Time for a Grand Strategy Board?

The Gerousia

“I have not lived so long, Spartans, without having had the experience of many wars, and I see among you of the same age as myself, who will not fall into the common misfortune of longing for war from inexperience or from a belief in it’s advantage and safety”

Archidamus, King of Sparta

One thing on which most commentators, academics and former officials seem to agree is that the United States government has a difficult time planning and executing strategy. Furthermore, that since 1991 we have been without a consensus as to America’s grand strategy, which would guide our crafting of policy and strategy. This failing bridges partisan divisions and departmental bureaucracies; there are many career officials, political appointees and even a few politicians, who can explain the nuances of the Afghan War, or the Libyan intervention, the depreciatory tailspin of the US Dollar or America’s Russia policy – but none who would venture to say how these relate to one another, still less to a common vision.

Sadly, they do not, in fact, relate to one another – at least not, as far as I can discern, intentionally.

Few American policies or even military operations (!) in one country can be said to have been conceived even within a coherent and logically consistent regional strategy and it is not just common, but normal, to have DIME agencies working at completely contradictory purposes in the same area of operations. The interagency process, to the extent that it exists, is fundamentally broken and incapable of interagency operational jointness; and the institutional coordinating mechanism for any “whole of government” effort, the National Security Council, has become too consumed with crisis management. A mismatched prioritization of resources which leaves little time for the kind of long range planning and strategic thinking that allows nations to seize the initiative instead of reacting to  events.

It would be a useful corrective for the better conception and execution of US policy, for the President and the Congress to create a special board for grand strategy that could give presidents and key officials frank assessments and confidential guidance to help weave their policy ideas into a durable and overarching national strategy. One that might last beyond a few days’ headlines in The New York Times.

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