America’s Short-sighted ‘Grand Strategy’

“Tough-guy/gal-ism” remains the dominant rhetorical approach to foreign policy emanating from Official Washington, which may protect the political and media careers of the tough-talkers, but it is doing grave damage to America’s strategic standing in the world, as military analyst Franklin Spinney explains.

By Franklin Spinney

The contemporary theory and practice of grand strategy by the United States can be summarized in the sound byte uttered in 2001 by President George W. Bush shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.”

Bush did not invent this conception of grand strategy. His sound byte was simply a variation of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s triumphalist theory that America had become the world’s “essential power” with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Barack Obama, then President-elect, and President George W. Bush at the White House during the 2008 transition.

Barack Obama, then President-elect, and President George W. Bush at the White House during the 2008 transition.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that Bush’s assertion of unilateral prerogative blew back on itself to create all sorts of problems at home and abroad. It is also clear that, notwithstanding the blowback, his coercive grand strategic outlook became more entrenched and ossified during the Presidential tenure of Barack Obama.

This is evident in Obama’s unilateral escalation of drone attacks; his fatally flawed Afghan “surge” decision (click here and here); the foreign and domestic spying by the NSA, which included tapping the cell phones of close allies like German Prime Minister Angela Merkel; his administration’s aggressive meddling in Ukraine, together with the demonization of Vladimir Putin that is now well on the way to starting an unnecessary new cold war with Russia; and Mr. Obama’s so-called strategic pivot to the East China Sea to contain China.

Surely, the art of grand strategy is more subtle than a bipartisan theory of coercive diplomacy grounded on an assertion of a unilateral military prerogative. Surely, there is  more to the art of grand strategy than the notion of coercion embodied in the question Secretary of State Albright’s posed to General Colin Powell during a debate over whether or not to intervene in the Balkans, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”


America’s descent into a state of perpetual war ought to suggest it is time to rethink our approach to grand strategy.

What Is Grand Strategy?

So, how do we define grand strategy? More to the point of this essay, what considerations make up  a constructive grand strategy?

The late American strategist, Col. John R. Boyd (USAF Ret see bio), evolved five criteria for synthesizing and evaluating a nation’s grand strategy. Boyd’s brilliant theories of conflict are contained in his collections of briefings entitled a “Discourse on Winning and Losing” (which can be downloaded at his link here). I will briefly introduce the reader to what I will call Boyd’s criteria for shaping a sensible grand strategy.

Boyd argued that any country should shape the domestic policies, foreign policies, and military strategies used to pursue its national goals (our national goal can be found in the Preamble to the Constitution) in a way that a nation’s decisions and actions work to:

–Strengthen that nation’s resolve and increase its political cohesion or solidarity;

–Drain away the resolve of its adversaries and weaken their internal cohesion;

–Reinforce the commitments of its allies to its cause and make them empathetic to its success;

–Attract the uncommitted to its cause or makes them empathetic to its success;

–And most importantly, end conflicts on favorable terms that do not sow the seeds of future conflicts.

These common sense criteria should not be thought of as a checklist, but as being general guidelines for evaluating the wisdom of specific policies or actions, say, for example, of President Bush’s response to 9/11 or Obama’s meddling in Ukraine (which I will leave to the reader for evaluation).

Obviously, it is difficult to construct policies that conform to or reinforce all these criteria at the same time. This challenge is particularly difficult in the case of the unilateral military strategies and the coercive foreign policies so popular with the foreign policy elites on both sides of the political aisle in the United States. Military operations and political coercion are usually destructive in the short term, and their destructive strategic effects can be in natural tension with the aims of grand strategy, which should be constructive over the long term. History is littered with failures to reconcile the natural tension between military strategy and grand strategy.

Moreover, the more powerful a country becomes, the harder it is to combine these often conflicting criteria into a sensible grand strategy. The possession of overwhelming power breeds hubris and arrogance that tempts leaders to use their power coercively and excessively. But lording over or dictating one’s will to others breeds lasting resentment. Thus, paradoxically, the possession of overwhelming power increases the danger of going astray grand strategically over the long term.

