Grand Strategy Revisited

Article excerpt

SINCE THE END OF THE COLD War, U.S. foreign policy has not produced inspiring results: The United States has been at war roughly two of every three years. The military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been long and costly. Three major foreign-policy problems have persisted without signs of resolution: preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, getting Pyongyang to give them up, and settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "The United States is in a world of trouble today ... and this state of affairs is only likely to get worse," laments University of Chicago political scientist John J. Mearsheimer, a noted "realist" thinker.

The mistake the United States made was not in the execution of its foreign policy but in the choice of its grand strategy. In the decades since the Cold War, the United States has pursued "global dominance," working to maintain its primacy and spread democracy, trying to make the world over in its own image.

There are two main varieties of global dominance: neoconservative (embodied by the Bush administration after 9/11) and liberal imperialist (embodied by the Clinton administration and now seeing a revival under President Barack Obama). The neoconservatives have greater confidence in the ability of the U.S. military to transform the globe. liberal imperialists put emphasis on alliances and international institutions. But both seek global dominance, which "is exactly the wrong formula," Mearsheimer contends. …