On Grand Strategy
the processes, complexities
in devising grand strategies
applied to Lincoln, Wilson and FDR

Book Summary and
Grand Strategy and Western Leaders
by Walter Antoniotti

WSJ Review by John Nagl
Kirkus Review

Book Summary by Walter Antoniotti

1. Victory required denial a of justice,
Justice required a denial of victory

Britain suspended WW2 1935-1945 elections.
US had fighting over US direction as few
wanted the mistake of getting into WW 1.
FDR was political and won a war,
Wilson's morality lost a League

2. Silences vs. cacophony     24:48

Reporting on the world from the US,
Irving Berlin
had learned institutions are
less important than individual relationships.
Trying to report from Russia he ran into
individuals who were fearful and silent and
separated from the Western world.
Lenin, changed the USSR ecology

made it differed from that of the U.S.
One demanded silence, the other thrived
on cacophonies.

3. The Need for Truth 19:11

Russians had suffered during the czars but
Stalin's suffering was different. It was
Marxian as interpreted by revolutionaries
who felt truth did not exist time flowed slowly,
someone had to organize and lead people
into a national planned system.

Marxist and Fascists followed the true correct
theory, judgment was not needed. They knew
answer in advance so contradictions could be
ignored as they would be removed by the
flow of time.

Being correct provided the confidence
needed to not fear the future.

4. The Importance of Scale15:00

Berlin felt FDR was also extremely sure of
himself, self confidence. He could solve
WW2related  problems not knowing of
Dialectical and Historical Materialism
by J. V. Stalin 9/38. He had no theory beyond
his own ability provided he was in control.
His self confidence did not come from a
search for truth. He learned to live with
incompatible alternatives
. He was a
juggler, knew the importance of balance,
was not consistent but could see
the big picture and create balance by
knowing the importance of scale.
He managed variables need to
balanced goals with resources

Because of the BEAR was needed to stop
Germany, Victory required denial of justice,
required denial of victory. FDR
no guaranties for Baltic and Poland, we need
Russia, FDR said screw Poland. It would be
the US and USSR deciding on direction,
no morals or ethics involved.

Oliver Wendell Holmes- said of FDR,
"a second class intellect but
a first class temperament.

5. Grand strategy requires the directional
compass of intellect and a gyroscope to
provide for a balanced temperament. 10.3

Carl von Clausewitz on Grand Strategy

Complexity requires intellect to to determine
course  which requires adjustment which
combined temperament to determines
how adjustments.

Napoleon lost an empire to the weather
by not balancing aspiration with capability.
Lincoln save a country by not doing so.
Wilson the builder could nor adjust,
the juggler balanced important variables.

Philip Tetlock suggested we survived as a
species by combing habits of Berlin's foxes 
when adjustments to rapid changes were
needed and like hedgehogs to thrive in
stable times. He believed good judgment
required a balancing act that requires
rethinking core assumptions while
preserving our existing world view


6.  Good judgment assumes
Moral equivalents across opinions
with equal cost from failure.
Berlin saw WW 2 Politics as a polarity with in equivalent concepts of Liberty at either end.

Positive liberty: individuals yield freedom of choice to some higher authority that
Silenced contradictions with disposition and the possibility of slavery or even extermination.
Hedgehogs herding foxes, they were sure of being correct and wanted few alternatives:
was lessened or postpones with a promise of treasure.
No proof beyond theory because with compatible of means, ends automatically converge.
All knew how world worked, allowed little opposition.

Negative Liberty: individuals allowed choices

  Allowed contradictions even cacophonies provided no compass
  They were foxes without a compass resulting in drift leading to possible anarchy
Machiavelli, Octavian Caesar, Elizabeth the first, the American founders, Lincoln, and FDR
  Risk is accepted by lowered expectations using proven means for achievable ends while subjecting theory to corrections.
Required No compatibility, no convergence with theory is subjected to experience and corrections.

Pluralism was required which Berlin felt created a dynamic, antagonistic, discontented world. .
  7. Accepting Past and Present incompatibles  3:46

In 1962 RFK was responded to a student Mexican War questiont. RFK said taking Mexico by force was probably incorrect. It cause Deep Do Do.

Should we give Texas back. Most would say no. The resulting justice would cause  chaos and too much injustice would result. Contractions exist. Learning to live with history means living with incompatibles. Grand strategies helps because all fair deals are based on proportions, the item received must be in balance, be in proportion to that paid. Grand strategy aligns desires with ability. Fairness is helped by bending toward  freedom or negative liberty.

