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Answering the Pro Hegemony Good Argument

December 31, 2016
Published in Newsletter

ALL PF Arguments 

One argument I heard at Blake (I was expecting to hear more of it than I did) was that the US needed to increase its military spending in order to retain its status as a global hegemon – as a global military power.

It is somewhat easy to find cards from conservative pundits that say US military power is in decline and that more military spending is needed to sustain and boost such power. Despite the frequency of these claims, however, there are a number of good answers.

First, There is no evidence at all that the status quo, a modest increase, or some combination of a modest increase and a reduction in waste won’t protect US hegemony. We already spend more than the next our three biggest competitors countries combined and one third of all military spending! They don’t have a single card that says our allies doubt us, that we losing control of the command of the commons or any other nonsense.

Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Director of Research, Foreign Policy, and David Patraeus, Chair, KRR Global Institute, September 30, 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/research/americas-awesome-military/

The United States has the best military in the world today, by far. U.S. forces have few, if any, weaknesses, and in many areas—from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations—they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries. Nor is this situation likely to change anytime soon, as U.S. defense spending is almost three times as large as that of the United States’ closest competitor, China, and accounts for about one-third of all global military expenditures—with another third coming from U.S. allies and partners. Nevertheless, 15 years of war and five years of budget cuts and Washington dysfunction have taken their toll. The military is certainly neither broken nor unready for combat, but its size and resource levels are less than is advisable given the range of contemporary threats and the missions for which it has to prepare. No radical changes or major buildups are needed.

And when alliances are considered, the US is currently 2/3 of global military capacity

Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Director of Research, Foreign Policy, and David Patraeus, Chair, KRR Global Institute, September 30, 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/research/americas-awesome-military/

Fortunately, the United States has many resources to draw on as it prepares for these threats, even beyond its military forces. The country’s high-tech and innovative sectors are the best in the world. It has solid economic fundamentals, including a gradually growing population base, the world’s best univer­sities, and a large market at the center of global finance and commerce. And most important of all, the United States leads a globe-spanning system of alliances and partnerships that includes some 60 countries, collectively accounting for two-thirds of global economic output and military capacity.

The $600+ billion doesn’t even include Overseas Contingency Operations (OCOS).

Benjamin Friedman, July 2016, Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Role, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2833971, Benjamin H. Friedman is a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies at the Cato Institute and an adjunct lecturer at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Despite five years of official complaints about “sequestration” bud- gets, U.S. military spending remains historically high. In 2016, U.S. mili- tary spending will be $607 billion, including $59 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), the fund that ostensibly finances wars but goes in about equal measure to nonwar (or base) accounts. In real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, Americans spend more on the military than at any point in the Cold War except the brief peaks during the Korean War and the 1980s. Military spending today is 36 percent higher in real terms than in 2000, with two-thirds of the growth in nonwar spending. We spend more than double what Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea collectively spend on their militaries. U.S. military spending remains historically high because U.S. mili- tary ambitions remain too broad. The strategy of primacy described in Chapter 1 fails to guide choices among military responses to danger. It recommends a large U.S. military, with units permanently deployed in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East and with the capability to quick- ly strike anywhere with air, naval, or ground forces. It sees threats ev- erywhere and prescribes U.S. forces and promises everywhere to meet them. As such, primacy is less a strategy, which prioritizes resources to achieve specific goals, than a vague invocation to try to use U.S. mili- tary forces to manage the world. A strategy of restraint, by contrast, would make more choices, involve the United States in far fewer poten- tial fights, and allow vast savings. A strategy of restraint would serve the United States better. By narrowing the scope of what U.S. security requires, restraint would establish a true “defense” budget. Though cost savings are secondary to strategic benefits, a military budget premised on restraint would save substantially more than hunting “waste, fraud, and abuse,” a common method of finding military savings. Waste hunters implicitly endorse primacy by objecting only to what offends their sense of sound manage- ment: overruns in acquisition programs, failed projects in war zones, or research projects with foolish titles. The Pentagon’s efficient pursuit of unwise goals is a far richer target for cuts. The 2011 Budget Control Act theoretically imposed austerity on the Pentagon through caps enforced by across-the-board sequestration. Compliance with those caps would have cut base spending 14 percent by 2021-hardly draconian after a decade where it grew 40 percent. However, three subsequent budget deals raised the caps and reduced cuts to 10 percent. War funds further reduced austerity’s bite: because OCO is exempt from caps, Congress let the Pentagon inflate war costs and shift the excess to the base. Even those attenuated cuts forced some adjustments. Active-duty Army end strength dropped from 570,000 to 475,000 troops over the past five years and is due to hit 450,000 in 2017 (980,000 including the National Guard and reserves). The Navy and Air Force saw delays in the procurement of new aircraft and ships and some orders trimmed. Base construction slowed, and some administrative units shrunk. After years of requests from Pentagon leaders concerned by increases in per- sonnel costs, Congress recently agreed to modest efforts to curtail pay raises and health care and housing benefits. Still, the Pentagon dodged the hard choices that a real drawdown would have required. No cancellation of a major procurement pro- gram has occurred since 2011. More important, the Pentagon essen- tially avoided strategic adjustment. The much-ballyhooed rebalancing (or pivot) to Asia produced no rebalancing of funds to the Navy and Air Force, which are most relevant to war with China. The fight against the Islamic State kept U.S. forces in the Middle East. In the name of countering Russia, the Pentagon’s recent budget proposal for 2017 shifts thousands of U.S. troops back to Europe. The only big change that has a strategic rationale is the Army’s shrinkage.

The US is not perceived as weak

David A. Bell is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the Department of History at Princeton, National Interest, Don’t Get Mired in Failed States, http://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/dont-get-mired-failed-states-18889

Second, don’t worry about showing weakness. Advocates of the vigorous projection of American force frequently warn cautious administrations against “showing weakness,” and invoke images of enemies laughing smugly. These critics have rarely lived outside the United States, almost never read non-American media on a regular basis, and almost never stop to consider what America’s political, military and economic might looks like from the outside. If they did, they would quickly realize that non-Americans, especially in failed states, are far more likely to overestimate American strength—indeed, to consider the United States virtually omnipotent—than to mock our supposed weakness. On the occasions when an administration really does show weakness, America’s enemies are more likely to wonder what fiendish plot Washington is cooking up behind this obviously false façade, than to cackle gleefully.

I have heard this argument articulated as the “Command of the Commons” – that the US needs to retain a “Command of the Commons.”

“Command of the Commons” is a concept developed by Barry Posen, who argues the US must retain a lead command of the sea, space, and air.

Fortunately, the US will retain this lead well into the future.

Stephen Brooks & William Wolhlforth, July 2016, America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century (Kindle Locations 1243-1256). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Such a broad-based approach is imperative, in part because no single element of power can capture the full array of resources a state may bring to the pursuit of its goals in international politics. States with skewed portfolios of capabilities are less capable of acting in different arenas and more dependent on a limited policy toolkit. Moreover, each of the core elements of power interacts with the others in potent ways. Economic capacity is a necessary condition of military power, but it is insufficient; technological prowess is also vital, especially given the nature of modern weaponry. Technological capacity also magnifies economic capability, and military capability also can have spinoffs in both the economy and technology. Furthermore, military capability can have indirect but important implications for furthering a leading state’s economic interests. To highlight any one element at the expense of others is to miss these key interactions. The wellsprings of national power clearly change over time. 3 To assess today’s system, we therefore implement a Goldilocks approach to measurement: one conducted at a sufficient level of generality to answer enduring questions about the nature of the international system but much more detailed and attuned to the requisites of superpower status in the 21st century than popular broad aggregates or single metrics that can be used over long spans of time. This middle-range approach to measuring power is especially important today because, as the next chapter will discuss in depth, key differences from previous eras invalidate analogies with past power transitions. Our investigation shows that the United States indisputably remains the sole superpower, and that the gap between it and the other powers, notably China, remains very large. But although China has not become a superpower, its rise is a notable change that deserves the intense focus it has attracted. Though nowhere near a peer of the United States, China— unlike all the other major powers like Germany, Russia, and Japan— has the overall scale needed to make attaining that position a real possibility someday. This analysis enables us to assess in the next chapter the likely speed of China’s ascent in the scales of international power in the upcoming decades. Military Capacity The standard approach to measuring the distribution of military power is to compare defense expenditures. Table 2.1 is an updated version of a table from our 2008 book World Out of Balance showing the primary military spending figures of interest using the latest available data. 4 Figures 2.1 and 2.2 move beyond a static snapshot and show the data for the key measures that have changed the most since 2000 for China and the United States. They show that although China’s military spending is rising and America’s is falling in comparison to the 2000s, defense spending and defense research and development (R& D) are still heavily skewed toward the United States. (We lack data on China’s military R& D expenditures, but a recent estimate is that China’s spending may approach $ 6 billion per year, which would make it the second highest spender in the world but which is still only around 7% of the US level.)

