National Security Strategy for Germany 2023: „No strategy“? Especially without a National Security Council

National Security Strategy for Germany 2023: „No strategy“? Especially without a National Security Council

The long announced German National Security Strategy entitled “National Security Strategy for Germamy Integrated Security : Robust. Resilient. Sustainable” is published now. A 76-pages paper with a lot of generalities, catch phrases  and buzzwords and little concrete content. Read at:

So the new NSS is finally here. Seemingly a few pages with a few generalities, little concrete, also no traditional distinction between short, medium and long-term goals and measures. It was already to be expected that one should now pay more attention to Russia and China. Reuters summarizes:

Germany calls China a growing threat as it steps up focus on security

By Sarah Marsh and Matthias Williams

June 14, 20237:06 PM GMT+2Updated 19 hours ago

[1/6] German Chancellor Olaf Scholz holds a document during a press conference on the day the cabinet presents the national security strategy at the House of ‚Bundespressekonferenz‘ in Berlin, Germany June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

·  Summary

  • ·  Companies
  • Germany unveils first ever National Security Strategy
  • Document reflects growing focus on security over economy
  • Contains strong criticism of China but does not mention Taiwan
  • Implementation could be hampered by lack of Security Council

BERLIN, June 14 (Reuters) – China poses a growing threat to global security, Germany said in its first national security strategy on Wednesday, underscoring Berlin’s shift in emphasis from economic interests to geopolitics following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Using blunt language about its top trading partner, the strategy document describes Beijing as aggressively claiming supremacy in Asia and seeking to use its economic might to achieve political goals.

The document highlights the main threats Germany perceives it faces, from climate change to supply chain disruptions, and includes a few policy specifics, such as a commitment to raising defence spending and creating an agency to fight cyberattacks.

Analysts noted it does not prioritise which threats to fight or contain any major surprises. It also omits some major issues, such as Taiwan, and as expected, does not create a National Security Council that would help its implementation.

„This is a major change being carried out by us in Germany in how we deal with security policy,“ moving from a military strategy towards an integrated security concept, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at the presentation of the document, while adding a more detailed China strategy should be ready soon.

„In future, we will focus more on security when it comes to decisions on economic policy,“ Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. „We paid for every cubic metre of Russian gas twofold and threefold with our national security.“

Germany’s reliance on Russia for around half its gas imports prevented it from immediately being able to stop energy trade with Moscow after it invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Russia is the top threat to European peace „for now“, the National Security Strategy (NSS) said.

The document highlights the need for Germany to reduce all dependencies on other countries for commodities and incentivise companies to hold strategic reserves.

These measures are particularly relevant now to Germany, and Europe’s reliance on China for critical minerals key to the transition to a carbon neutral economy.

„China is deliberately exerting its economic power to reach political goals,“ reads the NSS, which comes just a week before German-China government consultations are due in Berlin.

However, China remains a partner the world needs to resolve global challenges and crises, it added.


At nearly 300 billion euros ($325 billion) in imports and exports, China is Germany’s most important trading partner and a core market for top German companies including Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), BASF (BASFn.DE) and BMW (BMWG.DE).

Many German CEOs have warned of the risks of cutting or reducing links with the world’s second-biggest economy.

Mercedes-Benz (MBGn.DE) CEO Ola Kaellenius said in April decoupling from China was „unthinkable for almost all of German industry“.

However, many German businesses accept that dependency on China for critical raw materials needs to be addressed.

Baerbock said government officials had held „intensive talks“ with companies active in China.

„The good thing is that German companies are drawing similar conclusions to the German federal government,“ she said.

Still, Noah Barkin, an analyst with Rhodium Group, said the strategy may be most interesting for what it does not contain.

„There is no mention of Taiwan – probably the biggest security challenge of the coming years,“ he said.

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan strongly objects to China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.

Norbert Roettgen of the opposition conservatives said the strategy also lacked clarity on the creation of a new security order for Europe, such as how Moldova and Georgia could be shielded from Russia, and whether Ukraine should join NATO.


Days after Russia’s invasion, Scholz heralded a shift to a new era or „Zeitenwende“ in which he said Germany would invest more than 2% of economic output on defence, after years of resisting pleas from NATO allies to do so.

The NSS contains a slightly weaker pledge for Germany to spend 2% of economic output „as an average over a multi-year period“ on defence, initially in part by using a special 100-billion euro fund created last year.

Germany aims to reach the 2% defence spending target from next year, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said.

($1 = 0.9223 euros)

Nothing about the NSS in today’s FAZ and FR online. Only in the Münchner Merkur a short article with some criticism from Merz, the request of the Greens to Interior Minister Faeser now enough to publish their security law for critical infrastructures and then that the SPD and Greens, in contrast to the FDP, have rejected a National Security Council.

“National Security Strategy: Greens put pressure on Faeser

The Federal Government presents the National Security Strategy. After the press conference, the Greens are demanding more rapid measures from the SPD.

Update from June 14, 4:32 p.m .: After the adoption of a national security strategy, the Greens believe that measures for better protection of the so-called critical infrastructure must now follow quickly. „An important goal of the national security strategy is and remains the protection of critical infrastructure,“ said party leader Omid Nouripour on Wednesday to the German Press Agency. „For this purpose, the law for the protection of critical infrastructures, long announced by Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser, must finally be presented.“

Merz disappointed with national security strategy

Update from June 14, 2:30 p.m .: Union faction leader Friedrich Merz has criticized the national security strategy presented by the federal government as a great disappointment. „What we have here now as a national security strategy is bloodless in content, strategically irrelevant, operationally inconsequential and foreign policy uncoordinated,“ said Merz on Wednesday in Berlin. There was no coordination with the federal states, the European partners and in the transatlantic alliance with the USA.

Sharp criticism, however, on the part of the green newspaper taz that the NSS is a smokescreen with a lot of ado about nothing, only being something concrete in the military and almost not emphasizing development policy at all. A criticism that the SPD Left and Left Party could probably join:

„New „National Security Strategy“: Specifically only in the case of rearmament

The new security strategy spans the broad spectrum to development cooperation. There, of all places, it remains far too vague. It is a great art to leave most approaches in the dark on as many pages as possible and still talk about the big hit. The best example is currently the government’s National Security Strategy, which is awaited with great anticipation. In the past few months there has been a lot of argument and fuss about the paper, quarrels about competencies and new bodies that have been found useful or useless by one or the other traffic light coalition goverment member. Or about the sovereignty of interpreting German foreign policy stance on China, for example. The result is a paper that largely reads like a synopsis of individual initiatives by the ministries that are already known. However, the sum makes it impressively clear how many construction sites the country has when it comes to security. A strong military apparatus is needed to counter external threats. At the same time, they are declaring war on attacks from cyberspace, want to take action against disinformation, strengthen civil protection, protect critical infrastructure, and ensure food security, humanitarian aid and development cooperation. All in the interests of national security, they say. That will be costly. However, only when it comes to rearmament and better equipment for the Bundeswehr does one become more specific. The consensus: Two percent of economic output should flow into military defense, starting next year. It is about sending a signal to the international partners to show that Germany can and wants to play the hoped-for strong role in international security policy. Even with great financial commitment.

Little about development cooperation

The commitment to peacekeeping measures without military equipment is less euphoric and determined, and instead vague. Development policy organizations are rightly outraged that financial commitments or the linking of expenditure for development cooperation to defense expenditure are not mentioned. There was no consensus there. The same applies to the proposal to move civil protection more to the federal level and thus relieve the burden on the federal states in this matter. Of course, a strategy paper is not a hidden negotiation about budget and budget issues. But the thrust and thus a strong template is made. The world has changed since the beginning of the war on February 24, 2022, and the “peace dividend”, as Finance Minister Lindner called it, has been used up. The credibility of the security strategy will be measured by its implementation. This involves more than pumping money into defense and rearmament.!5935224/

The SPIEGEL also comments on the NSS: „A little bit Scholz, a little bit Baerbock“ and that everything is „spongy“.

„A little bit Scholz, a little bit Baerbock – and a lot of question marks

The traffic light coalition has presented its national security strategy – after a year of wrangling. The focus is particularly on dealing with Russia and China. However, the paper remains vague on key issues.“

Former NATO General Domroese Jr. commented hardest:

„It’s NOT a strategy. It’s disappointing but not surprising“ . When asked by Global Review, Merkel’s former military adviser, ex-General Erich Vad, explains why this is not surprising and why paper is patient, but action would be better:

„The problem is: either the NSS only contains the usual, uncritical generalities, such as in the White Paper, in NATO/Strategy or in the European Security Strategy, or it gets down to business, such as President Horst Köhler 2011, and goes through what protection of overseas lines of communication actually means, but then – like back then – there is trouble, nonsensical and pointless discussions in the land of the (green) garden gnomes. Going into the nitty-gritty of security policy is hardly possible in the current traffic light and every German security strategy is ultimately a compromise between clashing coalition partners and federal-state competences. That’s why it’s better in Germany not to write down a strategy, but to simply do it! Only the doers are missing!”

Furthermore, it is criticized that the NSS does not give any consideration to a European order after the Ukraine war, the prospects for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, how it treats China, but does not mention a word about Taiwan.

China expert Professor van Ess can also find unintentionally funny and useful things in this:

“Seems to be a joke, the German security strategy. But rather laughing than a cold war. But you could have (and should) have saved yourself the fuss.”

Probably true. In addition, one does not even want a National Security Council for coordination or strategy formulation or NSC advisors like Kissinger or Brzezinski, insofar as there are such strategists in Germany at all. Even the DGAP has so far only been able to write a 10-point emergency program for a new government, while the SWP remained silent. Now the Bertelsmann Foundation wants to get involved with its announced „What is next?“ event (but the oriiginal link seems not avaiable this afternoon anymore).

But it is also questionable whether an NSC would be a guarantee, since strategies such as those under George W. Bush junior under NSC boss Condolezza Rice can sometimes cause historical disasters such as the Iraq war.

China expert Professor van Ess commented on the subject of the National Security Council:

“If you want a National Security Council, you have to know what it is for. And I’m afraid it’s suffering from that at the moment. Has the Ethics Council accomplished meaningful things? My perception is that since the pandemic, things have gone quiet around him because all he really did was produce speech bubbles that should allow politicians to take tougher action. There was no real consideration. In my opinion, the Economic Expert Council is no longer taken seriously by the influential economists because he is only composed for reasons of proportional representation. How do you prevent a Security Council from meeting a similar fate? I believe that in Germany it would be doomed to failure from the outset because there is a lack of understanding that a Security Council should be absolutely independent and technically competent. So better le it be.”

Bundeswehr expert Frank Sauer, for example, came to a different conclusion. The NSS offers a good description of the situation, is coherent and more specific than is often criticized, explains the term „integrated security“ very well, the triad „military-resilient-sustainable“ is well defined, but Sauer’s main point of criticism is that the question of financing was left out on pressure the FDP and remains completely open, even if a binding 2% NATO target was written in. But the special assets are included in the 2%, as are other items. Therefore: Good (minus) to mediocre (plus), especially since one has to consider that this is the first document of its kind and many people are apparently not clear about what such a document can and cannot do. In addition, one will soon drown in a flood of strategies from other ministries. The National Security Council was already off the table before the NSS was created because the Foreign Ministry did not want to lose any more powers to the Chancellery and had blocked it.

Attached is an older article from us that puts the meaning of 1 strategy into perspective. We coined the term “multi-option strategy”. Means: It makes sense to have a strategy first, but to constantly review it and not to stick to other options or a plan/strategy to the bitter end if the parameters, balance of power and constellations change significantly. That should also be a task of a National Security Council and not just of this institution, and it should also propose any adjustments to a different strategy or a switch to a different strategy and Plan B/C/D etc. if it is foreseeable that the previous one will not achieve its goal . That was also the mistake made by the USA in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, they wasted two decades and weakened themselves before Deng came along. A strategy like  Brzezinski should also distinguish between short-, medium- and long-term goals and means to be used and built up and, if necessary, adapt, change or discard them. More on that at:

Annalena Baerbock’s New Security Strategy-For multi-options strategies instead of concepts and „strategies“

You also have to think out-of-the-box  like the Indian former General Asthana an dmaybe think of Germany’s „strategic balancing“ or in association with parts of Europe, whereby General Naumann, for example, thinks that differnent from India, China and the USA, Germany does not have the capacity importance and resources  and size to do so , , yes it has not at all military or real sovereignty, although he emphasizes that Germany is a „sovereign state“. At least one sharpensthe awareness of the limits, potentials and options of one’s own state by means of such mind games and can also learn from other nations and strategists outside the transatlantic orbit.

Germany between three warring great powers: Plea for a German navigation strategyand strategic balancing

For comparison, the annual National Security Strategy of the US governments and an article by Merics about the Chinese NSS 2021-2025, which the CCP is keeping secret. Nevertheless, clear trends can now also be identified under Xi, above all the „securitization of everything“ of „comprehensive national security“, which in the West most closely corresponds to integrated and networked security, although not in this totality and centrality.


Sep 15, 2022 33 min read

„Comprehensive National Security“ unleashed: How Xi’s approach shapes China’s policies at home and abroad

Main findings and conclusions

  • Xi Jinping has turned national security into a key paradigm that permeates all aspects of China’s governance. His expanding “comprehensive national security” concept now comprises 16 types of security. Xi has also formalized new implementation systems – from laws and regulations to institutions and mass mobilization campaigns.
  • This new focus on keeping China safe is driven by perceptions of internal and external threats. It also serves as a strategy to hedge legitimacy risks and ensure continued support for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule as China shifts away from a development-first model.
  • Xi’s national security outlook builds on the legacy of previous leaders. From Mao to Xi, China’s leaders have continuously added new types of national security, but the overarching mission has remained to defend the CCP’s hold on power and political stability.
  • Xi’s quest for a comprehensive national security formula has reshaped China’s policymaking. The result is a state of hyper-vigilance with wide-reaching effects on state-society relations, China’s economic growth model and how the leadership enforces its interests abroad.
  • The all-encompassing national security mindset is increasingly locking China into certain modes of action. By priming officials and citizens to be ever-alert to potential threats, pragmatism has given way to ideology, heightening the risk of overreaction and arbitrariness.
  • This “securitization of everything” extends beyond Xi’s tenure and will continue to define China’s domestic and international behavior until there is a substantial ideological shift. This new paradigm implies clear – and new – risks and challenges for governments, businesses and non-state actors engaging with China.
  • The trend towards the “securitization of everything” will likely accelerate. However, domestic criticism reveals it is not uncontested and party-state actors are still assessing the risks to China’s economic development and international standing.
  • Foreign actors can seek to change the party’s calculus by communicating concerns. Targeted and coordinated responses can help raise awareness in the Chinese policy- making apparatus and upping the cost of harmful behaviors.

1. Introduction

New, wider definitions of national security are emerging in many countries. However, China’s party and state leader Xi Jinping has turned national security into a goal in itself: his all-encompassing view of national security has become a core element of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) world view and governance model. Amid rising tensions with Western nations, complicated by Russia’s war in Ukraine and global supply chain problems, this paradigm heightens the risk of overreactions.

Xi’s concept of “comprehensive national security” (总体国家安全) was officially introduced in 2014 and now comprises 16 security arenas deemed essential to China’s development and the party state’s survival by keeping China domestically stable and internationally thriving. The concept is closely linked to achieving the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049 and has been encoded in the revised Party Constitution and various party documents and laws.1

The November 2021 “historical resolution” from the CCP Central Committee’s sixth plenum warned of unprecedented pressures from an increasingly fraught international environment that blends traditional and non-traditional threats.2 In late 2021, the Politburo also drew up a new National Security Strategy for 2021–2025.3 The document is not public but reinforces existing policies. As Xi instructed top officials of the CCP’s security and legal apparatus in January 2022: all party and state organs must improve their efforts to prevent and contain any internal and external threats to China’s national security and political system.4

The hallmark of the Xi era is the party’s potent mix between confidence and paranoia when it comes to national security. The CCP’s threat perceptions have risen, fearing that internal and external forces may subvert its hold on power. It feels besieged by the US and Western countries, intent on containing China. However, the party state is also increasingly confident of its domestic organizational and institutional abilities, and capacity to project power globally – strengths it believes will help it detect, contain or preempt threats before they do substantial damage.

This confidence is driven by the CCP’s conviction that China has the more stable, superior political model: the leadership has repeatedly contrasted “chaos in the West and order in China”, as expressed in the initial rhetoric around China’s “victory over Covid” – even if its “zero-Covid” policies are now causing significant economic harm.5 Nonetheless, the CCP’s new confidence informs policy choices and helps explain China’s more aggressive conduct in recent years.

This “securitization of everything” is not a temporary phase: Xi’s qualitative changes to China’s national security framework are built on established concepts and institutions set up by his predecessors. Beijing’s preoccupation with threats – real or perceived – will continue to shape its domestic and international behavior, especially as increased geopolitical competition with the West and the CCP’s 20th party congress put cadres and officials on high alert.

This new paradigm implies clear – and new – risks and challenges for governments, businesses and non-state actors engaging with China. Governments and businesses face a China that is more willing to accept economic costs to defend its stability and broad understanding of national security, including through economic coercion. Efforts to decrease reliance on the West and competition in the tech sector will intensify. Foreign companies are exposed to new legislation and political pressure.
As Beijing becomes more assertive in enforcing its red lines, this means loss of access for foreign journalists and other non-state actors, but also risks of hostage diplomacy cases and sanctions.6 The recent crisis around US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan further highlights the risks of escalation and military conflict in the region derived from Beijing’s approach to national security.

2. Xi has turned national security from policy goal into mode of governance

Xi has made national security into a core component of party ideology, a state doctrine that permeates all aspects of China’s governance. Today, national security work in China is not only meant to avert threats but to proactively identify any potential new threats – domestic and international – that the party must adapt to. This has spurred a rapid expansion of what is considered a matter of national security. The expansion is not one of mission creep, but rather takes place by design.

Building on the legacy of previous leaders, Xi has driven substantial conceptual and organizational changes, in the form of new laws and regulations, and has upgraded institutions with more manpower. Even if Xi were to give way to a new generation of leaders, the “securitization of everything” will continue to shape policy unless there is a substantial ideological change of course.

2.1 What Xi’s concept of national security entails

In response to fears of greater global and domestic instability, Xi sought a unifying theory that combined internal and external security concerns and guided policy choices across the board. This serves to ensure the party’s continued hold on power, but also to hedge legitimacy risks at a time of slowing economic growth. Collective security, meaning a tightly controlled but stable society, and the goal of a strong China inspiring national confidence and international respect, have become key promises to the people.

Xi articulated the “comprehensive national security” concept in 2014.7 Originally encompassing 11 types of security, the set has now expanded to 16 (see Exhibit 4), adding areas such as biosecurity and space security. The publication of Xi’s collected speeches on comprehensive national security in March 2018, followed by a compendium in 2022, epitomizes efforts to turn the concept into party canon.8

A hierarchy of security types exists in Xi’s theoretical framework. Political security, i.e., safeguarding China’s party state, is the “bedrock” (根本). Economic security is the “basis” (基础). Military, cultural and social security are the “guarantees” (保障) – meant to help avert danger before it materializes. New domains such as cybersecurity and maritime security are described as urgent tasks.9 Promoting the security of China’s overseas interests is the last piece of the puzzle. Achieving security across issue areas in turn helps uphold political security.

National security and stability are now framed as the highest political priority and preconditions for continued economic development.10 Beijing’s vision for a new global security order rests on the same equation. In May 2022, Xi proposed the Global Security Initiative (GSI) – closely linked to China’s 2021 Global Development Initiate (GDI) – to promote China’s “wisdom and solutions” and “solve global problems.”11 While the GSI and its role in the global security architecture is still taking shape, the “security” in its name implies Beijing’s emphasis on state sovereignty, regime stability and collective security. Described as an extension of Xi’s comprehensive national security outlook, it may provide affiliated states with a wide remit to justify almost any action under the banner of security, and heralds a further clash of international norms.

2.2 From Mao to Xi, party priorities show continuity in change

Xi Jinping’s concept of “comprehensive national security” did not emerge out of thin air. It follows a continuous expansion that dates to the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 (see Exhibit 1).12 This process is one of continuity in change, as the party gradually shifted its focus from traditional to non-traditional security. Yet the overarching goal – defending the CCP’s hold on power – has been constant and rests on the core conviction that only the CCP can return China to its rightful place in the world.

The CCP under Mao Zedong was largely preoccupied with China’s territorial and military security. Under Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, China opened up to the world at a time of global economic growth and industrial modernization, foregrounding issues of economic security. The 1989 Tiananmen protests triggered a new emphasis on cultural or ideological security, and societal security, to prevent fundamental challenges to the regime. Further adaptations came under Hu Jintao, who introduced and prioritized ecological and resource security, amid widespread protests over severe pollution and deficient labor protections.

