Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy

Barry R. Posen
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The United States, Barry R. Posen argues in Restraint, has grown incapable of moderating its ambitions in international politics. Since the collapse of Soviet power, it has pursued a grand strategy that he calls "liberal hegemony," one that Posen sees as unnecessary, counterproductive, costly, and wasteful. Written for policymakers and observers alike, Restraint explains precisely why this grand strategy works poorly and then provides a carefully designed alternative grand strategy and an associated military strategy and force structure. In contrast to the failures and unexpected problems that have stemmed from America's consistent overreaching, Posen makes an urgent argument for restraint in the future use of U.S. military strength.

    After setting out the political implications of restraint as a guiding principle, Posen sketches the appropriate military forces and posture that would support such a strategy. He works with a deliberately constrained notion of grand strategy and, even more important, of national security (which he defines as including sovereignty, territorial integrity, power position, and safety). His alternative for military strategy, which Posen calls "command of the commons," focuses on protecting U.S. global access through naval, air, and space power, while freeing the United States from most of the relationships that require the permanent stationing of U.S. forces overseas.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7087-5
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction: The Evolution of Post–Cold War U.S. Grand Strategy
    (pp. 1-23)

    A grand strategy is a nation-state’s theory about how to produce security for itself. Grand strategy focuses on military threats, because these are the most dangerous, and military remedies because these are the most costly. Security has traditionally encompassed the preservation of sovereignty, safety, territorial integrity, and power position—the last being the necessary means to the first three. States have traditionally been quite willing to risk the safety of their people to protect sovereignty, territorial integrity, and power position.

    A grand strategy enumerates and prioritizes threats, and potential political and military remedies to threats. Remedies include alliances, intelligence capabilities,...

  7. [1] The Perils of Liberal Hegemony
    (pp. 24-68)

    Liberal Hegemony has performed poorly in securing the United States over the last two decades, and given ongoing changes in the world it will perform less and less well. The strategy has been costly, wasteful, and counterproductive. The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on unnecessary military preparations and unnecessary wars, billions that it can no longer afford. The wars have needlessly taken the lives of thousands of U.S. military personnel and hurt many thousands more. The strategy molds the U.S. military in a way that will leave it simultaneously large, expensive, and fundamentally misshapen. The strategy...

  8. [2] The Case for Restraint
    (pp. 69-134)

    A Grand Strategy of Restraint must focus on vital U.S. security interests and at the same time reduce the pernicious consequences of the last twenty years of activism. The United States has an enduring geopolitical interest in maintaining the balance of power in Eurasia. The United States also faces threats to its safety: these mainly arise from the existence of nuclear weapons, though the potential threats are more complex than they appear at first glance. Some nuclear threats could arise from geopolitical competition with other countries. Other nuclear threats could arise from an unlikely, but nevertheless not impossible, loss of...

  9. [3] Command of the Commons: The Military Strategy, Force Structure, and Force Posture of Restraint
    (pp. 135-163)

    This chapter develops a military strategy that supports the Grand Strategy of Restraint. It also outlines the military capabilities required. The Grand Strategy of Restraint is best served by a “maritime” military strategy. A maritime military strategy focuses on the development of disproportionate U.S. influence over global communications—the movement of goods and information. The United States presently enjoys substantial military influence over communications, which I have called “command of the commons.”¹ In the past, communications strategies emphasized the sea, and hence past writers on maritime strategy provide the inspiration for the recommended military strategy. The United States presently enjoys...

  10. Conclusion: A Sustained Debate
    (pp. 164-176)

    The Grand Strategy of Restraint was first conceptualized in the mid-1990s, the early years of the post–Cold War world. This was the “unipolar moment” when the United States was indeed the most capable state in international politics by a wide margin. Restraint advocates saw the momentum building for an activist U.S. foreign and security policy and argued that such a policy was unnecessary and unprofitable. It was, however, possible. The policy was driven forward by overwhelming American power. There was simply nothing to stop the United States. But this was not the only cause. Liberalism was victorious in the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 177-224)
  12. Index
    (pp. 225-234)