A Grand Strategy for America

A Grand Strategy for America

Robert J. Art
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt28547w
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  • Book Info
    A Grand Strategy for America
    Book Description:

    The United States today is the most powerful nation in the world, perhaps even stronger than Rome was during its heyday. It is likely to remain the world's preeminent power for at least several decades to come. What behavior is appropriate for such a powerful state? To answer this question, Robert J. Art concentrates on "grand strategy"-the deployment of military power in both peace and war to support foreign policy goals.

    He first defines America's contemporary national interests and the specific threats they face, then identifies seven grand strategies that the United States might contemplate, examining each in relation to America's interests. The seven are:

    •dominion-forcibly trying to remake the world in America's own image;

    • global collective security-attempting to keep the peace everywhere; 

    •regional collective security-confining peacekeeping efforts to Europe;

    • cooperative security-seeking to reduce the occurrence of war by limiting other states' offensive capabilities; 

    • isolationism-withdrawing from all military involvement beyond U.S. borders;

    •containment-holding the line against aggressor states; and

    •selective engagement-choosing to prevent or to become involved only in those conflicts that pose a threat to the country's long-term interests.

    Art makes a strong case for selective engagement as the most desirable strategy for contemporary America. It is the one that seeks to forestall dangers, not simply react to them; that is politically viable, at home and abroad; and that protects all U.S. interests, both essential and desirable. Art concludes that "selective engagement is not a strategy for all times, but it is the best grand strategy for these times."

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6844-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Richard C. Leone

    During the 1990s, most Americans got comfortable with the fact that foreign policy and national security issues were drifting gradually to the back of the line in terms of both media and political attention. Victors in the cold war, champions of free trade, exemplars of prosperity, and marketers par excellence, America seemed to be embarked on a new era of self-absorption and even complacency after a half century of global conflict and tension. Some rough spots needed to be tidied up, but history, some said, “was over,” and it was only a matter of time before everybody caught on to...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
    Robert J. Art
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    This book deals with America’s role in world politics, and specifically with its foreign policy and military strategy. These two subjects matter because the United States is the world’s preeminent actor, and because it will remain so for at least several more decades. As a consequence, the foreign policy goals that the United States sets for itself, and the ways that it employs its overwhelming military power, will greatly affect how well it fares during its moment in the sun and, to a lesser but still significant degree, how well others fare and what the world will look like after...

  7. ONE The International Setting
    (pp. 12-44)

    To develop a grand strategy for the United States, we must begin with the international environment and America’s place in it. International conditions alone do not, and should not, wholly determine a state’s foreign policy, but they do impose constraints on state action, as well as offering opportunities to exploit. Our initial task, then, is to delineate those features of the contemporary environment that most directly affect America’s security and prosperity and the quality of life of its citizenry.

    Five features stand out: the absence of a peer state military competitor; the rise of grand terrorism; the deepening economic interdependence...

  8. TWO America’s National Interests
    (pp. 45-81)

    The most fundamental task in devising a grand strategy is to determine a state’s national interests. Once they are identified, they drive a nation’s foreign policy and military strategy: they determine the basic direction that it takes, the types and amounts of resources that it needs, and the manner in which the state must employ them to succeed. Because of the critical role that national interests play, they must be carefully justified, not merely assumed. In this chapter, I make the case for the six interests postulated at the end of Chapter 1—those advocated by selective engagement. I begin...

  9. THREE Dominion, Collective Security, and Containment
    (pp. 82-120)

    To advance America’s national interests, there are eight possible grand strategies to consider: dominion, global collective security, regional collective security, cooperative security, containment, isolationism, offshore balancing, and selective engagement. We can describe the central thrust of each strategy briefly as follows:

    dominion aims to rule the world;

    global collective security, to keep the peace everywhere;

    regional collective security, to keep the peace some places;

    cooperative security, to reduce the occurrence of war by limiting the offensive military capabilities of states;

    containment, to hold the line against a specific aggressor state;

    isolationism, to stay out of most wars and to keep...

  10. FOUR Selective Engagement
    (pp. 121-171)

    Selective engagement is the grand strategy I advocate, and in this chapter I explain why. Selective engagement steers a middle course between an overly restrictive and an overly expansive definition of America’s interests. It allocates America’s political attention and material resources first to the interests defined as vital and highly important, but it holds out hope that the important interests can also be realized at least in part. Selective engagement sets the United States on a path different from those that it pursued during both its long isolationist period and the Cold War era. In the isolationist phase, the United...

  11. FIVE Isolationism and Offshore Balancing
    (pp. 172-197)

    As Chapter 3 showed, isolationism and offshore balancing are the only two viable alternatives to selective engagement. I call them the “free hand” strategies because they shun formal standing commitments to employ America’s military power and are as sparing as possible in its use. Both are feasible in that there are no political barriers to their implementation and in that the resource demands that they make are moderate. The issue for these two strategies is not their feasibility but their desirability. Do they protect America’s interests as I have postulated them, and do they do so better than selective engagement?...

  12. SIX Selective Engagement and the Free Hand Strategies
    (pp. 198-222)

    A United States gone isolationist, or one reverting to offshore balancing, would cancel all of America’s standing military alliances, starting with NATO and the U.S.-Japanese alliance. It would bring home all of its military forces stationed abroad, save for its powerful navy sailing the seas and making periodic stops in foreign ports. It would use its military forces primarily to deter or defeat an attack on the homeland, to prevent the emergence of a Eurasian hegemon, and to deal with attacks against America’s commerce on the high seas or against its citizens abroad. It would then avoid nearly all other...

  13. SEVEN Implementing Selective Engagement
    (pp. 223-248)

    The purpose of this book has been to determine which grand strategy best suits the United States in this era. After evaluating all of the possibilities, I have argued that selective engagement is the preferred choice. It is not a strategy for all times, but it is the best for these times. It selects the goals most advantageous to the United States, and it employs America’s considerable military prowess in the most effective manner to advance them. Over the medium to long term, selective engagement promises benefits to the United States that are greater, and costs and attendant risks that...

  14. APPENDIX A. Civil Wars Active between 1991 and 2000
    (pp. 249-251)
  15. APPENDIX B. International Wars Active between 1991 and 2000
    (pp. 252-252)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 253-304)
  17. Index
    (pp. 305-320)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-324)