “The Federal Budget’s Threat to Foreign Policy,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 16, 2017, See also Nathan J. Brown, “In Defense of Area Studies,” The Washington Post, October 30, 2014, ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 284 [post_author] => 102 [post_date] => 2017-11-25 03:45:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-25 08:45:32 [post_content] => Robin Collingwood, a British historian and philosopher, saw history as a reservoir of knowledge gained through instructive re-enactment. Consider Julius Caesar’s decision to “cross the Rubicon” with his army and challenge his Roman Republic. To understand Caesar’s choice, “This implies envisaging for himself the situation in which Caesar stood, and thinking for himself what Caesar thought about the situation and the possible ways of dealing with it.” The work of the historian in this case is not mere reproduction or description. To offer insight, “this re-enactment is only accomplished … so far as the historian brings to bear on the problem all the powers of his own mind and all his knowledge of philosophy and politics.” Such critical analysis “is not something secondary to tracing the history of it. It is an indispensable condition of the historical knowledge itself.”[1] This essay offers a micro-historical reconstruction of a fateful choice made by the United States. Satisfactory reconstructions of this kind are rare. When it comes to historical episodes of import, even those that have been extensively written about and researched, it is often difficult to identify when the critical choices actually occurred. It is even more difficult to reconstruct, with a policymaker’s eye, the information available at the time, the institutional context and the plausibly available alternative courses of action. This essay analyzes the U.S. decision to take the Philippines. It was fateful. Since the decision was followed by an ugly war, it seemed even at the time to symbolize a loss of American innocence, or worse, in the country’s dealings with the world. By 1934, when the Philippines seemed to be a strategic millstone and the United States chose a path to full independence for the islands, the majority Democrats in Congress led the way, eager to gain American “freedom from the colony.”[2] But before America could gain this “freedom,” the American presence in the Philippines became a great pivot point of world history. In 1940 and 1941, Japanese naval planners concluded that any move through the South China Sea into the resource-rich Dutch East Indies and British Malaya had to include an attack on American bases in the Philippines. To the Japanese, this conclusion meant that, if they moved south, war with America was unavoidable. They then developed a war plan that included an opening attack on Pearl Harbor as well as the Philippines.[3] After World War II, the American presence across the Pacific was vastly enlarged in every way. During and after the Vietnam War, historians again looked back at the 1898-99 decision to take the Philippines. They viewed it as a sort of original sin, one that now seemed to have foreshadowed all the other sins to come. As in the story of how America stepped across the Pacific, the grand strategies in U.S. international history usually have had a traumatic birth. Grand strategies do not typically arise from visionary thinking about the future. They arise instead from the collective experience of some great disturbance, looking backward at some catalytic episode that practically everyone remembers. As people try to make sense of what has just happened, they construct quick and understandable rival narratives to explain that past, the present and maybe the future. The shorthand narratives become entrenched, decaying into shibboleths — until the next trauma displaces them. Meanwhile, historians can slowly try to reconstruct what really did happen in the first place. Yet the rewards of micro-historical reconstruction of fateful choices can be great. The episodes are usually ones that people, including most historians, think they already understand. But in my experience the more one digs, the stranger the stories get. That is, the fateful choices become more lifelike, more interesting and more truly educational. The Philippines decision was made, principally, by President William McKinley. For generations, McKinley himself and the way he made this decision have seemed like an opaque blur. Some historians see McKinley as a dupe of clever would-be imperialists such as the young Theodore Roosevelt and his influential friend Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge. Or they see him as driftwood pushed about by domestic politics or by great cultural or economic currents, like an American search for new markets in places like China. Or they regard him as a kind of pious nincompoop who, as one standard work puts it, permitted “missionary and business expansionists to persuade him of what he may already have believed.”[4] There is a quote, supposedly from McKinley, that is the perfect caricature. It has McKinley describing how he “went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance” until he saw
that there was nothing left to do but take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men, for whom Christ also died.
For generation on generation this quotation has been repeated in innumerable accounts, including standard history textbooks. It is catnip for a teacher, a vivid quote to spark up a lecture. Even though the source of the quote, repeating years later what he thought McKinley had said, has long been suspect, that should hardly get in the way.[5] In the Philippines case, part of the cartoon is the image of President McKinley himself. There is that dreamy missionary zeal. There is also the view, as another standard work put it, that McKinley “simply lacked ideas …. as usual, he was bereft of ideas.”[6] Even those historians who are more sympathetic to McKinley, either seeing him as a hidden mastermind or agreeing that he seems to have had little choice, have not adequately understood his decision-making process in this case. As this article will show, McKinley made, in fact, five distinct sets of choices. In each he went through a fairly involved set of consultations, gathering information and weighing alternative courses of action. [quote id="1"] In his first major public address after his decision, in Boston on February 17, 1899, before a huge crowd gathered in a large hall, McKinley’s tone was somber. He gave the crowd not one whit of self-congratulation. “I do not know why in the year 1899 this republic has unexpectedly had placed before it mighty problems which it must face and meet,” McKinley announced. “They have come and are here and they could not be kept away.” It was the just-concluded war with Spain. “Many who were impatient for the conflict a year ago,” McKinley went on, “apparently heedless of its larger results, are the first to cry out against the far-reaching consequences of their own act.” Here he was referring to the opposition Democrats and Populists — then a third party with a strong following in the rural Midwest and South. In early 1898 the Democrats and Populists, along with many members of his own Republican Party, had joined the clamor for war with Spain. Then, clearly referring to himself and his conservative Republican allies who had been less interested in war or expansion, McKinley reminded his audience, “Those who dreaded war most and whose every effort was directed to prevent it, had fears of new and grave problems that might follow its inauguration.” McKinley did not offer his audience much optimism. He did not borrow so much as a word from the political or economic arguments that the expansionist jingoes had been making to defend the taking of the Philippines. Instead, his message was that “Grave problems come in the life of a nation” and that “the generation on which they are forced cannot avoid the responsibility of honestly striving for their solution.”[7] It remains then to better understand just how these “grave problems,” seemingly so unavoidable, had actually arisen.  Why, in a war to end years of bloody fighting and devastation in nearby Cuba, did the United States end up becoming the ruler of the faraway Philippine Islands? True, the Filipinos, like the nearby Cubans, had also rebelled against Spanish rule. But hardly anyone in the United States had noticed or cared. Also, the Philippines were really far away. They were a month’s journey by steamship from California. They were a vast chain of thousands of islands. Their population was large, about 10 percent of the population of the entire United States (about 7.5 million at a time when there were 75 million in the United States). Moreover, the United States had no colonial service. Its regular Army was tiny, about 28,000 strong. So, simply on these bare facts, an American conquest of the Philippines would seem absurdly impractical. How and why then did the United States of America take such a fateful step across the Pacific?

Dewey to Manila, April to May 1898

If there was a war with Spain, everyone knew the issue would be Cuba. Since the 1820s, Spain’s only remaining colonies in the Western Hemisphere were Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Cubans had rebelled and fought a “10 years war” from 1868 to 1878. War broke out again in 1895. Years of violence across the island had become a bloody stalemate. Neither side could defeat the other. Spain would not grant independence. The Cubans would not settle for anything less. It was obvious to Americans at the time that the United States might get pulled in. There was no mystery there. Any administration from that day to this, confronted with such awful conditions in that enormous neighboring island, would be arguing about whether or how to try to stop it. And back then Cuba was much more important to America than it is today. Many Americans had direct interests of every kind on both sides. The Cuban rebellion was headquartered in New York City. Many of the rebel leaders were American citizens. They called loudly for American intervention to stop the suffering. In 1898, the opposition Democrats and Populists were united in favor of intervention in Cuba. It is easy to see why. Flip through the pages of the Congressional Record of the time. The volume might fall open to remarks such as these, from a Kansas congressman, a Populist, that the past two years have been “years of blood and carnage; two years of nameless atrocities practiced upon the innocent and helpless portion of the Cuban population; two years of waiting and vacillation on the part of our Government; two years of our quiet consent to these butcheries.” The congressman suspected that McKinley stood by because he and other conservatives were “under the powerful influence of bond syndicates” that had loaned money to Spain and were “being controlled more by commercial considerations than by the interests of humanity and the cause of freedom.”[8] While the Democrats called for war, the majority Republicans were split. Conservative Republicans tended to see the war fever as a press-fueled distraction from more important matters. They thought a war might be bad for business. President McKinley had little desire for war and little interest in expanding America’s domain. His most trusted advisers felt the same way.[9] McKinley was a private man of relatively modest personal means. He was devoted to his wife, an invalid whose health had broken after the death of their child. He was the last American president whose demeanor and values would now be called Victorian. He was soberly dressed, very concerned for the proprieties of public appearance and behavior, religious, dignified, and virtuous. Outsiders often misjudged McKinley. Careful, gentle and conscientious in his personal manner, he was often assumed to be dull and weak. He was neither. McKinley probably had more personal experience as a front-line combat soldier than any American president in history except for George Washington. The last veteran of the Civil War to serve as president, he had experienced that war from start to finish. He had enlisted as a private in a regiment from his native Ohio. He had been promoted after a display of personal heroism on the terrible battlefield of Antietam, driving a supply wagon forward to beleaguered front-line troops under heavy enemy fire, an episode that stayed in the memories of all who witnessed it. Much of his fighting was as a cavalryman in the campaigns of the Shenandoah Valley, ending the war with the rank of major. One old comrade from the war wrote to McKinley after he was elected president, confessing that, “I knew you as a soldier, as a congressman, as a governor, and now as president-elect. How shall I address you?” “Call me Major,” McKinley replied. “I earned that. I am not so sure of the rest.”[10] Returning after the war to his native Ohio, the major became a lawyer, gaining renown for defending striking miners. As a Republican politician, he was mentored by some of Ohio’s most famous officeholders, including Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield, men who had known McKinley during the war. McKinley’s father had been an ironworker and McKinley’s politics were the politics of economic growth and tariff protection of American business. McKinley held his seat in Congress in a battleground district of a battleground state. In the tightly matched politics of the 1880s and 1890s, Ohio was usually the crucial swing state (along with New York and Indiana). McKinley held on because he could reach some Democratic and independent voters. He was known as an honest man. His political style was not fiery or inspiring; it was amiable and deliberate. One of the great journalists of his generation, William Allen White, recalled an interview with President McKinley. He went to the president’s modest home in Canton, Ohio. By then a heavy man but “never paunchy,” McKinley was clean-shaven and immaculately dressed. He laid his cigar aside so it would not show in a picture. “We must not let the young men of this country see their President smoking!” “I was sweating,” White recalled, “for it was a hot day. He was stainless, spotless, apparently inwardly cool and outwardly unruffled. I thought then, and I think now, that he sensed what I was seeking and guarded it from me, maybe consciously.” White recalls that “his mistrust was sweet and friendly and was revealed only by the guarded complacence in what he said. He refused to tousle his hair politically. He was the statue in the park speaking.”[11] That was the McKinley outsiders saw. His path to the presidency had not been easy. The nomination fight inside the Republican Party had been the hardest part. To win, McKinley had taken on his party’s leading political bosses. Through a political adviser, businessman Mark Hanna, McKinley had been offered a deal. If he promised to make one of the bosses the secretary of the Treasury, the boss would help clear the way for McKinley to get the nomination. One of those present remembered that, hearing this offer, “McKinley’s face grew serious — in fact, hard.” He remained silent for a while and then said, “Mark, some things come too high. If I were to accept the nomination on those terms, the place would be worth nothing to me and less to the people. If those are the terms, I am out of it.” McKinley and his allies had gone on to win the party nomination by beating the party bosses. They had outfought them with an extraordinarily well-organized grass-roots effort among the state party conventions.[12] McKinley came to the presidency hoping to concentrate on domestic matters, working closely with Congress. Most congressmen liked him. One frequent opponent (Sen. George Hoar of Massachusetts) acknowledged that McKinley’s “great wisdom and tact and his delightful individual quality” gave him unusual influence.[13] The waspish Henry Adams, a longtime White House watcher from his perch on the other side of Lafayette Park, usually reflected the “smart” Washington view that McKinley was little more than an amiable figurehead. Adams got some advice from his longtime friend John Hay, who had been an aide to Lincoln and was then in London as McKinley’s ambassador to Britain. Hay warned Adams.
