By Javad Heirannia

U.S. new grand strategy don't aborning traditional elements of soft power: Bruce Hall

December 26, 2017 - 9:49

TEHRAN - Rodney Bruce Hall, a professor of international relations at the University of Macau, says, “U.S. Grand Strategy has long relied on keeping its armed forces to a strength level that the threat of new U.S. military interventions is always credible.”

In an interview with the Tehran Times, Hall says, “I don't see the strategy aborning traditional elements of U.S. "soft power."  U.S. wealth and culture are major elements of this.”
Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: New U.S. security strategy announced by Trump is based on 4 principals: protecting the country, improving public wealth, displaying peace resorting to the U.S. power and influence. To what extent in this new strategy the soft security aspects have been considered?

A: I don't see the strategy aborning traditional elements of U.S. "soft power."  U.S. wealth and culture are major elements of this.  The Trump administration, like the Reagan administration before him, seems to want to turn back to Realpolitik as a basis of policy and getting matters that harm the U.S. economy (such as trade imbalances and too high domestic corporate and other tax burdens) addressed, and measures harming domestic employment thus domestic social cohesion.  It also includes rapidly rebuilding military capability where it has been neglected.  The strategy aims to render the U.S. secure, not loved.

Q: Some criticize the new strategy and believe trump’s new strategy excludes some issues like human rights and climate changes. Considering this approach, will Trump’s new strategy result in security and stable peace? 

A: President Jimmy Carter focused on human rights.  The U.S. electorate thought he was a disastrous President and voted him out of office.  Climate change is a problem.  Who bears the burdens of adjustment is a matter of negotiation.  Trump aims to shift the burden elsewhere. Certainly international conflict could arise over these burden sharing issues, but conflict can arise over nearly any issue area.  Different U.S. governments have made different decisions regarding how much global human rights and climate change mitigation the U.S. can afford.  A new administration might make diferent decisions from Trumps.  With a 4 year term of office, Trump's time horizons see him pushing in the directions he is currently pushing. He seems to judge that peace and stability will not be enhanced by a policy focus on human rights and climate change over enhancing U.S. economic and military capabilities.  Europe, regarding herself to be a "normative power" focuses exclusively on these issues, being militarily marginal.  One can argue over whether or not this is a reasonable division of labor in the U.S. alliance with Europe.

Q: The new strategy allocates more money to the U.S. army. Does this mean that the U.S. foreign policy will become more militarized and the significance of the diplomacy will decline?

A: I don't accept the premise of the question.  Diplomacy is meaningful and effective to the extent that it is backed by military and economic capabilities.  I fear my constructivist orientation yet does not permit me to see the social institution of diplomacy functioning effectively in a vacuum, in the absence of credible military capabilities to back it up.  U.S. diplomacy has always, when it has been effective, been backed by a surfeit of military power.  The U.S. has been at war for over a decade now in the Middle East, and the American people are rather weary of it.  I think it unlikely that Trump's government is investing resources in the U.S. armed forces in order to generate new wars "in lieu of" diplomatic activity.  I think it's more likely Trumps is seeking to restore the U.S. armed forces (especially the Navy) to the robust strength they enjoyed after the Reagan defense build up, to strongly discourage would be regional hegemons around the world.  A possible exception would be North Korea.  It is likely Trump has decided the N. Korean nuclear threat is unacceptable, that China lacks both the desire and capability to accomplish a reversal of the NK nuclear program, and that some form of non-nuclear military solution will be required by the time NK claims of its missile ranges and accuracies, an ability to miniaturize the warheads, and render them survival during a ballistic missile re-entry, are credible..

Q: Considering the significance of the U.S. army in the new strategy, is there possibility for more U.S. military interventions in different parts of the world?

A: U.S. Grand Strategy has long relied on keeping its armed forces to a strength level that the threat of new U.S. military interventions is always credible.  They are not more likely, however, as Mr. Trump is an economic nationalist much more than a militant nationalist. 

Q: Trump calls Russia and China in his new strategy as rivals not enemies that the U.S. has to try to make economic relation with them. What is the reason for his positive approach toward these two countries?

A: While both Russia and China singularly or together lack both the ideological incentives and the military capabilities to become a concern as new Cold War enemies (I find Graham Allison's arguments to the contrary to be highly flawed) both countries, in the absence of counterproductive programs of autocratic, imperialist grandeur, have the capabilities of being strong partners to the U.S. in promoting and enforcing world peace, among other roles as economic partners.  However, so long as Russia faces the world with autocratic Great Russian revaunchism and China leans towards autocratic attempts to reconstruct regionally the ancient imperial kow-tow tribute system, both countries canat best be non-belligerent rivals to a democratic superpower.  There are many reasons that true and deep friendships between autocratic and democratic states are never seen to develop.  But the U.S. has no compelling interests in approaching other large powers from a position of belligerence, and thus surrendering cooperative outcomes where they may be found.

Q: Trump defended his stance toward Iran and North Korea. As he hasn’t certified the JCPOA, how do you see the fate of the JCPOA?

A: I see the fate of the JCPOA while Trump is in office similar to that of the U.S. nonproliferation initiative with respect to North Korea.  While the nuclear weapons and deployment strategies in question do not yet represent an immediate, clear and present danger to U.S. security, the U.S. can afford to go along to some extent with allies more timid about the consequences of suspending negotiations and starting over, or taking a more forceful strategy.

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