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H. R. McMaster Advises on How to Overcome Strategic Narcissism


Published April 29, 2021

In order to overcome strategic narcissism, we must begin viewing foreign policy challenges from the perspectives of our adversaries. Promoting prosperity and advancing American influence in the world will require us to integrate all elements of national power and the efforts of our like-minded partners. We can achieve a more effective foreign policy by acting from a position of strategic empathy.

Additional Resources:

  • Watch “Embracing Strategic Empathy,” with H. R. McMaster on PolicyEd. Available here.
  • Read Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, by H. R. McMaster. Available here.
  • Watch Battlegrounds: International Perspectives on Crucial Challenges to Security and Prosperity, a video series with H. R. McMaster. Available here.
View Transcript

Linear thinking and the tendency to under-appreciate the role that enemies or competitors have in the future course of events are features of what we might call strategic narcissism. We might consider what historian Zachary Shore has described as strategic empathy: the practice of viewing challenges and competitions from the perspective of the other as an essential element of strategic competence and as an essential corrective to strategic narcissism. We need to improve our strategic competence. I would define that as our ability to integrate all elements of national power and the efforts of like-minded partners to secure our nation and our vital interests, promote prosperity, and advance American influence in the world. To have an effective foreign policy, we need strategic confidence. Confidence that we can accomplish our objectives and secure a better future through a sustainable and sensible foreign policy.