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Politics and Strategy

Politics and Strategy: Partisan Ambition and American Statecraft

Peter Trubowitz
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Politics and Strategy
    Book Description:

    Why do some national leaders pursue ambitious grand strategies and adventuresome foreign policies while others do not? When do leaders boldly confront foreign threats and when are they less assertive?Politics and Strategyshows that grand strategies are Janus-faced: their formulation has as much to do with a leader's ability to govern at home as it does with maintaining the nation's security abroad. Drawing on the American political experience, Peter Trubowitz reveals how variations in domestic party politics and international power have led presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama to pursue strategies that differ widely in international ambition and cost. He considers why some presidents overreach in foreign affairs while others fail to do enough.

    Trubowitz pushes the understanding of grand strategy beyond traditional approaches that stress only international forces or domestic interests. He provides insights into how past leaders responded to cross-pressures between geopolitics and party politics, and how similar issues continue to bedevil American statecraft today. He suggests that the trade-offs shaping American leaders' foreign policy choices are not unique--analogous trade-offs confront Chinese and Russian leaders as well.

    Combining innovative theory and historical analysis,Politics and Strategyanswers classic questions of statecraft and offers new ideas for thinking about grand strategies and the leaders who make them.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3880-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the spring of 1795, President George Washington faced an agonizing political choice. His special envoy to England, Chief Justice John Jay, had returned from London with a draft of a treaty that strongly favored the British. Revolutionary France’s bid for empire in Europe had fanned tensions in Anglo-American relations, and Washington hoped to avert war. He sent Jay to London hoping to reassure London about American intentions and to head off the possibility of a conflict with Britain. But Jay came back with a treaty that was so pro-British that the president was viciously attacked by his partisan foes...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Grand Strategy’s Microfoundations
    (pp. 9-43)

    Grand strategy refers to the purposeful use of military, diplomatic, and economic tools of statecraft to achieve desired ends. Scholars often define these goals in terms of national security, power, or wealth, but the ends can also refer to other valued goods such as national honor, prestige, and profit. In this book, I argue that grand strategy can also be viewed as a means by which national leaders strive to maintain or strengthen their hold on executive power. In making this assumption, I do not mean to suggest that leaders deliberately eschew or devalue the principles of “good” statecraft. Indeed,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Why States Appease Their Foes
    (pp. 44-76)

    Few grand strategies are more maligned, and more poorly understood, than appeasement. Ever since Britain’s Neville Chamberlain unsuccessfully sought to mollify Adolf Hitler in 1938 by allowing Nazi Germany to annex the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, appeasing foreign adversaries has been considered foolish, capricious, and even cowardly. Winston Churchill famously compared appeasers like Chamberlain to “one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last” (Treisman, 2004, 345). Many international relations scholars have echoed Churchill’s harsh judgment (e.g., Morgenthau, 1948; Waltz, 1979; Mearsheimer, 2001). Yet, as I show in this chapter, the decision to appease a potential aggressor is...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR When States Expand
    (pp. 77-105)

    Why do states seek to expand their political influence abroad? Realists of various persuasions argue that the explanation lies in the international system and the uncertainty its anarchical structure creates for statesmen. As a state’s power (meaning its material resources) relative to that of other nations increases, so will its desire to extend its political influence and control internationally—to do what it can, militarily, economically, and diplomatically to enhance its security in an uncertain world (Krasner, 1978; Gilpin, 1981; Zakaria, 1998). Robert Gilpin (1981, 94) calls this the “realist law of uneven growth” and argues that it is the...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Why States Underreach
    (pp. 106-128)

    Many realists argue that as a state’s power increases, so will its international ambitions. Often this is true, although, as chapter 4 on expansionism explains, a realist explanation that considers only geopolitical factors is incomplete. This limitation of realism is also evident in the fact that states’ ambitions often do not keep pace with their power. States in this situation are characterized by what might be called “strategic underextension.” They punchbelowtheir weight in international politics. Instead of exploiting their relative power advantages, leaders of these states do the opposite, by scaling back (or not making) foreign commitments and...

    (pp. 129-150)

    “I claim not to have controlled events,” Abraham Lincoln wrote, “but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”¹ Lincoln was hardly a passive, disinterested leader, but his admission reminds us that while leaders make grand strategy, they do not make it under circumstances of their own choosing. Leaders hold the reins of power under varying international and domestic conditions. The international environment can be security poor or security rich; the risk of foreign policy failure and political blame can be great or small. What domestic coalitions want from, and expect of, national leaders also varies greatly. Partisans may prefer guns...

  11. References
    (pp. 151-176)
  12. Index
    (pp. 177-185)