That danger becomes particularly acute and difficult to control when aggressive external actions, policies, and rhetoric are used to prop up or increase internal cohesion for domestic political reasons, such as the goal of winning an election.

Very often, the effects of military strategies or coercive foreign policies that are perceived as to be useful in terms of strengthening domestic political cohesion backfire at the grand-strategic level, because they strengthen our adversaries’ will to resist, push our allies into a neutral or even an adversarial corner, and/or drive away the uncommitted which, taken together, can set the stage for growing isolation and continuing conflict, which eventually blows back on itself to erode cohesion at home.

Case Study: Wilhelmine Germany, 1914

The German invasion of France through neutral Belgium in 1914 provides a classic example of how a policy shaped by inwardly focused strategic considerations (in this case, Germany’s well-founded fear of isolation and a two-front war) can induce a well-trained, professional strategic leadership elite into perpetrating a grand-strategic blunder on a colossal scale for the most “rational” of reasons.

Germany was not trying to conquer and permanently occupy Belgium or France at the beginning of World War I. But in the ten years leading up to WWI, the German general staff became obsessed with the idea that it was strategically necessary to attack and defeat the French army very quickly in order to knock France out of the coming war, before France’s Russian ally could mobilize in the East.

Germany’s operational-level problem was that the Franco-German frontier was heavily fortified, so the German military leadership convinced itself of the strategic need to avoid these fortifications by invading small neutral Belgium, which had much weaker defenses.

While the German plan was grounded in logical military considerations (i.e., it appeared to be the quickest way to penetrate French defenses), the German obsession with military strategy blinded its military planners and the Kaiser to the grand-strategic implications of such an invasion, especially if that invasion failed to produce a quick, clean victory.

Germany’s military strategists understood that violating Belgian neutrality would likely bring Great Britain into the war. But they did not appreciate how the civilized world would react to their invasion of a small neutral country, whose independence and neutrality had been guaranteed since 1839 by the Treaty of London (whose signatories included the German Confederation led by Prussia) , a treaty the German Empire recognized when it absorbed Prussia’s treaty obligations.

In 1914, the German Foreign Minister (who had no say in shaping the German army’s determination of the invasion strategy) arrogantly dismissed the likelihood of Britain’s entry into the war by characterizing the Treaty of London as a “scrap of paper.” However, the Treaty of London turned out to be more than a scrap of paper.

The German invasion of neutral Belgium and then France brought Britain into the war and enraged the civilized world. Then, the German invasion was stopped at the First Battle of the Marne (September 1914), only one month after they invaded Belgium. The Marne established the conditions for a lengthy stalemate and a bloody war of attrition. The spillage of blood increased the determination of each side to prevail. More importantly, at the grand strategic level of conflict, the Germans effectively handed the British a propaganda windfall that the Brits milked brilliantly for the rest of the war.

Over the next four years, the British successfully constructed an image of Germany as a force of unmitigated evil (which was not the case at the beginning of World War I). The successful propaganda operation was reinforced by continued grand-strategic blundering on the part of German leadership (e.g., the Zimmermann Telegram, unrestricted submarine warfare, etc.). These self-inflicted wounds served to morally isolate Germany at the decisive grand strategic level of the war. (See my essay The M&M Strategy for a general description of Boyd’s powerful theory of moral isolation, which applies to any form of conflict.)

Germany’s moral isolation also created a psychological asymmetry that increased the freedom of action of her adversaries: to wit, the British were able to avoid criticism, while they conducted a ruthless blockade of Germany that resulted in far greater indiscriminate death and suffering to civilians than the damage and death caused by Germany’s submarines.

Indeed, in an ominous foreshadowing of U.S. policy in Iraq in the 1990s, the propagandized sense that Germany was an unmitigated evil became so effective that Britain was able to maintain its murderous blockade of Germany (particularly the restriction on food imports) after the Nov. 11, 1918 armistice, until July 1919, without any outcry by its allies or neutral countries.