Defense expenditures clearly tell us something about states’ relative military capabilities, but they are vulnerable to an important objection: how much a state decides to spend on its military is a choice, and it may be misleading to use these numbers to capture something that is supposed to be a constraint on choice. 6 Clearly, something that a state can easily choose to change is not a good yardstick for measuring a property of the international setting that purportedly shapes states’ decisions over time. The degree to which this is a problem depends on the relevant time frame and the speed with which other resources can be converted into military capabilities. No matter what a state decides, its ability to create new military capabilities in the short term— say a year or two— is very limited. As the time horizon stretches to decades and generations, more and more elements of military capability become matters of choice as long as the state has the requisite pool of resources from which to draw. The length of that horizon— the gap between a choice to attain some capability and the creation of that capability— is a function of the technology of production. Key here is that there is variation in how hard it is for states to make things. Nuno Monteiro makes a useful analogy to Alfred Marshal’s theory of production in which, “in the short term, price adjustments depend entirely on demand, because supply is fixed. In the medium term, price adjustments can be made by increasing supply, within the limits of firms’ productive capacity. Increases in supply beyond this limit require investments in additional productive assets and can therefore only be achieved in the long term.” Monteiro stresses that “we must distinguish between a state’s present military capabilities, its ability to convert other elements of power into additional military capabilities, and its ability to generate additional elements of power that can then be converted into military capabilities.” The latter two— the pool of militarily relevant resources to which a state has access and the state’s ability to convert those resources into usable military capabilities— are not simple matters of choice but are powerfully constrained. Analysts of international politics can treat military capability just as economists treat supply in some of their models: models: as a relatively inflexible external constraint in the short term, and even in the medium and longer term in some situations. Military spending therefore does reveal something important: long-term investment in the capacity to generate military power. Cumulated over years and decades, military spending can yield capabilities that are very hard to match even for a state with a lot of money to spend. This is especially the case today given the dramatically increased complexity and difficulty of both producing and using advanced weaponry. To capture this, it pays to examine the key military capacity that allows the United States to act as a superpower. We stressed elsewhere that the United States enjoys not just a quantitative edge in defense spending but a “unique capability to project power around the globe” due to the fact that it “leads the world in exploiting the military applications of advanced communications and information technology and it has demonstrated an unrivaled ability to coordinate and process information about the battlefield and destroy targets from afar with extraordinary precision.” 7 These are the capabilities we need to assess more thoroughly. The ideal place to start is Barry Posen’s influential study of the “command of the commons,” arguably the best overall guide to understanding the nature of military power among the top tier of states today. The command of the global commons— that is, the sea (outside littoral regions), space, and air (above fifteen thousand feet)— is “the key military enabler of the U.S. global power position,” Posen argues.ii He helpfully provides guidelines for measuring America’s command of the commons, identifying four components— command of the sea, command of space, command of the air, and the infrastructure of command— and notes the key elements of military capacity that are relevant for each of them. When Posen wrote his article in the early 2000s, US command of the commons was so self-evident that it was essentially unnecessary to measure the different components of this index. Yet the rise of China has since so altered the conversation that it is important to take a fine-grained look at how the United States matches up with other states using the set of criteria that Posen identifies. Figure 2.3 shows the full range of relevant indicators as a distribution among the major powers. Regarding America’s command of the sea, in addition to the two indictors that Posen highlights— aircraft carriers and nuclear attack submarines— two other pertinent indicators of power projection capacity are the number of cruisers and destroyers and the number of amphibious ships. Posen cites two indicators for command of the air: drones and military aircraft that allow for the use of precision-guided munitions. For space, Posen zeroes in on civilian and especially military satellites as providing vital sources of information for conducting military operations throughout the world.iii And regarding the infrastructure of command— a necessary condition of command of the commons— Posen highlights military installations in foreign countries, military transport ships, long-range airlift aircraft, and aerial tankers as basic building blocks of this infrastructure. The United States has a ramified network of military bases throughout the world and is clearly in a league of its own in this regard; Figure 2.3 shows the extent of the gap between the United States and other countries for the other indicators.





















The inset of Figure 2.3 also shows the distribution excluding the United States, suggesting how large Russia’s military power would loom in a world without the United States. Figure 2.4 then breaks out the US-China comparison. Note that the raw counts in these figures do not account for the United States’ overall qualitative advantage8 or its qualitative and quantitative advantages in nuclear weaponry. In sum, compared to any previous era except the years between 1991 and the early 2000s, the overall gap between the United States and other states in the military realm remains unprecedented in modern international relations. Defense spending figures make this look obvious, but scholars caution they may exaggerate the gap’s significance because states with growing economies might decide to spend more to close the gap. Although Chinese military expenditures are rapidly increasing, our more finely grained measures of the United States’ command of the commons show that, if anything, defense spending understates the extent of the global military gap.

Technological Capacity

Why bother with measuring technological capacity when no one questions the United States’ unique combination of large-scale and technological prowess? The answer is essentially the same as in the military realm. Things are changing just enough to prompt some analysts to question the United States’ unassailability on this key metric. Journalistic treatments frequently portray China as on course to join the high-technology high table. “It’s Official: China Is Becoming a New Innovation Powerhouse,” proclaims a prominent recent example. 9 Prognostications like this invite a deeper look at technological capacity. To do this, it is crucial to examine both inputs and outputs— and to keep these two distinct. 10 After all, a country may devote a lot of resources to technology, but for a variety of reasons the resulting output may not be commensurate. And analysts need to be careful when measuring output: in today’s global economy some or even much of the high-technology items produced in a country may actually be largely the result of other countries’ technological capabilities. To start with the numbers that drive the narrative about China’s technological rise, commentators typically point to three key statistics: “China’s high-tech output is nearing that of the United States, China is committing an increasingly large portion of its wealth to R& D, and [there is] a huge jump in the number of Chinese graduates with engineering degrees.” 11 High-technology production would seem to be a good measure of technological capacity, but it is not. The high level of geographical dispersion of production by multinational corporations (MNCs)— a trend that has accelerated over the past several decades, especially in technological industries— renders this metric misleading. 12 In many of the more globalized industries it has become increasingly difficult or even irrelevant to make comparisons on the basis of whether something is made in one country or another. This is especially true when the comparison of greatest interest involves China, because of the unique nature of its political economy. Half of all Chinese exports consist of “processing trade” (in which parts and components are imported into China for assembly into finished products and are then exported afterward), and the vast majority of these Chinese exports (84% in 2010) are directed not by Chinese firms but by foreign companies (mostly affiliates of MNCs from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] countries). In turn, foreign companies are also the source of 29% of Chinese “ordinary exports”— that is, nonprocessing trade. 1 Using China’s high-technology output as a measure of its technological capacity is thus misleading, given the extent to which foreign companies drive Chinese exports. But what about other statistics that analysts typically highlight? As Figure 2.5 shows, Chinese spending on R& D has surged since 2000, from $ 27.2 billion in 2000 to $ 208.2 billion in 2011 (US R& D spending has gone up by almost as much during this period in absolute terms but from a much higher initial base— from $ 269.5 billion in 2000 to $ 429.1 billion in 2011). Should those trends continue, China’s overall R& D spending might surpass that of the United States (and the EU) in a matter of years. 14 In turn, Figure 2.6 shows that since 2000 China has closed the sizeable gap that had long existed regarding doctorates in science and engineering between the United States and all other countries. As in the case of defense spending, the significance of these trends depends on how big the existing overall technology gap is and the speed with which increased inputs can be expected to yield sufficiently increased output to begin to place China in the same technological league as the United States. China is certain to reap some rewards from these enhanced technological inputs, but there are natural limits to how fast it, or indeed any country, can ramp up its technological inputs in a productive way.

The quality of the people (their skills, education, experience, and so on) who actually use a country’s resources and infrastructure to generate technological innovation is clearly another key input. Table 2.3 presents data on educational attainment both in science and engineering and more generally. Again, the United States stands out in relative and absolute terms in most categories except for China’s eye-catching annual number of science and engineering degrees. To obtain a reliable assessment of technological capacity, we need to know what all these inputs actually yield as output. Figure 2.7 presents output measures that, unlike high-technology production, are reliably national in origin for all the countries concerned. The number of triadic patent families (which measure a set of patents taken in the United States, Europe, and Japan to protect an invention) is widely accepted as a measure of technological competitiveness. Even more probative are royalty and license fees, which show that the US is in a league of its own while China has barely begun to register as a source of innovative technologies. The recent geographic distribution of top cited articles in science and engineering tells the same story, as does the recent distribution of Nobel Prizes in science.


While these data are informative, they do not provide a synthetic overall ranking of a country’s technological competiveness. Fortunately, ranking countries on the basis of technological competitiveness has become something of a cottage industry in recent years. A prominent article by Archibugi, Denni, and Filippetti provides a comprehensive survey of eight different synthetic indexes that have been developed to measure the technological capabilities of countries. 18 Table 2.4 reproduces the table from their article that surveys the country rankings derived from these eight synthetic indexes. The study was published in 2009, and since then some of the indexes have been updated. Table 2.5 shows the updated rankings for these indexes. The gap between the technological ranking of the United States and China is extremely large across all of these indexes. If one had to translate all of these various numbers into a single phrase, it would clearly be “robust US technological dominance.” Of all the figures noted above, this reality is arguably best captured by royalty and license fee data, which reveal that the United States is far and away the leading source of innovative technologies (its $ 128 billion in receipts of royalty and license fees are four times higher than the next highest state, Japan), whereas China is a huge importer of these technologies while exporting almost nothing (less than $ 1 billion). As in the military realm, enough is changing to feed a narrative about China closing the gap. But the key point is that the change we see is on the input side— most notably, China’s growing R& D expenditures— and not on the output side. Given that the overall technological gap between China and the United States is so massive, the process of closing it will be a lengthy one. America’s unique combination of massive scale and technological prowess will be a long-term feature of the distribution of capabilities.

