More on Niebuhr: Should Strategy Be Un-Grand?

Clausen and Nurnus believe that Niebuhr’s writing can be read as a cautionary tale about the perils of Grand Strategy – at least when it reaches the extremes of idealism or hubris. Democracy keeps us away from the hubris of grand forms of strategy that can lead to calamities on grand scales.  Thus, what lies at the heart of Niebuhr’s philosophy can make up the core of a new un-Grand Strategy tradition. This core would be based on pragmatism, empirical skepticism, and emotional maturity.

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A Russian Academic’s Perspective on China and the Heartland Hypothesis

Lukin notes that Beijing is seeking to (re)create the Silk Road that is envisioned as Eurasia’s superhighway – running through the Heartland and reliably linking China with other parts of the continent, such as Europe, the Middle East, Southeast and South Asia. In this respect, we may see if Mackinder is finally proven right in his argument that railways would be the decisive revolution in transportation that would overcome the advantages once held by seaborne means of transportation. China, Lukin observes, is rapidly expanding its own railway network and has become the world’s leader in building high-speed lines, while expanding standard rail lines (and pipelines and other associated infrastructure) into neighboring countries, especially in Central Asia.

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Christopher Fettweis’ Critique of Classical Geopolitics

Christopher Fettweis of Tulane University offers a frontal assault on the utility of classical notions of geopolitics, such as those advocated by Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman (and on those who employ those notions today, including Robert Kaplan and Colin Gray). He argues that geopolitics fails, often spectacularly, along three key dimensions of theory: description (explaining the way in which the world works); prediction (extending this explanation into the future); and prescription (providing policymakers with advice regarding how to proceed). 

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U.S. Naval (Maritime) Strategy: Then (1889) and Now

The U.S. sea services, under the auspices of the Department of the Navy, have released a new maritime strategy, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready.” The strategy attempts to account for changes in the global security environment, new strategic guidance, and a changed fiscal environment. The document revises that of the 2007 iteration, and includes a new function called "all domain access" which underscores the challenges forces face in accessing and operating in contested environments.  The new strategy has two particular emphases: the need to operate forward and to strengthen alliances and partnerships, especially in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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Resources on Lee Kuan Yew, The Sage of Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew is often referred to as “the Sage of Singapore.” The Cambridge University-educated Lee was the founding father of that modern independent city-state. He served as its prime minister from 1959 to 1990, overseeing its rise as the first of the Southeast Asian “tigers.” He was also one of the region’s most influential international statesmen, renowned for his geopolitical acumen as well as his far-sighted economic vision. When Harry Lee spoke, people listened.

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Morrisey and Mahoney on de Gaulle, Geopolitics, and Democracy

Churchill stood at the head of a maritime nation while de Gaulle led a land power situated on the dangerous northern European plain; Churchill enjoyed a stable political foundation and concentrated his attention on its defense while de Gaulle needed first to build such a foundation, even as he defended ill-founded regimes. Both leaders understood their supreme task to be the protection of their citizens as civil or political beings who should not be subject to tyranny. Although geopolitics focuses the attention of statesmen on political realities, Churchill and de Gaulle believed that moral principle and prudence can continue to widen the scope of human liberty.

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Alex Deep on Putin, Clausewitz, and Ukraine

According to Deep, Putin is attempting to balance the trinity of passion, military means, and political aims in executing a plan that relies on friction and mass to succeed on the ground; and to use war as a way of achieving political ends.  However, the real question might not be whether Putin’s strategy is Clausewitzian, but whether he is choosing the correct means by which to accomplish the goal of increasing Russian influence along its borders.

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Civil-Military Relations: Huntington’s World, or No?

“It’s an Eliot Cohen world.” This judgment, rendered by former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy at New America’s Future of War Conference, according to Thomas E. Ricks, has to do with the proper understanding of American civil-military relations. The traditional post-World War II understanding was articulated by the late Samuel P. Huntington in The Soldier and the State (1957). Huntington’s theory of “objective control” was challenged in 2002 by Eliot A. Cohen in his Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime.

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Is Putin Another Metternich?

Mitchell A. Orenstein, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University, offers the provocative thesis that Vladimir Putin is an aspiring Metternich. At first glance, this seems a rather odd comparison, in temperament and style, certainly.  In foreign policy terms, Metternich would seem to be the consummate conservative, wedded to the idea of a stable European balance of power in which Austria could maximize its waning power; Putin, the foreign policy revolutionary, who seeks to kick over the table in order for Russia to maximize its waning power.

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