Strategy is a much debated notion, and there are some who doubt whether it is possible or desirable to have a coherent, grand strategy, or even a central strategic concept such as ‘containment’, in today’s global environment. The literature on strategic thought has grown even as the challenges to intellectual coherence have multiplied. In times like these, policymakers improvise in reaction to events and policy intellectuals struggle to find some basis for strategic clarity. Henry Kissinger’s latest book, World Order, seeks to provide – as he likes to say – a ‘conceptual framework’ for developing one.

The purpose of this essay is not to add to this impressive output. Rather, it is to better understand today’s disorderly mixture of turbulence and drift in relationships among the leading powers and key regional states, and to reflect on its implications for statecraft. This is hardly the first time in modern history that world politics have been disorderly. But today’s examples are stunning in their variety and breadth: a lurch backward towards the repolarisation of Europe; an Islamic civil war spreading across borders in the Arabian peninsula, North Africa and the Sahel; dynamic geopolitics among major powers and regional states in the Asia-Pacific region; and the unpredictable and sometimes half-hearted engagement of the United States and other Western states in managing interventions and crisis diplomacy.

To read the entire essay by CIGI Distinguished Fellow Chester A. Crocker, please click here.

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