Economic Capacity

No effort to assess the distribution of capabilities is complete without an analysis of how US economic output compares to that of other major powers. A state’s economic output is the raw material its government can draw upon as it seeks to create other elements of capability as well as to exercise many other forms of influence over its environment. 19 To be sure, converting economic output into military power and technological capacity is a complex and time-consuming process. But to emphasize that undeniable reality is not to gainsay the importance of raw economic heft in the measurement of state power. We start with standard measures, notably GDP. When making comparisons about the international power of countries, it is preferable to use GDP data based on market exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity (PPP) estimates. 20 Table 2.6 tells the now well-known story of the United States as the world’s biggest, richest, and most productive economy, with fast-rising China just entering the ranks of the middle-income countries. Although the rising level of US public debt has generated worried discussion in policy circles, as a proportion of GDP (70%) it remains lower than all of the other large advanced economies and is only very slightly higher than in the mid-2000s (64.7% in 2006). Figure 2.9 shows that China is narrowing the gap not only in overall economic size but also in GDP per capita, albeit from a very low starting point. The differential effects of the post-2008 Great Recession, which stalled US growth for many years afterward but hardly affected China’s, are particularly noteworthy. From 2007 to 2013, China’s economy rocketed from one-quarter to one-half that of the United States. Per capita GDP rose from 6% of the US level ($ 2,600) to 13% ($ 7,000). The USDA’s long-term time series on country shares of world GDP provides an excellent means of discerning changes in the economic weight of actors on the global stage over time. As Figure 2.10 shows, after the post-2008 Great Recession, the US share fell roughly half a percent below its lowest previous point, reaching 22.8% in 2014 (compared to 23.4% in 1982). But of the three actors whose relative economic weight the figure tracks over time, the change in the United States’ trajectory is by far the least dramatic. As expected, the dramatic upward rise is China’s, whose GDP share rose from 4.5% in 2000 to 11.3% in 2014.21 The most marked decline is that of the combined economies of the EU 28, whose global GDP share has declined steadily since 1969 and sank nearly 20% between 2006 and 2014.

Long-Term Growth Trajectories

Where might these trajectories be headed? Without a crystal ball, no one can know for sure, but a cottage industry has nevertheless emerged to assess the future of what has been the most dynamic part of the picture: China’s growth. To help understand what China’s economic future may look like, analysts often focus on comparisons to the earlier experience of rising “Asian tigers” like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Analysts agree that to match the historical growth experience of Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan in the decades ahead Beijing will face much harder challenges than those it has confronted in sustaining rapid growth up to now. China has only recently attained middle-income status. This is a remarkable achievement, but it is much easier than moving from middle-income to high-income status. 22 As a recent World Bank report summarizes: “Growing up is hard to do. In the postwar era, many countries have developed rapidly into middle-income status, but far fewer have gone on to high-income status. Rather, they have become stuck in the so-called middle-income trap. … Of 101 middle-income countries in 1960, only 13 became high income by 2008.” 23 Analysts also agree that even if China can, in fact, escape the middle-income trap as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan were able to do, its growth will still be much lower in future decades than in the past (it has averaged around 10% growth for the past three decades). 24 As David Dollar underscores, Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese “GDP growth rates averaged close to 10% in the early stages of accumulation, similar to China’s performance. Beginning at about the stage of development where China is now, there was a tendency for growth rates to decline.” 25 Although there is agreement that China will grow more slowly in the decades ahead than in the past, analysts differ greatly concerning how much more slowly. A much cited recent estimate on the lower end comes from Harvard economists Larry Summers and Lant Pritchett, who posit that China will grow at an average of 3.9% per year over the next two decades. 26 Justin Lin, a former World Bank senior economist who is now an advisor to the Chinese government, presents a prominent estimate at the higher end, arguing that China can grow between 7.5% and 8% over the next two decades. 27 Most estimates are in between, such as a widely noted recent World Bank forecast which projects that China will grow at 7% from 2016– 2020, 6% from 2021– 2025, and 5% from 2026– 2030.28 The degree of China’s slowdown is inherently hard to discern because many of the factors affecting China’s long-term growth cannot be predicted, in particular whether the Chinese government will have the necessary will and skill to undertake needed reforms. 29 Still, there is widespread agreement concerning one key constraining factor on China’s future growth that can be predicted with great precision over the next few decades: demography. 30 China will be “graying at a tremendously rapid, and indeed almost historically unprecedented, pace over the next generation,” and analysts agree that this will make it harder for it to break through the middle-income trap than it was for Japan, Korea, and Taiwan and indeed all previous societies that did so, which were demographically much younger when they made this transition. 31 China’s population is becoming old much earlier in its development cycle. 32 For example, when they were at China’s current level of development, both Korea and Taiwan did not have high old-age dependency ratios, and they both still looked forward to decades of expansion of their working-age populations (that is, people aged twenty to sixty-five). China is in an entirely different situation (see Figure 2.11). As a World Bank report summarizes: “China will grow old before it grows rich. Its low fertility rate and consequent low population growth rate will mean a rising share of old people in the economy. The old-age dependency ratio— defined as the ratio of those aged 65 and over to those between the ages of 15 and 64— will double over the next 20 years. By 2030, China’s dependency ratio will reach the level of Norway and the Netherlands today. Just as important, China’s working-age population will decline after 2015.” 33 In contrast, because it is such a significant destination for immigration and has a fertility rate right around replacement level (usually calculated at 2.1 children per couple), the US working-age population will continue to expand in the decades ahead, and it will not face the prospect of a rapidly rising old-age dependency ratio (see Figure 2.12 and Table 2.7).

The US has more bases spread around the world than any other country in history

David Vine, 2015, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, Kindle edition. Vine is an  associate professor at American University

Although the United States has long had some bases in foreign lands, this massive global deployment of military force was unknown in U.S. history before World War II. Now, seventy years after that war, there are still, according to the Pentagon, 174 U.S. bases in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. There are hundreds more dotting the planet in Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, to name just a few. Worldwide, we have bases in more than seventy countries. Although few U.S. citizens realize it, we probably have more bases in other people’s lands than any other people, nation, or empire in world history. Vine, David. Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (American Empire Project) (Kindle Locations 59-63). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

The only potential challenger is China and it has no hope of threatening US hegemony any time in the near future

Stephen Brooks & William Wolhlforth, July 2016, America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century (Kindle Locations 1243-1256). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

The analysis in this chapter reveals that the gap in overall capabilities between the United States and China remains very large. Nothing in the foregoing analysis, however, gainsays China’s rapid economic rise in recent years— which has caused it to break away from other leading powers such as Russia, Germany, and Japan in one crucial sense: it alone has at least the potential to someday become a superpower peer with America. Only a highly improbable combination of large scale and rapid growth can put a state in a position like China’s: moving in the direction of having the latent material capacity to match the superpower. There is no other candidate today. Indeed, after China the most plausible candidate would be the EU, but it is far from being a state, and its integration trajectory has stalled; moreover, its economic trajectory (like Japan’s and Russia’s) is moving in the wrong direction. That China’s gigantic potential has reached this stage is a significant development, but, as the next chapter shows, this does not mean that China is poised to become a superpower peer of the United States anytime soon. CHAPTER 2’ S CONCLUSION GENERATES new questions. How long will the United States remain the world’s sole superpower? What stages must China or any other rising state pass through on the journey from great power to superpower? How should analysts think about change versus continuity in a one-superpower world with a fast-rising state like China? This chapter addresses these questions. We first assess the speed with which China might bridge the great power/ superpower gap. Whereas one might presume that approaching the economic size of the United States would position China to seek superpower status, we conclude that the gap between economic parity and a credible bid for superpower status should be measured in many decades. If the scales are to level out such that there are two or more roughly comparable states at the top— as was the norm for centuries— we thus expect it will be a very long time coming. This puts a premium on addressing the next two tasks: delineating the stages that lie between great power and superpower in the 21st century   and providing a way to assess change in today’s international system without exaggerating it or downplaying its significance. Why It Will Long Be a One-Superpower World Determining the precise economic and technological level a state must attain in order to have sufficient material capacity to bid for superpower status is not straightforward. If a rising state’s economy and its technological level match the leading state’s, then it is easy enough to conclude that it is in position to bid for superpower status. But what if the rising state is not equal to the leading state in one or both dimensions? If the rising state is comparable to the leading state technologically but is around half of its economic size, then history would suggest that it might have the potential to bid for superpower status, as the Soviet Union did during the first half of the Cold War (though Moscow needed a totalitarian state to distill the needed resources and also challenged the United States in a very different military technological environment). But as the previous chapter established, a different question is relevant today: What if the rising state’s economy is approaching the size of the leading state’s, but it is at a fundamentally lower level technologically? There is no modern historical precedent for this situation: the recent rising states of note— namely, the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Germany in the early 20th century, and the Soviet Union in the middle of the 20th century— were not at dramatically different technological levels than the leading state.

