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Avoiding TriviaAvoiding Trivia

The Role of Strategic Planning in American Foreign Policy

Daniel W. Drezner

Narrated by Michael Prichard

Available from Audible

Book published by Brookings Institution Press

Strategic planning needs to be a more integral part of America's foreign policymaking. While thousands of troops are engaged in combat and homeland security concerns abound, long-term coordination of goals and resources would seem to be of paramount importance. A change in presidential administration brings the hope that strategic planning will play an elevated role in U.S. foreign policy. Can policy planners — in the Pentagon, State Department, Treasury, NSC, and National Intelligence Council — rise to the challenge? Indeed, is strategic planning a viable concept in 21st-century foreign policy? These crucial questions guide this eye-opening book.

After World War II, George Kennan became the State Department's first director of policy planning. Secretary of State George Marshall's initial advice to Kennan was to "avoid trivia" above all else, hence the title. In other words, don't get bogged down in the details. Avoiding Trivia critically assesses the past, future, and potential future role and impact of long-term strategic planning in foreign policy.

The contributors include many key figures from the past few decades of foreign policy and planning — e.g., Richard Haass was the director of policy planning at State during the first George W. Bush administration; David F. Gordon currently holds that post; Peter Feaver was a special adviser for strategic planning at the NSC. They provide authoritative insight on the difficulties and importance of thinking and acting in a coherent way for the long term. Contributors include Andrew Erdmann, Peter Feaver, Aaron Friedberg, David F. Gordon, Richard Haass, William Inboden, Bruce Jentleson, Steven Krasner, Jeffrey Legro, Daniel Twining,ThomasWright, and Amy Zegart.

Daniel W. Drezner is an associate professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts Unviersity. He keeps a daily weblog at

Michael Prichard (narrator) has narrated more than a hundred audiobooks for major companies and is the winner of multiple Earphones Awards (AudioFile).


Part I: Introduction

1. The Challenging Future of Strategic Planning in Foreign Policy by DANIEL W. DREZNER

Part II: Grand Strategy and Policy Planning

2. Planning for Policy Planning by RICHARD N. HAASS

3. A Road Map for American Leadership in a Changing World by DAVID F. GORDON and DANIEL TWINING

4. A “Return to Normalcy”? The Future ofAmerica’s Internationalism by JEFFREY W. LEGRO

Part III: Reforming Strategic Planning

5. An Integrative Executive Branch Strategy for Policy Planning by BRUCE W. JENTLESON

6. Strengthening U.S.Strategic Planning by AARON L. FRIEDBERG

7. A Strategic Planning Cell on National Security at the White House by PETER FEAVER and WILLIAM INBODEN

Part IV: Limits and Opportunities for Strategic Planning

8. Why the Best Is Not Yet to Come in Policy Planning by AMY B. ZEGART

9. Learning the Right Lessons from the 1940s by THOMAS WRIGHT

10. Foreign Policy Planning through a Private Sector Lens by ANDREW P. N. ERDMANN

11. The Garbage Can Framework for Locating Policy Planning by STEPHEN D. KRASNER

All titles are published by:
University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks