The election of Donald Trump opens the door to change and reform in many areas. The most important, in terms of our country’s future, is grand strategy and foreign policy (the latter, understood correctly, is a subset of the former). The United States needs a grand strategy aimed at preserving the state system.
Our present grand strategy was conceived in a world of states in conflict with each other. Its purpose is to make America dominant over all other states. The U.S. is not the first state to attempt this. Like its predecessors, it is failing. No state has ever been powerful enough to establish the “universal monarchy”, as it was once known. Attempts to do so have always resulted in overreach, then fall. Remember, Portugal once ruled half the world.
But the most important thing is not that we reduce our goals to match our power in the world of conflict between states. The most important thing is that we realize Fourth Generation war poses so serious a threat to the whole state system that conflict between states has become obsolete. We need an alliance of all states against Fourth Generation entities. If we and other Great Powers, especially Russia and China, continue to squabble among ourselves, the 21st century is likely to witness the end of the whole state system. Mere anarchy will be loosed upon the world.
President-elect Donald Trump has already spoken with the leaders of Russia and China, telling them he wants better relations with both. That is a promising start. An alliance of all states should begin with a Triple Alliance of the three strongest Great Powers. Britain and France will probably join. Those five (who conveniently make up the permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council) should be the policy-makers. Any more and decisions will become impossible.
I do not know whether President-elect Trump or his advisors understand the context within which we need a new Triple Alliance or Quintuple Alliance, and here as so often in grand strategy context is important. It is, again, the need for all states to work together against Fourth Generation, non-state entities that wage war. The alliance is a means, not an end.
The end is that whenever 4GW manifests itself, wherever it does so, all states work together to defeat it. The power of Fourth Generation entities, or at least some of them, at the moral level of war is so great that, even with all the states in the world against them, beating them will not be easy. Let me say it once more: what is at stake in the 21st century is the state system itself. If events remain on their current course, by the year 2100 the state will probably be just a memory (a fond one, as in Syria, Libya, and Iraq) in much of the world. States have never played for bigger stakes.
A corollary of a grand strategy that unites all states against violent non-state entities is that war between states must disappear. Too often, the losing state will disintegrate, creating a new petri dish of 4GW entities that is a far worse threat than the old state could ever be.
Therefore, the new alliance of all states will work assiduously to avoid and prevent wars between states. Any state that appears to be moving toward war with another state will find the whole world in its path yelling “Stop!” Ironically, this Realpolitik may do more to prevent interstate conflict than have all the “peace movements” led by idealists.
Some may ask, what about Iran, North Korea, and other “rogue” states? Do we want them in this alliance? Yes. “All states” means just that. Iran faces 4GW threats from non-Persians within her borders. North Korea does not face a 4GW threat, but she could be a useful ally, and we do not want her providing arms and expertise to non-state entities because of a desperate need for cash. A peace treaty with North Korea, followed by the removal of U.S. troops from South Korea, is just the kind of deal President Trump should be good at making.
I hope the Trump White House will take a serious look at revamping America’s grand strategy so it fits a century where the most dangerous threat will be Fourth Generation war. There is at least a chance it will do so. Under Hillary, or any other Establishment president of either party, there would be no chance at all.