As a result, when assessing the relative power of Germany or the United States vis-à-vis the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union vis-à-vis the United States, technology essentially faded into the background; the crucial question became the economic size of these rising states and how much they tried to distill their wealth into military power. But when the leading and rising states diverge technologically to a dramatic degree, as is the case today, a critical question is whether the latter has the technological capacity to produce and field a defense force that can effectively match up with the former’s. This question would arise in any era, but it is especially salient now given the extraordinarily complicated nature of much modern weaponry. In this respect, Tai Ming Cheung underscores that China now faces “an enormous task of remaking a defense establishment that is still more suited to fighting a Vietnam-era conflict than a 21st century engagement.” 1 To understand the scale of this challenge, it is useful to return to Posen’s analysis of the “command of the commons.” 2 His examination of the unique set of assets that the United States has developed to sustain this commanding position in the global system reveals four central attributes: (1) a large scientific and industrial base; (2) the particular mix of weapons accumulated over the past few decades of procurement; (3) the ability developed over decades to coordinate the production of needed weapons systems; and (4) the particular skills and associated technological infrastructure the United States has painstakingly developed to be able to effectively employ these weapons in a coordinated manner. In the analysis that follows, we establish the likely time scale each of these four attributes entails, revealing exactly why we expect that China cannot quickly progress from great power to superpower status. Scientific and Industrial Base Posen stresses that the “specific weapons needed to secure and exploit command of the commons … depend on a huge scientific and industrial base.” Having a much larger scientific and industrial base than any other state, he maintains, has enabled the United States to “undertake larger projects than any other military in the world.” 3 There is no reason to think that China will soon be able to develop anything like a comparable scientific and industrial base. The previous chapter established the main reason: China is at a fundamentally different technological level than the United States. Although China is rapidly enhancing its technological inputs— notably, its R& D spending and its graduation rates for science and engineering students— there are natural limits to how fast it, or any state, can do so in a productive way. For one thing, to educate many more science and engineering students to augment global competitiveness would require significantly increasing the number of institutions (each staffed with the needed, highly trained people) capable of providing appropriate and useful training far beyond the level that China has now. Very few Chinese institutions are regarded as globally   competitive, as Table 3.1 shows. As Gary Gereffi and his colleagues report, “The recent surge in engineering graduation rates can be traced to a series of top-down government policy changes that began in 1999 … to promote China’s transition from ‘elite education’ to ‘mass education’ by increasing university enrollment.” 4 Enrollment in science and engineering surged after the early 2000s, but the number of technical institutions and teachers and staff was actually lowered, which meant that “graduation rate increases have been achieved by dramatically increasing class sizes.” 5 The World Bank concludes that the net result of this “massive expansion of enrollment, which has strained instructional capacity” in combination with other factors— such as “the short duration of Ph.D. training (3 years)”— is that “the quality of the training is weak, and many graduates are having difficulty finding employment.” 6 A recent McKinsey report adds that only 10% of Chinese engineers “would be suitable to … successfully work at a multinational company.” 7 Interviews by Gereffi and his coauthors similarly found that “multinational and local technology companies revealed that they felt comfortable hiring graduates from only 10 to 15 universities across the country. … All of the people we talked to agreed that the quality of engineering education dropped off drastically beyond those on the list.” In turn, rapidly augmenting spending on R& D is unlikely to produce dramatically improved technological capacity if it is not embedded within an appropriate structure for fostering innovation— something that China is very far away from having. As a recent World Bank report emphasizes, “Increasing R& D spending … is likely to have only a small impact on productivity growth, unless the quality of this research and its commercial   relevance and uptake are substantially increased.” A key limitation, the report stresses, is that government and state enterprises conduct the bulk of research and development— and part of this effort still seems divorced from the real needs of the economy. True, China has seen a sharp rise in scientific patents and published papers, but few have commercial relevance and even fewer have translated into new products or exports. … A better innovation policy in China will begin with a redefinition of government’s role in the national innovation system, shifting away from targeted attempts at developing specific new technologies and moving toward institutional development and an enabling environment that supports economy-wide innovation efforts. 9 In this regard, China is notably handicapped by insufficient institutions for the allocation of capital and the protection of intellectual property. 10 Ultimately, it is a formidable task to create a leading-edge scientific and industrial base. China is trying hard to do so and is certainly making significant progress. But given its current technological level and major impediments such as comparatively weak educational institutions and poorly developed institutional structure for fostering innovation, there is every reason to think that it will be a very long time before it will be able to create a scientific and industrial base that is anything like the one that has given the United States a platform for sustaining the command of the commons.

Mix of Weapons Accumulated through Decades of Procurement The second attribute Posen highlights that sustains America’s command of the commons (namely, particular mix of weapons the United States has accumulated over the past few decades) has taken a very, very long time to develop and procure. The main reason is that the ever-growing complexity of many top-end systems has greatly increased their development time. Whereas an advanced system like a combat aircraft had tens of thousands of components in the 1950s, nowadays “a modern weapon system like a jet aircraft … consists of hundreds of thousands of different systems, subsystems, components and spare parts, whose individual performance and compatibility with the system depend on extremely small variations.” 11 Not surprisingly, as the number of parts and lines of code associated with the production of aerospace vehicles grew, the development time of these weapons concomitantly increased from roughly five years in the 1960s to around ten years in the 1990s. Today, “combat aircraft projects take between 15 and 20 years from research to production,” while “the current development cycle for military and intelligence satellites from the initiation of basic research to field deployment is approximately twenty years.” 12 The net result is that in many areas where the weapons systems of other states lag behind those of the United States, the time needed to close that gap is inevitably very long. Even if another state has the necessary scientific and industrial base and the skills and it seeks to produce these weapons and all goes well,  there will necessarily be a lengthy lag before it actually possesses them. For example, it is projected to take around fifteen years for the United Kingdom to develop a nuclear submarine to succeed its current Trident system. And yet the United Kingdom has significant advantages over China: most notably, it has had more experience producing advanced systems, including submarines, and it receives extensive, direct assistance from the United States in weapons production. In the end, notwithstanding that much of US military spending does not go toward the accumulation of a larger stock of weapons, the fact that the United States has invested so much more than China in defense spending for so long matters a great deal, in large part because many of the kinds of systems in which China lags take so long to produce. In this regard, consider that during the 2000– 2014 period, the United States cumulatively spent nearly $ 9 trillion on defense, while China spent $ 1.5 trillion (in constant 2011 US dollars). 13 And although we lack systematic data that can be used to precisely track China’s military R& D spending over time compared to that of the United States, there is general agreement that the long-term cumulative gap between the United States and China on this dimension is even more dramatic than it is regarding overall defense spending (recent estimates indicate that China has now become the number 2 global spender on military R& D but that it still is at less than 10% of US spending level, which totaled $ 79 billion in 2014). 14 Especially given the overall complexity of current military technology, decades of massive US investments in key military capabilities now present formidable barriers to entry. Nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) are a particularly telling example of how hard it will be for China to catch up in the design and production of weapons systems that are intrinsically complex, take a long time to develop, and in which the United States has made sustained investments over many decades. China is now capable of making SSNs that are roughly comparable in quietness to the kinds that the United States made in the 1950s, but since then the United States has invested hundreds of billions of dollars and six decades of effort to advance its SSN program, and its current generation of Virginia-class submarines has achieved absolute levels of silencing. 15 In those areas such as SSNs where China is far behind the United States in military technology and where the systems in question take a very long time to develop, it will thus require a great many years of cumulative effort by China before it would even be in a position to potentially close the gap that exists due to the United States’ own cumulative effort over many decades. “Systems Integration” in the Design and Production of Weapons Systems The third attribute Posen highlights is “significant skills in systems integration and the management of large-scale industrial projects.” 16 Without these crucial skills, it is impossible to supervise the production of the kinds of weapons systems that give the United States command of the commons. Many top-end . weapon systems today require an extraordinarily high level of precision in the design and production process— something that has been elusive in many areas for China. As Richard Bitzinger and colleagues conclude, “Aside from a few pockets of excellence, such as ballistic missiles, the Chinese military-industrial complex has appeared to demonstrate few capacities for designing and producing relatively advanced conventional weapons systems. Especially when it comes to combat aircraft, surface combatants, and ground equipment, the Chinese generally have confronted considerable difficulties in moving prototypes into production, which has resulted in long development phases, heavy program delays, and low production runs.” 17 Aircraft engines are a case in point. Farley recounts that “the problem with Chinese engines is that they’ve been remarkably unreliable. Engines require extremely tight tolerances in construction; even small errors can lead to the engine burning out.” 18 Because of China’s “inability to domestically mass-produce modern high-performance jet engines,” it continues to be dependent on Russian-made engines in its tactical aircraft; and yet Russian jet engine producers are “a distant second in quality” to the “top jet engine producers,” which “are all located in the U.S. and Western Europe.” 19 As Sloman and Dickey emphasize, the Russian engines that China relies upon “are no longer cutting edge. The designs of these fighter engines date back more than 30 years and they were intended to be used in aircraft that are much lighter than the new models being tested today.” 20 Many discussions of China’s ability to translate its rapidly growing economic capacity into military capacity do not recognize how extraordinarily difficult it is to gain the kind of system integration skill needed to manage the design and production of the panoply of advanced weapons systems that is now needed to project significant military power globally.i The actors involved in US defense production decisions have painstakingly accumulated this kind of systems integration skill over decades. 21 In general, China has most consistently made rapid progress in those kinds of weapons systems— such as missiles— in which the “learning curve” is relatively short. In a number of other areas that are more complicated and required much greater skill in production and design— such as aircraft engines— even an extremely high level of Chinese effort and resources has so far not allowed it to be able to learn how to mass-produce effective systems that are comparable even to the kinds that the United States and Soviet Union began fielding in the final phase of the Cold War. 22 And in many other areas, perhaps most notably SSNs and antisubmarine warfare, it would appear that China recognizes that it is so far from being able to manage the production of top-end systems that it has essentially decided not to try. In short, a “selection bias” exists when we observe the speed at which China has moved forward in military technology in the past two decades: it has concentrated much of its efforts on those areas where such rapid progress was feasible. 23 Note that just being “very good” in the production and/ or design of many top-end systems will likely not be sufficient— at least, not in a conflict with a technologically superior competitor. These differences can be pivotal. In the Gulf War, for example, technological superiority gave the American M1 tank a decisive battlefield advantage over the most advanced Iraqi tanks. Due to its advanced computer-guided firing mechanism, the M1 was able to destroy Iraqi tanks from as far as four kilometers away and to regularly score first-round hits of Iraqi tanks from three kilometers away; this is something the Iraqi’s T-72 simply did not have the capacity to do. Beyond this, the M1’ s advanced sights helped give it a marked advantage in detection over the Iraqi T-72 tanks: the M1 had the ability to detect T-72s “four times as far as the Iraqis.” 24 As a result of these two technological advantages, US M1 tanks were in a position to “detect and destroy Iraqi vehicles from outside the Iraqis’ maximum range.”


