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U.S. foreign policy is likely to be wracked by crises in the coming years. Yet crises are often symptoms of deeper structural transformations, and the fundamental fact of international politics today is that the post-Cold War era has reached its end. That period was defined by uncontested U.S. and Western primacy, a marked decline in ideological struggle and great-power conflict, and a historically remarkable degree of global cooperation in addressing international disorder. Today, however, the international system has reverted to a more contested state. The core characteristics of the emerging era are the gradual but unmistakable erosion of U.S. and Western primacy, the return of sharp great-power competition across all three key regions of Eurasia, the revival of global ideological struggle, and the empowerment of the agents of international strife and disorder. Moreover, the impact of these forces is magnified by growing uncertainty about whether the traditional defenders of the post-Cold War system will be able and willing to play that role in the future. Dealing with the dangers and dilemmas posed by the new global politics will be a generational task. Yet understanding the basic nature of the age is the critical first step.
Dealing with Allies in Decline: Alliance Management and U.S. Strategy in an Era of Global Power Shifts is the latest study by CSBA Senior Fellow Hal Brands. In the monograph, Brands argues that although America's alliances are a source of great geopolitical strength, the difficult reality is that shifts in global economic and military power have left many of America's traditional allies with significantly diminished relative standing and capabilities.
Every grand strategy rests on a set of critical assumptions about how the world works. Today, the assumptions underpinning American grand strategy are becoming more contested and uncertain than at any time in a generation.
If strategy is the calculated relation of means to ends, then today America is careening toward strategic insolvency. Following the Cold War, the United States possessed unrivaled military primacy, both globally and in all the world’s key strategic theaters.
The decade and a half the United States has spent fighting the "long war" in the Middle East has yielded many tactical successes but left a lasting victory elusive. The inconclusive nature of these struggles has sapped support for the U.S. policy of shouldering the burden of providing security and stability in the region.
Sooner or later, and probably within the next few months, the United States and its coalition partners will defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militarily, by collapsing its control of key areas in Iraq and Syria.