Interest in a U.S. Grand Strategy of Restraint May Be Growing, So Advocates Need to Provide More Details
Jan 22, 2021
Some U.S. policymakers are interested in a new approach to the U.S. role in the world: a realist grand strategy of restraint, under which the United States would cooperate more with other powers, reduce its forward military presence, and end some security commitments. The authors explain how U.S. policies toward key regions would change under such a strategy, identify unanswered questions, and offer next steps for developing policy implications.
Changes in U.S. Regional Security Policies to Operationalize a Realist Grand Strategy of Restraint
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The United States is facing several national security challenges at the same time that the federal budget is under pressure because of public health and infrastructure crises. In response to these challenges, there has been growing public interest in rethinking the U.S. role in the world. Under one option, a realist grand strategy of restraint, the United States would adopt a more cooperative approach toward other powers, reduce the size of its military and forward military presence, and end or renegotiate some of its security commitments. To help U.S. policymakers and the public understand this option, the authors of this report explain how U.S. security policies toward key regions would change under a grand strategy of restraint, identify key unanswered questions, and propose next steps for developing the policy implications of this option.
The authors find that regional policy under a grand strategy of restraint varies depending on the level of U.S. interests and the risk that a single powerful state could dominate the region. Because of China's significant military capabilities, advocates of restraint call for a greater U.S. military role in East Asia than in other regions. The authors recommend that advocates of a grand strategy of restraint should continue to develop their policy recommendations. In particular, they should identify what changes in great-power capabilities and behavior would imperil U.S. vital interests, maritime areas where the United States should retain superiority, priorities for peacetime military activities, and war scenarios that should guide U.S. Department of Defense planning.
The Middle East
Next Steps for Operationalizing a Grand Strategy of Restraint
The research in this report was conducted by the RAND Center for Analysis of U.S. Grand Strategy within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.
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