After years of sequestration and only limited appreciation for hard power, many defense analysts are feeling giddy about the prospect of a big military build-up under President-elect Donald Trump. Against this backdrop, TAI columnist (and vocal Trump skeptic) Eliot Cohen’s new book, The Big Stick, is quite timely. Our own Walter Russell Mead reviews it for the WSJ:
Mr. Cohen offers a balanced and sensitive analysis of America’s military record since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Rejecting shallow critiques of the Iraq War and carefully sifting through the evidence and the diplomatic record, he reaches a conclusion that will disappoint some of his colleagues in the Bush administration. (Mr. Cohen, a professor at Johns Hopkins’s School of Advanced International Studies, was an advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.) Citing the falsity of the public premise of the war that Iraq’s WMD program posed an urgent threat; the damage it inflicted on U.S. credibility; and the devastating consequences it had on our alliances, Mr. Cohen concludes it was “a mistake.” That said, he argues that its economic and political costs were not as extreme as many critics have claimed, and makes a strong case that some form of American confrontation with Iraq was almost inevitable.
In the second section of the book, Mr. Cohen offers a reasonably optimistic forecast about America’s ability to maintain the forces needed to address the challenges to our security: the challenge of a peer or near-peer competitor in China, the machinations of discontented lesser states like Russia, Iran and North Korea, and the threat of Islamist violence. While he has a healthy respect for America’s rivals and competitors, he is more worried about how the U.S. can fail than about what others will do.
Read the whole review and then go order the book for yourself. As WRM writes, it’s a “must-read for anyone interested in military might—and how it can help us maintain the edge we need in this treacherous age.”