A highlight from Rethinking U.S. Defense Strategy, With Elbridge A. Colby
Welcome to the president's inbox a see a for podcast about the foreign policy challenges facing the united states. I'm jim lindsey director studies at the council on foreign relations. This week's topic is rethinking. Us defense strategy with me to discuss whether in how the united states should revise its defense strategy to face. its current challenges is albert colby. Bridges co-founder in principle of the marathon initiative which seeks to reveal the united states for an era of great power competition from two thousand eighteen to two thousand nineteen. He was the director of the defense program at the center for new american security before that bridge served as deputy assistant secretary defense strategy enforced development where he led the develop enroll out of the two thousand eighteen national defense strategy. His new book. The strategy of denial american defense in age of great power conflict is out today bridge. Congratulations on the publication of your book and welcome back to the presence inbox. many thanks jim. Great to be back on. Now you open the book by posing a question quote you here. What is the best defense strategy for the united states. That's obviously a critical question. And whenever we talk about strategy a strategy has to fit the circumstances it's designed to meet so let's begin our conversation there. How do you see the current strategic situation of the united states. Thanks jim i mean. I think it's pretty mismatched. If not are less. I would say. I mean fundamentally we in a way. Continue to act as if it's the one thousand nine hundred the two thousands where we have a sort of global engagement strategy and certainly a heavy forward defence strategy in the three kind of key theaters around eurasian particular asia europe and the middle east. But the reality is that we're very far from the union polar moment. I think it pretty evident a decade ago. That that moment was fading with the rise of china in particular. But now we see a really dramatic mismatch. And i think it's well past time in fact it's almost becoming. I'd say it's an emergency honestly without exaggeration to right size and rightly orient our defense strategy to avoid frustration and i think potentially disaster. I wanna pursue that because there's a lot there but perhaps you could sort of go at it and bite size chunks first thing that jumps out at me. Is that when you wrote your book. Your subtitle mentions great power conflict now. What i'm used to hearing is the term great-power competition and there's a bit of difference between conflict in competition. So help me understand why you think great power conflict is back on the agenda. Well i think conflict in the title is deliberately ambiguous in the sense that it yes it could be a war. And i think war is definitely possible in fact becoming more plausible this decade in particular but also conflict in the more generic sense that doesn't necessarily entail violence. But i think we're already seeing this decade in in the intensification of the rivalry between the united states and china in particular the great powers of the world. By far i mean. I think in a sense. The world is becoming a bipolar structure with features. Multipolarity is how i think about it. But it's clearly conflictual. And i think the evidence of how deeply rooted that is at this point is is how consistent that span across the trump in biden administrations and in fact in in some ways. It's worsened under by On this sort of moralistic sense. I mean it's just it's further intensified even in some ways. That's what i mean by conflict. But i certainly don't shy away from the possibility of war i think. That's very possible satellite. We need to take active and strategic steps to avert it in a way that preserves the piece that we want not the ideal but something. That's tolerable for us. And i would note. The defense scholars would argue. That you wanna craft defense strategy in order to deter conflict in a smart defense strategy if it works will prevent you from having to go to war. But i want to talk about the big kid on the block. That animates a lot of your writing. And that's the rise of china. You like in china to let me quote you hearing objects so large that it must have the greatest consequence for any system that must accommodate so just sort of. Walk me through how you see. The rise of china threatening. I think that's the right word. Us interest where is it threatening us interests. How is it threat. The us entrust sure. And i think this is a critical point. I'm not sure it's been really detailed. I think a lot of discussion around. China and i think both in the trump administration was sometimes sort of abstract terms like rules-based international order or excessively ideological the focus on communism for instance in a way that i i don't think is very well founded.