U.S. Collapse: A Chain-Writing Experiment

March 2024

It is 2053. The United States is no longer a superpower. What happened?

This is the question the Andrew W. Marshall Foundation posed to the public during the summer and fall of 2023. What might occur between 2024 and 2053 for the United States to experience a “rapid, severe, and significant loss” of power? We characterized this shift as a “collapse” – but left the particulars of its definition up to the public. 

The experiment was divided into three phases, each representing a 10-year increment leading to the future state of 2053, when the United States was no longer a superpower. We called for submissions exploring each 10-year increment, starting with 2024–2033. The winning submission of the first phase became the first link in the chain, the starting prompt for the second phase, 2034–2043. This continued to a third phase, thus creating a three-link chain. 

This paper presents the top submission from each period in “The Chain: U.S. Collapse, 2024–2053.” It then presents the runners-up in “Alternative Links in the Chain.” We encourage you to read this paper front to back—and then read it again as a “choose your own adventure.” What other links, and ultimately, chains, are possible? What would you have explored? 

Decoding Intentions: Artificial Intelligence and Costly Signals

October 2023

Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET)

How can policymakers credibly reveal and assess intentions in the field of artificial intelligence? Policymakers can send credible signals of their intent by making pledges or committing to undertaking certain actions for which they will pay a price—political, reputational, or monetary—if they back down or fail to make good on their initial promise or threat. Talk is cheap, but inadvertent escalation is costly to all sides.

America’s Reactive Foreign Policy: How U.S. Organizational Culture and Behavior Advantages China

July 2023

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

This paper critiques the U.S. foreign policy community’s approach to strategic competition with China and raises a crucial question: Is the U.S. government basing strategic competition with China on U.S. interests, or is it reacting in ways that advance the strategic goals of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?

This paper argues that, because of its organizational culture, the U.S. foreign policy community approaches strategic competition in ways that disadvantage the United States. Through an analysis of the political, military, economic, and psychological condition of U.S. foreign policy, this paper posits that the United States has formed a reactive strategy toward China that leaves it vulnerable to China’s own competitive strategies. Through exploring historical examples and contemporary issues such as Taiwan and integrated deterrence, an underlying pattern emerges. Because it has ill-defined objectives and definitions of success, brought about largely by organizational factors, the United States is developing a reactionary foreign policy that is susceptible to CCP strategies, interests, and advantages. While this paper does not provide a definitive answer, it diagnoses American susceptibility to Chinese strategic manipulation and highlights the need for the United States to develop a more proactive and well-defined strategy to counter China’s competitive strategies effectively.

Building a Systems-Oriented Approach to Technology and National Security Policy

Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET)

June 2023

“This brief provides a framework for a systems-oriented approach to technology and national security strategy. It identifies and discusses the tensions among three strategic goals of technology and national security policy — driving technological innovation, impeding adversaries’ progress, and promoting safe, values-driven technology deployment — and highlights various levers of power that policymakers can use to pursue those goals. This adaptable framework, suitable for any country or international body, emphasizes the importance of creative problem-solving and maintaining a comprehensive understanding of the policy landscape.”

“The Incalculable Element”: Ancient Innovations for Modern Security Problems

May 2023

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

Many unanticipated dangers—military, political, technological, foreign, and domestic—shadow the U.S. national security landscape, creating a need for adaptive and inventive leadership. But what exactly does this leadership look like? This paper explores insights from what might seem an unusual source: Thucydides’ discussion of how the Sicilians, inspired by the unconventional guidance of the general Hermocrates, facilitate Sparta’s defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War. As Thucydides shows, Hermocrates spurs his listeners to reflect on their limitations and biases at a time when imminent peril would seem to call for nothing but confidence. Yet this reflection, by allowing the Sicilians to reconsider their moral and cultural norms, reform their military structures, and join with unlikely allies to resist Athens’s imperialist threat, fosters an innovative outlook that makes that resistance succeed. This ancient case study remains salient for modern audiences because it exemplifies a nontraditional leadership suited to today’s unforeseen security problems.

 

Praise for “The Incalculable Element”

“In a word, this is wonderful. It is an apt, appropriate use of applied history. In a tumultuous time when journalists seem to be the only voices trying to make sense of our situation, nearly all historians have been unable to give us guideposts or a compass to orient us to solutions. As W. Churchill put it, the more one can look into the past, the further one can look into the future….This paper rates study and application to our own thinking about what we face. Vice dismissing the reasons for the internal disarray, Hermocrates sought to understand them and then to show them why they must mature their thinking. Where in America is such informed leadership today?

