Dr. Eugene Gholz argues for a U.S. grand strategy of restraint

by James Rolland  |  July 13, 2015  |  PAST EVENTS

On July 9th, Professor Eugene Gholz of the University of Texas at Austin gave a presentation on the benefits of a potential shift in American grand strategy.  This lecture was part of a series on U.S. Foreign Policy and Grand Strategy sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation.

In his presentation, Dr. Gholz argued that restraint should have been the United States' strategic adaptation to the end of the Cold War. Instead, The United States continued to use the same institutions that it had been using for the past 50 years. He pointed out that many of our international decisions since the end of the Cold War are not based upon strategic thinking. He then laid out the argument for his proposition of a new foreign policy based on restraint.

The main points in his proposed strategy of restraint were an adjustment to the use and funding of the military. Instead of using hard power and kinetic force to get what the United States wants, it should use diplomatic and cultural engagement. Restraint would mean an end to the alliances created in the Cold War, the elimination of regional combatant commands, and a change and cut in defense spending. It would not mean a retreat from the world, but simply a reduction in the use of military. The United States would still have a robust defense capability, be able to defend the global commons, and would be more inclined to act altruistically. Instead of the United States becoming involved in the domestic problems of a foreign nation, the other nation must try to remedy the problem by itself. The United States would act when human rights are violated or a conflict threatens US interests.

Dr. Gholz summarized his presentation into three points. The first was not to meddle in the affairs of other nations. The United States should act when other nation's affairs apply specifically to her interests and security, rather than find ways it can interject itself in the world's events.  Secondly, America should capitalize on its strengths. The U.S. geographic position should favor us and hinder our adversaries, not the other way around. The United States should use its superior technology and resources more frequently instead of relying on young, untrained soldiers to manage foreign states and represent the nation abroad. Lastly, the United States should give other wealthy, capable nations a chance to manage their own problems instead of doing the work for them. We devote a majority of our resources to countries like Japan and Korea and the EU, some of the wealthiest states in the world. They are financially capable of their own defense.

Dr. Gholz is an Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He works primarily at the intersection of national security and economic policy, on subjects including innovation, defense management, and U.S. foreign policy.  He co-wrote a well-known International Security article that coined the term "restraint" as a proposed grand strategy for the United States.  From 2010-2012, he served in the Pentagon as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy.  He is also the coauthor of two books: Buying Military Transformation: Technological Innovation and the Defense Industry, and U.S. Defense Politics: The Origins of Security Policy. His recent scholarship focuses on energy security

A transcript of the lecture can be found here.

Eugene Gholz with IWP Interns, July 2015

Above: Dr. Eugene Gholz with IWP interns following his presentation.