We are working on updating and re-organizing our hegemony files, but we have three things to help get you started
(a) Annotated research links
(b) An update file
(c) Our hegemony backfiles
Advice for a Dark Age: Managing Great Power Competition (2019). Whether we like it or not, the world has entered an era of multipolar struggle. A mix of structural pressures and self-fulfilling choices by key players have brought about this dangerous state of affairs. Today, the United States, Russia and China, as well as designated “rogue” regimes Iran and North Korea, are entering a state of protracted and intensifying security competition. The ever-evolving lesser menace of Islamist terrorism will persist, too, as a wild card that could also provoke exertions of power. In the medium term, this shift is probably irreversible. Washington’s experience of unipolar dominance, and decades of unrivalled hegemony, leave it ill-prepared to deal with this new reality. Given the high stakes, some counsel is due. To prevail in these conditions, it will need intellectual resources other than nostalgic appeals to a lost unipolar order. This article is an effort in that direction. It proceeds in two parts. First, I demonstrate that cumulative offensive “moves” by major powers have brought about a state of competitive multipolarity. Second, I offer some advice, in four main parts, on how Washington should manage it: it should rank and divide adversaries, rebuild diplomatic capability, apply fresh discipline to its alliances, and beware of brushfire wars. While the age of competition is inescapably upon us, prudent choices can help make the difference between competition and catastrophe.
The Open World; What America can achieve under Trump (2019). Since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016, it has become commonplace to bemoan the fate of the U.S.-led liberal international order—the collection of institutions, rules, and norms that has governed world politics since the end of World War II. Many experts blame Trump for upending an otherwise sound U.S. grand strategy. They hope that once he is gone, the United States will resume the role it has occupied since the fall of the Soviet Union: as the uncontested hegemon ruling benevolently, albeit imperfectly, over a liberalizing world.
It won’t. Washington’s recent dominance was a historical anomaly that rested on a rare combination of favorable conditions that simply no longer obtain, including a relatively unified public at home and a lack of any serious rivals abroad. American leaders must recognize this truth and adjust their strategy accordingly.
Shaping US strategy to meet America’s needs (2019). It is all too clear that the U.S. must now a focus on major competitors like China and Russia, deal with more limited regional threats like Iran and North Korea, and deal with broad areas of global instability due to threats from extremists and terrorists. These challenges are further compounded by ongoing U.S. wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the challenge of meeting defense costs that total $750 billion in the President’s defense budget request for FY2020.
So far, however, the U.S. government has done far more by way of talk and stating broad goals than providing practical analysis and net assessments that shape and justify a given course of action. It has failed to develop well-defined strategic goals and effective plans, programs, and budgets to implement them. U.S. strategy documents lack a clear focus on specific key issues, regions, threat countries, and strategic partners.
This analysis does not challenge the focus on existing national strategy documents on very real threats. It does review the major weakness in current U.S. national security strategy, the failures in the FY2020 budget request, and broader failures in the ways the U.S now shapes and justifies its strategy, and its planning, programming, and budgeting activities.
It suggests that major changes are required in each of these areas, that the U.S. needs a far more functional mix of strategies that address the key challenges to each of the major U.S. combat commands, and that these need to be justified by detailed net assessments. It also calls for reforms that would tie such strategies to a well-defined mix of plans, programs and budgets to implement them, and a focus on a functional Future Year Defense Plan that would consider their future year implications, rather than focus on the coming fiscal year.
It stresses the need to look beyond deterrence and war fighting, and develop strategies that place at least an equal emphasis on hybrid form of civil-military competition. It focuses on the grand strategic need to consider how to achieve stability, conflict, termination, and lasting forms of peace as part of a broader focus on civil-military and hybrid operations. It also stresses the need to see strategic partners as partners, rather than sources of resources and burden sharing, and to avoid seeing competitors and potential threats as opponents in zero-sum games.
Back to the Basics: How to Get Right What Trump Gets Wrong (2019). This article argues the US needs to lead in diplomacy and foreign aid. It also argues the US needs to de-emphasize military solutions to problems.
Uniqueness — US Strong Now
Perceptions of American Decline (2019). This article argues claims of US hegemonic decline area false.
Grading Trump’s Foreign Policy (2019). This e-book from the Council on Foreign relations argues that Trump’s foreign policy is better than most give him credit for.
Trump’s Foreign Policy is Better than He gets credit for (2019). This article is about the book previously mentioned. The author’s argument is that Trump is good because he supports a return to a hardline policy.
Uniqueness – International Order Dead
The Day After Trump: American Strategy for a New International Order (201)8). The authors argue . that Trump has contributed to the destruction of that international order and that efending the liberal international order as an end unto itself today is a mistake. Instead, foreign policy strategists must begin to craft a new U.S. grand strategy now. Thoughtful plans for rebuilding new and needed forms of order will require advanced preparation, beginning with reassessing three fundamental assumptions of the extant international order, diagnosing threats from without and within, and designing and defining the limits of a new system.
Uniqueness — US in Decline Now
The self-destruction of American Power (2019). Fareed Zakaria argues that although the US is still the most dominant global power that the influence it has exerted over the international system has been lost.
Pompeo is calling for realism, Trump isn’t having it (2019). McKurk’s argues that Trump’s chaotic foreign policy is destroying US credibility.
