Ruminating on Strategic Thinking II. : Social Conditions

A follow up to Part I.

How does a society, as opposed to individuals, develop a capacity for “strategic thinking” ?

While war is an obvious answer, it is not an advisable first resort. First of all, although war teaches hard lessons about strategy, the costs of losing a war are high. Secondly, the costs of winning a war can be high. Thirdly, few people, relatively speaking to the number involved, have any direct input into genuinely strategic decisions during wartime; most will either gain tactical experience or be relegated to support functions. At best, wars seem to create a cohort of excellent tactical leaders with the potential to, someday, mature into strategic leaders or strategists. At worst, from a war, the wrong lessons may be drawn and institutionalized to create a future disaster.

What conditions produce strategic thinkers for a state? A brief example from American history:

Here are some of the US leadership of WWII, the postwar “Wise Men” and their Cold War successors, collaborators, thinkers and military chiefs:

Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Stimson, Joseph Grew, Dean Acheson, Douglas MacArthur, Charles E. Bohlen, George F. Kennan, Paul Nitze, George C. Marshall , Harry S. Truman, Robert A. Lovett, Dwight D. Eisenhower  , John J. McCloy , W. Averell Harriman, William Donovan, James F. ByrnesChester Nimitz,  John Foster Dulles,  James Forrestal, Vannevar Bush,  Allen Dulles, Ernest King, Albert Wohlstetter, Dean Rusk, Hyman RickoverHerman Kahn, Robert McNamara,  Bernard Brodie, Fritz G. A. KraemerMcGeorge BundyRichard Nixon, Thomas Schelling, Henry Kissinger

Some commonalities that these individuals shared, sometimes in pluralities and others in large majorities:

Above average to very high IQ

Middle class to high socioeconomic status

Eastern Establishment

Fraternal organizations


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