A Grand Strategy of Restraint Needs a ‘Counter Elite’
The American foreign policy establishment prefers meddling around the globe because it can afford to without cost or political price. What is needed is a new foreign policy establishment elite based on the principles of realism and restraint.
THE IDEAS of restraint and realism are increasingly popular among the average people, but also will increasingly be under fire by an ideological edifice whose worldview is opposed to any forms of narrow nationalism and populism. In light of that, the restrainers need a “counter-elite.” While public opinion is important, it is also by definition volatile, and easily swayed by smooth and emotive propaganda. Restrainers not only need academic theorists, but also intelligent and articulate people in both media and the bureaucracy, not just giving voice to the voiceless, who are opposed to an expansive, primacist foreign policy, but also converting more independents to the cause. Fewer articles in journals, more knowledge about what a “process foul” is, and how to write memos. It might not win one any accolades immediately, but it would win restrainers power, and in turn, agency to shape politics. As Hans Morgenthau once noted, “you may cover whole skins of parchment with limitations, but power alone can limit power.”
Sumantra Maitra is a national-security fellow at the Center for the National Interest and an elected, early career historian member at the Royal Historical Society. He can be reached on Twitter at @MrMaitra.