But even if Chinese defense firms had full access to needed inputs from Western firms and sought them out, it is highly doubtful that many of them would be able to fully exploit such linkages anytime soon; it is extremely difficult, and thus requires a very long time, for firms to gain the requisite experience and managerial capacity to manage the complex global supply chains associated with today’s leading-edge weapons, given that they typically involve a mind-bogglingly large number of subcontractors and technological partners. 36 Skills and Infrastructure for Effectively Using Advanced Weaponry Finally, Posen highlights the very particular set of personnel skills and technological infrastructure needed to use the weapons systems that give America command of the commons in an effective, coordinated manner. As he stresses, the “development of new weapons and tactics depends on decades of expensively accumulated technological and tactical experience embodied in the institutional memory of public and private military research and development organizations.” 37 More specifically, Posen notes that Washington’s ability to use   these kinds of systems depends vitally on the “military exploitation of information technology,” and “the military personnel needed to run these systems are among the most highly skilled and highly trained in the world.” 38 Regarding information technology: The effectiveness of many current weapons systems is vitally dependent upon having state of the art battlefield management— that is, having real-time, detailed information about your forces and those of the enemy, being able to quickly and effectively process this information, having seamless command and control, and so on. And effective battlefield management is, in turn, now dependent upon having information that is collected, processed, and distributed through what is sometimes called an “information architecture” that consists of computers coupled with advanced intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and communications technologies. 39 Chinese military analyst Ren Xiao confirms that “because of the comparatively weak foundation and low starting point for modernization and the incomplete condition of mechanization, the process of informatization in the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] remains at an initial stage, and the modernization level still lags substantially behind that of the world’s military powers.” 40 Learning how to effectively use many modern weapons is so difficult in part because they are often so complex as individual systems, but more importantly because they typically need to be used as part of a cohesive package. For example, for unmanned combat aerial vehicles “to deliver a marked and enduring combat advantage … requires modern battle-networks, C4 architectures, organizational codes, appropriate bureaucratic structures, military doctrines, skilled personnel, and the support of other manned combat aircrafts, among others.” 41 Using weapons systems in a coordinated way places a very high premium on delegation. Whether China can develop the ability to use the full range of advanced systems in a coordinated manner in a way that allows it to match up with US forces is unclear, but any effort to do so would be a very long-term process that will be hampered by the highly centralized, hierarchical structures of China’s military— which do not emphasize either delegation or flexibility and thus impair lower-level decision-making. 42 China’s lack of actual warfighting experience in combination with deficiencies in the nature of the training of Chinese military personnel, moreover, also greatly impedes its progress toward developing an ability to coordinate military operations. 43 A New World for Rising Powers The upshot is that past historical precedent does not provide a useful guide for understanding the speed of China’s upward trajectory. As compared to the recent rising states of note, China is very different because it is so far below the technological level of the leading state. And as important as that gap is, it is only part of the story. The discussion so far reveals two key ways in which the world has changed so as to make it much harder to rise now than in the past.

The first is that developing and using top-end military equipment is much more difficult and complex, and such an effort is therefore much harder and takes far longer. This does not mean that China is incapable of producing any technologically competitive weapons systems. On the contrary, Beijing has been “able to catch up and begin to match the technological standards of other world leaders … in a limited, though gradually expanding, number of niche areas, such as precision-strike missiles, space and counter-space systems, and cybersecurity.” 44 And due to its rising military capabilities, China has greatly increased the costs and risks of operating US aircraft and surface ships (but not submarines) 45 in its near seas, foreclosing some military options the United States retained in the past. 46 This is a significant change— one that points to the need for some US military adjustments, as we will discuss in chapter 5 of this book. But in many other areas— including many of the kinds of systems that are needed to develop global power projection capacity— such rapid progress is not feasible; building up in these areas requires capacities that must be painstakingly nurtured and developed and even then their acquisition cannot be taken for granted. And if China does someday reach a position that allows it to attempt such a buildup and seeks to do so, the very long lead times for many systems would mean that the results would not come to fruition for a very long time even if all goes well. And then once these systems are developed, it would still be necessary to learn how to effectively use them in a coordinated manner, again a time-consuming process. . Compare today’s situation with the weapons development process in the early and mid-20th century. At the beginning of the century, Great Britain introduced a revolutionary new battleship— the Dreadnought— which overnight “made all existing battleships obsolete … Yet, in less than three years Germany could imitate the British Dreadnought, eliminating any advantage Great Britain enjoyed from its new innovation.” 47 Even more impressive in scope was the German rearmament of the 1930s, when it was able in a few short years to shift from being a largely disarmed power to a state that was militarily capable of single-handedly conquering Europe and nearly subduing the Soviet Union. Germany was able to quickly generate a full portfolio of weapons systems that matched or surpassed those of the leading powers of the day. Today, in contrast, China can do this only in a few areas, and even if China someday does have a sufficient technological base to produce the full range of systems needed for power projection, it would require a great many years of cumulative effort in which all goes well before it would be in a position to start closing the gap. Chinese defense planners themselves clearly recognize this: “While China’s leaders urge the PLA and defense economy to catch up with the world’s advanced military powers as quickly as possible, military planners are more cautious and do not envisage developing the mix of capabilities required to be an advanced military information power until at least the middle of the 21st century at the earliest.”

