Baylor University


Richard Jordan’s Spring 2021 Grand Strategy Course


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Grand strategy unites all the instruments of state power—military, economic, political, diplomatic, and cultural—in pursuit of a state’s overarching objectives. It is the highest level of policy, and it is also the level a citizen is most able to access and understand.

Grand strategy confronts policymakers with uniquely difficult problems. They have at their disposal a set of tools of enormous power and breadth, but they likely do not understand any of these tools very thoroughly. Moreover, they are constrained by institutions, by other policymakers, and by the strategies of other countries, and so any attempt to instill coherence into policy must survive a labyrinth of competing interests and ideas. The central question of grand strategy is thus—how can a country reconcile its means and its ends within a single, coherent strategy? In this course, we will break this question down into three themes relevant to America’s grand strategy today

Democracy Grand strategy must reconcile national with international politics—even though the demands of one often contradict the demands of the other. In light of this tension, do democracies formulate and execute grand strategy differently than non-democracies?

Rise and Decline America is in relative decline: we are not as powerful in 2020 as in 2000, and we will be less powerful still in 2040. Nonetheless, for some time we will remain preeminent in world affairs. How have other leading states managed decline, and what can they teach America today?

East versus West As America is declining, so China is rising. As we try to anticipate the strategies of others, we need to know whether they approach the world in ways fundamentally different from ourselves. Is grand strategy universal, or do different cultures approach its problems from their own, unique perspectives

Summary of Course

The course is arranged in (roughly) chronological order. All of the strategies examined will deal with at least two of the themes of this course.

I. Early Grand Strategy

Sun Tzu
Ancient Greece Republican Rome Imperial Rome Rise of the West Building the State

II. Modern Grand Strategy

Clausewitz British Empire WWII
Modern Warfare Containment Rise of China


This is a reading-intensive course. Your entire grade will depend on how well you do the readings (quizzes and exam), discuss them (participation), and synthesize them (group projects). Listed below are the required texts in the order we will read them. Except where noted, I do not require a particular translation or edition. While there are many required books, they are mostly inexpensive (if you buy all of them new on Amazon, you’ll spend less than $150). Other readings are on Canvas, linked on this syllabus, or on electronic reserve (go to the Baylor library homepage, click on Course Reserves, and enter PSC 4316).

  • Sun Tzu, The Art of War. A classic treatment of war and alliance politics, emphasizing strategy, trickery, and information as the keys to victory. I recommend the Samuel Griffith translation (with the foreword by BH Liddell Hart), but you may use any edition you please.
  • Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (purchase not required). The founder of realism and the rigorous study of history. Readings will be posted on Canvas, but I recommend you purchase this book, and I highly recommend the Landmark edition, which has excellent notes and maps (and is also cheap). ISBN 978-0684827902
  • Julius Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul (purchase not required). Excerpts will be posted on Canvas, but you might find it helpful to purchase this book; if so, I suggest buying the Penguin Classics edition. ISBN 978-0140444339
  • Machiavelli, The Prince. Machiavelli is the quintessential theorist of internal grand strategy. While in many ways a teacher of evil, his influence on subsequent generations is undeniable.
  • Carl von Clausewitz, On War, eds. Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Probably the most important book ever written about war. You must use the Princeton edition (it’s white with a blue ribbon). ISBN 978-0691018546
  • Mao Zedong, The Red Book of Guerrilla Warfare. Mao was both a highly effective political leader and a deeply insightful strategist. This book outlines the grand strategy he used to master China. ISBN 978-1934255278
  • John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment. This book is the leading history of the Cold War. ISBN 978-0195174472In addition, over the course of the semester we will read chapters from Lee Kuan Yew’s autobigraphy. (So, you have to buy it.) He is one of the most successful and widely respected grand strategists in history, and his memoirs intersect many of the topics of this class. I find that this book helps us connect the past with the present, the East with the West, and the nation with the world.• Lee Kuan Yew, From Third World to First: the Singapore Story 1965-2000 ISBN 978-0060197766
  • Edward Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire. Though written by a non-classicist, this book is the definitive treatment of its subject. It canvasses every aspect of Roman power in a comprehensive study of Imperial Roman strategy.
    ISBN 978-1421419459

To read Dr. Richard Jordan’s full 2021 Syllabus for PSC 4316 Grand Strategy, click here.