“Speak softly and carry a big stick” Theodore Roosevelt famously said in 1901, when the United States was emerging as a great power. It was the right sentiment, perhaps, in an age of imperial rivalry but today many Americans doubt the utility of their global military presence, thinking it outdated, unnecessary or even dangerous.
In The Big Stick, Eliot A. Cohen—a scholar and practitioner of international relations—disagrees. He argues that hard power remains essential for American foreign policy. While acknowledging that the US must be careful about why, when, and how it uses force, he insists that its international role is as critical as ever, and armed force is vital to that role.
Cohen explains that American leaders must learn to use hard power in new ways and for new circumstances. The rise of a well-armed China, Russia’s conquest of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, and the spread of radical Islamist movements like ISIS are some of the key threats to global peace. If the United States relinquishes its position as a strong but prudent military power, and fails to accept its role as the guardian of a stable world order we run the risk of unleashing disorder, violence and tyranny on a scale not seen since the 1930s. The US is still, as Madeleine Albright once dubbed it, “the indispensable nation.”
Review: ‘The Big Stick’ Argues for a Robust Military Role Abroad
The New York Times Book Review – January 2, 2017 (Excerpt)
Two days after the presidential election, Eliot A. Cohen — military historian, former counselor to Condoleezza Rice at the State Department and impassioned Never Trumper — wrote an essay in The American Interest intended to console his anxious friends. Yes, he conceded, the notion of a Donald J. Trump presidency was far from ideal (“dreadful” was the precise word he used), but he’d still advise fellow Republicans to work for the new president, so long as each kept an unsigned letter of resignation just a file drawer away.
Shortly thereafter, one of Mr. Cohen’s friends in Mr. Trump’s circle reached out to him, asking for names. Mr. Cohen provided them. Then things took a nasty turn. Read more…