American Strategic Culture – Colin S. Gray


Published in 1988, Colin Gray’s The Geopolitics of Super Power examines the cultural and political dimensions of late Cold War era American geostrategy. Context, as well as comparison guide Gray’s analytical framework – which synthesizes geography and history. According to Gray, political geography catalyzes a vital feature of national strategic culture.


“It is commonplace to observe that dictatorships maintain systemic political strength only in the context of a public aura of success; that is, given that it is the lot of all governments to receive and be responsible for both good and bad news, a dictatorship dares not admit that it has failed.

“The roots of American strategic culture lie in a frontier tradition, an experience and expectation of success in national endeavors, experience with an abundance of resources for defense, a dominant political philosophy of liberal idealism, and a sense of separateness – moral and geostrategic – from the evil doings of the Old World.

“But statecraft is at least as much a matter of discovering and exploiting effective ‘work-arounds’ for national weaknesses and vulnerabilities as it is of exploiting national strengths. Substantially, though not exclusively, the effectiveness of a particular security community in defense of its interests is a function of the quality of strategic guidance provided for sustained collective action.

“Strategic culture – the socially transmitted attitudes, habits, and skills of a community in its approach to issues of national security – is very much the product of geopolitical factors as they are locally interpreted.

“Technical fixes in defense organization, and even changes in military tactics and at the operational level of war, will be unlikely to have the desired effects if they affront important strands in American culture.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Geopolitics of Super Power, The University Press of Kentucky.

Keeping a World Intact – George F. Kennan


George Kennan’s book Russia and the West chronicles early Soviet international politics under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin as well as Joseph Stalin. Russian diplomacy vis-à-vis the West is the emphasis, and Kennan offers keen analysis concerning Soviet intentionality. In his final chapter “Keeping a World Intact,” Kennan endeavors to harmonize points of friction with geopolitical realism to construct a workable American/Soviet diplomatic model for the Cold War.


“Stalin was a dangerous man to the end; and almost to the end, he remained unchallenged in his authority. But the men around him served him, throughout those final years, in a sullen, guarded silence, expecting nothing and waiting only for the hand of Time to take him.

“By this opposition to the very institutions of the West, the Russian Communists offered to the will of the Western peoples a species of defiance for which they have had no patent other than their own unlimited intellectual arrogance.

“Russian governments have always been difficult governments to do business with. This is nothing new in kind – if anything is new about it – it is only a matter of degree.

“People who have only enemies don’t know what complications are; for that, you have to have friends; and these, the Soviet government, thank God, now has.

“The first to go, in my opinion, should be self-idealization and the search for absolutes in world affairs: for absolute security, absolute amity, absolute harmony. We are a strong nation, wielding great power. We cannot help wielding this power. It comes to us by virtue of our sheer size and strength, whether we wish it or not.

*All excerpts have been taken from Russia and the West: Under Lenin and Stalin, Mentor Book.