The Best Defense

To operate in a renewed Cold War atmosphere, the U.S. needs to realistically pursue its interests and its values

By Joe Funderburke, Ad Godinez, Andy Whiskeyman and Bryan Groves

Best Defense guest fireteam

The Cold 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.

America 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.

Subsequently, 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 point.

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 potential rivals.

Our 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.

For 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 powerful.

Swinging 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.

It's time 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.

Long-term 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.

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The Best Defense

LTG Honore's good book on leadership that you may, like Tom, have missed

By Jerry Mitchell

Best Defense guest columnist

Here's another book that Tom now has to read when he finds the time. It correlates nicely with the leadership attributes discussed in his book The Generals. I have a longer review of LTG Russel Honore's book in the new issue of Joint Force Quarterly but here I want to highlight some of the points made there. All thoughts on leadership are worth studying, especially with all of the recent highly publicized leadership problems in our services and government, some of them quite close to home at NDU.

LTG Honore shares his thoughts on leadership by emphasizing three core tenets or principles:

-good leaders learn to do the routine things well

-good leaders are not afraid to act even when criticized

-good leaders are not afraid to take on the impossible

He goes on to address some compelling questions that many others have asked and expounded on: "What is the nature of leadership?"; "What are the crucial lessons learned from the study of some of our nation's greatest leaders?"; "How do the important aspects of leadership change with the strategic and global environment?"; "How do leaders instill a philosophy and culture of 'mission command' in their subordinates and organizations?"; "How do they know and recognize the right problems to solve?"; How do they motivate their people?"; and, "What does education have to do with leadership in government, the military, or business?" These are not new questions. The value is in cogent answers developed with experience. From over 37 years of tough command and staff assignments, LTG Honore offers his thoughts in hopes of helping our future leaders.

Chapter 1 describes his take on the "nature of leadership." He goes back to our nation's beginning and uses George Washington's ability to lead "a rag-tag army" to victory over a far superior British force. In chapter 2, he extrapolates critical leadership lessons from decisive points in our history that are just as vital today. He writes, "No great change comes without leadership and sacrifice." Chapter 3 explores the notion that our nation transitioned through change constantly, always adapting to the new normal, and that leaders must recognize change to be successful. The general describes the key variables he sees in America's latest new normal and expands this discussion to the global environment in chapter 4. How have "extreme population density, the incredibly fast transmission of information, the rise of terrorism, the interconnectedness of business, and the growth of the ranks of the poor" created the new normal and shaped the global environment of today and the near future? The author offers his keen insights on causes and effects and correlations.

What does this book tell military people that they haven't already heard? Well, there is the story of a prize pig that has a leadership lesson for us as we wrestle with the dilemma of resource constraints -- near-term, instant gratification versus long-term growth and development. The military is especially impacted by this dilemma. Do we invest in our young leaders by ensuring that PME and JPME are fully resourced or do we cut education for hardware? LTG Honore postulates that education is the key to the future.

Why should junior leaders read this? It is a "short course" gleaned from over two hundred years of leadership successes and failures, told from the heart of a warrior and national treasure based on his 37 years of personal experience, including the highly visible events of Hurricane Katrina as commander of Joint Task Force Katrina. You can read the latest version of the National Security Strategy or you can read this short book.

Jerry Mitchell is a retired infantry officer and former associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the United States Military Academy. He was also an associate professor at the Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University, where he taught joint operations planning and the homeland security/homeland defense planner's course for 21 years.