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Fathoming Grand Strategy

Aktualisiert: 4. Mai 2020

“If the other global powers are all playing chess the EU cannot be the only one playing ping pong.”

That is what Sven Biscop and Jo Coelmon wrote in a book in 2009. And this is also my feeling since I am studying the EU’s role in the world.

In general the EU within world politics is not only a topic a federalist like me should be interested in but everyone who cares about Europe. After all, what sense does it make to debate for decades on the state of democracy in the EU when the power of this Union is slowly but constantly fading away? The new emerging forces will not wait until the EU Member States have figured out a parliamentary system or a common foreign policy that pleases everybody.

This conviction motivated me to write my Bachelor thesis on the EU’s grand strategy – or better the development to such a strategy. I did so in the first part in summer 2011 analysing Operation Atalanta and I am going to do so again with a strategic analysis of Egypt.

However, a flaw of my last year’s work was that it missed theoretical underpinning. I referred extensively to the work of Mr. Biscop and the Group on Grand Strategy without knowing the fundamentals of strategy. This year I want to avoid such a mistake and therefore, I asked the latter to advise me on strategic core literature.

The Group on Grand Strategy is “dedicated to researching better foreign, security and military policies for the European Union” – and apparently also dedicated to help undergraduate students. Within 24 hours they replied and recommended me the following literature:

  1. Nicholas Spykman, The Geography of the Peace

  2. Jakub Grygiel, Great Powers and Geopolitical Change

  3. Alex Petersen, The World Island

  4. B. H. Liddell Hart, Strategy

  5. Colin S. Gray (1996), ‘The Continued Primacy of Geography’, Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 247-259

  6. Colin S. Gray (1999), ‘Inescapable Geography’, Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 161-177

  7. Colin S. Gray (2003), ‘In praise of strategy’, Review of International Studies, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 285-295.

  8. Colin S. Gray (2004), ‘In Defence of the Heartland: Sir Halford Mackinder and His Critics a Hundred Years On’, Comparative Strategy, Vol. 23, No. 9, pp. 9-25.

  9. Colin S. Gray (2008), ‘The 21st Century Security Environment and the Future of War’, Parameters, Vol. 38, No. 4, Winter 2008, pp. 14-26.

  10. Colin S. Gray (2010), ‘Strategic Thoughts for Defence Planners’, Survival, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 159-178. Nicholas Spykman (1938), ‘Geography and Foreign Policy II’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 32, No. 2, April 1938, pp. 213-236.

  11. Nicholas Spykman (1938), ‘Geography and Foreign Policy I’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 32, No. 1, February 1938, pp. 28-50.

  12. Nicholas Spykman (1939), ‘Geographic Objectives in Foreign Policy I’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 33, No. 3, June 1939, pp. 391-410.

  13. Nicholas Spykman (1939), ‘Geographic Objectives in Foreign Policy II’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 33, No. 4, August 1939, pp. 591-614

  14. Bordonaro, “Rediscovering Spykman

Additionally, they also pointed to “What is grand strategy?” by John Gaddis. You may watch his insightful (and entertaining) speech here:

The conclusion of two days into strategy:

  1. I will have to read many pages in the upcoming four months.

  2. It is worth following the Group on Grand Strategy. James Rogers and Luis Simon are not only experts but helpful experts.

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