By Oliver DeMille
1. Two Speeches
Several years ago I spoke at a seminar on international affairs and I predicted that in the next few years the United States would adopt a new Grand Strategy. I outlined America’s historical Grand Strategies, from Constitutionalism (1789-1820) and Manifest Destiny (1820-1900) to Nationalism (1900-1945) and later Internationalism (1945-2001).
I pointed out that our Grand Strategy is the way we define our major national goals for the decades ahead, and that after 9/11 we were on track for a new Grand Strategy. We discussed some possible Grand Strategies that could come, and we brainstormed things we hoped to see in the Grand Strategy of the 21st Century.
The same year, in another speech on a different occasion, I showed how many of the predictions found in one publication, Foreign Affairs, keep ending up as official U.S. policy. I cited numerous examples from articles in Foreign Affairs and showed how within five years of publication their recommendations were adopted. I marveled that one publication could have such an effective track record, and recommended that everyone in attendance subscribe to and read this magazine.
Of course, as I said in the speech, not all the authors in Foreign Affairs agree on every detail, and in fact they engage in a great deal of debate. But, again, is it amazing how often policies recommended in Foreign Affairs end up being implemented in Washington.
Then, just this year, the messages of these speeches came together in an interesting way. In the January/February 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, a new article outlines a new Grand Strategy for the United States. Although I don’t agree with many of the details in this latest Grand Strategy, the track record of Foreign Affairs promises that this will, in fact, be the Grand Strategy of the United States in the decades ahead.
I believe that this will be the major 21st Century challenge for the future of American freedom.
2. Grand Strategy Drives the Nation
The power of a Grand Strategy can hardly be overstated. When a nation adopts a Grand Strategy, it dominates national policy and influences all national choices over time. Few, if any, policies go against or are even allowed to compete with the accepted Grand Strategy.
And while not everyone knows what a Grand Strategy is, the intelligentsia of both parties tend to follow the Grand Strategy with the energy and passion of religious doctrine. They may disagree on many things, but they both adhere to the Grand Strategy.
So what is the new Grand Strategy of the United States? The answers are outlined in an article by Zbigniew Brzezinski: “A New U.S. Grand Strategy: Balancing the East, Upgrading the West”. Students of American policy will remember Brzezinski as the U.S. National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981 and as a long-time writer on U.S. international strategy.
3. Our New Grand Strategy
Things have changed drastically over the past decade, Brzezinski assures us, and by 2012 a new Grand Strategy is overdue. The outlines of this new plan include the following:
- The “central focus” for the United States in the years ahead is threefold: (1) revitalize the U.S., (2) help the West expand, and (3) create a balance in the East that will allow China to successfully rise without becoming an enemy.
- The expansion of the West will create a democratic free zone from North America and Western Europe to a number of other nations, including Eastern Europe, Russian, Turkey, Japan and South Korea.
- In the East, U.S. power and influence will attempt to create a cooperative relationship between China and Japan and keep Chinese-Indian relations from turning to violent conflict.
- To accomplish all this, the U.S. must become a better “promoter and guarantor” of unity and simultaneously a “balancer and conciliator between the major powers of the East.”
- To have any credibility in these roles, the U.S. must effectively “renovate itself at home.” This requires, says Brzezinski, four things: (1) better innovation, (2) improved education, (3) a balance of American power and diplomacy, and (4) a better focus on quality political leadership in Washington.
- One of the most important changes ahead must be an effective improvement of relations between the United States and the European Union. The two sides of the Atlantic have been drifting apart since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but this trend must be reversed. Otherwise, growing conflicts between the United States, the European Union, and Russia could weaken the West and cause it to splinter and become increasingly pessimistic. This would also promote a more contentious China.
- The U.S. should decrease military power in Asia and emphasize increased cooperation with China.
- Taiwan will at some point have to reconcile in some way with China.
Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with this new strategy. If this is the outline of the years ahead, the U.S. will definitely face an era of deepening international confusion and tension.
Despite this reality, the historical track record of Foreign Affairs suggests that this is the Grand Strategy we will follow. If this occurs, voters will elect one party and then the other, and remain frustrated when the on-going Grand Strategy of our international affairs keeps our economic and other national policies going in the same direction.
