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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: January 2015

1 - Introduction

Summary

Why This Book on Grand Strategy?

There are several factors that influenced the decision to write this book on grand strategy. The first is the distinction that exists today with an earlier era in American foreign policy. From the late 1940s to the early 1990s, the U.S. grand strategy of containment was marked by a high degree of coherence that helped guide the conduct of foreign policy. Several generations of American policy makers knew the fundamental purpose of the nation’s foreign policy for dealing with the United States’ central challenges and, more precisely, understood what had to be done to deal with them. The second factor, which features a dramatic contrast with the situation at present, is the corrosive effect on American foreign policy from the period of strategic incoherence that has prevailed since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the concomitant end of the Cold War. In the two decades since the early 1990s, it has been largely unclear what principles and purposes should guide the decisions of American policy makers as they deal with challenges to the nation.

With the end of the Cold War and the gradual collapse of the grand strategy of containment, the foreign policy establishment failed completely in its efforts to define a widely accepted and compelling successor grand strategy, much less broad concepts, to help the American people and their policy makers answer some of the fundamental questions about what choices to make in foreign policy. What is the condition in the world that we seek to achieve, what does the world look like that we want to help build and shape for future generations, at home and abroad, and what resources can we and should we devote to conducting American foreign policy to achieve these ends? Inherent in these larger questions is the matter of what our core interests are, what the most critical threats to the nation are, how we prioritize and counter them, and who our friends and allies are in our efforts to meet these challenges. In fundamental terms, grand strategy provides answers to all these and many other questions.