Strategy As Appetite Suppressant
By Frank G. Hoffman
War on the Rocks
April 10, 2020 —
It is tempting to compare successful national strategies to unicorns: They both seem mythical. But while good strategies might be rare, they are very real. And despite the impressions left by recent history, they are possible. There are multiple meanings and purposes for grand strategy; as grand plans, as a set of macro principles, or as patterns of state behavior, as Nina Silove detailed. However, there is a fourth meaning and this purpose now rises to the forefront in salience. This is the role of good strategy as an enforcer of disciplined realism or appetite suppressant.
The current manifestation of U.S. grand strategy is found in the 2017 National Security Strategy, which bears the signature of President Donald Trump. That strategy advances four core national interests via an extensive set of 99 priority actions. The 2018 National Defense Strategy is aligned with its parent strategy in terms of great power competition with China and Russia. Both of these documents — the latter of which I worked on — were crafted with a clear diagnosis of the major challenges facing the United States and with distinctive priorities to advance the nation’s interests. It is not as clear that either strategy is being implemented as written, or that Congress supports the explicit priorities of American grand strategy. It is increasingly obvious that neither document is driving the use of America’s military or budgetary decisions.
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