Does Donald Trump have a grand strategy?

Peter Dombrowski, Simon Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Six months into the Trump presidency, scholars and pundits are already speculating whether the president has developed a 'doctrine' or, more expansively, a 'grand strategy'. No doubt, unfolding events-in Asia, the Middle East and possibly Europe-will sustain this debate about Trump's strategy in the months and, possibly years, to come. It will be prompted by disparate events that stretch from directing vocal threats to the North Koreans regarding their nuclear program to demands that NATO members increase their defence budgets. But, stepping back from Washington's and the media's news cycle, it is worth noting that such deliberation about the Trump presidency is unexceptional. Grand strategy debates are always fashionable. What is overlooked in these raging debates is a prior question: can Donald Trump-or any other American president-implement a grand strategy in the twenty-first century? Our answer is no, they can't. Despite the professed differences among US presidential administrations, each in fact responded to them in markedly similar ways. In fact, we argue, Americans may debate a variety of grand strategies. But a combination of systemic international challenges and bureaucratic tussling between civilian and military leaders ensures that any presidential administration simultaneously implements a variety of calibrated strategies (ranging from liberal institutionalism to restraint and even neo-isolationism), depending on the circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1013-1037
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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