This is an award-winning paper in the truest sense of the word. This demonstrates why we need historians who can apply history to our current situation. As SecDef I often got my best new ideas from old books/history.

This paper is nothing short of exciting in what it unlocks….I’m inspired and humbled by [Emily’s] application of history. Hermocrates ranks with Aurelian guiding Rome out of the crisis of the third century AD or Choiseul’s thoughtful leadership under the Sun King.”

James N. Mattis, 26th United States Secretary of Defense

Examining History to Explore the Future

March 2023

Antoine Bondaz, Paul Charon, Jacqueline Deal, Pierre Grosser, Eleanor Harvey, Stéphane Malsagne, Nadège Rolland

Understanding a nation’s history allows us to identify factors and trends that may shape future relations. As Asia becomes the economic center of gravity of the world and China becomes a more powerful actor in the global order, it is important to understand the roles nations will play or wish to play over the next twenty to thirty years so we can shape the future now rather than react later.

In its 2021-2023 experiment, Examining History to Explore the Future, the Andrew W. Marshall Foundation supported work on France and the United States, and their respective relations with China. Neither France nor the United States can afford to be shortsighted in its thinking about the strategic competition with China and the role of the transatlantic alliance. The papers presented in this set are products of a French team’s exploration of the history of and actors upon Franco-Chinese relations, a U.S. team’s deep dive into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s political warfare against the United States and lessons both learned and disregarded, and a capstone paper that provides insights into and a comparison between the two perspectives.

Unconventional but critical components of the French and U.S. teams’ papers are the authors’ speculations around a China dream and a China nightmare. What might Beijing’s success in executing its strategy over the coming decades look like? How might the CCP fail to achieve the China Dream? These forays into the plausible – not the guaranteed – are intended to spark debate, new thinking, and, above all, more questions.

This project was made possible by a generous grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation. The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation would also like to thank Project Co-Chair Jacques Battistella, Capstone Facilitator Gabe Scheinmann, and the following contributors: Jason Aquino, Jack Clark, Jeremy Furchtgott, Lewis Libby, Peter Mattis, Andrew May, David Pappalardo, Fiona Quimbre, Iskander Rehman, and Eleanor Runde.

Se pencher sur l’histoire pour envisager les décisions de demain

Mars 2023

Antoine Bondaz, Paul Charon, Jacqueline Deal, Pierre Grosser, Eleanor Harvey, Stéphane Malsagne, Nadège Rolland

Comprendre l’histoire d’une nation nous permet d’identifier les facteurs et tendances pouvant façonner les relations futures. Alors que l’Asie devient le centre de gravité économique du monde et que la Chine se mue en acteur gagnant en puissance dans l’ordre mondial, il est important de comprendre les rôles que les nations vont ou souhaiteront jouer au cours des vingt à trente prochaines années, afin de pouvoir façonner l’avenir maintenant plutôt que de réagir plus tard.

Dans le cadre de son expérience entre 2021 et 2023, Se Pencher sur l’Histoire pour Envisager les Décisions de Demain, la fondation Andrew W. Marshall a soutenu des travaux sur la France et les États-Unis, et leurs relations respectives avec la Chine. Ni la France ni les États-Unis ne peuvent se permettre d’être court-termistes dans leur réflexion sur la compétition stratégique avec la Chine et le rôle de l’alliance transatlantique. Les rapports présentés dans cette série sont le fruit de l’exploration par une équipe française de l’histoire et des acteurs des relations franco-chinoises, de recherches approfondies d’une équipe américaine sur la guerre politique du Parti communiste chinois (PCC) contre les États-Unis et les leçons à la fois apprises et ignorées, ainsi que d’un rapport de synthèse fournissant des éclairages et une comparaison des deux perspectives.

Des éléments non conventionnels mais essentiels des rapports des équipes française et américaine sont les spéculations des auteurs concernant le rêve chinois et le cauchemar chinois. À quoi ressemblerait le succès de Pékin dans la mise en place de sa stratégie dans les prochaines décennies ? Comment le PCC pourrait-il échouer à accomplir son rêve chinois ? Ces incursions dans ce qui est plausible, et non ce qui est garanti, sont destinées à susciter le débat, de nouvelles idées, et par-dessus tout, davantage de questionnements.

