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News | Oct. 1, 2014

The Grand Strategy of the United States

By R.D. Hooker, Jr. Strategic Monograph


Grand StrategyFrom the earliest days of the Republic, the outlines of an evolving American grand strategy have been evident in our foreign and domestic policy. Much of that history continues to inform our strategic conduct, and therefore American grand strategy rests today on traditional foundations. Despite a welter of theory and debate, grand strategy as a practical matter is remarkably consistent from decade to decade, with its means altering as technology advances and institutions evolve but its ends and ways showing marked continuity.

Grand strategy can be understood simply as the use of power to secure the state. Thus, it exists at a level above particular strategies intended to secure particular ends and above the use of military power alone to achieve political objectives. One way to comprehend grand strategy is to look for long-term state behavior as defined by enduring, core security interests and how the state secures and advances them over time. In a way, this means that what the state does matters more than what the state says. Grand strategy is therefore related to, but not synonymous with, National Security Strategies, National Military Strategies, Quadrennial Defense Reviews, or Defense Strategic Guidance. Grand strategy transcends the security pronouncements of political parties or individual administrations. Viewed in this light, American grand strategy shows great persistence over time, orienting on those things deemed most important—those interests for which virtually any administration will spend, legislate, threaten, or fight to defend.