Dr. Slaugther at the Kennedy School
Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter: Why the U.S. Doesn't Need a Grand Strategy
November 3, 2011
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: The Future of Diplomacy Project
“We knew things were going to change because of the demographics, unemployment, and other factors”, said Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, 2011 Fisher Family Fellow, about her time as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. Department at State and the Arab Spring. In an interview on November 2, the Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs described the planning for the transition in Iraq and Afghanistan, the role of new technology in foreign policy, and called for a greater tolerance for risk. As part of her legacy, she hopes to have planted the seeds for the idea that diplomacy must engage directly with foreign societies and people “as equals” as much as it does with foreign governments.
Listen to the interview:
On November 3, Professor Slaughter also delivered a public address on “Why America Doesn’t Need a Grand Strategy,” to a standing-room-only auditorium. Introduced by Future of Diplomacy Project Director, Nicholas Burns, as a “role model for Harvard students” and a “thought leader” who played a key role in transforming U.S. foreign policy under President Obama, Professor Slaughter criticized the notion of grand strategies as an imposition of artificial consistency upon complex, messy, and rarely intelligible realities.
Slaughter instead defined grand strategy as a set of principles established to provide intellectual coherence to the policies of a government. In the Obama administration these are codified in the 2009 National Security Strategy. Summarizing the approach as “rebuilding at home and rebalancing abroad,” Slaughter argued that the United States could not expect to lead abroad without reducing its debt and also reestablishing the international credibility of its physical and social infrastructure. Despite the fact that the U.S. is a driving force behind the global economy and technological innovation, Slaughter made a case for more concerted development of U.S. domestic potential, for instance in solar energy markets.
On the note of “rebalancing abroad,” Slaughter spoke first of the need to accommodate rising and returning powers within a strengthened and expanded international order. She then argued that the second form of rebalancing was a shift from military to civilian power—including both diplomacy and development—in policy responses to terrorism, transnational crime, failing states, climate change, pandemic diseases, and resource scarcity. Slaughter’s third and final act of “rebalancing” required diplomats to build partnerships with private and civic actors, as well as conventional public-sector interlocutors. In her judgment, the best Washington could hope for in an open, complex, global system was to be “the world’s most influential nation” pioneering the frontiers of the 21st century.
Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. Department at State, is a 2011 Fisher Family Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project. She spoke to the Executive Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project, Cathryn Cluver, on November 2, 2011.
For more information about this publication please contact the Future of Diplomacy Project Executive Director.
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