In making the case for selective engagement, Robert Art distinguishes among one vital interest (the defense of the U.S. homeland), two highly important interests (the maintenance of deep peace among Eurasian great powers and secure access to Persian Gulf oil), and three important interests (the preservation of economic openness, the spread and the consolidation of democracy and human rights abroad, and the prevention of severe climate change). Yet, as he admits, selective engagement seems to invite abuse through a proliferation of foreign policy commitments. As a practical matter, how could distinguish a grand strategy of "selective" engagement from one of primacy (or dominion)? Would not any president— Republican or Democrat—claim that his or her own administration was selective in the use of force abroad?
Stephen Biddle contends that the grand strategy pursued by the Bush administration since the 9/11 terrorist attacks "has combined ambitious public statements with vague particulars as to the scope of the threat and the end state to be sought." As the costs of the ongoing insurgency in Iraq have increased, the ambiguities in the administration's grand strategy are becoming intolerable. What exactly are those ambiguities in U.S. grand strategy? Drawing upon your professional experiences (in government, the military, or the private sector), as well as Art's discussion of grand strategy, do you think that it is possible or even desirable for any great power to have a "coherent" grand strategy? How might ambiguity regarding the " end state to be sought," as well as the means available to achieve those ends, work to the United States' advantage in the global war on terror?
To remedy the current strategic ambiguity, Biddle presents two alternative strategies for the
S. war on terrorism—rollback and containment. Both strategies would aim to reduce the threats to U.S. interests posed by Islamist terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The two strategies, however, identify different operational goals and policy tools, and rest on different assessments of short-term and long-term risks. "Rollback tolerates higher risk in the near term for a possibly lower cumulative risk in the longer term; containment reduces near-term risks but may increase them in the long-run." If you were advising the president, which of three possible strategies—rollback, containment, or the status quo—would you recommend his administration pursue?