Competitive Strategies for the Twenty-first Century

In This Review

Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, History, and Practice
by Edited by Thomas G. Mahnken
Stanford Security Studies, 2012
344 pp. $29.95

The growing rivalry between China and the United States is particularly complex because the two countries are simultaneously tied together as leaders of the world economy and engaged in a high-stakes struggle over the future of Asia’s security order. The authors collected here argue that the United States should pursue a peacetime “competitive strategy” by arraying defense forces in the region, staying ahead of Chinese military modernization, and looking for ways to exploit Chinese vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The authors are surely correct that the United States needs a long-term strategy if it intends to remain a leader and security provider in Asia. But for all its emphasis on the need for a comprehensive approach to the rise of China, the book remains rather narrowly focused on military modernization and force strategies. As the diplomat George Kennan argued when the United States began its strategic competition with the Soviet Union, the United States’ long-term success will hinge on the political, social, and economic fortunes of the West as much as on changes in military balances.