[D]on’t you go to making mistakes about McKinley! He is no tenderfoot — he has a habit of getting there. Many among the noble and the pure have had occasion to change their minds about him.[14]
Taking office in 1897, McKinley had chosen a Cabinet with carefully balanced political interests. McKinley soon came to regret some of these choices. At the State Department, McKinley had already been working around his senile secretary, John Sherman. He replaced Sherman as soon as the war with Spain began in April 1898. For McKinley, getting his War Department ready for war was a hard problem. His secretary of war, Russell Alger, was a former governor of Michigan. The War Department’s deputy head (then called the “adjutant-general”) was a general named Henry Corbin. The U.S. Army then had only 28,000 regulars, scattered around the country in 78 posts; the largest had a garrison of fewer than 850. The Army had leveled off at this strength since the mid-1870s. It was about one-twentieth the size of the German army and a good deal smaller even than the army of Mexico. It was not “that there was opposition to a proper military establishment,” Corbin recalled later, “but rather that the people as a whole were indifferent about it, fascinated, as they were, with the wonderful growth and development of the country then going on.” Corbin had seen combat both in the Civil War and later skirmishes against Indian tribes. Where he could, he had arranged peace with Indians. He would have preferred peace with Spain. With the Civil War 33 years in the past, Corbin thought most Americans had forgotten what real war was like. “Only the poetry and fiction of war existed; the actual hardships and privations of war our young men knew nothing about.”[15] [quote id="2"] Fortunately for McKinley, the first actions in any war with Spain would fall to the Navy. The Navy would be ready. It had been developing plans for a possible war with Spain for years, after the Cubans began their latest revolt. Naturally its plans mainly focused on operations in the Caribbean. Also fortunate for McKinley was that Secretary of the Navy John D. Long was the president’s close friend. Raised in Maine, Long had made a legal and political career in Massachusetts. An occasional poet and playwright, Long had a gracious style that made him a popular speaker of the Massachusetts House, then governor, then member of Congress. It was in the House of Representatives during the 1880s that Long and then-Rep. McKinley became friends. Long’s deputy at the Navy Department was a young up-and-comer from New York, Theodore Roosevelt. A prolific writer, Roosevelt had written a good history of the naval War of 1812 and was devoted to naval readiness. McKinley and Long knew that Roosevelt was an outspoken expansionist. They had appointed him as a concession to the lobbying efforts of Roosevelt’s similarly inclined friend, Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge. Long, who was nearly 60, enjoyed Roosevelt, who was about to turn 40. Long regarded his deputy about the way a parent might regard an exceptionally precocious but somewhat wild teenager. To his diary, Long appraised Roosevelt as a man “so enthusiastic and loyal that he is in certain respects invaluable; yet I lack confidence in his good judgment and discretion. [Roosevelt] goes off very impulsively …. He has been of great use; a man of unbounded energy and force, and thoroughly honest — which is the main thing. … His forte is his push. He lacks the serenity of discussion.”[16] As the Navy planned for a war in the Caribbean, one of the lesser planning problems among its officers was: In a war with Spain, what should be done with the Navy’s Asiatic squadron? Since the 1830s the U.S. Navy had maintained a few warships in Pacific waters to protect American merchantmen from pirates and show the flag. The ships usually called at ports in China and Japan, and occasionally in Korea. In the Navy’s first plans, the Asiatic squadron would go after Spain’s ships and its Pacific base in the Philippines, in Manila Bay. That way the squadron could eliminate the Spanish threat to America’s Pacific commerce. Also, any gains in Manila might then become bargaining leverage for peace talks. This sort of logic was familiar to any student of the only recent transoceanic naval wars anyone could study, the wars of the rival empires long ago during the age of sail. Some naval officers had another idea for the Asiatic squadron: Send it all the way to the Atlantic Ocean to attack Spain’s Canary Islands, near the Spanish coast. But this idea seemed too risky and impractical.[17] Long relied on the career officials running the Navy bureaus. A special planning board had junked the Canary Islands attack idea by the summer of 1897. It went back to the Manila Bay objective, which would attack the nearby enemy and might give the Americans “a controlling voice, as to what should become of the islands, when the final settlement was made.”[18] Why do anything with the Asiatic squadron at all? Why not just let them keep sailing around doing what they usually did? There were two problems, which can be summarized in shorthand as coal and neutrality. This was an age in which the steamships ran on hundreds of tons of coal, which had to be regularly resupplied from a place where thousands of tons of coal could be stored and transferred into ship bunkers. Coal was not the only reason for a base or friendly port. The ships also needed access to repair facilities as well as occasional supplies of food and water. But coal was the most complex problem, in part because it was so difficult to store and transfer large amounts of coal at sea and to transfer it between ships. In East Asia, the United States “had no docking or coaling facilities for its handful of vessels and was completely dependent upon the British and the Japanese for these services.”[19] If war broke out with Spain, the U.S. squadron on the East Asian coast could sail the 700 miles from Hong Kong to Manila in less than a week, with all the coal its ships could carry. But unless the ships could secure a new base, they would have to sail around for a few weeks until the coal and other supplies ran low and then go off to some place where they could put thousands of tons of coal back in their fuel bunkers.  The closest American coaling station was in Hawaii, established by agreement with the Hawaiians in 1887. Then there were the problems of neutral rights. If there was a war with Spain all the usual ports of call for America’s Asiatic squadron — Hong Kong, Singapore and Nagasaki — would be in neutral countries such as Britain and Japan. Under the prevailing understanding of neutral rights, rights the United States had loudly insisted upon during its civil war, a neutral country could not host and supply ships of a power that was at war. If the ships of the belligerent power did not leave, the neutral power would have to intern them and their sailors. That meant that the neutral power would impound the ships and hold the sailors until they could be returned home in some neutral way. In short, the Asiatic squadron would not be able to stay where it was, based in Hong Kong. The squadron would have to leave. Where could it go after sailing around for a while? The only possible places would be to the nearest American coaling station, which was thousands of miles away in Hawaii, or go all the way home to the nearest U.S. naval base, in California. If that happened the Asiatic squadron might play no useful part in the war at all. Worse, the squadron’s withdrawal thousands of miles away would then open up the Asiatic shipping lanes to a potential Spanish attack on American merchantmen, since the Spanish did have an Asiatic base, in Manila Bay. The only other choice was for the squadron to attack Manila Bay. There it could try to blockade the Spanish for a few weeks, until the American squadron ran short on coal and had to run home. Or, more risky, the squadron could attack the Spanish squadron in Manila Bay and try to seize it to turn it into an American base. There was then little geopolitics or grand strategy in the paragraph of the Navy plan that dealt with the Asiatic squadron. There was a more banal question: What are we going to do with the Asiatic squadron during a war with Spain? Something had to be found for the ships to do. They could not just hang out in East Asia because of the neutrality problem in the region’s ports of call. So, unless they had an object, the handful of warships would have to spend a month sailing home and effectively sit out the war. If the Navy did not want to bring the ships the long way home, it had to find something for them to do in the Atlantic, like the Canary Islands scheme, or else send them to attack Manila. Of those two options, Manila was judged to be more practical, if risky. That risky option was therefore what the Navy expected the Asiatic squadron to do. It was led by Commodore George Dewey, a 60 year-old Vermonter who had been in the Navy since he arrived at the Naval Academy at age 17. He had last seen combat in the Civil War. But he had wanted this sea duty and he had an aggressive spirit. That was the spirit needed for this mission, which had a bit of a “win or die” atmosphere about it. If something went badly wrong with his attack, he would be thousands of miles away from any U.S. base to which he could retreat. [quote id="7"] When war came, the main U.S. naval forces were concentrated in the Caribbean and the Atlantic to be ready around Cuba. The five remaining battleships were assigned to the Caribbean and Atlantic. So were most of the modern cruisers. Of the 15 modern (armored or protected) cruisers in the Navy, Dewey’s squadron had only four. In principle, Dewey’s squadron could still outgun the Spanish ships in Manila Bay. But Dewey’s ships had to run through the entrance to the bay, which could easily be covered by shore batteries and mined. Then, even if they ran that gauntlet, Dewey’s ships would have to pummel the Spanish vessels that might be supported by shore batteries. The Spanish understood all of this. They too had expected and planned for possible war with the United States. They had developed the right kind of defensive plans for Manila Bay. But the Spanish had not implemented those plans. They had not installed enough of the needed artillery, observation posts or mines. An intrepid American consul in Manila observed the Spanish preparations and kept Dewey informed, escaping Manila to join Dewey just as the war began.[20] After a mysterious explosion sank the U.S. battleship Maine, then visiting Havana harbor, on February 15, 1898, preparations for a war with Spain quickened. Dewey had been told to gather his squadron in Hong Kong and prepare. There is an often-repeated story about how Roosevelt and Lodge schemed to send orders to Dewey to attack the Philippines on a day in February while Long was out of the office. The story is a myth that Lodge embellished in a later memoir. In fact, the orders that went out when Long was out that day had followed up on prior plans. Long reviewed them on his return to the office.[21] Relations were broken and war began on April 21. That day Long walked over to see President McKinley. It was a short walk. Back then the White House had no West Wing. Long would have strolled on a short path by some gardens between the State, War and Navy Building over to the door to the executive mansion. He was used to this. He would sometimes go over at night, dropping in on his friend to join a family dinner or while the president was reading the paper in the evening. The Navy Department, the State Department and the War Department were housed in the new ornate building completed in 1888, just west of the White House. Called the State, War and Navy Building until after World War II, this is now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (and has been taken over by staff in the Executive Office of the President). Before walking to the executive mansion Long had discussed the first set of war orders with his Naval War Board. Then he and McKinley strolled for an hour that afternoon through the streets of Washington. The months leading to war had taken a toll on McKinley. He seemed visibly careworn and losing sleep. Long noted to his diary that the president “opens his heart to me, with reference to the struggle through which he has been and the anxiety it has involved.” Probably during this walk, Long explained that the Navy’s long-standing plans were to send Dewey on to Manila to attack the Spanish forces there. McKinley took this in. But he “preferred to consider the matter a little longer.” A couple of days later, there was still no approval from McKinley. There is no evidence about why he hesitated. Then news arrived from Dewey. As expected, the British governor in Hong Kong had just communicated the order: Dewey and his warships must leave their neutral harbor immediately. Neutral harbors in China and Japan were also expected to be unavailable, except as way stations home to America. On Sunday, April 24, Long went back to the White House and reviewed the situation with the president. Now the matter was urgent. What else could Dewey do but go on to Manila Bay, as planned? Long’s staff had drafted the order. The president finally approved it.[22] It took about a week for the Asiatic squadron to reach Manila Bay. On May 1, Dewey’s ships fought their battle. During the night, the Americans slipped into the bay without interference. The Spanish warships were engaged. All were sunk or disabled. Not one American life was lost. What a victory! From top to bottom the country was relieved and electrified by the news. Now what? What could Dewey’s squadron do next? The Navy had not planned for this. The Spanish garrison in Manila remained intact. It did not surrender. Dewey could put some Marines ashore at the Cavite Navy Yard, about eight miles from Manila. He could hang around for a while, patrolling the bay and maintaining a blockade. But he could not remain for months unless he could secure control of the port and its facilities. Dewey could not capture Manila. After hanging around in Manila Bay for a couple of weeks, Dewey cabled home that even if the Spanish surrendered he could not hold Manila without getting some troops. He estimated the Spanish troop strength at about 10,000 men. There were numerous Filipino rebels hemming in the Spanish by land, “although they are inactive and making no demonstrations.” Dewey asked for a “well equipped force of 5000 men.”[23] McKinley had anticipated this request. He had decided to send out an expedition to hold Manila, which Dewey’s victory had not quite placed in U.S. hands. A few months later McKinley would smilingly tell a friend, “If old Dewey had just sailed away when he smashed that Spanish fleet, what a lot of trouble he would have saved us.” But recounting the matter later in 1898 to a more knowledgeable group, McKinley was less airy. The problem, McKinley explained, was that the battle had
taken place at Manilla and not on the high seas[.] Manilla became a question from which we could not escape. Dewey had to go there to find the Spanish fleet. … [A]nd having destroyed their fleet Dewey found [Manila] to be the safest and indeed the only harbor open to him as by laws of neutrality he was excluded from all other countries[’] ports.[24]
