An Incisive Look at the American Grand Strategy
After the turn
of the 18th Century, Asia became the Great Game stage that opposed the Russian Empire and British Empire
in their struggle for regional supremacy. While both had immense economic
interests, this competition was fueled by their geopolitical concerns. Imperial
Russian adopted an expansionist policy towards the South that was fought fiercely
by the British Empire in protecting India’s sovereign interests.
The Eurasian Heartland became the stage where this competition occurred. The Soviet Union collapse in 1991 created a strategic vacuum. This prompted an inevitable race among Great Powers such as China, Russia, and the U.S. in filling the then-existing gap. Central Asia became an arena where this competition and regional influence was fought. This competition among great powers is called the New Great Game. It involved the competition between the English and Russian Empires of the 19th Century. However, the current competition is compounded by complex geopolitical situation in Central Asia. An avalanche of other factors ought to be considered to understand the regional dynamics fully.
According to the offensive realist conceptual approach, great powers always look for opportunities that can help them attain more power for them to feel more secure. Great world powers have an inclination towards power maximization. The offensive realist conceptual framework is instrumental in comprehension of the American foreign policy especially in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
The main purpose of the American grand strategy is global hegemony and primacy. Global powers would want to have a piece of Eurasian Heartland’s huge energy resources. Moreover, dangerous and growing radical Islamism encumbers this region. The US, China, and Russia engage in huge regional conflicts in Central Asia especially the Caspian region even after the Cold War. According to the neo-realist theory, states struggle amongst themselves to keep and gain power in a scenario characterized by mistrust and fear.
Offensive realism contends that states’ ultimate goal is the achievement of hegemonic position within international order. Until states become world hegemony, they constantly seek to increase power. Offensive realism is based on the postulation that systems are anarchic and every country has military capabilities. Moreover, it is hard to know the intentions of other countries. Offensive realism is based on Hans Morgenthau’s conception that states seek self-determination and survival. The U.S and other great powers are considered strategic calculators or rational actors. The post-September 11 U.S foreign policy conforms to their prognostications for offensive realism arguments.
The middle range approach of geopolitics is premised on an assortment of principles and statements devised in the explanation of a phenomena and facts. In geopolitics, the middle range theory seeks to utilize experience in making predictions about a future geopolitical phenomenon. The explanatory statements are predicated on methodological analysis and accepted principles. It is based on experience and not practice. Central Asia has inherent geographical significance. Normally, regions endowed with natural resources present great powers with an avenue to fight supremacy battles. The Eurasian Heartland, just like other oil-rich areas provide the U.S and other global powers with a good geopolitical hotspot from where they can engage in their aggressive competition.
The American grand strategy is a permutation of peacetime and wartime strategies. The Caspian region as well as its hinterland is the Eurasian Heartland. This region has innumerable geo-strategic dimensions far beyond the wide rich and non-OPEC hydrocarbon reserves that are primarily untapped especially in Kazakhstan. The wartime strategy is elucidated in the US-led Iraq war while the peacetime strategy enunciated by the support of the costly Baku-Tblis-Ceyhan (BTC) in order to the region’s unexploited oil reserves into the American-controlled oil industry and energy market. Attainment of structural powers is important for global great powers to succeed in political control. In most modern economies, oil is the lifeblood.
The American grand strategy is tailor-made to ensure that the U.S controls this vital natural resource through either peacetime or wartime strategies or even both. Primarily, energy security is a global concern. In the 1970s, there were international oil supplies disruptions. These disruptions fashioned the formulation of foreign policy. As confidence was restored in the global oil supplies diminished these concerns especially in the 1990s. In the 21st Century, the question of energy security came to the fore again. With the social and regional disorder that perturbed Middle East coupled with global terrorism, the oil supply chain was disrupted. This was coupled with the ensuing conflicts especially in other oil producing countries such as Venezuela and Nigeria. This further contributed in the furtherance of the worsening of the oil security concern. In a bid to enhance energy supply and reliability, oil accessibility at a fairer price.
Gas and oil consuming countries try as much as possible to diversify supplying sources, which assures competing and alternative sources in minimizing and preventing possible oil disruption. The Eurasian Heartland surrounds Caspian Sea. It is not a ‘war on terror’ target. Political control over Eurasian Heartland’s hydrocarbon resources as well as their transportation routes is of innumerable geo-strategic dimensions surpassing energy considerations. According to the U.S policy-makers, the Eurasian Heartland’s geo-strategic dimensions are not only restricted to the energy security question. It has great implications on the U.S grand strategy in the 21st Century. The U.S has to control the region’s energy resources politically especially Kazakh oil and check its potential challengers on its grand strategy like Russia and China. The U.S grand strategy in the 21st Century entails the use of peacetime and wartime strategies. It is important to politically control Kazakh oil reserves.