Perils of Polarization of US Foreign Policy (2019) A source of the decline of U.S. standing in the world comes from within: a long-term trend of partisan polarization in American politics which has made it harder for the United States to conduct foreign policy and to wield its diplomatic and military power in the world in four ways. Recognizing these problems may help mitigate their worst effects.
Global Order Answers
Trump wants to destroy the international order. So what? (2018) This article argues Trump cannot destroy the current global liberal order even if he tries.
Hegemony Solvency Answers
This time is different: Why US foreign policy will never recover (5-7-19). This article argues that US foreign policy credibility will not recover from the Trump administration.
When will the unipolar world end? (2019). This article argues that the US must sustain its alliance commitments to sustain its unipolar hegemony.
US leadership Good
Back to the Basics: How to GeT Right What Trump Gets Wrong (2019): An openness-based strategy would represent a clear departure from the principles of liberal universalism that have guided U.S. strategy since the end of the Cold War. Instead of presuming the eventual triumph of liberalism, it would signal U.S. willingness to live alongside illiberal states and even to accept that they may take a leading role in international institutions. Such a strategy would preserve existing structures of the liberal order while recognizing that they will often fall short; and when they do, it would call on the United States and like-minded partners to create new rules and regimes, even if these lack universal appeal. Harboring no illusions about geopolitical realities, an openness-based strategy would prepare to defend U.S. interests when cooperation proved impossible. But it would define those interests selectively, sharpening the nation’s focus and eschewing the unending crusades of liberal universalism.
Rather than wasting its still considerable power on quixotic bids to restore the liberal order or remake the world in its own image, the United States should focus on what it can realistically achieve: keeping the international system open and free.
US leadership Bad
America isn’t as powerful as it thinks it is (2019). This article argues the unilateralism of the Trump administration fails to produce foreign policy gains. and actually disrupts the international order.
America’s Fear-Based Foreign Policy Needs to Go (2019). Since 9/11, fear has become the basis for most of America’s foreign policy—and the lives of its citizens are worse because of it.
Offshore Balancing Best
The New Era of American restraint (2019). For all the talk of how U.S. foreign policy and the country’s place in the world will never be the same after the presidency of Donald Trump, the best strategic road map for the United States is a familiar one. Realism—the hard-nosed approach to foreign policy that guided the country throughout most of the twentieth century and drove its rise to great power—remains the best option. A quarter century ago, after the Cold War ended, foreign policy elites abandoned realism in favor of an unrealistic grand strategy—liberal hegemony—that has weakened the country and caused considerable harm at home and abroad. To get back on track, Washington should return to the realism and restraint that served it so well in the past.
If Washington rediscovered realism, the United States would seek to preserve the security and prosperity of the American people and to protect the core value of liberty in the United States. Policymakers would recognize the importance of military strength but also take into account the country’s favorable geographic position, and they would counsel restraint in the use of force. The United States would embrace a strategy of “offshore balancing” and abstain from crusades to remake the world in its image, concentrating instead on maintaining the balance of power in a few key regions. Where possible, Washington would encourage foreign powers to take on the primary burden for their own defense, and it would commit to defend only those areas where the United States has vital interests and where its power is still essential. Diplomacy would return to its rightful place, and Americans would promote their values abroad primarily by demonstrating democracy’s virtues at home.
New Voices in Grand Strategy (2019)
How the Freedom Agenda Fell Apart (2019) For three decades beginning in the mid-1970s, the world experienced a remarkable expansion of democracy—the so-called third wave—with authoritarian regimes falling or reforming across the world. By 1993, a majority of states with populations over one million had become democracies. Levels of freedom, as measured by Freedom House, were steadily rising as well. In most years between 1991 and 2005, many more countries gained freedom than lost it.
But around 2006, the forward momentum of democracy came to a halt. In every year since 2007, many more countries have seen their freedom decrease than have seen it increase, reversing the post–Cold War trend. The rule of law has taken a severe and sustained beating, particularly in Africa and the postcommunist states; civil liberties and electoral rights have also been declining.
A world safe for autocracy? China’s rise and the future of global poltiics (2019). Since 2012, China’s growing authoritarianism and resurgent state dominance over the economy have dashed Western hopes that China would eventually embrace liberalism. And China’s actions abroad have offered alternatives to U.S.-led international institutions, made the world safer for other authoritarian governments, and undermined liberal values. But those developments reflect less a grand strategic effort to undermine democracy and spread autocracy than the Chinese leadership’s desire to secure its position at home and abroad. Its efforts to revise and work around international institutions are the result of pragmatic decisions about Chinese interests rather than a wholesale rejection of the U.S.-led international order. Beijing’s behavior suggests that China is a disgruntled and increasingly ambitious stakeholder in that order, not an implacable enemy of it. In seeking to make the world safer for the CCP, Beijing has rejected universal values and made it easier for authoritarian states to coexist alongside democracies. And within democracies, the CCP’s attempts to squelch overseas opposition to its rule have had a corrosive influence on free speech and free society, particularly among the Chinese diaspora.
These are real challenges, but they do not yet amount to an existential threat to the international order or liberal democracy. Successfully competing with China will require more precisely understanding its motives and actions and developing tough but nuanced responses. Overreacting by framing competition with China in civilizational or ideological terms risks backfiring by turning China into what many in Washington fear it already is.