Once the post-battle situation became clear, an expedition was put together to secure American occupation of the port. The Army had no plan whatsoever for the Philippines. It began looking frantically for regiments and officers that could go help hold on at least in Manila until there was a peace conference. The Army made its estimates of how many troops were needed to be sure of defeating a Spanish force of about 10,000 troops. The Army and Navy agreed to send some 15,000 to 20,000 troops, including many of the new volunteers enlisted for the war, to have enough soldiers to outnumber the Spanish. The Army’s commanding general, Nelson Miles, clarified the expedition commander’s mission. His orders told the commander, Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt, that this was not some force “expected to carry on a war to conquer an extensive territory.” The expedition was only to establish “a strong garrison to command the harbor of Manila” and to relieve the burden on Dewey’s sailors and Marines.[25] The expedition went out in three waves as the Navy scrounged ships to carry and escort them.[26] The first group sailed at the end of May and arrived in Manila Bay on July 4. The remaining troops, including Maj. Gen. Merritt, arrived later in July. Waiting for the expedition week after week, Dewey’s situation was uneasy. Word spread that the Spanish were sending a naval force out to recapture Manila and that the force would include battleships that could outgun anything in Dewey’s force. Dewey’s ships might have to retreat. If American soldiers arrived, they might have to fade into the hills.[27] Meanwhile, warships from Germany, Britain, France and Japan arrived in Manila Bay. All these countries already had nearby bases in East Asia. These four squadrons waited watchfully, like carrion birds circling in the sky over a fallen animal. The German force alone was significantly more powerful than Dewey’s squadron and, as I discuss below, it was Germany that had the most ambitious designs for the Philippines. The potential longer-term significance of American occupation of this port began to dawn on both the McKinley administration and the American public. In the United States, the news of Dewey’s victory had set off a whirl of speculation. Some wondered whether the United States should even try to take the islands as a possession. All sorts of pressures in the United States were building about the future of the Philippines. For decades Americans had been arguing about how to assert themselves in the world. The American population was one of the largest in the world, and the U.S. economy was already the world’s largest. But no one was quite sure what being a world power meant. The 1890s had been a decade of great contrasts of old ways and new machines, as well as all sorts of domestic scars and divisions — old wounds of North and South plus new wounds from battles between labor and management in all the new industries. Amid this division, perhaps because of it, shows of patriotism, parades and flag-waving were so common and exuberant as to almost seem neurotic, as if a frantic outward display of pride and union was the constant, soothing balm applied to ease so much inward pain and striving. [quote id="3"] Some leading Americans had looked for ways the country could show off, could test its strength. But against whom? For what? [28] Meanwhile, for nearly 20 years since the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, the great European powers had been racing to expand their empires, competing in a frenzied land grab to include every open scrap of earth in the world. These scrambles had mainly focused on Africa and Asia. By comparison the Americans had seemed passive, preoccupied with what was going on in their own vast country. “As of the early 1880s educated Americans nearly all doubted the value of colonies and regarded efforts to conquer other populations as morally wrong.” But, reading the news of an apparent imperialist consensus in Europe, especially among British Liberals, during the 1880s and after the former “unanimity” of American opinion leaders “had begun to break down.”[29] Some outspoken men believed that the United States had to join this global imperial race and try to catch up. These advocates were called “jingoes,” a derision to mock such “by jingo” enthusiasms. The jingoes had applauded in 1893 when Hawaii’s American planters and professionals had engineered a coup to overthrow Hawaii’s native government. The leaders of the new government wanted to bring Hawaii into the United States. As noted earlier, Hawaii had the only U.S. coaling station in the Pacific and it had long been under American protection. But this Hawaiian government’s pleas for annexation had been tabled for nearly five years. The jingoes did not control the Republican Party in Congress or in the White House. McKinley had finally sent a Hawaiian annexation treaty to the Senate. But McKinley did not expect two-thirds of the Senate to ratify the treaty and he did little to press it.[30] When the war began, however, Congress immediately moved on the long-simmering Hawaiian question and annexed the islands. A public debate about the Philippine islands had begun. Yet in secret, McKinley wanted to use the Philippine position as a bargaining chip, just as the prewar Navy plans had envisioned. He was prepared to give the islands back to Spain, if that would indeed bring about “an honorable and durable peace.” McKinley left in his papers an undated note in which he had jotted: “While we are conducting war and until its conclusion we must keep all we get; when the war is over we must keep what we want.”[31]

The Secret Offer, May to June 1898

As spring turned to summer, McKinley’s main worry was about how to land troops and win the battles in Cuba. When war came, Alger, the secretary of war, was overwhelmed by his job. The Army had begun the war with no particular plans for how to fight it. To the better-prepared Navy Secretary, Long, it seemed the Army was “ready for nothing at all.”[32] As if to underscore this point, just as the war was getting underway the Army’s commanding general, Nelson Miles, wrote to McKinley opposing any expedition to Cuba during the summer of 1898. “This letter reached the President two or three days after war had been declared,” Corbin later recorded privately. “It shocked him beyond words. Only on one other occasion did I see him show more feeling. Among other things he said, ‘God willing and not failing us, we shall end the war before the General would have us begin operations. He little understands me; no more does he know the temper of our people. I deplore the war, but it must be short and quick to the finish.’”[33] With Alger difficult and Miles untrustworthy, McKinley decided to oversee the War Department as directly as he could. He personally supervised the Cuban campaign plan. To help, McKinley relied on Corbin, who was always just a short walk away in the new building west of the executive mansion. At the Navy Department, Long grew wearier as the conflict went on. With his young deputy, Roosevelt, off to the Army, his new deputy turned out to be very competent. But Long himself flagged. By mid-May, a McKinley aide observed,
Secretary Long moves along quietly. He is not sure-footed as his friends would have us believe. He hesitates, questions too much, seems hampered by too great conservatism and often he seems to be in the position of the surgeon who fails of … ‘nerve’ and decision at the critical moment.[34]
McKinley ordered the creation of a War Room in the executive mansion. It was staffed with clerks and telegraphers; large maps were hung with pins stuck in to show the positions of troops and ships. McKinley would often be there, reading cables as they came in and studying the maps.[35] McKinley’s style of leadership was not charismatic. He did not point the way and rally the troops. Cabinet meetings remained informal. McKinley might open with a story to put others at ease. His was another kind of leadership style — that of a judge. People would make their arguments. He would hear them out, not revealing his own views until the time for decision. When all had spoken, McKinley would state a decision and go around asking, “You agree?” To one of McKinley’s aides, the president “is the strong man of the Cabinet, the dominating force; but with it all, is a gentleness and graciousness in dealing with men that some of his greatest victories have been won apparently without any struggle.” His later secretary of war, Elihu Root, remembered McKinley as a “man of great power because he was absolutely indifferent to credit. His desire was to ‘get it done!’ He cared nothing about the credit, but McKinley always had his way.”[36] The new secretary of state, William Day, was used to McKinley’s style. A former judge from Ohio, Day had been the deputy to his aged predecessor in the job, John Sherman. From the start, it was Day who had done most of the foreign policy work for the president. As soon as war began, McKinley pushed Sherman out and Day took over the top job. A small-framed, thin-faced mustachioed lawyer nearing 50, Day had long been a fact-finder for McKinley on many problems. He was discreet and thorough. McKinley’s secretary noted, “Here is a quiet, one might almost say country, lawyer who has so conducted the foreign affairs of this administration as to win unanimous commendation.”[37] As soon as he was elevated, Day named his deputy, picking the best expert on international law that he could find. This was a bearded, stocky former State Department official (and Democrat), a Columbia professor named John Bassett Moore.[38] Day and Moore were McKinley’s allies when he made his high-risk move to use the Philippines as a bargaining chip. After the Spanish defeat at Manila Bay, there was turmoil in Madrid. London got word that the queen regent and key ministers might be ready for a deal, to give up Cuba in exchange for peace. The British came to the U.S. ambassador in London, John Hay, who relayed the private question: What peace terms might America accept?[39] Moore promptly drafted an answer. Terms could be generous “if immediately proposed by Spain, directly or by some mediator.” Spain would evacuate Cuba. The United States would manage a transition of power to the Cubans. Spain would cede Puerto Rico to the United States. If the Spanish did that, then the Philippines would “be allowed to remain with Spain.” In the Pacific the United States would only want “a coaling station,” either in the Philippines or in the neighboring Spanish-held Carolines island group.[40] On May 11, about a week after news had arrived about Dewey’s naval victory in Manila Bay, Day put this proposal for a deal before the Cabinet. Alger disagreed, but there is no evidence why. There the matter rested for a couple of weeks. McKinley was preoccupied with plans to launch a large U.S. expedition to eastern Cuba. This expedition was to land near the port of Santiago de Cuba, where the Navy had just bottled up the fleet that Spain had sent to Cuba. It was a risky plan, relying on a lot of improvisation and luck. The Americans would try to establish a firm hold in eastern Cuba and put off the huge challenge of trying to take on Havana, where the Spanish had the bulk of their strength.[41] Once that expedition plan was set, the diplomats went back to the peace move. Day’s plan now was to bypass the Cabinet and take the proposed bargain directly to McKinley. He would leave it to the president to “ascertain what his ‘jingos’ thought about it.” Day was “very strongly opposed to retaining the Philippines, except possibly some coaling station in them, upon any terms.” Day met with McKinley. They agreed on what to do. Day then instructed Hay, his man in London, to float the deal. The president, “speaking for himself, would be inclined to grant terms of peace” with the Philippines to remain with Spain, ceding only a coaling station, if Spain would give up Cuba. This deal would avoid the need for “further sacrifice and loss of life.” But Day asked Hay to warn that “Prolongation of war may change this materially.” To help make sure the proposed deal got through to Madrid, Day apparently also privately briefed the British ambassador in Washington. That envoy informed his French, German and Austrian colleagues. Thus the terms soon became known on the diplomatic circuit, though there was nothing in public that linked the offer directly with McKinley. Nor is there any evidence that this secret diplomatic move was discussed with other members of McKinley’s Cabinet. No one appears to have known about McKinley’s personal authorization except for Day and Moore in Washington, and Hay in London. Day reminded Hay to hide McKinley’s hand in this. The proposal to give up the Philippines could not be seen as “coming from us.”[42] Secrecy for McKinley was vital; he was taking a great risk by making this offer. Spain was the enemy. Its rule in Cuba was regarded as a loathsome tyranny. Its rule in the Philippines was getting similar attention. The jingoes, like Lodge and Roosevelt (then a colonel helping to lead a volunteer regiment preparing to go to Cuba), already felt strongly that, whoever ended up with them, the Philippine Islands had to be taken from Spain. Roosevelt, writing to Lodge from his Army camp in Texas on May 19, advised: “do not make peace until we get Porto Rico, while Cuba is made independent and the Philippines at any rate taken from the Spaniards.” He repeated this suggestion to Lodge on May 25.[43] To many Americans it would already have seemed wrong, even immoral, for America to hand Manila and the Philippine Islands back to Spain under any circumstances. To make it worse, the American president was the one suggesting this. Disclosure of McKinley’s move could have set off a terrific political storm. Further, Spain had not yet asked for peace or tabled any ideas. The Americans feared that making the first move would signal weakness or unreadiness to fight. So the plan was for the terms to be passed secretly to the Spanish. Then the Spanish would make the proposal, knowing that it was likely to be accepted. The first part worked. The terms were passed to Spain and its friends in Europe.[44] [quote id="4"] The second part failed to launch. The Spanish preferred to keep fighting. They had been encouraged by a naval skirmish in May and hopeful that the latest group of ships sent to Cuba might do well. They had belatedly dispatched another squadron to the Philippines. Instead, during June, Spain’s main diplomatic move was to ask the other great powers to join its fight in the Philippines, to mount a joint military intervention to take over Manila. “Spain,” Hay reported, “was not yet sensible enough to ask for peace, on even the most reasonable terms.” The secret offer dissipated. Day thanked Hay for his handling of “this most delicate matter.”[45]The war continued. There were more Spanish defeats. By the end of June, the American expedition to eastern Cuba had landed. The siege of Santiago de Cuba by land and by sea had begun. In the first days of July, American troops seized the high ground near Santiago in the fights at San Juan Heights and Kettle Hill. The Spanish fleet in Santiago went to sea and accepted battle. On July 3 it was destroyed. The remaining garrison in Santiago de Cuba surrendered. The other Spanish fleet, the one that had been sent to the Philippines, stopped. As a neutral power, the British refused to allow the Spanish warships to pass through the Suez Canal. The Spanish recalled the fleet to Spain, now worrying that the Americans might attack Spanish home waters.[46] From the Philippines came more news. A native Filipino government had declared its independence. Its soldiers were fighting as America’s friends, alongside the troops of the newly arrived U.S. expedition. The option of returning the islands to Spain had become a good deal more complicated.

