One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy?

Part X of a series about America’s new Long War

By Fabius Maximus

October 28, 2007

First, we would have to adopt a realistic strategic goal, one that might be attainable. The present strategic goal of turning Afghanistan into a modern, secular, capitalist state with "equal rights for women" and similar claptrap lies in the in realm of fantasy.

William Lind, On War #237 (October 15, 2007)

Can America Have "Realistic Strategic Goals"?

Lind’s analysis (brilliant as usual) raises an uncomfortable question: are his recommendations reasonable, or do they too lie in the realm of fantasy? After all, when did America last have a reasonable geo-political strategy? Is this an impossible thing to ask of our current ruling elites?

A great nation needs a clear and simple geo-political strategy. They focus one’s strength and limited resources, and allow allies to easily coordinate their actions with ours.

  • The British Empire sought cheap raw materials, export markets for its goods, the channel ports in friendly hands, and to prevent one state from dominating Europe. Plus a few humanitarian goals, such as eliminating the sea-borne slave trade.

  • The Czars sought to expand Russia’s borders to the Mediterranean and Pacific, while maintaining its vast multiethnic Empire.

  • Nineteen century America had its Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine.

  • Cold war America sought (1) containment of communism and (2) spread of free trade under the US dollar-based Bretton Woods system, both implemented though a web of alliances.

And today America, the global hegemon, guides its policy by an assortment of stars.

1. We support multiculturalism, respecting the values of other cultures. That’s just good sense, as there is no universal set of values above all others. We oppose ethnocentrism, one of the major sources of hatred and war.

Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities.”

President George W. Bush, Speech at West Point (June 1, 2002)

2. We support human rights, believing that the values derived from western religions and philosophy are the one true set that defines the minimum standards of legal and civil freedoms to which every human being is entitled. These are stated in the 30 articles of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30 articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (although, oddly, the 185 parties to the Convention do not include the USA).

Although many non-western educated people see the conflict between multiculturalism and human rights, most pretend to agree – knowing that these paper bullets of the mind have no force at home. But not all nations go along with the charade:

Already at the 36th session of the UN General Assembly in 1981, the representative of Iran had expressed the Iranian Government’s position, and this was reaffirmed on 7 Dec. 1984: “It recognizes no legal tradition apart from Islamic law (...) conventions, declarations and resolutions or decisions of international organizations, which were contrary to Islam, had no validity in the Islamic Republic of Iran (...) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represented a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian traditions, could not be implemented by Muslims and did not accord with the system of values recognized by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Report of the UN High Commissioner for human rights, item #3 (March 17, 2003)

3. We seek to prevent the rise of competitors who might challenge our role as global hegemon. A bold goal, that tends to put us in opposition to the strongest, most rapidly growing nations with whom we share the planet (reluctantly share, it seems).

In a fit of absent-mindedness or incompetence this was explicitly stated in a draft of the Defense Planning Guidance for the 1994-99 (February 18, 1992) written by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz and his deputy Lewis “Scooter” Libby – and leaked to the New York Times. Note the following:

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.

Revelation of the truth being incompatible with the operation of our government, they rewrote this in the final draft and omitted it from future documents (such as The National Security Strategy of the USA (September 20, 2002). I doubt if this fooled China, towards whom our actions prove that the above goal remains effective (although officially invisible).

Something every America should read this Saturday morning

For an educational Saturday morning, read The National Security Strategy of the USA – 35 pages of delusional nonsense, all written in a soothingly bland reasonable tone. You will learn that we have many strategic goals.

I. Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity

II. Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work To Prevent Attacks Against Us and Our Friends

III. Work with others to Defuse Regional Conflicts

IV. Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction

V. Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade

VI. Expand the Circle of Development by Opening Societies and Building the Infrastructure of Democracy

VII. Develop Agendas for Cooperative Action with the Other Main Centers of Global Power

VIII. Transform America’s National Security Institutions to Meet the Challenges and Opportunities of the Twenty-First Century

After each of these follows many sub-goals of bold ambitious text.

To summarize, we seek to radically change the cultures and political systems for much of the world, to halt foreign revolts and civil wars of which we do not approve, to bring global peace and prosperity, to make friends (even with those states whose rise we seek to restrain), and to “transform” our so far unreformable national security apparatus. Those who thought President Bush was kidding about these learned better in the months following our invasion of Iraq.

Number V is especially rich as a goal of the world’s greatest debtor. Only a massive and constant flow of foreign loans (6% of our GDP) prevents America from instant descent into a downturn unlike anything seen since the 1930’s. Apparently our foreign policy elites are ignorant of the golden rule, that creditors write the rules.

Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs magazines profit from our strategic confusion, as each month skilled diplomats and academics fruitlessly attempt to reconcile this irrational, contradictory mess – lacking priorities, judgments of benefits vs. available resources, or consideration of risks (risks inevitably accompany bold actions). It is a strategy written by a superpower with delusions of Godhood.

Implications of this for our new Long War

Perhaps the United States will get competent geo-political management. The current Presidential election features little meaningful debate about foreign policy – note the debate among the major candidates as to whether we should occupy Iraq for a long time or just indefinitely – so such a change seems unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Fortunately such follies are self-correcting over long periods of time. Delusional elites usually steer their people onto the rocks, after which they can leave the saving of the world to others – focusing hereafter on simpler things, like survival and national solvency.

We need not follow these mad fools to disaster. America can have good government if we will that it be so. The Founders gave us the tools; we need only use them.

Two pointers towards more on this topic, and one more closing thought

For more of William Lind’s thinking about this topic see his “Strategic Defense Initiative” and the various commentaries in his On War series.

For more essays on this topic, see my four part series about a Grand Strategy for America in the Fabius Maximus archive:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeits of our own behavior) we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars: as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion.

William Shakespeare, King Lear (Act I, Scene Two)


Are the things reported here good or bad? Please consult a priest or philosopher for answers to such questions. This author only discusses what was, what is, and what might be.

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Who was Fabius Maximus?

Fabius Maximus was the Roman leader who saved Rome from Hannibal by recognizing its weakness and therefore the need to conserve its strength. He turned from the easy path of macho “boldness” to the long, difficult task of rebuilding Rome’s power and greatness. His life holds profound lessons for 21st Century America.

Qualifications of the Author?

Read the past articles by Fabius Maximus. A work of intellectual analysis stands on its own logic, supported by the author’s track record.