Into the Twenty-First Century
John Mead Flanagin
In recent years there have been frequent calls in the international relations literature for a new strategic doctrine to replace containment. 1 Many in the community of policymakers and policy analysts who shape national strategy are looking for a comprehensive assessment--both interpretive and prescriptive--that will guide the United States through the post-Cold War era. One sees repeated references to George Kennan and Paul Nitze, who articulated the strategy of containment so forcefully during the initial stages of the Cold War. Their arguments had a catalytic power that fused together domestic and international politics in the minds of opinion leaders, who then set about building a public consensus in support of an internationalist, anti- Communist national strategy.
Consensus will be more difficult to achieve in the post- Cold War era, and for that we can be thankful. In the absence of an immediate and massive threat to U.S. national security, there is an opportunity to reexamine assumptions about the sources of national strength and the responsibilities of international leadership. The process of reconciling our domestic needs with international objectives has proven to be a lengthy one, and there is still a great deal of uncertainty.
The debate over how domestic and international priorities should be reordered, to which this volume contributes, began without an accepted premise about how states will interact in the future. Yet, in a multipolar world, U.S. national strategy does not necessarily need to follow a global logic (except, perhaps, on the question of environmental degradation). Regional politics have come to the fore in U.S. national strategy, and the distinction between internal and external factors has diminishing importance. Changes in the U.S. labor force cannot be understood without reference to Asia's manufacturing boom. Domestic drug abuse cannot be understood without reference to the Latin American economy. Domestic energy costs cannot be under-