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Ramses II at Kadesh.jpgGustavus Adolphus at the Battle at Breitenfeld.jpgM1A1 abrams front.jpg Military history


Grand strategy comprises the "purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community".[1] Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart says about grand stategy:

[T]he role of grand strategy – higher strategy – is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object of the war – the goal defined by fundamental policy.

Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the economic resources and man-power of nations in order to sustain the fighting services. Also the moral resources – for to foster the people's willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power. Grand strategy, too, should regulate the distribution of power between the several services, and between the services and industry. Moreover, fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand strategy – which should take account of and apply the power of financial pressure, and, not least of ethical pressure, to weaken the opponent's will. ...

Furthermore, while the horizons of strategy is bounded by the war, grand strategy looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace. It should not only combine the various instruments, but so regulate their use as to avoid damage to the future state of peace – for its security and prosperity.[2]

Issues of grand strategy typically include the choice of primary versus secondary theaters in war, distribution of resources among the various services, the general types of armaments manufacturing to favor, and which international alliances best suit national goals. Grand strategy has considerable overlap with foreign policy, but grand strategy focuses primarily on the military implications of policy, and is typically directed by the political leadership of a country, with input from the most senior military officials. The development of a nation's grand strategy may extend across many years or even multiple generations.

Some have extended the concept of grand strategy to describe multi-tiered strategies in general, including strategic thinking at the level of corporations and political parties.


Historical examples

A historical example of this was the decision of King Cetshwayo and the Zulu Kingdom to attack the encamped British Army at the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879; this would ensure the British would take a more aggressive approach to the invasion in future, leading to their eventual triumph at the Battle of Ulundi.
A classic example of modern grand strategy is the decision of the Allies in World War II to concentrate on the defeat of Germany first. The decision, a joint agreement made after the attack on Pearl Harbor had drawn the US into the war, was a sensible one in that Germany was the most powerful member of the Axis, and directly threatened the continued existence of both the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. Conversely, while Japan's conquests garnered considerable public attention, they were mostly in colonial areas deemed less essential by planners and policymakers. The specifics of Allied military strategy in the Pacific War was therefore shaped by the lesser resources made available to the theatre commanders.
A more recent example of grand strategy was the policy of containment used by the US and the UK during the Cold War.

See also




  1. ^ Gray, Colin: War, Peace and International Relations - An Introduction to Strategic History, Oxon: Routledge 2007, p. 283.
  2. ^ Liddell Hart, B. H. Strategy London: Faber & Faber, 1967. 2nd rev. ed. p.322

Further reading

  • Biddle, Stephen. American Grand Strategy After 9/11: An Assessment. 50pp. April 2005
  • Clausewitz, Carl von. On War
  • Fuller, J.F.C.. The Generalship of Alexander the Great
  • Kolliopoulos. Grand strategy of ancient Sparta. Piotita Publications.
  • Kondilis, P. Theory of War
  • Kondilis, P. Power and decision
  • Liddell Hart, B. H. Strategy. London:Faber, 1967 (2nd rev. ed.)
  • Luttwak. The Grand strategy of the Roman Empire
  • Papasotiriou, Harry. Grand strategy of the Byzantine Empire
  • Platias, A. International Relations and Grand Strategy in Thucydides
  • Wright, Steven. The United States and Persian Gulf Security: The Foundations of the War on Terror, Ithaca Press, 2007 ISBN 978-0863723216


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