Adoption of this Grand Strategy is a path of inevitable decline, regardless of what the experts say. Election after election, we’ll seek real change but see whoever is in the White House continually push our nation in the same negative direction.
4. Significant Flaws
Specifically, this new Grand Strategy has at least the following major defects:
- An abandonment of support for an independent Taiwan, even through a subtle shift of attitude as suggested, amounts to a significant reversal of America’s historical loyalty to our allies. Such a change will undermine our credibility with other nations and further erode Washington’s credibility with American voters.
- The attempt to bridge differences between the United States and European nations in this Grand Strategy takes the tone of the U.S. becoming more like these nations—rather than influencing these countries to adopt more freedom-based values historically espoused by the U.S.
- Adoption of this new Grand Strategy may amount to a de facto appeasement of China. If China is, in fact, following a savvy strategy of replacing America as the world’s dominant super power and transporting its fundamental values around the globe, then this would be nothing less than a disastrous policy. And even if China is a good-faith seeker of more global participation, cooperation and open trade, it certainly wants to spread its central values and ideals—nearly all of which are antithetical to freedom.
- The emphasis on increased business innovation and improved education in this strategy seem to rely on increased government spending and intervention in our economy rather than policies that incentive increased free enterprise, innovation, hiring and entrepreneurialism. This is yet another attempt to move away from traditional American values and adopt instead the government-run mercantilist practices of European and Asian economies.
- The focus in this policy is a shift from internationalism (a policy of interactions between sovereign nations with America as a world leader) to globalism (where the United States submits its actions to the decisions of international organizations).
- Note that while we have changed the Constitution through Amendments less than thirty times in over two hundred years, it has been changed in literally thousands of ways through treaty (and these changes are seldom noticed by most Americans). While treaties were used to skirt the Constitution many times under the Internationalist Grand Strategy since 1945, this new Globalist Grand Strategy will make this the major focus of its policies, totally ending Constitutional rule in the United States. This is not an exaggeration but rather a technical reality.
In short, this new Grand Strategy is a de facto end to the traditional American Constitutional system. If it is fully adopted, and all indications are that this is what is occurring, our free system is in immediate jeopardy.
I am an optimist, and I believe that the best America and the world have to offer is still ahead. Yet in a nation of laws, in a society where the fine print of contracts, statutes, judicial dicta, executive agency policies and treaties are our higher law, this new Grand Strategy promises to rewrite our entire system in a few agencies dominated by unelected international experts and almost entirely out of the public’s eye. This is not a republic or democracy, but a true technocracy.
Again, the result will be elections where we vote our passions but where little changes no matter which candidates win each campaign.
In such a world, the fine print in our treaties will run the show, though few will realize what is happening or understand why our freedoms and economy are constantly in decline no matter which party we put in charge of Washington.
It is hard to overstate just how significant this current change is in our world. Freedom is literally at stake.
We don’t need better leaders or public officials as near as much as we need better citizens. Historically, the American founders knew that freedom could only last if regular citizens had the same level of education as our Governors, Senators, Judges, experts and Presidents.
When any nation is divided between, on one hand, a class of political experts who read and understand the fine print of what is really happening and, on the other hand, the rest of the people who don’t read or get involved in such intricate details, freedom is inevitably lost.
There are no exceptions to this in history.
We will either become such citizens, or our freedoms will be lost.
If this is too much to ask of modern citizens, then freedom is too much for us to handle. Just consider what Samuel Williams, a Harvard professor in the American founding era, said about the average education of American children in 1794:
“All the children are trained up to this kind of knowledge: they are accustomed from their earliest years to read the Holy Scriptures, the periodical publications, newspapers, and political pamphlets; to form some general acquaintance with the laws of their country, the proceedings of the courts of justice, of the general assembly of the state, and of the Congress, etc.
“Such a kind of education is common and universal in every part of the state: and nothing would be more dishonorable to the parents, or to the children, than to be without it.”
Such people were deep readers. And the freedoms they fought for and maintained showed it. The only way to get back such freedoms is to once again become such citizens. What is needed, regardless of what the experts in Washington do, is a widespread grassroots grand strategy of becoming the kind of citizens and voters who are truly capable of maintaining freedom.
(For more on how to become this kind of citizen and reader, see the book A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille.)
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.