The future in the past: Victory, defeat, and grand strategy in the US, UK, France and Germany

by P.A. van Hooft

Institution: Universiteit van Amsterdam
Year: 2015
Record ID: 1255655
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11245/1.440805


This book argues that victory and defeat in war shape the post-war grand strategies of states, specifically their use of military force and diplomacy. It focuses on the experiences of the belligerent states of the Second World War, and in particular on those of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. To explore the argument, the book utilises regression analysis, historical analysis, counterfactual thought experiments, content analysis of documents, and a series of fifty interviews with American, British, French, and German policymakers. The findings show that victory increases the propensity of states to use force and decreases their propensity to use diplomacy, while defeat fosters the opposite. Experiences with war also shape the types of military capabilities and alliances that policymakers prefer, and their perception of threats. Finally, victory strengthens the legitimacy and influence of policymakers, while defeat constrains them, thereby reinforcing the lessons drawn from war. Together, the three effects of victory and defeat establish enduring patterns of national strategic behaviour that continue to define transatlantic relations.