By Joe Funderburke, Ad Godinez, Andy
Whiskeyman and Bryan Groves
Best Defense guest fireteam
War is not over; it is taking a new shape. The new Cold War involves a
one-sided competition in which only Russia actively competes. Meanwhile,
America is gradually awakening to the reality of a world it had hoped was "yesterday's
news." Unfortunately, The Tragedy
of Great Power Politics has returned -- if indeed it ever left. The
truth is Russia never agreed to the post-Cold War rules; it just needed time to
reassert its agenda.
provided Russia that time by focusing on grandiose ideas instead of purposeful,
incremental gains. In essence, its foreign policy elevated liberal "home
runs" over a steady diet of realist "singles and doubles." This
happened because national elites adopted mental models that included the "peace
dividend" and a perspective that the universalization
of Western liberal democracy was possible because the world had reached The
End of History.
the United States conducted military interventions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia,
Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya -- all for liberal ideals of
democracy-promotion or humanitarian intervention. Arguably, the Persian Gulf
War and less so Panama were the only interventions since 1989 in which the U.S.
prioritized realpolitik concerns over
liberal ideals throughout the mission's duration. Yet swinging for home runs
has sometimes led to ambitious strategies whose political legacy is doubtful
because it is highly dependent on forces beyond any nation's control. The
current situations in Somalia, Iraq, and debatably in Afghanistan are cases in
As the United States pursued values, Russia
has pursued interests. Recent events in Crimea and Ukraine, combined with
Russia's 2008 Georgia invasion, demonstrate Russia's multi-faceted approach to
reestablish regional hegemony against what it views as encroachment by the EU,
NATO, and the United States. Diplomatically, Russia has vetoed U.N. Security
Council resolutions to hold Assad accountable, proposed the deal to rid Syria
of chemical weapons, conducted proxy propaganda campaigns, and strengthened its
relationship with the other BRICS and Cuba. Militarily, Russia appears to be utilizing
a revamped special operations force both in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine. Economically,
Gazprom cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine over price and debt disputes. Further,
the 30-year, $400-billion natural gas deal with China in May strategically outmaneuvered the
United States and Europe, ensuring Russia stayed multiple chess moves ahead of
primary point, however, is not about Russian actions. Our argument is what Henry Kissinger argued in 1969: that American foreign policy
is most effective when it balances U.S. interests with American ideals.
instance, U.S. support for the coup that installed Pinochet as the Chilean
leader in '73-'74 was consistent with American interests, but contrary to U.S.
values. The U.S. humanitarian intervention in Somalia in '92-'94 was in line
with American values, but not interests. Yet the alignment of national interests
and values made U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf War positive and
the foreign-policy pendulum back toward the nexus of interests and values does
not mean that liberal ideals are devoid of merit. The U.S. role following WWII
proved the worth of liberal values. Yet the last 13 years revealed the limits
of power used in pursuit of liberal ideals. Freedom and democracy cannot simply
be given to people. They must fight for it themselves and shape it to their historical
and cultural traditions -- albeit in some cases with American or international
support. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has had
a propensity to interject itself at times when restraint might have been the
more prudent course.
for that to change; the United States must recognize the limits of what it can
realistically achieve. Reassessment of American foreign policy is in order. The
rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is a step in the right direction. So, too, is the
strength of resolve not to "swing"
just because we can.
perseverance in this regard, however, involves breaking entrenched mental
paradigms and transitioning from seeing the world through primarily an idealist
lens to one that reasserts a realist perspective. Perhaps then the U.S. will
regain the situational awareness it once had during the Cold War. One place to
start is by fully integrating its military and interagency efforts, as advocated
by a recent Atlantic Council Combatant Command Task Force report. This approach is proactive, coherent, and
realistic. It also facilitates a strategically oriented foreign policy focused
not on "home runs," but on "singles and doubles." This will
incrementally provide positive returns over the long-term.
Joe Funderburke is
pursuing a Ph.D. in Security Studies at the University of Central Florida. Ad
Godinez is pursuing a Ph.D. in History at the University of Kansas. Andy
Whiskeyman is pursuing a Ph.D. in Strategic Studies at the Air University's
School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. Bryan Groves is pursuing a Ph.D. in
Public Policy at Duke University. All are U.S. Army officers and members of the
Advanced Strategic Planning and Policy Program within the School of Advanced Military Studies at
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The views expressed herein are those of the authors
and do not necessarily reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Defense,
the Department of the Army, the Combined Arms Center or the School of Advanced
Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, or our universities.