The ominous parallel of Britain’s WWI blockading policy applies to the U.S. sanctions policy in Iraq during the Bush-41 and Clinton Administrations: Painting Saddam Hussein as an unmitigated evil after he invaded Kuwait freed up US “strategists” to persuade the world to impose sanctions on Iraq from August 1990 until May 2003.

No one knows how many innocent Iraqis died from the combined effects of the blockade and Saddam’s ruthless countermoves, but estimates made in mortality studies now run from 500,000 to a million. Asked in May 1996 about the deaths of Iraqi children by Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes,” then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright infamously replied: “we think the price is worth it.” Nevertheless, her claim that these deaths being “worth it,” did not prevent the United States from using false claims to justify an unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In World War I, even America, with its large German population and widespread anti-British sentiment (something now forgotten), rejected its long tradition of neutrality and joined Germany’s enemies and thereby provided the injection of enough fresh troops and resources to break the stalemate and make the German defeat inevitable

No doubt the British grand strategic success in isolating Germany morally during the war also worked to fuel the arrogance that led to the excessively vindictive terms imposed on Germany at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. That these onerous terms “ended” the conflict on terms that helped to sow the seeds of future conflict is now self evident.

By deviating from the criteria of sensible grand strategy in victory, Britain, together with the connivance of Italy and France and President Woodrow Wilson’s inability or refusal to impose moderation in the peace terms, inadvertently helped to pave the way for the emergence of a truly pathological state in the form of Nazi Germany.

It is revealing that today, American politicians and warmongers love to raise the specter of Hitler and Munich but never refer to the cause of Hitler’s rise to power, the Vengeance of Versailles.

Today, a 101 years after the start of World War I, the world is still paying a price for Germany’s grand-strategic blunder in 1914 and the Allies ruthless exploitation of that blunder at the Versailles Peace Conference, the problems in the Balkans, the Middle East, the Russian heartland, and the Caucasus, to name a few, have roots reaching back to destruction of world order that flowed from the invasion of 1914, the vengeance of 1919, and the violent aftermath of that vengeance.

So, the important lesson of this German case study is this: It is very dangerous to allow military strategy to trump grand strategy. Whenever a great power fails to adequately consider the criteria shaping a sensible grand strategy, painful unintended consequences can metastasize and then linger for a very long time.

Emphasis on ‘Toughness’

Today America’s central foreign policy problem and the problem of American militarism can be simply stated: Military strategy is trumping grand strategy. The result is not only a state of perpetual war, but as the emerging Ukraine and China policies show, it is one of an expanding confrontation that can lead to even more war and more blowback.

That, in a nut shell, is why it is time to do a grand-strategic evaluation of the coercive unilateralism that is evident in America’s ever-mutating war on terror, its meddling in Ukraine, and its so-called strategic pivot into China’s backyard to threaten China’s exceeding vulnerable sea lines of communication and “contain” China, whatever that means. The time is ripe for a substantive political debate on a real issue.

The Presidential campaign will move into high gear on the day after Labor Day. But as it now stands, the American people are about to be inundated with speeches and debating points over why it is time to rebuild America’s defenses, with most of the candidates beating their breasts in an effort to out-tough each other.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if at least one candidate stopped beating his or her breasts and spoke thoughtfully to the importance of moving our country onto a pathway away from blind militarism toward a more sensible grand strategy.

Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen; in America, as elsewhere, all foreign policy is local in the sense that it is shaped by domestic politics. And in our country, too many people in the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex on both sides of the aisle are becoming rich and powerful by feeding off America’s self-referencing politics of unilateralism, fear, and perpetual war.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. [This article appeared previously in Counterpunch.]

14 comments for “America’s Short-sighted ‘Grand Strategy’

  1. Abe
    September 1, 2015 at 11:35

    Speaking of ‘Long-sighted’ Grand Strategy:

    For China, Iran’s geographical location and its topography make her a strategic partner for developing the network of overland infrastructure corridors criss-crossing Eurasia independent of potential confrontation with US Naval presence.