The second key way the world has changed so as to make rising more difficult is that the size of the US military advantage is much bigger than the gap between the number 1 power and the number 2 power in previous eras. The United States is the only state that has for decades made the necessary investment to produce and successfully use the full range of systems and associated infrastructure needed for significant global power projection. Especially in today’s technological environment, the choices the United States has made over long spans of time regarding the development of its military capacity have created a reality that will not be easy to overcome. Significantly, closing the military gap would be extremely difficult for China even if it were not chasing a moving target; but this is unlikely: “The technological goalposts of weapons development are constantly moving; as certain nations, particularly the United States, advance the state of the art in defense technology, they create new metrics for defining what is meant by ‘advanced’ military systems.” 49 The fact that China likely faces moving goalposts represents a very significant constraint on its quest for military competitiveness. Regarding naval capabilities, for example, Bitzinger and colleagues conclude that “based on the current trajectory, it seems unlikely that China can catch up with the established naval [science and technology— S& T] leaders unless the latter’s defense S& T capabilities erode over time under financial constraints.” 50 The upshot is that it remains a one-superpower world, and nothing will change on this front for a very long time. As Yan Xuetong underscores, while China’s “economy has found global impacts … the components of Chinese national strength are imbalanced. … It is far more difficult for Chinese comprehensive   national strength to catch up with that of the U.S. than for its economy to do so. … Its military capabilities, the weakest link in terms of national power, have hardly gone beyond perimeter defense.” 51 The Stages between Great Power and Superpower For a long time China is set to be in some position in between great and superpower, and the analysis here reveals distinct stages along that path. The first is when a rising great power has enough economic resources to try to displace the United States as the sole superpower. With roughly 60% of US GDP, China appears to have met or to be in range of meeting this benchmark, although our analysis of the biases inherent in that measure as well as the huge gap in inclusive wealth between China and the United States are cautionary notes. And in any case, reaching this stage is not as significant as it was for past rising states. Without sufficient technological capacity, a large pool of economic resources alone will not enable China to bring the one-superpower world to an end. Thus, the second stage is when the rising great power has enough economic resources and technological capacity to be in a position to attempt to match or negate US global power. China has very far to go to reach this stage, and an ongoing task will be to carefully monitor its technological progress. Such an effort will involve both quantitative measures of the kind surveyed in the previous section as well as qualitative assessments. An especially important indicator will be whether China can build effective, replicable prototypes of the core military systems that it would need to be able to project power globally. The third stage is when the rising great power does not merely have the latent economic and technological capacity to develop the full range of systems needed for global power projection, but has procured these systems and has also learned how to use them effectively in a coordinated manner. This capability would require not just the needed weapons systems but also the “information architecture” that is now a requisite for effective battlefield management. The long lead times associated with developing many modern weapons systems and learning to use them effectively, in combination with the fact that the United States has made massive investments in the key military capabilities over many decades, make this hurdle more formidable than simple indicators imply. LEVEL 4 – SUPERPOWER LEVEL 3 – POTENTIAL SUPERPOWER LEVEL 2 – EMERGING POTENTIAL SUPERPOWER LEVEL 1 – GREAT POWER FIGURE 3.1 Traversing the Great Power to Superpower Gap Essentially, the gap between China and the United States can be disaggregated conceptually into different levels, as in Figure 3.1. The analysis thus far indicates that China has now risen to the “emerging potential superpower” level— at which it either has or is on track to have enough economic capacity to be able to bid for   superpower status but does not yet have the technological capacity to do so. If China can ascend technologically to the point that it has both the requisite economic and technological capacity to be capable of mounting a broad challenge to the United States in the military realm, it would then reach the third “potential superpower” level. At this level, China would have sufficient latent material capacity to match the superpower. For the reasons discussed above, any effort by China to rise yet further and reach a comparable level to the United States— the superpower level— will be fraught with difficulty and will require a lengthy amount of time even if all goes well. How to Think about the United States’ Changing Global Position In light of this analysis, the global debate on the United States’ position seems overwrought. China’s rise is real and change is afoot, but the predominant rhetoric about the coming end of the one-superpower world is clearly exaggerated. What accounts for the hyperbole? Part of the problem is that analysts do not systematically assess the distribution of capabilities using measures appropriate for the 21st century, as we did in chapter 2. Also important is the influence of historical analogies to rising powers of the past, which we’ve shown to be deeply misleading. But another part of the problem is the lack of the right conceptual toolkit and associated terminology for discussing change versus continuity in the current international system. The key is to   understand China’s ascent without either downplaying it or exaggerating its significance. In the subsections that follow we first show that the most popular concept for organizing discussion of the international system— polarity— is incapable of doing this and then delineate a framework that can.

In addition to uniqueness challenges, Con teams can also make impact defense arguments —

They can argue that liberal hegemony fails to secure peace.

John Mearshimer is R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. AND Stephen Walt is Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, August 2016, Foreign Affairs, The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior US strategy, p. 70

Defenders of liberal hegemony marshal a number of unpersuasive arguments to make their case. One familiar claim is that only vigorous U.S. leadership can keep order around the globe. But global leadership is not an end in itself; it is desirable only insofar as it benefits the United States directly. One might further argue that U.S. leadership is necessary to overcome the collective-action problem of local actors failing to balance against a potential hegemon. Offshore balancing recognizes this danger, however, and calls for Washington to step in if needed. Nor does it prohibit Washington from giving friendly states in the key regions advice or material aid. Other defenders of liberal hegemony argue that U.S. leadership is necessary to deal with new, transnational threats that arise from failed states, terrorism, criminal networks, refugee flows, and the like. Not only do the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans offer inadequate protection against these dangers, they claim, but modern military technology also makes it easier for the United States to project power around the world and address them. Today’s “global village,” in short, is more dan­gerous yet easier to manage. This view exaggerates these threats and overstates Washington’s ability to eliminate them. Crime, terrorism, and similar problems can be a nuisance, but they are hardly existential threats and rarely lend themselves to military solutions. Indeed, constant interference in the affairs of other states-and especially repeated military interventions-generates local resentment and fosters corruption, thereby making these transnational dangers worse. The long-term solution to the problems can only be competent local governance, not heavy-handed U.S. efforts to police the world. Nor is policing the world as cheap as defenders of liberal hegemony contend, either in dollars spent or in lives lost. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost between $4 trillion and $6 trillion and killed nearly 7,000 U.S. soldiers and wounded more than 50,000. Veterans of these conflicts exhibit high rates of depression and suicide, yet the United States has little to show for their sacrifices.

The US doesn’t need to be the world’s policeman or sustain the global economy

John Mearshimer is R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. AND Stephen Walt is Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, August 2016, Foreign Affairs, The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior US strategy, p. 70

Another argument holds that the U.S. military must garrison the world to keep the peace and preserve an open world economy. Retrenchment, the logic goes, would renew great-power competition, invite ruinous economic rivalries, and eventually spark a major war from which the United States could not remain aloof. Better to keep playing global policeman than risk a repeat of the 1930s. Such fears are unconvincing. For starters, this argument assumes that deeper U.S. engagement in Europe would have prevented World War II, a claim hard to square with Adolf Hitler’s unshakable desire for war. Regional conflicts will sometimes occur no matter what Washington does, but it need not get involved unless vital U.S. interests are at stake. Indeed, the United States has sometimes stayed out of regional conflicts-such as the Russo-Japanese War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the current war in Ukraine-belying the claim that it inevitably gets dragged in. And if the country is forced to fight another great power, better to arrive late and let other countries bear the brunt of the costs. As the last major power to enter both world wars, the United States emerged stronger from each for having waited. Furthermore, recent history casts doubt on the claim that U.S. leadership preserves peace. Over the past 25 years, Washington has caused or supported several wars in the Middle East and fueled minor conflicts elsewhere. If liberal hegemony is supposed to enhance global stability, it has done a poor job. Nor has the strategy produced much in the way of economic benefits. Given its protected position in the Western Hemisphere, the United States is free to trade and invest wherever profitable opportu­nities exist. Because all countries have a shared interest in such activity, Washington does not need to play global policeman in order to remain economically engaged with others. In fact, the U.S. economy would be in better shape today if the government were not spending so much money trying to run the world.

And they can argue that threats, particularly those from Russia and China, are over claimed —

George Friedman, December 19, 2016, Maintaining Perspectives About Adversaries, https://geopoliticalfutures.com/maintaining-perspective-about-adversaries/ George Friedman is a geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs. He is the founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures, a new online publication that analyzes and forecasts the course of global events

We were obsessed with a war we never fought and which was likely not to happen, and were defeated in the wars we did fight, some of which ought not to have been started. We currently face two major adversaries, China and Russia, and in each case we are displaying a tendency to miscalculate their strengths and failing to understand their weaknesses. As a result, we are having difficulty crafting a response. China is a significant power with problems and limits. Its core problem is a significantly weakened economy due to a decline in exports and a troubled financial system. This would be manageable in most countries, but enormous inequality and poverty has made normal adjustments to its new situation difficult. The fear of social unrest has generated a dictatorship that is carrying out an aggressive purge to ensure the party remains stable. People discuss the money China has invested in U.S. government bonds and see it as a strength. In fact, it is a weakness. It represents China’s inability to utilize this money because of an undeveloped economy, and repatriating the money would have massive effects on the yuan and inflation, further undermining China’s economy. No other banking system is large enough to absorb the money and stable enough to guarantee it. There is a significant overestimation of China’s power and a failure to see its weakness.

Militarily, China is far from ready to wage war. The People’s Liberation Army is designed for internal security. China’s geography makes aggressive warfare almost impossible. The Chinese navy does not have an operational carrier battle group. It has ships. But it has never waged intense warfare at sea, and its admirals and staff are untested in battle. Most importantly, the traditions for developing doctrines and coordinating air-sea operations don’t exist. There is discussion of China invading Taiwan. China has two brigades of fully operational marines, with two others in reserve. Taiwan has 10 well-trained and armed divisions and over 200 aircraft. China lacks sufficient amphibious vessels and the ability to resupply a force capable of engaging Taiwan. In an invasion, the balance of power is in Taiwan’s favor even without the United States.

China’s behavior in the South China Sea is similarly limited. Its problem there is that the sea is enclosed by a string of islands that would facilitate a U.S. blockade of China’s access to the global oceans. China wants to create an opening the U.S. can’t block. But its behavior has been entirely a bluff. It has constantly signaled hostile intent, but never actually engaged in significant hostile actions, which I call shooting. It stole a U.S. sea drone last week. Notable, but not significant. The point is that China has done everything it can to appear strong without taking any significant action. China is substantially weaker than it looks; China knows this and is doing what it can to appear stronger and more menacing than it is to set the stage for a political solution to its problems.

Russia is in a similar position. Its economy is in serious trouble. It could not cope with events in Ukraine, a critical strategic issue. Instead of dealing with the issues Russia faces, it embarked on a small intervention in Syria, a country of no strategic importance to Russia. The primary motive has little to do with direct Russian interests, but rather entails a low-risk operation designed to make Russia appear to the U.S. and Russia’s own population as a global power. It is particularly telling that in the wake of events in Ukraine, Russia announced a massive increase in defense spending. To put it differently, Russia realized it didn’t have the ability to take significant military action in Ukraine and is now rectifying that problem. But as we also know, the time between authorization of expenditures and actually fielding equipment and training forces to use them can be many years.

