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American Grand Strategy

September 9, 2013 - September 13, 2013

America has a large and unique role in the world—politically, economically, culturally, and militarily. To some, America is the world’s sole superpower, the “indispensable nation,” the leading democracy of the current age; to others, it is the Great Satan, an irresponsible empire, or a nation in decline. To all, America matters, and how it thinks about its role in the world will have giant repercussions for the future of world order—or the lack thereof.

Led by former ambassador and U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, this course will explore America’s great strategic challenges and options in the current age, drawing heavily on both his study of history and first-hand experience in the policy arena. What forces, interests, and values will shape American grand strategy in the years ahead? The promotion of democracy in anti-democratic regions of the world? Stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, or alternatively learning to live in a world in which WMDs are far more widespread? Should we focus more on key alliances with friendly nations, or advancing our ideas and interests through international bodies like the UN? Should America intervene with military might more readily or more cautiously? Should we seek to topple regimes that flout human rights, or accommodate ourselves to a world of autocrats that we have neither the will nor the capacity to change? How does the current economic environment affect America’s capacity to remain a superpower? To what extent will American grand strategy be shaped by domestic politics—for better and for worse? In general: How should America negotiate between power, terror, peace, and war in the 21st Century?

Key Texts & Topics

  • “Regaining Strategic Competence,” Andrew F. Krepinevich and Barry D. Watts, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
  • The National Security Strategy of the United States, September 2002
  • In Uncertain Times: American Foreign Policy after the Berlin Wall and 9/11, edited by Melvyn Leffler and Jeffrey Legro
  • “The Perils of Bad Strategy,” Richard Rumelt, McKinsey Quarterly