    Iran was a part of China’s original Silk Road back during the Han dynasty some 2100 years ago. Cooperation between the two countries has a long history. Now since President Xi Jinping’s decision to make the land bridges of the Eurasian New Economic Silk Road, spurred in part by the foolish Obama “Asian Pivot” military encirclement of China by sea, Iran is regarded in Beijing as an essential partner.

    Iran is China’s most convenient access route to open waters aside from Russia, and the only east-west/north-south intersection for Central Asian trade. In May 1996, Iran and Turkmenistan forged this missing link by completing a 300-kilometer railway between Mashhad and Tejen. And in December 2014, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran inaugurated a railway from Uzen (Zhanaozen) to Gorgan and onward to Iran’s Persian Gulf ports. For Beijing, Iran’s geostrategic value is enhanced by its position astride one of China’s two overland bridges to the west. The other bridge skirts the northern coast of the Caspian through Kazakhstan and southwestern Russia near the Caucasus region. Iran is strategic to China’s vast infrastructure project as it also connects China with both Europe and the Persian Gulf.

    Now, once sanctions are lifted in several months, Iran’s long-sought membership in the Eurasian Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which has been blocked because Iran was under international sanctions, could also be approved as early as next year’s annual meeting. The SCO now includes Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with Iran having Observer Status.

    Iranian Deputy Economy Minister Massoud Karbasian in a recent Teheran press interview stated that when the Iranian branch of the New Economic Silk Road is completed, Iran will become a transit route for more than 12 million tons of goods a year. Chinese President Xi has estimated that within a decade the One Belt, One Road as it is now officially known by China, will annually create more than $2.5 trillion of trade among the countries along the Silk Road.

    For Iran, fully cooperating with this development, led by China and Russia is far more promising than becoming a geopolitical pawn of Washington in economic or any other wars against China and Russia.

    […] another factor that goes very deep in the Iranian soul and hinders trusting any promises out of Washington […] the tragic Iran-Iraq war from 1980 through to 1988. It was one of the bloodiest wars in the entire 20th Century and one of the longest. It also cost Iran more than one million dead. No Iranian is ignorant of the fact that it was Washington that prodded and backed Saddam Hussein to launch that devastating war.

    Why Iran Won’t Double-cross Russia
    By F. William Engdahl

  2. Abe
    August 31, 2015 at 22:29

    A year of propaganda and misdirection has confounded the public over Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. At this point it seems obvious; this was a sort of “strategy” all along. The question that has haunted me since the beginning is, “Why do both sides seem content to let the drama play out?” No matter what the Dutch Safety Board, or the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) report, it will be unbelievable. One haunting fact of this case remains though, many knew what happened from the beginning. […]

    We have no need here of dissecting the capabilities of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar systems, space based weapons, or other technological advancements in the US or Russian arsenals. The probability any missile was launched at an airliner near Russia territory unnoticed electronically, is virtually impossible. What is more likely, are the technology “gaps” […] having the effect of stalemating this investigation. Russia cannot show the missile or aircraft cannon riddling MH17 with projectiles, and neither can the Pentagon. Both capability and weakness can be revealed in IMAX-like video of the plane being hit, and then falling to Earth.

    At the end of the day, we have the escalating military drills and maneuvers by NATO, and by Russia accordingly, to illustrate the intensification of international friction. The recent “Topol” ballistic missile test at the Kapustin Yar range was about more than costly saber rattling, as was reported by Western media. The lead up to hydrogen bomb warhead tipped missiles buzzing about, it began as a supposed peaceful revolution in Kiev. Now the full fledge arms race stewing underneath all these years shines brightly.

    The Impossible Truth About MH17
    By Phil Butler

  3. Erik
    August 31, 2015 at 20:23

    The goals of any grand strategy are the key issue. The only proper national goals are moral goals advancing the interests of humanity, although of course this must be within the resources and political realities of a nation. Plainly the US has had no such goals in general, and merely claims them to rationalize wars.

