A Grand Strategy of Sustainment

Shawn Brimley has a new post on this subject at Small Wars Journal:

The Bush administration has pursued a foreign policy that is narrow in its view, negative in its purpose, and has produced negligible results. Americans deserve a grand strategy that is panoramic in view, positive in its purpose, and persuasive as a basis for the continued exercise of American power. …

Finally, America must respect the rule of law and civil liberties at home in order to renew and sustain its role as an example of how a modern liberal democracy can function. The best way for America to promote the growth of democracy abroad is to refine and highlight its practice at home.

To which I can only add, “Hear! Hear!”

On the face of it, he may be asking us to do more than we can or should. Instead of “… the United States must ensure access to the global commons – air, sea, space, and cyberspace” it might work better as “The United States must work with its allies and other interested parties to ensure access to …” but this is a minor nit and seems to accord with what Brimley intends.

An interesting piece and I recommend it highly (kudos to Dave Dilegge at SWJ for publishing it).

11 Responses to “A Grand Strategy of Sustainment

  • 1
    Fabius Maximus
    March 20th, 2008 20:13

    Not that he’s wrong, but why not wish for a pony too? This is what I call “solutions of the 2nd kind: ideas.”

    This is the “Ann Landers” school of geopolitics. All will be well once people have the right solution clearly spelled out. Folks just don’t know better. Such analysis usually features ample use of “American should do” this and that.

    This starts from the premise that our current policies (which have general support from all 3 Presidential candidates) just happened. Or they were just mistakes. Or schemes of evil or stupid leaders.

    But perhaps there are structural reasons or imperitives driving our policies, and the current policies will remain in force until these are changed.

  • 2
    March 21st, 2008 08:47

    Fabius –

    I don’t think that was his purpose. The idea of grand strategy is to help get general agreement on a direction. If that direction doesn’t include a pony, why would you want to go down it?

    Saying, for example, that we need to raise respect for constitutional liberties doesn’t blame anybody nor does it deny the reality of structural flaws in our system. It does reinforce the idea that if we proclaim ourselves to be guided by the ideals of the Constitution, and then are seen as violating those ideals in the name of security or temporary political expediency, we shouldn’t be surprised that few others around the world will want to join with us in pursuit of any goal other than their own security or short term political expediency.

    The predictable result of such a grand strategy is that we lose the population of Pakistan, but we get Musharref as a consolation prize.

  • 3
    Fabius Maximus
    March 21st, 2008 10:42

    Chet — Whatever you believe was Brimley’s purpose, I will stipulate that you are correct. My point was not that his analysis was incorrect or his intent flawed, but that the best response to it was “Whatever, dude.”

    I have written articles like Brimley’s, as have you and Lind and a host of others. We are repeating ourselves, like the stereotypical American in Europe who speaks S L O W L Y and L O U D L Y in the hope of being understood.

    IMO, essays like this miss the mark because we have incorrectly defined the analytical problem. The missing element is not specifying a better grand strategy, but how to implement a better grand strategy.

  • 4
    March 21st, 2008 11:56

    Fab –

    I still don’t understand.

    I have purpose A. I accomplish purpose A. You criticize me for not having (and not accomplishing) purpose B.

    A grand strategy gives us some clue as to what we should be implementing. If you’re clear on that, great — tell us what to do. A quick glance at the campaign rhetoric, though, suggests that a lot of people aren’t.

  • 5
    March 21st, 2008 15:25

    Well, I apparently have a basic disagreement with all of you guys.

    Access to information.

    Books and the Internet reach those who are already looking for knowledge. But it’s television and newspapers that keep the public “informed.” Until we make this a campaign issue, we are debating “ourselves.”

    Laws which used to be in place to assure media competition are going down the tubes, even as we watch. The public gets its information from a handful of corporate outlets, and the public schools have about as much desire to teach the Constitution and civics as I do in worshiping the Great God Baal.


  • 6
    Fabius Maximus
    March 21st, 2008 19:04

    You *do* understand, and expressed it perfectly (as usual). An answer — at least, a first cut at one — can be found here:

    4GW: A solution of the second kind

  • 7
    Fabius Maximus
    March 21st, 2008 19:59

    Mycophagist: you must be quite young. Most boomers grew up in a world in which there were only a dozen or so national communitication networks. There TV networks, the wire services, a handful of major newspapers, a dozen or so major magazines … that was it. Since many of these had common owners, the news was effectively managed in the decades following WWII.

