A Grand Strategy for America
By Robert J. Art
Cornell University Press, 2003, 324 pp.
A brilliant distillation and synthesis of some of the best contemporary scholarship on American grand strategy, Art's new book offers a clear exposition of U.S. national interests and how to defend them. It is no defect that most of his conclusions are relatively uncontroversial: the United States must defend itself against "grand terror" attacks; it should prevent great-power wars in Eurasia while promoting economic integration and democracy there; the oil-rich Persian Gulf region must not fall into the hands of any other power. Although Art acknowledges that the United States should focus its attention and resources on these issues, he does not rule out intervening in other parts of the world to prevent genocide or, occasionally and under limited circumstances, to promote democracy. Less orthodox prescriptions, especially his argument that global warming constitutes an important threat to U.S. interests, strike this reader as less compelling; the crystalline logic that generally marks this fine book seems a little cloudier on this topic. A weakness for converting opposing arguments into straw men sometimes infects Art's argument, most notably his discussion of dominion as an alternative to his preferred grand strategy. Art's suggestion that the United States dominate "only" Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf would mean dominating the oil trade and roughly 70 percent of world GDP. He calls this "selective engagement," but "pragmatic domination" seems equally apt. Still, Art is confident that his strategy would provoke less external opposition than a "dominion" grand strategy; but that would only be true if other powers did not think through the implications for U.S. power of Art's plan.