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BRITISH GRAND STRATEGY IN THE AGE OF AMERICAN HEGEMONY (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2024)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the United Kingdom capable of grand strategy? Common wisdom suggests otherwise. Some think it implausible amid the maelstrom of domestic politics, while others believe the UK lacks the necessary autonomy, as a cog in the US-led order.

British Grand Strategy in the Age of American Hegemony challenges these claims. Grand strategy is the highest level of national security decision-making, encompassing judgements over a state's overarching objectives and interests, as well as its security environment and resource base. Getting these decisions 'right' is vital in moments of geopolitical flux.

Employing several historical case studies between 1940-2003 and marshalling a host of primary sources, the book demonstrates that British politicians and officials have thought in grand strategic terms under American hegemony - even if they do not realise or admit to this. The book also shows that the role of allies in shaping British grand strategy has been overstated. Finally, it highlights the conditions under which domestic political actors can influence grand strategic decision-making. Written for practitioners as well as scholars, the book concludes with several policy recommendations at this inflection point in British history.

British Grand Strategy in the Age of American Hegemony was published by Oxford University Press on 1 February 2024 and can be ordered here (use the code ASFLYQ6 for a 30% discount). The e-book is available for $8.99 on Amazon.

Endorsements:

"Dr James has succeeded in producing a lucidly written and erudite study of the good, the bad, and the ugly in British grand strategy from 1940 to 2003. This absorbing book makes a major contribution to debates on the concept of grand strategy and busts some of the myths associated with this important period in recent British history. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in the UK's place in the world. On the evidence of this authoritative and insightful study, James has established himself as one of the brightest rising stars in strategic studies."

 

- Professor John Bew, foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister


"This is a truly brilliant and original analysis of Britain's grand strategy from the Second World War until the early 21st century, the era of American preponderance in the world. Examining three big decisions - the delaying of the 'Second Front' during the Second World War; the withdrawal from 'East of Suez' in the late 1960s with a refocus on Europe thereafter; and the commitment to join the US-led war in Iraq in 2003, it measures them by criteria of proportionality for the appraisal of success and failure."

 

- Professor Beatrice Heuser, Professor of International Relations, University of Glasgow


"British Grand Strategy in the Age of American Hegemony makes an important contribution to the study of grand strategy. The book offers a clear definition of grand strategy and one coherent and measurable criterion for judging its quality...Through his systematic analysis of British grand strategy before, during, and after its decline from great power status, James enfeebles the long-held misconception that grand strategy is only for great powers, and thus opens a new, diverse, and exciting array of national cases for comparative study."

 

- Professor Barry R. Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


"In a book full of insight, William James rehabilitates the concept of grand strategy as a valuable way to think about defence and foreign policy, demonstrates its value in challenging the idea that the UK has been wholly subservient to the US, and then uses it to reassess three key British decisions - on the second front during World War II, the withdrawal from East of Suez in the late 1960s, and joining the invasion of Iraq in 2003."

 

- Professor (Emeritus) Sir Lawrence Freedman, author of Strategy: A History
 

"Will James convincingly challenges the notion that British governments don't 'do' grand strategy or strategy at all. They do - the issue is whether they do it well. Doing it better requires being properly appraised of geopolitical realities, informed by an understanding of history. The book's Conclusion offers some well-founded suggestions to Ministers and officials which are highly relevant to strategy-making in what the Government itself describes as 'a more contested and volatile world'."

 

- Peter Watkins, former Director General Security Policy, Ministry of Defence

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