Document Type

Colloquium Brief

Publication Date



Academic grand strategists are very much aware of the importance of, the need for, and situational determinants of grand strategy after a change in the strategic environment, typified by a hot or cold war. The difficulty of predicting the time, importance, or response to the next “significant” period requires a substantial change in American grand strategy. The Obama administration will surely attempt to remedy the “grand strategic deficit” that has plagued U.S. foreign policy for the past 20 years. The participants generally agreed that a solid grand strategy needs to articulate U.S. national interests and threats to those interests, prioritize among threats and opportunities, and address much more seriously the connection between “ends” and “means.” A sophisticated discussion of capabilities and available resources has been lacking in recent debates on American grand strategy. The present economic environment and the challenges facing the federal budget over the next couple of decades make it all the more important to better integrate economic considerations into grand strategic planning. Even if the war in Iraq continues on a favorable trajectory and the U.S. military proves able to disengage in a successful manner, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan will force the Obama administration to forge a new grand strategy in a wartime environment. It is important to remember that the most crucial grand strategic priority in wartime is to win the war currently being fought. Hence, the adoption of a new grand strategy needs to account for this fact and ensure the necessary resources are allocated to defeat the threat most immediate to American national interest. One of the most important challenges for the Obama administration will be to achieve this delicate balance between the short-term requirements of present conflicts and the medium- and long-term demands of any new grand strategy they may adopt.