Daniel Larison, in his "discussion" at the pages of TAC with Brookings Institute own Thomas Wright uses the term "supremacists". Wright, as you can see, has a lot of "degrees" in all kinds of pseudo-scientific fields, but, as is the case with many people from the American (cess)pool of "strategists", and geopolitical "thinkers", which Larison describes as supremacists, has very little clue about the subject he "tries to make case" on. It is expected from people associated with such pseudo-"scholars" as Robert Kagan or Strobe Talbott--the "stellar" record of "supremacists" (aka exceptionalists, aka neocons etc.) failing to forecast own bowel movements, let alone complex trends in geopolitics is well known. Those guys are not in the business of actual studies, they are in the business of juxtapositioning selected (by far not all) historic, economic and military facts in such a way as to increase the probability of holding on to their "think-tankdom" sinecures.
Being "supremacist" in D.C. is a cool job, if you can get one, because you get paid handsomely for propagating the most contrived BS which then is fed into the "influence fuel" pipeline of diverse financial, ethnic, religious and political mafias running US so called "foreign policy". Larison thinks that this Wright's assertion requires a serious answer:
Global retrenchment is fast emerging as the most coherent and ready-made alternative to the United States’ postwar strategy. Yet pursuing it would be a grave mistake. By dissolving U.S. alliances and ending the forward presence of U.S. forces, this strategy would destabilize the regional security orders in Europe and Asia. It would also increase the risk of nuclear proliferation, empower right-wing nationalists in Europe, and aggravate the threat of major-power conflict.This is not to say that U.S. strategy should never change. The United States has regularly increased and decreased its presence around the world as threats have risen and ebbed.
Larison responds by trying to make a logical case:
Wright’s case deserves a serious answer. He acknowledges that U.S. strategy can change as circumstances allow, and he is willing to entertain some reductions in U.S. involvement in some areas while arguing for more in others. Advocates for restraint believe that more reductions are called for and there is much less need for forward-deployed U.S. forces than Wright takes for granted, but there is some overlap between the two positions. Where we differ is that Wright sees restraint as “the indiscriminate abandonment of a strategy that has served [the U.S.] well for decades” while we would say that it is a carefully considered rejection of a strategy that has outlived its usefulness. Wright agrees with some of the prescriptions that advocates of restraint make. Like us, he believes that the war in Afghanistan should be brought to an end. He says that “the United States should also impose new limits and conditions on its alliances with many authoritarian states.” Among other things, that means reassessing the relationship with the Saudis and cutting off support for the war on Yemen. But in the end, he concludes that significantly reducing U.S. involvement and commitments across the board is misguided.
I mentioned logical, that doesn't mean that it is knowledgeable. I, certainly, can make explanation of my weird night dreams as "logical", such as why I fly in the air and why I do not kill myself when falling from the skyscraper--there is a logic in that, it is just that it is not of this, real, world, but of dreams. The phrase highlighted in yellow is what is the most peculiar about this response. Immediate question is: what circumstances and how they allow. This is not being petty and neat-picking, it is about understanding of the emergence of modern American exceptionalism in the immediate aftermath of the WW II. Wrong lessons were learned about circumstances and the essence of the American "supremacy". I like Atkinson's characterization of Patton (a rather run-of-the mill WW II general, who was extolled in US as a "genius" who he never was):
The creeping arrogance, the hubris, which would cost the American Army so dearly in Vietnam. Summing up the achievements of his troops in crushing the German counterattack of December 1944, Patton with pardonable pride claims to have “moved farther and faster and engaged more divisions in less time than any other army in the history of the United States—possibly in the history of the world... No country can stand against such an Army.” These memoirs are valuable not least in showing, however unwittingly, that a disastrous presumption of invincibility took root in the ranks of officers who led the American military after World War II.
Should Atkinson book have been written today, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, among many others, would have been added to the list of the American geopolitical disasters, which all, without exception, starting from inability to win in Korea are marked by the common feature of sheer ignorance, arrogance and, in fact, total inability to give any sensible account of existing circumstances. The only circumstances which ever led to a "change" in those ever illusive coherent American strategies after WW II were circumstances of sustaining an outright military defeat or inability to competently prosecute and win any war, period. Here is the story of the United States "strategies" and of "change":
It is a story of "foreign policy" based on inability to process even basic facts about the outside world which DO constitute those very "circumstances" to which the United States can only REACT and has no record whatsoever of having ANY coherent realistic foreign policy because none can exist in the echo-chamber of mostly wacky, wishful thinking "concepts" of the surrounding world. Moreover, it cannot exist within environment--be that US think-tankdom or any other official institutions--where there is absolutely no understanding of the nature and application of the power, especially military one. General Latiff of RAND states plainly that this cannot exist among people who draw those ideas from entertainment.
Make no mistake: the willful ignorance of the American public and its leaders will have dangerous consequences. Most Americans, including many of our political leaders, pay scant attention to military issues until a situation arises concerning our armed forces. Then they act based on emotion and political expedience rather than on facts, and that rarely ends well.
