This book is about the evolution of American grand strategy in the post-Cold War era, and about the foreign policy elite that has been making this strategy. In contrast to most other approaches, we argue that it matters who the people that make up this elite are: what their social background is; which social networks they are part of; in which social context their agency is located. Only through an account of the actual agents situated within their social context can we come to a more comprehensive understanding of U.S. grand strategy. The core thesis of this study, then, is that in order to explain the evolution of American grand strategy we need to analyze its social sources, starting with the grand-strategy makers themselves and the networks of social relations in which they were and are embedded. Our key finding is that America’s foreign policy elite from the Clinton to the Obama administration has been firmly embedded in America’s corporate elite dominated by transnationally oriented capital. It is this continuity in the social sources of American grand strategy, we argue, that helps to explain much of the continuity in that grand strategy, even if we will also find important manifestations of intra-elite variation within that continuity. From the end of the nineteenth century onwards, American grand strategy has pursued a liberal expansionism ultimately aimed at the creation of a global hegemony premised upon open, “free” markets, to which global capital – and above all U.S. transnational capital – has full access.1 Following the work of revisionist historians, in particular William Appleman Williams (Williams, 2007; 2009; see also LaFeber, 1998), we identify such a grand strategy and its underlying ideology as one of an “Open Door,” that is, an Open Door to U.S. capital. This book will argue that the global Open Door has continued to define the ends of American grand strategy throughout the post-Cold War era. Indeed, the collapse of the Soviet Union offered an unexpected opportunity to create a truly global capitalist empire, that is, to create a U.S.-centered liberal world order of unprecedented geographical scope. Yet within this important underlying continuity of economic, not territorial, expansionism we also observe significant variation with regard to the means employed in the pursuit of the Open Door. This book thus aims to describe and explain both the continuities and the variations within/of American grand strategy across and between the last three administrations – those of Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama. The central

questions this book addresses are: (1) What explains the pursuit of a global Open Door grand strategy after the end of the Cold War? (2) How and why have the three (post-Cold War) administrations been seeking to achieve these strategic goals in (sometimes) different ways? Our core argument that a comprehensive answer to those questions must include an analysis of what we call the social sources of American grand strategy takes us beyond the focus of the realist tradition within International Relations (IR) theory on so-called systemic pressures, that is, the effects generated by the distribution of power within the international system. Instead, we examine what realists tend to identify as the “domestic sources” of foreign policy, but, seeking to offer a more integrated analysis, we do so from a particular vantage point, one that breaks much more radically with the state-centrism of realist IR, including neoclassical realism. Adopting a critical political economy perspective we argue not only that “the domestic” and the “international” are fundamentally intertwined through the transnational structures of global capitalism, but also that in analyzing the domestic sources of U.S. foreign policy we need to recognize the capitalist nature of American society, and how U.S. capitalism has expanded outward over the past century, and in the process has created, and continues to seek to maintain, a global capitalism. As such, the point of departure for this study is the agency of U.S. policymakers – or what we will call grand-strategy makers – themselves, because it is always through their actions that we can start to conceive of the state as an actor. But in keeping with the notion that societal processes are produced by the interplay of structure and agency, we maintain that it is crucial to put grand-strategy makers in their social context. In this book we will argue how this context for an important part is made up of the social relations in which these officials are embedded, in particular in what we will identify as elite networks dominated by America’s corporate elite. In this context, we will empirically demonstrate the inner connections that exist between the U.S. state, including its foreign policy executive, and America’s corporate elite. Yet, at the same time, U.S. grandstrategy makers respond in their agency to a changing global context, which constitutes another part of the structural context with which agency interacts. We argue that the Open Door, as rooted in an expansionism of American capitalism, serves the interests of America’s corporate elite and that the close nexus that we find to exist between this corporate elite and the American state – in as much, as we will show, state officials are often recruited from that same elite – helps to explain the continuing Open Door orientation of American grand strategy. Yet we also recognize that within this overarching common outlook there are at times significant strategic and tactical disagreements among the members of America’s foreign policy elite, disagreements that may in part be seen as reflecting different shades of the same ideology. In addition, mediated by these sometimes diverging ideas – particularly with respect to the means, yet within a continuing consensus about the ultimate ends, of U.S. grand strategy – American grand-strategy makers also respond to the opportunities and constraints emanating from the changing global political economy and the United States’ (perceived) position within it.