State control yields less efficiency in oil exploration, refinement, and extraction. State-owned oil corporations fail to divulge their worth and their exploration and production numbers. They become state secrets. According to U.S policymakers, Iraqi oil reserves were extremely too valuable and too large to be abandoned in the hands of the Iraqi’s state-owned oil corporations. A regime change was thus inevitable. Democratic imperialism is anchored on the U.S grand strategy. Iraq has the globe’s second largest oil reserves second to Saudi Arabia. There has been growing insecurity in Middle East. Moreover, there has been need to bypass the OPEC countries. This has generated immense interest in new oil producing regions such as Eurasia Heartland and West Africa. In 2008, Caspian Sea produced 48,000 million oil reserves barrels, which constitute 3.8% of the entire world share. This has facilitated energy supply diversification.
The U.S Grand Strategy
To Paul Kennedy, a grand strategy is one that includes both peacetime and wartime objectives. A good grand strategy can attain seek to use war to get peace. The integration and evolution of policies has been a global practice since antiquity. The synthesis of peacetime and wartime strategies constitute grand strategy. These two strategies are distinct but they are intertwined in an extricable manner to serve a grand strategy. Since the U.S is the sole hegemonic power among the capitalist core states. It has dominated the entire world production structure. It is in the U.S best interests in expansion of global market. Liberalization of trade force developing nations to export raw materials before transforming them to completed products sold in developed countries. To the U.S policymakers, this is considered a viable strategy in acquisition of raw materials. The U.S has military might primary in the preservation of order and enforcement of rules. The principal U.S interest is establishment of global order.
In the oil industry, military power deployment guarantee international markets openness benefits mutually capitalist states. Attempts to disintegrate this system and carve out cosseted U.S economy and firms spaces against regional or national economies that undercut the U.S leadership. The US imports usually import energy resources from global energy markets. Any threat to these energy markets equally threatens the U.S interests. The U.S grand strategy requires that the U.S does not lose their ability to respond decisively to such threats. After Bill Clinton, George Washington Bush took over the U.S presidency in 2001. People with immense experience and background in the expansive oil industry dominated his cabinet inner circle. Vice President Cheney had hitherto served in Halliburton Inc, a leading oil services and geophysics company. Condoleezza Rice, advisor on National Security had served in Chevron Corporation. Bush had also had immense oil industry experience. Review of the energy policy of the U.S. was made a priority under President Bush. Energy security is a major priority in the foreign policy of the U.S. There has been a growing dependency of oil imports for U.S energy needs. This increased the dependence on oil imports by the U.S.
According to George Kennan who was the policy planning head in the State Department in the U.S., the U.S owns half the globe’s wealth with a mere 6.3% of the world’s population. To Kennan, this is what results to resentment and envy from the other states. Devising a relationships pattern through a grand strategy has helped the U.S maintain such a disparity position. It is important to dispense every daydreaming and sentimentality. Talking about unreal and vague objectives like human rights, democratization, and uplifting living standards hamper the grand strategy of the U.S. These ‘straight power concepts’ are the vehicle through which the U.S can perpetuate its dominance. The U.S has adopted a geopolitical unilateralism strategy especially in the aftermath of the September 11 attack. The ultimate aim of this grand strategy is thus primacy and hegemony amongst competing visions. The U.S leadership aims at expansion of its hegemony through an aggressive strategy. Pre-emptive actions are employed in counteracting national security threats. The American wartime as well as peacetime strategies all advance the U.S political clout and grand strategy especially in the 21stcentury.
Enhancing the political control of the U.S on the Eurasian Heartland and the hydrocarbon resources is a priority. The U.S remains the single superpower after Soviet Union dismantling. This has made the U.S immerse itself in Eurasia Heartland’s strategic regions to further anchor its geopolitical influence. This is instrumental in preventing potential and real competitions from challenging and provoking the world’s hegemony. The grand strategy is to acquire spheres of influence and consequently acquire a firmer security system. Military dominance, expansion of Washington’s economic and political power of the other states in the world requires reintegration of post-Soviet space within the American-controlled global economy. The vast natural gas and oil resources of the Eurasian Heartland are fueling this grand strategy.
