29 April 2014

Discussions From the Council on Foreign Relations Which You May Have Missed

In addition to that seminal work on American exceptionalism from The Project for a New American Century, there has been quite a bit of discussion about US supremacy in the 21st century in certain influential circles, including a series of much debated articles that originated in the Council on Foreign Relations. 

A thread of this discussion is included below with links to more recent articles of only a few years ago.  

Being aware of this may help you to understand some of the unease which certain parties around the world may feel.

I don't recall Katie Couric asking Sarah Palin what her thoughts were on this topic, when they were chatting about her extensive foreign policy readings and hands-on experience with international relations.  No wonder they gave Obama the Peace Prize, for basically just showing up.

Its not even clear that most Americans know what their leaders and their key advisers think about this, and what the differences might have been between a Mitt Romney and a Barack Obama Administration with regard to non-domestic issues. And the continuing influence of the neo-cons in the 'progressive' Obama Administration.

Or what a non-domestic issue might be.  Or even care.  Rulers of the world, that are largely ignorant of and mostly indifferent to it, except for specifically exploitable opportunities, in which they can extract what is of value, and make a desert, and call it peace.

Foreign Affairs March/April 2006 Issue
The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy
By Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press

For almost half a century, the world's most powerful nuclear states have been locked in a military stalemate known as mutual assured destruction (MAD). By the early 1960s, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union had grown so large and sophisticated that neither country could entirely destroy the other's retaliatory force by launching first, even with a surprise attack. Starting a nuclear war was therefore tantamount to committing suicide.

During the Cold War, many scholars and policy analysts believed that MAD made the world relatively stable and peaceful because it induced great caution in international politics, discouraged the use of nuclear threats to resolve disputes, and generally restrained the superpowers' behavior. (Revealingly, the last intense nuclear standoff, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, occurred at the dawn of the era of MAD.) Because of the nuclear stalemate, the optimists argued, the era of intentional great-power wars had ended. Critics of MAD, however, argued that it prevented not great-power war but the rolling back of the power and influence of a dangerously expansionist and totalitarian Soviet Union. From that perspective, MAD prolonged the life of an evil empire.

This debate may now seem like ancient history, but it is actually more relevant than ever -- because the age of MAD is nearing an end. Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States' nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces. Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China -- and the rest of the world -- will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come.

One's views on the implications of this change will depend on one's theoretical perspective. Hawks, who believe that the United States is a benevolent force in the world, will welcome the new nuclear era because they trust that U.S. dominance in both conventional and nuclear weapons will help deter aggression by other countries. For example, as U.S. nuclear primacy grows, China's leaders may act more cautiously on issues such as Taiwan, realizing that their vulnerable nuclear forces will not deter U.S. intervention -- and that Chinese nuclear threats could invite a U.S. strike on Beijing's arsenal.

But doves, who oppose using nuclear threats to coerce other states and fear an emboldened and unconstrained United States, will worry. Nuclear primacy might lure Washington into more aggressive behavior, they argue, especially when combined with U.S. dominance in so many other dimensions of national power.

Finally, a third group -- owls, who worry about the possibility of inadvertent conflict -- will fret that U.S. nuclear primacy could prompt other nuclear powers to adopt strategic postures, such as by giving control of nuclear weapons to lower-level commanders, that would make an unauthorized nuclear strike more likely -- thereby creating what strategic theorists call "crisis instability"...

Read the entire article here.

Superiority Complex, Why War With China Is More Likely, The Atlantic, Jul 1 2007
The Nukes We Need, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2009
Second Strike, The Counterforce Fantasy, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2010