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GRAND STRATEGY

For nation-states, geography is destiny. For this reason, America’s foreign/national security policy should be based on solid geopolitical principles. All else is secondary, or tertiary.

America is for all practical purposes a big island – and from this, our foreign and national security policies must follow.

Given our geographical situation, some areas of the world matter more than others - and some areas don’t matter at all. 

Following the Revolution, our strategic position was enviable. Although Britain and France – the superpowers of that era – had the ability to dispatch large expeditionary forces to our shores, neither had the capability to subdue and occupy the United States. The logistics were impossible.

But all that changed during the Civil War. Following the outbreak of hostilities, the British reinforced their garrison in Canada and shortly thereafter the French installed a puppet regime in Mexico, backed by 36,000 regulars and a large naval force. Had the British or the French intervened – either singly, or in cooperation - it would have changed the course of the war. The United States would have been divided between the North and the South, and quite possibly between the East and the West as well. There was a very real possibility that the French-controlled regime in Mexico would have regained the South-West and California.

More alarming still was the fact that the threat to American territorial integrity did not diminish after the close of hostilities. The steam-powered ships that appeared in the course of the war made it possible to move millions of troops across the oceans.  For the first time in our history, we were not only vulnerable to attack from Canada in the north and Mexico to south, but from the east and west as well – and the newly constructed transcontinental railway meant the western desert, as it was called, no longer provided a strategic buffer.

Given the recent threat posed by Britain and France, secure borders with Canada and Mexico were clearly America’s single most important strategic priority. This is why we provided covert assistance to Mexican nationalists fighting the French Occupation, and why we threatened war with Britain unless they withdrew their army from Canada and agreed to a demilitarized border.

Securing our land borders was an essential first step toward ensuring America's territorial integrity, but that alone was not enough to secure the country. Japan had emerged from its self-imposed isolation in 1868, and Germany had unified in 1870. The emergence of Japan upended the balance of power in Asia, the unification of Germany upended the balance of power in Europe. Both countries were expansionist, and militantly aggressive; Japan posed a significant threat to our Pacific coastline, Germany to our Atlantic.

The great danger was that a European or Asian power, or alliance of powers, would succeed in subjugating the Eurasian landmass. If that were to happen, and the enormous resources of Europe and Asia were combined, America's strategic position would become hopeless.

This was no idle fear - tyrants had been attempting to forcibly unite Europe and Asia for centuries. The Mongols had nearly succeeded during the Middle Ages, and Napoleon had more recently failed by a slender margin. His nephew, Napoleon III, had openly discussed the possibility, and across the Rhine, the leadership of the newly unified German Empire was enamored by the possibility. The Germans would attempt the feat twice during the Twentieth Century, and fail by the narrowest of margins.

Thus, the geopolitical upheavals occasioned by the near simultaneous emergence of Japan and Germany, combined with ongoing revolution in naval technology, forced American strategists to develop an entirely new understanding of America’s strategic requirements. These can be stated as follows:

The Supreme National Interest of the United States is to prevent any single Power, or any single Group of Powers, from gaining hegemony over the Eurasian Landmass...

As a practical matter,  this required the United States to extend its existing policy of secure borders with Mexico and Canada, while simultaneously asserting control over the Caribbean Sea, the Sea Lines of Communications, and the world's maritime choke points, and developing the capability to project sufficient force to the peripheries of Europe and Asia, and their outlying islands, to prevent them from being used to mount an invasion, provide bases for commerce raiders or, as in the two world wars, submarines. 

It was for this reason that we drove Spain from the Caribbean and seized the Philippine Islands in 1898, and annexed Hawaii in that same year. It was for this same reason that we built a two-ocean navy, why we dismembered Columbia to gain hegemony over the Isthmus of Panama, and why we built the Panama Canal, and it is why we embraced Great Britain and France as counterweights to Imperial Germany. 

It is also why we dispatched an expeditionary force into Mexico in 1916, why we went to war with Germany in 1917, and why we attempted to strengthen China as a counterweight to the Japanese Empire.

It is why we fought World War II, and why we fought in Korea, it is why we threatened war over the Taiwan Straits in the mid 1950s, why we almost went to war over Cuba in 1962, and why we did go to war in Vietnam.

The post-1870 Grand Strategy succeeded in protecting the American homeland from significant attack for nearly a century, because it was solidly rooted in geopolitical reality - and despite dramatic technical innovations, including the development of long-range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, it remains the best possible option for securing America today. 

Nonetheless, it was abandoned in 1967 for less than honorable reasons - and it was the abandonment of this tried and tested Grand Strategy that led us directly, almost inexorably, to the present Mid Eastern imbroglio.

  

To be Continued...

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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