    The goals of the US government have not even been aligned with those of its people since the early federal era, and have never aligned with those of humanity, except by coincidence or as part of its marketing budget. Until democracy is restored in the US, the government serves only the selfish, ignorant, and hypocritical.

  4. Bruce
    August 31, 2015 at 14:51

    Folks, it’s ALL PoppyBushit ! – 0bie

  5. jaymz
    August 31, 2015 at 12:57

    The only viable solution I can see at the moment is to vote for Lessig, hope he is successful in restoring a real democracy that truly represents each voting individual equally rather than representing those who contribute the most to campaigns, namely the military industrial complex. It has always confused me that the candidates who claim to be the most pro-veteran are the first to send our soldiers to kill or be killed for these unnecessary and terrible wars. If they are so sure these are just and honorable wars, they should be pushing their own children and grandchildren to fight them. Instead they raise groom children (i.e. Bush) to run for office and then send other peoples children to fight more wars.

    • Mortimer
      August 31, 2015 at 15:00

      One sentence from an Orwell essay: Politics and the English Language

      “Political Language” — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from conservatives to anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give appearance of solidity to pure wind.

      also: “All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

      THESE WORDS FROM ORWELL ought to be like reverberating and pulsating as anothernarrative.

      This essay was written or published 1946, about four years before his death. His words remain on time and on point.

  6. Abe
    August 31, 2015 at 12:50

    Understanding America’s geopolitical ‘grand strategy’ may be informed by a discussion of German political theorist Carl Schmitt’s concepts of “the political”, “the Großraum” and “the patisan”.

    In 1926, Schmitt wrote his most famous paper, “Der Begriff des Politischen” (“The Concept of the Political”).

    For Schmitt, the political is not an autonomous domain equivalent to any other domain, such as the economic, but instead is the existential basis that would determine any other domain should it reach the point of politics.

    Schmitt bases his conceptual realm of state sovereignty and autonomy upon the distinction between friend and enemy. This distinction is to be determined “existentially,” which is to say that the enemy is whoever is “in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible.” (Schmitt, 1996, p. 27)

    For Schmitt, such an enemy need not even be based on nationality: so long as the conflict is potentially intense enough to become a violent one between political entities, the actual substance of enmity may be anything.

    Although there have been divergent interpretations concerning Schmitt’s work, there is broad agreement that “The Concept of the Political” is an attempt to achieve state unity by defining the content of politics as opposition to the “other” (that is to say, an enemy, a stranger. This applies to any person or entity that represents a serious threat or conflict to one’s own interests.) In addition, the prominence of the state stands as a neutral force over potentially fractious civil society, whose various antagonisms must not be allowed to reach the level of the political, lest civil war result.

    Leo Strauss, a political Zionist and follower of Vladimir Jabotinsky, had a position at the Academy of Jewish Research in Berlin. Strauss wrote to Schmitt in 1932 and summarized Schmitt’s political theology thus: “[B]ecause man is by nature evil, he therefore needs dominion. But dominion can be established, that is, men can be unified only in a unity against – against other men. Every association of men is necessarily a separation from other men… the political thus understood is not the constitutive principle of the state, of order, but a condition of the state.”

    With a letter of recommendation from Schmitt, Strauss received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to begin work, in France, on a study of Hobbes. Schmitt went on to become a figure of influence in the new Nazi government of Adolf Hitler.

    On 30 January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. The SA and SS led torchlight parades throughout Berlin. Germans who opposed Nazism failed to unite against it, and Hitler soon moved to consolidate absolute power.

    Following the 27 February Reichstag fire, the Nazis began to suspend civil liberties and eliminate political opposition. The Communists were excluded from the Reichstag. At the March 1933 elections, again no single party secured a majority. Hitler required the vote of the Centre Party and Conservatives in the Reichstag to obtain the powers he desired. He called on Reichstag members to vote for the Enabling Act on 24 March 1933.

    Hitler was granted plenary powers “temporarily” by the passage of the Enabling Act. The law gave him the freedom to act without parliamentary consent and even without constitutional limitations.

