New LISD Report Analyzes Grand Strategy and Self-Determination


A new report by the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, "Grand Strategy and Self-Determination," analyzes the relevance of grand strategy through a historical lens as well as its role in today’s policy-making environment of multiple international crises. The report is the chair’s summary of discussions that began at a colloquium convened at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs on November 19-20, 2014.

The report discusses changing notions of power in the international system, the role of technology, media and social media, and the necessary policy toolkit for strategy, statecraft, and diplomacy in times of multiple crises. Further themes addressed in the report include the role of power and leadership, economic, financial and energy challenges, and the possibility of as-yet unimagined disruptions to nations and the international system. It analyzes the conceptual interaction between the two major themes of grand strategy and self-determination, positing that employing self-determination as a central element, vehicle, and objective of grand strategy is the way to account for 21st-century realities. The report also lists key issues, questions, and challenges for further consideration in order to effectively tackle the challenges of today and the complexities of the future.

Over forty scholars, practitioners, and diplomats participated in the "Grand Strategy and Self-Determination" colloquium, which drew together a unique mix of perspectives from the international academic, policymaking and diplomatic worlds. The seminar was chaired by Wolfgang Danspeckgruber, Director of LISD. The meeting, sponsored under the aegis of the Liechtenstein Colloquium on European and International Affairs (LCM), commemorated the twenty-year anniversary of the Liechtenstein Initiative on the study of self-determination at Princeton and also coincided with the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein.

Report Abstract

The notions of “grand strategy” and “self-determination” are of critical significance in today’s world of multiple international crises. At once potentially highly interactive or mutually exclusive, complementary or self-reinforcing, these concepts, however, are rarely analyzed simultaneously. Grand strategy—the utilization of all available means to achieve desired ends—retains remarkable importance, as it continues to shape approaches to the complexities of contemporary policy-making. Yet present-day grand strategy is challenged by evolving notions and distributions of power in the global context. Contentious debates emerge over the state of the international system, with challenges stemming from the role of scientific and technological developments like robotics and nanotechnologies, proliferation of information accessible in real time through social media, the radicalization of religious movements, unequal distribution of income, and high rates of mobility. Today’s world offers no shortage of short- and long-term crises, including the role of power and leadership, economic, financial, energy, environmental and health challenges, a reemergence of nationalism, great-power geopolitics, terrorism, and as-yet unimagined disruptions to or within the international system, with the resulting difficulty of defining and achieving the necessary elements of a toolkit for strategy and diplomacy. Self-determination has been both a source of peace and stability and also an objective and even an instrument of actors in this global context. At the same time, the powerful and often-contested matter of self-determination interacts with and further challenges ideas and norms of strategy and governance. It is here that these two central notions meet, with the conceptual interaction between an individual striving to “determine one’s destiny” and search for greater influence in governance challenged by a status quo which still encourages control and power by national governments. A truly successful grand strategy must, in fact, harness the potentially revolutionary power of self-determination, weaving together the threads of these two paramount principles to face the emerging challenges of the 21st century.