The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America's Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century

The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America's Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century


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The New Grand Strategy tells the story of a plan, born within the Pentagon, to recapture America’s greatness at home and abroad by elevating sustainability as our new strategic imperative. It aligns our enduring national interests of prosperity and security with a new framework that addresses pressing economic, social, and environmental issues at home, tapping into a trillion-dollar market demand for walkable communities, regenerative agriculture and resource productivity. It is an inspiring vision of what’s possible when Americans hold a collective view of the future and come together to bring it to reality.

This is no idealistic pipe dream or wonky policy prescription. The story that unfolds in this book weaves together hard-nosed economic analysis, a clear-eyed study of demographic and societal shifts, the realities of climate change and resource scarcity, a risk-based assessment of America’s challenges and opportunities, and on-the-ground reporting of how much this is already unfolding throughout the country. By rediscovering the power and discipline of grand strategy—and taking responsibility for our future—America can reimagine the American dream and once again take on “the cause of all mankind.”

Released during one of America’s most divisive presidential election campaigns, The New Grand Strategy avoids the partisan rhetoric dividing our nation today. Instead of placing blame, it offers a clear, pragmatic plan that can unite Americans and launch a new era of prosperity and security.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250072306
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/14/2016
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 760,748
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Mark Mykleby is a retired Marine Colonel and co-director of the Strategic Innovation Lab at Case Western Reserve University.

Patrick Doherty is a macroeconomic strategist and co-director of the Strategic Innovation Lab.

Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group, is an award-winning author of more than a dozen books and a senior fellow at the Strategic Innovation Lab.

Read an Excerpt

The New Grand Strategy

Restoring America's Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century

By Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, Joel Makower

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-8389-5


The Cause of All Mankind?

What does America stand for?

At first blush, it's a silly question with an obvious answer. Of course, we stand for freedom. For democracy and free markets. For life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

But what do we stand for beyond those worthy aspirations? What role do we want to play in the world? How do we want the world to view us? How do we want to view ourselves? These aren't easy questions to answer. There's no clear vision about what America stands for these days.

On the other hand, we've gotten pretty good over the past quarter century at saying what we're against: Terrorists and taxes. Big Brother and big government. Endless wars and election campaigns. High-priced gas. High-priced anything.

We're largely against change. We want to maintain the status quo at any cost, even if we're not completely satisfied with it (and regardless of whether maintaining it is even a realistic option). We have a painful nostalgia for the "good old days," even if they weren't all that good for a lot of people. Even those who look to the future do so along a fairly narrow path. We want the economy to "recover" to the way it was before 2008. We want to regain the sense of security we had before 9/11. And when we ask others — say, the Chinese or Iranians — to change, and they actually do it, we often don't like the result. It turns out we tend to like the idea of change more than change itself.

We also seem to be against competition. That is, we want America to be the best in every respect — We're Number 1! — but don't like it when others challenge us or, worse yet, outcompete us. When we do get bested by others, we seek to blame somebody, anybody — the president, liberals, conservatives, Congress, Wall Street, the media, immigrants — instead of looking in the mirror and taking stock of what we, as citizens, need to do to improve ourselves, our communities, and our country. We fail to remember that competition comes from the Latin word competere, which means "to strive together," usually for the attainment of some common goal. Instead, competition has become a zero-sum game, where we win only if others lose. That's fine for sports; not so much for economies and geopolitics.

We even seem to be against citizenship, at least as it relates to actively participating in a democracy. We've largely given up on our elected officials, and on elections themselves. Most of us don't bother to vote, or if we do, it's only every four years. We rarely show up for city council meetings or town halls, or otherwise speak out when we're dissatisfied or see injustice. At best, we'll grouse on social media in the hope that someone out there is listening.

Collectively, Americans have lost sight of any common vision or purpose that sets us apart. Yet politicians talk more than ever about American exceptionalism or crow that "we're the greatest nation in the history of the world!" We desperately want to believe that it's true, but it's not always clear that it is. We seem stuck between a nostalgically glorious past and a despairingly uncertain future. We know we can't turn back the clock, yet moving forward is proving difficult. There's a palpable sense of powerlessness among Americans — both leaders and the general populace — a feeling that the country has lost its compass, its mojo, and its way. We seem to have lost sight of the American dream itself — that by working hard and playing by the rules, anyone can create a better life for themselves, their family, and their country.

Most of us feel this despair in some way, even if we can't quite put our finger on it. Surveys since 2009 by Rasmussen Reports have found that only about three in ten Americans think the country is headed in the right direction and about half think America's best days are in the past. But we don't need pollsters to tell us what we already know. Every day, we see the evidence in our communities and our lives.


