In reaction or overreaction to Bush’s messianism, the Democratic and Republican administrations have avoided deliberate global strategies. Barack Obama has disowned any desire for a âGeorge Kennanâ. He insisted he was content to “hit singles and doubles” and avoid stupid mistakes in foreign policy. As a result, his presidency has seen no marked progress towards discernible and coherent global goals. Donald Trump, touting atavistic âAmerica firstâ nationalism, also overcompensated Bush’s overbreadth, leading foreign policy out of instinct, impulse and lack of strategic thinking.
The withdrawal of the United States from an active role in shaping a global agenda created a void that China and Russia wanted to fill, to the detriment of American interests and values. What is needed, therefore, is not the abdication of a grand strategy, but the cultivation of a better strategy.
To find this best strategy, one must think beyond the traditional categories of hard power and state sense. While critics of internationalist politics may not always recognize it, global leadership involves more than the headline issues of war, proxy war, and counterterrorism. It must also involve what are generally considered to be national concerns.
At a 2016 conference and now in a new book, two dozen scholars have pooled their understanding of the history of grand strategy. We concluded, among other things, that the most visionary and effective approaches to global engagement have always paid attention to key national actors and causes. Racial reformers, women’s suffrage advocates, and public health practitioners, among others, pursued their goals with the global role of the United States in mind, and in so doing, influenced foreign policy planning. and its achievements.