    Schmitt joined the Nazi Party on 1 May 1933. Within days of joining the party, Schmitt was party to the burning of books by Jewish authors, rejoicing in the burning of “un-German” and “anti-German” material, and calling for a much more extensive purge, to include works by authors influenced by Jewish ideas.[

    In July 1933, Schmitt was appointed State Councillor for Prussia (Preußischer Staatsrat) by Hermann Göring and became the president of the Vereinigung nationalsozialistischer Juristen (“Union of National-Socialist Jurists”) in November. He also replaced Hermann Heller as professor at the University of Berlin (a position he held until the end of World War II).

    Schmitt presented his theories as an ideological foundation of the Nazi dictatorship, and a justification of the Führer state with regard to legal philosophy, in particular through the concept of auctoritas. Half a year later, in June 1934, Schmitt was appointed editor-in-chief of the Nazi news organ for lawyers, the Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung (“German Jurists’ Journal”).

    In July 1934, he published “The Leader Protects the Law (Der Führer schützt das Recht)”, a justification of the political murders of the Night of the Long Knives with the authority of Hitler as the “highest form of administrative justice (höchste Form administrativer Justiz)”.

    Schmitt presented himself as a radical anti-semite and also was the chairman of a law teachers’ convention in Berlin in October 1936, where he demanded that German law be cleansed of the “Jewish spirit (jüdischem Geist)”, going so far as to demand that all publications by Jewish scientists should henceforth be marked with a small symbol.

    Nevertheless, in December 1936, the SS publication Das schwarze Korps accused Schmitt of being an opportunist, and called his anti-semitism a mere pretense, citing earlier statements in which he criticized the Nazis’ racial theories. After this, Schmitt resigned from his position as “Reichsfachgruppenleiter” (Reich Professional Group Leader), although he retained his post as a professor in Berlin, and his post as “Preußischer Staatsrat”.

    In the late 1930s, as Hitler’s Reich was expanding in Europe, Schmitt developed his concept of
    “Großraum”, literally “great-space”. The term has a sense of a “sphere” of influence, and “geopolitical space” may be closer to the meaning. Schmitt intends the Großraum concept to grasp an area or region that goes beyond a single state (that is, a specific territory), to comprehend much larger scale spatial orderings, complexes or arrangements.

    After World War II, Schmitt refused every attempt at de-nazification, which effectively barred him from positions in academia. Despite being isolated from the mainstream of the scholarly and political community, he continued his studies especially of international law from the 1950s on.

    In 1962, Schmitt gave lectures in Francoist Spain, two of them giving rise to the publication, the following year, of “Theory of the Partisan”, in which he qualified the Spanish civil war as a “war of national liberation” against “international Communism.”

    Schmitt regarded the partisan as a specific and significant phenomenon that, in the latter half of the twentieth century, indicated the emergence of a new theory of warfare.

    At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the most simple formulation of Schmitt’s friend-enemy distinction was enunciated by this intellectual giant:

    In that Schmittian fulmination known as the Bush Doctrine, the “partisan” is transformed into the “terrorist,” no longer “internal” but a truly “global” enemy to be destroyed wherever found.

    As further codified by the Obama Doctrine: the decider has the right.

    The world-ordering, planet-appropriating doctrine of American “exceptionalism” has no space in its Großraum concept for a “Eurasia.”

    The very enunciation of a “Eurasian” political sphere is a “terrorist” act, and all those associated with such “lunacy” are “enemies” to be annihilated.

    • Abe
      August 31, 2015 at 12:56

      Reading Schmitt geopolitically: Nomos, territory and Großraum
      By Stuart Elden

      • Mortimer
        August 31, 2015 at 14:13

        Abe, followed your lead on Großraum and discovered this eye opening info —

        In so doing he subjected the political theology of American expansionism, the American state-policy and objectives of world domination formulated and codified in the Monroe Doctrine and its various extension, to a demystifying and critical analysis showing that the essence of Wilsonian universalism before, during and after the World War II was in fact an insidious ideology to equate American national interest, American expansionism and the principles of the Monroe Doctrine with the interest of mankind(3). Discussing emerging political realities , Schmitt noted that Germany needed to formulate her own Grossraum and to conceptualize the nature of international law as a relationship between different Grossräume, rejecting thereby the universalistic claims of the United States.