Terms for an Armistice, July to August

During the summer of 1898 Americans started learning a lot more about the Spanish possessions in the Pacific. At the beginning of June, Albert Shaw, the editor of the Review of Reviews, one of the most-read news digests in America, observed, “A few weeks ago the great majority of the people of the United States knew nothing about the Philippines except in the vaguest possible way.” Now a great many American families were becoming aware of it because some of their young men were being deployed across the Pacific in a far-reaching expedition “absolutely without any precedent in our national history.”[47] Shaw’s digest, like many newspapers, included articles that described the situation in the Philippines. McKinley himself read these and other articles, leaving behind clippings or references to some notable articles in his papers. Anyone reading the articles in Shaw’s Review, or any other major newspaper, would learn that the Philippines was a group of islands with 6 million to 8 million inhabitants. The native racial background was given as “Malay,” with deep hostility among native groups in different portions of the islands (Tagal versus Visayan versus Moro, for example). They would also learn that a substantial number of Chinese and Chinese-descended families dominated the retail trade as well as a handful of foreign trading houses, mainly British. There were few available experts on the Philippines in the English-speaking or scholarly world. The best account to appear in English that summer in any source, in or outside of government, was an article from one of those few experts, an Englishman, John Foreman. He had long known Spain and the Philippines as a businessman and explorer, as a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and he knew the Filipino revolutionary leaders too. McKinley read Foreman’s article.[48] Every account, including Foreman’s, stressed Spanish misrule. Spanish rule was portrayed as anti-modern and purely predatory. It had added little of value and it had stunted development and education in the islands. Local priests, the friars, routinely abused their authority, answerable to no law but that of their protective bishops, while there was a veneer of mediocre Spanish administrators who were corrupt, lethargic and cruel. Therefore, the Filipino revolutionaries were usually portrayed sympathetically. Foreman, for instance, regarded the young rebel leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, as a “smart, intelligent man, of a serious mien” with a real following, especially among the Tagal elite in Luzon. Aguinaldo was a “would-be reformer” who had resorted to force out of necessity. Yet every account also stressed that the local inhabitants were not nearly ready for or capable of self-government. Spain had created no intermediary institutions — no native assemblies or cadres of trained officials. There was the condition of the population, the absence of any infrastructure for modern government, and the deadly hostility among the different ethnic groups in the islands. Foreman concluded: “At first, no doubt, the islanders will welcome and co-operate in any arrangement which will rid them of monastic oppression. The Philippine Islands, however, would not remain one year a peaceful united Archipelago under an independent native government. It is an utter impossibility.” Worse, Foreman noted,
If the native Republic did succeed, it would not be strong enough to protect itself against foreign aggression. … I entertain the firm conviction that an unprotected united Republic would last only until the novelty of the situation had worn off. Then, I think, every principal island would, in turn, declare its independence. Finally, there would be complete chaos, and before that took root America, or some European nation, would probably have interfered.
For the readers of his day, Foreman did not need to do more than gesture at the recent record of what had happened in other lands that had thrown off Spanish rule. Throughout their adult lives, his 1898 readers had read accounts of the revolutions, civil wars, and foreign interventions that tormented Latin America throughout the 19th century, in every liberated province of the former Spanish empire. The possibility of foreign intervention was not abstract. During the 1880s and 1890s, every habitable rock on Earth had been claimed. Americans could remember having been caught up briefly in a strange little 1888 crisis involving British and German claims over the tiny islands of Samoa. Outside of the Qing Empire in China and the Kingdom of Siam (a kind of demilitarized zone between the British in Burma and the French in Indochina), there were no spots in East Asia and the Pacific that were not in European or Japanese control. The German, British, French, and Japanese warships were anchored watchfully in Manila Bay. Of these the German squadron was the most intimidating presence. This was no accident. From the outset of the crisis the German navy minister, unbeknownst to the United States, was “firm as a rock in his conviction that we must have Manila and that this would be of enormous advantage to us.” Kaiser Wilhelm II considered it “the first task of German diplomacy … to obtain naval bases in the Far East.”[49] The Philippines problem had arisen in what, in 1898, was probably the part of the globe most likely to set off a worldwide war. The breakup and possible partition of China seemed imminent. Korean independence was tenuous and near the most volatile spot on Earth, the place where the next general war then seemed most likely to break out. It was, a veteran British leader secretly confided, a crisis “pregnant with possibilities of a disastrous kind; and it might result in an Armageddon between the European Powers struggling for the ruins of the Chinese Empire.”[50] This was the Far Eastern crisis: the simmering cauldron of Qing, Russian, Japanese, German, and British interests in northeast China and Manchuria. During the spring of 1898 Hay had sent a handwritten letter directly to McKinley, outside of official channels. “The conditions of things in China is to the last degree serious,” he had warned. “[T]he present crisis is considered by English statesmen one of the gravest of our times.”[51] So far, the United States had endeavored to stay clear of this Far Eastern broil. The British secretly asked the Americans if they would consider joint action to protect everyone’s trading rights in China. The McKinley government had turned down the British request. But it obviously did not want to make the situation worse and trigger a possible world war.[52] The British ambassador to Germany had confided to Hay the British government’s hope that the United States would just keep the Philippines. There was, he said, “not a power in Europe [that] would seriously object to that disposition of them, while any other [choice] might disturb the peace of the world.”[53] Foreman thought a foreign power should establish a protectorate over the Philippines. That power would organize a largely native government while providing overall direction and defense. Foreman did not believe the Americans were up to the job. England, he thought, “would probably find it a less irksome task.” Shaw’s conclusion, in the Review of Reviews article mentioned earlier, was similar to Foreman’s, except that he thought America had to assume the burden.[54] All these considerations also had to account for a new factor. The Filipino insurgents had announced their own government. In late May, Aguinaldo and a number of his colleagues had returned to the Philippines from exile, encouraged by the U.S. consul in Hong Kong and aided by Adm. Dewey. Digesting all this, officials in Washington realized that the insurgents had to be taken into account. Yet the United States wanted to do nothing to foreclose its options. They cautioned Dewey, the expedition commanders, and their diplomats. All said they had made no compromising pledges to the insurgents. Dewey added: “In my opinion these people are far superior in their intelligence and more capable of self-government than the natives of Cuba, and I am familiar with both races.”[55] In mid-July, the Spanish were ready to talk about peace, using France as their diplomatic channel. The first step was to arrange terms for an armistice, while a peace treaty could be negotiated. From his perch in the Senate, Lodge weighed in about what he thought the terms should be. Lodge’s position was intricate. He wanted the United States to take all of the Philippines from Spain but then keep only the island of Luzon. Cede the rest to Britain, he argued, in a deal to get more Caribbean islands. Lodge spent hours in meetings and dinners lobbying McKinley and Day. They gave him the impression that they were still making up their minds.[56] McKinley and Day wanted to hear what John Hay thought, from London. Hay still liked the earlier idea of giving the islands back to Spain if there could be some “strong guarantee of fair treatment of natives” and a ban on Spain selling the islands to some other power (such as Germany). Hay reported that the British did, though, “prefer to have us retain Philippine Islands, or, failing that, insist on option in case of future sale.” The German government’s interest in getting something was all too evident.[57] What about Japan? The Japanese ambassador in Washington advised that “the Japanese government would be highly gratified if the United States would occupy the Islands.” The ambassador very politely added that “it would not be as agreeable to the Japanese Government to have them turned over to some other power.”[58] Hay’s views remained “conservative” (the usual adjective for Republicans not among the jingoes). But he was not sure his position was still workable. Reading that industrialist Andrew Carnegie was against the United States taking the Philippines, Hay wrote to Carnegie, “I am not allowed to say in my present fix, how much I agree with you. The only question in my mind is how far it is now possible for us to withdraw from the Philippines. I am rather thankful it is not given to me to solve that momentous question.”[59] On a hot July afternoon, McKinley invited his Cabinet members to join him on a Potomac River cruise on the presidential yacht. He wanted them to discuss peace terms. The Cabinet had longer arguments about this topic, mainly about the Philippines, than about any other subject during McKinley’s presidency. McKinley’s Cabinet, sitting together on the yacht on the Potomac, began its discussion. Day led off. He was still for giving the islands back to Spain, except for a coaling station. About half the Cabinet (including Navy Secretary Long) agreed with him. Those on the other side pointed out that returning the islands to Spain would seem appalling, given the sort of Spanish misrule that had led to war over Cuba. One Cabinet member quoted a distinguished senator who was against American expansion but still said he would “as soon turn a redeemed soul over to the devil as give the Philippines back to Spain.” Opinions wavered. The agriculture secretary wanted to keep all the islands and evangelize them. But he altered his views as he learned more about the Filipino insurgency. War Secretary Alger went back and forth. Another Cabinet member spoke for keeping Luzon and setting up a protectorate for the rest. The interior secretary saw great commercial opportunities and wanted to hold the islands. One of the more capable Cabinet members, the attorney general, also thought the United States should keep them all. The Treasury secretary, on the other hand, argued for complete withdrawal and returning all of the Philippines back to Spain. Through all this, hour after hour, McKinley offered little comment. He just kept the discussion going. The next day the arguments continued. As they kept going over the problems, several began emphasizing that the government needed more information about the situation, including the advice of people on the scene such as Adm. Dewey. At this point the U.S. government had not yet received a single serious written analysis of the situation in the Philippines, nor any recommendations, from any of its officers posted there.[60] Humility and caution prevailed. Defer, wait for more information from the field: That was the consensus. Peace commissioners would be appointed. They would sort out the Philippines problem as they got more information back from the islands. Beyond Spanish evacuation of Cuba and Puerto Rico and an island in the Ladrones (Marianas) that turned out to be Guam, the cease-fire terms for the Philippines were simple. The United States would occupy “the city, bay, and harbor of Manila pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace which shall determine the control, disposition, and government of the Philippines.”[61] McKinley and Day gave the terms to the French ambassador, Jules Cambon, representing Spain. Cambon complained that the terms were harsh. McKinley replied that Spain could have had a much better deal had it sought peace sooner. The armistice and cease-fire was signed on August 12. At the end of August, the Americans controlled and protected the city of Manila and surrounding waters. Little more. Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government was taking control of the rest of the surrounding island of Luzon. It organized a congress to meet in the government’s improvised capital, Malolos. Aguinaldo sent a message to the foreign powers reiterating the new government’s independence. They ignored him. No foreign country would recognize his government. The Spanish still held the Visayan islands south of Luzon, including Panay. Spain also retained nominal control of the large Muslim “Moro” islands in the south. Picking the peace commissioners, McKinley immediately put his most trusted aide, Day, in the lead. Moore would be the commission’s secretary. To go to Paris for the negotiations, Day would have to resign as secretary of state. John Hay was asked to come back to Washington and take over the State Department in Day’s place.[62]

