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United States National Security Policy

November 8, 2018

Dr. Kori Schake, Deputy Director-General of the International Institute for Strategic Studies

On November 8th, Kori Schake visited the school for a discussion on US national security policy at the 14th Annual Alvin H. Bernstein Lecture. Schake said that the United States has always had a “wide margin for error” when it comes to its grand strategy. For this reason, the US rarely uses all of the tools available to it, she said. Citing Thucydides’ three motivations for war—fear, interest, honor— Schake said the US traps itself in honor far more often than a sensible country should.

However, Schake argued that the real constraint on American national security grand strategy is winning the domestic argument. Delineating the past successes and failures of American strategists to convince the public to care about the outside world, Schake made strong arguments that reaching unity on both objectives and means has always been a challenge for the US.

Schake noted that the US rarely has a strategy that is divorced from its politics because the American form of government requires an enormous amount of political action. Fortunately, she said, this is the way to be good at national security strategy.

Questions from the audience covered topics on the future of US-UK relations, the national security objectives that the US has accomplished in Afghanistan, and the current lack of a politically acute US grand strategy.  

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