To Carl von Clausewitz it meant subordinating war to policy for what freedom comes from violence.

The contradiction of life and death is the greatest we will behold, almost all participants deserve  respect.






WSJ Review

‘On Grand Strategy’ Review: The War Against Decline and Fall
enduring empires and the mistakes that may
lead to ruin.
review by John Nagl


This most important book covered the evolution of strategic thinking from Machiavelli to the nuclear age,

 "Like “Makers of Modern Strategy-FROM MACHIAVELLI TO THE NUCLEAR AGE,” it explores the facets of wisdom, temperament and courage that create great leaders and enduring empires.

“On Grand Strategy” begins with the Persian king Xerxes ’ invasion of Greece in 480 B.C., an invasion that went spectacularly wrong. Xerxes suffered from an inability to connect the ends he desired—control of Greece and ultimately all of Europe—with the resources available. Xerxes was not the last warrior-king to suffer from that particular affliction.

Napoleon underestimated Russian winter and the will of Russian peasant even before he met defeat at Waterloo. Hitler had troops invade Russia in summer uniforms expecting quick victory but another cruel winter took its toll.

These leaders were like Isaiah Berlin figures. They were hedgehogs over-focused on a doctrine or an objective and failed to adapt to meet the current situation. Gaddis respected foxes more. They hold fast to objectives and adjust their tactics to difficulties—geography, weather, time, public support.

Desires often overwhelm available means requiring a strategy set priorities, build alliances and conserve resources.

Mr. Gaddis presents an array of leaders who mastered this strategy method.  Queen Elizabeth I understood British geography strength and her sea power would keep her safe. Abraham Lincoln adjusted his thinking on slavery from wanting to block its growth to arming free blacks to emancipation of slaves held in belligerent  territory. Franklin Roosevelt focused on the greater strategic threat Germany  rather than Japan who had struck first. They all choose historically successful strategic principles that Mr. Gaddis feels will work in the future.

Not a perfect book, On Grand Strategy short-changes Eastern tradition and doesn’t effectively analyze how the nuclear revolution affects military strategy.  He shows many leaders with few strategy skills led their countries poorly.

Success is not guaranteed. It require wisdom, historical sense, and the ability to “respects time, space, and scale.”

Mr. Nagl is the headmaster of The Haverford School. A retired Army officer, he saw combat in both Iraq wars and is the author of “Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice.”

Kirkus Reviews

Gaddis analyzes the processes and complexities involved in devising grand strategies: “the alignment of potentially unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities.” Strategic leaders need to be flexible, creative, and observant. Political theorist and philosopher Isaiah Berlin popularized this memorable line from an ancient Greek poet: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

Both Tolstoy and Carl von Clausewitz, respect theory and practice “without enslaving themselves to either.” Abstraction and specificity “reinforce each other, but never in predetermined proportions.”

That big thing—an obsessive idea or abstract ideal— is likely to prevent innovation. “Assuming stability is one of the ways ruins get made,” “Resilience accommodates the unexpected.”

Elizabeth I defied traditional expectations by “... tolerating (within limits) religious differences...Rather than impose a grand design, she responded deftly to her changing world. Napoleon failed because of limited “peripheral vision” blinding him of “landscapes, logistics, climates..." troop morale  and enemy strategy.” Abraham Lincoln was astoundingly intuitive, managed polarities: they didn’t manage him.” FDR had a Second Class Mind and a First Class Temperament according to O. W. Holmes.
Editor's Note:

How great leaders make good and terrible military decisions  a less favorable review by

Gordon M. Goldstein is an adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam.”

Grand Strategy and Western Leaders

Strategy Success requires temperament.
Xerxes had uncontrollable ambitions, no fear and advisor Artabanus could not control his fears. With no balance they made a poor team.

Pericles Percales went from intolerance to repression in a single speech, and then Athens soon followed.
Octavian Cesar rose by teaching  himself self-control,
Mark Antony fell by forgetting it.

Princes as Pivots that changed Western History.

Augustine and Machiavelli served pivotal monarchs
Philip II micro managed a vast empire that pivoted down.
Elizabeth I balanced the needs of Parliament, her colonies, align end to means and began the replacement empire.

Ambition Must Be Balances with Capabilities

Napoleon confused aspirations with capabilities, failed to align end to means, lost a war and went to prison.
Lincoln align end to means, balances politics and military, won a war and saved his country.

Wilson the builder failed to align means to ends and maintained justice but lost a League.
aligned ends to means, gave up justice and won a war.