Gen. Greene’s Mission and the Decision to Take the Philippines, August to October 1898

After the July debates, the Cabinet and McKinley agreed it was most important to get information and recommendations from the Americans who were on the scene in the Philippines. Of these men, none turned out to be more influential than a brigadier general named Francis Vinton Greene. It was an illustrious name. Greene came from one of the most respected military families in America. His grandfather was Nathaniel Greene, one of the most celebrated generals in the Revolution. His father had been a general during the Civil War, commanding a Union brigade at Gettysburg. Following the family tradition, Francis Greene had graduated from West Point in 1870 at the top of his class. Commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, he had been one of the surveyors on a renowned expedition during the 1870s in the Rocky Mountain West. As a staff officer in the War Department Greene had become close to President Ulysses S. Grant as well as to Gens. William Sherman and Philip Sheridan and other leading officers of the day. In these years, he first met the young naval officer George Dewey. Greene was assigned to go out and observe the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. He witnessed the principal campaigns and wrote a book about the war that became a standard account, establishing a unique reputation as a soldier-scholar. Greene left the Army in 1886 to go into business in New York City. Running an asphalt paving company, he became a powerful force in all the civic improvement and road-building issues of that city and beyond. That connected him well to local Republican politics. He was also elected colonel of one of New York’s militia regiments, the 71st New York. As war with Spain threatened, one of Greene’s friends, Theodore Roosevelt, pleaded with the colonel to accept him as a deputy in that regiment, a lieutenant colonel, if war came. (Roosevelt ended up finding such a place in a different regiment, commanded by Leonard Wood.) When the war did come, as Greene and his regiment readied for service in Cuba, Greene was ordered to command one of the brigades being assembled for the Philippines. It was not a hard call for Corbin at the War Department.  Corbin would later privately record that he regarded Greene as “one of the most competent soldiers I have ever known.”[63] After a difficult siege in the rainy season and a brief assault, Greene’s brigade and the other American troops had accepted the surrender of Manila. Greene, who could speak Spanish and French, was promptly put in charge of all the finances of the Philippine administration. He met with all the Spanish officials and leading private bankers and took actions to head off a financial crisis. This was the context when McKinley asked Dewey to provide his best advice about the situation in the Philippines. He asked Dewey to even consider returning to Washington to report directly to him on this vital matter. Dewey sent a brief reply, noting the desirability of Luzon but saying nothing about the revolutionary government that had been created by Aguinaldo. Dewey said he hoped he would not have to go to Washington while matters remained “in present critical condition.” Dewey, Army expedition commander Merritt, and Greene conferred. They decided that Greene should be the man to go to Washington.[64] News arrived of the armistice with Spain. Outside of official channels, Greene received a telegram from a well-connected associate. It advised him that the war was considered closed. Commissioners would determine the disposition of the Philippines. Greene’s friend thought the Army would just retain a garrison there. This informal news shocked the commanders in Manila. They feared the United States was planning to withdraw from the islands and thought that leaders in Washington did not understand the “critical” situation. On August 25, Merritt and Greene fired a salvo of telegrams to Washington through official and unofficial channels. In one, Greene asked his friend to go see Corbin as soon as possible, to even see President McKinley if necessary. He recommended that the president should send for “a competent and responsible person immediately” to come and brief them — either Maj. Gen. Merritt or himself, going to Washington or to Paris (to see the commissioners). Greene also cabled Day and Hay to the same effect. Washington reacted promptly. Merritt was ordered to turn over his command to a newly arrived major-general, Elwell Otis, and hurry at once to Paris. There he could brief the peace commissioners. Greene was ordered to Washington “by first transport.” Dewey said his views would come back with Greene. He again called for holding on to Luzon. He wrote little about politics or practicalities. The Filipinos, he did add, “are gentle, docile and under just laws and with the benefits of popular education would soon make good citizens” with capacities for self-government superior to the Cubans. On August 30, the day after he received his order from Washington, Greene boarded a steamship for Hong Kong. Boarding the ship with Greene was Aguinaldo’s representative, Felipe Agoncillo, who also hoped to see and influence the American president. Greene liked and respected Agoncillo. During the weeks of traveling the two men frequently dined together and chatted. Greene brought with him every book and relevant document he could find. He used the ensuing weeks of travel to draft a detailed report for McKinley, more than 60 pages, on “The Situation in the Philippines.”[65] Knowing how long his trip would take, Greene sent a preview. On September 5, as he changed ships in Nagasaki, Greene personally encoded an unusual telegram sent outside of standard Army channels. Written in the tightly abbreviated style of telegrams in that era, Greene sent his message directly to Day. It read:
Rep of Aguinaldo with me. Comes solely on his own responsibility. In my opinion Spanish Power Philippines dead. Any attempt revive it will result Civil War, anarchy and foreign intervention.
Once the 13,000 Spanish prisoners already in American hands were sent home, “Aguinaldo’s army will probably dissolve. He cannot maintain independent gov’t without protection of some strong nation.” Therefore: “Only safe course is for United States to hold islands and not divide them. British sentiment will support this unanimously. Have expressed these views Admiral Dewey. He fully concurs.”[66] Thus for the first time, in early September, McKinley and Day finally received a very plain statement about what their commanders in the Philippines thought about the points they and their Cabinet colleagues had been debating. In addition to the substance of this advice, McKinley would have realized its political significance. He could presume that eventually such advice would become publicly known. It would not be easy for the president to break with the advice he had received from his men on the spot, including the new national hero (Dewey). McKinley was still not quite convinced. Later in September, he convened his freshly appointed peace commissioners to discuss their instructions. Out for a carriage ride with one of them, a vigorous expansionist, McKinley seemed (to his companion) to be “timid about the Philippines.” To him, McKinley seemed “oppressed with the idea that our volunteers were all tired of the service and eager to get home. ‘The whole shooting match wants to quit,’ was the way he expressed it.” McKinley thought the country was in no mood for further military operations, including fights for expansion. At the meeting, the expansionist commissioners debated Day, whom McKinley had put in charge of the delegation. Day had not budged from his view that the United States should take as little as possible. To Day, the Americans had only liberated Manila. They had no obligations beyond that. Washington, Day argued, had to place some limit on humanitarian enterprise:
Because we had done good in one place [Cuba], we were not therefore compelled to rush over the whole civilized world, six thousand miles away from home, to undertake tasks of that sort among people about whom we knew nothing, and with whom we had no relation.
McKinley summed up. He could see why many Americans found the acquisition of territory naturally attractive. But he thought these attractions would wear off “when the difficulties, expense and loss of life which it entailed, became more manifest.” However, McKinley said he could no longer see how to return liberated Manila to Spain. Flowing from that, it also seemed doubtful to hold Manila without holding more of the surrounding island of Luzon. “Beyond this he did not seem inclined to go.” He then drafted the commission’s instructions accordingly. He privately told Day that, if territory was returned to Spain, it would be good to try to get some guarantees about the treatment of the inhabitants.[67] After four weeks of travel by ship and railroad, Greene’s train steamed into Washington on September 27. Greene went straight to the White House. McKinley practically cleared his schedule for him. Greene met for two hours with McKinley on the day he arrived. He delivered his report, which the president read and reviewed with him. The report was clear and vividly written. The next day McKinley had a copy of it sent to Paris for the commissioners, commending it to them. The next morning Greene was back at the White House, now joined by the new secretary of state, Hay. He stayed for lunch. Greene was back yet again in the evening, now joined by his wife, for a visit that mixed business and socializing. Two days later Greene was at the White House for still more discussions. Greene also arranged for McKinley to meet with his traveling companion, Aguinaldo’s representative Agoncillo. Greene joined that meeting too. Agoncillo was received purely as a private traveler since neither the United States nor anyone else had recognized his revolutionary government. While en route to Washington, Agoncillo had also previewed his position. Meeting with reporters he outlined that, above all, his government wanted absolute independence. If absolute independence was not possible, the next preference was to become a protectorate of the United States. A third preference was to be an American colony or, worse still, a British one. What they could not accept was any return to Spanish rule.[68] [quote id="5"] In their meeting Agoncillo told McKinley about the revolution and the new government. McKinley was noncommittal. Agoncillo’s written position was passed along to the commissioners in Paris, Agoncillo’s next destination.[69] In his own meetings with McKinley, in addition to going over his long report, Greene boiled down the options he thought were left to the United States. He wrote these out separately, as follows:
There are five courses open to us in the Philippines: first, to return them to Spain, which would mean Civil War for we have destroyed Spanish authority in the Philippines; second, to hand the Philippines over to the Filipinos, which would mean anarchy for they are at present incapable of self-government; third, to hand the Islands over to Germany or Japan, either one of which could probably take them over, but this would be an act of cowardice of which we are incapable; fourth, to put the Islands under some form of joint protectorate like that which was established [by Britain] for Egypt in 1882, but this has not proved successful and has resulted in one nation taking the whole responsibility; fifth, to take all the Islands as possessions of the United States and gradually work out their destiny, and this is the only proper solution.
