The “dos and don’ts” of strategy making
The Strategic Concept is NATO’s most important document after the Washington Treaty. It identifies the foundational elements of the Alliance: it defines NATO’s strategic goals, the key risks and threats the Alliance faces, and designs a strategy of how to overcome those challenges. Since its inception, NATO has adopted six Strategic Concepts. The latest one was published in 2010. Given the extraordinary events of the last decade if not months, including Russian aggression in Ukraine and China’s increasingly assertive posturing in the Asia Pacific, a new NATO Strategic Concept is urgently needed and will be presented at the 2022 Madrid Summit. In this context, it is worth asking: how do we design good strategy? What are the main building blocks of strategy? How can NATO most efficiently integrate the variety of tools at its disposal into a coherent, cohesive whole? Practitioners and academics have over the years identified best practices in strategy design along with some common mistakes.1 This Policy Brief summarizes their most important findings.
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* (back) Professor of International Relations and Director of the Centre for International Security at the Hertie School in Berlin.
1 (back) This discussion draws from insights by H. Brands, What good is grand strategy?: Power and purpose in American statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2014; N. Silove, “Beyond the buzzword: the three meanings of ‘grand strategy’”, Security Studies, Vol.27, No.1, 2018; J. L. Gaddis, Strategies of containment: a critical appraisal of American national security policy during the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 2005. A. F. Krepinevich and B. D. Watts, Regaining strategic competence, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Washington, DC, 2009. F. J. Gavin, Nuclear weapons and American Grand Strategy, Brookings Institution Press, 2020. B. R. Posen and A. L. Ross, “Competing visions for US grand strategy”, International Security, Vol.21, No.3, 1997. R. K. Betts, “Is strategy an illusion?”, International security, Vol.25, No.2, 2000. R. Friedman Lissner, “What is Grand Strategy? Sweeping a conceptual minefield”, Texas National Security Review, Vol.2, No.1, 2018.