research / Journal publications

Canberra, we have a problem: Interpreting shifting American grand strategy preferences in an era of Sino–US rivalry

December 20 2021

President Joe Biden's assertion that 'America is back' and will embrace 'strategic competition' with the People's Republic of China has been welcomed in Australia as a sign that the United States is returning to a 'normal' grand strategy after the turbulence of the Trump administration. This article argues, however, that this is a problematic assumption as it ignores the question of how American grand strategy choices are made and articulated. Here, Australians need to be much more cognisant of the competing political cultures of statecraft (Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian, and Jacksonian) at play in American grand strategy. The article argues that each presents a 'historical repertoire' that provides multiple narratives for leaders or strategists to draw upon to guide particular grand strategy choices and demonstrates their significance through an analysis of the approaches to American grand strategy of both the Obama and Trump adminstrations and an initial assessment of the role of the political cultures of statecraft in shaping the emergent grand strategy approach of the Biden administration. The paper concludes that a focus on interpreting the grand strategy preferences of the United States fundamentally challenges the bipartisan assumption upon which current Australian strategic policy rests: that the United States maintains not only the capability but also the will to sustain its position of primacy in international affairs.

Read the article online here.

Note: This article was published in Australian Journal of Politics and History, The University of Queensland and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

Author: Michael Clarke, UTS:ACRI Visiting Fellow; Senior Fellow, Centre for Defence Research, Australian Defence College.