Monday, October 4, 2010

How do you define "Strategy"?

It's a simple question folks. "Goals" or "Process"? "Individual" or "Collective"? And indication of "weakness" or "strength"? Give me your own definition if you would like to share it . . .

It might just provide us with a perspective of what US "strategy" is today . . .


  1. Flag of the Byzantine Empire . . .

  2. The ability to develope a goal, or series of goals based on an objective study of all possible desired and undesired outcomes of a particular action with a subjective consideration of all risks involved in the execution of that action based on the desired and undesired results.

    Well, at least thats how I think when I'm playing a game of Othello.

  3. Ok, process, but individual or collective? and more an attribute of the weak or the strong?

    Consider whether the strong need strategy at all . . . ?

  4. I suspect, that the subject of "whom" is using strategy becomes germaine.
    because I think we can all come up with examples of weak individuals not using strategy, and strong individuals delving into strategy, and vice versa.
    Also, there are examples of collectives eschewing strategy for the sheer mayhem of the end result, not because it was desired, but because no matter the chaos that is the end result it's still better than current conditions.
    And those other collectives who thought themselves into near atrophy from planning.

    So, if I were to bring my own subjectivity into this...I tend to be quite individualistic in my strategy planning...yes, I do considere others experiences, but in the final decisions I have to make the crucial one that will dictate whether my goals are met or not.

    From a position of strength (the Strong) I have found that the inconsistencies of my opponents tend to throw much of my strategy off, and so I have to plan accordinly, and I have found that when I'm seriously backed into a corner, i.e. I'm losing, I become narrow minded, as my options become limited into what I can realistically succeed at, and therefore have to focus on single successes regardless of whether that solitary success will create a break out for me or not.
    In an entropic game the options of strategy are usually, it would depend on the type of scenario as to whether a deep strategy is employable or not.
    Again, conditions of the scenario are needed for further thought.

  5. Why make the distinction between the "individual" and the "collective"?

    Because of the inherent differences between the two which makes using the same term, in this case "strategy", actually very confusing since the same term is used in two very different contexts.

    Consider this quote from Reinhold Niebuhr from 1932 . . .

    "Our contemporary culture fails to realize the power, extent and persistence of group egoism in human relations. It may be possible, though it is never easy, to establish just relations between individuals within a group purely by moral and rational suasion and accommodation. In inter-group relations this is practically an impossibility. The relations between groups must therefore always be predominantly political rather than ethical, that is, they will be determined by the proportion of power which each group possesses at least as much as by any rational and moral appraisal of the comparative needs and claims of each group. The coercive factors, in distinction to the more purely moral and rational factors, in political relations can never be sharply differentiated and defined. It is not possible to estimate exactly how much a party to a social conflict is influenced by a rational argument or by the threat of force."


    Those with political power are usually able to get the majority to see their position as both the "good" and the "right", whereas between individuals inequalities are far more obvious, and the use of power much more blatant.

    An individual operating against a community on the other hand is inevitably seen as an outsider, an outlaw, a revolutionary or a tyrant.

  6. Why make a distinction between being more an attribute of the weak or the strong?

    Recently at a discussion of what Britain's "Grand" or "National" strategy, Professor Peter Hennessy said:

    "The ingredients of a national strategy need to encompass a considerable range of moving parts: economy, society, condition of political and public life, systems of government, military kit, diplomacy, intelligence capacity, and intellectual capital, by which I mean the mix of universities and technological R&D. Only then can Britain’s international relationships and place in the world be assessed properly, if you’ve done a very realistic assessment of all those moving parts. And the trick, if there is one, is to create both possibilities and achievements that are greater than the sum of those parts; that is the bonus of strategy, if we can do it. It’s hugely difficult and stretching and it’s not aided by the tendency among political leaders to collapse into a combination of Blue Peter-like wishful thinking . . ."

    So strategy, if done by a political community, creates a dynamic "greater than the sum of its various parts" . . . strategy can thus be a equalizer, allowing a weaker party to compete with a stronger one.

    In line with this view I would argue that Bush going into Iraq had no strategy at all, but only goals which had little connection with the political context in which he was operating. He also had overwhelming conventional military and economic power.

    The Iranians, who have profited most from Bush's incompetent and brutal blundering, seemingly have had a strategy all along . . .

