The CSS Blog Network

Inexorable Changes in US Foreign Policy?

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This article was originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) on 14 August 2018.

It seems to be an article of faith among many members of the U.S. foreign policy community that, whenever Donald Trump—and his administration—leaves office, a subsequent president (whether a Democrat or a non-Trumpist Republican) will push a reset button that will return the United States to its position in world affairs that it occupied in 2008 or 2016. They take reassurance in the assumption, however, that Trump’s presidency can only represent a brief aberration and that, as Lawrence Freedman notes, “When Trump ceases to be President, things should return to normal.”

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Crisis and Conviction: US Grand Strategy in Trump’s Second Term

Image courtesy of US Department of Defense/James K McCann.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 6 August 2018.

In the spring of 2014, before Donald Trump’s presidency was even a rumor, I began an article about the sources of U.S. grand strategy. By “grand strategy,” I mean a state’s way of orchestrating means and ends to achieve security over the long haul. I argued that the habitual ideas and pervasive influence of the U.S. foreign policy establishment make the fundamentals of American statecraft hard to change. What former advisor Ben Rhodes called the “Blob” and what former National Security Council official Michael Anton called the “priesthood” defines and dominates the ecosystem in which foreign policy is made. It exerts its influence through its expertise and its advantageous structural position as a “revolving door” between government, academia, think tanks, foundations, and corporations, reinforced by the feedback loop of allies’ demands for American patronage. In turn, the establishment successfully advances the view that the only prudent and legitimate grand strategy for the United States is “primacy,” the pursuit and sustainment of unrivalled dominance.

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Conflicting Goals

Image courtesy of e-Magine Art/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by ETH Zurich’s Zukunftsblog on 11 May 2018. It is also available in German.

Safeguarding both humanitarian traditions and the interests of the domestic pharmaceutical industry creates tension in the Swiss health-related foreign policy, says Ursula Jasper.

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China’s Global Connectivity Politics: On Confidently Dealing with Chinese Initiatives

Image courtesy of European External Action Service/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by the German Instiitute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in April 2018.

European attitudes towards China and its Belt and Road Initiative are changing. While the People’s Republic under Xi Jinping is the only country in the world pursuing a global vision, distrust of China’s expanding influence is growing. As a consequence, the European debate about China is becoming increasingly emotional with interpretations fluctuating between alarmism and reassurance. Ideas about the ‘essence of China’ and expectations that the country should fit into the liberal order according to Western standards, however, threaten to limit Europe’s scope of action in dealing with the People’s Republic. In order to develop strategies for a confident German and European policy, China’s current global political approach should be considered systematically. Based on the features of China’s ‘connectivity politics’ (Konnektivitätspolitik), Germany and the EU could formulate policy options that go far beyond the realm of infrastructure.

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Hegemonic Designs in the Middle East Clash

Image courtesy of Kremlin.ru. (CC BY 4.0)

This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online on 17 April 2018.

The Iran-Russia-Turkey nexus could be potent, but suffers from clashing strategic goals and internal contradictions

Western media are preoccupied by limited airstrikes from the United States, Britain and France in the Damascus area, in response to a chemical attack, as well as Russia’s “hybrid warfare” strategy against the West. Amidst many distractions, Vladimir Putin’s own fixation with his country’s emergence as a major player in the Middle East and its implications for regional stability do not receive ample attention. Russia is striving to increase its strategic visibility and sphere of influence in the Middle East, and US President Donald Trump, by pursuing his transactional foreign policy, is unwittingly presiding over the demise of traditional US strategic dominance in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

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