Realism and Realpolitik – Setting the Conditions for America’s Survival in the 21st Century
Summary: Today we have a brilliant guest post by Franz Gayl (Major, USMC, retired) discussing America’s place in the world, and recommending what should be our grand strategy to best adapt to the inevitable changes that lie ahead in this century. It’s deserves some attention as an alternative to the dark course that we’ve chosen, one that leads to hard times for America.
Realism and Realpolitik – Setting the Conditions for America’s Survival in the 21st Century, by Franz J. Gayl (Major, USMC, retired), thesis for the National Defense University, June 2006 — posted with permission of the author.
- The author explains why you should read this paper
- Download the paper
- About the author
- For more information
(1) The author explains why you should read this paper
Some have referred to this thesis as dark and pessimistic. Some have even suggested it as unpatriotic. Yet, I hold that America is in decline, a natural cycle of all great empires. At the same time China and Islam, among others, have awakened and are rising. Their emergence should be viewed as their own natural cycles of ascension.
These are measurable realities, much less in dispute today than when I wrote of them in 2006. Rather than resist we should prepare responsibly. Unfortunately, we reject such notions nationally. Our refusal is reflected in increased imperial extension that enflames outdated flash points around the world. Professions of righteousness conceal a military industrial complex pressing us on towards conflict. Examples are numerous:
- Our insistence on a separate military relationship with Taiwan in spite of “One China” confirmed in our agreements with China.
- Our nation building within Islamic societies that lacks any real respect for their Islamic foundations.
- Our encouragement of Israelis that actually abandons them to confront the possibility of a new WMD holocaust.
Our behavior drives adversaries to collaborate, and to neutralize rather than welcome America’s role in the future. My 2006 recommendations remain worthy of discussion; the time to modify our national behavior is running out to avoid being drawn into conflicts that we cannot win. We are accelerating the rate and severity of our decline, perhaps towards national ruin, a sad ending considering an alternative that begins a national re-ascension.
America’s frustration with powerful potential partners may be rooted in the expectation that the broader idealistic American world view must also have universal validity, simply because we survived the Cold War intact and victorious. This U.S.-centrism and idealism is understandably the residual euphoria of having prevailed over the Soviet Union and our consequent unopposed hegemonic extension into the resulting vacuum.
Yet, in our rigid self-righteousness, as reflected in the current National Security Strategy, we seem to overlook the cyclical realities of civilizations throughout recorded history, and fail to give credence to the world views of others. From a domestic perspective, there is no harm in America “drinking her own idealistic bath water” as it pertains to our sovereign affairs.
However, it can be argued that it is increasingly dangerous for the U.S. to project her ideals into international affairs with what has come to be perceived by many as hypocritical inconsistency. Similarly, it may be unwise to do so at a time when real global power is cycling away from sole American dominance, an issue to be discussed later in this paper. Instead, America will therefore need powerful and reliable allies such as China and Russia in her confrontation with the fundamentalist forces that threaten all of modern civilization.
These anti-modernist forces are the real common global enemy of civilization in the so called long war begun in this 21st Century. Anti-modernism does not suggest the rejection of technology or machines, as they have utility for all antagonists in waging war. It does suggest the absolute rejection by committed extremists of the decadent fallout of modernity and its various root causes. The subversion of ancient primitive values relating to spiritualism, race, ethnic identity, morality, and societal fairness through modernity and globalization is the trend that anti-modernists combat.
The author suggests that Radical Islam serves as the current armed vanguard for the growing number of politically diverse state and non-state anti-modernist soldiers and their sympathizers. Radical Islam’s combined conventional and unconventional weapons arsenals and swelling ranks of soldiers logically has the temporary lead in this global assault. While overt alliances to date center on Islamic fundamentalist groups and states, there are signs that the commonality of anti-modernist values may lead to opportunistic alliances with Neo-Nazi and other fascist forces in the near future. For example, direct electronic links to Islamic extremist websites from the white supremacist Aryan Nations website (2006) are compelling evidence of this opportunistic connection.
It is this author’s opinion that as a prerequisite to effectively confronting the nihilistic dangers of the anti-modernist menace, we may have to first subdue a self-righteous American demon within ourselves. This internal enemy is largely a product of outgroup ascription. It constitutes a national attitude perpetuated by a volatile mix of outsider perceptions and self-righteous American idealism. It generates rage in our enemies and distrust and alienation amongst our potential friends, and likely contributes to U.S. exclusion from important partnerships, like the Sino-Russian agreement noted earlier. In short, our attitude and actions could be titled Imperial America.
In the U.S. context the word imperial should not be understood solely as the projection of military power for expeditions, occupation or subjugation. Instead, it should be understood as America’s perceived hegemonic grip on global affairs through capital flow, rule-set creation, and cultural infection. Imperial is therefore meant as the root of Imperialism as defined in Vladimir Lenin’s 1917 treatise “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.” This increasingly shared perception of the U.S. is loathed by the Radical Islamists, their diverse anti-modernist sympathizers, and increasingly by great modern powers such as China and Russia.
This author will argue that a humble departure from the crusader-like tone of American idealism in favor of a consistent realpolitik firmly rooted in the coinciding national security interests of America and other global powers will be required for 21st Century survival. As a complimentary step, America should reverse her progressive alienation from Secular Islam, by addressing substantively the issue of our perceived complicity in historical offenses against Islam. Only by these means can we isolate the ideological political forces of Radical Islam from moderate Secular Islam itself. Since armed Radical Islam serves as the armed vanguard for all anti-modernists, including Neo-Nazi and Fascist extremists, once isolated those forces can be destroyed.
In sum total, this author will argue that modern U.S. foreign policy must adopt the fundamental precepts of the “clear-eyed” realpolitik advocated by Dr. Henry A. Kissinger. The reliability, pragmatism, and national humility of this return to American realism will allow us to tolerate our natural civilizational decline while guaranteeing our physical survival as a nation through the 21st Century.
(3) Download the paper
(4) About the author
Franz J. Gayl serves as a civilian science and technology advisor within Headquarters Marine Corps at the Pentagon. Previously he served for 22 years as an active duty infantry Marine, starting as enlisted and retiring with the rank of Major.
He earned an MS in Space Systems Operations from the Naval Postgraduate School and an MS in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University. At NDU he was presented the “Ambassador’s Award” for my research and paper.
In 2006 he voluntarily deployed to Iraq. There he became aware of corruption within the Quantico support establishment that cost many under-equipped Marines their lives. His subsequent disclosures to the OSD, Congress and the press contributed to dramatic life-saving improvements in rapid acquisition.
He also participated for 5 months in a DARPA internship, holds one patent, and is a graduate of the 2011 Singularity University Graduate Studies Program.
(5) For More Information: posts about America’s grand strategy
- The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
- America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
- America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
- One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I , 19 March 2007; revised 7 June 2008
- How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II , 14 June 2008
- America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past , 30 June 2008 – chapter 1 in a series of notes
- President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris , 1 July 2008 – chapter 2
- America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
- America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
- The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
- Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009