“I use ‘disruptive’ in both its good and bad connotations. Disruptive scientific and technological progress is not to me inherently good or inherently evil. But its arc is for us to shape. Technology’s progress is furthermore in my judgment unstoppable. But it is quite incorrect that it unfolds inexorably according to its own internal logic and the laws of nature.”
Speaker: Daniel Z. Jacobs, Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft Fellow, International Security Program
What are the sources of grand strategy, the relationship of national power to national interest? Answers to this question tend to emphasize domestic interests, cultural and ideational impulses, state capacity, or the distribution of military power. The speaker, however, argues that it is a state's ability to harness the wealth of others that shapes both what the state wants (i.e., national interest) and how the state goes about getting it (i.e., national power).
The core component of this argument is financial power; that is, the costs a state pays to facilitate public spending through borrowing. When these costs are relatively high, the state is likely to define its national interest narrowly and rely for its security on the self-correcting nature of the balance of power. By contrast, when the costs of borrowing are relatively low, the state will take a broader view of its national interest. As a result, the state is likely to reshape the balance of power in its favor and attempt to preserve this newfound distribution. Overall, scholars and policymakers can say that as a state's financial power rises, its grand strategy becomes increasingly ambitious.
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