RSIS Seminar Series on Understanding the Contemporary United States by Dr Adam Garfinkle, RSIS Distinguished Visiting Fellow; and Founding Editor of The American Interest
The Strange, Silent Death of American Grand Strategy
Knowing the history of U.S. grand strategy–both its process and substance–is essential to the understanding of current U.S. strategic thinking. The United States has had only two grand strategies in its entire history, each one coming in two versions over time. All but one of the four versions has been very successful, enabling the United States to become and remain a great power. But today strategic thinking is in occlusion largely because of a conjunction of past U.S. strategic success and current domestic political dysfunction. The implications for the world, as well as for the U.S., are not trivial.
About the Series
The United States has arguably been the most important state in international politics since the end of World War II, and until recently both American strategy and a domestic political consensus in support of that strategy have been remarkably stable. Both the stability of the strategy and of the domestic politics underlying it are now unraveling. That process has gone through four phases: from the end of the Cold War to the September 11, 2001 attacks; from those attacks to the global financial crisis of 2008; from the global financial crisis to the November 2016 election; and from that election to the present. None of these phases can be understood as foreign and national security phenomena alone. The politics beneath the policies, and the social and cultural realities beneath the politics, are of a single piece. The U.S. role in the world is changing because of changes in America itself, and the implications for global norms, security, and prosperity can hardly be overstated.
About the Speaker
Dr Adam Garfinkle is on a year-long engagement at RSIS as Distinguished Visiting Fellow. Aside from being Founding Editor of The American Interest, he has served as Editor of The National Interest, as Principal Speechwriter to the U.S. Secretary of State while attached to the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department, was chief writer of the Hart-Rudman Commission reports, and has taught at several institutions of higher education including SAIS/Johns Hopkins. His PhD in International Relations is from the University of Pennsylvania.