Xi has significantly accelerated this trajectory. The spotlight has shifted to controlling information flows and preempting networked resistance, as well as to ensuring China’s economic, technological, and geopolitical leadership. Corruption and party discipline have also been high on the agenda under Xi – both to address public loss of trust and target internal rivals and resistance to key policies.13

Military and territorial security have remained central but are now pivoting to defending the PRC’s claims in the South and East China Seas, and compete with the United States for primacy in the Indo-Pacific. “Reunification” with Taiwan – by whatever means – has been given unprecedented urgency by linking it to the second centenary goal of achieving China’s “national rejuvenation” by 2049.14 It signals growing intransigence in Beijing on anything related to Taiwan’s future or status.


2.3 Xi has upgraded legal and institutional support systems

Today, the party sits atop a web of national security commissions that have been established or upgraded across the administration, from central to local levels (see Exhibit 2). The party transmits its priorities and agenda through these commissions.15 They fulfill a coordinating function and ensure that nearly all state ministries, departments and government-funded organizations take part in safeguarding security in some way. Party organizations, too, must help uphold national security, down to party cells in education, the private sector and civil society. This framework keeps cadres and public officials on the lookout for potential threats.

Here, too, Xi has built on the legacy of his predecessors. In the Mao era, national security work remained the purview of the military and the security services, while political tensions and opposition were dealt with through political and mass mobilization campaigns. Deng gave formalized roles to additional institutional actors, ranging from economic ministries and departments to media organizations, which were tasked with being “ideological centers for promoting nationwide stability and unity.”16


In 1997, Jiang tried to establish a National Security Commission, modeled on the US National Security Council, to coordinate across the rising number of party organs and state agencies involved in national security work. His idea was partially rejected, resulting in a compromise – the Central Leading Small Group (LSG) on National Security set up in 2000, with sub-organizations at lower party-state administrative levels.17

In late 2013, Xi upgraded the LSG into the Central National Security Commission (CNSC), the new pinnacle of China’s national security apparatus. Now at the end of his second tenure, Xi not only oversees the CNSC and other commissions related to key national security areas, but he has also successfully placed trusted cadres like Ding Xuexiang, Head of the CNSC Office, Chen Yixin, General Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, and Wang Xiaohong, China’s new Minister of Public Security, in key positions.18

Xi’s push for centralization and institutionalization has been accompanied by a rapid expansion of the legal corpus, which state media refers to as a “legal Great Wall” to safeguard national security.19 Since 2014, a long list of national security-related laws has been issued, most notably the National Security Law (2015), the Counter-Terrorism Law (2015), the Counter-Espionage Law (2014), the Cyber Security Law (2016), the Foreign NGO Management Law (2016), the National Intelligence Law (2017) and the Data Security Law (2021). Upon instruction from Beijing, Hong Kong enacted its own all-encompassing National Security Law (HKNSL) in 2020.

These legal stipulations share a broad and ambiguous definition of national security. Several of these laws, notably the HKNSL and the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law (2021), enable China to target behavior beyond its borders. Frequent references to national and public security not only filter down into policies and regulations (see Exhibit 3), but also into public and corporate guidelines and privacy statements.


All state and non-state actors are required to cooperate with authorities such as the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security or military-affiliated intelligence forces, in cases relating to national security. China’s security organs have extensive discretionary powers to access data, with little or no transparency or legal recourse. By institutional design, the CCP has steering power over all security organs and the judiciary, whose work is coordinated under the national security commissions system. No independent bodies monitor their actions that citizens and enterprises could turn to if faced with undue requests for cooperation.

2.4 Mass mobilization and education: „everyone is responsible“

The party state is taking an all-of-society approach to safeguarding national security. The National Security Law states that “everyone is responsible for national security,” a decree echoed across laws, guidelines and public education campaigns – such as China’s annual “National Security Education Day” on April 15.20 All citizens, corporates and civil society are expected to proactively monitor and report potential security threats. A national security hotline was set up by China’s Ministry of State Security in June 2022, offering up to CNY 100,000 for information.21

The concept of “comprehensive national security” is firmly embedded in political and public communication, education and scholarly discourse. It is set to influence the future thinking of decision makers, thought leaders and the public. National security is now promoted as a cross-disciplinary field of study, with new specialized research centers, programs and funds. In 2021, for example, the Research Center for Comprehensive National Security was established at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a prominent research institute linked to the Ministry of State Security (MSS). CICIR has also released a series of publications on the topic, and its president Yuan Peng has held multiple lectures and trainings for leading cadres at different government levels.22

To future-proof the party state against domestic resistance, the leadership places a strong focus on inoculating China’s next generation against harmful influences. A roadmap to integrate national security in curricula was released in 2020. It beefed up post-1989 patriotic education by establishing national security-related content as a gradable competency across different subject syllabi. From elementary school onwards, students should learn to place China’s interests above their own and to defend their country. University students should have fully internalized what comprehensive national security means to inspire self- motivated actions.23 The defensive reflexes this creates are already playing out in university campuses globally.


3. Arenas of change: When the national security state goes into overdrive

The current leadership sees a growing number of issues and policy areas through a national security prism. Increasingly, the party state takes any perceived domestic resistance, or any international action affecting China’s overseas interests and image, as infringing its bottom line. Anti-foreign rhetoric is proliferating. Multiple issues are now framed as attempts by external actors – primarily the United States or wider West – to subvert the CCP and hinder China’s return to its rightful place in the world.

In this securitized environment, seemingly minor actions or statements may trigger harsh reactions from China’s officials, businesses or even individuals, even without direct orders from Beijing. While other top-down policy initiatives have led to inertia in the system, the national security imperative has led to over-implementation as lower-ranking officials fear overlooking a potentially existential threat. The result is a state of hyper-vigilance, with wide-reaching effects.

3.1 The „security first“ paradigm has reshaped state-society relations

Under Xi, the party state has gone into overdrive to contain and preempt networked resistance to the regime. This thinking was already encapsulated in the internal party “Document No. 9,” issued in 2013, which targeted universal values and Western-style civil society, press freedom, and separation of powers. Xi’s statements on ideological and cultural security focus predominantly on the need to guard against Western values, which might trigger color revolutions and destabilize China.24 Legislation now restricts international engagement of China’s civil society and has put international NGOs in China under supervision by public security agencies.

The CCP leadership is particularly wary of sources of shared identity outside the nation and the party, which might give rise to collective action. In recent years, the party state has initiated repeated crackdowns against groups bound by ethnicity, language, religion, or common causes, especially those with multiple such “indicators” of potential threats.

Harsh repression in Xinjiang is the prime example, as Uyghurs and other minorities there share distinct languages, culture, faith, and have called for more autonomy in the past. Triggered by three terrorist attacks in the early years of Xi’s tenure, large segments of the region’s minority population have been affected by arbitrary detention, digital and physical surveillance, and forced cultural assimilation since 2016.25

The same logic is visible in repeated crackdowns and arrests of activists and advocacy groups working on issues as varied as labor, consumer, or LGBTQI+ rights. Nationalist anti- foreign sentiment provides a vehicle to delegitimize unwelcome causes: from calls to “lie flat” and refuse China’s hyper-competitive society, to the Hong Kong protests and feminist activism. What has emerged is a reflexive effort to designate many phenomena as Western plots to destabilize China.

Beijing sees individual identification with the party and country as fundamental to long- term security. Recent campaigns have focused on promoting a unified national identity (国家认同) and “correct” mainstream values. Xi has called for a comprehensive national security outlook in religious affairs to ensure that religious organs promote CCP core values and policies. Minority languages have been marginalized in public education and partly restricted from use online. All Chinese are meant to be “one heart and soul” under the banner of a Chinese nation (中华民族) and the leadership of the CCP.26 Those who resist may be subject to re-education – a potentially necessary step to clean Taiwan of “extremists and separatists” after reunification according to a PRC diplomat.27

Fear of networked resistance has also driven the expansion of China’s surveillance state. To establish a “peaceful China” (平安中国), the government seeks to create smart- and safe- cities and communities. This includes concerted efforts to leverage new digital technologies to monitor target groups and pre-emptively detect risks to public order and the party. As part of the so-called grid management system (网格化管理), grassroots party personnel are made responsible for a designated number of individuals, to monitor threats and mitigate issues where possible.28 These “boots on the ground” have been at the frontline of the party’s Covid response – even if current outbreaks in 2022 test their limits.

Building on the Great Firewall and other internet controls advanced by Hu Jintao, the current leadership has also invested heavily in controlling online spaces. The ramped-up capabilities were on display early in the pandemic when the death of whistle-blower Dr. Li Wenliang sparked mass calls for free speech, and later again during criticism of harsh pandemic policies. Whereas in the early 2010s, public incidents and scandals were often followed by weeks of critical discussion, now online spaces are quickly censored and flooded by messages supportive of the party within hours.


3.2 The quest for security has redefined China’s economic growth model

Economic development has been a key source of domestic legitimacy for the CCP and the basis of China’s growing international clout. From Deng to Hu, leaders clearly prioritized development. But Xi has changed the calculus. The new mantra is “integration of development and security” (统筹发展和安全), as endorsed in policy documents since late 2019 and in the current 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–25).29 In theory this signals equality; in reality it favors security.

Against the backdrop of Sino-US trade frictions and Western investment and market restrictions, including against Chinese telecommunication companies, Beijing has become more assertive in controlling its champions at home and defending them abroad. The shifting mindset is also visible in Xi’s 2020 overarching policy agenda of “dual circulation.” Its aims are to safeguard economic security by improving China’s socialist market economy while profiting from the benefits of globalization wherever possible.

The leadership is well-aware that China is entering an era of slower economic growth and seeks to ensure China’s technological self-sufficiency and increase the party state’s steering capacity over the economy. Since 2020, government organs have carried out waves of private sector regulation to discipline companies, align their actions with party priorities, strengthen party influence and prevent the formation of power bases outside the CCP.

The leadership seeks to channel resources and innovation based on national security priorities, given the links between economic, technological, cyber- and military security. Civil-military fusion efforts are prominent in Beijing’s plans to leverage emerging technologies to “leapfrog” the United States, its main strategic competitor. Informatization and innovation are pushed forward through top-down policy plans.30 Within these efforts, data is both a central “factor of production” and vital to political control. Laws and policies on cyber-, data- and information-security aim to ensure important data and IP is stored locally, accessible to China’s security watchdogs and protected from unwanted foreign insights.

But safeguarding stability and self-sufficiency – be it food, resource, financial or technological security – is easier said than done. Challenges in 2022 have ranged from the economic fallout of zero-Covid policies and extreme weather, to real estate slowdowns and local financial risks – with considerable implications for employment and people’s livelihoods.

This explains why reorienting global engagement and opening new markets – supported by Xi’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – has been high on the policy agenda. After US sanctions, securing China’s supply chains became a top priority.31 From semiconductors to rare earth and soy imports, China, too, is pursuing diversification and new economic ties with developing countries.

For private companies, national security looms everywhere in this new era. Bureaucracies are required to consider national security at every layer of decision-making. Consent can be withdrawn after initial clearance of business activities. Foreign companies face additional risks, as Beijing is expanding its retaliatory toolkit to protect China’s ever widening core interests. Multiple laws and regulations now have explicit clauses allowing “reciprocal measures” when state and corporate actions endanger China’s “sovereignty, security or development interests.”32

China’s government is also increasingly using “informal” economic coercion to safeguard its red lines, such as in the case of its sustained economic pressure campaign against Lithuania after they allowed a Taiwan Representative Office in the country. Other methods include state-amplified boycott campaigns against individual companies – such as H&M over statements on sourcing from Xinjiang.33


3.3 The securitization of policymaking fuels greater assertiveness abroad

As the world “undergoes changes unseen in a century”, the party state has stepped up efforts to shape the international environment. Securing China’s interests overseas and its position in the world has become a key objective of China’s national security work. China’s national security state once largely remained within China’s borders, but now is expanding internationally. China’s military build-up and modernization, its more assertive foreign policy, and efforts to control China-related narratives and policies internationally are meant to help Beijing achieve these goals. As almost everything has become a matter of national security, a wide range of behaviors now warrant a tougher response, regardless of its impact on bilateral ties or economic costs.

Multiple recent events have raised Beijing’s threat perceptions; from the emergence of a US-led coalition to confront China in the Indo-Pacific to the West’s united response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The CCP’s self-styled image as a responsible global power is jeopardized by investigations into human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Reports about the social and economic costs of Beijing’s zero-Covid policy undermine claims of systemic superiority.


These developments have led to a shift in focus. Beijing increasingly views international relations through the lens of geopolitical competition with the United States. To “win,” the CCP leadership’s favors a two-pronged approach – to weaken the global reach of liberal democracies, and expand China’s. It applies incentives to woo support, largely in the Global South, and tough actions toward Western countries in the name of national security. As a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: “For our friends, we have fine wine. Jackals or wolves, we welcome with shotguns.”36

Beijing’s “friends” are courted through the BRI, and newer initiatives like the GDI or the GSI, the latter a clear attempt to secure buy-in for Beijing’s state-centered approach to security. China is neither willing nor able to replace the US as a global security provider, but Beijing’s ability to promote its policy approaches by leveraging its economic weight and global dissatisfaction with the West should not be underestimated. It has succeeded in exporting its concept of the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and in shoring up support at the UN for its Xinjiang policies.

Western countries tend to be the main targets of forceful actions to enforce China’s red lines and interests, reflected in the shifting tone of China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats. The growing willingness to forcefully control narratives and behavior abroad was evident in the disproportionate sanctions on European individuals and entities in March 2021, in reaction to targeted EU sanctions for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing’s response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022 is another case in point. China’s aggressive warnings proved counterproductive in deterring the visit; the ensuing cancelation of dialogues with the US on topics ranging from defense to climate change severely limited remaining cooperation on urgent global issues.37

Despite their reputational and occasional economic impact, these apparent overreactions are likely to remain par for the course in China’s international relations. A new retaliatory toolkit to support the extraterritorial application of Chinese laws is being drawn up. In March 2022, Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), said one of the year’s legislative priorities would be a “more complete system of laws and regulations related to foreign affairs” to “safeguard national security.”38

4. China’s approach differs from other countries — and comes at a cost

China is far from alone in the securitization of multiple policy fields. The trend has been evident in the United States and Europe too, especially since terrorist attacks in the early 2000s. Furthermore, it encompasses new policy fields – from climate to emerging technologies, supply chains and demographics. Public international law permits divergence from treaties under national and public security exceptions, whether trade agreements, WTO standards or human rights treaties. But China’s approach threatens to make the exception the rule – with significant internal and external implications.

4.1 What sets China’s approach apart

At first glance, the expansion of China’s national security concept seems to fit within global trends. But where constitutional and public oversight have repeatedly set boundaries or triggered course corrections for recent US and European expansions of national security, China’s rapid securitization across policy fields highlights a number of key differences in approaches:

  • China’s view of national security is firmly integrated into party ideology. Safeguarding the CCP is a core component, hence the emphasis on containing domestic dissent and international criticism.
  • China uses a broad and highly ambiguous definition of national security, often conflated with broader national and development interests. Mobilization efforts put officials and citizens in a state of eternal defensiveness and have a strong anti-foreign tone.
  • China’s security organs have a wide remit and substantial resources, transforming China into a security state. State and non-state actors lack meaningful legal recourse to deny cooperation or challenge actions against them. There have been no constitutional limitations or institutionalized oversight.
  • Beijing is increasingly codifying state powers and has shown a willingness to disregard international treaties and domestic legislation in the name of national security, especially in the field of human rights.

4.2 China’s pursuit of absolute security sparks internal criticism

There are costs to the party’s increasing focus on national security above all else. Especially in the international arena, it often gives rise to conflicting goals and has impeded cooperation beneficial to China’s development interests. While Xi Jinping calls for a more “lovable China” that is internationally respected, its harsher language, rights abuses and economic coercion have prompted a re-evaluation of the relationship in Europe. Wide-reaching national security legislation has also raised significant distrust in Chinese technology and communications companies.

The current course has drawn criticism from prominent voices inside China, though so far only from outside the government. Zhang Baijia, a former deputy director of the Party History Research Centre has said “if we magnify national security too much, it will be practically impossible for us to remain open to the outside world.”39 In a recent article, Jia Qingguo, former dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies and leading international relations expert, warned that China should follow a “principle of moderation,” as the quest for absolute security will damage China’s ability to pursue broader interests and values.40

Some of the longer-term dangers of Beijing’s current course have also been outlined by Tsinghua University professor Yan Xuetong. He fears the next generation of citizens and decision-makers is likely to be overconfident and stuck in a make-believe mindset about China’s ability to achieve its foreign policy goals, raising the risk of misguided policy choices. An overconfident Generation Z in China, he argued, thinks that “only China is just and innocent, while other countries, especially Western countries, are evil.”41

5. Conclusion: European actors need to develop responses to China’s „securitization of everything“

Under Xi, the comprehensive national security concept has turned into a guiding principle of policymaking. It is seen as a “powerful ideological weapon” (强大思想武器) under constant development to respond to new threats, real or perceived.42

The party state’s current behavior is not a temporary tightening, nor a bug in the system, as can be seen from the long evolution of national security work. The “securitization of everything” is here to stay and will likely accelerate. The CCP believes threats are at an all- time high and that China’s ability to maintain national security is still insufficient. Despite gaining confidence in China’s power and capabilities, it feels the need to be “prepared for the unexpected” (忧患意识) and “vigilant in peacetime” (居安思危).43

This all-encompassing national security mindset is increasingly locking China into certain modes of action. By priming officials and citizens alike to be on the constant lookout for potential new threats, and thus increasing the risks of overreactions and arbitrariness, pragmatism has given way to ideology. No amount of engagement or cajoling will lead to Beijing shifting away from this security-focused, illiberal trajectory, short of major internal rethinking and reforms.

Domestic criticism reveals, however, that this approach is not uncontested. Not everybody is an ardent defender of the concept, and many may want to maintain China’s room for action.

Party-state actors are still assessing the costs to China’s economic development and international standing. Foreign actors can seek to change the party’s calculations by communicating concerns and raising the costs for harmful behaviors through coordinated, targeted responses.

State and public sector actors in Europe

  • Track the evolution of China’s national security framework and related policies. Seek input from companies, academia and civil society about specific impacts on engagement with China. This can help predict future areas of securitization, identify triggers for retaliation and prepare responses.
  • A key pattern of Beijing’s behavior is making an example of smaller countries and actors to deter others. Avoid acquiescing to pressure tactics, especially where immediate harm seems low, as this incentivizes similar behavior. Build up resources and networks for mutual support to help resist China’s demands and mitigate economic losses.
  • Ensure negative international impact registers in Beijing. Raise your dissatisfaction about specific actions, e.g., cases of disproportionate retaliation, with Chinese counterparts repeatedly and at the highest possible level. Be direct about the loss of trust and impact on longer term engagement. Whenever possible, speak out publicly.
  • Communicate your country’s interests, principles and red lines clearly. Strengthen communication to global stakeholders and make clear where Europe’s values, practices and legal safeguards differ from Beijing’s illiberal approach to security.


  • Understand that underlying parameters of doing business in China have changed and prepare strategies to deal with new uncertainties. Companies may face national security investigations, market restrictions, consumer boycotts, and fallout from broader economic coercion measures, even when they have been legally compliant in China.
  • Undertake regular risk assessments of exposure to national security clauses and concerns. Risks differ across industries, depending on China’s level of self-reliance. Beijing’s focus and calculus may shift as China becomes more economically and technologically independent.
  • Use official contacts and foreign business associations to tell Chinese counterparts how this approach affects your company or industry, repeatedly and at the highest possible level. Be direct about the degree of uncertainty and specific challenges this creates, and how this impacts long-term investment and business considerations.
  • Build up networks between companies and develop strategies that will help you collectively voice concerns and resist China’s demands in case of conflict. Prepare for scenarios that allow you to quickly diversify your business and supply chain links.

Academia and civil society

  • Be aware that China’s engagement in international research cooperation is also driven by security goals, such as technological leadership. Establish due diligence procedures to ensure research outcomes are equitably shared and do not inadvertently support China’s growing public security and military sector.
  • Understand that how China is researched and discussed abroad has become a target for Chinese state criticism and action, including through online campaigns, denial of access and sanctions. Build up resources and networks for mutual support to track incidents, discuss response strategies, and prevent self-censorship.
  • Some areas for exchange and cooperation, especially related to civil society, rights and independent academia and media have been irrevocably tightened. Work can and should be focused on engaging Chinese actors internationally to keep lines of communication open.

The US, like Russia, has a National Security Council. Turkey too, although this institution was previously dominated primarily by the Turkish military, that also retained its power domestically and had a say in this institutionalized. Germany does not have a National Security Council. While the CDU/CSU and FPD are calling for such an institution, the Greens and the SPD have always prevented it. But even under the 16 years of Merkel there was no activity in this direction. How is it in China? So far, Xi, the Central Military Commission, the Politburo has played the most important role. In 2013, at the same time as the official announcement of the new Silk Road BRI, the founding of a National Security Commission was announced. The Carnegie Foundation explains the origins and more precise task and role of the NSC, the National Security Commission.

