Asked by Zahra Fatima, from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad
"Grand strategy" is defined as a coherent plan to use diplomatic, military, and economic instruments in certain ways to achieve national, overarching objectives. Grand strategies are usually identified by simple labels such as "containment," "détente," or "engagement and enlargement." In reality, international politics is complicated, and a democratic political system at home imposes constraints from public opinion, mobilized interest groups, and Congress.
For half a century, deterrence was the backbone of U.S. national security strategy. But now, Washington doesn't seem to know how and when to use it properly. The United States has needlessly applied deterrence to Russia, failed to apply it when it should have against Iraq and Iran, and been dangerously confused about whether to apply it to China. U.S. policymakers need to relearn the basics of deterrence in order to apply it successfully in the appropriate circumstances.
The winner of the 2012 U.S. presidential election will have to determine the scope of defense policy ambitions under strong pressure to restore domestic economic solvency, which will "overshadow" policy questions, says CFR's Richard K. Betts.
The payoff of huge investments in security precautions mean better intelligence collection, surveillance, and other security infrastructure that combine to make the likelihood of an al-Qaeda attack today very slim.
Defense-spending cuts should be a big part of a deficit reduction deal, says CFR's Richard Betts, with the Pentagon pursuing a budget that reflects a reduced threat environment and limits the production of expensive, state-of-the-art equipment.
Failures to stop the recent U.S. airliner bomb plot and the destruction of a CIA base in Afghanistan illustrate inherent problems in intelligence gathering, and al-Qaeda's impenetrability, says CFR's Richard K. Betts.
The United States now spends almost as much on defense in real dollars as it ever has before -- even though it has no plausible rationale for using most of its impressive military forces. Why? Because without political incentives for restraint, policymakers have lost the ability to think clearly about defense policy. Washington's new mantra should be "Half a trillion dollars is more than enough."
Richard K. Betts, a CFR expert on the intelligence community, says that he sees no reason that the nomination of General Michael V. Hayden to head the Central Intelligence Agency should be blocked by Congress because of his military background. But he says that "there's a powerful reason to consider opposing the nomination," citing Hayden's role in domestic wiretapping without proper warrants by his National Security Agency.