As in the 1980s, the Russians have attempted psychological operations to throw the U.S. off balance. The apparent hacking of emails during the U.S. presidential election is cleverly designed to make it appear the election was stolen from one candidate, and to discredit the new president. The apparent hacking also made it appear the Russians are a dark and dangerous force. It was a well-conceived, low-risk, low-cost operation designed to shift atmospherics.

But when we look at Russia more clearly, we see a country with a failing economy, a weak military and which desperately spends money to rapidly rectify its weakness, even though rapid rectification is impossible. When we look at China, we see a similar profile. China is facing significant internal problems and hasn’t demonstrated an ability to successfully maneuver a carrier battle group, let alone fight the U.S.’ 10 fully operational and fully trained carrier battle groups. Nor can China invade Taiwan.

During the Cold War, when the article of faith was that NATO was weak and the Soviets were powerful, the question always should have been that if this were true, why didn’t they attack? The reason was that the article of faith was a myth. The Soviets were a powerful force, but a direct challenge to the U.S. was not an option.

The United States needs to look at the actions and not the statements or threats of the Chinese, and look objectively at China’s economic problems and the limits of its military capabilities. Assuming the adversary is stronger than it looks is good practice. But vastly overestimating its capabilities makes it difficult to act confidently in diplomatic, economic and military situations. Recently, when U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke to the president of Taiwan, much of the media expressed fear that this would cause the Chinese to do something rash.

China and Russia do not act rashly. They are prudent players who have learned that the U.S. can be made to fold on a bluff. Knowing when China and Russia are bluffing and when they are not is essential, and to do that a clear understanding of their strengths, and especially their weaknesses, is essential.

The U.S. is going through one of its periodic phases of self-contempt. But almost a quarter of the world’s economic output currently is in the United States, and the U.S. has the only genuinely global military capability. In evaluating the situation, U.S. planners must always bear in mind the true correlation of power, and not be diverted by stolen emails or the state of naval drones. They are interesting points on which to engage, but they do not represent true balance of power.

There are also offensive arguments Con teams can make in the form of impact turns —
One, US military budget is already substantially higher than what is needed, cuts could occur in all areas and we’d have a MORE EFFECTIVE strategy and REDUCE NEEDLESS INTERVENTION

Benjamin H. Friedman is a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies at the Cato Institute.,September 7, 2016, Restrained Strategy, Lower Military Budgets, http://warontherocks.com/2016/09/restrained-strategy-lower-military-budgets/

Despite five years of official complaints about “sequestration” budgets, U.S. military spending remains historically high. In 2016, U.S. military spending will be $607 billion, including $59 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, the fund that ostensibly finances wars but also funds non-war (or base) accounts. Barring a new budget deal, the fiscal year 2017 budget, now stuck in Congress, will be virtually the same size. In real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, Americans spend more on the military today than at any point in the Cold War, except the brief peaks during the Korean War and the 1980s. Current military spending is 36 percent higher in real terms than in 2000, with two-thirds of the growth in base spending. The United States spends more than double what Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea collectively spend on their militaries. U.S. military spending is so high because U.S. security ambitions remain too broad. The strategy of primacy fails to guide choices among military responses to danger. It requires a large U.S. military, with units permanently deployed in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East, and with the capability to quickly strike anywhere with air, naval, and ground forces. It sees threats everywhere and prescribes U.S. forces everywhere to meet them. As such, primacy is less a strategy, which prioritizes resources to achieve specific goals, than a vague invocation to try to use U.S. military forces to manage the world. A strategy of restraint, by contrast, would make more choices, involve the United States in far fewer potential fights, and lead to vast savings. A strategy of restraint would serve the United States better. By narrowing the scope of what U.S. security requires, restraint would establish a true “defense” budget. Though cost savings are secondary to strategic benefits, a military budget premised on restraint would save substantially more than hunting “waste, fraud, and abuse,” a common method of finding military savings. Waste hunters implicitly endorse primacy by objecting only to what offends their sense of sound management: overruns in acquisition programs, failed projects in war zones, or research projects with foolish titles. The Pentagon’s efficient pursuit of unwise goals is a far richer target for cuts. The 2011 Budget Control Act theoretically imposed austerity on the Pentagon through caps enforced by across-the-board sequestration. Compliance with those caps would have cut base spending 14 percent by 2021 — hardly draconian after a decade where it grew 40 percent. However, three subsequent budget deals raised the caps and reduced cuts to 10 percent. War funds further reduced austerity’s bite. Because the Overseas Contingency Operations fund is exempt from caps, Congress allowed the Pentagon to inflate war costs and shift the excess to the base. Even those attenuated cuts forced some adjustments. Active-duty Army end strength dropped from 570,000 to 475,000 troops over the past five years and is due to hit 450,000 in 2018 (but a total of 980,000 when the National Guard and Army reserves are included). The Navy and Air Force saw delays in the procurement of new aircraft and ships and some orders trimmed. Military construction slowed and some administrative units shrunk. After years of requests from Pentagon leaders concerned by increases in personnel costs, Congress recently agreed to modest efforts to curtail pay raises and benefits for health care and housing.


A strategy of restraint would take advantage of America’s geographic advantages and give the Navy a larger share of the Pentagon’s budget. Ships and submarines have access to most of the earth’s surface without needing basing rights. With gains in range and massive increases in missile and bomb accuracy, aircraft can deliver firepower to most targets, even against states with considerable ability to defend their coastlines. The Navy would operate as a surge force that deploys to attack shorelines or open sea lanes, rather than constantly patrolling peaceful areas in the name of presence. Divested of presence-driven requirements, the navy could reduce the number of carriers and associated air groups it operates to eight or nine, retire several amphibious assault ships, cancel the littoral combat ship while developing a cheaper frigate alternative, replace the floundering F-35 with F-18s, and accelerate the shrinkage of the attack submarine force. Restraint recommends cuts to ground forces for two reasons. First, the dearth of conventional wars where the United States might play a leading role. In the event of a conventional war on the Korean Peninsula, in the Persian Gulf region, or even in Eastern Europe, wealthy U.S. allies should man their frontlines. No modern Wehrmacht is poised to overcome them, and there is time to adjust if circumstances change. Second, counterterrorism is not best served by manpower-intensive occupational wars, which struggle to produce stability, let alone democracy. Air forces and raids cannot reorder fractious states, but they can deny haven to terrorists and aid local allies, as we see today in the war against the Islamic State. U.S. policymakers should cut the end strength of the active-duty Army and Marine Corps. Because restraint requires less frequent deployments and reduces the emphasis on deployment speed, it would cut a smaller portion of reserve and National Guard forces. Reduced demand for military-to-military training and fewer U.S. wars would allow substantial cuts to the size and budget of Special Operations Command. Restraint also implies cutting the Air Force’s air wings across active and reserve forces. Few enemies today challenge U.S. air superiority. This is why so many missions fall to drones and non-stealth aircraft with limited ability to fend off rival aircraft or surface-to-air missiles. Recent advances in aircraft’s ability to communicate, surveille targets, and strike them precisely with laser guidance and GPS have made each aircraft and sortie vastly more capable of destroying targets. Naval aviation, which also benefits from these gains, can bear most of the remaining airpower load. Precision also allows massive savings in the nuclear weapons budget. A credible nuclear deterrent does not require nearly 1,538 deployed nuclear weapons nor a triad of redundant delivery vehicles — bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). No enemy can reliably track U.S. ballistic missile submarines, let alone do so with the sort of reliability required to attempt a preemptive strike against all of them. Even if extended deterrence requires the ability to preempt enemy nuclear forces, which is doubtful, a monad-only nuclear force can achieve it. They would have the help of conventional missiles, which are now accurate enough to destroy hardened silos. Doing without the ICBM and bomber legs would save much of the $18 billion that the Pentagon plans to spend annually starting in 2021 on improving nuclear delivery systems, including a new bomber-launched cruise missile or upgrading B-2 bombers, Minuteman ICBMs, and their warheads. Three other areas for savings are sensible though not intrinsic to restraint’s logic. First, the Pentagon’s administrative costs remain excessive despite repeated pushes to trim them. Greater results will come from consolidating combatant commands, reducing three- and four-star commands, and reducing associated contract and civilian personnel. Second, compensation costs — including basic pay, medical costs, housing allowances, and other benefits — should be controlled. Manpower costs have jumped since 2000, with compensation far exceeding comparable private-sector earnings. Service leaders and a bipartisan coterie of defense experts annually beg Congress to adopt cost-controlling reforms. Congress has agreed to slow pay increases and to allow modest hikes in contributions to Tricare fees and housing, but it should accept the Department of Defense’s more aggressive cost-saving proposals in those areas. Also, Congress should consider reforms to future service members’ retirement benefits, such as those recommended by the 2015 Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. Third, Congress should authorize another BRAC round. The Pentagon estimates that base capacity exceeds needs by 20 percent. It estimates that the five rounds between 1988 and 2005 produced $12 billion in recurring annual savings. BRAC is designed to overcome the congressional parochialism that imposes such inefficiency. Proponents of a strategy of primacy often argue that a restrained military budget will expose us to danger. But the real danger is the idea that our security requires constant global patrolling, alliances, interventions, and annual costs of nearly $600 billion. A strategy of restraint would reduce our profligate military budget, save us a fortune, and keep us out of needless conflicts.