“China’s National Security Commission

Zhao Kejin

  • July 14, 2015
  • Q&A

Source: Getty

Summary:  China established the National Security Commission to help top leaders coordinate the country’s national security policy in a world of increasingly complex security challenges.

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Chinese leaders have long contemplated the formation of a national security council to help coordinate and manage the country’s complex security apparatus. Chinese President Xi Jinping took that step in 2013, announcing the creation of the Chinese National Security Commission (CNSC). In July 2015, the Chinese government passed a new national security law that is likely to strengthen the commission’s role in China’s national security policy.

In a new Q&A, Zhao Kejin examines the origins and aims of the commission. He says the new body should prompt greater communication and coordination between China and the United States.

Why was the Chinese National Security Commission established?

According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first objective in establishing the CNSC is to help ensure the success of the deepening economic, political, and social reforms that are being carried out in China. In addition, the country’s new security commission, comprehensive security strategy, and national security law are expected to address the international security issues that China faces.

Zhao Kejin

Zhao Kejin was a resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center until June 2020.

The second goal of the CNSC is to establish a unified national security system. Before the CNSC was formed, the institutions for dealing with security were divided among many departments scattered throughout the Chinese Communist Party, the government, the military, and Chinese society. However, emergency situations that occur today require more effective management and cooperation among multiple departments. For example, there are more than ten departments involved in maritime security, and none of them can solve these problems on its own.

Third, the CNSC was created to support the leadership and policy objectives of the Communist Party, which oversees the country’s security, military, and diplomatic affairs. The new national security council falls under the party, rather than the national government, and the commission can be expected to support the goals of the party.

What are the main tasks of the CNSC?

The CNSC has three primary tasks. The first is to advise the Politburo, which oversees the Communist Party, and the highest levels of leadership in matters of strategy and security. 

The second is to carry out strategic coordination between the different departments, and to unify the departments throughout the party, the government, the military, and society. Individual departments will routinely prepare reports for the CNSC. The commission is also working to establish uninhibited and institutionalized communications channels among agencies that are involved in military, security, and diplomatic affairs.

The third task of the CNSC is to conduct crisis management and risk management, for both internal and external security threats. 

In the future, the overall policy direction for China’s national security will likely be determined by the Politburo, and the specific implementation of these policies will be the responsibilities of each of the departments. Overall coordination, as well as the determination of specific plans and crisis management, will be carried out by the CNSC.

How is the CNSC affecting China’s foreign policy? What is the commission’s working relationship with other established foreign policy organs?

Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, China’s diplomatic policies had their own distinct goals and were largely independent from other areas of security. They were focused on establishing strong relations with the rest of the world and creating a good environment to encourage economic development. However, with the launch of the CNSC, China’s diplomatic policy has received high-level direction and become more integrated. During CNSC meetings, the concept of overall security has been stressed, with all Chinese diplomacy intended to serve this goal.

In this regard, maintaining the long-lasting peace and stability of the nation should be the core goal. For example, when it comes to the China-U.S. relationship, diplomatic policies need to focus on ensuring mutual respect between the two countries, and the United States should not interfere in China’s internal affairs. For China, these are core interests.

It is important to remember that the CNSC will not involve itself in the internal micro-matters of a particular department. For example, the management of embassies and consulates abroad, as well as strategic dialogue in diplomacy, will still be the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unless there is an unexpected event or an emergency situation, the specific work will still be overseen independently by each department.

What is the CNSC’s relationship with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)? How can the commission help facilitate communication between government officials and military officials?

The new agency’s relationship with the People’s Liberation Army is similar to its relationship with the country’s foreign policy organs. The internal affairs of the PLA will still be handled independently, and specific training, drills, and communications will remain the responsibilities of the military. The CNSC will not replace the Central Military Commission or the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission.

There are a number of ways that the CNSC can promote communication among government officials. The first way is to hold meetings. For example, if the military wants to increase its budget, it will need to make a proposal and then arrange a meeting to discuss it. The second way is by introducing legislation in China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress. Finally, the commission may serve as a conduit, receiving information from government organs and disseminating it to other interested departments.

How have China’s views about the management of national security evolved over time?

China’s views about the best structure for managing national security have changed in recent years, as China has become a more globalized power.

Under the leadership of the Politburo and its top decisionmaking body, the Standing Committee, many institutions had been brought into the national security policy making process, including the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, the Central Military Commission, the State Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of State Security. 

In the past, when the country’s external affairs were rather simple and chiefly characterized by clear divisions between friend and foe, this system satisfied China’s national security needs. In addition, most of the first generation of national leaders had been through the complicated test of battle, and that rich experience meant there was no need for a specialized institution or assistance to deal with matters of national security (as was also the case for the founding fathers of the United States). From Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping, these leaders essentially decided policy based on their personal experiences and the lessons they had learned in war.

But beginning in the 1990s, and especially after the death of Deng Xiaoping, China’s leadership primarily consisted of engineers and technocrats who had no war-fighting experience. In addition, China faced new national security challenges from the United States, particularly with regard to Taiwan. In this context, some Chinese officials proposed the establishment of a national security council. Under the leadership of renowned scholar Wang Daohan, institutions such as the Shanghai Institute for International Studies began to study this proposal, with a focus on the structure of the U.S. National Security Council.

In September 2000, the U.S. model was used to form the Central Leading Group for National Security, an informal agency for deliberation and coordination within the Communist Party that worked closely with the Foreign Affairs Leading Group. After this, when China found itself faced with increased security challenges, it was the Leading Group for National Security that initially raised policy suggestions. This group primarily focused on external security threats, analyzing their sources and severity and providing plans for dealing with them, while internal security issues were primarily the responsibility of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, which is tasked with maintaining stability.

In this period, China’s national security apparatus appeared to be divided between external and internal policies. Initially, this structure was not problematic. However, as China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and issues of domestic and external security became intertwined, the very concept of national security itself began to expand. There were now not only traditional security issues, there were also nontraditional security issues; there were not only short-term security issues, there were also long-term security issues that were caused by a problematic economic situation.

All in all, China’s national security situation entered a state of increased complexity, with both foreign and domestic threats. The two-track system that had been in place faced a series of problems, including the decentralization of information, miscommunication, and compartmentalization. There was a lack of unified command, and there was an urgent need for an interactive and integrated strategy. It was against this backdrop that the decision was made in November 2013 to establish the CNSC.

How is China’s national security council similar to the U.S. model? In what ways will it be uniquely Chinese?

The national security councils in China and the United States both provide the highest echelons of leadership with advice as well as a platform for policy coordination.

In the United States, the National Security Council serves as the president’s personal advisory body. It is formally chaired by the president and used to coordinate policy among various government agencies and departments. Meetings held by the National Security Council are regularly attended by the vice president, national security advisor, and various cabinet officials.

By contrast, the CNSC is an institution of the Communist Party of China, and it is directly led by President Xi Jinping, who is the chairman of the Politburo, and by the vice chairmen. 

The CNSC is an administrative coordination agency. Unlike its U.S. counterpart (but similar to its Russian equivalent), it oversees several specific working departments, including bureaus involved with strategy, intelligence, security, and administrative affairs. The Chinese National Security Commission is also an interministerial body that coordinates the efforts of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People Consultative Conference, as well as those of other bodies, and it serves as a planning agency, with connections to think tanks. Thus, while the CNSC shares some traits with its U.S. counterpart, it also has special Chinese characteristics.

What should be the relationship between the U.S. National Security Council and its new Chinese counterpart?

It is important to establish mechanisms for high-level communication between the national security councils of China and the United States. 

Security issues between these two countries affect the entire world. China and the United States are two great powers that are both facing global security issues. The two nations need to improve communications regarding issues such as the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, and China’s dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu (or, in Japanese, Senkaku) Islands.

In the event of an unexpected emergency, a hotline between the Chinese National Security Commission and the U.S. National Security Council would enable officials to set the agenda, share information, coordinate their responses, and stabilize the situation. The United States should propose this idea as a way to demonstrate its commitment to avoiding conflict and confrontation and demonstrating mutual respect.

The national security councils in China and the United States could also encourage strategic and security dialogue between the two nations and their national security leadership. Such enhanced communication will ultimately allow differences to be brought under control, and allow the Asia-Pacific region as well as the rest of the world to become more secure.

While the Chinese do not publish their NSS, one has to draw conclusions indirectly through white papers, documents and speeches, here again the US NSS of the last few years with PDF links for comparison and for more detailed information in the original as full texts:

Historical Office Office of the Secretary of Defense

National Security Strategy

 The National Security Strategy (NSS) is a report mandated by Section 603 of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-433). The NSS has been transmitted annually since 1987, but frequently reports come in late or not at all. The NSS is to be sent from the President to Congress in order to communicate the executive branch’s national security vision to the legislative branch. The NSS provides discussion on proposed uses of all facets of U.S. power needed to achieve the nation’s security goals. The report is obligated to include a discussion of the United States’ international interests, commitments, objectives, and policies, along with defense capabilities necessary to deter threats and implement U.S. security plans.

Frmer German NATO General Naumann, co-author of the paper „Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World-Renewing Transatlantic Partnership“ will comment on the NSS in more detail on Global Review, if it is only about the German NSS as strategy or no strategy, and certainly not a grand strategy, since Germany does not have one either and is not a world or major power and its power capacities, power projection and scope for action are much lower than those of great powers. Grand Strategy is more than a National Security Strategy or more than just a military strategy. In order to clarify what such a grand strategy looks like, here is General Naumann’s paper from that time with 4 other former NATO generals:

Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World – Renewing Transatlantic Partnership

Posted in NATO | 11-Jan-08

Written by General (ret.) Dr. Klaus Naumann, Former Chief of the Defence Staff Germany, Former Chairman Military Committee NATO, General (ret.) John Shalikashvili, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America, Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Field Marshal The Lord Inge, Former Chief of the Defence Staff United Kingdom, Admiral (ret.) Jacques Lanxade, Former Chief of the Defence Staff France, Former Ambassador, and General (ret.) Henk van den Breemen, Former Chief of the Defence Staff the Netherlands

Executive summary

"We strongly recommend a maximum of NATO-owned and operational multinationally manned component forces, in particular in the areas of command,…

In every country, and at all times, we like to rely on certainty. But in a world of asymmetric threats and global challenges, our governments and peoples are uncertain about what the threats are and how they should face the complicated world before them.

After explaining the complexity of the threats, the authors assess current capabilities and analyse the deficiencies in existing institutions, concluding that no nation and no institution is capable of dealing with current and future problems on its own. The only way to deal with these threats and challenges is through an integrated and allied strategic approach, which includes both non-military and military capabilities.

Based on this, the authors propose a new grand strategy, which could be adopted by both organisations and nations, and then look for the options of how to implement such a strategy. They then conclude, given the challenges the world faces, that this is not the time to start from scratch. Thus, existing institutions, rather than new ones, are our best hope for dealing with current threats. The authors further conclude that, of the present institutions, NATO is the most appropriate to serve as a core element of a future security architecture, providing it fully transforms and adapts to meet the present challenges. NATO needs more non-military capabilities, and this underpins the need for better cooperation with the European Union.

Following that approach, the authors propose a short-, a medium- and a long-term agenda for change. For the short term, they focus on the critical situation for NATO in Afghanistan, where NATO is at a juncture and runs the risk of failure. For this reason, they propose a series of steps that should be taken in order to achieve success. These include improved cost-sharing and transfer of operational command. Most importantly, the authors stress that, for NATO nations to succeed, they must resource operations properly, share the risks and possess the political will to sustain operations.

As a medium-term agenda the authors propose the development of a new strategic concept for NATO. They offer ideas on how to solve the problem of the rivalry with the EU, and how to give NATO access to other than military instruments. They further propose bringing future enlargement and partnership into line with NATO’s strategic objectives and purpose.

In their long-term agenda the authors propose abandonment of the two-pillar concept of America and Europe cooperating, and they suggest aiming for the long-term vision of an alliance of democracies ranging from Finland to Alaska. To begin the process, they propose the establishment of a directorate consisting of the USA, the EU and NATO. Such a directorate should coordinate all cooperation in the common transatlantic sphere of interest.

The authors believe that the proposed agenda could be a first step towards a renewal of the transatlantic partnership, eventually leading to an alliance of democratic nations and an increase in certainty.

* * *


In every country, and at all times, we like to rely on certainty. Certainty about the past, the present and even the future. Yet certainty is based not on inevitability, but rather on social and intellectual needs. We seek to uphold a common and stable experience, shunning the arbitrary in favour of closure in debate. Certainty can promote strong society and social interdependence. While 100 per cent certainty may be unattainable, it is clear that in periods of great – even overwhelming – uncertainty something serious is happening to our institutions and our societies.

Certainty in our world is today being eroded by a proliferation of information, knowledge and choice. The erosion of certainty is accelerated by rapid technological, social and cultural change. On occasion, that change occurs too fast for some of our major institutions to cope with.

In certain important senses, we are today operating in a mist. Through that current mist a wide range of challenges are appearing. The challenges are acute, and no less so because our certainties are in retreat. If they were stronger, our resolve to address these problems might have stiffened. But the loss of familiar certainties reveals that we lack such resolve.

There are six principal challenges that the authors of this report identify as the prime challenges facing the global community today.

  • The first is demography. Population growth and change across the globe will swiftly change the world we knew. The challenge this poses for welfare, good governance and energy security (among other things) is vast.
  • Then there is climate change. This greatly threatens physical certainty, and is leading to a whole new type of politics – one predicated, perhaps more than ever, on our collective future.
  • Energy security continues to absorb us. The supply and demand of individual nations and the weakening of the international market infrastructure for energy distribution make the situation more precarious than ever.
  • There is also the more philosophic problem of the rise of the irrational – the discounting of the rational. Though seemingly abstract, this problem is demonstrated in deeply practical ways. There are soft examples, such as the cult of celebrity, which demonstrate the decline of reason. And then there are the harder examples, such as the decline of respect for logical argument and evidence, a drift away from science in a civilisation that is deeply technological. The ultimate example is the rise of religious fundamentalism, which, as political fanaticism, presents itself as the only source of certainty.
  • Another challenge is the weakening of the nation state. This coincides with the weakening of world institutions, including the United Nations and regional organisations such as the European Union, NATO and others.
  • Finally, there is what one might refer to as – despite all its benefits – the dark side of globalisation. Interconnectedness has its drawbacks. These include internationalised terrorism, organised crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but also asymmetric threats from proxy actors or the abuse of financial and energy leverage. Migration continues to provide challenges across the world. And dramatic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and SARS have the potential to spread around the world faster than ever before. Taken together, globalised threats are wide in scale and unprecedented in complexity.

But identifying these problems is only the start. We must attempt to understand what might be next.

In considering issues likely to arise, we are mocked by predictions from the past that have failed to come true. But in themselves, these can offer a lesson. One widely made prediction, which can now be dismissed, was the issue of loss of identity through convergence. Against the backdrop of the troubles in the Middle East, and also the micro-national squabbles in the West, we can see that globalisation has not entirely eroded national identities. This re-emergence of identity politics might be held up as a warning to all potential seers.

Though there will be issues that stable states and properly functioning international organisations might be able to deal with, deeply challenging problems like those in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan, where Western credibility is at stake, may tempt us into either intervention or isolation. Either way, these problems will confront us. Isolationism is back as a political problem. Its previous expressions may appal, even as the desire to intervene appeals.

State failures, if they are allowed to happen, could yet combine with other factors such as urbanisation and the rise of fundamentalisms to usher in a new, illiberal age. That age would be not just uncertain but deeply perilous. It is a future that we must avoid; but in order to avoid it, we must first admit the uncomfortable fact that it is possible.

The present authors approach the challenges of today from a Western perspective. We also do so as military men – though military men who have worked happily across national lines over many years. It is a pleasure to be able to demonstrate that we can still do so.

In writing this paper, we do not aim, and would not presume, to offer a prescription for today’s world. Rather, we simply hope to share some thoughts on today’s world that have been gathered from experience – experience acquired over many years, marked by great movements of history, which happily never brought the ultimate challenge. We recognise this with deep gratitude – not least gratitude for the resolve of our joint nations and their prevailing will to stand together during the Cold War. If it is not presumptuous to do so, we hope that in this paper we offer something that might be helpful to those who now carry a heavy responsibility in demanding times, and hope, in gratitude, that we can pay a little back.

* * *

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

We see NATO as an organisation of particular importance, since it is the only organisation that commits the US and Europe, in a legally and mutually binding way, to defend each other collectively. NATO is a political organisation that can deploy military means. Today’s NATO is in the process of military transformation, and it has seen some political adaptation. But at its core, the political organisation is, to a large degree, still a Cold War organisation. The cumbersome political structure does not reflect how much the world has changed. It is little suited to the swift political–military requirements of the present era, and it simply cannot take advantage of transformed military capabilities, which would enable the alliance to respond at short notice and conduct operations at a high operational tempo. Today, rapid response is of the essence. Therefore the outdated and weighty stove-pipe systems of specified committees and bottom-up reporting structures need to be seriously reconsidered. As NATO is heavily involved in operations, we feel it is appropriate to differentiate in our agenda for change between immediate, medium-term and long-term steps.

The Immediate Agenda

"NATO is facing a real challenge in Afghanistan, where self-inflicted restrictions deprive NATO of a possible success"

In our opinion, the NATO political structure is crying out for review, adaptation and restructuring. At the core is restructuring of the decision-making process. The process that exists within NATO needs a radical overhaul. NATO needs to take political decisions jointly, i.e. based on a unanimous vote of all its members. It is not only for political but also for military reasons that such unity is required. This applies to decisions taken at the NATO Council level, but there is no need for unanimous decisions at all subordinate levels as well. If there are occasions on which allies disagree, the reasons for disagreement will, in the end, always be political in nature. The reasons should, therefore, be brought as expeditiously as possible to the attention of the one and only body that can take political decisions in NATO – the NATO Council. We therefore propose, as the first step in our agenda for change, that NATO should abandon the consensus principle at all levels below the NATO Council, and introduce at the committee and working-group levels a majority voting rule. This would enable NATO to take quick decisions in crises, when minutes matter.

A NATO Council decision has never constituted a binding obligation to commit forces or to contribute militarily. It has always been left to individual nations to contribute what capabilities or forces they can. But nations that do not contribute forces should also not have a say in the conduct of military operations. We therefore propose, as a second change, that only those nations that contribute to a mission – that is, military forces in a military operation – should have the right to a say in the process of the operation. This structure would highlight the need and the opportunity for commitment, and commitment would be rewarded at the table. Those who do not commit forces must, of course, be kept informed; but they would have no role to play, so long as the operation unfolds as politically authorised.

The next urgent step aims at improving NATO’s intelligence capabilities. It is our impression that, despite many improvements in recent years, too many of NATO’s current intelligence arrangements are still driven by Cold War procedures, in which NATO had some warning time and sufficient capabilities to detect the Warsaw Pact’s activities. Today, time is of the essence, and a threat may arise entirely unexpectedly, from any direction, surprising in both nature and scope. The existing intelligence provisions are not good enough. We therefore propose, as our step number three, a full- fledged review of NATO’s intelligence.

The next change we suggest in order to enhance NATO’s capabilities is the abolition of the system of national caveats, as far as this is possible. The system of national caveats has proved to be a major impediment to operations in the past and a major cost-driving factor. That said, we are well aware that the removal of all national caveats is an impossibility, requiring sovereignty to be voluntarily ceded; and this nations may not be willing to do.

Operational command

The three levels of command are Full Command, Operational Command and Operational Control. Full command includes full responsibility for the soldier, including recruitment, training, outfitting, but also personnel management. Operational command is the delegation of command within a particular theatre of operations. And operational control is the delegation of command in a theatre of operations for a specific mission.

While full command is an important element of national sovereignty, and should be left with nations, it is our view that NATO currently needs more operational command. Many nations do not give NATO commanders more than operational control and, furthermore, burden their contributions with national caveats. Unfortunately, such operational control limits the commander’s freedom of action and leads to inefficiencies, such as a duplication of tasks; it may even lead to mistrust on the ground.

We therefore propose that the NATO commander in theatre be given operational command. At the latest, this transfer of authority to the operational commander should be made the moment troops arrive in the theatre of operations. Nations should refrain from imposing caveats and should lift existing national caveats. This would require that, when they take decisions in the NATO Council, nations should agree on the political objectives of the operation and on the concept of operations, plus the associated rules of engagement. Nevertheless, it ought also to be stressed that there are some areas where national control cannot be delegated. The use of nuclear weapons must, of course, remain the prerogative of the nuclear powers.

The appointment of the operational commander and the representation in headquarters of participating nations should reflect national contributions and national preparedness to share the risks and burdens.

In addition, there are certain other areas in which pre-delegation of a response capability will be necessary to protect NATO, where we cannot wait for the NATO Council to decide on a course of action, such as the acute crisis of a missile attack or cyber attack. This will require the political decision to pre-delegate authority to a military commander to launch defensive measures. To this end, the NATO Council must consider the establishment of suitable NATO Command Forces, and must decide on the degree of pre-delegated authority to use force.

