A Grand Strategy for America

A Grand Strategy for America

by Robert J. Art


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The United States today is the most powerful nation in the world, perhaps even stronger than Rome was during its heyday. It is likely to remain the world's preeminent power for at least several decades to come. What behavior is appropriate for such a powerful state? To answer this question, Robert J. Art concentrates on "grand strategy"—the deployment of military power in both peace and war to support foreign policy goals.

He first defines America's contemporary national interests and the specific threats they face, then identifies seven grand strategies that the United States might contemplate, examining each in relation to America's interests. The seven are:

• dominion—forcibly trying to remake the world in America's own image;

• global collective security—attempting to keep the peace everywhere;

• regional collective security—confining peacekeeping efforts to Europe;

• cooperative security—seeking to reduce the occurrence of war by limiting other states' offensive capabilities;

• isolationism—withdrawing from all military involvement beyond U.S. borders;

• containment—holding the line against aggressor states; and

• selective engagement—choosing to prevent or to become involved only in those conflicts that pose a threat to the country's long-term interests.

Art makes a strong case for selective engagement as the most desirable strategy for contemporary America. It is the one that seeks to forestall dangers, not simply react to them; that is politically viable, at home and abroad; and that protects all U.S. interests, both essential and desirable. Art concludes that "selective engagement is not a strategy for all times, but it is the best grand strategy for these times."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801441394
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 06/05/2003
Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Robert J. Art is Christian A. Herter Professor of International Relations at Brandeis University. He is the author of The TFX Decision: McNamara and the Military and coeditor of The United States and Coercive Diplomacy (with Patrick Cronin) and U.S. Foreign Policy: the Search for a New Role (with Seyom Brown).

Table of Contents

Foreword by Richard C. Leone, President of The Century Foundation


1. The International Setting

2. America's National Interests

3. Dominion, Collective Security, and Containment

4. Selective Engagement

5. Isolationism and Offshore Balancing

6. Selective Engagement and the Free Hand Strategies

7. Implementing Selective Engagement

Appendix A. Civil Wars Active between 1991 and 2000
Appendix B. International Wars Active between 1991 and 2000


What People are Saying About This

Kenneth N. Waltz

"A thorough, forthright, and eminently readable examination of America's grand strategy: what it has been, what it may become, and what it should be."

Joseph S. Nye

"How should the United States use its preponderant power in the world? This book is a clear-eyed—and encouraging—answer from a hardheaded and sophisticated realist. Let us hope that our leaders read it!"

John J. Mearsheimer

"Robert Art writes about American grand strategy in the tradition of Walter Lippmann and George Kennan. In his important new book, Art makes a sophisticated and powerful case for using U.S. military might to dominate Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf, but not to seek global hegemony."

Robert L. Gallucci

"This is an extraordinarily lucid exposition of the choices ahead for America as it charts its course in the complex, rapidly changing, and increasingly dangerous world of the twenty-first century. Robert J. Art sets out to describe the most prudent grand strategy to secure the nation's vital and important interests, and along the way carefully considers other plausible but ultimately less attractive alternatives. The process brings the reader through a constructive application of international relations theory, incisive historical analysis, and a wonderfully textured appreciation of the international setting in which we now find ourselves. One would not expect to add about such a book that it is 'a good read,' but it is. It is at once sophisticated and scholarly, advancing the debate in the academic literature about grand strategy, and at the same time, quite accessible to any citizen interested in our nation's future. A Grand Strategy for America is just what we need."

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