In This Review

What Good Is Grand Strategy?: Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush
What Good Is Grand Strategy?: Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush
By Hal Brands
Cornell University Press, 2014, 288 pp
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This remarkable book catapults Brands into the foremost ranks of a new generation of U.S. strategic thinkers. Brands brilliantly combines an analysis of the grand strategies of selected presidents (Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush) with an investigation into the nature and value of the very concept of grand strategy. Throughout, his analysis is evenhanded and insightful. He argues that an effective presidency requires a conscious strategic framework even when the pressure of events makes it impossible to adhere rigidly to an overall grand design. The task of formulating a grand strategy relies less on creating rigid plans than on examining and testing the sometimes contradictory assumptions that drive U.S. policy. Future presidential administrations would do well to embrace this vision at a time when the United States faces limited resources and a bewildering array of challenges. On the evidence of this closely reasoned book, Brands will have much to contribute to the strategic debates that lie ahead.