America’s Strategic Blindness

The recriminations over US spying activities have now reached fever pitch. But the current firestorm, like other recent US diplomatic crises, reflects a more fundamental problem: a lack of strategic vision in American foreign policy.

MADRID – The recriminations over US spying activities, triggered by the revelations of the former American intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden, have now reached fever pitch. Questions abound – about what President Barack Obama knew and when, about the legitimacy of eavesdropping on friendly foreign leaders’ conversations, about the future of transatlantic relations, and even about the meaning of the term “ally.”

But the current firestorm, like other recent diplomatic crises for the United States, reflects a more fundamental problem: the lack of strategic vision in American foreign policy. Until the US is able to establish an overarching, purpose-oriented framework through which it relates to the world, a reactive approach is inevitable, with high-intensity incidents such as we have seen this month continuing to be the norm.

For more than 40 years, the Cold War policy of containment of Soviet influence provided America its strategic framework. Though US tactics were debated and shifted from administration to administration, the overarching approach remained consistent, because it was broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. Of course, an overarching national-security strategy provided no guarantee against problems or even major disasters in countries like Vietnam and Nicaragua. Nonetheless, in hindsight, containment infused an order and organization on US foreign policy that is absent today.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/WkGx0zI;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now