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.
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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.
From the mid-1930s through the Cold War, Europe was critical to U.S. strategic thinking, which developed around the assumption that foreign domination of Europe was inimical to U.S. national security. With the end of the Cold War, the United States sought to forge a Europe that was “whole and free.” However, since Putin has returned to office, he has launched a determined effort to reassert Moscow’s influence in areas formerly under Soviet control.
The United States faces a very different set of security challenges than it has since the Cold War. Great power competitors such as China and Russia improved their military capabilities over the last two decades while America focused on Middle East insurgencies, and now appear willing to challenge the international order.