[eDebate] grand strategy v. national security

Calum Matheson u.hrair
Wed Dec 24 13:33:41 CST 2008

I'm obviously not given to brief responses, so I apologize.  The first,
really long, section is about defining "grand strategy" and some of the
alternatives.  The next section is about what the topic is supposed to be,
and dealing more with ground and strategic (in a debate sense) things.

I: Defining "grand strategy"

"National Security Strategy" does not, I think, solve the problems with
"grand strategy," and in fact may create more of them.  The National
Security Strategy is a single document, and forcing the aff to change it
only creates the counterplans that Antonucci mentioned and accomplishes
little else.  I do indeed loathe those counterplans.  Some of them don't
make much sense (like covertly withdraw American troops deployed overseas?)
and a number of them probably couldn't be done without presidential
authorization.  The "buid UAVs" aff, by the way, would have to be the "build
UAVs and withdraw thousands of US troops" aff.  One technological change
won't be grand strategy, and the counteplan to just build the UAVs without
withdrawing troops is what provides the best limit in my opinion, not
process PICs based on "national security."

I'd rather not focus on process, but "grand strategy" does mean some of
these are possible because although the US does not have an official grand
strategy, many academics believe that the NSS amounts to American grand
strategy.  That's okay with me.  I know some people like those C/Ps, so I
think the topic should make them possible, but not make them automatically
compete by tying the aff to a mechanism as specific as changing the NSS.
There's a debate about competition this way--I may be alone in thinking
process PICs are boring, but I'm probably not alone in thinking that we
shouldn't choose a term just to avoid focusing debates on the actual
desirability of withdrawing US forces.

Also, I think it's a mistake to think of "grand" and "national" just as
adjectives that modify "strategy."  It should be apparent now that these are
all extensively-debated terms of art, so it's a mistake to break the terms
apart.  I didn't want to include the adjective "grand," but rather to make
the topic about "grand strategy," which is a different conceptual category,
not just "strategy that is grand."

Here's some definitional stuff about NSS:

First, there are definitions that make it indistinct from "grand strategy."
Here's what the DoD has to say:

"National strategy
The art and science of developing and using the diplomatic, economic, and
informational powers of a nation, together with its armed forces, during
peace and war to secure national objectives. Also called national security
strategy or grand strategy. "
(Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms)

The "Dictionary of Modern Strategy and Tactics" also says that the three
terms are equivalent.

Second, there are definitions that define "National Security Strategy" as a
broader concept than "grand strategy."  By the way, I'm capitalizing it
because the term has two meanings--one can talk about "national security
strategy" in general, which seems to be what the DoD definition there is
about, but the "National Security Strategy" is a particular document.
Here's a discussion about the two terms by Terry Deibel:

"[M]any writers on grand strategy go even further, putting the connection of
strategy with war in second place and arguing that strategic thinking should
be applied to the whole field of national security...All the instruments of
state power were included...grand strategy thus became nearly synonymous
with a much newer term, "national security strategy," defined by a
congressional panel as "the art and science of employing and using the
political, economic, and psychological powers of a nation, together with its
armed forces, during peace and war, to secure national objectives."  Today,
in fact, most writers on *grand* strategy use that term in ways that cannot
be distinguished from that definition of *national security* strategy."
(Italics in original)

So some writers use "grand strategy" imprecisely to mean something much
broader, namely "national security strategy."  Deibel thinks it should be
narrower, and be applied only to military aims:

"This study argues that the term "grand strategy" should be reserved for the
use to which Liddell Hart put it, that is, to represent the broadest
planning for and the conduct of war; encompassing all the policy
instruments, nonmilitary as well as military; tailoring them to meet the
political goals of the state; and considering how the conduct of hostilities
will affect the peace to follow.  This definition of grand strategy is not
in accord with its usage in much recent literature, however, because it
deliberately excludes the efforts of a nation to maintain security while at
peace.  Those will be included here in the term "national security
strategy," limited to goals that have mainly to do with the protection of
the nation's physical security against attack ? presumably the most
important area of the national interest, but far from the only one with
which strategic thinking should deal.  National security strategy would thus
include grand strategy properly defined, with the latter operating within
the former when the nation is at war and the two becoming less and less
distinguishable to the extent that the war becomes total (see Figure 1.1.)."

This may also deal with some other objections, such as the "PIC out of
changing C/P" which I will discuss in more detail below.  "Grand strategy"
is only a plan for wartime--the status quo qualifies certainly--where as
once war ends, the same ideas and directives become "national security
strategy."  I think this means that the aff doesn't have to defend that the
plan ties the hands of all future administrations forever.

Here's some ev that "strategy" should be limited to military action (Colin

"strategy is?about the threat and use of force for political reasons."


""it is important to keep the meaning of strategy clear and relatively
narrow?my own strong preference?is for the meaning of strategy and strategic
to be confined to the more restricted and clearest of the uses specified by
Clausewitz.  Strategy is about the threat or use of force for the political
purpose of the war."

