Grand strategy is the art of developing and applying diverse forms of power in an effective and efficient way to try to purposefully change the relationship existing between two or more intelligent and adaptive entities.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, 1871

The epigraph by Lewis Carroll neatly sums up the plight in which the term grand strategy finds itself. It is now a Humpty Dumpty word for which many hold their own unique understanding. This has arisen because many historians and international relations scholars simply create a definition for themselves when writing that fits the arguments they wish to make. They mainly use the term to buttress their opinions about specific historical cases and particular academic theories. They are not trying nor, indeed, intendingto create a general, generic definition.

Recognising this, there is now a small cottage industry examining how the term varies between authors and across time. These works find what they set out to find, and many are fascinating historical works well worth exploring.

However, it is surely past time to move on and try to develop a functional meaning of the phrase. This means moving away from today’s deliberately idiosyncratic formulations that are only useful in at best a few selected circumstances.

Please click here to read the full “Defining Grand Strategy” article published at The Strategy Bridge, written by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow, Dr Peter Layton.