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These three works concur in their skeptical assessments of the threat posed to the United States by China, but their reasoning is different. Since aggrandizement generates resistance, Luttwak argues, China’s economic and military rise is producing a seemingly paradoxical decline in its diplomatic influence. In Chan's view, because Asian governments, including China’s, need to foster prosperity to legitimize their rule, they have an incentive to cooperate with one another and with others. Shambaugh, meanwhile, provides a masterful survey of China’s presence on the world scene, showing that in every field -- diplomatic, economic, military, and cultural -- Beijing’s influence, although growing, remains limited
The best strategy for the United States now in Iraq is disengagement. In a reversal of the usual sequence, the U.S. hand will be strengthened by withdrawal, and Washington might actually be able to lay the groundwork for a reasonably stable Iraq. Why? Because geography ensures that all other parties are far more exposed to the dangers of an anarchical Iraq than is the United States itself.
Since the establishment of the United Nations, great powers have rarely let small wars burn themselves out. Bosnia and Kosovo are the latest examples of this meddling. Conflicts are interrupted by a steady stream of cease-fires and armistices that only postpone war-induced exhaustion and let belligerents rearm and regroup. Even worse are U.N. refugee-relief operations and NGOs, which keep resentful populations festering in camps and sometimes supply both sides in armed conflicts. This well-intentioned interference only intensifies and prolongs struggles in the long run. The unpleasant truth is that war does have one useful function: it brings peace. Let it.
There have always been prophets of decline, as Arthur Herman notes in his survey of pessimists, but they have not always been wrong. Nietzsche, a declinist, identified the hallmark of mass culture: the erosion of individual authenticity.
The Cold War induced caution in nations that feared uncontrollable escalation. Now that confrontations are less likely to careen out of control, a new season of bellicosity is here. The U.S. military, trapped in a Cold War mindset, has failed to realize this. It is spending far too much on casualty-prone units in all the services, in an age when political opposition to casualties effectively makes these units unavailable for combat. The military should recalibrate its priorities and shift funds to weapons such as high-tech lasers, stealth aircraft, and cruise missiles that can make warfare less lethal for Americans.
The Cold War culture of military restraint has given way to increasing atrocities. By remaining a passive witness in the former Yugoslavia, Central Asia, and Chechnya, the United States damages its moral economy. Yet none of these conflicts sufficiently threatens U.S. interests to rouse the nation to arms. The United States should therefore return to the calculating siege craft common before Napoleon, which stressed minimal casualties, partial results, and patience. Every war need not be a heroic national crusade.
The small families of postindustrial societies are loath to suffer wartime casualties. When duty calls, the great powers would rather stay home with the kids.
The United States as a Third World country? Geostrategist Edward Luttwak sketches the awful specter, casting shadows of blame over the public-private financial system and public schools. But his solutions comprise a populist critique rather than a plausible strategy.