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Grand strategy

Grand strategy

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Grand strategy comprises the "purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community". Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart says about grand strategy:

[T]he role of grand strategy – higher strategy – is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object of the war – the goal defined by fundamental policy.

Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the economic resources and man-power of nations in order to sustain the fighting services. Also the moral resources – for to foster the people's willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power. Grand strategy, too, should regulate the distribution of power between the several services, and between the services and industry. Moreover, fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand strategy – which should take account of and apply the power of financial pressure, and, not least of ethical pressure, to weaken the opponent's will. ...

Furthermore, while the horizons of strategy is bounded by the war, grand strategy looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace. It should not only combine the various instruments, but so regulate their use as to avoid damage to the future state of peace – for its security and prosperity.

Issues of grand strategy typically include the choice of primary versus secondary theater
Theater (warfare)
In warfare, a theater, is defined as an area or place within which important military events occur or are progressing. The entirety of the air, land, and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations....

s in war, distribution of resources among the various services, the general types of armaments manufacturing to favor, and which international alliances best suit national goals. Grand strategy has considerable overlap with foreign policy
Foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...

, but grand strategy focuses primarily on the military implications of policy, and is typically directed by the political leadership of a country, with input from the most senior military officials. The development of a nation's grand strategy may extend across many years or even multiple generations.

Some have extended the concept of grand strategy to describe multi-tiered strategies in general, including strategic thinking at the level of corporations and political parties. In business, a Grand strategy is a general term for a broad statement of strategic action. A grand strategy states the means that will be used to achieve long-term objectives. Examples of business grand strategies that can be customized for a specific firm include: concentration, market development, product development, innovation, horizontal integration
Horizontal integration
In microeconomics and strategic management, the term horizontal integration describes a type of ownership and control. It is a strategy used by a business or corporation that seeks to sell a type of product in numerous markets...

, divestiture, and liquidation.

Historical examples

  • Anglo-Zulu War
    Anglo-Zulu War
    The Anglo-Zulu War was fought in 1879 between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom.Following the imperialist scheme by which Lord Carnarvon had successfully brought about federation in Canada, it was thought that a similar plan might succeed with the various African kingdoms, tribal areas and...

An example of this was the decision of King Cetshwayo and the Zulu Kingdom
Zulu Kingdom
The Zulu Kingdom, sometimes referred to as the Zulu Empire or, rather imprecisely, Zululand, was a monarchy in Southern Africa that extended along the coast of the Indian Ocean from the Tugela River in the south to Pongola River in the north....

 to attack the encamped British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 at the Battle of Isandlwana
Battle of Isandlwana
The Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 was the first major encounter in the Anglo-Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom...

 in 1879; this would ensure the British would take a more aggressive approach to the invasion in the future, leading to their eventual triumph at the Battle of Ulundi
Battle of Ulundi
The Battle of Ulundi took place at the Zulu capital of Ulundi on 4 July 1879 and was the last major battle of the Anglo-Zulu War. The British army finally broke the military power of the Zulu nation by defeating the main Zulu army and immediately afterwards capturing and razing the capital of...

  • World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

A classic example of modern grand strategy is the decision of the Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 to concentrate on the defeat of Germany first
Europe first
Europe first, also known as Germany first, was the key element of the grand strategy employed by the United States and the United Kingdom during World War II. According to this policy, the United States and the United Kingdom would use the preponderance of their resources to subdue Nazi Germany in...

. The decision, a joint agreement made after the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 had drawn the US into the war, was a sensible one in that Germany was the most powerful member of the Axis, and directly threatened the existence of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Conversely, while Japan's conquests garnered considerable public attention, they were mostly in colonial areas deemed less essential by planners and policymakers. The specifics of Allied military strategy in the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 were therefore shaped by the lesser resources made available to the theatre commanders.
  • Cold War
    Cold War
    The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

A more recent example of grand strategy was the policy of containment
Containment was a United States policy using military, economic, and diplomatic strategies to stall the spread of communism, enhance America’s security and influence abroad, and prevent a "domino effect". A component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to a series of moves by the Soviet...

 used by the US and the UK during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...


Types of current U.S. Grand Strategy

Barry R. Posen and Andrew L. Ross in their paper "Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy," outline four major grand strategies applicable to U.S. foreign policy: neo-isolationism, selective engagement, cooperative security and primacy.


Neo-Isolationism advocates the United States remove itself from international politics in order to maintain its national security. It holds that because there are no threats to the American homeland, the United States does not need to intervene abroad. Even further, its proponents argue that "the United States is not responsible for, and cannot afford the costs of, maintaining world order." They also believe that "the pursuit of economic well-being is best left to the private sector," and that the United States should not attempt to spread its values because doing so increases resentment towards the U.S. and in turn, decreases its security. In short, neo-isolationism advises the United States to preserve its freedom of action and strategic independence.

