Both Colin Clark at DoD Buzz and Paul McLeary at War, Security, COIN and Stuff have covered Eric Edelman's publication of a CSBA manuscript predicting the United States' continued domination of global affairs - as long as the right decisions are made. Amidst all the dire forecasts of the decline of American Empire, Edelman predicts a different future. Now, not all of you may know Mr. Edelman. He was the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for the Bush administration's second term, between 2005 and 2009.
Accepting the new conventional wisdom of decline and an end of US primacy could well lead to an alteration of the strategic underpinnings of American global policy and could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A rigorous assessment should consider the strengths and weaknesses of the United States’ putative competitors on the global scene as well as the enduring strengths and sources of resilience that have enabled America to extend its primacy and maintain a stabilizing, global hegemonic role against all expectations. There is a need for a framework to inform how US policymakers might think about the problem of developing strategies and policies to extend that role yet again, since it is at least an arguable proposition that rather than a multipolar world, the global system, after the current Great Recession passes, will continue to be unipolar but with some additional challenges for US leadership.
While others will comment favorably on Dr. Edelman's words of promise and look for the continued supremacy of Pax Americana, I'll offer a different interpretation. He's a neocon at heart. This is more of a standard philosophy of the neocon culture that wants to see American military might used unilaterally against a bad, scary, and uncertain world. It's an alternative reality that the neocons want to invent, rather than the multipolar world that currently exists and is forecasted to continue in the National Intelligence Council's 2025 report and the JFCOM Joint Operating Environment report.
The truth is that the US government is sorely challenged by a global economic crisis, just like everyone else, and we're not going to emerge from it easily. Our military has been stressed to the breaking point, and the continued research, development, and acquisition of multi-billion dollar defense systems will ensure we don't have the force required for future combat operations. The only way our government can hope to function is to recognize the need to work with other countries, stop trying to change cultures through massive American interventions, and develop strategies that are bounded by resources.
So I'm not going to give Edelman's report much time. He's busy creating a universe that doesn't exist, will never exist. How the CSBA let him in the door, I have no idea. It's not a good story.