More evidence that "grand strategy" means military changes--perhaps narrower
still (Lars Skalnes, crazy Nordic punctuation omitted):

"American scholars in the decades after World War II increasingly adopted a
narrow conception of grand strategy and concentrated most of their attention
on the purely military instruments available to great powers. Foreign
economic policy was consigned to the realm of low politics?Posen's commonly
cited definition of *grand strategy* as a "political-military means-ends
chain" (1984, 13) implies a narrow conception of grand strategy.  He and
others have completely ignored economic means."

"Mearsheimer?defines *grand strategy* as "the relationship between military
means and international commitments."

There are a bunch of footnotes here too--I don't have them yet, but that
suggests you've got a lot more potential cards out there.

One more concern about "national security strategy"--I want to ensure that
the aff makes broad changes that aren't confined to a single theater.  This
is a bit trickier, but when the word "strategy" is used in a *military
context* it is distinguishable from "operational" in that it forces a
broader change.  As above, "national security strategy" uses the word also
in a peacetime sense, so it could potentially allow smaller affs as well as
all of the broader, grand strategic ones.  Here's a card about grand
strategy vs. operational strategy:

"Strategy  A military term that denotes a long-term plan, to be
distinguished from 'tactics' which relates to conduct of battles. 'Theartre
strategy' refers to planning in a particular theatre of war, while 'grand
strategy' is concerned with military logistics and continental or world

II: Counterplans, etc.

Okay.  Here's the part about counterplan concerns and debate-strategic

First, the phrase "grand strategy" will be in one of the resolutions I write
about, and I currently favor it, but I'll suggest alternatives too.
Everyone seems to be forgetting the "reduce overseas deployments" part.  If
you write an aff to reauthorize the Crusader program (or whatever), it might
be small and unpredictable...but you also have to fiat a troop withdrawal.
"Counterplan: reauthorize Crusader" solves that aff.  This is like
constructive engagement on the old sanctions topic (I'm old, yeah,
whatever).  You could do anything that was "constructive engagement" but you
also had to lift sanctions, meaning that if the plan had two parts, you had
to have an advocate for doing both together.  Those didn't really exist.
Similarly, "grand strategy" allows you to do a lot of things, but you won't,
because the neg will PIC out of them.

Second, "grand strategy" is a limiting term in some important ways, based on
the definitions above (and others).  The neg can probably win that it
requires a change outside of a single theater (so no "withdraw from Iraq"
aff, unless it also reduces US troop presence elsewhere).  It means the aff
can't just change something tactical or doctrinal.  In this sense, the term
is limiting because it is broad--it's big; it's defined by it's level and

Third, about this "do the plan but don't change strategy" thing.

a) I'm yet to hear what the net benefit to this is, or have anyone provide a
single link card.

b) This is partly why I like the term "grand strategy." There are plenty of
cards that describe American grand strategy, and even say that it is usually
defined by the NSS (or NMS even).  But this doesn't mean that the aff
necessarily has to change that document--the terms "national security
strategy" or even "national strategy" probably require that, but grand
strategy may not.  The definition by Robert Art is really important
here--grand strategy is the plan for how American military assets will be
employed to accomplish a goal--it is not necessarily the goal itself.  The
aff is not required to change the NSS to create a change in American grand
strategy, although there are certainly cards that say that would be
involved.  There is thus a debate about whether the counterplan competes,
but less of a debate about whether this elusive "change strategy disad"

c) I'll use an analogy to this current topic, indisputably the best
soybean-related topic we've ever had.  No one reads a PIC to just eliminate
subsidies without changing agricultural policy.  Few teams even put
"agricultural policy" in the plan.  Similarly, most plans about strategy
would be something like this:  "The United States Federal Government should
significantly reduce it's overseas military deployments and employ its
forces for a offshore balancing."  The aff can say that this amounts to
adopting a new grand strategy, but they don't have to put the phrase in
their plan--the "normal means" for doing the plan entails revisions of many
US planning documents, but it would be tough to write a counterplan to avoid
this.  The idea that the NSS officially defines US grand strategy is not
legally true--it is just usually the case.  I haven't yet found a card
saying that changing grand strategy requires changing the NSS, just that the
NSS is usually interpreted as a statement defining current grand strategy.
Here's the important part: "grand strategy" might *allow* the aff to do
things that are broader than military deployment changes, but it might not
*require* them to do these things.

d) The "restricted to military means" interpretation may mean you don't have
to change this document.  The controversial parts of the NSS are mostly the
goals, not the means, which under the Art interpretation above, you probably
don't have to change--this is also the most limiting interpretation of the
topic, so that's probably good.  The aff could easily say that it changes
the NMS, or that changes in either document are a result of the plan, not
the action of it.  This is the advantage of using a term, like grand
strategy, that is meaningful, but not tied to a very specific legal
mechanism.  You can read link cards to the NSS disad (if it's out there),
but you can't really read the NSS PIC.

Finally, Josh Hoe:  yes, the topic allows the aff to make US forces more
effective.  The aff can abolish the military or whatever, but the topic will
mostly be about what strategies are useful.  It's not the "reduce American
power" topic, it's the "adopt a new strategy" topic.  The aff can definitely
do either, but the primary disad to the second ("you hurt American power,
that's bad") applies to the first--and you don't even have to read a link.
Also, the aff could do RMA, etc., but they still have to defend a troop
withdrawal, so you could PIC out of the withdrawal part if the aff did
something minor, as explained above.

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