In addition to command and control issues, the administrative side of NATO requires review.

NATO administration

There is little doubt that the costs of the NATO Headquarters, the integrated command structure and subordinate jointly manned and funded agencies need to be funded collectively. But whether there is still a need for a common infrastructure budget is a question that should at least be raised. We could imagine that the infrastructure budget might be replaced by a common procurement budget for assets and capabilities that NATO may wish to fund, and later operate, collectively, as in the case of the badly needed Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system. Infrastructure, with the exception of headquarters, would thus become a national responsibility.

New procedures for funding NATO operations are urgently needed. The current cost-sharing system of ‘costs lie where they fall’ must be abandoned entirely. At present, that means that those who contribute are bearing both the risk of casualties and the financial burden, whereas those who simply talk are rewarded twice. Such a principle can erode NATO’s cohesion and it definitely reduces NATO’s ability to sustain operations. What is needed is a common cost-sharing formula, to which all allies contribute. We therefore recommend the creation of a commonly financed NATO operations budget. Such a budget could ensure that if NATO agrees something, then NATO will see it through properly.

Information operations

As NATO is engaged in operations in Afghanistan – operations which, in some places, are of an intensity that NATO forces have not seen before – one of the discrepancies of our time becomes obvious: some of our armed forces are fighting wars, but the societies from which they come live in peace. But as the world is interconnected through almost instantaneous communication, each and every event is immediately flashed up on the TV screens at home, sometimes faster than the chain of command is able to react. In addition, quite often it is the enemy that triggers the information, with the intention of weakening the alliance’s cohesion and national support for ongoing operations. To overcome this disquieting state of public relations affairs, NATO must urgently develop an information strategy that will get it and its nations back into the driving seat; otherwise it runs the risk of losing on the home front, even as its forces win at the tactical or operational level.

Therefore NATO must develop an information strategy that can serve three objectives simultaneously:

  • It must influence the world’s perception that NATO is a force for good.
  • Second, it must be on the screens before the opponent starts spreading the news, i.e. NATO has to win and maintain information dominance in public relations.
  • Third, it must help to win the hearts and minds both of its own nations (for NATO’s just course), and of the people in the theatre of operations.

These proposals in our agenda for immediate change are steps that need to be taken while NATO is engaged in operations such as those in Afghanistan. They are steps to repair an engine while it is running in high gear, but they are not in themselves sufficient to get NATO ready for the challenges ahead. We therefore propose two additional sets of steps in our agenda for the change of NATO: medium-term steps and long-term steps.

The Medium-Term Agenda for Change

Nobody can seriously dispute the need for NATO to review its 199 strategic concept. NATO itself acknowlegded the necessity of having a new strategic guideline when it accepted, at the 2006 Riga Summit, the Comprehensive Political Guideline (CPG), but this document is no substitute for the still-missing strategic concept.

NATO should take advantage of the new impetus towards mature transatlantic relations, which was noticeable in Germany in the autumn of 2005 and which one can now see in France. With a new British Prime Minister in office and a new US administration taking office on 20 January 2009, now is the right time to draft a new strategic concept. An ambitious option would be to agree it at the 2009 summit, which will mark NATO’s 60th anniversary. If this is too ambitious for the NATO bureaucracy to agree at the 2008 summit, then the process of developing a new strategic concept might be set in motion at the 2009 summit, aiming for agreement on the new strategy at the next summit.

We suggest that NATO should develop a grand strategy that encompasses much more than the military domain, and we propose the strategy that we spelt out in Chapter 3 as the initial building block for such a debate.

Simultaneously, NATO should address its biggest shortcoming at this time – its lack of means other than military. As a first step, it should look for an interim remedy, as we live in a world that does not permit us to wait endlessly.

It is our firm belief that the use of military force is by no means the only – or the inevitable – means by which to tackle crises. In very many cases, the use of force is counter-productive to the strategic objectives. We also firmly believe that one can no longer win in an armed conflict simply by killing or capturing as many of the enemy as possible or by just destroying his power base. Non-military means must be part of an integrated strategy: one in which non-military means are coordinated and deployed with maximum precision, concision and integration – the way a military mission should be conducted.

The possibilities here relate greatly to the use of escalation dominance. Recent history is replete with examples of possible escalation by non-military means being squandered because of imprecise objectives and disagreement at the highest level over aims.

Integrated approach

Since NATO does not possess this set of instruments, we propose either exploring the option of a ‘Berlin Plus in Reverse’ agreement with the EU or widening the Canadian initiative of a ‘comprehensive approach’, which is under discussion in NATO as a step to be taken by all NATO nations. The Berlin Plus arrangement between NATO and the EU allowed for NATO military assets and capabilities to be used for EU-led operations, and represents an example of what we consider to be an integrated and allied approach in action.

‘Berlin Plus in Reverse’ would be the mirror image, and would see the EU coming to the aid of a NATO-led operation with non-military assets and capabilities, on a case-by-case basis.

Most obviously, the EU could help with police and paramilitary forces, such as the Italian Carabinieri, on request from NATO for NATO-led stabilisation operations; but it could also support NATO with soft-power instruments that the EU has at its disposal.

In addition to such a solution, the non-EU/NATO nations should pledge that they will also make contributions of a similar nature and scope as those NATO nations that are EU members.

As an additional step, we propose a review of the existing set of tools for other than military steps, such as sanctions, the entire tool-kit of ‘defence diplomacy’, etc. This should be done first in NATO, then coordinated with the EU, and thereafter be brought to the attention of the OSCE or the UN.

Obviously, an arrangement such as ‘Berlin Plus in Reverse’ can be negotiated only if there is an end to the obstructions of NATO–EU cooperation that are currently damaging both organisations. We therefore call on all parties involved to free up the ongoing efforts to achieve a better and more profound EU–NATO cooperation, to negotiate in good faith and without imposing preconditions that render the entire project hostage to narrowly defined national egoisms.

Enlargement and the three circles

"The authors offer ideas on how to solve the problems of the rivalry with the EU"

As we noted above, and as NATO has declared repeatedly, its doors should always remain open for aspiring nations to apply for full membership. On the other hand, one should not close one’s eyes to the reality that NATO’s digestion has not yet fully recovered from the recent rapid process of enlargement. In the course of this, NATO compromised on some of its standards. In some member countries, question marks remain with regard to good governance, and there are also doubts whether the new members have lived up to the commitments they undertook upon accession to NATO. Needless to say, some of them can, as an excuse, point readily to many of the old members, who also failed to set a good example in honouring their commitments. But we feel that NATO should learn its lessons from the experience.

We therefore propose that NATO should state that it will not extend membership invitations to countries in which the standards of NATO members – such as democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law and good governance – are not fully adhered to. It should also be agreed that the alliance will not accept any country as a member which has unresolved territorial claims or which is involved in ongoing armed conflicts. The reason for this is the commitment of NATO to defend any country collectively, and to seek future members’ contribution to the collective defence of the NATO Treaty Area. In addition, we suggest that NATO should look at future enlargement and partnership arrangements through the lens of its strategic objectives.

As geostrategy is back on the stage, we could imagine NATO developing, as part of its future grand strategy, a concept for enlargement and cooperation that is based on the idea of mutual collective security, and on the following geostrategic concept.

NATO must seek clarity on its geographical dimension. NATO must act where its members’ security is at risk. To this end, NATO took a decision at the 2002 Prague Summit to act wherever necessary. NATO thus became a global alliance, but not a global policeman. In translating the proposed strategy into spheres of action, a concept of three concentric circles emerges. The three circles represent three spheres of alliance and partnership.

The inner circle will always remain the NATO Treaty Area (NTA) that is committed to collective defence, or the Collective Security Area (CSA). The second circle encompasses a wider sphere of partnerships in the Common Security Zone (CSZ). And the third circle of more distant partnerships and allies is the Outer Stability Area (OSA).

These areas are not limited, either geographically or politically. The inner circle of the NATO Treaty Area will change as enlargement progresses, based on NATO’s invitation to begin accession talks and on the prospective future member’s ability to meet a NATO member’s commitments. These three circles are not static, but form a framework, within which we can both categorise NATO’s responsibilities, partnerships and activities, and guide the process of enlargement.

When considering NATO enlargement to full membership, the geostrategic sphere must be taken fully into account, as must the capabilities of the current members to defend new members collectively; but so also must the capabilities of new members to defend everyone else collectively. Article 5 is an important two-way street, and we cannot extend membership in a manner that would dilute its meaning and value.

The middle ring, the CSA, concerns the various categories of NATO’s external relations. These include the Partnership for Peace (PfP), the Membership Action Plan (MAP) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which elevated the Mediterranean Dialogue to a full-fledged security partnership in 2004, as well as the NATO–Russia and NATO–Ukraine partnerships. The middle ring or CSA is the area in which the partners seek to achieve collective security through conflict and crisis prevention, and by means of which NATO may keep armed conflicts at a distance from the NATO Treaty Area.

Nonetheless, membership of the CSA partnerships should not be seen as a way of getting cheap membership of NATO. Becoming a member of the middle ring also comes with obligations.

The outer circle, or OSA, is the area in which NATO seeks to promote stability through either permanent or ad hoc cooperation with nations that are neither members nor partners, but that share with the NATO nations certain basic values and convictions and that have similar security interests. This cooperation will seek the permanent exchange of intelligence and ever growing standardisation of formats and procedures, and it may lead, on a case-by-case basis, to coalitions of the willing in interventions, as well as in post-intervention stabilisation operations.

We propose that NATO should consider the option of such a concept, since it would not only enhance security, but would also contribute to strategic stability. It could help to improve the relationship with Russia – which still views NATO encroachment and encirclement as a threat – and could dispel the notion that an ever increasing NATO would become an instrument used to contain China.

Having mentioned Russia and China, one could add India as a country that should also be assured of NATO’s intention of seeking cooperation and partnership and of avoiding conflict and negative competition. NATO must make every effort to revitalise the NATO–Russia partnership, despite the more confrontational noises that have recently emanated from Moscow. It is worth NATO’s while to consider whether similar agreements could be sought with China and India.

As a last step in our medium-term agenda for change, we propose that a force structure review should be launched, to take stock of where NATO really stands in the process of military transformation and what can be achieved by the time a new strategic concept is applied. It should be a realistic force structure review, which, instead of giving the politicians the usual rose-tinted NATO picture, will deliver the sober analysis they will need as they decide how future scarce resources are to be spent. If this report is ready in time for the 2009 summit, it must not hesitate to pursue a ‘name and shame’ policy as far as the nations’ commitments are concerned.

The Long-Term Agenda for Change

Following agreement on a future NATO grand strategy, NATO will have to embark on a full review of its capabilities of implementing such a strategy.

The easy part will be the review of NATO’s military capabilities. Such a review must be focused on flexibility, deployability and sustainability; but its point of departure must be a solid medium- to long-term political commitment to implement appropriate force structures. To this end, nations should abandon such mechanisms as the French ‘loi de programmation’ or the Danish ‘defence contract’, and instead be supported by an appropriate defence industrial basis. The force structure review proposed in our medium-term agenda, which aims to take stock of the transformation process, would serve as the foundation and point of departure.

We propose to use it as a stepping stone to the development of a generic NATO force structure model. If possible, it should be developed in close cooperation with the EU, so that it might be used by the EU as well.

Depending on the results of such a wide-ranging force structure effort, NATO must then consider the extent to which it may wish to establish NATO-owned and operated multinationally manned and funded component forces, particularly in the enabling forces category – that is, the forces that set up logistics, command and control, communications, reconnaissance and intelligence, that precede the deployment of main body forces and support forces.

We see multinational NATO-owned and operated component forces as key to a quick and affordable modernisation of NATO’s forces, but we stress that this approach can only be taken if nations are willing to agree to a firm and binding commitment that these forces will be at NATO’s unrestricted disposal for any operations that the NATO Council might authorise.

And it must consider the establishment of disaster relief forces and deployable police or military-police components.

Three models of multinational forces

When it comes to structuring all these multinational forces, there are three basic models available: the AWACS Component Force Model, the Pool Model and the Two Pillar Model.

The Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS Component Force model functions well, and this is multinationally funded and owned.

The Pool Model involves pooling assets of a similar nature and similar purpose under a single arrangement; for example, in bringing together the British Hercules C130 and German A114 cargo aircrafts and amphibious shipping. The Pool Model establishes a common C4 component (command, control, communications, computers) and individual nations make national assets available.

The Two Pillar Model concerns an integrated, multinationally manned European component, combined with an American–Canadian command and control (C2) component. This arrangement allows the Americans to maintain their national prerogative, working together without having the Americans and Canadians integrated with European forces. It brings together, under a NATO C4 component, dedicated EU component forces and fully interoperable US and Canadian assets.

We strongly recommend looking into the establishment of a maximum of NATO-owned and operated multinationally manned component forces, in particular in the areas of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (C4ISR), military police, disaster relief engineers, airborne fire fighters and transportation, including air to air refuelling (AAR).

Depending on the details of a future grand strategy, there may be additional implementation steps, such as the coordination and concentration of foreign and development aid, the common financing of reconstruction efforts, etc.

It may be premature to consider at this time the extent to which this will have to be done within the NATO framework, or whether the strategy will lead to fresh ideas on how to make the common and comprehensive zone of common security from Finland to Alaska become a reality. But it should be clear that, even if all the steps we propose for NATO are taken, much would still depend on other organisations acting across the spectrum of action. Moreover, NATO’s ability to implement the proposed grand strategy will also depend on implementation of the steps proposed for the UN and the OSCE, and on the degree of NATO–EU cooperation.

* * *

Helping to restore certanty

What we propose in our agenda for change is not intended to be prescriptive. Nor do we pretend to have covered all the issues that need to be considered. But we do believe that we are proposing an agenda that is feasible and affordable, and that could strengthen and deepen the cooperation between the two truly mutually indispensable partners, North America and Europe. It is an agenda rooted in the firm conviction that none of our nations is any longer capable of dealing with the complex and challenging world in which we live on its own, and that all of our nations have but one chance: We must stand shoulder to shoulder; we must share the risks and the burdens; and we must show the common resolve to see our commitments through and to prevail.

It is an agenda which, when implemented, will make it easier to provide security for the citizens of all nations between Finland and Alaska, while helping to prevent war and armed conflict elsewhere – or at least to contain and end it as quickly as possible. We could thus create the breathing space our nations will need to cope with the tremendous challenges the next decades will bring. We might, in the medium to long term, thus be capable of restoring certainty – something which we see as the most important prerequisite for functioning societies. Certainty is not all we need; but without it there will be nothing.

Here again as full text in PDF format:

Furthermore, recommended 2 texts what make up Grand Strategies ala Kennan, Brzezinski (Chessboard) and others, especially since the word only really came into fashion and became influential since the 90s:

Defining Grand Strategy

Peter Layton

August 17, 2020

„When I use a word,“ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, „it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.“
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, 1871

The epigraph by Lewis Carroll neatly sums up the plight in which the term grand strategy finds itself. It is now a Humpty Dumpty word for which many hold their own unique understanding.[1] This has arisen because many historians and international relations scholars simply create a definition for themselves when writing that fits the arguments they wish to make. They mainly use the term to buttress their opinions about specific historical cases and particular academic theories. They are not trying nor, indeed, intendingto create a general, generic definition.

Recognizing this, there is now a small cottage industry examining how the term varies between authors and across time. These works find what they set out to find, and many are fascinating historical works well worth exploring.[2]

However, it is surely past time to move on and try to develop a functional meaning of the phrase. This means moving away from today’s deliberately idiosyncratic formulations that are only useful in at best a few selected circumstances. Instead, a functional definition of grand strategy would aim to devise a generic meaning broadly applicable across numerous dissimilar cases. Being functional, though, implies the definition is for a specific task. Grand strategy is a methodology used by policymakers and practitioners to solve problems. It is for these people that a functional grand strategy definition would be of most use.

Grand strategy is strategy modified by the adjective grand. Considering the noun first, the crucial issue that defines a strategy is that it involves interacting with intelligent and adaptive others, whether friends, neutrals, or adversaries. It is a particular form of interactive social activity.

In operation, a strategy constantly evolves in response to the other actors implementing their own countervailing or supportive strategies. Edward Luttwak termed this “the paradoxical logic of strategy,” where successful actions cannot be repeated as the other party adapts in response to ensure the same outcome cannot be gained in this way again.[3] This characteristic means strategy is an art and not a science where outcomes are repeatable on demand.

In operation, a strategy constantly evolves in response to the other actors implementing their own countervailing or supportive strategies.

If this is what strategy is, its scope can be understood using Art Lykke’s famous model. He deconstructed the art of strategy into ends, ways, and means, where the ends are the objectives, the ways are the courses of actions, and the means are the instruments of national power.[4] The means are used in certain ways to achieve desired ends.

Strategy is accordingly simply the ways. Sir Lawrence Freedman writes that strategy is “about getting more out of a situation than the starting balance of power would suggest.”[5] Good strategy involves an astute course of action, a shrewd way that is additive to the available power; the impact of the means are magnified. In contrast, poor strategy subtracts from the available means; it destroys the power you have.

Importantly, the addition of the adjective grand to the noun strategy does not in some manner amplify the ways used. Instead, adding grand to strategy enlarges the term mainly as concerns ends and means. This comes out most strongly in how Basil Liddell Hart and J.F.C Fuller explained grand strategy in the 1920s.

Liddell Hart’s formulation brought out that grand strategy has grand ambitions in trying to purposefully construct a preferred future beyond the current problem. He wrote, “While the horizon of strategy is bounded by the war, grand strategy looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace.”[6] With strategy an interactive social activity, Liddell Hart’s better peace is a change in the relationships the nations at war had with each other before the conflict started. If Liddell Hart saw grand strategy looking beyond the war, Fuller argued grand strategy prepared the whole nation before the war.[7] Combining both perspectives, grand strategy is useful across peace and war.

“While the horizon of strategy is bounded by the war, grand strategy looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace.”

In terms of means, both Liddell Hart and Fuller stressed that grand strategy used diverse means. Harold Lasswell determined that “a fourfold division of policy instruments is particularly convenient when the external relations of a group are being considered: information, diplomacy, economics and military (words, deals, goods, and weapons.)”[8] This is the DIME acronym oft-used at defense and military staff colleges when discussing grand strategy. Note for later the use of diplomacy, information, military, and economic instruments by a grand strategy needs to be effective to succeed.

Crucially, grand strategy looks beyond the means being simply diverse to also include their development. Fuller observed, “While strategy is more particularly concerned with the movement of armed masses, grand strategy…embraces the motive forces which lie behind.”[9] The instruments of national power are developed from the tangible resources of manpower, money and material, and the non-tangible resources of legitimacy and soft power. In this, the international system is as much a potential source of grand strategic resources for states as their parent societies are. Again, note for later that the development by the grand strategy of the diplomatic, informational, military, and economic instruments needs to be efficient as national resources are always scarce and demands on them many.

Ends, ways, and means may be understood as individual elements, but the essence of grand strategy is their integration into a coherent, cohesive whole. In a conceptual sense, a grand strategy is a system whose outcomes are more than the sum of its parts. A grand strategy can only be understood in its totality.

While the grand strategies of World War Two’s major combatants impacted their societies, the grand strategies the combatants adopted were influenced and shaped by their respective domestic foundations. These states purposefully struck a balance between the demands of their chosen grand strategies and the ability of their domestic base to meet these demands.[10] Applying the means and developing the means were not simply opposite sides of the same coin but were interdependent.

From this discussion several strands appear: grand strategy is intrinsically an art; it encompasses developing and applying the many and varied instruments of national power (the means); it is ideational in being the ways; the ends can be expressed in terms of the relationships between those involved; and it is, at its core, an interactive social activity where the enemy gets a vote with countervailing strategies. A functional definition then pops out:

Grand strategy is the art of developing and applying diverse forms of power in an effective and efficient way to try to purposefully change the relationship existing between two or more intelligent and adaptive entities.

It’s a slightly wordy definition, but grand strategy is now a distinctive, stand-alone expression. Grand strategy can no longer be confused or conflated with others such as statecraft, foreign policy, or even strategy. The definition can bring clarity to discussions about grand strategy.

The observant will note that grand strategies can only ever be aspirational, as others will push back, perhaps successfully. This fundamental uncertainty highlights the importance of having a functional definition to guide our thinking. If we cannot even define what something is, it is unlikely we will be able to create or use it adroitly. It is time to break with the past and define grand strategy.

Peter Layton is a Visiting Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute (Griffith University), an Associate Fellow at RUSI. The ideas in this article are examined in considerably greater depth in his book, Grand Strategy.


[1] David Morgan-Owen, “It Was Grand, But Was it Strategy? Revisiting the Origins Story of Grand Strategy,” The Strategy Bridge, 4 May 2020. 

[2] Lukas Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

[3] Edward N. Luttwak, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace; Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1987, p. 7-65.

