What Good Is Grand Strategy?
Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush
Narrated by Todd Belcher
Approximately 9.5 hours
Book published by Cornell University Press
Grand strategy is one of the most widely used and abused concepts in the foreign policy lexicon. In this important book, Hal Brands explains why grand strategy is a concept that is so alluring—and so elusive—to those who make American statecraft. He explores what grand strategy is, why it is so essential, and why it is so hard to get right amid the turbulence of global affairs and the chaos of domestic politics. At a time when “grand strategy” is very much in vogue, Brands critically appraises just how feasible that endeavor really is.
Brands takes a historical approach to this subject, examining how four presidential administrations, from that of Harry S. Truman to that of George W. Bush, sought to “do” grand strategy at key inflection points in the history of modern U.S. foreign policy. As examples ranging from the early Cold War to the Reagan years to the War on Terror demonstrate, grand strategy can be an immensely rewarding undertaking—but also one that is full of potential pitfalls on the long road between conception and implementation. Brands concludes by offering valuable suggestions for how American leaders might approach the challenges of grand strategy in the years to come.
“This remarkable book catapults Brands into the foremost ranks of a new generation of U.S. strategic thinkers. Brands brilliantly combines an analysis of the grand strategies of selected presidents (Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush) with an investigation into the nature and value of the very concept of grand strategy. Throughout, his analysis is evenhanded and insightful....Future presidential administrations would do well to embrace this vision at a time when the United States faces limited resources and a bewildering array of challenges. On the evidence of this closely reasoned book, Brands will have much to contribute to the strategic debates that lie ahead.”
—Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs
“This is a solid piece of scholarship that should be of great value in modern American history classes, foreign policy surveys, and course work in international relations.”
—Brooks Flippen, H-Net Reviews
“What Good Is Grand Strategy? is a timely, historically based study of the good, the bad, and the ugly in American grand strategy in the period from Truman’s administration to that of the latest Bush administration. Hal Brands knows his sources and has used them with sophistication and balance.”
—Williamson Murray, Potomac Institute of Policy Studies, coauthor of The Iraq War: A Military History
“Hal Brands provides order and structure to ongoing discussions about the nature and implementation of grand strategy. His overview of grand strategy analyzes and assesses the grand strategies of Truman, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 43. This compelling book fills an important niche; it should become a core text in the study of grand strategy and foreign policy.”
—Francis J. Gavin, Tom Slick Professor of International Affairs and Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, University of Texas at Austin, author of Nuclear Stat
“This is an exceptionally good book. In it, Hal Brands looks to clarify both the nature and the possibilities of grand strategy within the American context. In order to do so, he examines four historical cases—Truman, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush—and draws a number of timely lessons from them regarding the perennial nature of the subject. The book concludes with these lessons. Brands suggests that even at the best of times, the making of grand strategy is an immensely complicated, messy, and difficult process, characterized by surprises, pushback, infighting, and incremental changes. Overall, this is simply one of the best and most useful books on grand strategy that I have seen.”
—Colin Dueck, George Mason University, author of Hard Line: The Republican Party and U.S. Foreign Policy since World War II
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