Grand strategy is one of the most widely used and abused concepts in the foreign policy lexicon. 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. Taking a historical approach to this subject, Brands examines how four presidential administrations sought to “do” grand strategy at key inflection points in the history of modern U.S. foreign policy. 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.
Hal Brands, a part of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, is a historian who has previously worked at the Institute for Defense Analyses, and has served as a member of the RAND Corporation Grand Strategy Advisory Board. He is an affiliate of the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy and serves on the Executive Board of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies. He is the author of From Berlin to Baghdad: America’s Search for Purpose in the Post-Cold War World (University Press of Kentucky, 2008), Latin America’s Cold War (Harvard University Press, September 2010), and What Good is Grand Strategy? (Cornell University Press, 2014). Brands earned a PhD, MA and MPhil. in History from Yale University, and a BA from Stanford University.