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978-0-521-87191-4 - Foreign Affairs Strategy - Logic for American Statecraft - by Terry L. Deibel
Introduction: Defining Strategy
Rarely if ever in American history has systematic thinking about foreign affairs been more important than it is today. For in the past decade and a half, two extraordinary shocks from abroad have thoroughly unsettled traditional patterns of American statecraft. First, in the fall of 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union ended the Cold War. Then, in the fall of 2001, coordinated terrorist attacks against the American homeland killed thousands in a single morning.
Taken together, these two shocks radically altered the environment for American foreign policy both at home and abroad. For nearly five decades after World War Ⅱ the antagonism between Washington and Moscow had structured the world along bipolar lines, setting the parameters of foreign policy for all nation-states. The two superpowers focused on building and defending their alliance systems, while many so-called Third World countries struggled to remain “nonaligned.” Generations of Americans accepted Moscow’s threat to the very existence of their country, if not to humanity itself, as a permanent fact of life. Indeed, the Soviet threat was so overwhelming and so widely recognized in the United States that it automatically performed the mostessential function of strategic thinking: to set priorities. Containing Soviet power was accepted as the primary objective, the central organizing principle of foreign policy; debate was mostly about how best to implement it. And in that debate, because the threat was ultimately a military one, military means were always a prominent and often the dominant part of the answer.
All that changed with the demise of the Soviet Union. The end of bipolarity meant a revolution in world politics, although the new distribution of world power was at first obscure. Certainly the United States had no principal adversary once the USSR was gone, but in the early 1990s its lagging economy and persistent federal budget deficits hardly seemed to herald an era of American global preponderance. Indeed, in a manner eerily reminiscent of the 1920s, the salience of economic issues, combined with the apparent lack of an external threat, tended to focus American attention inward. Foreign affairs and defense budgets fell by more than 40 percent from Cold War levels, interest in foreign news rapidly dissipated, and politics was dominated by domestic issues like health care, welfare reform, crime, and abortion.
Meanwhile, the question of basic priorities in U.S. foreign policy remained unsettled, along with the utility of military power in an environment without apparent military threats. Analysts explained that geopolitics would be replaced by geoeconomics, and pundits argued over what should replace containment as the new primary objective of American statecraft: human rights, assertive multilateralism, commercial promotion, humanitarian intervention, enlargement of market democracy, political retrenchment abroad, or the maintenance of American primacy.1 The Clinton administration succeeded in righting the fiscal equation and in expanding trading opportunities, and it ended the 1990s presiding over an economic boom that appeared to establish American global power for decades to come. But as it intervened in Somalia, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia, attempted to mediate the Middle East conflict, and pursued cooperative diplomacy with adversary nations like North Korea and China, the administration’s foreign policy became a matter of bitter partisan controversy.2 President Clinton was never able to establish a widely accepted strategic construct as the new central organizing principle of post–Cold War statecraft, and the United States entered the twenty-first century without any clear idea of the use to which its enormous power ought to be put.
Then came 9/11. When George W. Bush took office, Americans thought only 7 percent of their country’s biggest problems were foreign related; after the attacks, they thought 41 percent were.3 Foreign policy was back, and with it a threat that, although less serious than nuclear war with the Soviets, seemed more likely to materialize. The Bush administration quickly launched a war against terrorists of global reach and then expanded it into a global war on terrorism (GWOT) and on rogue states that might support them or directly attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).4 Spending on military forces and other instruments of foreign policy again began to rise, helping (against the background of Bush tax cuts) to return the federal budget to substantial deficit. The new war differed from the Cold War in being partly hot (in Afghanistan and Iraq), in lacking negotiations or any modus vivendi with the adversary, and in aiming at victory rather than coexistence. But like the Cold War threat from Moscow, the terrorist threat was serious enough that other foreign policies began to be shaped around it, conforming to its requirements rather than more diverse interests. Cooperation against terrorism, for example, radically altered U.S. relations with Russia and China, while the United States muted its concerns about human rights and democratization in order to construct new anti-terrorist alliances with Pakistan and across Central Asia.
