My colleague Patrick Doherty just posted this fascinating review of the major Center for a New American Security Conference titled “Pivot Point: New Directions for American Security.”
In it, he captures something former State Department Policy Planning Staff Chief Mitchell Reiss said:
So in calling for the next president to hold another Solarium, Flournoy is calling for a high-level, official debate about U.S. grand strategy in the next administration. This is essential, even if CNAS, by its own admission, has yet to come up with a grand strategy. And it is important because of one reason that William and Mary’s Mitchell Reiss identified, which might have been the keenest insight in this entire conference: one of the primary obstacles to coming up with a new U.S. grand strategy is that there has been little to no demand for such for at least a decade, since Bill Clinton gave up looking for the big idea and started managing the crises all around him. With no demand, most think tanks in Washington, with a few notable exceptions like New America and CNAS, have focused on day-to-day crisis management and incrementalism.
Will the next President essentially be an incrementalist and simply be reactive to crisis after crisis? Or will he push a proactive plan, a new cohesive grand strategy?
My hope is that Obama will leapfrog out of today’s dominant incrementalism and push a new international social contract between the US and the rest of the world — but that means being as bold and innovative on the tough problems like Israel/Palestine and Cuba as the rest of the portfolio.
— Steve Clemons