Author Biography

Bryan Groves is currently the Deputy Director of the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. A 2008 graduate from Yale University's Masters of Arts in International Relations program and a 1998 West Point alum, he is a Special Forces Officer and has served in Iraq and Bosnia. Most recently he served as part of a four-man team from the CTC advising General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry on external factors influencing the militant landscape in Afghanistan. At West Point, he has taught courses on terrorism and counterterrorism as well as on international relations. His research interests lie in the Security Studies, Grand Strategy, and European Studies genres. He can be reached for comment at: bryan.groves@usma.edu.



Subject Area Keywords

Conflict studies, Diplomacy, History, Irregular warfare, National power, Strategy


Effective national leaders throughout history have deliberately developed grand strategies and successfully implemented them to attain their political goals, while also integrating and accomplishing economic, social, defense, and sometimes religious objectives. Not all leaders have been successful, however, as this process is immensely complex and can be adversely affected by the actions of other leaders around their region and the world. It bears examination, then, to determine what factors contribute to successful grand strategies and why many leaders fail to reach their stated ends. This article utilizes a historic case study approach and explores three key areas of grand strategy: universal principles, Clausewitzian approaches, and indirect approaches. I handle each separately and in distinct fashion, though some connective tissue does interlace across sections. Additionally, the unifying argument is that thoughtful, rational leaders, who weigh the costs and benefits associated with each course of action available to them, still must heed the truths embedded in these three sections to attain their objectives. Not doing so often leads to failure, unrealized goals, and a nation gone awry.