Despite its current importance, however, it is far too soon to tell whether the objective of defeating global terrorism will endure as the new central organizing principle of American statecraft. The future may well turn out to be an age of counter-terror, but the features of the post–Cold War era are still very much in evidence. Either way, the increased importance of strategic thinking about foreign affairs seems assured. To the extent that combating and protecting against terrorists becomes all-encompassing, the United States will need strategic logic to help it design policies that will frustrate its enemies while protecting its liberties and advancing its interests in an ever more globalized world. To the extent that counterterrorism becomes just one goal among many, on the other hand, foreign affairs strategy will need to show the United States a route through the complexities of the post–Cold War era that policymakers failed to discover in the 1990s. Indeed, the utility of strategic thinking is even more fundamental than this dichotomy would seem to suggest: it is needed to help determine where the terrorist threat ought to fit in American statecraft, to guide the decisions that will partly determine what shape the future holds.
Whatever tomorrow brings, then, it is likely that the nation will need citizens and officials who can think strategically about foreign affairs, people who are able to understand strategic concepts and their interrelationships and to apply them systematically to the world statesmen confront. The purpose of this chapter is to define foreign affairs strategy, to discuss its characteristics, and to introduce the approach to strategic logic taken in the rest of the book.
What Is Strategy?
Reduced to its essentials, strategy is how something is done; it is a plan for action. The plan need not be put in writing, but it must be kept in mind. Thus, one has a strategy for – a sense of how to go about – buying a car, writing a book, investing one’s assets, or serving the nation’s interests. More precisely, strategy is a plan for applying resources to achieve objectives; it is thus inseparable from, indeed it is, the relationship in thought and action between means and ends, resources and objectives, power and purpose, capabilities and intentions in any sphere of human activity.5
Considered in this way, the term “strategy” has both a larger and smaller scope. It can be used narrowly to refer to the plans or courses of action that prescribe specific objectives, the instruments needed to pursue them, and the ways those instruments will be applied, leaving consideration of all the factors that lie behind those choices of ends and means to a realm explicitly outside that labeled strategy. Or strategy can be seen more broadly as including the interests and threats that justify objectives, the power and influence that support them, and external factors like the international and domestic context within which the strategic plan must operate. This book begins, as any strategist ought, with the broader view but moves steadily toward the more specific.
Writing about strategy has so long been confined to military subjects that many people naturally think of military matters when they see the word, and many writers use the term without modification when they really mean military strategy. Similarly, although it has gained widespread acceptance in the corporate world to designate long-range planning departments, the adjectival form “strategic” is often thought to have military connotations.6 The premise of this book, however, is that strategic thinking is far too useful to be limited to military subjects. Therefore, “strategy” and “strategic” most definitely will not mean military strategy in the discussion that follows unless that modifier is used.7 Still, since the roots of strategic thinking lie in military thought, it makes sense to begin developing a concept of foreign affairs strategy with a look at the way the term has been used in military parlance, along with its recent application to the related yet broader domain of national security affairs.
To the extent that describing foreign affairs strategy is a semantic exercise, precision requires that two somewhat conflicting guidelines be employed. First, terms should be defined rigorously and in ways useful to strategic analysis. Second, however, definitions ought to relate as closely as possible to a word’s usage by scholars, practitioners, and the public. Unfortunately, this second task is highly problematic; the wide range of definitions in common usage and in the literature (illustrated by Appendix A) means that choices among several plausible meanings often have to be made. But since it does little good to reinvent words for one’s own purposes, what follows sticks as closely to accepted usage as strategic utility allows.
