Barack Obama’s selection of Joseph Biden as his Vice President, Hillary Clinton’s appointment to State, Robert Gates‘ retention at the Pentagon, and the selection of General James Jones as head of the National Security Council point to the President-elect’s willful blindness to the collapsing economic foundation of the American hyperpower. His key appointees all share a vision – a grand strategy of sorts – that guarantees an unwelcome continuity of this country’s foreign and security policies in the next four years.

That vision is deeply flawed. What America needs is a new grand strategy. Limited in objectives and indirect in approach, it should seek security and freedom for the United States in a stable model of global co-existence that does not threaten the security or deny the legitimate interests of other players. As a Chicago Tribune commentator noted recently,

in the case of foreign policy, the American people and the world should get the change they were promised because the foreign policy challenges are not unprecedented. The problems are known. What works is known. And it is not the policy of the Clinton administration hawks… The new Obama team seems caught up in the facile calls for force: Vice President-elect Joe Biden is proud of demanding force in Bosnia, Kosovo and Darfur. Sen. Hillary Clinton supported the Iraq War. The candidate for UN ambassador, Susan Rice, is an outspoken hawk.

If the Obama administration was serious about the rhetoric of „change“ in world affairs, it could start by withdrawing all U.S. troops from Europe and the Far East in the next four years. Some 150,000 American soldiers who are still based in Germany, South Korea, and Japan are not needed, and their continued presence is a hindrance to greater stability in both regions.

The threat to Europe’s security does not come from Russia or from a fresh bout of instability in the Balkans. The real threat to Europe’s security and to her survival comes from Islam, from the deluge of utterly unassimilable Third World immigrants, and from collapsing birthrates. All three are caused entirely by the moral decrepitude and cultural degeneracy of „Old Europe,“ not by any shortage of soldiers and weaponry. The continued presence of a U.S. contingent of any size in Ramstein or Naples can do nothing to alleviate these problems, because they are largely spiritual.

As it happens, none of Obama’s national security quartet are committed to a withdrawal. The key figure on this issue, former and future Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, has frozen plans for any further reducing U.S. forces in Europe. In November of last year, when the issue last came up for review, he decided to maitain 40,000 U.S. soldiers in Germany and Italy – twice as many as had been planned for retention by his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld under a drawdown that began in 2005.

This is unfortunate. A speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces from Europe facilitates the emergence of an effective European defense force (long advocated by France), and if it causes the weakening and eventual demise of NATO, both Europe and America will be better off. Instead of declaring victory and disbanding the alliance in the early 1990’s, the Clinton administration successfully redesigned it as a mechanism for openended out-of-area interventions at a time when every rationale for its existence had disappeared. Following the air war against Serbia almost a decade ago, NATO’s area of operations became unlimited, and its „mandate“ entirely self-generated.

Unfortunately, Biden, Clinton, Gates and Jones are all NATO-for-ever enthusiasts. They refuse to acknowledge that, in terms of a realist grand strategy, NATO has become positively detrimental to U.S. security. As it expands eastwards, it forces the United States to assume at least nominal responsibility for open-ended maintenance of a host of disputed frontiers that were drawn often arbitrarily by communists, Versailles diplomats, and assorted local tyrants—and which bear little relation to ethnicity, geography, or history. America should not underwrite the freezing in time of a post-Soviet outcome in the Crimea or Abkhazia that is neither stable nor necessarily „just“ or „democratic.“ With an ever-expanding NATO, eventual adjustments will be more potentially violent for the countries concerned and more risky for the United States, which does not and should not have a vested interest in preserving an indefinite status quo in the region.

In the Middle East, a realist strategy would give up on trying to make the region „as it should be,“ rather than dealing with it as it is. Iraq, in particular, forces us to accept the anarchic nature of the world. She is not ripe for any democratic transition, she can be managed for as long as her realities are accepted, and she needs to be left to her own devices. Her Islamic cultural and spiritual heritage precludes her adoption of a political system based on the notion of popular sovereignty.