        The center of Carl Schmitt’s discussion was the geopolitical and the ideological substance of the Monroe Doctrine, especially the series of ideas articulated prior to Theodore Roosevelt’s reinterpretation of it justifying a “capitalist imperialism”(4) and Woodrow Wilson’s reinterpretation that sough to justify a “kind of pan-interventionist world ideology”(5) , i.e. to justify the principles of the Monroe Doctrine and the new international law it created in the Western Hemisphere to principles valid for the whole world. The substance of the new American international law, created by the Monroe Doctrine, was in fact an absence of international law, understood traditionally as law of nations created by mutual consent of those nations, in the Western Hemisphere, since the Monroe Doctrine postulated that the only source of the new international law was the will of the United States. According to Schmitt the Monroe Doctrine, historically seen, was the vehicle of American subjugation of the Latin American countries and transformation of those countries into virtual American protectorates.

        President Woodrow Wilson’s objectives at the end of the W.W. I to elevate the principles of the Monroe Doctrine to universally valid principles for the whole world was in fact America’s first bid for world domination. On April 12, 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference , President Wilson assured the delegates that the Monroe Doctrine was “the real forerunner of the League of Nations” and asked rhetorically ,”Indeed are we not assembled here to consecrate and extend the horizon of this document as a perpetual charter for all the world.”(6)

        My question now, is the monroe doctrine a “self-purpetuating prophecy?”

    • Abe
      August 31, 2015 at 15:58

      Carl Schmitt’s circular reasoning infests the fantasy of Superpower agency, America’s image of itself as a restraining force.

      Schmitt deplotys the concept of katechon (from Greek: τὸ κατέχον, “that what withholds”, or ὁ κατέχων, “the one who withholds”) as “the power that prevents the long-overdue apocalyptic end of times from already happening now”.

      Katechon: Carl Schmitt’s Imperial Theology and the Ruins of the Future
      By Julia Hell

      • Mortimer
        August 31, 2015 at 16:55

        what, or, who is ‘the power’?

        Jackie Started The Legend of JFK ‘Camelot’
        Nov. 22, 2013 10:07 p.m. ET
        In the remembrances of John F. Kennedy’s presidency this week as the 50th anniversary of his assassination passes, one word continues to resonate above all: Camelot.

        The name of King Arthur’s mythical court city has its roots in medieval romantic literature, but thanks to skillful media manipulation by Jacqueline Kennedy after her husband’s death, “Camelot” remains a potent mythmaking metaphor for the Kennedy administration.

        The name first appeared as “Camaalot” in a 12th-century French poem about Lancelot written by Chrétien de Troyes, but etymologists are unsure if that was intended to refer to a real-life British location, such as Colchester (known in Latin as Camuladonum) or Cadbury (situated near the River Cam).

        Later writers such as Sir Thomas Malory and Alfred, Lord Tennyson transformed Camelot into a dreamy utopia. By the time Mark Twain wrote “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” “Camelot” was intimately known to American readers, even if Twain’s time-traveling protagonist doesn’t recognize the name. (“Name of the asylum, likely,” he surmises.) In the 20th century, “Camelot” increasingly began to work its way into American popular culture, serving as the name for a popular 1930s board game.

        But the immediate inspiration for the Kennedys’ Camelot was Lerner and Loewe’s musical of that name, based on T.H. White’s popular novel, “The Once and Future King.” While the musical opened on Broadway in 1960, it wasn’t until after Kennedy’s death that anyone thought to connect “Camelot” to the idealistic young president.

        As James Piereson, author of “Camelot and the Cultural Revolution,” wrote recently in The Daily Beast, Jacqueline Kennedy single-handedly invented the Camelot myth in an interview she conducted with Theodore White (no relation to the novelist) for Life Magazine a week after the assassination. She told White that she and her husband enjoyed listening to the cast recording at bedtime, particularly the title song, in which Richard Burton as Arthur sings: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”

        Jacqueline quoted the line and concluded, “There will be great presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot.” Her observations found their way into newspapers around the country.

