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A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy

Barry R. Posen

Narrated by Jim Sartor

Available from Audible

Book published by Cornell University Press

The United States, Barry R. Posen argues in Restraint, has grown incapable of moderating its ambitions in international politics. Since the collapse of Soviet power, it has pursued a grand strategy that he calls "liberal hegemony," one that Posen sees as unnecessary, counterproductive, costly, and wasteful. Written for policymakers and observers alike, Restraint explains precisely why this grand strategy works poorly and then provides a carefully designed alternative grand strategy and an associated military strategy and force structure. In contrast to the failures and unexpected problems that have stemmed from America’s consistent overreaching, Posen makes an urgent argument for restraint in the future use of U.S. military strength.After setting out the political implications of restraint as a guiding principle, Posen sketches the appropriate military forces and posture that would support such a strategy. He works with a deliberately constrained notion of grand strategy and, even more important, of national security (which he defines as including sovereignty, territorial integrity, power position, and safety). His alternative for military strategy, which Posen calls "command of the commons," focuses on protecting U.S. global access through naval, air, and space power, while freeing the United States from most of the relationships that require the permanent stationing of U.S. forces overseas.

Barry R. Posen is Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the Security Studies Program at MIT. He is the author of The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars (winner of the Furniss Award and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award) and Inadvertent Escalation: Conventional War and Nuclear Risks.


“An MIT professor, Posen has written a tightly argued, impeccably sourced, and lucid case for a new American national security strategy. Though written by an expert for experts, it is an accessible read. No term is undefined, no assumpiton unspecified, and no assertion not carefully supported.”

—Jessica T. Mathews, The New York Review of Books

“In his deeply wise new book Restraint: A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy, MIT professor Barry Posen agrees that powers that have the might will always believe they have the right. That China is climbing closer to the US on the power ladder requires us to understand that it figures it's in the right no matter what anyone says. Yet the US will stay in Asia as long as China thinks it shouldn't. Even Posen, who wants the chore list of the US military substantially downsized (now in the... (now in the network: some 800 extraterritorial bases, ports and airfields in more than 80 countries), puts it this way: 'Asia is a more difficult case [than other issues for the US].... China may reach a point where it has sufficient power to bid for hegemony.'But, speaking directly to Beijing, the professor notes that China 'does not yet possess much offensive capability; it can punish and harass, but not crush or conquer. Its options are limited.”

South China Morning Post

“Posen's calmly heretical book is an argument for Washington to discipline its seemingly compulsive and spasmodic projections of global power.... [A] masterclass in threat deflation,... Barry Posen's succinct policy brief is a deeply moral book. The correct proportion of GDP to spend on military defence, how many aircraft carrier groups to deploy to the Persian Gulf: these are not just technical matters. It is in just such questions that morality inheres.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Posen's new book will be compulsory reading for anyone concerned with both the direction that US grand strategy has followed since the end of the Cold War and the possible alternative strategies to help secure vital American national interests, in a period where once again we are witnessing a rise and fall power dynamic in the international system.... This is an enormously important and timely book which challenges the conventional wisdom about the merits and logic of liberal hegemony. Restraint provides an insightful alternative that should be carefully pondered and will certainly advance the debate on American grand strategy.”

International Affairs

“Regardless of the reader's views on the grand strategy of Restraint, this book has value. Posen outlines the benefits of having a clearly articulated grand strategy and demonstrates the pitfalls that the U.S. has faced in navigating national security policy without this level of clarity. His case against becoming embroiled in conflicts that require counterinsurgency operations is strong.”


Restraint makes an eloquent case for a new grand strategy. It is not a new case, for it echoes the arguments offshore balancers have been making for twenty years. It does, however, codify much good thought and consistently makes judicious judgments with precision and fairness. Critics of the status quo would do well to incorporate Posen's case into public discourse.”

The American Spectator

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