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David Tucker on the Classic Dimensions of Strategy and Intelligence

David Tucker (Ashbrook Center, Ashland University) has published a book, The End of Intelligence: Espionage and State Power in the Information Age, in the Stanford Security Series (Stanford University Press). To a first order, the book examines – and finds wanting – claims that the recent information revolution has weakened the state, revolutionized warfare, or changed the balance of power between states and non-state actors. It can be read at several different levels: as a primer, or refresher, on the various dimensions of intelligence (e.g., collection, analysis, espionage, counterintelligence, and covert action); as high-level exploration of the relationship among philosophies of government and human nature, historical eras, and various approaches to the means and ends of intelligence; and for its considered judgment of the possibilities, and particularly the limitations, of intelligence.

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James Ceaser on Tocqueville and China

The American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Tocqueville on China Project has published an essay by Professor James W. Ceaser of the University of Virginia and the Hoover Institution. According to Ceaser, Tocqueville was one of the first thinkers to treat two of the great themes that have preoccupied modern scholars of China: modernization and transition. His writings on these themes were the forerunners of such classic works as James Bryce's Modern Democracy (1921) and Samuel Huntington's Political Order in Changing Societies (1968), and they thus indirectly help inform the wave of scholarship in comparative politics on "democratic transitions" that appeared after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

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Mahan’s Influence on the Chinese National Security Debate

The strategic culture formed by China’s history and political geography is a profoundly continentalist one.  Looking at China’s current maritime transformation in a longer historical perspective, though, it is possible to overstate the extent to which Chinese strategic culture over the centuries has been strictly continentalist.   The critical contemporary question is whether China’s traditional continentalist strategic culture will constrain the country’s development as a maritime power.  The Chinese themselves are not entirely of one mind about this. Indeed, for the first time there is a robust debate within the Chinese national security community concerning the meaning and limits of China’s turn to the sea.  In this debate, according to the Naval War College editors, Chinese navalists have become avid students of Mahan.

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Robert Kaplan on the Geopolitical Classics and Contemporary China

Kaplan points out that Halford J. Mackinder ended his famous 1904 article, "The Geographical Pivot of History," with a reference to China. After explaining why Eurasia was the geostrategic fulcrum of world power, Mackinder posited that the Chinese, should they expand their power well beyond their borders, "might constitute the yellow peril to the world's freedom just because they would add an oceanic frontage to the resources of the great continent, an advantage as yet denied to the Russian tenant of the pivot region." Kaplan argues that Mackinder, then-fashionable racism aside, had a point:  whereas Russia, that other Eurasian giant, basically was, and is still, a land power with an oceanic front blocked by ice, China, owing to a 9,000-mile temperate coastline with many good natural harbors, is both a land power and a sea power.

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McDougall: Can America Do Grand Strategy?

McDougall poses the question differently -- whether the U.S. government is capable formally of planning, coordinating and executing grand strategy with sufficient competence to secure the nation and its vital interests?   Here he expresses strong doubts:  "World weary as I am, having witnessed so many disappointing and disillusioning cycles of politics and foreign policy, having acquired so much vicarious experience of human folly and forgetfulness from my study of history, I nurture no hope that a great burst of grand strategic creativity lies just ahead. Oh, this or a subsequent administration may make institutional reforms, such as insisting that the National Security Strategy document address resources and means instead of just goals, or reinventing the Eisenhower NSC structure with its Planning and Operations Coordinating boards."

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The Malthusian Revival

The ideas of Thomas Malthus, which had a considerable impact on the thinking of many American Founders, including Jefferson, Madison, and John Quincy Adams (the son of a Founder), have undergone something of an intellectual and political renaissance

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Tom Ricks on Piers Mackesy

Tom Ricks, the Post's Senior Military Correspondent, calls Piers Mackesy’s book on the “strategic history” of the American Revolution, “the single best such work that I have ever encountered.”

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