I’m a member of the generation that used that hard-won respect as a cheap token, throwing it away in one political campaign after the next.
Given grand strategy’s concern with advancing overall interests, typically in the context of a significant threat, there is a pressing need for articulating a new sensibility about grand strategy that deals seriously with the climate threat. In particular, as I show in this essay, this new sensibility must account for the possibility of new actors having the capacity as well as the interest to act in a grand strategic fashion and to do so in a way that challenges the conventional wisdom about the centralized, coordinated nature of grand strategic action.
Fear of great power parity creates panic among the strategy community that the United States is unable to respond to flashpoints of crisis across the globe, such as the Russian take over of Crimea or Chinese actions in the South China Sea. Supposedly, American hesitancy rests on an inability to adequately strategize. To overcome this shortcoming, experts want the United States to be more like its opponents, adopting the teachings of Sun Tzu and winning wars before wars are fought via the use of diplomacy, intelligence collection, and economic power, thereby marginalizing the use of military force. This insight means changing the calculus among these four instruments of national power, inviting disaster since one invites reconfiguring DIME without the “M” as DIE.
The U.S. should take heed to understand how qualities of temperance, diplomatic tact, and moderation can yield far more productive relationships in Latin America, but if national U.S. consensus chooses to eschew the aforementioned qualities for more belligerent ones, such as a backing a coup, then the U.S. should understand how Latin American historic memory magnifies the consequences and execute a decisive strategy around this understanding.
The American experience in Vietnam defined a generation, spurring civil unrest and the degradation of trust in important political and military institutions. Spanning the course of two decades, the United States’ engagement in the conflict reflected the heightened global tension of the Cold War. American involvement in Vietnam began as early as 1950, initially in the form of assistance to the French during the First Indochina War. By the end of the Kennedy administration, the United States had begun to send American advisers and military forces to Vietnam, aiming to prevent the spread of communism to Southeast Asia.
In the two largest wars this planet has ever experienced, the authority and influence of civilians over military affairs assured victory in one and the lack of such brought total and utter defeat in another. Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, civil control of the military has proven its value not only as an avenue for better governance, but as a strategic asset capable of providing the necessary leverage to achieve victory in wartime.
The rise of China is not the only distinguishing structural factor for the strategic environment in which the United States finds itself. Many scholars will discuss the role of terrorism, increased globalization, and non-state actors in the current strategic environment. These are all important, but from a classical view of the structure of the international system, what the U.S. today is facing is not just a rising power, or even a bloc of powers: it is also facing a declining power—Russia.
Membership in the profession of arms is a tightrope walk. Just warriors manage a delicate balance between respecting human life and taking it. This is no new phenomenon, but instead has been a fact about war from the beginning. We judge Achilles, but not for killing Hector; that was his soldierly duty. There was a hope, though, that even in death, Achilles might honor Hector’s life. This was not to be. In defiling Hector’s body, Achilles dehumanized his enemy and fell to one side of the tightrope.
Russian annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine that followed negatively affected Russia’s international prestige. However, in contrast to the external reaction, the domestic population demonstrated higher support for national policies. Not only did the Russian public perceive the return of Crimea as a glorious military victory, the government-controlled narrative also managed to spread the effects of such success to positively perceiving the domestic situation as well.