[4] Jr. Arthur F. Lykke, Military Strategy: Theory and Application; Carlisle: U.S. Army War College, 1989, p. 3-9. Harry R. Yarger, ‚Toward a Theory of Strategy: Art Lykke and the Army War College Strategy Model‘, in Jr. J. Boone Bartholomees (ed.), U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Policy and Strategy; Carlisle Barracks: Strategic Studies Institute, June 2006.

[5] Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, p. xii.

[6] B.H. Liddell Hart, The Decisive Wars of History: A Study in Strategy; London: G.Bell & Sons, 1929, p. 150. This description would be repeated with a few minor word changes in his later, more famous work: B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, 2nd Revised edn.; New York: Penguin, 1991, pp. 321-22.

[7] Col. J.F.C. Fuller, The Reformation of War (2nd Edition); London: Hutchinson and Co, 1923 p. 214.

[8] Harold D. Lasswell, Politics: Who Gets What, When, How; New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. 204-05.

[9] Fuller, op.cit., p. 219.

[10] Alan S. Milward, War, Economy and Society 1939-1945; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979, pp. 19-23.

Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of “Grand Strategy”

Nina Silove

Pages 27-57 | Published online: 28 Aug 2017

In this article


The questions of how to define grand strategy and whether it “exists” continue to vex the study of grand strategy, despite the ever-increasing popularity of the term. Scholars broadly agree that grand strategy refers to something that has the characteristics of being long-term in scope, related to the state’s highest priorities, and concerned with all spheres of statecraft (military, diplomatic, and economic). The precise entity or phenomenon that manifests these characteristics is less clear, indicating deficiencies in the methods used by scholars—usually implicitly—to define and operationalize concepts. This article traces the intellectual history and contemporary usage of the concept of grand strategy to identify the phenomenon or object to which the concept refers. This analysis demonstrates that there is no single concept of grand strategy. Instead, there are three, which are labelled “grand plans,” “grand principles,” and “grand behavior,” respectively. Each concept provides a distinct, valuable framework for research and policy prescription.

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The popularity of the term “grand strategy” has increased exponentially since the end of the Cold War. Back in the 1980s, one observer noted, scholars would pose questions about foreign policy, not about grand strategy.Footnote1 This observation can be confirmed by a review of university library holdings of items with the term “grand strategy” in their titles. There are many more listings post- than pre-1991, which is the year that Paul Kennedy published the trendsetting edited collection Grand Strategies in War and Peace.Footnote2 This trend is further evident in academic teaching. Yale University began a flagship grand strategy program in 2000. Today, it would be unusual for a security studies program not to have at least one course with grand strategy in its title. In the discipline of international relations, scholars claim to be explaining grand strategy in studies of an ever-widening range of dependent variables.Footnote3 The term has also become a lodestone in policy circles. As one scholar commented sardonically: “Whenever a foreign policy commentator articulates a new grand strategy, an angel gets its wings.”Footnote4

Despite the increasing popularity of the term, many who use it also express the view that grand strategy is a “slippery,”Footnote5 “fuzzy,”Footnote6 and “jumble[d]”Footnote7 concept. There is substantial, ongoing discussion in the existing literature about how the term should be defined.Footnote8 Although some definitions are referenced more frequently than others, no one definition has emerged as authoritative. Indeed, the sheer and increasing number of proposed definitions—many of which are cited herein—is indicative of dissensus about the meaning of the term. Further evidence of discord is the persistence of several vexing foundational questions in the literature on the subject, including: Does grand strategy “exist”? Is grand strategy intentional? Do all states have grand strategies, or only great powers? And, to what extent is grand strategy constant or flexible? The method used by most scholars to address these foundational questions is simply to stake a claim one way or another. The result is that the definitional discussion reads like an ever-growing list of conflicting articles of faith. The rapid growth in the use of the term, the ever-widening variety of purposes to which it is applied, the multiplicity of efforts to define it, and the failure of any one of those efforts to attain common use all give rise to the suspicion that—to borrow from Richard K. Betts—grand strategy is merely a “buzzword.”Footnote9

This article focuses on a specific question: “What is grand strategy?” The goal is not to explain the sources, content, or effect of grand strategy, but to develop a theory of the concept of grand strategy.Footnote10 This article’s broader purpose is to investigate the methods used by security studies scholars to develop and apply concepts, identify any deficiencies in those methods, and demonstrate an approach that may redress those deficiencies. Security Studies has undertaken a substantial, laudable effort to promote research on qualitative methodology.Footnote11 This article contributes to that effort by investigating an oft-neglected aspect of methodology that is of crucial importance to qualitative (and, indeed, other) researchers: that of the construction and application of concepts.Footnote12 It analyses the intellectual history of the concept of grand strategy and the many definitions proffered by historians, political scientists, and policy analysts, as well as the methods they use—often implicitly—to operationalize the concept.

The analysis presented herein reveals that—despite appearances—grand strategy is not a meaningless term. The problem with the concept of grand strategy is that it has evolved to have three distinct meanings. First, scholars use grand strategy to refer to a deliberate, detailed plan devised by individuals. Second, they employ it to refer to an organizing principle that is consciously held and used by individuals to guide their decisions. Third, scholars use the term to refer to a pattern in state behavior.Footnote13 As shorthands, the three uses may be thought of, respectively, as “grand plans,” “grand principles,” and “grand behavior.” This article provides a definition for each of the three concepts of grand strategy. It does not conclude—as might be expected—that one of the three is the only valid use of the term. Rather, it argues that the three concepts each provide a distinct and valuable addition to the corpus of conceptual tools in security studies, and that differentiating them will facilitate investigation into the most fundamental and important questions about grand strategy.

The State of the Concept of Grand Strategy

Concepts are central to the advancement of knowledge according to most leading approaches to philosophy of science. They are the basis for the formulation of theories because theories are “if-then” propositions that consist of concepts.Footnote14 From a Lakatosian perspective, concepts are not only central to research programs, they may be constitutive of them. In the words of Imre Lakatos, “The recognition that the history of science is the history of research programs rather than of theories may … be seen as a partial vindication of the view that the history of science is the history of conceptual frameworks ….”Footnote15 The strength of theories or research programs depends on the soundness of the concepts on which they are based.

There is some evidence to indicate that the study of grand strategy is failing to coalesce into one or more recognizable research programs.Footnote16 For example, the international relations literature on the causes of grand strategy does not focus on testing competing explanations of grand strategy per se. Instead, the existing scholarship is oriented toward countering neorealism,Footnote17 even though neorealism is concerned primarily with explaining outcomes at the systemic rather than the unit level—which is the level at which grand strategy as a dependent variable generally operatesFootnote18 —and there are few studies that propound neorealist explanations of individual states’ grand strategies.Footnote19 Similarly, the burgeoning literature on whether the United States has had, can have, or should have a grand strategy in the post-Cold War era leaves unclear the phenomenon, the existence or good of which is in question. Hal Brands’s work recently has occupied a central position in that literature, but both his definitional discussion and his operationalization of the term include a number of apparently divergent notions, including that grand strategy is at once necessarily “purposive” and capable of emerging iteratively and “unconsciously.”Footnote20 Other contributions on the existence, effects, and desirability of US grand strategy exhibit variance in their identification of the subject of their debate, with recent options including “doctrines,”Footnote21 “strategizing,”Footnote22 and “national security strategy documents.”Footnote23

There is little explicit discussion of methodologies of concept construction in the literature on grand strategy. Most contributions implicitly commit to scientific realism and use grand strategy to refer to a real object or phenomenon, something that exists independently of the mind of the observer. There are possible alternative approaches, for example, grand strategy could be used to refer to a construct in an analytic model that depicts “a reality,” without claiming to depict “the reality.”Footnote24 No such use is evident in the existing literature, to the author’s knowledge. Despite this commitment, most definitions of grand strategy focus on elaborating a few characteristics of the concept without identifying the core phenomenon or object to which those characteristics refer or give rise. Scholars broadly agree that grand strategy refers to something that is long-term in scope, concerned with the state’s most important priorities, and inclusive of all spheres of statecraft (military, diplomatic, and economic). Few scholars, however, clearly elaborate what that something is or whether or how it is constituted by the characteristics they identify.Footnote25

Although it is not adopted explicitly as such, most scholars’ approach to constructing the concept of grand strategy can be described as semantic, in which the answer to the question of “what is [the concept]?” is essentially the same as the answer to “what is your definition of [the term]?” This is distinct from an ontological approach, which, as described by Gary Goertz in his seminal work on the subject, “involves a theoretical or empirical analysis of the object or phenomenon referred to by the word.”Footnote26 According to this approach, “Concepts are theories about ontology: they are theories about the fundamental constituent elements of a phenomenon.”Footnote27 In a warning that describes well the current state of the concept of grand strategy, Goertz cautions that “all those who focus purely on semantic issues are liable to end up seeing definitions as arbitrary. If the concept is not intimately related to the empirical analysis of a phenomenon then there is nothing to which one can anchor the concept, and everything becomes a matter of who is in charge of the definition.”Footnote28

Although there are some leading contenders, no one has yet won the battle to be “in charge” of the definition of grand strategy. Of the existing definitions, only two have achieved longevity. They are both early contributions and therefore did not have the effect of preventing the proliferation of definitions. On the contrary, logic suggests that they might have fuelled it. The first is that offered by Barry R. Posen, which states that grand strategy is “a political-military, means-ends chain, a state’s theory about how it can best ‘cause’ security for itself.”Footnote29 The second is Paul Kennedy’s, which says that grand strategy is “concerned with peace as much as (perhaps even more than) with war. It [is] about the evolution and integration of policies that should operate for decades, or even for centuries. It [does] not cease at a war’s end, nor commence at its beginning.”Footnote30

Absent from Posen and Kennedy’s definitions are clear explanations of what grand strategy actually is. Kennedy provides little explicit guidance about the phenomenon to which the characteristics he describes apply. What, according to Kennedy, operates for decades and is concerned with peacetime? Posen’s definition provides a hint with the reference to grand strategy being a “theory,” but he does not explain what is a theory in this context. The book in which Posen’s definition is offered is about military doctrine, not grand strategy, so it is impossible to derive an indication of what he means by a theory in this context from his operationalization of the term.Footnote31 Is the theory a logic that underlies and governs the behavior of the state, and operates independently of individual agency? Or is it an idea that is held consciously in the mind of leaders? Or perhaps the concept does not refer to a real-world object or phenomenon at all, and the theory is in fact an analytic construct that can be applied post hoc to interpret states’ behavior?Footnote32

Kennedy and Posen’s definitions are not alone in failing to identify the object or phenomenon to which the concept of grand strategy refers. To provide another of many possible examples, after noting that “no simple, clear definition of grand strategy can ever be fully satisfactory,” Williamson Murray writes: “Above all, grand strategy demands an intertwining of political, social, and economic realities with military power as well as a recognition that politics must, in nearly all cases, drive military necessity. It must also rest on a realistic assessment and understanding not only of one’s opponents but also of oneself.”Footnote33 Murray offers little guidance as to the entity, object, or phenomenon constituted by these “intertwinings,” “recognitions,” and “understandings.”

One effect of failing to identify the object or phenomenon to which the concept of grand strategy refers is that some scholars inadvertently subscribe to more than one of the competing possibilities. In such works, grand strategy is used variously to describe plans, organizing principles, and patterns of state behavior. In a prominent example of this type, as noted above, Brands stresses the purposiveness of grand strategy but then also argues that leaders may follow the logic of their grand strategies “consciously or unconsciously” and even seems to suggest that grand strategy could be made in “a more iterative or idiosyncratic manner.”Footnote34 According to these latter claims, then, grand strategy also may be a pattern of state behavior that emerges as states make “grand strategic choices”Footnote35 even without “a purposive approach” to policyFootnote36 or “a realistic plan”Footnote37 for allocating resources. Complicating matters further still, Brands wavers on the issue of the degree of detail required for an object to be a grand strategy. He asserts that grand strategy is constituted by “a set of ideas”Footnote38 or “key ideas”Footnote39 rather than by—necessarily—a more “formalized, detailed” document.Footnote40 In his employment of the concept, however, Brands suggests that comprehensiveness is important in identifying the existence of a grand strategy,Footnote41 and he argues that grand strategy requires “long-range planning” and the translation of “broad principles into a coherent strategic program.”Footnote42 In a coauthored article with Patrick Porter, Brands again makes the argument that grand strategy is a “set of core ideas” as distinct from a “detailed roadmap” but then makes as a key recommendation for improving the quality of US grand strategy: “contingency planning [that is, formalized, detailed planning] that can help policymakers deal with surprises more purposefully and effectively.”Footnote43

Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth reference Brands prominently and thereby purport to subscribe to multiple theories of the concept of grand strategy. Unlike Brands, however, their actual employment of the concept is clear and consistent. Brooks and Wohlforth begin with the notion that grand strategy is “a set of ideas.”Footnote44 They then claim that grand strategy is more detailed than that when they describe it as a comprehensive “blueprint.”Footnote45 In their employment of the concept, however, grand strategy is neither a set of ideas nor a plan, but rather a consistent pattern of behavior over time. They write in relation to the United States: “We contend that the fundamental objectives and the array of tools used to pursue them have remained remarkably consistent and thus that this core [of objectives and tools] is the grand strategy, properly defined.”Footnote46 Rather than being the product of a plan or a set of ideas, this pattern of applying tools toward objectives, in their view, emerges as the product of “discrete choices” that accumulate over time.Footnote47

The failure by scholars to identify clearly the object of the concept of grand strategy explains the ongoing confusion about how to define the term, the dissociated nature of the literature on grand strategy, and the apparent insolubility of rudimentary questions about the existence of grand strategy. It is only when the object or phenomenon to which the term refers is identified that the pathways toward resolving these problems become clearer. The solutions all depend on whether grand strategy is a plan, a principle, or a pattern of behavior.

Grand Strategy as a Plan

Historians, and specifically military historians, have first claim over the concept of grand strategy. Although the term and the idea appear in earlier writings, much of the contemporary scholarship on grand strategy follows Kennedy’s lead in identifying the work of B. H. Liddell Hart as the key progenitor. Writing in the interwar period, Liddell Hart observed that there was a “higher” level of strategy, which he termed “grand strategy” and defined as follows: “While practically synonymous with the policy which guides the conduct of war, as distinct from the more fundamental policy which should govern its object, the term ‘grand strategy’ serves to bring out the sense of ‘policy in execution.’ For the role of grand strategy—higher strategy—is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, toward the attainment of the political object of the war—the goal defined by fundamental policy.”Footnote48

Liddell Hart’s definition draws upon and must be understood in the context of the work of the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, who defined strategy as “the use of engagements for the object [or purpose] of the war.”Footnote49 Strategy, according to Clausewitz, is produced by individual agents, often referred to as “commanders.” In this respect, strategy is distinct from “policy,” which determines the “object” of the war. Clausewitz does not specify who or what is the source of policy. As such, he leaves open the questions of agency and intentionality as they relate to policy: “Policy, of course, is nothing in itself; it is simply the trustee for all these interests against other states. That it can err, subserve the ambitions, private interests, and vanity of those in power, is neither here nor there. In no sense can the art of war be regarded as the preceptor of policy, and here we can only treat policy as representative of all interests of the community.”Footnote50

Policy and strategy therefore represent two distinct types of concepts in Clausewitz’s work. Strategy is the product of deliberate efforts by individuals to use engagements to achieve the object of the war. Policy is an analytic construct that refers to the state’s interests without specifying the source of those interests or how they manifest. What, then, is the relationship between these two concepts and that of grand strategy? Is grand strategy more like strategy or policy? Liddell Hart addresses this point explicitly, albeit in language that is challenging to parse. He maintains the Clausewitzian distinction between policy and strategy, and develops the concept of grand strategy as a broadening of the concept of strategy. “Policy in execution,” according to Liddell Hart, is distinct from “fundamental policy.” Fundamental policy is akin to the Clausewitzian concept of “policy” and governs “policy in execution.” Policy in execution is “practically synonymous” with the Clausewitzian concept of strategy, but it is “grand strategy” because it is “higher strategy” that coordinates “all the resources of the nation.”Footnote51 In other words, grand strategy is more like strategy than policy. It is not an analytic construct that denotes the states’ interests. Grand strategy is like a plan devised by commanders to win the war, except it extends beyond the war to prepare for the future peace and includes consideration of the use of all the state’s resources, not just military force.

This intellectual history illuminates Kennedy’s definition of grand strategy and reveals the theory implicit in that definition. Grand strategy, in Kennedy’s conceptualization, is a deliberate, purposive plan much like a military strategy. Kennedy does not make this explicit, but it is wholly consistent with his writings. For example, Kennedy offers a lengthy passage that makes clear that the agents of grand strategy are individual officials, that grand strategy is the product of their purposive action, and that the content of grand strategy is a relatively detailed plan: “It was not enough for statesmen to consider how to win a war, but what the costs (in the largest sense of the word) would be; not enough to order the dispatch of fleets and armies in this or that direction, but to ensure also that they were adequately provided for …; and not enough, in peacetime, to order a range of weapons systems without careful examination of the impacts of defense spending.”Footnote52 Further emphasizing that grand strategy is the product of the purposive efforts of individuals, Kennedy argues that the production of grand strategy is “an art in the Clausewitzian sense” and relies upon “wisdom and judgement,” statements that would make little sense if individual agency were not central to the concept.Footnote53 The chapters included in Kennedy’s edited collection conform to this conceptualization of grand strategy in this respect by operationalizing grand strategy to mean a strategy devised by leaders.Footnote54 In this effective or implicit conceptualization, grand strategy is a deliberate plan that “exists” in the same way that a war plan “exists,” the latter being an entity the existence of which is far less commonly in doubt.

The notion that grand strategy is a deliberate, detailed plan formulated by individuals is often caricatured by historians, political scientists, and policy commentators who subscribe to one of the two alternative concepts of grand strategy (as an organizing principle or a pattern of behavior), which are outlined below in the subsequent sections of this article. For example, Kevin Narizny describes—and rejects—the classic image connoted by the concept of grand strategy as a plan, which is that of “statesmen, generals, and diplomats huddled around a tabletop map of the world, calculating how best to defend vital ‘national interests’ from a hostile international environment.”Footnote55 Similarly, Brands and Porter describe—and dismiss—a vision of grand strategy as the output of “mandarins cloistered in a room, charting an elaborate, step-by-step program.”Footnote56 Yet, these images are reasonable, if hyperbolic, representations of what military historians originally meant by term. For example, they accord well with the view of H. A. Sargeaunt and Geoffrey West who, writing in 1941, defined grand strategy similarly to Kennedy as “the answers to the questions: what does this war stem from, and what is it leading to?” This “higher type of strategy,” they argued, emanates “from the war cabinets and their advisers, above all the Prime Minister or President.”Footnote57

An exemplary contemporary expression of this concept of grand strategy is the notion of a US National Security Strategy (NSS) document. A NSS is supposed to be what Kennedy’s definition of grand strategy effectively denotes. According to the Congressional Act that mandates presidential administrations to write NSSs, the document “must address U.S. interests, goals, and objectives; the policies, worldwide commitments, and capabilities required to meet those objectives; and the use of elements of national power to achieve those goals.”Footnote58 The widespread view that all NSSs have failed to fulfill this mandate is immaterial for present purposes.Footnote59 The question of whether grand strategies of this type have ever actually existed is secondary to the question of whether this concept of grand strategy refers to a distinct, identifiable object. To put it simply, we can agree with a relevant degree of consensus that the object of the question “Do unicorns exist?” is a horse-like creature with a single horn on its forehead. Without that consensus, it would be impossible to agree on the answer to the question about unicorns’ existence. Even if it were the case that the relevant question for present purposes is whether grand strategies of this type have ever existed in real life, history provides plentiful examples of documents that have at least come close, about which debate could reasonably be had on terms that can be understood commonly. In post-World War II US history, for example, Chargé d’Affaires George Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow,Footnote60 the output of President Dwight Eisenhower’s Project Solarium exercise,Footnote61 the Harry Truman administration’s NSC-68 document,Footnote62 the “Strategy for Competing with the Soviets” written by Director of the Office of Net Assessment Andrew Marshall and James Roche in 1976,Footnote63 and the “Defense Strategy Review” led by Marshall in 2001Footnote64 are all at least contenders for being considered grand strategies in the sense in which the term was used by military historians.Footnote65

This concept of grand strategy as a deliberate, detailed plan remains prominent in the post-Cold War literature on grand strategy. Geoffrey Parker provides one case—that of Philip II of Spain—that is illustrative for present purposes, because in this case there is no evidence that the grand strategy was expressed in a single written document. Parker argues, “the absence of a comprehensive masterplan among the papers of Philip and his ministers does not prove the absence of comprehensive ambitions.”Footnote66 Parker uses a combination of types of sources to demonstrate the existence of a “grand design”Footnote67 and a “remarkable—and remarkably coordinated—military, naval, diplomatic and economic effort against England,”Footnote68 including “the king’s holograph policy statements” and “the dispatches of the dozen or so resident ambassadors at the court of Spain.”Footnote69

Several political scientists have made statements that indicate support for the view that grand strategy is a deliberate, detailed plan. For example, Peter D. Feaver argues: “Grand strategy refers to the collection of plans and policies that comprise the state’s deliberate effort to harness political, military, diplomatic, and economic tools together to advance that state’s national interest … It involves purposive action—what leaders think and want.”Footnote70 Stephen M. Walt substitutes the word “plan” for “theory” in Posen’s definition and argues that “a state’s grand strategy is its plan for making itself secure. Grand strategy identifies the objectives that must be achieved to produce security, and describes the political and military actions that are believed to lead to this goal.”Footnote71 Similarly, Stephen D. Krasner suggests that grand strategy is “designed” and details the resources—“diplomatic, bureaucratic, ideational, military, economic”—to be allocated for “specific policies.”Footnote72

In short, although it may be fashionable to reject the notion that grand strategy refers to the type of detailed plan that statespeople huddled around a map may produce, this concept of grand strategy has a long intellectual tradition and some plausible contenders as real life examples. It also remains well represented in the contemporary literature and, as evidenced by the notion of a NSS, occupies a prominent position in public policy discourse. As a shorthand, this concept of grand strategy can be thought of as a “grand plan.”