From Military Strategy to National Security Strategy
Military strategy, of course, is about the application of military means to achieve military objectives and, if one adopts Clausewitzian logic, higher political ends. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) define it as “the art and science of employing the armed forces of a nation to secure the objectives of national policy by the application of force or the threat of force.”8 Three aspects of this definition are worth noting. First, the only means addressed are military ones, “the armed forces of a nation.” Second, military strategy is made subservient to a higher “national policy” that, as will be seen below, should be viewed as reflecting higher-level strategic thought. Third, and interestingly, the definition is not limited to outright warfare but entertains the possibility of achieving national objectives via the threat of force alone, without fighting. Military strategy has commonly been distinguished from tactics, which deals with the optimal order, arrangement, and maneuver of units in or in preparation for combat, and from operational art, which focuses – between military strategy and tactics – at the theater or campaign level of war.9 Military strategy thus deals with the employment of military force at the highest, broadest, and most general level.
Modern commanders, of course, are well aware that even defeating the enemy on the field of battle – to say nothing of success in terms of the political goals of the nation-state – depends on the effective use of more than military power. The realization that the use of military force in war, if it is to be fully successful, must be a component of a broader strategy encompassing many nonmilitary instruments leads to the notion of “grand strategy,” a concept used with much less consistency among writers than is military strategy.10
One of the narrower definitions of grand strategy is that of political scientist Robert J. Art, who includes in it the full range of U.S. foreign policy ends, both security and nonsecurity in nature, but restricts the means considered to purely military ones.11 His definition is so narrow that it appears to differ little from the JCS definition of military strategy quoted above, except that it encompasses and itself deals with those national political objectives that the military strategist merely accepts as handed down from higher authority. The opposite and somewhat more common approach to grand strategy in the narrow sense is that of B. H. Liddell Hart, who wrote that “the role of grand strategy – higher strategy – is to coordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations – towards [sic] the attainment of the political objective of the war – the goal defined by fundamental policy.”12 Here, as in the JCS definition of military strategy, political objectives are seen as outside the realm of grand strategy, having been defined at a higher level of authority; but all the means of state power, nonmilitary as well as military, are included within grand strategy. Liddell Hart’s sense of grand strategy is more restrictive than the JCS definition, however, in making the assumption that grand strategy is of use only in time of war.
Today, most writers using the term grand strategy discard this limitation and argue for the application of strategic thinking to peacetime security as well as in planning for or fighting a war. “Strategy is not merely a concept of wartime,” writes historian Edwin Meade Earle, “but is an inherent element of statecraft at all times.”13 Such thinking certainly includes the idea that grand strategy should be concerned with the transition from peace to war and with how the conduct of a war will affect the peace to follow. From there it is but a short step to the thought that a really clever grand strategy might avoid war altogether; as the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote some 2,500 years ago, “to subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”14 Indeed, writers like Earle and John Collins emphasize that a successful grand strategy “alleviates any need for violence,” that it “so integrates the policies and armaments of the nation that the resort to war is either rendered unnecessary or is undertaken with the maximum chance of victory.”15
But many writers on grand strategy go even further, putting the connection of strategy with war in second place and arguing that strategic thinking should be applied to the whole field of national security. This was the approach used in John Lewis Gaddis’s path-breaking study, Strategies of Containment, which examined the strategies used by administrations since Harry Truman’s for containing the expansion of the Soviet Union. All the instruments of state power were included, and the analysis focused on how the choice of instruments and the way they were used was derived from the administration’s concepts of the national interest, the international system and the threats it posed, and the domestic context, including perceived trends in resources available for defense. In Gaddis’s hands, grand strategy thus became nearly synonymous with a much newer term, “national security strategy,” defined by a congressional panel as “the art and science of employing and using the political, economic, and psychological powers of a nation, together with its armed forces, during peace and war, to secure national objectives.”16 Today, in fact, most writers on grand strategy use that term in ways that cannot be distinguished from that definition of national security strategy. Christopher Layne, for example, writes that
‘Grand Strategy’…is the process by which a state matches ends and means in the pursuit of security. In peacetime, grand strategy encompasses the following: defining the state’s security interests; identifying the threats to those interests; and allocating military, diplomatic, and economic resources to defend the state’s interests.17
