Why America Needs a Grand Strategy: Essay by Prof. William Martel

The Diplomat

William C. Martel is Associate Professor of International Security Studies at The Fletcher School, Tufts University.

It takes no great leap of imagination to realize the obvious: the world shows clear signs of increasing disorder.

Consider recent events: thousands massacred in Syria; the collapse of nuclear negotiations with Iran; continued authoritarian rule and repression in Russia; signs Greece may leave the Eurozone; the U.S. economy remains stuck in neutral; Russia and China seem to be gaining influence; North Korea’s ongoing nuclear test plans; Afghanistan and Pakistan are highly unstable. The list goes on and on.

To make matters worse, despite such disorder, we have failed to develop clear principles to guide U.S. foreign policy.

One source of the problem is tectonic shifts in the geopolitical, social, and economic fabric of the world. Such shifts defy comprehension, but require policymakers to catch up intellectually with these challenges. Part of the problem seems to be the unwillingness of policymakers to adopt new forms of strategic thinking – a result, perhaps, of clinging stubbornly to familiar approaches despite evidence all around us of profound uncertainties and growing disorder.

Today, many states, including the United States, make policy choices without an overriding grand strategy. This is, without doubt, an immensely dangerous development, given the sources of disorder in the world.

Now, more than ever, policymakers must come to grips with the new world that we live in if the United States is to develop coherent guidance for navigating the challenges posed by the modern world.

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