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Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy

How American Presidents Succeed in Foreign Policy

Ionut Popescu

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What if successful strategies are sometimes formed through an emergent process of learning and adaptation?

Is following a coherent grand strategy the key to achieving successful outcomes in American foreign policy? For many experts in academia and Washington, the answer is yes. Policymakers usually face criticism when they take incremental actions based on short-term considerations. But could such actions actually converge into a successful emergent strategy over time?

Ionut Popescu conclusively shows that in some cases, an emergent learning model leads to better overall strategic performance…

What if successful strategies are sometimes formed through an emergent process of learning and adaptation?

Is following a coherent grand strategy the key to achieving successful outcomes in American foreign policy? For many experts in academia and Washington, the answer is yes. Policymakers usually face criticism when they take incremental actions based on short-term considerations. But could such actions actually converge into a successful emergent strategy over time?

Ionut Popescu conclusively shows that in some cases, an emergent learning model leads to better overall strategic performance than a long-term strategic plan or framework. Popescu argues that it is time to rethink the origins of some of the most important successes and failures of America’s tenure as a global superpower after World War II. Presenting empirical data culled from archival research and interviews with higher-ups, Popescu covers eight US presidential administrations, ranging from Truman to Obama, to demonstrate that senior policymakers should be skeptical of the idea that formulating and implementing a long-term grand strategy is the road to a successful foreign policy legacy.

Instead, the book asserts, leaders should prioritize learning from the almost unavoidable mistakes they will make early in their careers and adapting their plans to unanticipated events and changes in the international environment. Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy thus offers both scholars and practitioners of foreign policy an original theoretical framework to explain strategic success.

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Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy

Ionut Popescu

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Reviews

Reviews

This well-written book is highly recommended.

Popescu's analysis raises a number of interesting points, particularly regarding the limitations of grand strategy planning in the Cold War.

Popescu should be lauded for moving beyond the current debate over which grand strategy the United States should adopt to successfully challenge the grand strategy paradigm itself.

Examining eight US presidential administrations, Popescu considers whether the criticism of policymakers who deviate from grand strategy in the service of short-term considerations is warranted. According to the author, such deviations may develop into a new strategy over time, particularly if leaders focus on learning from their mistakes.

Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy is a significant contribution to the literature. This book marks the entrance of an insightful new voice into the ongoing debate about the theory and practice of American grand strategy—a debate certain to intensify in coming years.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
248
ISBN
9781421423777
Table of Contents

Preface
1. Grand Strategy, Emergent Strategy, and Foreign Policy Success
2. George Kennan, Containment, and the Beginning of the Cold War
3. Globalizing Containment
4. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Project

Preface
1. Grand Strategy, Emergent Strategy, and Foreign Policy Success
2. George Kennan, Containment, and the Beginning of the Cold War
3. Globalizing Containment
4. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Project Solarium, and the New Look
5. Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Détente
6. Ronald Reagan and the End of the Cold War
7. George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and the Post–Cold War Era
8. George W. Bush and the War on Terror
9. Shape or Adapt?
Epilogue
Appendix
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Ionut Popescu

Ionut Popescu is an assistant professor of political science at Texas State University.