Out of Order Podcast

“Military Might…? Hard Security’s Role in a Soft Power World”

February 28, 2018
Amy Studdart
Derek Chollet
Shawn Turner
3 min read
Photo Credit: sibsky2016/Shutterstock

So far, the Out-of-Order Podcast has focused on specific countries and the role they play in trying to stabilize, uphold, change, or transform the current international order. In the fifth episode, we take a different approach as we look at what role the military and hard power plays in shaping the international order. To discuss this and related issues, hosts Amy Studdart and Peter Sparding are joined by GMF Visiting Senior Fellow Shawn Turner and GMF Executive Vice President Derek Chollet.

During the Cold War, the role of the military in underpinning the Western international order seemed clear. After the end of the Cold War, however, the mission of Western militaries seemed to change as NATO was looking for a new role and Western militaries primarily focused first on humanitarian interventions like in the Balkans and then, following the attacks on 9/11, on targeted military action fighting against terrorism and broad-scope wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, as the new U.S. National Defense Strategy (NDS) outlines, the focus of U.S. military policy seems to turn back to questions of strategic competition with other powers and the larger international order like we saw more so during the Cold War. Shawn and Derek lay out how the strategic environment has changed to necessitate these developments—changes that were well underway during the previous administration. In fact, they say that despite some of the changed rhetoric, there is a lot of continuity with regard to U.S. military posture under the Trump administration (which sounds like a bipartisan opinion given Jamie Fly’s take in our last episode).

The question is raised as to how sustainable the current discrepancy between the policy priorities set in documents such as the NDS, which emphasizes the need to work with allies, and President Trump’s more brash approach to coalition building, including repeated clashes with allies. As Derek lays out the relative loss of superiority of the U.S. military vis-à-vis actors like China in areas such as AI, the discussion turns to the questions whether authoritarian powers such as China or Russia are helped in their ambition by their lack of adherence to certain liberal ideals which enable them push forward all-out-efforts in technology and certain policy areas. Naturally, the focus then shifts to Europe, as we analyze the important contribution of some European countries, while also pointing to the increasing divergence in capabilities between the transatlantic partners. Finally, we discuss whether too much is asked of the military as the it is increasingly put forward as a solution to more problems and the answer to ever more questions. Given the growing sentiment to focus on “nation building at home” on both sides of the Atlantic and the reluctance of Americans to engage in new large scale military interventions following the experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, how sustainable is the current approach? Is there a risk of losing public support at home for international engagement?