Is Grand Strategy Grand Enough?

An Introduction to the Grand Strategies of Nations International Relations

Grand Strategy is a political term that complicates many. It sounds ambitious but really it’s just a method to resolve specific kinds of complications. Grand strategy’s focal attraction is that it proposes the probability of determining events rather than being determined by them. Some grand strategies thrive, some fail miserably. America’s Cold War grand strategy succeeded but then the nation’s Iraq grand strategy proved at best ineffectual. How can we evade future grand strategy misfortunes and as an alternative make triumph more possible? Grand strategies commence in the minds of people. They are merely problem-solving concepts. Depicting on recent studies in cognition, and assimilating contemporary international relations theories, this paper advances a lucid and organized way for us to understand grand strategy better. The chances for failure are too high, the promise of better tomorrows are too significant to turn a blind eye to grand strategy. We all need to get better at it whether for formulating new grand strategies or evaluating those our country or organization want us to be part of.

I. Introduction

What is Grand Strategy?

Grand strategy is the all-encompassing long-term statecraft of a nation that establishes foreign affairs that matches its political, economic, diplomatic, military capabilities as well as its interests. It is about what a nation can accomplish with the approval of its citizens and not about what a nation desires to do. This is how Grand Strategy keeps elites in check and keeps the citizens close to these elites. In addition, Grand Strategy is ambitious meaning that even if a nation accomplishes only part of its grand strategy that by itself is valuable. Being aware of Grand Strategy infers respect for geography and geopolitics, as well as a respect for principles and rationality. 1

The “grand” in the concept is often muddled for grandiose or magnificent, however, it does not suggest extensive goals but rather the handling of all the state’s resources toward the means of the state’s supposed ends. The prominent theoretical approaches to the study of grand strategy in political science admit the interchange between the threats and opportunities of the international setting and the restraints or drivers of domestic politics.

The History of Grand Strategy as a Concept

Strategy arose as a notion over the progression of the 18th and 19th centuries, as (previous) practitioners started systematically gathering their views on how wars should efficiently be battled. The “grand” strategy was the rational following step in thinking beyond firmly military strategy, beyond the need for battles to win campaigns, and campaigns to win wars, and was built on the notion that efficaciously completing a military strategy required the cautious use of national material resources, the mobilization of society, and diplomacy. This meant that grand strategy protracted beyond wartime into peacetime and should comprise the prevention of war.

II. How is Grand Strategy Made?   

Implementing and formulating a grand strategy entails identifying a national goal which is done through valuing the statues resources in order to achieve this goal.2 Although a grand strategy is related to national affairs both in times of war and in times of peace, national strategies historically have been based on the presence of an enemy that needs to be overcome. To that end, policymakers make an effort to develop the best possible way of managing military expertise, political influence, diplomatic capability, and economic capacity within a cohesive national strategy. Also, a grand strategy should involve a consensus from the nation upon formulating it by policymakers, or at least it should require the absence of general confrontation to its aims and objectives. Formulating an effective grand strategy depends on balancing means and ends, putting realistic goals, and then dedicating all the necessary resources to accomplishing those goals.

When enlisting a national strategy, a country’s decision-makers must sensibly consider a series of historical and psychological aspects, such as the country’s foreign-policy traditions and its tolerance for different levels of resistance. For example, a strategy that depends deeply on generating multilateral defense alliances is debatably more effortlessly applied by a country that has a history of internationalism than by one that has required isolation or political neutrality. That is why grand strategy is significant since it organizes foreign policy issues in a useful way for policymakers and society.3

III. US Grand Strategy

Grand strategy especially affects international relations especially within the country that’s implementing it. For instance, there are three grand strategies the United States may pursue: primacy, offshore balancing, and liberal internationalism.  The best sequence for the United States to take would be to mix both offshore balancing and liberal internationalism grand strategies.4 The reasoning of grand strategy fusion is that liberal internationalism locks rivals into an open and rules-based system, whilst offshore balancing lets the United States preserve an over-the-horizon military stance and use it should the prior fail. Whereas primacy is founded on the fact that the United States is best aided by protecting its allies rather than having them do it for themselves, offshore balancers believe a balance of power approach allocates the costs and risks of defending allies. An offshore balancing strategy would allow the United States to suspend from its present global military commitments and assume an over-the-horizon military posture. The rationale being that withdrawal resolves many issues related to the issue of hegemony but permits the United States to re-insert its military should a regional balance structure fail. Much of the power the United States has today is in large part thanks to liberal internationalism, though 5 argues that this liberal internationalism has been fused with primacy where liberal internationalism creates a foundation in which states can be involved in reciprocity and institutionalized cooperation.

 IV. Does Lebanon Have a Grand Strategy?

Lebanon is a consociational democracy, which is one of the most flawed forms of democracy to exist, where its only advantage is to prevent a civil war. That is why it does not have a definite Grand Strategy. For example, it took the government 3 years to agree on a budget. 3 years. That is a problem within the system. Now imagine them having to create a Grand Strategy and put a long term objective, it is never going to work since each group has a different vision.

Arwa Katanji
Arwa Katanji


Political correctness is neither political nor is it correct. It amounts to social censorship, and the sooner we spit it out, the better.
— Jeff Cooper


  • Kaplan,Robert. Michael J. Zak Grand Strategy Lecture Featuring Robert D. Kaplan. March 2018
  • Krowley,Leigh. US Grand Strategy Options. June 2013
  • Sibii,Razvan. Grand Strategy. January 2017
  • Van Hooft,Paul. Grand Strategy. August 2017
  • Brands,Hal. American Grand Strategy and the Liberal Order. 2016
  1. (Kaplan)
  2. (Crowley)
  3. (Sibii)
  4. (Van Hooft)
  5. (Ikenberry)

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