“By failing to understand that the space between war and peace is not an empty one — but a landscape churning with political, economic, and security competitions that require constant attention — American foreign policy risks being reduced to a reactive and tactical emphasis on the military instrument by default,” Schadlow wrote in a 2014 op-ed for the website War on the Rocks.
The White House declined to comment on how that view of American power squares with the view of those inside the White House who support Trump’s “America First” foreign policy approach.
Schadlow, McMaster and other top officials who believe in soft power, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, may be able to influence the policy direction internally and bring the Trump administration to a posture more closely resembling the foreign policy the United States has pursued since World War II. Alternatively, they might become marginalized by top White House aides, and the national security strategy that Schadlow is tasked with developing could become a purely academic exercise.
If Trump’s pattern of “escalate to de-escalate” does emerge as his overarching doctrine, the results are ominously predictable. As Schadlow’s book lays out, history shows that when the United States is not actively and continuously involved in maintaining order and stability abroad, the world becomes a more dangerous, chaotic and dark place.