Grand Strategy and Self-Determination
This report is the chair's summary from the colloquium, "Grand Strategy and Self-Determination," sponsored by the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University, November 19-20, 2014. 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.