    Now we have the Internet, a 4th major TV network, many independent radio voices, and (due to technology) far more periodicals (the shift to Internet distribution will accellerate this growth). Viral marketing is a result of this increased number of rapid communication systems, and moves news and insights as rapidly as commercial products.

    Many of the complaints about this new era are from beneficiaries of the past era, longing for their lost control. “All that chaos now, when things were so calm and controlled before.”

  • 8
    March 22nd, 2008 08:16

    Fabius Maximus wrote:

    March 21st, 2008 19:59

    Mycophagist: you must be quite young. Most boomers grew up in a world in which there were only a dozen or so national communications networks.

    Quite right, I’m only 60. Believe me when I say I appreciate the above comment. I’m still hopefully waiting to be id’d when I go to a bar. Happens only when I know the bouncer and he wants to curry favor… :)

    On the other hand, I grew up with 8 major Daily papers. Ranging from PM on the left, and the Journal American advocating nuking China. Today, most cities have one paper, part of a chain…

    Today, a handful of corporations own 90 percent of ALL media outlets, press, radio, television.

    You are assuming that people search for knowledge? Why should they? Don’t they read the paper in the morning? Don’t they catch a sound byte on television?

    Don’t you think it’s odd what facts people take for granted today?


  • 9
    March 22nd, 2008 08:33

    There maybe no simplier experiment or litness test for US
    forgien policy decisions, particiuarly the “enthusiasism” for
    military options than to think in terms of the reciprocal

    Take the case for instance of recognition of Kosevo independence.
    Or in reaction and condemnation of China’s current reaction
    in Tibet.

    What if, a comperable situation arose with say, Guam,
    PurtoRico, US virgin Islands, Alaska, or Vermont ?

    What if the Canadian provience of Quebec were to seperate,
    with a unlitatteral decleariation, and got instand recognition from
    a UN security members like France.
    What if, was apparent they prefered to establish a communist
    stye of self governance, on America’s door step ?

    It maybe entertaining to imagine the hyperbolic reaction from
    Washington, and yet when the shoes on the other foot,,,.


  • 10
    March 23rd, 2008 07:29

    “Today, a handful of corporations own 90 percent of ALL media outlets, press, radio, television.”

    I have to agree, and working in the media.
    At that same time the internet has changed things and will continue
    to do so.

    Consider this example, right here, where scarcity of
    alternative opinion and critical analysis has compelled a handfull
    of we reletively like minded individuals to congiel here, and for lack
    of alternative (no dis-respect what-so-ever intended to the group.)

    Most anywhere else our views on 4gw, Military reform, and the Boyd following would be ridiculed and denigrated, as most of us probably have
    experienced. I know I have, and that’s why I started my own forum.

    There’s a tremendous amount of “group think” throughout American
    scociety and culture, wrapped in the flag, ” my country, right or wrong.”
    Since 9-11 and perhaps more than at any other time, at least in my lifetime (b 1960).

    Moreover for those working with the media, and a perfect example being
    in dealings with DOD, in order to have access to information, and those
    in charge, one must play by thier rules, and in large measure tow the line.
    If not, you are not invited back, and your career maybe toast.

    Don’t beleive it ? See also Chalmers Johnson & Noam Chomsky.


  • 11
    March 23rd, 2008 11:04

    maximilliangc wrote:
    “I have to agree, and working in the media…”

    Good post

    The impact of this change has not yet been appreciated. After all, an oligarchic media is not the same as a government controlled media. Our press is still “free,” but it’s the freedom of a handful of views, and these views are corporate.

    I can not imagine the disparity of treatment of Kossovo and Tibet forty years ago, let alone the comedy that led up to Iraq. The irony here is being pointed out by Fabius, albeit unknowingly. More information then ever before IS available - But that assumes that people feel they are so uninformed that they wish to look for it.

    There is a huge difference in the busy lives of the public, with reading the morning paper, and hunting the internet - And even for those who do, how can they recognise the falsehoods that litter the internet? A newpaper that prints much of this stuff would be brutally attacked for printing slander…

    If we want a media, diverse and informative, then we need to restore those laws which prevent monopoly ownership.

    Yet the trend is in the opposite direction. From Reuters

    The article above mentions a loophole - Take a guess what that loophole is.

    And who owns Reuters?

    And how many think of Reuters as “Corporate Media?”


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