But Gaddis, as fit the era of the Cold War, still employed a relatively narrow concept of security, and his book looked only at strategies directed toward the attainment of a single, all-important goal: containment of Soviet power. Simultaneously with the broadening of the use of strategic thinking described above, however, concepts of security were undergoing their own evolution. Beginning in the 1970s with the rise of global interdependence and the growth of concern about transnational problems like narcotics trafficking, world food shortages, uncontrolled migration, planetary pollution, climate change, and terrorism, the term security was itself broadened to include a variety of areas beyond that of the nation’s protection from military attack.18 This trend was naturally much accelerated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.19 The result today is a view of grand or national security strategy that is very broad indeed. As the president of Washington’s largest foreign affairs think tank wrote in the late 1980s:
Today more than ever, security is both military and economic, and the two must be interrelated in a grand strategy. Western grand strategy, however, must do even more. It must embrace political and diplomatic, technological, and even cultural and moral factors. It must be a comprehensive way to deal with all the elements of national power, matching ends and means, relating them to commitments and diplomacy, and ensuring that they work in harmony.20
The Many Meanings of Strategy
As the analysis above demonstrates, the evolution of thought on any subject is rarely a neat or tidy affair. Today, the meanings of grand strategy and national security strategy are so fuzzy that each scholar must (and usually does) begin his analysis by defining the terms anew.21
This study argues that the term “grand strategy” should be reserved for the use to which Liddell Hart put it, that is, to represent the broadest planning for and the conduct of war; encompassing all the policy instruments, nonmilitary as well as military; tailoring them to meet the political goals of the state; and considering how the conduct of hostilities will affect the peace to follow. This definition of grand strategy is not in accord with its usage in much recent literature, however, because it deliberately excludes the efforts of a nation to maintain security while at peace. Those will be included here in the term “national security strategy,” limited to goals that have mainly to do with the protection of the nation’s physical security against attack – presumably the most important area of the national interest, but far from the only one with which strategic thinking should deal.22 National security strategy would thus include grand strategy properly defined, with the latter operating within the former when the nation is at war and the two becoming less and less distinguishable to the extent that the war becomes total (see Figure 1.1).23 Finally, the term “national strategy,” often used interchangeably with grand or national security strategy, should be reserved for strategic thinking applied to the whole range of public policy, domestic as well as international.24
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Figure 1.1: A hierarchy of strategies.
But national security strategy as defined above still leaves a considerable area of foreign affairs outside its scope that needs the clarity and precision of strategic thought. Political scientist Hans Morgenthau prefigured this broader kind of strategy when he wrote:
The conduct of a nation’s foreign affairs by its diplomats is for national power in peace what military strategy and tactics by its military leaders are for national power in war. It is the art of bringing the different elements of national power to bear with maximum effect upon those points in the international situation which concern the national interest most directly.25
Clearly, Morgenthau was going beyond national security strategy to a broader concept that we shall call “foreign affairs strategy.” Instead of stretching the term “national security” far beyond its traditional meaning of protection against military attack, this concept accommodates any goal, security related or not, that serves the nation’s interests in its external relations.26 As to means, it considers military power as merely one policy instrument among many, to be used or not in coordination with the others as strategy might demand. Foreign affairs strategy might be briefly defined, then, as an evolving written or mental plan for the coordinated use of all the instruments of state power to pursue objectives that protect and promote the national interest.27
This definition is only a start; we will need to look much more extensively at the nature of strategic thinking before its meaning can be fully understood. But first there is an important distinction to be made between strategy in all its meanings and “policy.” Policy is best defined as the statements and actions of government; it is the output of what is often called the “policy process,” which takes place within and among the departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the federal government and between it and the Congress. Strategy, as used here, should be thought of as an input to that process, a guiding blueprint whose role is to direct policy, to determine what the government says and does.28
It is extraordinarily rare for a coherent strategy to be produced by a bureaucracy of any sort, rarer still for it to emerge from the contest between the executive and the legislative branches of a democratic government. Strategic thinking is therefore best thought of as a tool used by an individual or a small policy planning staff in its effort to decide what kind of output it wants from the policy process.29 In a democratic government, these individuals will then have to contest with others (who may well have different strategic visions) in a seemingly endless struggle to make their preferred strategy prevail in that process and, by so doing, determine the statements and actions – the policies – of the government in all its branches and departments.30 Some of these competing visions are generated in think tanks or universities representing the intellectual elite; some are the products of special interests in society at large; some come from the Congress, which controls the federal budget and sets the laws under which the president must operate; and some are formulated by the departments and agencies of the Executive branch, which control the instruments of statecraft through which the government acts in foreign affairs.
