The American Interest

The Price of Overstretch

“Everything in strategy is very simple,” Carl von Clausewitz wrote almost two centuries ago, “but that does not mean that everything is very easy.” The author of On War said it is easy to chart the course of a war once begun, but “great strength of character, as well as great lucidity and firmness of mind, is required in order to follow through steadily,” and not to be thrown off course by numerous diversions.

Over two decades in these pages we have often lamented the absence of grand-strategic reasoning in the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. Ever since the end of the Cold War, successive administrations have displayed a chronic unwillingness or inability to use America’s enormous resources in a balanced and proportionate manner, in order to protect and enhance her realistically articulated interest. Bipartisan fixation on global primacy has resulted in the Iraqi debacle, the Afghan quagmire, and other avoidable crises—most recently in Venezuela—which are injurious to American security, reputation and well-being.

In January 2017 it appeared Donald Trump could resuscitate the national-interest-based paradigm which had commendably guided much of America’s foreign policy until the end of the Cold War. His victory was partly due to his opposition, during the campaign, to the bipartisan dogma of full-spectrum dominance. 

Almost three years...

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