From this corner of the blogosphere…..
Armchair Generalist – Declining Competency in Crafting Strategy
Via the blog “War, the military, COIN and stuff,” we learn of Andrew Krepenivich’s latest portrait of strategic thinking and what’s wrong with the Obama administration’s National Security Strategy. In short, the problem is that it isn’t really a strategy. It’s a wish list.
….Fortunately, there are more than two ways (increasing funding and creating efficiencies) to resolve a mismatch between the defense program and the resources available to sustain it. They involve strategy, which can be simply defined as how a state’s resources are best employed to achieve the ends it seeks. The better the strategy, the more that can be accomplished with a given set of resources.
Strategy necessarily involves setting priorities and taking risks. This is because no state, however powerful relative to other states, has ever had sufficient resources to eliminate all risks to its security and well-being. Thus two ways of dealing with the problem of having to work with a relative decline in resources are to reduce the objectives to be achieved; or to accept greater risk that they may not be accomplished.
Not sure I agree that the US needs to go all Julian Corbett but the strategy deficit definitely needs to be addressed and that will help maximize capabilities on declining budget dollars.
….Rather than riffing off a month’s worth of posts, I thought I’d home in on the one post that has generated more comments than any other we’ve done so far. Thomas Rid wanted to know why there were so few American strategists compared to those from Europe. First problem, who is a strategist? Thomas distinguished between historians and strategists, but not between practitioners and theorists – so George Marshall and Bernard Brodie both count, and both, of course, are Americans too. In the discussion that followed, this question of man of letters versus man of action came up repeatedly. To be sure, it’s difficult to make hard and fast distinctions between thinkers and doers – Clausewitz would count as both theorist and practitioner, and something of a historian too; even a civilian like Thomas Schelling could lay claim to a certain practitioner status, in shaping the practice of US deterrence. My own view is close to Brodie – strategy certainly need not be an activity done by the military, even if it requires a firm grasp of military detail. In fact, a civilian strategist, with years of mulling the whys and wherefores of strategic behaviour, may be better placed than a general whose career has largely been spent wrestling with tactical and operational issues, away from the intersection of politics and violence. More than that, in both low intensity and nuclear strategy, the aggressive traits of a proven battlefield winner may actually prove disadvantageous. Don’t believe me? Take a quick flick through the transcripts of the Cuban missile crisis.
The Russian decision making process in the Cuban Missile Crisis is equally interesting and non-strategic, being partially a byproduct of Khrushchev’s political struggles over Soviet domestic policy in the Presidium.
Can 400,000 ANSF deny sanctuary to al-Qaeda? Can 400,000 ANSF ensure that America won’t be attacked by individuals who train or plan their attacks from Afghan territory? (We already know they can’t do anything about the AQ folks on the other side of the Hindu Kush, but again, we’re going to leave that aside for now.) Can 400,000 ANSF do the job that 130,000 ISAF troops plus ~245,000 ANSF are currently doing? So, basically, what’s the time frame on which we can expect ANSF to effect a one-for-one, straight-up capability match with the ISAF troops who will be departing the country?
Seriously: is there anyone who thinks this can be done in a decade?
And if not, then why is this our strategic concept? Why aren’t we working on some other plan to mitigate the nearly certain shortfalls that will exist when U.S. troops pull chocks and head home?
Schmedlap – Is Afghanistan an Arena?
I am not sure what we are going to do now. Will we start from the objectives that we seek to achieve in Afghanistan and then mold our response accordingly? Will we start from a set of tactics that we have been sold and attempt to mold our response to fit those tactics? Or will we attempt to mold our approach in order to facilitate a withdrawal timeline?
I’m not sure either. The Senate confiirmation hearings for General Petraeus made it clear that the Democrats consider the withdrawal timetable to be a sacred objective in isolation from everything else and the Republicans want it to be clear that this idea is Barack Obama’s. In other words momentary political “wins” occupy the minds of our elected officials and their interest in strategy – or the effects of not having one – is approximately zero.