McKinley read this over and over again, in silence. Then “with that kindly smile which was so characteristic of him,” he observed “gently,” that: “General Greene, that is very advanced doctrine. I am not prepared for that.” McKinley asked Greene if he knew what instructions he had just given to his peace commissioners. Greene did not. McKinley summarized his instructions as having been “to take the City and Bay of Manila and such additional portions of the Island of Luzon as they think necessary for naval purposes, and to return the rest of the Islands to Spain.” This summary by McKinley is somewhat different and narrower than the language he had signed off on September 16. But Greene’s account may give a truer sense of what McKinley actually had in mind.[70] Greene then set out to change McKinley’s mind, to persuade him that the United States had to take control of the whole Philippines. He went over all that he had done and learned in his six weeks in the Philippines. He talked about how he had used his Spanish to have long exchanges with all the prominent Filipinos in Manila and how he had spent more time learning from Agoncillo. Therefore he had to disagree, “respectfully but with extreme urgency.” Greene had time to go into great detail about his analysis of the situation during the three extended meetings he had with McKinley, each of which were two to three hours.  It was, as Greene had explained in his written report, a situation “without precedent in American history.” There were more than 7 million people in the Philippines. Manila, a city of 400,000, was already under U.S. military rule. All of this had been ruled by a Spanish officialdom of no more than 30,000, most of whom were now trying to escape back to Spain. “The Spanish officials have intense fear of the Insurgents; and the latter hate them, as well as the friars, with a virulence that can hardly be described.” The Spanish could neither cope with the insurgents nor surrender to them. An attempted restoration of Spanish power would produce “civil war and anarchy, leading inevitably and speedily to intervention by foreign nations whose subjects have property in the Islands which they would not allow to be destroyed.”[71] As for the Revolutionary Government of Aguinaldo, Greene assessed that it would be a “Dictatorship of the familiar South American type …. a pure despotism.” He saw “no reason to believe that Aguinaldo’s Government has any elements of stability.” Aguinaldo was a young man of 28. Though Greene thought Aguinaldo was able, Greene did not think he could command wide or enduring support. Also, the insurgents were purely “Tagalo” in ethnic composition. Greene did not assume that the Visayans, more numerous than the Tagalos, would fall in line. There were plenty of fault lines for conflict among “the thirty races in the Philippines, each speaking a different dialect.” Greene believed the United States could gain the support of the educated and propertied Filipino elite, since they “fully realize that they must have the support of some strong nation for many years before they will be in a position to manage their own affairs alone.” Their ideal for this was a Philippine Republic under American protection, “much as they heard is to be granted to Cuba.” On this desire for a protectorate, “all are agreed” among the Filipino elite. Only Aguinaldo and his inner circle were doubtful. But, Greene argued, the protectorate option was harder than it might seem. “[I]t is difficult to see how any foreign Government can give this protection without taking such an active part in the management of affairs as is practically equivalent to governing in its own name and for its own account.”[72] Just taking only some portion of Luzon would, Greene had written, be “a terrible mistake” for all, including for McKinley’s presidency. It could embroil the United States in a conflict with another country that later intervened in the other islands. What if Aguinaldo and the insurgents did not accept U.S. rule, even temporary rule? Greene admired the way the insurgents had fought the Spanish:
Nevertheless from daily contact with them for six weeks I am very confident that no such results could have been obtained against an American Army, which would have driven them back to the hills and reduced them to a petty guerrilla warfare. If they attack the American Army, this will certainly be the result, and while these guerrilla bands might cause some trouble so long as their ammunition lasted, yet with our Navy guarding the coasts and our Army pursuing them on land it would not be long before they were reduced to subjection.
McKinley gave Greene ample time to describe the situation and make his case. At the time, Greene thought that he had not been convincing enough. He thought he had “utterly failed to shake” the president’s reluctance to take the Philippines. Looking back on it years later, Greene saw that perhaps his seeds had borne fruit after all. He recalled that, as the two men parted at the end of September, McKinley said he intended to start a trip to the West to make a series of speeches about the unexpected results of the war. Smiling, he told Greene, “Perhaps when I come back I may think differently from what I now think.”[73] McKinley kept gathering information. During early October, Day and Moore sent him detailed, substantive reports from Paris summarizing what the commissioners had learned from Merritt and other experts, including Foreman. All of the information gathered in Paris seemed to line up with what McKinley had heard from Greene. A report given great weight by Merritt was the view of the Army’s lead surgeon in the Philippines, Frank Bourns. Bourns had spent years visiting the islands as a scientist during the early 1890s. Returning with the Army, Bourns had taken charge of public health in the Philippines after the American occupation of Manila. He had worked directly with Filipino leaders to make progress. From Paris, Bourns was reported as believing that “if a few ambitious insurgent Chieftains could be disposed of, masses of natives could be managed by the United States. Considers natives incapable of self-government because of lack of good examples, lack of union in Luzon and throughout Archipelago, and existence of race, tribal and religious differences.”[74] Outside of formal channels, McKinley had access to a more unvarnished side of Bourns’ views. Someone had given the president part of a lengthy private letter Bourns had written from Manila. In this letter Bourns did write that “these people could be managed if properly handled.” Yet Bourns was angry about the attitudes of his fellow Americans. He warned that none of the other American officers, with one exception, “seem to have cared to inform themselves either of the character of the people or their desires, nor do they even care to explain our desires and intentions.” In his letter, left in McKinley’s papers, Bourns bluntly sized up the situation this way:
Aguinaldo has the whole Philippine population at his beck and call. He is the successful man and has the successful man’s influence. The lower classes have a blind confidence in him. With the middle classes it is an ambitious confidence; that is they do not know quite enough to understand that an independent government cannot long continue to exist and are anxious to see it, because they expect to get the plums. With the well educated and wealthy people it is merely a question of expediency; they support the Philippine Government so that they may influence it for the best. I venture to say that ninety-five percent of them at heart want to see American protection, and a good many of the most influential want to see annexation, but the masses of the people know nothing about Americans and think we are just like the Spaniards. Our officials take no trouble to educate them; our men simply refuse to have anything to do with them, will not recognize them nor write to them officially, and many of the line officers, such as colonels, majors, and captains, treat them as cattle to be knocked around as suits their pleasure.
Of course, Bourns wrote, “This is all wrong.” If the United States did not do better, Bourns feared that it would find itself in a war with the Filipinos. Yet Bourns thought the problem was still manageable. With some “tact and patience,” and attention to the Filipinos, “the whole Filipino government could be swung our way without bloodshed.”[75] In mid-October, having received no further guidance from Washington, Dewey weighed in again. He sent a terse cable pleading for a decision about the Philippines “as soon as possible, and a strong government established.” In Luzon, Dewey wrote, Spanish authority had been “completely destroyed.” Outside Manila, “general anarchy prevails.” The islands to the south would soon fall into the same state. “Distressing reports have been received of inhuman cruelty practiced on religious and civil authorities in other parts of these islands. The natives appear unable to govern.”[76] McKinley left Washington for about 10 days in October, traveling around the Midwest to rally support for the upcoming midterm elections. It was during this trip that McKinley began to speak publicly, in vague terms, about American duty and unexpected obligation. At one point some scholarly opinion tended to think McKinley was trying to gauge public opinion. In fact he was deciding how to lead it, and lead it toward the conclusion firming up in his own mind.[77] By the time he returned to Washington, McKinley had decided that there was no good middle ground. No government had recognized Aguinaldo. With the notable exception of Germany, the other great powers seemed to prefer American control now that Spanish rule was gone.[78] Back in Washington, Secretary of the Navy Long wrote to his wife,
If I could have had my way, I wouldn’t have had the war, and I wouldn’t have been burdened with Porto Rico or Cuba or the Philippines. They are an elephant, just as everything else is an elephant that disturbs the even tenor of our national way, but there they are, and my shoulder goes to the wheel.
McKinley cabled the commissioners: “We must either hold [the Philippines] or turn them back to Spain.” McKinley now saw “but one plain path of duty — the acceptance of the archipelago. Greater difficulties and more serious complications — administrative and international — would follow any other course."[79] A few weeks later, McKinley talked privately to a colleague about how he had worked through the arguments. The islands could not go back to Spain. If they went to another European power “we should have a war on our hands in fifteen minutes” and the United States would be responsible, having let it happen just to escape responsibility for its actions. McKinley reviewed the geography of the islands. He discussed why it had seemed so difficult to separate them. His visitor congratulated McKinley on his decision and remarked on what great confidence the people had in him. McKinley was having none of it:
Yes that confidence, that awful confidence. Consider what a burden that imposes on me. I almost wish these questions were not so much left to the decision of any small number. I can foresee for myself and for the people nothing but anxiety for the next two years.[80]

The Attempt to Negotiate a Peaceful Settlement With the Filipinos, January to June 1899

Analysts of the American choice in the autumn of 1898 can easily overlook that there was no ready way the U.S. government could simply turn the Philippines over to the revolutionary Filipino republic, even if it wished to do so. Under international law and in the view of other powers, the Philippines was still sovereign territory of Spain, as was Cuba, until they were lawfully ceded to another recognized government. No foreign government had recognized the Filipino republic or had any plans to do so. If the United States refused to take the islands, it would be leaving them with Spain. Even U.S. recognition of the Filipino republic, if America had wished to offer it, might not have disturbed other powers’ belief in Spain’s claim. If tired Spain wanted to give up its territories in the Pacific, the German government was already secretly discussing with Spain its hopes to get them. And Spain did end up selling to Germany all its Pacific territories that were not ceded to the United States — the Caroline, Palau and Marianas island chains (except for the island of Guam).[81] If the United States wished to grant self-government to the Filipinos it would have to do what it was doing with Cuba: first take legal control of the territory, then decide what to do. That is what McKinley had decided to do. The United States took over sovereignty of the Philippines, paying $20 million to Spain as compensation. Then President McKinley planned to decide what to do in a negotiation with the Filipinos. The treaty of peace went to the U.S. Senate for ratification. A two-thirds majority was needed. Opponents fought hard for votes to block ratification. Some opposed taking the Philippines because they were anti-imperialist. Racism influenced arguments all around — “white man’s burden” arguments on one side; “we don’t want to have anything to do with them” on the other. Both sides argued business advantages or disadvantages. Progressive reformers tended to support the treaty.[82] As McKinley worked on how to organize governance of the Philippines with the Filipinos, he was working on a similar problem with Cuba. The two cases might seem different since Congress had decreed that Cuba was to be assured independence. But, despite that apparent difference in the legal situation, McKinley appears to have adopted the same basic approach for both cases. Both had been ceded to the United States. In both, McKinley set up interim U.S. military governments. He wanted to then replace these with local self-government. The new Cuban government took office in 1902.  Cuban independence, promised by the prewar Teller Amendment, was granted with conditions imposed by another act of Congress, the Platt Amendment. The new Cuban government agreed that it would not submit to control by another foreign power and that it would not take on unpayable foreign debts (which could lead to such control). It granted America the right to intervene “for the preservation of Cuban independence” and granted naval basing rights to the United States. Many Cubans found these conditions offensive. But, seen from Washington, this outcome was a defeat for the hopes of the jingo faction. The jingoes had schemed to maneuver the United States into annexing Cuba. They failed. American military occupation wound up its work in 1902. The United States did have to intervene in civil conflict in 1906 but withdrew after order was restored. The Platt Amendment had ultimately been supported by anti-imperialists such as George Hoar because of a
