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Following Up

Busy today with some personal matters, but I wanted to draw attention to some blogfriends who are extending the discussion of recent posts:

Josephfouche of The Committee of Public Safety, analyzing the the 1913 debate and providing an excellent, explanatory, graphic to boot:

Strategy and the Race to the Sea

….The logic of disarmament runs counter to the logic of strategy. Strategy seeks to pit strength against  weakness. If that isn’t available, it seeks to pit strength against strength. The least palatable option is to pit weakness against strength. A tie between two opposing wavelengths of equal strength on two opposing spectra of power is better than nothing. In the case of the most extreme end of the spectrum of power, annihilation, there is currently a tie between the nuclear armed Great Powers. That section of the spectrum has been taken off the table. To reopen the annihilation wavelengths will merely tempt others to seek advantage where the bravely virtuous have renounced their warheads and beat them into flower pots.

An “evolved sensibility” will not save you where sensibility is not backed by effective counter force. Evolved sensibility is merely the glove hiding the iron fist. Conflict, as Clausewitz explained, is a trial of moral power through the medium of physical power. Morality can only constrain where the correlation of forces is favorable. If the correlation of forces shift, every thing becomes a repeat of the Race to the Sea.

Adam Elkus at Red Team Journal, continuing the robust argument over Grand Strategy started by Smitten Eagle ( I have been working on a post, on and off, to respond to SE’s original post. As many other voices have joined this debate in the past week, I’m still tweaking mine) and added to recently by FLG of Fear and Loathing in Georgetown.

Do We Need a Grand Strategy?

….Of course, FLG is correct that we haven’t suffered as much from our poverty of grand strategy as, say, Philip II of Hapsburg Spain. But I would argue that in this case America’s compelling enemy is not so much a looming adversary as the entirely human tendency states have to make poor decisions regarding the use of force, the expenditure of resources, and our strategic elites’ perception of political, economic, and cultural trends. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we need a hegemonic concept like containment-I felt that Joseph Fouche did a good job of arguing that a nation is better served by multiple grand strategies. But states do need larger guidance as to how they use resources-both human and material-to achieve strategic ends.

Check’em out.


Fabius Maximus has a large number of posts related to grand strategy at the Military and strategic theory section of the FM site. One example:

The Myth of Grand Strategy 

Primal Strategies

We often see something like a grand strategy in the early years of some societies, when the people have a single-minded commitment to a goal, often just a drive to grow. A primal strategy is an expression of this people’s core beliefs. It is non-intellectual, with no need for theories and plans.

  • Rome conquered the Mediterranean world, driven by self-confident belief in their fitness to rule others.
  • Men like Pizzaro and Cortes conquered much of the world for Spain and Christ.
  • The British Empire was built by men like Robert Clive and Warren Hastings, whose acquisitive drive and energy brought India into the British Empire – often without instructions or even against their government’s wishes.
  • Nineteenth century Americans felt it was their manifest destiny to extend America from ocean to ocean.

We can describe these as “grand strategies”, but to do so has an element of falsity. Such intellectual analysis, based on theory, had no place in the hearts of these peoples. History also suggests than leaders cannot manufacture a primal strategy. You either have it, or you do not.

2 Responses to “Following Up”

  1. Fabius Maximus Says:

    The comparison with Phillip II is telling.  We might not "have suffered as much" merely because we have a larger credit line.  That is, we get to dig ourselves into a deeper hole of debt than he did.  But the outcome — some form of default — might be the same in both cases.  In which case we might envy Phil.  He was lucky to have bankers that shut down his borrowing relatively early.  Like having buddies that say "friends don’t let friends drive drunk."
    For more about Phil’s financial problems, see this:

  2. A.E. Says:

    FM’s "primal strategy" post is a classic and I have referenced it often when describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and insurgent war.

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