Grand Strategy as an Organizing Principle

Scholars and commentators who reject the notion of grand strategy as a grand plan often do so in favor of a second conceptualization of grand strategy as an “organizing” or “overarching” principle or set of principles.Footnote73 The difference between a plan and principle turns on only one distinction, which may raise the question of whether these are two different concepts of grand strategy. Level of detail differentiates the two concepts. A plan is more detailed than a principle. To borrow from Henry Kissinger, it is the difference between a “recipe” and a “guiding principle” that gives “direction” to foreign policy.Footnote74 This difference, single as it may be, is one that many scholars take pains to point out and produces significantly different results when the concepts are operationalized.

It is common for those who subscribe to the notion of grand strategy as an organizing principle to begin their definitional discussion by explaining what grand strategy is not. And what grand strategy is not, for these scholars, is a grand plan. For example, according to Colin Dueck, “If we define grand strategy—wrongly—as simply a prefabricated plan, carried out to the letter against all resistance, then clearly no president and probably no world leader has ever had such a strategy, nor ever will. But if we adopt a less stringent definition, we see that all presidents necessarily make choices and decisions in relation to US foreign and national security policy, based at least partially upon their own preexisting assumptions.”Footnote75 (It is necessary to note, solely for present purposes, that Dueck conflates two ideas in this statement: the existence of a plan and the implementation of a plan. A grand plan need not be implemented to exist, just as a war plan can exist regardless of whether it is implemented). Avery Goldstein similarly explains that his “account of China’s emerging grand strategy in the post-Cold War era does not refer to a formal and detailed plan contained in a ‘smoking gun’ document …. Instead it identifies a rough consensus on China’s basic foreign policy.”Footnote76 Rather than denoting detailed plans, blueprints, or recipe books, grand strategy for scholars and commentators in this tradition is about “an overarching guide,”Footnote77 “a framework,”Footnote78 “a basic strategic view,”Footnote79 “critical considerations,”Footnote80 “overarching foreign policy doctrines,”Footnote81 or “sets of ideas shared by policy makers.”Footnote82 This concept of grand strategy can be thought of using the shorthand “grand principles.”

The strategy of containment employed by the United States against the Soviet Union during the Cold War is the archetypal example of this second concept of grand strategy and played an important role in the intellectual history of the study of grand strategy. As noted above, prior to the end of the Cold War, grand strategy primarily referred to a grand plan. After the Cold War, scholars and commentators borrowed the term and applied it to the question of what should replace containment in the post-Cold War period. This process came to be known as the “Kennan sweepstakes,” after George F. Kennan, who was the first to apply the term containment to US policy in his Long Telegram.Footnote83 Containment as applied during the Cold War, however, was not a grand plan. It did not mandate a specific set of means to be mobilized for particular ends, as evidenced by the multiple variants of ends sought using various means by successive administrations.Footnote84 Rather, containment was an organizing principle for US foreign policy to which leaders expressly subscribed. The effect of using grand strategy to frame the search for a replacement for containment was to equate the concept of grand strategy with an organizing principle. Kennan implicitly recognized this equation when he criticized the “sweepstakes.” US officials, he argued, should aim to formulate a “thoughtful paragraph or more”—something more detailed, perhaps more like a grand plan—instead of trying to come up with a single-word or short-phrase “bumper sticker.”Footnote85

The notion of grand strategy as an organizing principle is found in two types of work on grand strategy. The first is works of history that focus on the ideas of individual leaders. Charles N. Edel, for example, demonstrates that throughout his lifetime US President John Quincy Adams held constant two ideas about how to achieve security for the United States: “unity at home and neutrality in foreign affairs.”Footnote86 These ideas did not constitute a detailed blueprint. According to Edel, Adams never formulated such a plan. Moreover, Adams’s views about specific ends and the means by which to achieve them changed over time. Edel finds evidence, however, that these ideas—which Edel calls a grand strategy—served as organizing principles that guided Adams’s decisions.

The second type of work that uses the term grand strategy to refer to an organizing principle is the prescriptive literature on grand strategy. Much of this literature concentrates on advocating orienting principles that proponents believe should guide US foreign policy. For many international relations scholars, there is a familiar cast of such principles and it is this cast that most immediately comes to mind in reference to grand strategy. In a seminal articulation of principles of this type, Posen and Andrew L. Ross identified four competing US grand strategies: neo-isolationism, selective engagement, cooperative security, and primacy.Footnote87 These principles were distinguished on three key bases: their identification of “the major purposes” of the United States, their “basic premises about international politics,” and their “preferred political and military instruments.”Footnote88 From these bases more detailed grand plans could be developed, but the specifics of those plans are neither contained within nor necessary to the policy prescriptions themselves. As with containment, the specific content of the grand plans would vary depending on circumstances and how the principle is translated into a plan.

There are two approaches to demonstrating the existence of an organizing principle. Some scholars, like Edel, focus on direct evidence of individuals’ ideas. John Hattendorf articulates this approach explicitly. In the case of British grand strategy in the War of the Spanish Succession from 1702 to 1713, Hattendorf argues:

The lack of strategic planning documents in a twentieth-century style makes it necessary to construct artificially an outline of England’s basic strategic view from disparate sources and varied documents. In order to do this one must look first to the private and public correspondence of all the various envoys and diplomatic representatives, to the admirals at sea, the generals in the field, to colonial governors, to the Board of Trade, the Admiralty, the orders of the secretary of state, the scattered notes of officials, and the records of expenditure in the Treasury. Through this one can formulate a composite picture, drawing from a phrase here and a paragraph there.Footnote89

Hattendorf uses these sources as “evidence of the assumptions, ideas, and purposes relating to England’s contribution in the War of the Spanish Succession.”Footnote90 This approach to evidence is similar to that adopted by Parker, except in this case the aim is to demonstrate a “basic strategic view” whereas Parker sought evidence of a “comprehensive masterplan.” In another articulation of this approach to demonstrating the existence of an organizing principle, Aaron L. Friedberg explains that he looks for evidence of a “shared strategic vision” in the efforts by “statesmen, diplomats, military leaders, intelligence chiefs, and finance ministers” in their “attempt[s] to define long-term national objectives, debat[e] the alternative courses of action through which these may be achieved, and [work], often with great difficulty, to coordinate the policies of the various agencies of government.”Footnote91

Some scholars who use the concept of grand strategy to refer to an organizing principle do not look for direct evidence of statespeople’s ideas and instead adopt the second approach, which is to observe the activities of the individual or the state and infer an organizing principle from those observations. Posen describes this approach in terms of “ferret[ing] out the grand strategy of a state.”Footnote92 Gordon Adams and Cindy Williams advocate a similar approach to the study of what they call national security strategy, arguing, “money is policy.”Footnote93 By this, they mean: “National security budgets are the most dependable reflection of US national security policy. Seeing things through the lens of the budget [allows one] … to discern the genuine priorities of national leaders.”Footnote94 In another example of this approach, John P. LeDonne argues that in the case of the Russian Empire from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century there was a “global vision,” which was the establishment of Russian “hegemony within the Heartland.”Footnote95 LeDonne finds no written evidence to support the existence of such a global vision.Footnote96 Instead, he infers the existence of this organizing principle from the behavior of state agents. In LeDonne’s words, “Peter [I]’s actions speak for themselves.”Footnote97

There is nothing inherently invalid about inferring a conscious organizing principle from observations of behavior. This approach is, however, attended by the problem of equifinality, which is the problem that any one of multiple factors—including ones unimagined by the observer—may have led to the observed actions. This is a prominent concern in other disciplines; an analogue to this approach in economics, for example, has generated sustained debate.Footnote98 The issue of equifinality ought to be a central concern in the study of grand principles but thus far has received little attention from scholars.

Grand Strategy as a Pattern of Behavior

In the third use of the concept of grand strategy, grand strategy refers to a pattern of behavior. The pattern of behavior is not evidence of the existence of a plan or an organizing principle, although in some cases a principle or plan is used as evidence to demonstrate the existence of a pattern of behavior. Nor does grand strategy refer to the label one attaches to name or classify the pattern. The pattern is itself the grand strategy. This can seem an odd claim, particularly to international relations scholars who are accustomed to thinking of grand strategy as a consciously held organizing principle. It is, however, one that is represented clearly in the existing literature. As one example, it is the concept of grand strategy that underlies Edward N. Luttwak’s oft-quoted statement that “all states have a grand strategy, whether they know it or not.”Footnote99 Grand strategy, for Luttwak, is simply the employment of the state’s resources, including military strength, diplomacy, and intelligence, which interact with the employment of these resources by other states.Footnote100 There is a similar concept in the discipline of management studies, where it is more fully explicated. Henry Mintzberg argues that the notion that business strategy is a formal plan devised by senior managers and then implemented by an organization is a “myth.”Footnote101 Instead, he posits an alternative concept of strategy, in which strategy is “a pattern, consistency in behavior over time.”Footnote102 To distinguish this conceptualization from the “mythical” notion of business strategy, Mintzberg uses the term “realized strategy.”Footnote103 For the sake of clarity in the study of grand strategy, this third concept can be thought of using the shorthand “grand behavior.”

Scholars who use the concept of grand strategy to mean grand behavior adopt one of three approaches to the issue of intentionality. In the first approach, they set aside explicitly the question of whether the pattern of behavior was produced by the operation of a grand principle or plan. According to these scholars, it is irrelevant whether a principle or plan existed. For example, Dueck argues that “it does not really matter … whether or not most governments actually follow any sort of conscious, coherent, and intentional strategic ‘plan.’”Footnote104 Dueck assumes that grand strategy emerges out of a series of decisions about “defense spending, alliance diplomacy, and military interventions.”Footnote105 Similarly, Narizny argues: “There is little analytical difference between a plan (e.g., NSC 68) and a pattern of behavior that reflects consistent values, goals, and trade-offs (e.g. containment). It does not matter whether executive decision makers ever explain their reasoning, or even if they consciously think about how their various decisions over different foreign policy issues are related to each other.”Footnote106 Etel Solingen sets aside the question of the degree to which grand strategies are “embedded in more or less clearly defined blueprints” and assumes that “quite often, grand strategies unfold in tentative, reactive, and piecemeal steps.”Footnote107 Scholars who adopt this approach offer various explanations for what causes patterns of state behavior, which, as noted above, are among the contributions that have not been tested directly against each other as explanations of grand strategy per se. For Dueck and Luttwak, patterns emerge as a result of “strategic cultures.”Footnote108 For Narizny, it is the relative strength of coalitions of economic interest groups.Footnote109 For Solingen, it is the power of “internationalist” versus “statist-nationalist” regional policy networks.Footnote110

In the second approach to the issue of intentionality, scholars of grand behavior purport to subscribe to the notion of grand strategy as a plan or principle but adopt methods that effectively operationalize grand strategy as a pattern of behavior. In one example of this tendency, Lobell claims that “grand strategy involves long-term planning, over decades and perhaps centuries.”Footnote111 He does not, however, use evidence of long-term planning to demonstrate the existence of a grand strategy. Instead, evidence of grand strategy is found in “a state’s diplomatic activity, resource extraction, trade policy, and military doctrine.”Footnote112 The focus of Lobell’s case studies is not, therefore, on long-term planning but on state behavior.Footnote113 Although Brooks and Wohlforth import from Brands some confusion in their definitional discussion, their employment of the concept faithfully operationalizes grand strategy to mean grand behavior. Their focus is not on the existence or content of ideas, nor on documents that “[sprang] forth from the pen of George F. Kennan or any other single strategist,” but rather on the pattern of behavior that emerged over time from the “rough and tumble process of solving more immediate problems.”Footnote114

In the third approach to intentionality, scholars label a pattern of behavior “grand strategy” but imply that it is necessary to the concept that the pattern be the result of the deliberate or intentional design of individual agents. Christopher Layne, for example, argues that the United States has demonstrated a consistent pattern of behavior in the post-World War II period, which he labels a grand strategy of “extraregional” or “global” hegemony. This pattern of behavior, according to Layne, was the product of an organizing principle, that of “open door” internationalism.Footnote115 He claims this principle was consciously held and deliberately employed by individuals: “If the United States today is, indeed, an extraregional or ‘global,’ hegemon, it is not, as Barry Posen suggests, an ‘accidental’ one. Unlike Britain, the United States did not become an extraregional hegemon in a fit of absentmindedness …. Washington deliberately has strived for that hegemony since the early 1940s.”Footnote116 Layne does not refer to the organizing principle as a grand strategy. He also does not elaborate upon whether the pattern of behavior would be properly called a grand strategy if it were not the product of such a principle. In his operationalization of the concept, however, Layne is attentive to evidence both of a pattern of behavior and the ideas of individuals, suggesting that he uses the latter as evidence of the existence of the former.

The Constituent Elements and Necessary Characteristics of the Three Concepts of Grand Strategy

The foregoing account of the three concepts of grand strategy has focused on the differences between them. These concepts also have important commonalities, which is what makes each “a concept of grand strategy” and what distinguishes them from other concepts such as foreign policy and military strategy. The three concepts are structurally similar in two important respects. First, as a consequence of their origins in the concept of strategy, they are each constituted by two elements: ends and means.Footnote117 Grand plans specify ends and the means by which to achieve them in detail. Grand principles do the same in more general terms. Grand behavior is a pattern in the relative allocation of means to certain ends, regardless of whether that pattern is the result of a grand plan, a grand principle, or some other factor. The point that ends and means constitute grand strategy seems a simple one, but in the employment of the concepts of grand plans and grand principles the focus is often on one of these elements at the expense of the other.Footnote118 Second, each concept has three characteristics, which is what makes each of them “grand.” This section explains these “characteristics of grandness.” The following section explains why some other factors—although they may seem like characteristics of grand strategy—are understood best as neither constituent elements nor necessary characteristics of the concept, but as qualities by which grand strategies can be assessed.

The first characteristic is that each concept of grand strategy is necessarily long-term in scope. This characteristic derives from Liddell Hart’s exhortation that grand strategy extends beyond the present war to plan for the future peace.Footnote119 Kennedy provides a strong statement about the long-term nature of grand strategy when he states that grand strategy is “about the evolution and integration of policies that should operate for decades, or even for centuries.”Footnote120 This characteristic distinguishes each of the three concepts of grand strategy from the concept of foreign policy. In contrast to grand strategy, the concept of foreign policy is temporally indeterminate. It may equally refer to a single foreign policy decision, a foreign policy of a particular administration, or the foreign policy of a state since its inception.

The second characteristic of the concepts of grand strategy is that they are holistic in the sense of being concerned with, in Liddell Hart’s terms, “all the resources” of a state. Kennedy translates this characteristic as concern with “all the elements, both military and nonmilitary.”Footnote121 Posen’s definition specifically lists “political” and “military,” but in later work he clarifies that he believes grand strategy to be concerned also with economic means.Footnote122 The notion that grand strategy is concerned with the military, diplomatic, and economic spheres of statecraft is supported in numerous definitions of grand strategy, many of which have been quoted herein. A prominent counter-argument to this conclusion is made by Robert J. Art, who claims that the concept should be restricted to the use of military means to achieve political ends.Footnote123 This limitation would render grand strategy synonymous with strategy. The use of military means to achieve political ends is essentially a restatement of the Clausewitzian concept of strategy. Grand strategy was conceived, at least by Liddell Hart, precisely to broaden the means element of the concept of strategy. The three concepts of grand strategy are, therefore, distinct from the concept of strategy on the basis that they are concerned with all the resources of a state and not solely the employment of force.

The third characteristic of grand strategy is that, whether it is a plan, a principle, or a pattern of behavior, it is concerned with the making of trade-offs to advance the state’s most important interests. This can be summarized as the characteristic of “importance.” For Posen, the most important interest for all states is the same and that is “security,” by which he means, he explains in later work, “the preservation of sovereignty, safety, territorial integrity, and power position.”Footnote124 There is thus a realist premise in Posen’s definition, which is that the interests of states are externally determined by the imperative to survive in an anarchic international system.Footnote125 Narizny, one scholar of grand strategy who criticizes this approach directly, argues that states may have interests other than security: “They might seek to expand their territory, protect their foreign trade and investment, promote their political ideology, or pursue humanitarian causes.”Footnote126 Rather than specifying the content of states’ interests, Narizny leaves that question open for empirical investigation. This is the approach implicitly adopted by many scholars, who—instead of specifying interests as “security”—note that grand strategy is concerned with interests that are “important,”Footnote127 “large,”Footnote128 “vital,”Footnote129 or “ultimate.”Footnote130 This approach accords with the Clausewitzian concept of strategy, in which policy is treated “as representative of all interests of the community,” regardless of its sources or content.Footnote131 The characteristic of importance further distinguishes the three concepts of grand strategy from the concepts of foreign policy or military strategy, neither of which are concerned—as a necessary characteristic of the concepts—with the state’s most important interests. It is a logical possibility that a state may have a foreign policy or military strategy that concerns a region or issue area of secondary or tertiary importance with only a distant relationship to the state’s primary interests. The characteristic of importance makes it a logical impossibility to use the term grand strategy to refer solely to a strategy for such a region or issue area. This is not to say that interests of a secondary and tertiary (and so on) nature are irrelevant to grand strategy. On the contrary, a corollary of the characteristic of importance is that grand strategy is concerned with trade-offs (whether intentional or effective) between important and lesser interests.

The Qualities of Grand Strategy

There are two other candidates for factors that may be considered necessary characteristics of the concepts of grand strategy. These factors are understood best as qualities by which grand strategies can be evaluated or assessed, rather than as characteristics that constitute grand strategy, because the absence of these factors does not render an entity or phenomenon something other than a grand strategy.

It is common for scholars and commentators to claim that grand strategy must be “coherent”Footnote132 or “balanced,”Footnote133 or variants thereof. In general, these claims are not included in the actual definitions of grand strategies proposed by scholars, although William Martel provides a prominent exception when he states: “Grand Strategy is a coherent statement of the state’s highest political ends to be pursued globally over the long term. Its proper function is to prioritize among different domestic and foreign policy choices and to coordinate, balance, and integrate all types of national means—including diplomatic, economic, technological, and military power—to achieve the articulated ends. In effect, grand strategy provides a framework of organizing principles that in a useful way help policy makers and society make coherent choices about the conduct of foreign policy.”Footnote134

The problem with stating or implying that coherence is a necessary characteristic of grand strategy is that it leaves the negative pole of the concept unclear.Footnote135 This problem particularly retards debates about the effects and desirability of grand strategy because the effect of a cause typically cannot be identified without clarity regarding what constitutes the absence of that cause. If a grand strategy must be coherent to exist, is an incoherent grand strategy a “not-grand strategy?” Even scholars who stress that grand strategy must be coherent do not tend to operationalize the concept accordingly. For example, Brands claims that grand strategy must be coherent, but his employment of the term does not follow that logic. Wilhelmine Germany, according to Brands, is one case of a state with “a flawed grand strategy” and that of the George W. Bush administration is another.Footnote136 Instead of using coherence as a necessary characteristic for determining the existence of the phenomenon and classifying incoherent grand strategies as not-grand strategies, Brands uses qualifiers such as “less effective” to describe grand strategies that lack coherence.Footnote137 In his application of the concept, therefore, grand strategies may be incoherent, but they are still grand strategies, indicating that coherence is not a necessary characteristic of the concept. Rather, it is a quality by which a grand plan or grand principle can be assessed. Grand behavior is somewhat different than the other two concepts in this respect because, if coherence is understood to denote some consistency between the successive actions of an official or the state, coherence is an indicator of the existence of a pattern.

