Here’s two from the other side of the pond:
Offshore Balancer –Lecture Notes: Grand Strategy
….Bottom line up front: Grand strategy is a vision, not a plan. We tend to think of it nowadays as something institutionalised and grandiose, written down in solemn declaratory documents, thrashed out by committees, created by new layers of bureaucracy. The word is rampant in public life. But just because we institutionalise and declare strategy, doesn’t mean we do it. Grand strategy is not necessarily the product of grand structures.
In fact, it might not be that at all. Systematic attempts to codify strategy often don’t work. The Princeton Project, for instance, which gathered a gang of experts on foreign policy, came up with an elaborate world view that was not very strategic, because in all the political gravitas and seriousness they forget to do the most important thing: prioritise, balance power and interests, give us an idea to organise around, and note how and where our power is limited. Committees and structures can be the enemies of strategic thought. They take ideas and disfigure them beyond all recognition. Just ask George Kennan, whose idea of containment – non-universal, pragmatic, selective – was in his own words ambiguous and lent itself to misinterpretation. It become militarised, universal and crusading.
So instead of thinking about the institutional home of strategy – the National Security Council, or the NSS – I want to return to the core of this discipline, of strategy not as a system but as a sensibility. t is a set of basic ideas and instincts about relationship between power and goals, strong enough to give us a sense of pattern in the chaos, but elastic enough to respond to crisis….
This is actually a very long post. I particularly like the last paragraph in the excerpt by Dr. Porter – the pragmatic sense of strategy there reminds me of the Greek classics, particularly Xenophon. Vision and aspiration without magical thinking.
Kings of War –Is politics the enemy of strategy?
The Faceless Bureaucrat writes…
….It is therefore interesting to wonder, as Gordon Goldstein does in his book Lessons in Disaster (references to which figure in Bob Woodward’s recent Obama’s Wars), if politics isn’t the enemy of strategy. Because of the need to compromise, and the need to worry about mid-term elections, optics, spin, and implications, doesn’t politics just cloud what should be crystal clear? Wouldn’t military action just be better if it were protected from the fog of politics?
Clausewitz, of course, would disagree. But let’s see if we can address this issue without referring to the Prussian.
Politics has to deal with the real world, which can be larger and more complex than the battlefield. Sometimes (a key word here) the battlefield, for all its dangers and pitfalls, can be deceptive. Ideas like ‘clear and hold’, or ‘feed ‘em, don’t bleed ‘em’ make sense, if looked at narrowly, without reference to the need for resources, or the need to maintain support from allies, voters, and political opponents. Sometimes military action is affected by what we might call political ‘externalities’-things that occur outside of a particular frame of reference, but which have enormous power to change the way things are viewed inside that frame of reference. For instance, what military planner looking at a sand model of Helmand would have thought that American domestic spending patterns would factor into his or her strategy? But, as Richard Haas and Roger Altman point out, ignoring this issue is not longer an option. As Bill Clinton famously (and successfully) declared, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’….
I look forward to reading seydlitz89′s reaction.