- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a common complaint among big thinkers that the United States lacks a strategy. But Mark Lewis, who advises senior government officials on national security, recently commented in a note to several friends that we do have a grand strategy, that it is laid out in a document, and that it has been in place for more than two centuries: The Constitution of the United States.
“What if — just what if — our grand strategy is internally focused, not externally focused?” he asked. “What if it’s the Constitution and every effort since then to remain consistent with those founding principles is our strategy? Some of those efforts manifest themselves in the way we engage the rest of the world.”
He added, “The Preamble describes the end state, and the Articles and Amendments describe how to organize the elements of national power to achieve it. I think the key is the enduring principles, but the ability to adapt over time as conditions change.”
Meanwhile, my friend John Byron, a retired Navy submariner, poses a related strategic question: Might we be better off fighting them here instead of aggravating them there?:
As we continue to get nowhere in Afghanistan (a war to end terrorism) and have no end in sight, isn’t it time to explore the contrast between the successes of the law-enforcement approach to potential acts of terrorism in the U.S. and the dubious efficacy of our military efforts to do the same?
On one hand, we rooted out the Taliban and removed Al Qaeda’s safe haven. On the other, we’ve certainly made many more terrorists worldwide than we’ve eliminated in the Middle East. And what of the alternative uses of the incredible sums of money we are spending to help our friend Hamid Karzai: how much better would it be to apply even a fraction of this sum to counter terrorism directly in the U.S.?
Strategy is choice-taking. We’ve chosen to fight terrorists where they might live in a future time rather than where we do live now. Is this the sound strategic choice? You’ve done a great job of juxtaposing HIC vs LIC in your blog. Now how about the trade-offs between military action there and direct counter-terrorism at the target sites.