Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy

Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy

by Barry R. Posen

See All Formats & Editions

The United States, Barry R. Posen argues in Restraint, has grown incapable of moderating its ambitions in international politics. Since the collapse of Soviet power, it has pursued a grand strategy that he calls "liberal hegemony," one that Posen sees as unnecessary, counterproductive, costly, and wasteful. Written for policymakers and observers alike,


The United States, Barry R. Posen argues in Restraint, has grown incapable of moderating its ambitions in international politics. Since the collapse of Soviet power, it has pursued a grand strategy that he calls "liberal hegemony," one that Posen sees as unnecessary, counterproductive, costly, and wasteful. Written for policymakers and observers alike, Restraint explains precisely why this grand strategy works poorly and then provides a carefully designed alternative grand strategy and an associated military strategy and force structure. In contrast to the failures and unexpected problems that have stemmed from America's consistent overreaching, Posen makes an urgent argument for restraint in the future use of U.S. military strength.

After setting out the political implications of restraint as a guiding principle, Posen sketches the appropriate military forces and posture that would support such a strategy. He works with a deliberately constrained notion of grand strategy and, even more important, of national security (which he defines as including sovereignty, territorial integrity, power position, and safety). His alternative for military strategy, which Posen calls "command of the commons," focuses on protecting U.S. global access through naval, air, and space power, while freeing the United States from most of the relationships that require the permanent stationing of U.S. forces overseas.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An MIT professor, Posen has written a tightly argued, impeccably sourced, and lucid case for a new American national security strategy. Though written by an expert for experts, it is an accessible read. No term is undefined, no assumpiton unspecified, and no assertion not carefully supported."—Jessica T. Mathews, The New York Review of Books (September 24, 2015)

"Posen's calmly heretical book is an argument for Washington to discipline its seemingly compulsive and spasmodic projections of global power. . . . [A] masterclass in threat deflation,. . . Barry Posen's succinct policy brief is a deeply moral book. The correct proportion of GDP to spend on military defence, how many aircraft carrier groups to deploy to the Persian Gulf: these are not just technical matters. It is in just such questions that morality inheres."—Chase Madar, Times Literary Supplement (November 6, 2015)

"In his deeply wise new book Restraint: A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy, MIT professor Barry Posen agrees that powers that have the might will always believe they have the right. That China is climbing closer to the US on the power ladder requires us to understand that it figures it's in the right no matter what anyone says. Yet the US will stay in Asia as long as China thinks it shouldn't. Even Posen, who wants the chore list of the US military substantially downsized (now in the network: some 800 extraterritorial bases, ports and airfields in more than 80 countries), puts it this way: 'Asia is a more difficult case [than other issues for the US] … China may reach a point where it has sufficient power to bid for hegemony.'But, speaking directly to Beijing, the professor notes that China 'does not yet possess much offensive capability; it can punish and harass, but not crush or conquer. Its options are limited.'"—Tom Plate, South China Morning Post (November 23, 2015)

"Regardless of the reader's views on the grand strategy of Restraint, this book has value. Posen outlines the benefits of having a clearly articulated grand strategy and demonstrates the pitfalls that the U.S. has faced in navigating national security policy without this level of clarity. His case against becoming embroiled in conflicts that require counterinsurgency operations is strong."—Joseph Becker, Prism (2015)

"It is fair, balanced, and rigorous. It is also an argument with which this reviewer has a great deal of sympathy. Posen's book will stand for many years as the most cogent, lucid, and compelling argument for a major revision of (and reduction in) the United States’ military’s global footprint." – Jolyon Howorth

“Barry Posen’sRestraintprovides the definitive statement of retrenchment and offshore balancing as the basis of a realist grand strategy for the United States. The result is a sophisticated, accomplished and forthright work by an author with a keen analytical mind. To his credit, even where one disagrees with Posen’s analysis or conclusions – as I do – there is a welcome directness in his writing.” – Robert J. Lieber,

“What makesRestraintsuch a compelling read is Posen’s willingness to entertain such possibilities and to push his argument to its logical conclusion. And in the wake two costly wars in the Middle East and a global financial crisis, the time is ripe for a more humble and prudent approach to American foreign policy.” –Paul K. MacDonald & Joseph M. Parent