A realist global strategy demands safeguarding our primary interests in the Middle East, which means preserving our continued access to oil resources, preventing regional actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and countering the terrorist threat that emanates from the region. Ameliorating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a secondary interest. As for opening the region to trade, encouraging more pluralist forms of governance, promoting the rule of law, etc.—these may be worthy objectives, but they are none of our concern. Try explaining that to VP Biden or Mrs. Clinton.

The development of a coherent anti-jihadist strategy in Washington should go hand in hand with demystifying the relationship between the United States and Israel, which should be redefined in terms of mutual interests. Our interest demands the destruction of global jihad in all its forms and the continued existence of the state of Israel, but both of these imperatives are based on geopolitical rather than emotional, moral, or scriptural grounds.

In the Far East, the threat to South Korea’s and Japan’s security is potentially more real, but it can and should be handled by those two very capable and affluent nations. A continued U.S. defense shield over them is unjustified. The dangers of our continued military presence vastly exceed any possible benefits. Japan and South Korea should finally become mature, self-reliant powers. For decades, they chose to focus on economic development at the expense of military strength, secure in the protection provided by the United States. Only by removing her tripwire can America finally force them to upgrade their militaries and to assume the full economic and political burden of their own defense. A policy of disengagement may include a green light to both to develop limited nuclear capabilities as a deterrent to North Korea’s and China’s arsenals.

The challenge that the rise of China presents to the United States is more pressing than any other global issue except for the ever-present threat of jihad. Beijing is rapidly becoming a regional power of the first order, the Asian superpower that will need to be contained or appeased. Presently, the bone of contention is the status of Taiwan. Many Taiwanese would prefer to sever all links with the mainland so that Taiwan can become an independent state. Beijing says that it will not allow that to happen. To condone Taiwan’s separation would be tantamount to accepting the status of a second-class power, with serious implications for the future status of Tibet and for the restive Muslim-populated Sinkiang-Uighur province in the far west of the country.

China is an ancient power, coldly hostile to outsiders, steeped in Realpolitik, and indifferent to the notion that diplomacy is or should be guided by any motive other than self-interest. Her neighbors will be hard pressed to negotiate the terms and conditions of an acceptable relationship with Beijing that fall short of China’s outright hegemony. To keep her ambitions in check, it is necessary to halt further American investment in the Chinese economy, to reverse the outsourcing that has thus far obtained, and to erect trade barriers against the continuing deluge of Chinese-made products in American stores. It is also necessary to provide Taiwan—in addition to Japan and South Korea—with top-notch defensive arsenals, including nuclear weapons.

The alternative is to accept, with the best possible grace, the rise of China as a first-order power. A reigning power is naturally disinclined to look on benignly as another rises, but the fact remains that a conflict between America and China is not inevitable. The relationship will need to be managed skillfully—with more reciprocity in the field of trade and exchange rates—but its essential ingredient will be our acceptance of Taiwan as part of China. Taiwan will be eventually reintegrated (preferably with all kinds of safeguards and special-status provisions), and it is in the American interest to facilitate peaceful reunification.

The geopolitical equation of containing and confronting China in northeastern Asia and jihad everywhere else would also demand better relations with India and Russia. India is China’s sole natural rival in Asia and a neglected ally in the „War on Terror,“ but no strategic relationship can be effected so long as Pakistan continues to be perceived in Washington—mistakenly—as an essential regional ally. Islamabad is guilty of nuclear proliferation as well as aiding and abetting Islamic terrorism of the kind that hit Bombay a month ago.

Improving our relations with Russia, by accepting the legitimacy of her strategic interests in the former Soviet Union, is even more pressing. It is critically important for us to prevent the emergence of an alliance between other powers that would be directed against our interests. The ongoing improvement in Russo-Chinese relations does not have the character of a formal alliance as yet, but it may lay the groundwork for one, so long as the September 2002 Bush Doctrine remains in force.

