I disagree with the author's definition of strategy and his method. He writes of `strategy' in deterministic terms, almost like a Marxist. At best, he is a structuralist without acknowledging it. For him, the Great Powers are `trapped by the logic of strategy'. I think to the opposite: 'Strategy' is an Art practiced by people at the apex of state power. Also, I think the leitmotif through the book `strategy is stronger than politics' doesn't make sense. One does not put the cart before the horse. Strategy is the way you carry out your policy. You got to have a policy first which is a function of politics.
I find it odd that the author almost sounds joyful writing about the military competition in Asia and emerging strategic cooperation in response to the China's rise, especially between countries like Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It makes me worried, because the U.S. will likely be sucked-in if the conflict flares up. There is no mention in the book that Russia and China are the allies in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Will the conflict with China be one with Russia also?
America needs a strategy vis-a-vis China to 'dissuade it'? Perhaps. The U.S. must come to terms with its own financial situation first. Then, the U.S. needs to look into the policies concerning several centers of power which are in turn are trying to hedge against America: Europe, China and Russia, India, Brazil, not least Iran. North Korea is a wild card. If strategy vis-a-vis China means a more 'activist' foreign policy, it could hurt America more than benefit. Deterrent moves by the U.S. might be interpreted in China as encirclement.
Is it a clever book? Very much so, but it offers an ersatz-strategy. I think it's a clever stratagem from a man who is not lacking in intelligence. In addition to a persona of public intellectual, Mr. Luttwak is an intelligence operative, at least according to Wiki: Eastern Europe-born, well-travelled, well-connected, and multilingual. I believe he thinks of himself -- in a Machiavellian sense - as a kind of a thinker-scholar-practitioner who can advise 'the Prince'. So far so good. The problem is this: not sure who 'the Prince" might be. It's not clear to whom the advice could be given.
Surely the Chinese will not be patronized. If the White House is `the Prince', it doesn't need the advice that China's rise threatens only China itself by way of stiffening the opposition of its neighbours. Mr. Luttwak would have done better service by offering a fair criticism of his own adopted country's policies. For example, by pointing out that the costly military commitments abroad are eroding the foundations of the American power. Instead he delivers a sop: he sees no flaws in American sprawling commitments or the U.S. policies. All the faults are Chinese: it's really a 'Blame China First' strategy. The book is lecturing the Japanese and Russians how to make an anti-Chinese coalition (pages 142-3). It is all a little strange.
The book reflects a self-righteous and mildly arrogant attitude which infected the American elites [fortunately with some exceptions, otherwise we would have been in deep trouble]. According to Mr. Luttwak China is `autistic' - i.e. China is unable to see itself through other peoples' eyes, to relate to others. Not only that, it doesn't really have `strategy', only `stratagems'. But the truth is nearly the opposite - it's the U.S. today who is unable perceive itself through the foreigners' eyes. The American long-term strategy is vacillating, especially vis-a-vis China and Russia. The US has become the house divided and the largest nation debtor. The mighty U.S. dollar is the world's reserve currency and so far the printing press had hid many problems. But if something to happen to the mighty dollar, there will be a precipitous and sudden decline of the American power, we can be sure of that.
The Master-idea of the book is semi-revealed: China presents a challenge to hegemonic stability established and maintained by America. Unlike Luttwak I think the hegemonic stability is an illusion. It is a fleeting delusion which has bankrupted America already. I think it isn't China, but America who needs to choose a different strategy -- the strategy of `offshore balancer', not the multi-regional hegemonic strategy. It doesn't mean America should submit to China - the U.S. needs to choose the Grand Strategy which corresponds to America's strengths and weaknesses.
As a native Russian I believe a misguided U.S. policy vis-a-vis Russia during the last 20 years -- especially when the US spearheaded NATO expansion up to the Russian borders -- has become today a factor blocking an effective U.S. policy vis-a-vis China. It turned out it's all connected. An effective strategy is impossible without Russia which is engaged by the U.S., at least not painted black gratuitously. But this is exactly what he does. I disagree with his image of Russia. For him the Russians are always perverted or at least like the little children: they `always evaluate the motives of others in exclusively Russian terms'. The Russians ostensibly mirror-image the foreign motives negatively. So does China. For Mr. Luttwak China even more so.
Luttwak writes that for the Americans the goal of NATO expansion was to `stabilize fragile new democracies' in the Eastern Europe, but the Russians viewed NATO's enlargement as `a calculatedly hostile American move'. I disagree with this caricature. The Russians were disappointed, yes, but also some American realists and neo-realists who disapproved the U.S. policies to maintain the forward-deployed military power which would guarantee to make enemies of the Russians and complicate things for the Americans. For example, George Kennan considered NATO expansion a big mistake. The Russians, like Kennan and other old-school conservative realists and even skeptical liberals, thought America should pursue the strategy of `offshore balancer'. But the U.S. chose the preponderance of power and the strategy of multi-regional hegemony. The result is suspicious Russia and disarray in the U.S. Chinese policy. This strategy is wrong. Even more to the point, America cannot afford it. I don't recommend the book, I think it is a sop to those in power who are unwilling or unable to re-think American strategy today.