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What Good Is Grand Strategy?: Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush Paperback – December 19, 2014
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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.... 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."-- Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs
"For a young academic historian, Brands has an unusually subtle and accurate sense of the challenges that US policymakers face in implementing grand strategies.... Brands's masterful work also serves as a reminder that the legacies of the more recent and controversial presidential foreign policies will need to be evaluated by subsequent generations not emotionally attached to the events themselves."-- Russel Crandall, Survival: Global Politics & Strategy
"This is a solid piece of scholarship that should be of great value in modern American history classes, foreign policy surveys, and course work in international relations."-- Brooks Flippen, H-Net Reviews
"Hal Brands provides order and structure to ongoing discussions about the nature and implementation of grand strategy. His overview of grand strategy analyzes and assesses the grand strategies of Truman, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 43. This compelling book fills an important niche; it should become a core text in the study of grand strategy and foreign policy."-- Francis J. Gavin, Tom Slick Professor of International Affairs and Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, University of Texas at Austin, author of Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America's Atomic Age
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Brands discusses U.S. Grand Strategy as it was developed under Presidents Truman, Nixon, Reagan, George W. Bush. He does so in an apolitical and objective manner that is refreshing in this age ideology. The development of a Grand Strategy for the Cold War under President Truman has been discussed in much more detail in other books, but this book provides a good summary of the processes involved. The exploration of the efforts of President Nixon and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger to develop the ultra Grand Strategy and their failure to do so makes for fascinating reading. Perhaps the biggest surprise for this reviewer in this book was the revelation of what a really brilliant strategist President Reagan was and the power of a simple, but clear and consistent vision can have on Grand Strategy. The final discussion of Grand Strategy under George W. Bush is a sad example of what happens when ideologues allow their own delusions to replace objective analysis in the formulation Grand Strategies.
In short this is an excellent book that ought to be required reading for anyone who actually wants to understand what grand strategy is and it can be executed.