National Security Dilemmas


National Security Dilemmas

Challenges and Opportunities

Colin S. Gray
Foreword by Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, USMC (Ret.)

334 pages


January 2009


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January 2009


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eBook (PDF)
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September 2011


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About the Book

A contemporary primer on the leading arguments about U.S. national security, National Security Dilemmas addresses the major challenges and opportunities that are live-issue areas for American policymakers and strategists today. Colin S. Gray provides an in-depth analysis of a policy and strategy for deterrence; the long-term U.S. bid to transform its armed forces’ capabilities, with particular reference to strategic surprise, in the face of many great uncertainties; the difficulty of understanding and exploiting the challenge of revolutionary change in warfare; the problems posed by enemies who fight using irregular methods; and the awesome dilemmas for U.S. policy over the options to wage preventive and preemptive warfare.With forty years’ experience as a strategist, within and outside of government, Gray uses a problem-solving motif throughout the book, suggesting solutions to the challenges he identifies. The book’s master narrative is that the United States must take a more considered strategic approach to its security dilemmas. Too often, the country’s leaders decide on a policy and then move to take action, all the while neglecting to devise a plan that would connect its political purposes to military means. While many of Gray’s judgments here are critical of current ideas and behavior, he crafted them as helpful guides should planners adopt them when revising policies and approaches. Strategy is a practical matter; truly it is the zone wherein theory meets practice.This text can be used as an expert guide to the major national security challenges of today. It both explains the structure of these challenges and provides useful answers. With a foreword by Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper, USMC (Ret.), Bren Chair, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Virginia.

Author Bio

Colin S. Gray is a professor of international politics and strategic studies and the director of the Centre for Strategic Studies, University of Reading, England. He is the author of twenty-three books, including National Security Dilemmas: Challenges and Opportunities (Potomac Books, Inc., 2008) , and several dozen government reports. He lives in Wokingham, United Kingdom.


“Masterful, insightful, and highly instructive.... This book offers a new U.S. administration a tour-de-force examination of the grim realities facing America today, which must measure its aims and corresponding means with finer precision and a greater deal of caution in the coming decade. Without peer among strategic historians, Dr. Gray’s prodigious scholarship and wit is quite evident, down to the last footnote. National Security Dilemmas is enthusiastically recommended for immediate study by all serious students of strategy and any candidate for policy positions in the Obama administration.”—Frank Hoffman, senior fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute

“Dr. Gray’s work has long been foundational to sound strategic thinking. There are simply no important strategic issues that he has not rigorously addressed. This volume brings together some of his most compelling studies."—Antulio Echevarria II, U.S. Army War College

“A work of breathtaking scope that grounds the key security issues of our day in the persisting nature of war and strategy. It will challenge both scholars and practitioners of security, but they will be better for the effort.”—Steven Metz, author of Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy

“Colin Gray is the greatest strategic analyst and writer of our time. He again leads us without sentiment to consider emerging security challenges rigorously in the light of logic, past experience, and contemporary evidence. The result here is a masterpiece.”—Keith B. Payne, president, National Institute for Public Policy, and head, Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Missouri State University

“A dazzling work that cements Colin Gray’s reputation as the most consistently brilliant strategic thinker in the English-speaking world. Once again, he points out the dangers of embracing national security ‘fads,’ reminding us that there are no panaceas that will ensure future American security. For those who have the wisdom to listen to him, Professor Gray once again provides unique insights into the complex phenomenon of war and the development of strategy and operational doctrine for a dangerous and uncertain world.”—Mackubin Thomas Owens, professor, Naval War College, and editor of Orbis

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