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The Domestic Foundations of American Grand Strategy, by Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar

The Domestic Foundations of American Grand Strategy, by Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar

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Published by Hoover Institution
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar discusses domestic sources of national power and identifies four issues that should loom large in discussions of America’s global strategy—education, immigration, fiscal policy, and institutional capacity.
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar discusses domestic sources of national power and identifies four issues that should loom large in discussions of America’s global strategy—education, immigration, fiscal policy, and institutional capacity.

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Published by: Hoover Institution on Dec 05, 2013
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04/06/2014

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GRAND STRATEGY
Ideas and Challenges in a Complex World 
Hoover Institution’s Working Group on Foreign Policy and Grand Strategy
 
  w  o  r   k   i  n  g  g  r  o  u  p  o  n   f  o  r  e   i  g  n  p  o   l   i  c  y  a  n   d  g  r  a  n   d  s   t  r  a   t  e  g  y
People seeking to understand American grand strategy—or even trying to weigh whether the concept of a “grand strategy” has much analytical value—will no doubt need to consider the United States’ strategic posture, the health of our alliances, our strategies to disrupt terrorist organizations and manage geopolitical rivalries, and our trade relationships and foreign policy goals. My purpose here is to focus attention on four issues that should also loom especially large in that discussion, in part because of the impact they can exert on all of the aforementioned factors. The issues are education, immigration, fiscal policy, and the capacity and efficacy of organizations managing transnational threats. All lie at the juncture of domestic and international affairs. My conclusion that these particular issues matter so much rests on three assumptions. First, a country’s wealth helps determine its global position. Second, even countries with comparable wealth differ with respect to the capacity of their public organizations to perform effectively. Third, the best way to advance our values is to live them. Scholars of a neo-realist bent have traditionally described a country’s “grand strategy” in terms of its diplomatic and military priorities. Robert Art, for example, offers a fairly typical definition. He considers the concept to reflect the conjunction of a country’s foreign policy goals and its military posture.
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 There is something parsimonious and even elegant about this formulation. It readily incorporates, for instance, the relevance of geography (which is all but inseparable from discussions of military posture), and highlights the interdependence of foreign policy objectives and military realities.
A GRAND STRATEGY ESSAY
The Domestic Foundations of American Grand Strategy
by Mariano-Florentino CuéllarWorking Group on Foreign Policy and Grand Strategy
www.hoover.org/taskforces/foreign-policy 
 
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar 
 
 
The Domestic Foundations of American Grand Strategy 
 
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 Hoover Institution
 Stanford University
For all its virtues, though, this kind of definition offers little analytical traction for understanding the various instrumentalities available for advancing foreign policy goals. Nor does it fully acknowledge how a country’s internal priorities can shape its political and economic fortunes. Plainly, not every domestic priority matters equally to a country’s international position. Decisions about urban infrastructure, mental health policy, and white collar criminal enforcement, for example, are not entirely irrelevant to the United States’ capacity to advance its interests globally. But it would strain credulity to place these on the same plane as, for instance, the nation’s capacity to decide on and execute a responsible fiscal policy, or its ability to forge an education system capable of serving the needs of 50 million public school students. Observers who give weight to the concept of “grand strategy” may often readily concede that its scope must include the domestic sources of national strength. The capacity of the United States to advance its interests and shape its international environment nonetheless reflects far more than conventional military and foreign affairs matters. Whatever definition one chooses for the words “grand strategy,” it would border on madness for policymakers not to consider how well the United States is equipped, domestically, to take advantage of the country’s distinctive attributes and to address its distinctive challenges so it can better advance its national interests. Given their considerable role in shaping the country’s material conditions, its security, and domestic and international perceptions, the following four issues would loom especially large in the resulting discussion.
Education
During the last half-century or so, American policymakers have often professed a commitment to providing high-quality education to all school-age residents in the country. Other countries take this imperative seriously, and the US has taken some strides in recent decades towards better assessing education achievement (or its absence) and making the education sector somewhat more flexible and capable of innovation. In the main, however, policymakers’ professed commitment to equity and excellence in education is not one the country has honored. In math, the average African American eighth-grader is performing at the 19th percentile relative to white students, and the average Latino student is at the 26th percentile. Given these inequities and the rigidities in the American education system, it is perhaps not entirely surprising that the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment ranked the United States twenty-seventh in mathematics, for example. Education thus helps explain not only income inequality in the United States, but also the country’s changing economic fortunes.

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