In these hyperpartisan times, one might think any assertion of national purpose would be controversial. On the contrary. The nation's founders believed a shared and enduring purpose was so important that they put it at the top of the Constitution:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those aren't just 52 well-crafted words. As Hubert Humphrey reminded us, they're a call to action and demand constant tending from all of us. The Preamble's six action words — form, establish, insure, provide, promote, and secure — are the great purposes of America's experiment in self-government. Each represents a thread that, woven together, creates the fabric of who we are and what we are supposed to do as citizens. They are the table of contents for America's user manual. As such, the Preamble gives the United States an irreplaceable endowment, a permanent keel to our ship of state. Through those six words, we know why we have a government. We have a test by which we can judge any given course of action. And in that light, these words not only express the promise of America, they also articulate our obligation to America.

Grand strategy is ultimately about creating the conditions at home and abroad in which we can live out that enduring purpose as a self-governing people. Eleven years before the Founders wrote the Constitution, Colonial America was more focused on one massive precondition for self-government. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration were focused on self-determination:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Jefferson, while acknowledging in his correspondence that he was "not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions," noted that institutions must "change with the change of circumstances" and "keep pace with the times," adding, "We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

For some American generations, living up to the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution means going further than being educated on the issues, participating in civil society, and voting. Every so often, it falls to a particular generation to choose a new strategic direction and the governing institutions that support it. Every so often, we need a new approach to how we create the conditions at home and abroad in which we may live out that manifold purpose amid the unique set of challenges, opportunities, and knowledge that define the current era.

Over the past century, this was required in the midst of the Great Depression in 1933, at the advent of world war in 1941, and at the dawn of the Cold War in 1947 — 53. Not only did Americans respond to the challenges, internal and external, that threatened to derail our forward progress, we did so in a way that allowed us to continue advancing the Preamble's purpose.

This is one of those times. We, all of us alive today, are part of the next chosen generation.


"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind," wrote Thomas Paine, a political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, in Common Sense. His pamphlet, published in 1776 just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and 11 years before the Constitution, was a hard-hitting argument for independence. As we would say today, it went viral. It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. George Washington read it to his troops, who at the time had surrounded British troops in Boston.

Paine is credited with turning the tide of public opinion at a crucial juncture, making it "common sense" that fighting for independence was the only option to take, and it was an option that needed to be taken immediately. It was a call to arms that inspired British subjects in 13 of the 20 British colonial possessions in North America to seek independence from the Crown. Thomas Jefferson may have been the political philosopher, but Tom Paine was the campaigner, the master marketer who sold the "cause" of self-determination to enough fellow colonists to ensure the success of the revolution.

By so clearly asserting the right of self-determination as an unalienable human right, our Founding Fathers set in motion a wave that has leveled despotic regimes and empires throughout our history. The Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War were clear-cut tests that challenged the very notion that a self-determined government of the people, by the people, and for the people could survive the realities of our world.

But survive we did. In the tests of slavery, depression, fascism, and communism, Americans understood that we faced threats so large that we rallied together as a nation to holistically redesign ourselves, to alter the form of our government, just as it's called for in the Declaration of Independence. It was in this way that we not only could meet and overcome the challenges of the day but in the process become stronger and more vibrant as a nation and as a people.

But since the end of the Cold War, the dynamics of the twenty-first-century world do not fit this twentieth-century template, no matter how hard we may try to force them into that mold. We've tried imposing a good-versus-evil, might-makes-right framework on the post-9/11 world. It has failed. We misdiagnosed the geopolitics of our perceived enemies and fomented a national obsession with threat and risk while America's economy foundered.

Is it that the authoritarian regimes have disappeared? Hardly. There are still billions of people living without the right to self-determination. Is it that there are no more threats to the United States? No again; there are plenty. But the global impact of these twentieth-century-like challenges are not nearly what they were at the height of the Cold War. In fact, these lingering twentieth-century challenges have been eclipsed by a far more complex and vexing global reality.


We can sum up the great challenge of our era in two words: "global unsustainability." We, as human beings, simply cannot continue on the economic, social, and environmental paths we've been on. And the cause we must embrace as a nation is to lead the world's transition to a more sustainable order. No one else is in a position to do this.

Global unsustainability is not an over-the-horizon danger. It is right here and now. It is causing Americans, and all humans, daily harm. In describing this challenge, we see four global dynamics — what we call "strategic antagonists" — that make the current U.S. and international order unsustainable. These intertwined and fused dynamics — or, more accurately, disruptions — make for an immense, wicked problem that is signaling that the global system is now in a process of disarray. Until the United States digests, processes, and addresses this wicked problem, the nation will face even more rapid degradation of domestic and global conditions.

