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Memo to the Chairman

If the Joint Chiefs are sick of losing, try a defensive grand strategy.
Pentagon cropped

To: General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
From: W.S. Lind
Re: A New Grand Strategy

As you probably realize, when you accepted the position of Chairman of the JCS, a great honor no doubt, you received with it a poisoned chalice. The poison is the offensive grand strategy the United States has followed since the end of the Cold War. We seek world hegemony, which we are to use to force every other nation and people on the earth to model themselves on us.

The chalice knows this poison well. If you look closely, you will see it is covered in fingerprints, Spanish, French, German, and Russian among them. All drank the same potion and died. As Russell Kirk wrote, there is no surer way to make a man your enemy than to tell him you are going to remake him in your image for his own good.

When you couple an offensive grand strategy with a military that does not know how to fight and win contemporary wars, the disaster unfolds all the more quickly. Ours is now 0–4 against Fourth Generation, nonstate opponents. You probably don’t want to make it 0–5.

The good news is you are well positioned to do something about all this. Fixing our military will take more than the four years of your tenure, though you can make a start. But you can give this country a new grand strategy, one that is based in reality, does not unite everyone else against us, and has at least a chance of success.

Our new grand strategy should proceed from the most important, most powerful development now reshaping world affairs, the decline of the state. The state is losing both the monopoly on war it established with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and its claim to its population’s primary loyalty. All over the world, people are transferring their loyalty away from the state to religions, races and ethnic groups, ideologies, “causes” such as environmentalism and animal rights, gangs, and so on. These were most people’s primary loyalties before the rise of the state, and a growing number of young men are eager to fight for them once again.

The decline of the state makes war between states obsolete. The most likely outcome is the disintegration of the losing state into stateless disorder, providing a new Petri dish for Fourth Generation elements and leaving the “winning” state in a worse situation than it faced before the war. The first element of our new grand strategy, therefore, is that we will stop destroying states. We will make a strategic decision not to go to war against other states unless they directly attack our homeland.

Second, to confront the decline of the state and preserve the international state system, we will attempt to form an alliance of all states against non-state threats. The two most important potential allies are the two strongest, Russia and China. Both face challenges on their own soil. Whoever is telling you Russia is a threat is giving you bad advice. Once we stop pressuring those countries to bow down to us and adopt our ways, there is no reason for tension among us. President Putin has called for a broad alliance against “terrorists,” meaning Fourth Generation forces. France and Britain would quickly come in, and that’s probably all the partners you want when making decisions. Everyone else can tag along.

Such an alliance would not send troops hither and yon to get involved in other peoples’ wars. That would happen occasionally, in support of an existing state. But because Fourth Generation war is above all a contest for legitimacy, the entry of foreign troops usually undermines any state they are trying to support.

thisarticleappearsThe new alliance will try to strengthen states where they still stand and keep states from going to war against other states. It will also move decisively to block the flows of refugees Fourth Generation war generates. Invasion by whole peoples is more dangerous than invasions by foreign armies because armies eventually go home while the people stay, often rearranging the cultural furniture in ways that are less than desirable. We should recall that it was movements of whole peoples that brought down Rome.

For the United States, the grand strategy outlined here represents a return to tradition. Historically, we followed a defensive grand strategy. We served as a moral example to other nations, but we did not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. Our defensive grand strategy worked well and made us the most respected country in the world. Perhaps it can again. 

William S. Lind is the author, as “Thomas Hobbes,” of Victoria: A Novel of Fourth Generation War.



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