Most of our disputes with Russia over the past two decades, including the crisis in Georgia last August, tensions over the missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic and over pipelines bypassing Russia, constant demands for NATO expansion, designs in Central Asia, and support for Kosovo’s independence have resulted from our refusal to accept the validity of any Russian claims and the legitimacy of any Russian interests. This will not change under Obama’s „new“ team.

The rest of the world, in a new grand strategy, should be left to its own devices. In Latin America benign neglect invariably produces better results than „engagement.“ As for Africa, the entire continent is irrelevant to our geostrategic, economic, or any other rationally definable interest. Both regions are neither assets nor threats, provided that the tens of millions of would-be migrants to the Western world are held in check.

Strategy is the art of winning wars, and grand strategy is the philosophy of maintaining an acceptable peace. America is good at the former and often confused on the latter. Making the world safe for democracy (Wilson 1917) or fighting freedom’s fight ordained by history (Bush 2002) may be dismissed as tasteless yet harmless rhetoric as long as there is a viable realist design in the background. No such design exists, however, among Obama’s key foreign policy and national security appointees. The new team in the White House is unlikely to grasp that a problem exists, let alone to act to rectify it. Exceptionalist hubris has been internalized at both ends of the duopoly to such an extent that no change appears possible.

A new grand strategy demands disengagement abroad and closing the migratory floodgates at home. For this to happen, it is necessary to break the power of the neoliberal-neoconservative regime in Washington. We cannot predict when or how this will happen, but happen it will. A polity based on an evil lie may last years (the Third Reich), or decades (the Soviet Union), or even centuries (the Ottoman Empire), but it can never smother the seeds of its own destruction.

The notion of America as a real, completed nation, a state with definable national interests that ought to be the foundation of its diplomacy, is as valid today as it was at the time of George Washington’s famous warning. Exceptionalist claims and millenarian utopias are as contrary to this country’s traditions and true interests today as they were in April 1861, April 1917, or December 1941. It is unfortunate that this truth will be rediscovered only after a lot more blood and treasure is wasted in pursuit of unlimited, unattainable objectives.

With Joseph Biden, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and James Jonesin charge, there will be no true debate in Washington on the ends and uses of American power. The ideologues‘ resistance to any external checks and balances on the exercise of that power will be upheld. Obama’s new team and Bush’s outgoing one may differ in some shades of rhetoric, but they are one regime, identical in substance and consequence. Its leading lights will go on disputing the validity of the emerging balance-of-power system because they reject the legitimacy of any power in the world other than that of the United States, controlled and exercised by themselves. They will scoff at the warning of 1815, 1918, or 1945 as inapplicable in the post-history that they seek to construct.

They will confront the argument that no vital American interest worthy of risking a major war is involved in Russia’s or China’s near-abroad with the claim that the whole world is America’s near-abroad.

It is vexing that the new team is taking over at a particularly dangerous period in world affairs: the return of asymmetrical multipolarity. Following a brief period of post-1991 full-spectrum dominance, for the first time after the Cold War the government of the United States is facing active resistance from one or more major powers. More important than the anatomy of the South Ossetian crisis last August, or the Taiwanese crisis three years from now, is the reactive powers‘ refusal to accept the validity of Washington’s ideological assumptions or the legitimacy of its resulting geopolitical claims. At the same time, far from critically reconsidering the Bushies‘ hegemonsitic assumptions and claims, the key decision-makers in the Obama Administration will continue to uphold them.

Their ambition, unlimited in principle, will remain unaffected by the ongoing financial crisis, just as Moscow’s Cold War expansionism was enhanced, rather than curtailed, by the evident shortcomings of the Soviet centrally planned economy. Come what may, they will not allow the reality of global politics to interfere with their world outlook, „neoliberal“ or „neoconservative,“ but hegemonic and irrational at all times.