general recognition that the amendment represented a true compromise. It promised to give the Cubans real internal self-government. … Besides, no one could find an alternative that had any reasonable chance of acceptance in both Cuba and the United States. [83]
As with his plans for the Cubans, McKinley hoped to work out a plan of government peacefully with the Filipinos. As he assembled a commission to do this on his behalf, McKinley issued repeated instructions to his commander in Manila, Gen. Otis, to occupy strategic points in the islands but do everything necessary to avoid conflict with the insurgents. Otis was to be “firm but conciliatory.” The interim military rulers were to aim at some sort of “benevolent assimilation, substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule” for “the greatest good of the governed.”[84] This goal was necessarily vague. To lead his commission, McKinley did not choose an expansionist. He did the opposite. He called on Jacob Gould Schurman, the president of Cornell University. McKinley knew Schurman had been opposed to territorial acquisitions; they had exchanged letters about it in August. Schurman was startled to be asked to lead such a commission. Meeting McKinley in January 1899, he said straight out, “To be plain, Mr. President … I am opposed to your Philippine policy: I never wanted the Philippine Islands.” “Oh,” McKinley answered, “that need not trouble you; I didn’t want the Philippine Islands, either … but in the end there was no alternative.” McKinley reviewed his reasons. Now Schurman had to work out what government should come next. He recalled that McKinley’s mind was entirely open on how to settle the governance question. “It was still open to us, in dealing with the Filipinos, to grant them independence, to establish a protectorate over them, to confer upon them a colonial form of government” or even to consider statehood. “Absolutely nothing was settled.” Schurman confirmed that his commission would be McKinley’s eyes and ears. He was instructed to heed the aspirations of the Philippine people “en masse” along with the various “tribes and families which compose that heterogeneous population.” Schurman helped select the other commissioners and they left America at the end of January 1899.[85] Meanwhile, McKinley asked Gen. Greene to give him some more help. He wanted Greene to talk to and reassure Aguinaldo’s envoy, Agoncillo, who had returned to Washington. Getting his instructions from the president, Greene gathered that what McKinley intended for the Philippines was to build up a large system of public education with “a constantly increasing participation in civic rights and duties, starting with local government and then progressing to the governance of all the islands.” Greene was taken aback by McKinley’s plan. To Greene, it seemed like “a novel experiment” and a risky one: “Englishmen of long experience in colonial affairs doubted its wisdom.” To Greene, McKinley’s ideas seemed unprecedented. “Self-government has hitherto grown up from the bottom; McKinley planned to donate it from the top.” Despite his doubts, Greene followed orders. He met with Agoncillo in January 1899. He outlined American hopes. Greene urged Agoncillo to wire Aguinaldo and help head off a conflict. Agoncillo refused to do it. He feared that if he sent such a message the revolutionaries back home would regard him as a traitor. He could do nothing, he said, “unless the United States could grant absolute independence to the Filipinos under American protection against foreign nations.” It is again worth noting Agoncillo’s language: “absolute independence” yet with “American protection.” There was an obvious tension between these two goals that would have to be worked out, presumably in negotiation. But Greene had no authority to preempt what the Schurman commission might work out. So Greene argued that, at this stage, Washington could not simply grant independence. The Filipinos should trust the U.S. government “to work out such a scheme of government as would be most suited to their conditions.” He warned that if the Filipinos attacked the Americans, the results would be disastrous. Agoncillo said that even to relay such a message would be the end of his career.[86] Readers today should not assume that any negotiated agreement on Filipino self-government in some form of American protectorate was ruled out by the prevalence of racist American attitudes toward the Filipinos. Such attitudes were certainly a serious obstacle to understanding. Some advocates of American expansion were Anglo-Saxon racial exceptionalists, such as Roosevelt, Lodge, and the still-emergent Albert Beveridge, as were some presumed experts on the Philippines. Yet there is not good evidence that such racial views were held by McKinley and his inner circle. In the context of his party, McKinley himself had been relatively forward on defending the rights of African-Americans in the South and had made news by meeting with African-Americans during the 1896 campaign. Corbin had come from an abolitionist family background, had commanded a “colored” regiment during the Civil War (clashing with another such commander whom Corbin thought had needlessly risked his “colored” troops), and had been critical of officers in the Indian wars who had sought conflict rather than compromise. Long wrote of the Anglo-Saxon character, but he diarized admiringly about black troops in U.S. service and detested Southern racial practices.[87] [quote id="6"] Among the presumed experts on the Philippines, Foreman, Greene, and Bourns all made strong, sympathetic connections with many Filipinos. Foreman and Bourns were openly scornful about ignorant Americans who would not take the trouble to understand the Filipinos.[88] Schurman and his fellow commissioners started their journey across the Pacific. War started before they arrived. McKinley can perhaps be excused for not realizing that war in the Philippines might be imminent. He might well have thought he had more time. Again and again he had instructed his field commander, Gen. Otis, to “proceed with great prudence, avoiding conflict if possible … be kind and tactful, taking time if necessary to accomplish results desired by peaceful means.” Otis was repeatedly also urged to rely on Bourns, whose views had obviously impressed someone in Washington. Otis had reassuringly reported that “order prevails.” His messages discussed the tension but also conveyed that conditions were “quiet” or “improving.”[89] It was early in February 1899, while Schurman and his commissioners were on their steamship, that news flashed to Washington that fighting had begun. McKinley had been working on the speech he was to give in Boston in a couple of weeks. His assistant brought in the dispatch with the tragic news. McKinley stopped his work. He read and reread the wire. He sat well back in his chair and finally said,
It is always the unexpected that happens, at least in my case. How foolish those people are. This means the ratification of the treaty; the people will understand now, the people will insist upon its ratification.[90]
Two days after the fighting started, on February 6, the U.S. Senate voted 57-27 to ratify the peace treaty, a margin of only one vote more than the required two-thirds. The Senate debate had been eloquent and well-covered in the nation’s newspapers. Every imaginable argument had been made for why America should expand across the Pacific; every argument had been made for why it should not. Now the Senate had decided. McKinley had spent much of the past month talking to the senators. Between the loud arguments of the imperialists and anti-imperialists, the “truly decisive figures” were the “conservative men” of the Senate. These men had shown no enthusiasm for expansion. Like McKinley himself, these senators had “resisted war with Spain almost to the bitter end” and they had grave doubts about the Philippines. They had finally gone along with this “radical” treaty because they had decided to follow the lead of their president.[91] McKinley continued to remain open-minded about the political future of the Philippines. In his February 17 Boston speech, the one that was so somber in tone, he said:
No one can tell to-day what is best for them or for us. I know no one at this hour who is wise enough or sufficiently informed to determine what form of government will best serve their interests and our interests, their and our well-being.
But his audience should be sure, he added, “No imperial designs lurk in the American mind.” To this at least, the audience applauded.[92] The fighting in the Philippines escalated into a full insurgent offensive against Manila. The insurgent attack was bloodily defeated. The campaigning began. By the time Schurman and his fellow commissioners finally arrived, the war had been underway for a month. Even under these circumstances, there was an episode that showed how close the two sides might have been to a negotiated agreement on a model similar to that which was worked out for Cuba. Schurman proposed, with McKinley’s approval, that an American governor-general, appointed by the president, would rule with a Cabinet he would select and grant Filipinos “the largest measure of local self-government consistent with peace and good order.” The Filipino Revolutionary Congress voted unanimously to accept these terms. The revolutionary Cabinet was replaced on May 8 by a new “peace” Cabinet. Aguinaldo sent word to Schurman that his new Cabinet was “more moderate and conciliatory.” His envoy revealed that Aguinaldo was prepared to drop his demand for independence and accept American sovereignty. Determined to fight the Americans, the violent-tempered commander of Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army, Gen. Antonio Luna, arrested the leaders of this new peace Cabinet. Aguinaldo went along with this. The previous Cabinet returned to power. Part of this battle was an increasingly bitter struggle among Filipinos in Luzon about who would collect taxes, own land, and wield police power when Spanish colonial rule collapsed. The war continued. The next month, in June 1899, Aguinaldo, or at least his inner circle, apparently arranged the assassination of Gen. Luna. It was too late. By this time, Schurman was being challenged within his commission by its other members, which included Otis. Schurman wanted to enlarge guarantees of Filipino participation and was open to a cease-fire while negotiations went on. His colleagues now preferred “prosecution of the war until the insurgents submit.” McKinley was caught between his desire for peace with “kindness and conciliation” and his readiness to send whatever forces were needed to end the fighting if Filipino resistance continued. McKinley ended up deferring to Otis. Schurman returned home toward the end of 1899, his mission a failure.[93] That war unfolded over the next three years about the way that Greene had foretold it might in his September 1898 report to McKinley. The Filipinos were soon driven “into the hills.” Conflict quickly degenerated into savage guerrilla fighting. Deprived of access to outside arms by American control of the sea, after a few years practically all resistance collapsed. By this time most of the Filipino elite had decided to work with the American government. Filipino soldiers fighting alongside the Americans were key to the U.S. victory.[94] The war devastated regions, divided Filipinos against each other, and led to many atrocities. Thousands of American soldiers died, as did many more thousands of Filipinos.[95] After Schurman returned home, McKinley tried again. To lead this second commission McKinley picked a federal appeals judge, one sitting on the same circuit court to which Day (returned from Paris) had been appointed. Day arranged an introduction. All were impressed with this young judge, William Howard Taft. It was Schurman all over again. McKinley asked Judge Taft to lead the commission. Taft answered, “Why, Mr. President, that would be impossible. I am not in sympathy with your policy. I don’t think we ought to take the Philippines.” “Neither do I,” McKinley retorted. “But that isn’t the question. We’ve got them. What I want you to do now is to go there and establish civil government.”[96] Taft’s work outlived McKinley, who was assassinated in September 1901. The civilian Taft commission clashed with the U.S. military and some jingo sentiment, but it forged a consensus that worked for Americans and a great many Filipinos, especially the much-discussed Filipino elite. That elite class, the ilustrados, continued to dominate the country’s politics, before and after independence. U.S. military rule ended in 1901. Taft became a civilian governor. The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 created a Bill of Rights and a process for nationwide elections. This codified an American protectorate with increasingly Filipino self-government. More legislation in 1916 advanced that objective. Advocates on both sides of the Pacific, including Filipinos, argued about whether or when to end the American protectorate and fix the date for full Filipino independence. The argument was settled in 1934. The Philippines transitioned to commonwealth status with full independence set for 1944 — a date delayed until 1946 because of another war.

Alternative Futures?

