No process ensures effectiveness, and there is no master strategist. But if any grand strategy has deficiencies, a wise remedy is not to abandon all strategizing in favor of the illusion of mere pragmatism. A more prudent response is to strategize better: by realising that grand strategy is about recognizing the limits of a country’s power as well as the limits of our own knowledge, by checking against cognitive blinders through regular assumption-testing, and by doing the contingency planning that can help policymakers deal with surprises more purposefully and effectively. These are partial solutions, of course, for grand strategy is a messy discipline in a messy world. But abandoning that discipline altogether is no solution at all.
Hal Brands is Associate Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He is the author of What Good is Grand Strategy? Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (2014).
Patrick Porter is Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of Exeter, where he is Academic Director of the Strategy and Security Institute. He is the author of The Global Village Myth: Distance, War, and the Limits of Power (2015).
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