American Power and Liberal Order
A Conservative Internationalist Grand Strategy
Paul D. Miller
Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C., 2016, 336 pages
Book Review published on: June 2, 2017
Students enrolled in joint professional military education or intermediate level education are introduced to national security strategy and the key players in its development. Time could be saved in these courses by simply having students read Paul D. Miller’s American Power and Liberal Order: A Conservative Internationalist Grand Strategy. Miller has extensive experience in the fields of intelligence and diplomacy; his experience is evident in his writing. American Power provides a crash course in international relations theory, and Miller suggests a number of ways the United States might maintain its position of strength.
The book itself is divided into three major sections, the first of which establishes a framework for thinking about America’s grand strategy. Miller briefly summarizes the United States’ military and diplomatic history, starting with the Revolutionary War and concluding with the Global War on Terrorism. While establishing the framework of the book, he argues that American “grand strategy” has been consistent since the birth of the nation: the goals have been to “defend the U.S. homeland from attack, maintain a favorable balance of power among the great powers, champion liberalism, punish nonstate actors, and invest in good governance and allied capabilities abroad.” He also introduces the reader to the concepts of realism and liberalism in international relations theory, and discusses the applicability of the subgenres of both schools of thought.
The second part further discusses the subtle nuances of realism and liberal internationalism, demonstrating where the schools have previously dealt correctly and incorrectly with international relations. Miller settles on conservative internationalism as the strategic way forward. The author also addresses previous failures of American grand strategy; specifically, he writes about U.S. military involvement in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He concludes that stability operations and cooperation with international liberal organizations continue to be necessary in order to maintain the global balance of power.
Miller advocates for expanding the role of civilians in stability operations. He also supports increasing foreign aid to those nations that might support the efforts of the United States, while cutting foreign support to wealthy nations, such as Israel, or uncooperative nations. The author suggests limiting the role of the FBI and creating a domestic intelligence agency, streamlining the deputy’s committee of the National Security Council.
I disagree with some of Miller’s points; I do not believe the government needs to add additional agencies for the purpose of domestic intelligence gathering. Miller is also in favor of expanding American foreign aid programs; I personally believe that the United States needs to address domestic infrastructure and insolvency before providing funds abroad. However, I do agree with him regarding the importance of training the military in the execution of stability operations; it is far better for the U.S. armed forces to quickly resolve the initial phases of a campaign with a solid plan in place to stabilize an occupied country after the conclusion of combat operations. Further, the author argues that certain agencies and committees need to be streamlined and focused on appropriate objectives; I agree that the committees that make up the national security staff need to be made up of assigned planners, and not agency principals or deputies.
Miller’s book offers a rebuke of the foreign policies of both the Bush and Obama administrations. The author’s extensive experience in foreign policy, diplomacy, and national security is reflected throughout the book. His writing is clear and concise; American Power and Liberal Order is accessible by the midcareer military or diplomatic professional but is also relevant professional reading for those who serve in higher positions within the Departments of State and Defense.
Book Review written by: Staff Sgt. Brian Darling, New Jersey Army National Guard, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey