The Foreign Service Journal, September 2021

78 SEPTEMBER 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Orchestrating the Symphony Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post–Cold War World Robert M. Gates, Knopf, 2020, $29.95/ hardcover, e-book available, 464 pages. Reviewed by Alexis Ludwig Few public officials alive today, cur- rent or former, are better qualified to critique the exercise of U.S. national power than Robert Gates, a former Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, CIA Director and Deputy National Security Adviser under President George H.W. Bush, a former National Security Council staffer under four different presidents, and a career CIA officer and commissioned officer of the U.S. Air Force, among other roles. Gates has played the Washington power game at every level—from the top of the political appoin- tee heap to career junior officer—and has a doctorate in Russian history from Georgetown University to buttress his credentials as veteran prac- titioner. He is, indeed, well equipped to write a book titled Exercise of Power —a fact the author makes sure to highlight at the outset. His chosen subtitle, American Fail- ures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post–Cold War World , hints at an important subtheme—namely, that since 1989, things have gone wrong for the United States at least as often as they have gone right. As Gates notes in his prologue, “There have been U.S. suc- cesses in the international arena in the past quarter-century, but the overall trend for us has been negative, despite our braggadocio.” Beyond DIME He begins with an overview of what he calls the Symphony of Power, the ways in which the various instruments of power are coordinated or “orchestrated” in the conduct of national security strategy—or ought to be. In this, he moves beyond the classic Department of Defense “DIME” model (Diplomacy, Military, Economic and Information) to include other instruments of power of increasing relevance in the 21st century. Among these: cyber capabilities, intel- ligence, science and tech- nology, alliances, national- ism, and even culture and ideology. Gates raises familiar themes, particularly the United States’ overreliance on the military instru- ment and the Department of Defense, as well as the related underfunding of its civilian counterparts, includ- ing and especially diplomacy. The State Department receives ambivalent treatment from Gates. He praises Foreign Service and Civil Service officers as often impressive on the indi- vidual level, but laments the lumbering inefficiency of State’s bureaucracy. He believes that the department should the- oretically serve as central coordinator of national security strategy but, absent serious investment and reform to cor- rect its structural shortcomings, should be cut out of the process altogether, if necessary. In a theme he returns to repeatedly throughout, Gates is thoroughly baffled by the fact that the country that created Madison Avenue can do such a poor job of selling itself to the outside world. He attributes this to an inexplicable unwill- ingness to showcase the good work the United States does internationally, from helping reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa to leading the international community’s emergency response to the devastating 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. Because the success of national strat- egy ultimately turns on the strategist’s “orchestration” of instruments, Gates’ brief discussion of “wise and courageous leadership” as a discrete component of national power bears special mention. He singles out four modern presi- dents for their wisdom and courage in maintaining strategic discipline against contrary pressures, and for ensuring that appropriate means are provided in pursuit of realistic political ends: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The others, not so much. Gates pulls few punches: “I believe post–Cold War presidents at key moments have made unwise decisions and then aggra- vated the consequences by failing to strengthen and use all the instruments of power in implementing those decisions.” Gates spends the bulk of his book conducting (if you’ll pardon the dip- lomatic cliché) a tour d’horizon of the principal challenges and problems faced by the United States since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Let’s take a few highlights. Principal Challenges First, Iran. Gates conveys the histori- cal depth and complexity of the chal- lenge posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has resisted successful resolution in the face of repeatedly shift- BOOKS