        Nothing did more to cement the nostalgic Kennedy mythos than that one word. It was, as Liz Nickles writes in the book “Brandstorm,” “one of the most significant examples of the power of storytelling to build a brand in modern history.” Despite all the less-than-flattering revelations that have emerged about the Kennedy presidency, 50 years later the Camelot metaphor still seems unassailable.

        —Mr. Zimmer, a lexicographer, is executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and

  7. F. G. Sanford
    August 31, 2015 at 12:25

    It makes a lot of sense for a country like Germany, nearly land-locked and surrounded by other competing nations, to differentiate between a “grand strategy” and a “military strategy”. What the article discusses is basically the “Schlieffen Plan”, which was actually a pretty good plan…except they didn’t follow it. had it been followed, the world would look much different today, and there never would have been a Versailles. But that’s neither here nor there. A “grand strategy” is also important for a country like Russia: Europe to the west, polar ice to the north, Asia to the east, and to the south, complete chaos fomented by Americans. USA has Canada to the north, a country largely characterized by maple syrup farmers, cod fishermen and a mining industry. To the south, there is Mexico – a completely dysfunctional country which serves as an adjunct to the second largest American industry: illicit drugs. (Yes, like it or not, cash flow in USA is dominated by illicit drugs and the defense industry.) The question should be, “Why does the geographically safest nation on earth need to spend 54% of its revenue on defense?” For a “grand strategy” answer, we need to look a little farther back. The Brenner Pass to the north, nearly impassable if adequately defended, was the only land route from the continent to Rome. South, east and west were the Mediterranean Sea. But empire exploits immigrant labor, fosters religious and cultural tension, breeds seditious alliances, conscripts disloyal mercenaries, invites foreign influence, enriches unscrupulous speculators, and creates all sorts of strange, self-serving bedfellows. Empires cannot defend themselves by differentiating between “grand strategies” and “military strategies”. They decay from within, as the current crop of Neros and Caligulas running for President so aptly demonstrate. Empires are built on “entangling alliances”, not “grand strategies”. The concept simply doesn’t apply.

  8. Brad Owen
    August 31, 2015 at 12:17

    Grand strategy with The Preamble as “guiding star”. I like that alot. Thanks for saying it out loud. Just came over here from Executive Intelligence Review. Top article was about the greatest financial crisis in modern times. It’ll make FDR’s Great Depression look like a modest recession. The plunge protection team’s shenanigans can’t hold off the avalanche for much longer (been working its’ fraud for 26 or so years now…and there’ll be hell to pay when it finally fails to deceive any longer). China, Russia, BRICS in general are in much better shape, economically and MORALLY, than we subjects of The Western Empire that royal, financial, & corporate oligarchs have built. This will be the death knell of the Western Empire, which will crumble & collapse like an aged, ill-maintained, bridge, or ancient railways-converted-to-bicycle-paths (quite poetic…and people think that’s PROGRESS); like when the USSR/Warsaw Pact vanished. We’ll be lucky to just defend the borders and make food and medicine available to the U.S. citizens. The World stage will see a breath-taking retreat from all fronts & military bases, I should think. How’s THIS going to affect grand strategy? We’ll take “Promote the General WELFARE” much more seriously, I think.

  9. Mortimer
    August 31, 2015 at 11:07

    With the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that Bush’s assertion of unilateral prerogative blew back on itself to create all sorts of problems at home and abroad. >>> Franklin Spinney

    “Ignorance is the root of all trouble.” (Hindu sage)

    Yet, as the revered ronald reagan ignominiously asked, “Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity… ? —– Or, in different words ” Ignorance is Strength” (Orwell, 1984).

    Our “sole-superpower” status has walked us into this Great Delusion and our enormous Power, at the same time, is greatly weakening us.
    Power Corrupts and for our warrior “leaders” — ignorance is bliss.

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