Is a Grand Strategy Necessary?

By | March 27, 2015

[March 27, 2015] There are many world leaders that claim the United States has neither a grand strategy for the Middle East nor one for its own national security. Furthermore they claim this has lead to greater instability around the world. Such bold commentary from such high ranking leaders is worthy of a response.1

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu

Students of leadership, as we all are, have the duty to learn from any circumstance with the potential to improve our personal understanding of how leadership works and its influences … whether good or bad. Such is the case with the recent attention focused on the Middle East and the complexities of the many governments, religious fundamentalism, oil resources, and age old animosities.

Examination of recent destabilizing events in the Middle East tells us we are witnessing the Shia-Sunni conflict spill over into greater violence with a global threat of nuclear weapon use. Since the U.S. has no clearly articulated strategy in the region and our allies not trusting America to back them, some Middle East countries are pursuing their own programs to protect themselves. Thus the claim that a U.S. strategic retrenchment has made things less safe.

Is this really the case? Or as some have suggested, we are actually experiencing a resurgence of political power and culture from the Middle East? Or, perhaps the U.S. does have a strategy but it’s a secret. The struggle nations have without a strategy is that they experience every crisis as an independent event to be addressed as such. Each crisis requires tremendous effort because it is not seen in the context of vision and priorities already established by that nation.

Regardless of the questions we ask as students of leadership, one thing is clear. A grand strategy is absolutely necessary to ensure a stable world. Stability means less killing and destruction, greater chances at improved economic, social, and religious well-being, and opportunities for human greatness. But stability cannot be a de facto policy. It must be clearly expressed in simple, understandable terms, built upon consensus, and backed by a strong military.

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[1] Yes, having a grand strategy is necessary; more so for a powerful nation. The reasons for strategy are straight forward and have been commented on before (see Leadership and Grand Strategy). Any strategy, especially grand strategy, allows us to:

  • Prioritize objectives & goals.
  • Align resources.
  • Provide a guide for all activities.
  • Clarify the unknowns and risks.
  • Establish a realistic end-state.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.