Eurasian Heartland’s Geo-strategic Dimensions
The Heartland approach stresses on land-based power supremacy over sea-based power. Central Asia is Eurasia’s pivotal Heartland. The landlocked Caspian Sea is a significant political and economic challenge in development of natural resources. Political considerations often mingle with other commercial interests as elucidated in the BTC pipeline. Political interests outgrow or compete with economic considerations. Under President William Clinton, the U.S saw the BTC as a foreign policy cornerstone. The discovery of substantial gas and oil reserves in the Eurasian Heartland made it a subject of reinforced arena and interest that reignited disputes in accessibility of energy resources. Energy resources drove regional competition. There are regional players’ objectives, Islamism, and terrorism are often overlooked over natural resources. The Eurasia Heartland has immense strategic value. Ruling East Europe is enough to command the Heartland. Russia was dependent on land power while the British Empire by sea power.
Eurasia Heartland is of immense geo-strategic significance to the U.S grand strategy. In the preservation of the U.S superpower position, the Eurasia Heartland is important. In maintaining the U.S hegemony, maintenance geopolitical pluralism especially in the then post-Soviet space is integral. This will ensure that Russia’s attempt of regaining influence over former Soviet Union states is cutback. The U.S should accommodate and manipulate the major geostrategic players especially on the Eurasian Heartland chessboard. Eurasian’s geopolitical pivots are critical and instrumental towards the stability and longevity of the U.S’s global primacy.
Central Asia has huge strategic significance as well as possible world consequences for regional dominance by single state. The Russian and the U.S foreign policies seek to undermine each other. There were newly independent countries in Eurasia Heartland after the fall of Soviet Union in 1991 took America by surprise. It was considered of little interest. However, it became an avenue of an avalanche of international competition. This is both for regional influence and for control of rich and huge energy resources. With the September 11 terrorist attack, the strategic significance of Eurasian Heartland to U.S cannot be underestimated. It relies upon the domestic military bases in combating the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda. Due to this reason, the signing of basing agreements especially with regional states like Azerbaijan has enabled the U.S position its military equipment and personnel within the Eurasian Heartland.
China and Russia accepted the U.S military in the Eurasian Heartland in combating terrorism only as one of the ‘necessary evils.’ However, uncertainties regarding duration of the combat coupled with escalating suspicion of the real objectives have raised criticisms from Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow. They feel that their interests and regional influences are threatened by this growing U.S presence in their backyard. This has been worsened by military exhibitions especially in joint exercises with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. Additionally, the U.S offer military cooperation and training to these countries and further advance a policy that promotes their autonomy by providing them with financial incentives as well as putting new-fangled forums like GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldavia).
Further, democracy promotion in these FSU states weakens Russia’s authority. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose revolution in Georgia exemplify the U.S grand strategy in Central Asia and East Europe. Russia had pipeline monopoly until the U.S supported the construction of the BTC as one of the many competing projects to undercut Russia’s influence. The U.S sponsored the ‘Caspian Guard’ that assists Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan respond and prevent nuclear proliferation, terrorism, as well as other threats. The geo-political significance of the Eurasian Heartland in the U.S grand strategy of the 21st century accrues not from energy resources only. The U.S has promoted oil production development as well as oil pipelines in this region. The U.S grand strategy aims at averting possible emergence of potential global and regional challenger. In the larger, the U.S aims at undermining the attempts by Russia to re-establish any strong relations with FSU republics as well as regaining the privileges it had before the USSR fall. The Eurasian Heartland’s important hydrocarbons reserves form the pivotal point of great powers competition. This paper has demonstrated that although accessibility to regional energy reserves in Eurasian Heartland is of insurmountable and undisputable significance, it is not the singular reason, which prompted the U.S to intervene in this region. The U.S seeks to preserve and achieve global and regional dominance by controlling transportation routes and energy resources. The U.S grand strategy augments peacetime as well as wartime strategies in its relationship with other countries. It is clear from the paper that the intention of retaining global dominance is no longer a secret. Its aim in underpinning this global power via strengthening its influence in the Eurasian Heartland in the 21st Century is not a huge surprise.&The emerging economies are equally dependent upon hydrocarbons. Under such a scenario, the Eurasian Heartland region offers a reasonable and modest contribution to reliable and stable international energy market as well the consequential energy security. Gas and oil has strategic value for the U.S. For this reason, the U.S grand strategy incorporates political, economic, and military influences in achievement of this goal. ‘Pipeline diplomacy’ plays an important role in accessibility of these energy resources in the Eurasian Heartland region.