Ce projet a été réalisé grâce à une bourse importante de la fondation Richard Lounsbery. La Fondation Andrew W. Marshall souligne les contributions significatives de Jacques Battistella, Gabe Scheinmann, Jason Aquino, Jack Clark, Jeremy Furchtgott, Lewis Libby, Peter Mattis, Andrew May, David Pappalardo, Fiona Quimbre, Iskander Rehman, et Eleanor Runde.

CCP Weapons of Mass Persuasion

December 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) approach to the United States today reflects the party’s formative competitive experiences a century ago. Starting in the 1920s, the CCP vied with the Nationalist Party (KMT) for control over China, but the CCP was also nominally allied with the KMT in the First United Front, 1924–27. In that context, the Communists waged political warfare against the KMT at the elite and the grassroots level. Initially, the CCP’s aim was to coopt the KMT. When cooption failed, the Communists turned to subversion before attacking the Nationalists kinetically. In recent decades, the CCP has used this united-front template against the United States, thanks partly to a foundation of U.S.-CCP cooperation laid during the Sino-Japanese War and reinforced in the late Cold War. This report accordingly traces the CCP’s repertoire for strategic competition to the Chinese Civil War (Part 1). It then analyzes the application of this toolkit to the United States across a series of interactions beginning in the late 1930s and continuing through the present (Part 2). The report concludes with two alternative visions of how the coming decades could unfold, hinging upon Washington’s ability to counter Beijing’s ongoing subversion campaign (Part 3).

This is an advance copy of a paper from the Andrew W. Marshall Foundation’s forthcoming set of publications
on Examining History to Explore the Future: France, the United States, and China. This project was made
possible by a generous grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

“A State in Disguise of a Merchant”: Multinational Tech Corporations and the Reconfiguration of the Balance of Power in Asia

October 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

When corporations were created four centuries ago, they fundamentally altered the relationship between the market and the state while also shifting geopolitical power. Technology corporations are creating a similar revolution in the contemporary age. As the world moves from industrial and postindustrial economies to digital ones, technology companies now touch practically every area of modern life. Politically and geopolitically, they are also changing how states interact with each other and achieve their strategic objectives. Technology corporations now play a central role in states’ relative power, and over the next two decades they will impact the balance of power in Asia. A country’s relative power may be intimately connected to native technology companies as they become essential to economic growth, defend infrastructure and businesses, participate in investigations and attributions of cyber events, and even engage in offensive cyber operations. This paper looks at those different areas, examines trends, and then posits a plausible future in which technology corporations may contribute to a reconfiguration of the balance of power in Asia by 2045.

The “AI RMA”: The Revolution Has Not Arrived (Yet)

October 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

This paper examines the prospects for artificial intelligence (AI) applications initiating a new revolution in military affairs (RMA). It analyzes this issue by applying the lens of four RMA elements—technological change, military systems evolution, operational innovation, and organizational adaptation—to U.S. and Chinese military AI development. It finds that, in the near term, AI applications may be more likely to help fully realize the reconnaissance-strike RMA than to produce a new AI RMA altogether. However, understanding why AI has not yet sparked a new RMA can shape analysis of the potential trajectory of technological-military competition between the United States and China. The paper uses historical lessons from U.S.–Japanese interwar competition, which produced the carrier aviation RMA, to draw relevant insights for present day U.S.-China AI competition. It concludes by discussing potential frameworks for understanding a future AI RMA and areas for further study.

Peak Human? Thoughts on the Evolution of the Enhancement of Human Performance

Rockefeller University

Adapted from Jesse Ausubel, lecture upon receiving the 2022 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest

October 13, 2022

While societies expect cars and computers to continue to improve, what about humans themselves? Is our species near peak human? We provide a four-part framework for considering performance: cognitive achievement such as IQ, physical achievement such as Olympic records, lifetime performance such as height and life expectancy, and immune system education such as resistance to disease. After several centuries of rapid and pervasive enhancement, trends suggest that human performance enhancements may be hard won during the coming decades.

Biological Information for the New Blue Economy and the Emerging Role of eDNA

2021

The Rockefeller University

“From microbes to mammals, near shore to mid-ocean, and seafloor to seabirds, humans want and need to know about ocean life. Obvious benefits have derived from more accurate means of locating high-value wild fish for food or for protection in the interests of recreation and conservation. Fishers and dive shop operators may use the same information for opposite purposes. Surveyors have traditionally monitored sea life by observing seafood markets and trawl nets, by diving with goggles and clipboards, and more recently by deploying sonars and cameras, and sieving bits of extracellular DNA shed in seawater.”