Why Did the U.S. Kill Suleimani?Roundup
tags: foreign policy, Iran, Suleimani
Elizabeth Cobbs is a professor of history at Texas A&M, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of “American Umpire.” Kimberly C. Field, a retired Army brigadier general, is the executive director of the Albritton Center for Grand Strategy at the George H.W. Bush School of Government at Texas A&M.
Among the many questions raised by the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, perhaps the most pressing is, “Why?” Yes, General Suleimani was responsible for hundreds of American deaths, and he may have been planning another attack on United States forces. But the greater concern, raised by people from Tucker Carlson on the right to Elizabeth Warren on the left, is how this provocative act fits into America’s overall interests — in other words, our grand strategy.
Disturbingly, it’s a bit of a trick question. America doesn’t really have a grand strategy. What we do have, a patchwork of doctrines left over from the Cold War, fails to match our abilities, our national goals and the changing shape of global threats and opportunities.
America desperately needs a new grand strategy — a concise, high-level vision for our role in the world. Without one, we are just wasting lives and resources.
The lack of a useful grand strategy has been apparent for a long time. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, one of us, Ms. Field, at the time an Army officer, was dispatched to Central Command to help prepare for the invasion of Iraq, a country that wasn’t involved in the assault on our cities. She wondered what objective would lead us to target a third party a thousand miles from Afghanistan. What overarching plan, what strategy, justified such a major undertaking? Four tours of duty overseas never revealed the answer to her.
The United States has effectively had only two grand strategies. The first was George Washington’s “Great Rule,” which shunned military alliances for 150 years (the Monroe Doctrine, which warned Europe to stay out of the Western Hemisphere, was an important corollary). At the time, it was possible to sit safely separated from the rest of the world by two oceans and focus on solidifying control over our slice of the continent. America had no reason to spend resources on other countries’ dubious fights, unless attacked.
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