4 Options for U.S. Grand Strategy Going Forward | News | Department of Political Science

One of the most critical – yet underrated – aspects of foreign policy that any nation must grapple with is its grand strategy. As we have examined, a grand strategy is an outline of how a state will manage its resources. Whether these goals are invasion, defense, the spread of an ideal, or economically motivated, every state needs a grand strategy if it is to survive in the modern world. So, as a global superpower, what are the options for US grand strategy? Not just in the current geopolitical climate, but looking into the future?


After 20 years of occupation in Afghanistan, many Americans are understandably eager to withdraw from military involvement abroad and instead focus on diplomacy. A 2021 report from RAND The corporation says that implementing a realistic grand strategy will require the U.S. to “adopt a more cooperative approach toward other powers, reduce the size of its military and forward military presence, and end or negotiate some of its defense commitments.”

A position of restraint relies more on diplomacy to resolve conflicts and encourages other states to take the lead in their defense so that the United States can focus only on vital interests. What will the transition to sobriety look like? Through this approach, the country would have a smaller military, fewer security commitments and a higher bar for launching an armed response, the report said.

The most famous among the “banners”. MIT Professor Dr. Barry Posen. In his book, aptly titled “Restraint,” Dr. Posen argues, “The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on unnecessary military preparations and unnecessary wars, and has spent billions more that it can no longer afford. The wars are unnecessary for the U.S. military. Officers have lost thousands of lives and injured thousands more.

Also Read :  Russia says U.S. lowering 'nuclear threshold' with newer bombs in Europe

NDISC Principal Dr. Eugene Gholz, along with his co-authors Daryl Press and Harvey Sapolsky, expressed their endorsement of the grand strategy in their 1997 “Come Home America” ​​letter. But without a consistent rationale, without a clear sense of how to advance US interests, and sometimes with unintended and costly consequences.

Deep engagement

While it is counterintuitive to restraint, the strategy of deep engagement is also viable. Citing Stephen Brooks and William Walforth, Jeffrey Friedman outlines the four basic elements of grand strategy:

  1. The United States maintains enough military power to defeat any other nation.

  1. Making security commitments to allies like NATOJapan and South Korea.

  1. Use the benefits of this safety net for financial gain.

  1. Participation and leadership in the rules-based international order.

The deep engagement strategy is an expensive one. As Friedman notes, the United States spends more than $1 trillion annually on its foreign policy agenda.

Brooks and Walforth can be counted among the deep partisans when they say, “Repealing security guarantees would make the world and the United States less safe. In Asia, Japan and South Korea will expand their military capabilities if the US withdraws, which could trigger a dangerous reaction from China.

Liberal internationalism

20221025 Ndc GrandstrategyRestain 600x400
The United States will pursue diplomatic solutions to conflicts through a grand strategy of restraint.

While deep engagement may sound like the status quo, the United States is not currently committed to the strategy of deep engagement — the current grand strategy is liberal internationalism — in fact, Friedman says President Trump has been an exception to most modern presidents when his “behavior. Much more consistent with terms of deeper engagement than liberal internationalism.

Also Read :  Opinion | Putin seems to want to talk. The U.S. should take him up on it.

If this is the current US approach to grand strategy, it is especially important for us to understand what this strategy entails. International liberalism refers to the belief that states should enter into multilateral agreements with each other, uphold rules-based norms, and spread and inculcate liberal ideals—especially liberal democracy. Although violence is positioned as a last resort, the model of liberal internationalism allows states to intervene in other states for liberal purposes and humanitarian aid.

Unfortunately, the flaws of the liberal international model should not be overlooked: NATO The intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the bombing of Yugoslavia represent dark times in the history of grand strategy.

President Woodrow Wilson is considered among the first modern liberal internationalists—notably through his work establishing the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are also contributing to this grand strategy.

Conservative primacy

Does global security depend on US decisions and actions? Is the United States the sole ruler of the world? If this is the case, the United States must adopt a grand strategy of conservative primacy. Paul Avey, Jonathan Markowitz, and Robert Reardon argue that while there may be disagreements and differences among group members, “all types of conservative priority formulation combine classical liberal assumptions and hegemonic stability theory to arrive at more consistent grand strategic prescriptions. These prescriptions are ‘kind ’ and ‘forcing’ relies on a variant of dominant stability theory that combines elements.

Conservative priorities such as liberal internationalism favor the promotion of liberalism, particularly democracy as opposed to totalitarianism and capitalism and free trade as opposed to communism. Unlike liberal internationalism, which prioritizes diplomacy and negotiation, “proponents of conservative primacy do not rule out spreading democracy by the sword,” such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Also Read :  Mobile Science Labs to Help Improve Learning

Arguably, there were undertones of conservative primacy when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared, “An international order that reflects Our values It is the best guarantee of our sustainable national interests.” [emphasis added].

US Grand Strategy

The last three of these grand strategies are part of hegemonic stability theory, which states that “international economic openness and stability are more likely in the presence of a single dominant state.” Restraint, on the other hand, argues that a state can secure its own existence by preventing another state from amassing enough power to overthrow them.

Like all good theories, this one can be graphed in twos:

International institutions critical to securing US interests



Domestic institutions critical to securing US interests


Liberal internationalism

Conservative primacy


Deep engagement


* Tables courtesy of Texas National Security Review

As you can see, there are many options for US grand strategy. What policy appeals to you? Are you ready to learn more and make your voice heard on a bigger scale? The Notre Dame International Security Center helps build a platform for students to learn about international relations, foreign policy, and grand strategy. If you want to learn more, we hope you will contact us.

Originally published by Notre Dame International Security Center at ndisc.nd.edu on a 26 October 2022.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button