A Grand Strategy of Restraint?

  • Colonel David M. Knych

Strategy observers and pundits increasingly argue that the current United States grand strategy of maintaining its position of Primacy through an activist foreign policy, robust overseas military presence, and vast network of alliances and security commitments is proving disastrous to American interests. This cohort argues that America is overstretched and in decline, and can no longer afford to maintain its ambitious global reform agenda or meet its security obligations abroad. As such, they advocate for a grand strategy of Restraint, also known as Retrenchment, as way of preserving a narrower, but vital set of security interests by reducing its presence overseas, reducing its security commitments abroad, and shifting burdens to allies and partners. This paper questions ‘Restraint’ as a viable alternative to the current United States approach in grand strategy and refutes the key arguments and assumptions made by ‘Restraint’ advocates. In reality, the United States must remain engaged in the world and provide leadership, as it is the only sure way of securing its vital, national security interests.