The same argument holds for the quality of balance. This is—presumably—the notion that means are efficiently allocated toward ends, derived from the basic Clausewitzian idea of using no more and no less than the amount of force needed to achieve objectives.Footnote138 The use of excessive or inadequate force makes a strategy a bad one, not a not-strategy. Liddell Hart describes this quality in the following terms: “Strategy depends for success, first and foremost, on a sound calculation and coordination of the end and the means. The end must be proportioned to the total means, and the means used in gaining each intermediate end which contributes to the ultimate must be proportioned to the value and the needs of the intermediate end—whether it be to gain an objective or to fulfill a contributory purpose.”Footnote139 Note in this formulation that strategy depends on sound calculation and coordination for its success, not for its existence. An imbalanced strategy is still a strategy and, as a matter of logic, this holds true for all three concepts of grand strategy.

Three Definitions of Grand Strategy

If the concepts of grand plans, grand principles, and grand behavior are understood each to consist of two constituent elements, ends and means, and to have the characteristics of being “long-term,” “holistic,” and “important,” then definitions for each of the concepts can be derived as follows:

  • 1. Grand plans are the detailed product of the deliberate efforts of individuals to translate a state’s interests into specific long-term goals, establish orders of priority between those goals, and consider all spheres of statecraft (military, diplomatic, and economic) in the process of identifying the means by which to achieve them. Given their level of detail, grand plans are likely to be—but are not necessarily—set down in written documents.
  • 2. Grand principles are overarching ideas that are consciously held by individuals about the long-term goals that the state should prioritize and the military, diplomatic, and/or economic means that ought to be mobilized in pursuit of those goals. They tend to be expressed in single words or short phrases.
  • 3. Grand behavior is the long-term pattern in a state’s distribution and employment of its military, diplomatic, and economic resources toward ends. In this context, the ends that receive the greatest relative resources can be deemed to be priorities, but the concept implies no inference that those ends were necessarily prioritized as a result of a grand plan, a grand principle, or any other factor.

Resolving Foundational Conceptual Questions about Grand Strategy

The foregoing differentiation between the three concepts of grand strategy aids in resolving the foundational conceptual questions that persistently trouble the study of grand strategy.

Is Grand Strategy Intentional?

The issue of intentionality is one of the key cleavages that has produced three different concepts of grand strategy over time. The answer to the question of whether grand strategy is intentional, therefore, has been addressed in the foregoing discussion about distinguishing the three concepts. To recap, grand plans and grand principles are, by definition, intentional, whereas the concept of grand behavior explicitly or effectively leaves the question of intentionality open for empirical investigation.

Does Grand Strategy Exist?

Once the object or phenomenon to which grand strategy refers has been clarified, then the question of whether grand strategy exists becomes a matter of evidence and measurement. In the case of a grand plan, evidence of its existence may be direct in the form of a single written document. In the absence of such direct evidence, its existence may be inferred from other sources such as indirect written records (which is Parker’s method in the case of Philip II of Spain), or from patterns of behavior, although the latter approach on its own is attended by the problem of equifinality. A grand plan identifies specific ends, projects into the long-term, considers all spheres of statecraft in the process of identifying means to ends, and addresses the state’s most important priorities. If the plan is lacking in one of these respects, it is something less or other than a grand one (such as a list of goals, a short- or medium-term plan, an economic plan, a military strategy, or a diplomatic strategy). If the plan is incoherent or imbalanced, then it is a bad grand plan, not a “not-grand plan.”

If grand strategy is conceptualized as an organizing principle, then the question of whether it exists depends upon evidence of the key ideas held by the relevant individuals about the state’s highest priorities and the means that should be mobilized in pursuit of those ends over the long term. Again, there are multiple methods for generating such evidence. These include methods that aim to measure ideas directly, such as interviews, surveys, or the analysis of documents authored by or about the relevant individuals. There are also indirect methods of generating evidence of organizing principles, such as observing the decisions and actions of the individual or the state and inferring the existence of an organizing principle from those observations, although this method on its own is also subject to the problem of equifinality. A “not-grand principle” is one that does not provide a general sense of the key long-term goals of the state or that does not identify the means (at least selected from—if not inclusive of—all spheres of statecraft) by which to achieve them.

Finally, if grand strategy is conceptualized as a pattern of behavior, then its existence depends upon demonstrating that pattern. In this case no inference is made: the pattern of behavior is itself the grand strategy. The characteristic of holism mandates that scholars attend to the distribution of the state’s resources in each of the military, diplomatic, and economic spheres of statecraft. The characteristic of importance can be operationalized by devising ex ante measures of what patterns of distributions would indicate which ends are effectively prioritized relative to others. A study of grand behavior should also specify the period for which the pattern would need to be observed to be considered “long-term.”

Can Small States Have Grand Strategies?

The answer to the question of whether grand strategy is a plan, a principle, or a pattern of behavior also contributes toward resolving the problem of whether all states have grand strategies. The existing literature focuses overwhelmingly on the United States, to a lesser extent on other great powers, and much less again on smaller states. As a result, scholars tend to equate the concept of grand strategy with great powers.Footnote140 It is obvious why: great powers have on average far greater effects on important outcomes in the international system than smaller states. There is nothing inherent, however, in any of the three conceptualizations of grand strategy that would preclude the concepts from being applied to other states. Small states can, at least in theory, produce grand plans in which they make choices from among all their resources about which ends to prioritize and the means to devote to those ends. Similarly, the leaders of small states can hold organizing principles in mind that govern their decisions across the spheres of statecraft with the view to achieving long-term goals. Finally, patterns of behavior may be detected equally in the outputs of small states as in the outputs of great powers. Control over military, diplomatic, and economic resources is essential to the very definition of a state. All states distribute those resources. Those distributions—and patterns within them—can be observed over the long term. Thus, at least in theory—regardless of which conceptualization of grand strategy is used—all states can have a grand strategy.

Does Every State Have a Grand Strategy?

The conclusion that grand strategy can apply to any type of state raises the question of whether every state has a grand strategy. If grand strategy is conceptualized as a plan, then the answer is clearly no. If grand strategy is conceptualized as an organizing principle or a pattern of behavior, the answer to this question depends on the level of generality scholars can tolerate in their measurements. It is possible that, given that all states necessarily distribute their resources, some pattern in that distribution can be found for all states if state outputs are observed at a high level of generality. For example, it is uncommon for a state massively to defund or increase a top-level budget item over a short period of time; to the contrary, there is substantial continuity for most states in the relative proportion of their budgets allocated to major line items from one year to the next. Whether such patterns, or changes in such patterns, meaningfully could be operationalized as an object of study or dependent variable would depend on the research question motivating the study. Similarly, whether it can be said that all leaders have an organizing principle would depend on the level of specificity in terms of the content of the principle that scholars require for the purposes of their research questions. It seems plausible that all leaders have conscious ideas about their priorities and how to achieve them. In this general sense, it may be said that all states have organizing principles.

To What Extent Is Grand Strategy Constant or Flexible?

The question of how constant grand strategy must be to be properly so-called also turns on whether grand strategy is conceptualized as a plan, a principle, or a pattern of behavior. If grand strategy is a plan then it is not a necessary characteristic of the concept that the plan remain constant. In this case, the long-term characteristic of grand strategy refers to the nature of the plan, not to the plan’s longevity in operation. In Kennedy’s words, the plan “should” operate for decades or more.Footnote141 Whether it does or not does not determine the existence of the plan. The plan must be long-term in its original scope, not something that remains in existence for a long time. Similarly, it is not necessary for an organizing principle to be operative for a long-term period. The concept could be used, for example, in reference to a proposal for an organizing principle, in which the principle “exists” by virtue of being proposed but may never actually be operative. The long-term characteristic of the concept refers to the content of the principle, not to the duration of the existence or effect of the principle. In the case of a pattern of behavior, the pattern must exist for a period that can be considered long-term for it to constitute grand behavior. In this case, constancy is evidence of existence and a high frequency of change would tend to be evidence against the existence of grand behavior.

Conceptual Frameworks to Advance the Study of Grand Strategy

The foregoing discussion has refrained from commenting on which of the three conceptualizations of grand strategy is the “right” one. This is for two reasons. The first is that each concept identifies a phenomenon or object of interest to historians, political scientists, and policy analysts that is not denoted specifically by any other concept. This interest is demonstrated by each concepts’ representation in the existing literature, as detailed above, but there are also good reasons why scholars and commentators should be interested in these phenomena as both independent and dependent variables (or causes and effects), which are discussed in this section. The second reason it would be unwise to deem only one of the concepts “correct” is that retaining all three offers great potential for investigating the relationships among the three phenomena or objects to which they refer. These relationships ought to be central to the study of grand strategy, but systematic investigation of them has been hampered by the conflation of concepts in existing definitions.

Grand Plans as a Conceptual Framework

Grand plans are the product of the efforts of individuals to control in detail the outputs of the state. This concept gives rise to a framework for asking questions about whether and/or how those processes, or those individuals, and the organizations they represent, matter in determining the state’s outputs, as well as about what determines whether such plans are formulated and their content. These questions include why plans are drafted when they are, what mechanisms transmit plans into state outputs, what determines which plans are implemented, and why the effects of some plans may be enduring whereas others may not be. The characteristics of grandness as applied to plans give rise to a range of further questions about those efforts, including whether and how individuals attempt to coordinate plans across the spheres of statecraft, project into the long-term time horizon, and make conscious trade-offs. These questions constitute a research agenda on the subject of “grand” strategic planning. Strategic planning in general and grand strategic planning in particular are subjects that have received surprisingly little attention in the subfield of security studies. There has been some prescriptive and descriptive work to date,Footnote142 but there is little by way of systematic empirical research.Footnote143 Scholars are familiar with thinking in terms of foreign policy decision making and, to a lesser extent, intelligence gathering and analysis, but there is a realm of executive activity that exists before, between, and after these processes, which should be addressed by the study of strategic planning.

Grand Principles as a Conceptual Framework

There is an extant literature on the effects of ideas on foreign policy, some of which addresses ideas that could be considered to be grand principles, although this literature does not tend to use the term grand strategy.Footnote144 It is not necessary for scholars working on ideas in foreign policy to acknowledge explicitly when they are working with ideas that are “grand strategic” and, indeed, those scholars may criticize the concept of grand principles for overlapping too much with the concepts with which they work. The case against this potential criticism, and for the use of the term grand principles, is two-fold. First, the concept of grand principles provides a framework for investigation into a type of ideas that is specific and, to the author’s knowledge, unique: those consciously held ideas about what the state’s overall goals should be and how those goals can be advanced over the long term. One corollary of this specificity is that, in the examination of the effects of such ideas, the concept directs attention to continuities in state outputs. This presents a challenge to—or an opportunity for—political scientists in particular, who are oriented toward explaining variation. If grand principles do produce continuities, this may have broad implications for scholarly explanations of state interactions. For example, the existence and effect of grand principles may complicate Robert Jervis’s observation that states’ belief that other states have grand plans—that they “carefully and skilfully orchestrate moves over a long period of time and a wide geographic area”—is “much more common than the reality.”Footnote145 It may be that even if a state does not have a grand plan, it may behave as though it has one (and therefore be perceived as having one) because of the cohering effect of a grand principle, rather than because of, as Jervis argues, a misperception caused by observers’ cognitive biases. Second, the effect of acknowledging when ideas are grand principles would be to build a valuable relationship between the literature on ideas in foreign policy and the literature on grand strategy, which are currently close but unacknowledged cousins. As one example of the many potential benefits of acknowledging that relationship, scholarship on the effects of ideas on foreign policy should inform the prescriptive literature on grand strategy that aims to inject ideas into foreign policy processes.

Grand Behavior as a Conceptual Framework

The concept of grand behavior provides a framework for investigating the long-term behavior of the state as a whole. The overwhelming tendency within the subfield of foreign policy analysis (FPA) and in foreign policy commentary is to focus (in the United States) on presidential administrations. This focus implies some causality: that incumbents significantly affect foreign policy outputs. The study of grand behavior offers an alternative framework, which facilitates observations of state behavior over periods of decades or more.Footnote146 This framework can reveal continuities and discontinuities that may not be observed if questions and cases are scoped in the time horizon of presidential administrations. Indeed, there is an obvious dialogue to be had between scholars of grand strategy and FPA about the extent to which changes in executive administrations cause changes in grand behavior.

The inclusion of each of the military, diplomatic, and economic spheres of statecraft in the concept of grand behavior also provides a valuable frame for examining the complex interactions between these spheres. This opportunity has yet to be capitalized upon fully by scholars of grand strategy. In particular, there is a tendency to shy away from analysis of the economic sphere.Footnote147 This tendency is evident in Posen’s original definition of grand strategy, which omits any reference to the economic sphere. It is further noted and then demonstrated in Posen and Ross’ seminal article on competing visions of grand strategy, which explains that “most of the literature … treats the economic component [of grand strategy] in a cursory way, if at all,” before proceeding to confine their own work “to the political and military aspects” of grand strategy.Footnote148 There has been substantial commentary about the tendency for the economic aspects of security and the security aspects of economics to be underappreciated by security studies scholars.Footnote149 The framework provided by the concept of grand behavior can advance the project of building cross-disciplinary bridges between security studies and economics.Footnote150

The Relationships between Grand Plans, Grand Principles, and Grand Behavior

The most important reason for distinguishing the three concepts is that questions about the relationships among grand plans, grand principles, and grand behavior ought to be central to scholarship on grand strategy. Why promote, as Liddell Hart effectively did, the formulation of grand plans if not because of an unexamined assumption that such plans would produce more effective patterns of state behavior? Why engage in the “Kennan sweepstakes” if not because of a strong assumption that organizing principles promote coherence in the otherwise disparate actions of the state? Why develop detailed proposals for new grand strategies of, for example, “restraint”Footnote151 or “deep engagement,”Footnote152 if not for the belief that such proposals have at least some potential of guiding future administrations’ decisions? The entire literature on grand strategy fundamentally depends on the assumption that there are positive relationships between grand plans, grand principles, and grand behavior. Yet, that assumption is rarely articulated and—more importantly—rarely examined empirically, because the three concepts have been conflated under the umbrella term grand strategy.

Beyond opening new frameworks for investigating central questions, differentiating the three concepts of grand strategy should propel the coalescence of the study of grand strategy into one or more research programs. For political scientists, historians, and policy commentators alike, concepts of grand strategy that have been constructed carefully to have identifiable negative poles will advance debates within those fields about the existence, effects, and/or desirability of grand strategy. Those debates depend upon a clear concept of what constitutes absence of the phenomenon of interest. Furthermore, many international relations studies of grand strategy are currently “orphans” in the literature on grand strategy.Footnote153 They frame themselves as responses to theories of international relations or FPA, but do not identify that they have “parent” or “sibling” studies that aim essentially to explain the same dependent variable or to test the same independent variable, or both. It should be the case that using more precisely constructed concepts will prevent the creation of future orphans.

Conceptual Clarity in the Study of Grand Strategy

Grand strategy is an obvious candidate for being dismissed as a buzzword. It connotes that which is “higher-order,” “important” and “complex.” There is a clear temptation for scholars to include the term in the title of a publication to lend these connotations to that work. There is also a lack of clarity in the study of grand strategy about what the objects of explanation are and the primary contending explanations relating to those objects. These circumstances give rise to reasonable suspicion that the attachment of the label “grand strategy” to a publication is more the product of grandiosity than intellectual honesty.

This article has argued that conceptual clarity can be brought to the study of grand strategy. This clarity is available because scholars have not been—despite appearances—opportunistic in their embrace of the term. Rather, they have employed the concept in different ways as frameworks for asking important questions about three phenomena of great interest to political scientists, historians, and policy analysts. Distinguishing these approaches from one another aids in resolving many of the basic conceptual questions that seem to confound perpetually the study of grand strategy.

Originally, grand strategy was a concept developed and applied by military historians to mean the deliberate strategy employed by officials to win a war and create the conditions for the future peace, drawing from among all the resources of the state. This original concept of grand strategy was borrowed and applied by scholars and commentators to denote three distinct types of phenomena. Whether grand strategy exists, whether it is intentional, the degree to which grand strategy remains constant or changes, and whether all states can or do have a grand strategy are questions that all turn on whether grand strategy is conceptualized as a plan, a principle, or a pattern of behavior. There is not one concept of grand strategy. There are three, which have been labelled here “grand plans,” “grand principles,” and “grand behavior,” respectively.

It may be tempting to discard two of the three concepts in order to promote a single definition of grand strategy. This approach is not recommended here for two reasons. First, each concept provides a distinct and useful framework for scholarly inquiry in history and political science, and for policy analysis and prescription. Second, distinguishing the three concepts facilitates the formulation of new, important questions in the study of grand strategy regarding the relationships among the phenomena to which they refer, and between each of these phenomena and other causes and effects. Instead of condemning two of the three uses of the concept of grand strategy, the preferable approach is to differentiate clearly between the three concepts and operationalize each concept carefully in accordance with its specific meaning.

Precision matters in defining, employing, and/or operationalizing concepts. To investigate the effect of grand strategy, it is necessary to be clear about what grand strategy is and is not. To debate the causes or sources of grand strategy, there must be some agreement on how the object of that explanation is identified. To develop new grand strategies, it is necessary to think in terms of both ends and means—an analytic task that sounds simple but is rarely accomplished—while projecting into the long term and considering all spheres of statecraft. To develop a good grand strategy, ends and means must be reconciled and the strategy must be coherent, that is, the elements of the strategy should not work at cross-purposes. It is insufficient for individual scholars’ and commentators’ definitions of grand strategy merely to accord with their employment or operationalization of the term, although that is a preferable beginning. It is also necessary to build greater consensus about the meaning of the term. Such consensus will allow the concept of grand strategy to rise above the suspicion of being a buzzword, thereby increasing the good “buzz” that the study and advocacy of grand strategy deserves.


The author is grateful for helpful comments from the editors and three anonymous reviewers as well as comments on earlier versions from Kate Cronin-Furman, Janina Dill, Stephan Frühling, Edward Geist, Kelly Greenhill, Iain Henry, William Inboden, Yuen Foong Khong, Amy King, Walter Ladwig, Chris Lawrence, Andreas Lutsch, Cetta Mainwaring, Robin Markwica, Daniel Marston, Terrence Peterson, Farzan Sabet, Kenneth Schultz, Jeremi Suri, Jeffrey Taliaferro, Corin Throsby, Hugh White, and especially Rosemary Foot and Steven Miller. This research was facilitated by the financial support and stimulating intellectual environments provided by the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, the International Security Program of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin, the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, and the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University.

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Notes on contributors

Nina Silove

Nina Silove is a lecturer (assistant professor) in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University.


1 Charles Hill, “The U.S. Search for Grand Strategy,” Orbis 48, no. 4 (Fall 2004): 732.

2 Paul M. Kennedy, ed., Grand Strategies in War and Peace (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991).

3 Steven E. Lobell’s study of grand strategy investigates whether states punish or cooperate with contenders for hegemony. Steven E. Lobell, The Challenge of Hegemony: Grand Strategy, Trade, and Domestic Politics (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2003), 3. Etel Solingen identifes as grand strategy whether ruling coalitions promote economic liberalization or protectionism in Etel Solingen, Regional Orders at Century’s Dawn: Global and Domestic Influences on Grand Strategy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998). For Mark R. Brawley, grand strategy refers to whether states balance internally, balance externally, bandwagon, buck pass, or appease. Mark R. Brawley, Political Economy and Grand Strategy: A Neoclassical Realist View (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2009), 7–11. Grand strategy is operationalized to refer to whether states expand, contract, or significantly change their overall strategic capabilities or commitments in the work of Colin Dueck, and also in the work of Lobell, Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, and Norrin M. Ripsman. See Colin Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders: Power, Culture, and Change in American Grand Strategy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 12; Steven E. Lobell, Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, and Norrin M. Ripsman, “Grand Strategy between the World Wars,” in The Challenge of Grand Strategy: The Great Powers and the Broken Balance between the World Wars, ed. Jeffrey W. Taliferro, Norrin M. Ripsman, and Steven E. Lobell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 16. In his study of grand strategy, Matthew Evangelista investigates whether states “dramatically change their foreign policies.” Matthew Evangelista, “Internal and External Constraints on Grand Strategy: The Soviet Case,” in The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy, ed. Richard Rosecrance and Arthur A. Stein (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), 154. The existing literature evinces little discussion of whether this broad range of phenomena can in fact be classed as of a single type under the umbrella term of “grand strategy” and whether doing so advances scholarship in international relations.

4 Daniel W. Drezner, “Does Obama Have a Grand Strategy? Why We Need Doctrines in Uncertain Times,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 4 (July/August 2011), 60–61.

