The Risks of Ignoring Strategic Insolvency

From the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

A moment has arrived when a great power with global responsibilities is having a crisis of confidence. Its economy has grown sluggish and it is being overtaken by a number of rising competitors. Financial pressures loom, notably the ability to keep a balance between government revenues and expenses. It is losing long-standing superiorities psychological as well as technological and numericalin key categories of military power; this great power, whose diplomats and military leaders manage active or potential conflicts from Afghanistan to Europe with treaty alliances as far flung as Japan and Australia, confronts the need for constraints on its global ambitions and posture. This urgent reckoning has been prompted in part by a painful and largely unnecessary counterinsurgency war far from home that cost many times more than initially thought and exhausted the country’s overstretched land forces.


The moment Throughout history, major powers have confronted painful inflection points when their resources, their national will, or the global geopolitical context no longer sustained their strategic postures. The very definition of grand strategy is holding ends and means in balance to promote the security and interests of the state.4 Yet, the post-war U.S. approach to strategy is rapidly becoming insolvent and unsustainablenot only because Washington can no longer afford it but also, crucially, because it presumes an American relationship with friends, allies, and rivals that is the hallmark of a bygone era. If Washington continues to cling to its existing role on the premise that the international order depends upon it, the result will be increasing resistance, economic ruin, and strategic failure.

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