Two, trying to impose a liberal world order will cause conflict and wreck it. Need Alternative security arrangements are better

Michael Mazaar, is a Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation and Associate Director of the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program at the RAND Corporation’s Arroyo Center, January/February 2017, Foreign Affairs, The Once and Future Order, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/once-and-future-order

Few foreign policy issues have attracted more attention in recent years than the problem of sustaining the U.S.-led liberal international order. After World War II, the United States sponsored a set of institutions, rules, and norms designed to avoid repeating the mistakes of the 1930s and promote peace, prosperity, and democracy. The resulting system has served as the bedrock of U.S. national security strategy ever since. In everything from arms control to peacekeeping to trade to human rights, marrying U.S. power and international norms and institutions has achieved sig­nificant results. Washington continues to put maintaining the international order at the center of the United States’ global role. Yet the survival of that order—indeed, of any ordering principles at all—now seems in question. Dissatisfied countries such as China and Russia view its operation as unjust, and people around the world are angry about the economic and social price they’ve had to pay for globalization. It’s not clear exactly what President-elect Donald Trump’s views are on the role of the United States in the world, much less the liberal order, but his administration will confront the most profound foreign policy task that any new administration has faced in 70 years: rethinking the role that the international order should play in U.S. grand strategy. Whatever Trump’s own views, the instincts of many in Washington will be to attempt to restore a unified, U.S.-dominated system by confronting the rule breakers and aggressively promoting liberal values. This would be the wrong approach; in trying to hold the old order together, Washington could end up accelerating its dissolution. What the United States must learn to do instead is navigate and lead the more diversified, pluralistic system that is now materializing—one with a bigger role for emerging-market powers and more ways for countries other than the United States to lead than the current order provides.
There are many alternatives to American leadership that avoid conflict

Amitav Acharya, professor of international relations at American University, Washington, D.C., where he holds the UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance at the School of International Service, and serves as the chair of the ASEAN Studies Center, 2014, , The End of American World Order, p. Kindle

By acknowledging the limits of the scope of liberal order, and appreciating the role of nationalism, regionalism, and the cultural underpinnings of security policies and dynamics in different parts of the world, the US can also promote a more inclusive approach to multilateralism, beyond the current American-centric narrative. As Weber and Jentlesen argue: Most no longer believe that the alternative to a US world order is chaos. The rules and norms of that order are subject to much more extensive and intensive debate than ever before. There also is visible a relatively new phenomenon of routing around it, marking a world without the West with its own distinctive set of rules, institutions, and relationships. It cannot be taken as a given that the optimal model for a just society is the American one. 7 Other powers, old and new, and different regional groups of the world, will have their conceptions of, and approaches to, local and international orders. The growing importance of regionalism – not just in Europe, but in other areas and representing a variety of models and approaches – is another signpost of the end of the American World Order. These different worlds will have powerful incentives to collude, not just collide.

US leadership has not stabilized foreign continents, it has created instability

Stephen Walt, Belfer Professor of International Relations @ Harvard, Foreign Policy, What Do Politicians Mean by “Global Leadership,” 9-4-2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/04/what-do-politicians-really-mean-by-global-leadership/, DOA: 9-5-15

For instance, one could argue that global leadership is necessary to “preserve stability” in key regions like Europe, Asia, or the Persian Gulf. There’s a solid case for that, but notice that in recent years the United States has been a leading source of instability in some of these places. It has done an especially good job of destabilizing the Middle East (see under: Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Gaza, etc.), and the initially successful effort to stabilize Europe by expanding NATO backfired when we (and the Europeans) got greedy and went too far east, thereby triggering the current crisis with Russia. If one of the candidates wants to make the “stability” argument, they need to say a lot more about exactly how the United States can reinforce regional peace instead of pouring gasoline on regional conflicts.

Finally, Con teams can make solvency arguments.

– Military spending can’t overcome the gutting of US credibility caused by the election

Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, December 19, 2016, The 2016 Election Damaged US Credibility Abroad, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-2016-election-damaged-us-credibility-abroad-18789

THE GOOD news for the world’s only remaining superpower is that the greatest injuries tend to be self-inflicted. That is, as they say, also the bad news. This was true well before Donald Trump won the presidential election. The race to the White House will be remembered for its exceptional divisiveness and brutality—and for ending in a surprise plot twist. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the most disliked presidential candidates in the history of polling. Before a single vote had been cast, America’s reputation had taken a massive hit in the eyes of the world. America’s overreaction to 9/11 marked the greatest damage to U.S. international standing since the Cold War. The 2016 campaign now claims that honor. And it still remains to be seen what damage a Trump presidency will do to American global leadership (if that’s even something President-elect Trump cares about). I’m hopeful that Trump will grow into the office he has just won. Hope dies last, after all. But it doesn’t help that Trump won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote. That questionable mandate, combined with the further polarization that will inevitably follow, constitutes a serious national-security challenge because it will cast further doubt over U.S. leadership and its political legitimacy. The worst that Trump can do is pretend that divisiveness doesn’t exist and operate as if handed a blank check by the American people. And for the record, I would be saying the exact same thing had Clinton won. Why does tarnishing U.S. credibility constitute a national-security threat? Because it means that your allies are less likely to back you, and your enemies are more likely to think they can damage you. And that means your enemies will try harder than ever to do just that. For all the noise the media has made about Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s budding romance, Russia has been tactically engaged in hybrid attacks against the United States for months. Putin may be an admirer of Trump’s, but he’s never been a friend of America’s. Moscow’s goal was never to steal the election, but to undermine the sense of American exceptionalism, the crown jewel of which is the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. Had Clinton won and Trump refused to concede, there would have been jubilation in the Kremlin. Instead, Moscow now gets to play the long game—give Donald Trump enough rope, and he will hang American exceptionalism himself, while Russia portrays itself as a friend. That’s the real worry. China is in an even better position than Russia. Beijing was already setting up alternate institutions to the U.S.-led order, like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that was established to compete with the Washington-based IMF and World Bank. Suddenly, China looks like the only remaining sane and stable economic power the world has to offer, and its Asian neighbors—who had a lot riding on the United States and the ill-fated Trans-Pacific Partnership—are much more likely to play ball with Beijing. So is the rest of the world.

– Trump make successfully diplomacy impossible

Shamila N. Chaudhary is Senior Fellow at New America and Senior Advisor to the Dean at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. She served at the White House National Security Council during the Obama Administration as Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan and on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff, December 20, 2016, Politico, Why the State Department is worried about Donald Trump and his tweets, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/donald-trump-state-department-tweets-worried-214538

The person who actually sets the department’s diplomatic agenda—in ways both overt and subtle—isn’t the secretary of state; it’s the president. The president’s words, as uttered in speeches and other official statements, literally shape American foreign policy. In turn, State Department bureaucrats rely on the commander in chief to articulate clear, thoughtful and consistentviews, based on facts and a knowledge of history. Only then can the entire weight of the large State Department bureaucracy follow seamlessly behind him—and carry out his goals. As Trump veers from one surprise tweet to the next—at times misspelled 140-character statements that seem to contradict decades of U.S. foreign policy, State Department bureaucrats are facing a unique challenge: How to follow the lead of a president who seems uninterested in consistency, protocol and nuance? In Trump’s November phone call to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for example, he called Pakistan a “fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people,” neglecting to mention Pakistan’s involvement in fomenting terrorism against U.S. interests, a major point of tension for American presidents since Al Qaeda and its affiliates set up shop in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks. On December 2, Trump spoke by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a move breaking with nearly four decades of protocol in U.S.-China relations. This seemingly impulsive personal style makes it extremely difficult for the State Department bureaucracy to interpret Trump and follow his example. Do these new developments signal a real shift in U.S. alliances or are they offhand remarks? Will Twitter be the primary platform for Trump to issue new statements of foreign policy? If so, how much will the State Department be involved in the shaping, coordination and vetting of such messages? Ambiguity from the White House can be extremely crippling for U.S foreign policy. On an operational level, when the secretary of state meets with a foreign leader, the bureaucracy churns out multiple papers to support the conversation. Those papers, if written well, use presidential statements and perspectives as the basis for their message. The president’s words are used and reused time and time again in speeches, talking points, public outreach and private meetings. As a result, the words themselves must be carefully crafted, thoughtful, deliberate and based in fact and history. Ambassador Richard A. Boucher, the former State Department spokesman who served for six secretaries of state , explained, “until the president gives a clear statement about where America stands in the world with our enemies and allies, it will be hard for career people to take that and turn it into policy.” Likewise, U.S. diplomats overseas depend on the president’s words every day to convey American interests and intentions to foreign governments. If those words are inconsistent or incoherent, foreign governments will question the effectiveness and utility of diplomacy itself. It’s possible that civil servants and Foreign Service officers may not be taken seriously by their foreign counterparts, who could be unwilling to work through an American bureaucracy that its own president publicly discredits and does not utilize.


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