The new strategy of the great American powers – Korea Times



The new strategy of the great American powers – Korea Times

The new strategy of the great American powers

By Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

CAMBRIDGE – During the four decades of the Cold War, the United States had a grand strategy focused on harnessing the power of the Soviet Union. Yet in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, America had been deprived of this pole star.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the administration of US President George W. Bush attempted to fill the void with a strategy it called a “global war on terror”. But this approach provided nebulous directions and led to long wars waged by the United States in marginal places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2017, the United States has returned to “great power competition”, this time with China.

As a grand American strategy, competition from the great powers has the advantage of focusing on major threats to America’s security, economy and values. While terrorism is an ongoing problem that the United States must deal with seriously, it poses less of a threat than the great rival powers.

Terrorism is like jujitsu, in which a weak opponent turns the power of a larger player against himself. While the September 11 attacks killed more than 2,600 Americans, the “endless wars” the United States launched in response claimed even more lives, as well as trillions of dollars.

As President Barack Obama’s administration tried to turn to Asia – the fastest growing part of the global economy – the legacy of the global war on terror has kept the United States mired in the dark. Middle East.

A strategy of great power competition can help America refocus; but he has two problems. First, it brings together very different types of states. Russia is a declining power and China a rising power.

The United States must appreciate the unique nature of the threat posed by Russia. As the world sadly discovered in 1914, on the eve of World War I, a declining power (Austria-Hungary) can sometimes be the riskiest in a conflict.

Today, Russia is in demographic and economic decline, but retains enormous resources that it can use as a spoiler in everything from nuclear weapons control and cyberconflict in the Middle East. The United States therefore needs a Russian strategy that does not throw this country into the arms of China.

A second problem is that the concept of great power rivalry provides insufficient warning to a new type of threat we are facing. National security and the global political agenda have changed since 1914 and 1945, but US strategy currently underestimates the new threats of ecological globalization.

Global climate change will cost billions of dollars and can cause war-scale damage; the COVID-19 pandemic has already killed more Americans than all of the country’s wars combined since 1945.

Yet the current US strategy results in a Pentagon budget that is more than 100 times that of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 25 times that of the National Institutes of Health.

Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers and other economists recently called for the creation of an annual $ 10 billion Health Threats Fund, which is “tiny compared to the $ 10 trillion. dollars that governments have already committed to the COVID-19 crisis. “

Meanwhile, US policymakers are debating how to deal with China. Some politicians and analysts call the current situation a “new cold war,” but pushing China into this ideological framework distorts the real strategic challenge facing America.

The United States and the Soviet Union had little bilateral trade or social contact, while America and its allies trade heavily with China and admit several hundred thousand Chinese students to their universities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is not Stalin, and the Chinese system is not Marxist-Leninist but “Leninist market” – a form of state capitalism based on a hybrid of public and private enterprises subject to an elite authoritarian party.

In addition, China is now the biggest trading partner of more countries than the United States. America can decouple security risks like Huawei from its 5G telecommunications network, but trying to restrict all trade with China would be too costly. And even if breaking economic interdependence were possible, one cannot decouple the ecological interdependence which obeys the laws of biology and physics, not of politics.

Since America cannot fight climate change or pandemics alone, it must realize that some forms of power must be wielded with others. To solve these global problems, the United States will need to work with China while competing with its navy to defend freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. If China ties things up and refuses to cooperate, it will hurt itself.

A good high power competition strategy requires careful net evaluation. Underestimation breeds complacency, while overestimation breeds fear. Either one can lead to a miscalculation.

China is the world’s second-largest economy and its GDP (at market exchange rates) could exceed that of the United States by the 2030s. But even if it does, China’s per capita income remains lower. a quarter of that of the United States, and the country faces a number of economic, demographic and political challenges.

Its economic growth rate is slowing, the size of its workforce peaked in 2011, and it has few political allies. If the United States, Japan and Europe coordinate their policies, they will still represent the largest part of the world economy and have the capacity to organize a rules-based international order capable of shaping Chinese behavior. This alliance is at the heart of a strategy to manage China’s rise to power.

As former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argues, the goal of great power competition with China is not total victory over an existential threat, but rather “managed strategic competition”. It will require America and its allies to avoid demonizing China.

Rather, they should see the relationship as a “cooperative rivalry” that requires equal attention to both sides of the description at the same time. Under these conditions, we can cope successfully, but only if we realize that this is not the competition of the great powers of the 20th century.
Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is a professor at Harvard University and author of “Do Morals Matter?” Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump ”(Oxford University Press, 2020). His article was distributed by Project Syndicate (


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