In brief, these strategic antagonists are:

Economic Inclusion. The great global project of the twenty-first century is no longer to stop communism, counter terrorists, or promote a superficial notion of freedom. Rather, the world must accommodate 3 billion additional middle-class aspirants in two short decades without provoking resource wars, insurgencies, and the collapse of our planet's ecosystems. Those 3 billion people are expected to increase their per-capita consumption by 300 percent, driving resource competition to the brink, with the potential for great power conflict over access to food, water, and other resources. That's on top of having to solve the growing issue of income equality here at home.

Ecosystem Depletion. Climate change is outpacing scientific models while natural-capital stocks are being depleted below levels necessary for vital planetary systems to maintain essential ecosystem services. Climate change is the most pressing: Hurricane Sandy; droughts in California, India, China, and Russia; accelerated polar melting; and record heat have become recurring headlines. With no further changes in policy, we could see warming of 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, with potentially ruinous impacts. Well before midcentury, we are likely to face widespread food insecurity, economic disruption, mass human migration, and regional conflicts as these critical systems degrade further. As of this writing, the ongoing situation in Syria, triggered in part by a three-year drought, seems to be showing us a taste of what is to come.

Contained Depression. The extended crisis intervention by the Federal Reserve Bank and European Central Bank has failed to address the two factors suppressing aggregate demand: consumer deleveraging and a generational shift in lifestyle preferences. Central banks cannot generate the circumstances necessary to rescue us by reviving aggregate demand and restoring the economics of lending and equity investment. Congress can't either, as pumping more stimulus dollars into the old economic engine or fixing the federal debt won't, by themselves, do the trick. Consumer preferences have shifted such that pumping more money into the system, even directly into citizens' bank accounts, will have little lasting effect beyond propping up an unsustainable economy and adding to deficits.

Resilience Deficit. The systems, supply chains, and infrastructure that connect our markets are fragile and prone to disruption. Today's corporate value chains are designed to increase efficiency but have little redundancy or resilience. During 2011 alone, Japan's tsunami curtailed production of auto parts used by all six major American and Japanese automakers, shutting down production plants across the United States and helping to drive up U.S. unemployment from 8.9 to 9.1 percent; flooding in Thailand led to global disruptions in U.S. computer manufacturing due to shortages in disk drives; and China temporarily shut off exports of rare-earth minerals — it possesses 95 percent of the global supply — leading to price spikes for such things as lightbulbs, wind turbines, and batteries. We no longer control our own destiny, and it's not limited to supply chains. Infrastructure arrears in the United States alone stand at $3.6 trillion to get the bridges, roads, railways, schools, ports, and airports that undergird the Cold War — era economic engine up to standard. Without rethinking and rebuilding these systems, we'll be forced to react to their breakdowns, some of them with tragic consequences.

Taken together, these four fused and interlocking challenges compose the global challenge of our time; it will require focused and determined leadership — and new forms of partnership — if we are to survive and thrive. To solve one requires solving the entire set. And for this we need to rethink the system.


Today, only America possesses the capacity, weight, and cultural wherewithal to lead change of that magnitude. To do that, we'll need to be honest about where we are at this time and place. We're not the best America we could be, and that is getting in the way of our taking on the heavy mantle of world leadership just when the world so desperately needs it.

Though it has become politically unpopular to say it, America's inability to adapt to these four strategic antagonists is weakening the foundations of America's security and prosperity and making the status quo untenable. Specifically, there are three internal flaws we must acknowledge and overcome.


Today's economy evolved out of a different time and a different world order. It took shape during and after World War II and was designed explicitly to exploit postwar demand for suburban housing and consumer goods for Americans, and reconstruction materials for Europe and Japan. However, the conditions that allowed that design to succeed expired by the early 1970s, and its shelf life has been extended only by accommodative monetary policy and the accumulation of household, corporate, and government debt. Today, with rock-bottom Federal Reserve interest rates, Americans' debts exceeding their incomes, and extreme weather lashing U.S. cities, the country is nearing the end of the road.


Excerpted from The New Grand Strategy by Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, Joel Makower. Copyright © 2016 Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue: How We Got Here vii

Part I The Challenge of a Generation

1 The Cause of All Mankind? 3

2 Follow the Demand 23

3 Unlocking the Next Boom 39

Part II Three Pools of Demand

4 Walkable Communities 55

5 Regenerative Agriculture 83

6 Resource Productivity 121

Part III From Here to Sustainability

7 Capital and Stranded Assets 149

8 A Business Plan for America 165

9 Waiting on Washington 189

10 Not Waiting on Washington 213

11 We the People 241

Acknowledgments 247

Bibliography 253

Index 261

About the Authors 271

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