Let's put it even more bluntly: the idea that some US bureaucrat with mostly humanities education can produce something of intellectual value when discussing power component of geopolitics is down right preposterous--overwhelming empirical evidence of the US foreign policy establishment's utter ignorance on this issue is available to anyone who wants to see. In fact, not only it is the evidence of ignorance, it is a testimony to a complete irrationality and rejection of these very same "circumstances" which, finally, turned the United States into what essentially amounts to a bankrupt rogue state with nuclear weapons. Slight deviations from suicidal fanatical exceptionalist world-view in the US, once one begins to view history from the point of life-span of nation-states, are in no way indicative of ANY change, even among many "realists" and "restrainsionists" who differ with their neocon white-board pseudo-academic brethren only on a tactical level without changing their outlook on the United States as a real democracy and God's gift to the world.
Yes, Larison tries to be logical when speaking of Russia and China and tries to be factual when states:
The U.S. has enjoyed almost unchecked primacy for at least the last 30 years, and in that time the U.S. has caused or contributed to the destabilization of at least half a dozen countries and fueled conflicts that have killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. During that same period, the U.S. has wasted trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in pointless wars that haven’t made the U.S. more secure. If this is a strategy that has served us well, I would like to know what a failed strategy looks like.
But as was established: Washington establishment doesn't change, because it doesn't learn--it is not capable to do so, because the foundation, of knowledge and causality, to sound strategies and policies has been removed completely from US "international studies" programs. And while Larison makes a valid tactical point, does he understand that it is not the issue of "strategy" or circumstances--it is the issue of the nature of modern post-WW II United States with its folie de grandeur taken to the psychiatric extreme which are in the foundation of the American decline. The unfolding recognition that there is something rotten in the self-proclaimed shining city on the hill, is too little too late, even when is declared by the people who are largely responsible for that. And even admissions by inventor of a hollow pseudo-scholastic meme of Thucydides Gap, Graham Allison change absolutely nothing:
They change absolutely nothing because these are precisely representatives of this US "foreign policy" establishment who not only have no clue about the world outside, as bad as it is, they lack even a basic concept of the actual strength of their own country, the United States that is, because none of them is taught how to correctly assess it, least of all in military sphere. Yes, I may agree with Larison that:
Wright accepts the need for a “selective retrenchment.” Advocates of restraint are convinced that the U.S. can and should reduce our military involvement overseas even more, because we see the current level of U.S. involvement as both unnecessary and undesirable. Wright is correct to say that the U.S. “should be more selective as it safeguards its interests,” but he does not go far enough. Our European and Asian allies are the ones that are best prepared and capable to provide for their own security, and the U.S. has discouraged them from doing this to preserve an illusion of our own “indispensability.” It is long past time that we encouraged them to take up their responsibilities for regional security after having carried that burden for more than seventy years.
I do, however, have couple reservations on that. Retrenchment is defined as the act of retrenching; a cutting down or off, as by the reduction of expenses. It is not going to help, even if to assume that Trump Administration succeeds in part in doing this. It is too late for that, because the problem is deeper and systemic on a historic scale. It is the car engine which is broken, not the driver who's got sick, and that is what neither "supremacists" nor "realists" can understand. The question is not about "retrenchment", especially when one understands that the United States has neither resources nor viable doctrine to fight conventionally even near-peer and win, not to speak of great powers such as China or Russia, no--the issue today is will the United States preserve itself as a viable state without imploding into the ethnic violence and economic collapse which even Wall Street-trained shysters from economy cannot hide anymore. The statistics is out there:
And it is not encouraging, to put it mildly.
Retrenching will not change America's fates much, addressing catastrophic structural deformities brought on by suicidal domestic and foreign policies, may. In this sense, the United States may be an exceptional nation, exceptional in a sense of blowing two historic opportunities handed to it by providence, once after the WW II, and then, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, in a manner and with degree of hubris in a historically short time, instance, really, seldom recorded in human history. I don't think the United States wants this kind of exceptional distinction. For me, however, it is a painful personal journey, seeing the country me and my family love as our home, disintegrating in a front of our eyes into chaos and insolvency precisely because those who run it (into the ground) have no understanding of circumstances and cannot react, forget being proactive, to them by taking necessary steps to arrest this dangerous collapse. Are they even capable of that? I don't think so, no matter the scale of tactical differences between "supremacists" and "realists". As I predicted more than 5 years ago, yes, I am doing it again:
Explaining to American "elite" the fact that US didn't "win" the WW II, that "winning" the Cold War came about because Soviet people simply decided to end it, that Wall Street "economy" has no relation to real economy and that real wars produce misery and destruction on a scale which is incomprehensible for the "populace" of the Washington D.C. "strategists", it is not just difficult--it is next to impossible. So, the events must run the course. But it is already clear that by failing to achieve any sensible political objectives in Ukraine and in Russia, and, by this, starting a massive global re-alignment, the United States sustained a defeat. What will be the consequences of this defeat? I hate to speculate, I just know that they are already big and that the moment of facing the reality is coming. My suggestion to those who are still making decisions--open and start reading War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I don't hold my breath, though. The moment US handlers of their Kiev puppets conceived that Ukrainian Army can "win" in Donbass, the stopwatch started.
Tik tok, tik tok, tik tok...the reality is finally here.