5 Hal Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy? Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 1.

6 Paul D. Miller, “On Strategy, Grand and Mundane,” Orbis 60, no. 2 (Spring 2016), 238.

7 Lukas Milevski, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 7.

8 For extended discussions about the definition of grand strategy, see: Milevski, Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought; Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth, America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), chap. 4; Miller, “On Strategy, Grand and Mundane”; William C. Martel, Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice: The Need for an Effective American Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), chap. 3; Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy?, chap. 1; Peter Layton, “The Idea of Grand Strategy,” RUSI Journal 157, no. 4 (August/September 2012): 56–61; Peter Feaver, “What is Grand Strategy and Why Do We Need It?” Foreign Policy Shadow Government, 8 April 2009,; John Lewis Gaddis, “What Is Grand Strategy?” (Karl Von De Heyden Distinguished Lecture, Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, Durham, North Carolina, 26 February 2008),; Kevin Narizny, The Political Economy of Grand Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007), 8–16; Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders, 9–13; Paul M. Kennedy, “Grand Strategies in War and Peace: Toward a Broader Definition,” in Kennedy, Grand Strategies in War and Peace, 1–10.

9 Richard K. Betts, “The Trouble with Strategy: Bridging Policy and Operations,” Joint Forces Quarterly 29 (Autumn/Winter 2001–2002): 23.

10 On constructing theories of concepts, see Gary Goertz, Social Science Concepts: A User’s Guide (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).

11 See Security Studies issues 23.4, 24.2, 24.3, and 25.1.

12 On concept formation in political science, see Giovanni Sartori, “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics,” American Political Science Review 64, no. 4 (December 1970): 1033–53; David Collier and James Mahoney, “Conceptual ‘Stretching’ Revisited: Adapting Categories in Comparative Analysis,” American Political Science Review 87, no. 4 (December 1993): 845–55; David Collier and Steven Levitsky, “Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research,” World Politics 49, no. 3 (April 1997): 430–51; Goertz, Social Science Concepts.

13 There is at least an additional fourth option for how the term could be used, which is to refer to an idea that is held by individuals unconsciously, perhaps as an assumption. No such use was found in the existing literature on grand strategy per se. For an example of an investigation of the effect of this type of unconscious idea or assumption in the wider literature on foreign policy, see Amy King’s development and application of the concept of “background ideas” (as distinct from “foreground ideas”). Amy King, China-Japan Relations after World War Two: Empire, Industry and War, 1949–1971 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 7–9. King derives this concept from John L. Campbell’s concept of “background assumptions,” which he describes as “underlying and sometimes taken-for-granted.” “Foreground” ideas, by contrast, are “explicitly articulated by policy-making elites,” according to Campbell. John L. Campbell, “Institutional Analysis and the Role of Ideas in Political Economy,” Theory and Society 27, no. 3 (June 1998): 384. Barry R. Posen comes close to using the concept of grand strategy to refer to a background idea in the case of the United States. He notes, however, that there has been “a quiet consensus among the foreign and security policy elite” about US grand strategy since at least the end of the Cold War and that the grand strategy has been articulated in Pentagon plans and presidential statements, indicating that grand strategy is not, therefore, solely a background idea. Barry R. Posen, “Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony,” International Security 28, no. 1 (Summer 2003): 19–20.

14 James N. Rosenau, “Pre-Theories and Theories of Foreign Policy,” in The Study of World Politics, Vol. 2: Globalization and Governance, ed. James N. Rosenau (London: Routledge, 2006), 177.

15 Imre Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes,” in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 191, n. 104.

16 Andrew Bennett suggests that research programs can be “puzzle-driven.” According to this suggestion, efforts to explain grand strategy could be said to constitute a research program. Andrew Bennett, “A Lakatosian Reading of Lakatos: What Can We Salvage from the Hard Core?,” in Progress in International Relations Theory: Assessing the Field, ed. Colin Elman and Miriam Fendius Elman (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 456. On progressive and degenerative research programs, see Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes.”

17 For examples that explain this focus, see Christopher Layne, “The Influence of Theory on Grand Strategy: The United States and a Rising China,” in Rethinking Realism in International Relations: Between Tradition and Innovation, ed. Annette Freyberg-Inan, Ewan Harrison, and Patrick James (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 105; Brawley, Political Economy and Grand Strategy, 1–3; Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders, 125; Edward Rhodes, “Constructing Power: Cultural Transformation and Strategic Adjustment in the 1890s,” in The Politics of Strategic Adjustment: Ideas, Institutions, and Interests, ed. Peter Trubowitz, Emily O. Goldman, and Edward Joseph Rhodes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 34; Solingen, Regional Orders, 6–8; Richard Rosecrance and Arthur A. Stein, “Beyond Realism: The Study of Grand Strategy,” in Rosecrance and Stein, The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy, 12.

18 See the examples listed in footnote 3 above.

19 Lobell claims that the “bulk of the literature on grand strategy ignores the influence of domestic politics on international relations, treating the state as a unitary and rational actor,” but does not cite any examples. Lobell, The Challenge of Hegemony, 3. Similarly, Emily O. Goldman and John Aquila claim that the “dominant portrayal” of states’ strategy making is one in which the agents of the state are “attuned above all to the external balance of power,” as neorealism assumes. Emily O. Goldman and John Arquila, “Structure, Agency, and Choice: Toward a Theory and Practice of Grand Strategy,” in Trubowitz, Goldman, and Rhodes, The Politics of Strategic Adjustment, 306. Contrary to these claims, the author’s survey of the literature indicates a strong focus on unit-level factors in explaining grand strategy, which is consistent with Daniel Maliniak et al.’s more general empirical finding that “there is no evidence … that realism and its focus on power relations among states dominate, or since 1980 ever has dominated, the literature [in international relations].” Daniel Maliniak et al., “International Relations in the US Academy,” International Studies Quarterly 55, no. 2 (June 2011): abstract. For studies that do test the effects of the international system on grand strategy (or, in the case of Posen, on military doctrine as one element of grand strategy), see Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984); Benjamin Miller, “Explaining Changes in U.S. Grand Strategy: 9/11, the Rise of Offensive Liberalism, and the War in Iraq,” Security Studies 19, no. 1 (2010): 26–65; Michael Mastanduno, “Economics and Security in Statecraft and Scholarship,” International Organization 52, no. 4 (October 1998): 825–54. On applying neorealism to explaining outcomes at the unit level, see Colin Elman, “Horses for Courses: Why Not Neorealist Theories of Foreign Policy?” Security Studies 6, no. 1 (Autumn 1996): 7–53.

20 Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy?, 6, 9.

21 Colin Dueck, The Obama Doctrine: American Grand Strategy Today (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

22 David M. Edelstein and Ronald R. Krebs, “Delusions of Grand Strategy: The Problem with Washington’s Planning Obsession,” Foreign Affairs 94, no. 6 (November/December 2015): 109–116.

23 James Goldgeier and Jeremi Suri, “Revitalizing the U.S. National Security Strategy,” Washington Quarterly 38, no. 4 (Winter 2016): 35–55.

24 Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979), 9. Italics in the original. See also Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations: Philosophy of Science and its Implications for the Study of World Politics (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2011), chap. 5.

25 For important exceptions, see Narizny, Political Economy of Grand Strategy, 8–12; Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders, 9–13.

26 Goertz, Social Science Concepts, 4.

27 Ibid., 5. Note that Goertz uses the term “ontology” “in a straightforward way to designate the core characteristics of a phenomenon and their interrelationships,” a practice that is common in international relations and distinct from how the term is used in philosophy.

28 Ibid., 4.

29 Posen, Sources of Military Doctrine, 13.

30 Kennedy, “Towards a Broader Definition,” 4.

31 Posen is careful to distinguish military doctrine and grand strategy, with military doctrine being one “component” of grand strategy. Posen, Sources of Military Doctrine, 33.

32 Posen seems to lean toward this latter option when he states that “the analyst may be guided by [Posen’s] conceptualization [of grand strategy] in his [sic] attempt to ferret out the grand strategy of a state.” The formulation of this sentence ostensibly privileges the “analyst’s conceptualization” but simultaneously implies that the grand strategy of a state has an existence that is independent of the analyst’s efforts. Ibid., 13.

33 Williamson Murray, “Thoughts on Grand Strategy,” in The Shaping of Grand Strategy: Policy, Diplomacy, and War, ed. Williamson Murray, Richard Hart Sinnreich, and James Lacey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 3.

34 Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy?, 6.

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid., 1, 6, 9.

37 Ibid., 24.

38 Ibid., 3.

39 Ibid., 30.

40 Ibid., 6.

41 Ibid., 139.

42 Ibid., 24.

43 Hal Brands and Patrick Porter, “Why Grand Strategy Still Matters in a World of Chaos,” National Interest, 10 December 2015,

44 Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 75.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid., 9. Emphasis added.

47 Ibid., 76.

48 Basil H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, 2nd ed. (New York: Praeger, 1967), 321–22.

49 Michael Howard, Peter Paret, and Bernard Brodie, eds., Carl Von Clausewitz “On War” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), 128, 177.

50 Ibid., 606–7.

51 Liddell Hart, Strategy, 321–22.

52 Kennedy, “Towards a Broader Definition,” 4.

53 Ibid., 5–6.

54 Note that the chapters do not wholly encompass Kennedy’s definition because they tend to focus on war and not on peacetime.

55 Narizny, Political Economy of Grand Strategy, 8.

56 Brands and Porter, “Why Grand Strategy Still Matters.”

57 H. A. Sargeaunt and Geoffrey West, Grand Strategy (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1941), vii.

58 Catherine Dale, “National Security Strategy: Mandates, Execution to Date, and Issues for Congress,” CRS Report R43174 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 6 August 2013), 3.

59 For critiques of NSSs, see Adam Quinn, “Obama’s National Security Strategy: Predicting US Policy in the Context of Changing Worldviews,” Chatham House Research Paper (January 2015),; Dale, “National Security Strategy,” 3–4; Barry D. Watts, “Barriers to Acting Strategically: Why Strategy is So Difficult,” in Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, History, and Practice, ed. Thomas G. Mahnken (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 59; Walter B. Slocombe, “A Crisis of Opportunity: The Clinton Administration and Russia,” in In Uncertain Times: American Foreign Policy after the Berlin Wall and 9/11, ed. Melvyn P. Leffler and Jeffrey W. Legro (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011), 91; Philip Zelikow, “U.S. Strategic Planning in 2001–02,” in Leffler and Legro, In Uncertain Times, endnote 60; Richard P. Rumelt, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters (New York: Random House, 2011), 33–36. cf. John Lewis Gaddis, “A Grand Strategy of Transformation,” Foreign Policy 133 (November–December 2002): 50–57; and—in relation to Australian national security strategy documents—Stephan Frühling, “Ghosts of Papers Past: The Strategic Basis Papers and Australian National Security Strategy in the Twenty-First Century,” National Security College Occasional Paper 3 (April 2012),

60 George F. Kennan, “The Charge in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State,” National Security Archive, 22 February 1946,

61 Robert R. Bowie and Richard H. Immerman, Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), chap. 8.

62 The Executive Secretary, “A Report to the National Security Council—NSC 68,” 12 April 1950, Truman Library,

63 Andrew W. Marshall and James Roche, “Strategy for Competing with the Soviets in the Military Sector of the Continuing Political-Military Competition,” Department of Defense Memorandum (1976),

64 On the Defense Strategy Review, see Nina Silove, “The Pivot before the Pivot: U.S. Strategy to Preserve the Power Balance in Asia,” International Security 40, no. 4 (Spring 2016): 54–58.

65 For an assessment of written strategies in post-World War II US history, see Goldgeier and Suri, “Revitalizing the U.S. National Security Strategy.”

66 Geoffrey Parker, The Grand Strategy of Philip II (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 2.

67 Ibid., 209–10.

68 Ibid., 293.

69 Ibid., xvii.

70 Feaver, “What is Grand Strategy?” Emphasis added.

71 Stephen M. Walt, “The Case for Finite Containment: Analyzing U.S. Grand Strategy,” International Security 14, no. 1 (Summer 1989): 6.

72 Note, however, that Krasner considers such designs to be “elusive holy grail[s].” Stephen D. Krasner, “An Orienting Principle for Foreign Policy,” Policy Review 163 (October and November 2010): 2. Emphasis added.

73 The term “organizing principle” is used in Lobell, Taliaferro, and Ripsman, “Grand Strategy between the World Wars,” 15; Harry J. Karzianis, “America: A Superpower in Search of a Grand Strategy,” National Interest, 16 January 2016,; Noah Gordon, “Does America Need an ‘Organizing Principle?’,” Atlantic, 14 August 2014, “Overarching” can be found in Martel, Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice, 33.

74 Henry A. Kissinger, “Background Press Briefing by the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Foreign Relations of the United States 1969–1976, vol. 1, 14 August 1970, document 69, Brands quotes Kissinger to make this point in Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy?, 67.

75 Dueck, Obama Doctrine, 5.

76 Goldstein, Rising to the Challenge, 17.

77 Martel, Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice, 33.

78 Ibid., 32; Brands and Porter, “Why Grand Strategy Still Matters.”

79 John B. Hattendorf, “Alliance, Encirclement, and Attrition: British Grand Strategy in the War of the Spanish Succession, 1702–1713,” in Kennedy, Grand Strategies in War and Peace, 11.

80 Arthur Ferrill, “The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire,” ibid., 74.

81 Edelstein and Krebs, “Delusions of Grand Strategy.”

82 Miller, “Explaining Changes in U.S. Grand Strategy,” 29.

83 Derek H. Chollet and James M. Goldgeier, America between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11 (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008), 65.

84 As demonstrated in John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). This point is made in Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy?, 4–5.

85 Quoted in Chollet and Goldgeier, America Between the Wars, 316.

86 Charles N. Edel, Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 62.

87 Barry R. Posen and Andrew L. Ross, “Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy,” International Security 21, no. 3 (Winter 1996/97), 5.

88 Ibid., 9.

89 Hattendorf, “Alliance, Encirclement, and Attrition,” 13.

90 Ibid., 11.

91 Aaron L. Friedberg, ‘Going Out’: China’s Pursuit of Natural Resources and Implications for the PRC’s Grand Strategy (Seattle, WA: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2006), 9. Another example is provided by S. Paul Kapur, who identifies “supporting jihad” as a “deliberate, long-running policy” that constitutes a “central pillar of Pakistani grand strategy.” S. Paul Kapur, Jihad as Grand Strategy: Islamist Militancy, National Security and the Pakistani State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 8. Kapur uses public statements and internal government reports as evidence of the existence of that idea, in addition to observations of Pakistan’s behavior.

92 Posen, Sources of Military Doctrine, 13.

93 Gordon Adams and Cindy Williams, Buying National Security: How America Plans and Pays for Its Global Role and Safety at Home (New York: Routledge, 2010), 1.

94 Ibid.

95 John P. LeDonne, The Grand Strategy of the Russian Empire: 1650–1831 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 6.

96 Ibid., 5–6.

97 Ibid., 7.

98 Revealed preference theory posits that consumers’ preferences are revealed by their purchasing choices. For a foundational article, see P. A. Samuelson, “A Note on the Pure Theory of Consumer’s Behaviour,” Economica 5, no. 17 (February 1938): 61–71. For a critique, see Stanley Wong, Foundations of Paul Samuelson’s Revealed Preference Theory: A Study by the Method of Rational Reconstruction, rev. ed. (London: Routledge, 2006).

99 Edward N. Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 409.

100 Ibid.

101 Henry Mintzberg, “Of Strategies, Deliberate and Emergent,” in Tracking Strategies: Toward a General Theory, ed. Henry Mintzberg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 5. This research was first applied to grand strategy in Ionut C. Popescu, Design and Emergence in the Making of American Grand Strategy (PhD diss., Duke University: 2013), cited with permission from the author.

102 Ibid., 1. Italics in the original.

103 Ibid.

104 Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders, 11.

105 Ibid.

106 Narizny, Political Economy of Grand Strategy, 10.

107 Solingen, Regional Orders, 9. A similar approach is adopted in Walter Russell Mead, Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America’s Grand Strategy in a World at Risk (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 18–19.

108 Dueck Reluctant Crusaders; Luttwak, Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, 11. Luttwak also uses the term “operational code.” Ibid., 409, 418.

109 Narizny, Political Economy of Grand Strategy.

110 Solingen, Regional Orders.

111 Lobell, Challenge of Hegemony, 3.

112 Ibid., 16.

113 For a summary conclusion that demonstrates this point, see ibid., 65.

114 Brooks and Wohlforth, America Abroad, 75.

115 Christopher Layne, The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), chap. 1.

116 Ibid., 3.

117 Those associated with the US military will tend to add “ways” as a third element to this list, but most scholars use the term “means” to refer to both the resources mobilized as well as the ways in which they are mobilized. The distinction between ways and means makes sense in the military sphere, where materiel and doctrine are distinct. Equivalent distinctions in other spheres of statecraft are relatively less meaningful, for example, between the structure of a diplomatic corps and the activities of that corps.

118 NSSs are commonly lists of goals and fail to identify means to those ends. Rumelt, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, 34. Exhibiting the opposite tendency, Krasner and Amy B. Zegart primarily focus on means in their prescription for US grand strategy, arguing that the United States’ goals—which they identify only in general terms such as “democracy, prosperity, and liberty”—“are not contested.” Stephen D. Krasner and Amy B. Zegart, “Pragmatic Engagement,” American Interest, 4 May 2016.

119 Liddell Hart, Strategy, 322.

120 Kennedy, “Towards a Broader Definition,” 4.

121 Ibid., 5.

122 Barry R. Posen, Restraint: A New Foundational for U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 1.

123 Robert J. Art, America’s Grand Strategy and World Politics (New York: Routledge, 2009), 190.

124 Posen, Restraint, 1.

125 On these assumptions, see Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 91–92.

126 Narizny, Political Economy of Grand Strategy, 9.

127 Gaddis, “What Is Grand Strategy?,” 7; Robert J. Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 45–46.

128 Gaddis, “What Is Grand Strategy?,” 7.

129 Layne, Peace of Illusions, 13; Art, A Grand Strategy for America, 45.

130 Stephen D. Biddle, American Grand Strategy after 9/11: An Assessment (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2005), 1.

131 Howard, Paret, and Brodie, eds., Carl von Clausewitz “On War,” 606–7.

132 Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy?, 1, 7; Luttwak, Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, 409. See also, generally, Martel, Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice.

133 Ibid., 32; Lobell, Challenge of Hegemony, 3. Relatedly, Brawley writes of “harmonizing” means and ends. Brawley, Political Economy and Grand Strategy, 3.

134 Martel, Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice, 32–33. Emphasis added.

135 On the positive and negative poles of concepts, see Goertz, Social Science Concepts, 30–35.

136 Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy?, 9–10, chap. 4.

137 Ibid., 6–7.

138 Howard, Paret, and Brodie, eds., Carl von Clausewitz “On War,” 177, 213, 585–94.

139 Liddell Hart, Strategy, 322–23.

140 For statements of this equation, see, for example, Murray, “Thoughts on Grand Strategy,” 1; Kennedy, “Towards a Broader Definition,” 6.

141 Ibid., 4.

142 See Leffler and Legro, eds., In Uncertain Times; Emily O. Goldman, Power in Uncertain Times: Strategy in the Fog of Peace (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011); Daniel W. Drezner, ed., Avoiding Trivia: The Role of Strategic Planning in American Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2009); Bruce W. Jentleson and Andrew Bennett, “Policy Planning: Oxymoron or Sine Qua Non for U.S. Foreign Policy?” in Good Judgment in Foreign Policy: Theory and Application, ed. Stanley A. Renshon and Deborah Welch Larson (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 219–46.

143 For exceptions, see Jordan Tama, “Does Strategic Planning Matter? The Outcomes of U.S. National Security Reviews,” Political Science Quarterly 130, no. 4 (Winter 2015): 735–65; Jordan Tama, “The Politics of Strategy: Why Government Agencies Conduct Major Strategic Reviews,” Journal of Public Policy 37 no. 1 (March 2017): 27–54; Popescu, Design and Emergence.

144 See, for example, G. John Ikenberry, “Creating Yesterday’s New World Order: Keynesian ‘New Thinking’ and the Anglo-American Postwar Settlement,” in Judith Goldstein and Robert O. Keohane, ed. Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), 57–86; King, China–Japan Relations.

145 Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 320–21.

146 For an example of research that adopts this lens, see Silove, “Pivot before the Pivot.”

147 For exceptions, see Narizny, Political Economy of Grand Strategy; Brendan Taylor, Sanctions as Grand Strategy (London: International Institute of Strategic Studies Adelphi Paper 411, 2010); Lars S. Skålnes, Politics, Markets, and Grand Strategy: Foreign Economic Policies as Strategic Instruments (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2000).

148 Posen and Ross, “Competing Visions,” 8, n. 8.

149 For two examples, see Ethan B. Kapstein, “Two Dismal Sciences Are Better Than One—Economics and the Study of National Security: A Review Essay,” International Security 27, no. 3 (Winter 2002/03): 158–87; Norrin M. Ripsman, “False Dichotomies: Why Economics Is High Politics,” in Guns and Butter: The Political Economy of International Security, ed. Peter Dombrowski (Boulder, CO: Lynn Rienner, 2005): 15–34.

150 On this project, see Mastanduno “Economics and Security.”

151 Posen, Restraint.

152 Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, “Don’t Come Home, America: The Case against Retrenchment,” International Security 37, no. 3 (Winter 2012/13): 7–51.

153 The author thanks David T. Smith for the “orphans” metaphor.

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