Selective Engagement

Selective engagement advocates that the United States should only intervene in regions of the world that directly affect its security and prosperity. Most proponents of this strategy believe Europe, Asia and the Middle East matter most to the United States. Europe and Asia contain the great powers, which have the greatest military and economic impact on international politics, and the Middle East is a primary source of oil for much of the developed world. In addition to these more particular concerns, selective engagement also focuses on preventing nuclear proliferation and any conflict that could lead to a great power conflict, but provides no clear guidelines for humanitarian interventions.

Cooperative Security

Cooperative security advocates that the United States participate in, and perhaps lead, alliances and international organizations in order to reach its national security goals. In other words, its proponents believe that the U.S. should act multilaterally in the pursuit of its interests. They propose that collective action is the most effective means of preventing potential state and non-state aggressors from threatening other states. Cooperative security considers nuclear proliferation, regional conflicts and humanitarian crises to be major interests of the United States.


'Primacy holds that only a preponderance of U.S. power ensures peace.' As a result, it advocates that the United States pursue ultimate hegemony and dominate the international system economically, politically and militarily. Therefore, its proponents argue that U.S. foreign policy should focus on maintaining U.S. power and preventing any other power from becoming a serious challenger to the United States. With this in mind, some supporters of this strategy argue that the U.S. should work to contain China and other competitors rather than engage them. In regards to humanitarian crises and regional conflicts, primacy holds that the U.S. should only intervene when they directly impact national security. It does, however, advocate for the prevention of nuclear proliferation.

See also

  • Strategy
    Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

  • Military strategy
    Military strategy
    Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

  • Naval strategy
    Naval strategy
    Naval strategy is the planning and conduct of war at sea, the naval equivalent of military strategy on land.Naval strategy, and the related concept of maritime strategy, concerns the overall strategy for achieving victory at sea, including the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and...

  • Operational mobility
  • Military doctrine
    Military doctrine
    Military doctrine is the concise expression of how military forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements.It is a guide to action, not hard and fast rules. Doctrine provides a common frame of reference across the military...

  • Principles of War
    Principles of War
    The Principles of War were tenets originally proposed by Carl von Clausewitz in his essay Principles of War, and later enlarged in his book, On War. Additionally, Napoléon Bonaparte had pioneered the "Principles of War," and "The armies of today are based on the organization created by Napoleon...

  • Military tactics
    Military tactics
    Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

  • Grand strategy wargame
    Grand strategy wargame
    A grand strategy wargame is a wargame that places focus on grand strategy: military strategy at the level of movement and use of an entire nation state or empire's resources.-Scope of games:...

  • Simulation
    Simulation is the imitation of some real thing available, state of affairs, or process. The act of simulating something generally entails representing certain key characteristics or behaviours of a selected physical or abstract system....

  • Strategic and Defence Studies Centre
    Strategic and Defence Studies Centre
    The Strategic and Defence Studies Centre is a university centre that was situated in the former Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University. It is Australia's oldest-established centre for the study of strategic, defence and wider security issues and a...

  • Wargaming
    A wargame is a strategy game that deals with military operations of various types, real or fictional. Wargaming is the hobby dedicated to the play of such games, which can also be called conflict simulations, or consims for short. When used professionally to study warfare, it is generally known as...

  • Total war
    Total war
    Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

Further reading

  • Robert J. Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Cornell)
  • Biddle, Stephen. American Grand Strategy After 9/11: An Assessment. 50pp. April 2005
  • Clausewitz, Carl von
    Carl von Clausewitz
    Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

    . On War
    On War
    Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

  • Fuller, J.F.C.
    J.F.C. Fuller
    Major-General John Frederick Charles Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO was a British Army officer, military historian and strategist, notable as an early theorist of modern armoured warfare, including categorising principles of warfare...

    . The Generalship of Alexander the Great
  • Benjamin Isaac
    Benjamin Isaac
    Benjamin Isaac is the Fred and Helen Lessing Professor of Ancient History in the Tel Aviv University. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, dating to 1743.-Biography:Isaac was born...

    . The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992 (2nd rev. ed.)
  • Kolliopoulos. Grand strategy of ancient Sparta. Piotita Publications.
  • Kondilis, P. Theory of War
  • Kondilis, P. Power and decision
  • Liddell Hart, B. H. Strategy. London:Faber, 1967 (2nd rev. ed.)
  • Luttwak. The Grand strategy of the Roman Empire
  • Papasotiriou, Harry. Grand strategy of the Byzantine Empire
  • Platias, A. International Relations and Grand Strategy in Thucydides
  • Wright, Steven. The United States and Persian Gulf Security: The Foundations of the War on Terror, Ithaca Press, 2007 ISBN 978-0863723216

External Links

Elephrame | Grand Strategy (Opinions on Grand Strategy)