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Post 3: Building the Resources a Grand Strategy Needs

To implement a grand strategy, it needs resourcing

Choosing the type of grand strategy to use depends on how the other state can be influenced, however this is only half of the matter. There is also the internal dimension where the power is developed that the grand strategy needs; this involves developing and allocating the necessary resources of people, money and materiel. Material (and don’t forget non-material!) resources make a strategy practical but thinking about them is bothersome for many. While often neglected, resources are fundamental to turning grand plans into grand outcomes.

Grand strategies can be resourced from anywhere, domestically, internationally, commercially and governmentally. Given enough time considerable resources can be developed and turned into the instruments of the national power needed, but sometimes time is short. The approach to use to develop the necessary physical resources of people, money and materiel depends on whether the problem is near-term or more distant.


If it is a near-term issue than the options vary between if the problem is a matter of necessity or choice. If it is a necessity than the best option is a managerial approach where the state takes charge, becomes deeply involved itself in developing resources and actively directs society. While often highly effective in the short-term, this approach is invasive, bureaucratic and over the longer-term inefficient. If it is a matter of choice the best option may be a market approach where the state manipulates market forces and uses incentives and regulations to access the resources it needs. This approach draws on the global market allowing quite expansive grand strategies however markets are inherently skittish and can take fright disrupting the grand strategy.

If the matter is more distant the options vary between if you are certain how a problem will evolve or if there seem many different ways it could end up. If the future is reasonably certain, the best option could be a managerial approach where the state plans, mobilizes and builds the society and economy that meets the known demands. The nation can become self-reliant in the areas chosen although problems may arise if the future does not turn out as expected. If there are some real uncertainties, the market approach can allow the state to vary demand across particular societal and industry sectors, shape market forces to reallocate resources and attempt to grow a society and economy balanced to handle the range of possible futures. This gives the most flexibility but needs long-term high-quality policymaking that appears competent and skilled to keep markets confident and content.

The resources once developed are allocated to the subordinate – diplomatic, informational, military or economic – strategies that individually direct a particular instrument of national power in accordance with the overarching grand strategy. These lower-level strategies include the processes for transforming the people, money and materiel into the specific capabilities (qualities) and capacities (quantities) required. Allocation is accordingly a balance of investment function. Depending on the grand strategy, some instruments of national power will be emphasized and receive proportionally more resources than others.

But astute readers will know that grand strategies need more than just material resources; there are also the important non-material matters of legitimacy and soft power. Legitimacy concerns foreground judgments made by others about a state’s actions and behaviours. In contrast soft power involves influencing others’ background perceptions of a state’s international image. Building these intangible resources is both necessary and takes planning and effort.


That’s it for developing and allocating the resources a grand strategy needs. Well done staying with the theoretical part! But this is the bit that truly separates the real from the armchair strategists. Next blog we will apply our framework to the matter of leaving Afghanistan.


A version of this post was published earlier by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. That post may be accessed here.

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