Studying the exercise of judgment, the main purpose of this essay is to offer a more educational “re-enactment” of a fateful choice, in light of the information and possibilities reasonably visible at the time. Carefully reconstructed, without the blinding effect of hindsight, McKinley does seem to have made remarkably deliberate, thoughtful choices at all five stages of his Philippines decisions. At each point he also improvised to get the best information he could from a system that did not naturally provide it. Whether, in hindsight, these decisions turned out to be “right” or “wrong” is a different question.  That question is worth a brief epilogue. After all, historians are like most citizens: They tend to praise ill-judged decisions that they think turned out well and condemn well-judged decisions that they think turned out badly. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to argue about McKinley’s decisions. Critics can stress the subsequent agony of the Philippine-American war, the legitimacy of Filipino aspirations, and note the patronizing incompetence of many American administrators. [quote id="8"] Yet it is still hard to sketch a plausible alternative path, one more peaceful and more prosperous, for an immediately independent Philippines. The self-government concerns were real. Such a Philippines would have had no American shield from other foreign intervention. That danger also was real. The German Empire snapped up all the Spanish Pacific possessions it could get, all that Spain had not ceded to the United States. The Filipinos also would not have had the trade openings to the American market that their business leaders considered vital. Nor would they have had the benefit of later American nation-building efforts and infrastructure investments, which were substantial.[97] It is not hard to imagine alternative paths that could have been worse, perhaps much worse. The histories of other lands liberated after longtime Spanish rule, from Mexico to Argentina, offer a picture book of tragic examples. And, as in much of Latin American history, arguments about alternative Filipino futures soon focus more attention on the fault lines within Filipino society itself, such as the divide between pro-American ilustrados and others. Such fault lines produced a nationwide insurgency after 1946 (the “Huk” insurrection). They remain fault lines in Filipino life today. Assessing the alternative futures for the United States are another matter. Americans could have shrugged and regarded the future of the islands and its inhabitants as someone else’s fault and someone else’s problem. The United States would have had little or no Filipino blood directly on its hands. American soldiers would not have engaged in a bitter war, stained by outrages of every kind. McKinley did not take the Philippine islands because he was confident that America would gain power or profit by it. In every aspect of his public and private life, McKinley was a man, like many then, who tried to live by codes of duty. In his Boston speech, McKinley explained his conception of America’s duty “after freeing the Filipinos from the domination of Spain” to prevent a descent of the islands into violent anarchy. He told his audience, frankly, that “It is sometimes hard to determine what is best to do, and the best thing to do is oftentimes the hardest. The prophet of evil would do nothing because he flinches at sacrifice and effort, and to do nothing is easiest and involves the least cost.” For McKinley, circumstances had placed the United States into a position of responsibility. To him and many of his contemporaries, abandoning the islands to their fate would not have ended that responsibility. It would merely have shirked it. Was the acquisition of the Philippines good for the United States? The liability side of the ledger is clearest: the horrors of the war and the burdens of occupation. The islands were never great net boons to U.S. trade. Nor was Manila a key to the China trade. The U.S. position in the Philippines did extend American military power across the Pacific in a new and lasting way. In the short run, the United States used this base to help with the multinational intervention during the Boxer crisis of 1900 in China. But later that year, after the immediate crisis had passed, McKinley pulled most U.S. troops out of China, over the bitter objections of Secretary of State Hay. McKinley did not wish to use those troops as chess pieces in the great game over China’s future.[98] There would come a time, though, when the U.S. military presence in the Philippines did change the course of the history of the world. But no one in 1899 could foresee how the American presence in the islands would figure in the analysis of grand strategists in Tokyo, studying their options during 1941.     Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia.  He has also served at all levels of American government.  He began his professional career as a trial and appellate lawyer in Texas and, after returning to graduate school and then teaching for the Navy, he joined the Foreign Service and served as a career diplomat.  He was posted overseas and in Washington, including service on the National Security Council staff for President George H.W. Bush.  His Ph.D. is from Tufts University's Fletcher School.  Since leaving regular government service in 1991 he has taught and directed research programs at Harvard and at Virginia.  At Virginia he directed the Miller Center of Public Affairs from 1998 to 2005.  While there, he directed the 2001 commission on national election reform, chaired by former Presidents Carter and Ford, that led directly to passage of the bipartisan Help America Vote Act of 2002.  He returned to full-time government service from 2003 to 2004, to direct the 9/11 Commission and again from 2005 to 2007 to serve as Counselor of the Department of State, a deputy to Secretary Rice.  In later academic service at Virginia, Zelikow was the dean in charge of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2011 to 2014).  He was a member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board for President Bush (2001to 2003) and for President Obama (2011 to 2013) and a member of the Defense Policy Board (2015 to 2017).  He has also advised the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s program in global development (2007 to 2012). His books include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (1995, with Condoleezza Rice); The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis (2001, with Ernest May); Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (rev. ed., 1999, with Graham Allison); and America's Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age (2015, drafted on behalf of the Markle Foundation group, "Rework America"). ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Cornell University Library [post_title] => Why Did America Cross the Pacific? Reconstructing the U.S. Decision to Take the Philippines, 1898-99 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => america-cross-pacific-reconstructing-u-s-decision-take-philippines-1898-99 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 13:39:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 18:39:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => A closer examination of what led President William McKinley to take the Philippines reveals a series of deliberate and thoughtful choices that have often been overlooked or ignored. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Grand strategies do not typically arise from visionary thinking about the future. They arise instead from the collective experience of some great disturbance... ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => For McKinley, getting his War Department ready for war was a hard problem. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => For decades Americans had been arguing about how to assert themselves in the world. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The proposal to give up the Philippines could not be seen as “coming from us.” ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => However, McKinley said he could no longer see how to return liberated Manila to Spain. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Yet there is not good evidence that such racial views were held by McKinley and his inner circle. ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The months leading to war had taken a toll on McKinley. He seemed visibly careworn and losing sleep. ) [7] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => McKinley did not take the Philippine islands because he was confident that America would gain power or profit by it. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 458 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 102 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Robin G. Collingwood, The Idea of History [1936-1940], edited by Jan van der Dussen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 215; see also William Dray, History as Re-Enactment: R.G. Collingwood’s Idea of History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). "In imagining how things might have been different, the restrained counterfactualist tries to understand better what actually did happen." Allan Megill, Historical Knowledge, Historical Error: A Contemporary Guide to Practice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 153. Following on work by James Fearon more than 20 years ago, there is also growing acceptance in political science that "[c]ounterfactuals can alert us to the possible operation of dynamics and pathways that we would otherwise be prone to ignore,” Robert Jervis, “Counterfactuals, Causation, and Complexity,” in Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics, eds. Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 309-16. [2] Frank Hindman Golay, Face of Empire: United States-Philippine Relations, 1898-1946 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1998), 443. From the 1920s until 1941, the U.S. Army’s top strategic planners had been pressing for a withdrawal from the Philippines and adoption of an Alaska-Hawaii-Panama defensive perimeter in the Pacific. Brian McAllister Linn, Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 182-83. [3] On this logic chain in the Japanese war planning, see, for example, Tsunoda Jun, “The Navy’s Role in the Southern Strategy,” trans. Robert Scalapino, in The Fateful Choice: Japan’s Advance into Southeast Asia, 1939-1941, ed. James William Morley (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 244-48. [4] George Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 320. [5] The original source is a 1903 article by James Rusling, recounting a meeting with President McKinley in November 1899. “Interview With President McKinley,” Christian Advocate, January 22, 1903. Rusling was no official; he had been at the White House with the General Missionary Committee of the Methodist Episcopal Church and years later wrote up what he recalled for a church newspaper. McKinley was a lifelong Methodist. He had hosted a substantial White House reception for the committee the previous evening and this committee of Methodist bishops and church leaders had come to see the president and deliver a formal resolution of thanks. According to Rusling, McKinley asked the committee to play a role helping the Army vet people being appointed as Methodist chaplains (one such had just been court-martialed for misconduct). Since the Philippines issue was then much in the news, McKinley added an explanation of the reasons for his decision, which he had made a year earlier. In Rusling’s account, it is impossible to tell whether the high religiosity and florid prose is Rusling’s gloss (it turns out that Rusling had a characteristic style in these things) or was the style McKinley chose to adopt for this particular group. It is certainly not the way McKinley spoke about these matters to his colleagues in government. Yet it is, of course, the florid style and the religiosity that have given the quote its persistent allure. There are much more contemporaneous and detailed accounts of McKinley explaining his reasons, displaying quite a mastery of the substance, without any such diverting artifice or haloed color. See Ephraim K. Smith, “‘A Question From Which We Could Not Escape’: William McKinley and the Decision to Acquire the Philippine Islands,” Diplomatic History 9, no. 4 (October 1985): 363-75; see also Lewis Gould, The Spanish-American War and President McKinley (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1982), 109. [6] Stanley Karnow, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York: Random House, 1989), 108, 113. Karnow’s work is deservedly well-regarded. But, shaped by his own experience with the Vietnam War, Karnow also exemplifies the jaundiced mind-set. For background on the historiographical debate, see James Field Jr., “American Imperialism: The ‘Worst Chapter’ in Almost Any Book,” and comments by Walter LaFeber and Robert Beisner, American Historical Review 83 (June 1978): 644-83; and Ephraim Smith, “William McKinley’s Enduring Legacy: The Historiographical Debate on the Taking of the Philippine Islands,” in Crucible of Empire: The Spanish-American War and Its Aftermath, ed. James Bradford (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1993), 205-50. [7] The details of the Boston speech are all from a pamphlet prepared at the time that included photographs of the hall and the text of McKinley’s address as taken down by The Boston Globe. Souvenir of the Visit of President McKinley and Members of the Cabinet to Boston, February 1899 (Boston: Home Market Club, 1899). [8] Rep. Jeremiah Botkin, Congressional Record, April 12, 1898, 4149, 5151. [9] Another reason the war over Cuba is not mysterious is because the quality of historical work on the events leading to war is now very high. John Offner devoted much of his professional life to a thorough scouring of the evidence on both sides of the Atlantic. His account of the diplomacy and the run-up to the war is definitive. See John Offner, An Unwanted War: The Diplomacy of the United States & Spain Over Cuba, 1895-1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992). [10] H. Wayne Morgan, William McKinley and His America (Kent: Kent State University Press, rev. ed., 2003), 26. The best biographies of McKinley are this one and the knowledgeable, beautifully written evocation by Margaret Leech, In the Days of McKinley (New York: Harper & Bros., 1959). Nick Kapur has placed McKinley’s character firmly in the Victorian cultural context (including that era’s ethic of exhibiting manliness with rationality and self-restraint, rather than strenuous demonstration) along with other aspects of his values, including the then-common belief in arbitration of international disputes. Nick Kapur, “William McKinley’s Values and the Origins of the Spanish-American War: A Reinterpretation,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 41, no. 1 (March 2011): 18-38 (though Kapur can’t resist the silly Rusling quote). [11] William Allen White, The Autobiography of William Allen White (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 333. [12] Karl Rove, The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015) offers the most detailed account of McKinley’s road to the candidacy, which was a much more challenging path than the one he faced in the general election against Bryan. The quote on McKinley’s reaction to the 1895 proposal conveyed by Hanna is on page 134. [13] Morgan, William McKinley, 210. [14] Hay to Adams, May 9, 1898, in Letters of John Hay, vol. 3 (New York: Gordian Press, 1969) (reprinting a privately printed collection of 1908), 122. [15] On the size of the U.S. Army, see Edward Coffman, The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 3-4. Corbin quoted from his private autobiography, completed in 1906, 83 and 88, filed in the Corbin Papers, Box 11, Library of Congress. [16] John Davis Long, America of Yesterday: As Reflected in the Journal of John Davis Long, ed. Lawrence Shaw Mayo (Boston: The Atlantic Monthly, 1923), 168-69, 186, 188 (entries for April 25 and May 5, 1898). [17] The authoritative source is John A.S. Grenville, “American Naval Preparations for War with Spain, 1896-1898,” Journal of American Studies 2, no. 1 (April 1968): 33-47; see also John A.S. Grenville & George Berkeley Young, “The Influence of Strategy Upon History: The Acquisition of the Philippines,” in Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy: Studies in Foreign Policy, 1873-1917 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), 267-76. Grenville’s 1966 account is useful but was partly superseded once he discovered the work of the 1897 Sicard Board, as recounted in his 1968 article. See also David Trask, The War With Spain in 1898 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981), 77-78; and Mark Hayes, “War Plans and Preparations and Their Impact on U.S. Naval Operations in the Spanish-American War,” March 1998, available in the online reading room of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). [18] The quote is from the Sicard Board plan of June 1897. The Philippines operations are treated in just one paragraph in the plan. Grenville, “American Naval Preparations,” 43. [19] Seward Livermore, “American Naval-Base Policy in the Far East, 1850-1914,” Pacific Historical Review 13, no. 2 (June 1944): 113, 116; see also John Maurer, “Coal, Oil, and American Naval Strategy, 1898-1925,” Naval War College Review 34, no. 6 (November 1981): 60, 62. [20] Ronald Spector, Admiral of the New Empire: The Life and Career of George Dewey (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1974), 42-54. [21] See Grenville and Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy, 276-78; Trask, The War With Spain, 80-81. On Long’s review of what Roosevelt had done, see Long, America of Yesterday, 168-70. [22] Long, America of Yesterday, 184; John Long to Agnes Long, October 9, 1898, Long Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 79, 355-5