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Figure 1.2: Policy and strategy.
© Cambridge University Press
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: Defining Strategy 1
What Is Strategy? 3
From Military Strategy to National Security Strategy 5
The Many Meanings of Strategy 8
The Characteristics of Foreign Affairs Strategy 13
Thinking about Foreign Affairs Strategy 24
The International Strategic Environment 35
Actors, System, and Structure 41
How the World Works 47
Geopolitics and the Balance of Power 49
Newton, Darwin, and Chaos 54
Interdependence, Globalization, and the Information Revolution 58
Evaluating Globalization 62
Internal Pressures 66
The Role of Ideas 70
Into the Subconscious 75
The Domestic Context for Strategy 77
Americans and Strategy 82
Splits and Shifts in Public Opinion 90
Stability and Structure in Public Opinion 95
Opinion,Parties, and Polarization 100
Strategy Begins at Home 106
The Domestic Context Since 9/11 112
The Role of Contextual Assumptions 117
Interests, Threats, and Opportunities 123
Categories of Interest 125
Defining Interests 128
Values and Standards of Judgment 134
Prioritizing Interests 138
Threats, Challenges, and Resistance 142
Interests and Threats 149
Threat-Based versus Opportunity-Based Strategies 152
Power and Influence 157
Power as Control over Resources 159
Latent or Potential Power 163
Actual or Mobilized Power 169
Absolute Power versus Relative Power 175
The Economics of American Power 178
Absolute Wealth and Relative Power 189
Concrete Power versus Perceptual Power 193
Power and American Strategy 197
The Instruments of State Power 207
Political Instruments: Negotiation 210
Political Instruments: International Organization 217
Political Instruments: International Law 226
Political Instruments: Alliances 230
Information Instruments: Public Diplomacy 236
Economic Instruments: Trade and Finance 243
Economic Instruments: Foreign Aid 249
Economic Instruments: Sanctions 259
Military Instruments: Persuasive Use of Force 268
Conclusion: Instrument Priorities 277
Linking Ends and Means 281
Influence Attempts, Impacts, and Success 282
A Spectrum of Generic Strategies 286
Designing a Foreign Affairs Strategy 292
Ends: Draw up a Preliminary List of Objectives 294
Means: Choose Instruments to Accomplish Objectives 302
Statecraft: Specify Ways of Using Instruments Conditionality 308
Evaluating Courses of Action 322
Impact: Estimate How Courses of Action (COAs) Will Affect Recipients 322
Success: Estimate How Targets Will React 325
Cost: Evaluate Whether the Strategy Is Worth Its Cost 333
Risk: Consider that Things May Not Go As Planned 340
Coherence: Check Internal and External Compatibility of Ends, Means, and Ways 353
The Uses of Foreign Affairs Strategy 359
Conclusion: American Foreign Affairs Strategy Today 366
Modeling the Bush National Security Strategy 367
Critiquing the Bush Strategy 377
Assessing Today's Interests, Threats, and Opportunities 383
Domestic Support, Power, and Influence 392
Assembling Courses of Action 396
Value Preservation and Projection 406
Evaluating Strategies for the Twenty-First Century 410
Definitions of Grand Strategy, National Security Strategy, and Statecraft 415
A Linear Design for Foreign Affairs Strategy 423