Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 5, May 2020
The General Board of the U.S. Navy meets in 1932 in Washington D.C. This board existed as an advisory body to the Secretary of the Navy from 1900-1950, and was involved in long range strategic planning focused on the maritime security component of U.S. grand strategy. Its members included the Chief of Naval Operations, President of the Naval War College, Commandant of the Marine Corps and head of naval intelligence. Source: Naval Historical Center.
John T. Kuehn, Ph.D.
Professor of Military History
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
A recent article in Foreign Affairs by Daniel W. Drezner, Ronald R. Krebs, and Randall Schweller hoisted the white flag: “The End of Grand Strategy: America Must Think Small.” The article implies that an American attempt to develop a grand strategy, or to support the current grand strategy in vogue, are both vain pursuits.
One reaction to prescriptions of this sort, or rather proscriptions, is to examine what the authors mean exactly by “grand strategy,” what is their definition?
Perhaps their definition is so different from other accepted definitions of this concept that there is no need to worry, maybe they are talking about something else.
After all, this author wrote on the topic ten years ago, bemoaning that the problem was rooted in, although not limited to, a general lack of understanding of the meaning of the term, especially by military professionals in the nation’s service and war colleges. It might be useful to compare my definition with that consigned to the dust bin by the FA authors.
Carl von Clausewitz has written that as military campaigns proceed, the war as a whole replaces the campaign, and the whole country the theater of operations. In other words, grand strategy is “the next stage,” which encompasses the strategic considerations for “the whole country.”
But the authors argue that, “A grand strategy is a road map for how to match means with ends.”