"Restraint makes an eloquent case for a new grand strategy. It is not a newcase, for it echoes the arguments offshore balancers have been making for twenty years. It does, however, codify much good thought and consistently makes judicious judgments with precision and fairness. Critics of the status quo would do well to incorporate Posen's case into public discourse." —Jared McKinney,The American Spectator(June 2014)

"The three most consequential books of international relations theory published at the end of the Cold War are Frances Fukuyama's The End of History, Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, and John Mearsheimer’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics…Thankfully, there has now emerged a stunning new contender: MIT Professor Barry Posen’sRestraint: The New Foundation of American Grand Strategy. The good news is—if employed–Posen’s prescriptive will enhance U.S. security and a large measure of its post-Cold War global primacy within realistic limits and at a lower cost." —Donald L. Sassano,In Homeland Security(July 2014)

"Posen's new book will be compulsory reading for anyone concerned with both the direction that US grand strategy has followed since the end of the Cold War and the possible alternative strategies to help secure vital American national interests, in a period where once again we are witnessing a rise and fall power dynamic in the international system. . . .This is an enormously important and timely book which challenges the conventional wisdom about the merits and logic of liberal hegemony. Restraint provides an insightful alternative that should be carefully pondered and will certainly advance the debate on American grand strategy."—Brian C. Schmidt,International Affairs(July 2015)

"The American Way of Bombing. . .could not be better timed. . . .[It is] an exemplary book that is suitable for graduate and undergraduate courses on ethics and war as a main text and in a broad range of courses on contemporary warfare and strategy more generally as a supplemental one. Policy-makers and their advisers, war colleges and planning staffs will also find it highly useful."—David Betz,International Affairs(July 2015)

"Barry R. Posen is one of America's leading thinkers about grand strategy. He has given us some of the best scholarly analysis of how states use military means to meet foreign policy objectives and cogently described the various strategies America has considered over the years. Now he is wading into the policy debate by planting his intellectual flag on behalf of a new U.S. grand strategy of restraint. In a sharply argued and comprehensive book, Posen shows why the grand strategy of primacy, which has guided America's military strategy for the past twenty years, is no longer economically sustainable nor militarily necessary. He convincingly argues that restraint will provide a sounder basis for ensuring U.S. national security in the years to come."—Michael C. Desch, University of Notre Dame, author of Power and Military Effectiveness: The Fallacy of Democratic Triumphalism

"Since the end of the Cold War, impulse and ideology, generously seasoned with fantasy, have displaced principled strategy as the basis for U. S. policy. In this important and timely volume, Barry R. Posen illuminates the path back toward good sense and sobriety. Restraint is a splendid achievement."—Andrew J. Bacevich, Boston University, author of Breach of Trust

"Unnecessary and exhausting military ventures have flowed from the foreign policy elite's excessive ambition, overconfidence in the appeal of U.S. policies, and facile underestimation of the costs in blood and treasure. Barry R. Posen’s seasoned strategic wisdom and technical expertise put these tragic mistakes in their place and chart a realistic alternative to American overstretch."—Richard K. Betts, Columbia University Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, author of American Force

"In this thought-provoking book, Barry R. Posen ventures alternatives to—as well as insightful critiques of —current U.S. foreign and defense policies. He provides a brilliant introduction to the concept of grand strategy, uses this to analyze contemporary approaches to sustaining U.S. primacy, shows how these approaches are both failing and unsustainable, puts forward a refreshingly unconventional set of proposals for a new U.S. grand strategy, and demonstrates how the military aspects of this grand strategy could be implemented while reducing the U.S. defense burden to no more than 2.5 percent of GDP. Posen has written a book that deserves a wide readership, full of ideas that should feature prominently in an overdue national debate about affordable national security."—Ambassador Chas W. Freeman Jr.,former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, ambassador to wartime Saudi Arabia, and author of four books on foreign policy, statecraft, and diplomacy

Product Details

Cornell University Press
Publication date:
Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Barry R. Posen is Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the Security Studies Program at MIT. He is the author of The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars (winner of the Furniss Award and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award), Inadvertent Escalation: Conventional War and Nuclear Risks, and Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy, all from Cornell.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews