Ditchley Speaker Session with Joe Nye: Painful lessons in strategy and power from the Covid-19 crisis

The thumbnail for the discussion

Lauded American political scientist Joe will talk and take questions on what we are learning from the crisis on modern strategy and power and the implications for world order. Below is a short edited extract from Joe’s recent article on this:

In 2017, President Donald Trump announced a new National Security Strategy that focused on great-power competition with China and Russia. While the plans also note the role of alliances and cooperation, the implementation has not. Today, COVID-19 shows that the strategy is inadequate. Competition and an “America First” approach is not enough to protect the United States. Close cooperation with both allies and adversaries is also essential for American security. Under the influence of the information revolution and globalization, world politics is changing dramatically. Even if the United States prevails in the traditional great-power competition, it cannot protect its security acting alone. COVID-19 is not the only example. Global financial stability is vital to U.S. prosperity, but Americans need the cooperation of others to ensure it.

It is not enough to think of American power over others. We must also think in terms of power to accomplish joint goals, which involves power with others. On many transnational issues, empowering others helps us to accomplish our own goals. The United States benefits if China improves its energy efficiency and emits less carbon dioxide, or improves its public health systems. In this world, institutional networks and connectedness are an important source of information and of national power, and the most connected states are the most powerful. Washington has some sixty treaty allies while China has few. Unfortunately, as Mira Rapp-Hooper recently argued, the United States is squandering that power resource.

In the past, the openness of the United States enhanced its capacity to build networks, maintain institutions, and sustain alliances. But will that openness and willingness to engage with the rest of the world prove sustainable in the current populist mood of American domestic politics? Even if the United States possesses more hard military and economic power than any other country, it may fail to convert those resources into effective influence on the global scene. Between the two world wars, America did not and the result was disastrous.

The key to America’s future security and prosperity is learning the importance of “power with” as well as “power over” others.

Back to Virtual Programme >>