  7. Very simplistically, "strategy," in my view, is a plan for how to get from point A to point B (a desired end). "Tactics" are the methods and/or processes to get there. Of course, I'm not at all a strategist.

    One might also ask, what is strength? In any strong vs weak relationship there are likely to be asymmetries that advantage the weak. There is also a difference between perception and reality regarding "strength."

  8. Andy-

    To me "strategy" is the more difficult term. "Tactics" on the other hand seems to be able to cover both individuals and collectives.

    Take Sun Tzu for instance. Over at we got into numerous discussions that went nowhere attempting to compare Clausewitz and Sun Tzu. Inevitably, the followers of Sun Tzu took our comments to be an attack on what they saw as their philosophy of life, whereas for us it was all simply strategic theory. A Clausewitz scholar, who I was in contact with and who was observing the discussions, pointed out to me that for the followers of Sun Tzu, he really provided a way of life, that is "tactics" in getting through the everyday, which they labeled "strategy" which was incomprehensible to us who had a very different view of what strategy was. There is no such thing as a Clausewitzian "way of life" . . . that is that definition can only be "tactics" from a Clausewitzian perspective.

    Are not "strength" and "power" relationships? Usually clear enough to be understood as such by both sides? Hidden power on the other hand is intentional is it not? Also that neither side or no side see the actual relationship is a given.

    For instance in June 1941, the perception was that Germany would probably make short work of the USSR. This was perceived by not only both sides, but neutral and even hostile observers. The reality of course was that Soviet Russia had hidden strengths and the Nazis hidden weaknesses, which were real enough but not seen by the observers at the time. Only the unfolding events brought them out . . .

  9. Well, the dictionary definition is pretty straightforward; the word strategy derives from the French stratégie, which is the romanization of the Greek "στρατηγία" (strategia), "office of general, command, generalship", and is described as "the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war".

    So it can be the process of an individual commander or a collective group of policymakers, and it is equally applicable to both strong and weak polities. The strong use strategy as a way of minimizing the loss of blood and treasure on the way to the expected gain. The weak need to be cleverer strategically, as they must find ways to overcome the strength of their enemies through craft or misdirection.

    I've been reading Dave Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter" and noting the similarities between the geopolitical situation in Korea in the summer and early autumn of 1950 and the issues we keep debating (here and elsewhere) with regard to the little wars/"wars on terror" in the Middle East and Central Asia.

    Then, as now, you had a group of people (let's call the "maximalists") who viewed the North Korean incursion as part of a global Communist strategy, who saw it as engineered by the Soviet Union/Red China (which they saw as two heads on the same hydra), and who considered that war in Korea, and especially the drive north to the Yalu, as essential to a strategy that would "punish" Red aggression and prevent a Communist run at the West. Their geopolitical frame of reference was the immediate pre-WW2 failure of the democracies to forestall Hitler. They considered the possibility of a prolonged land war on the peninsula unlikely - although they believed that the NKPA was a tool of Stalin they also considered it unlikely that either the Soviets or the Chinese would cross the Yalu (two conclusions I can't quite figure out how to reconcile).

    And you had another group (let's call them "moderates") that saw this as one of the many post-colonial/nationalist wars that, while they pulled in the two great blocs, were essentially civil wars and needed to be viewed as such. And that the possibility of wasting much blood and treasure in them was high compared to the possible benefits they could yield.

    The "maximalists", then, had an actual strategy; it wasn't that there was a problem with strategic thinking. The problem was that their assumptions were entirely wrong and Kennan and the China Hands at State were right; Kim was acting prematurely and Stalin had no intention of backing his play, but Mao and the Chinese leadership saw an advance to the Yalu as an act of bad faith and a likely overture to an attempt to restore Chiang and responded as such. So the "moderate" course of action - halting at the 38th Parallel, or perhaps at the narrowest point of the peninsula just north of Pyongyang - would likely also have been the most strategically successful one, in terms of what the US/UN could achieve with the forces they had available and wanted to deploy.

    So the "strategy" of both sides had goals;

    For the "China Lobby" and the Republicans of 1950 the goal was the complete rollback of Soviet influence in Korea, the punishment of an act of Communist aggression, and the establishment of a "firm hand" in Asia.

    For the "China Hands" and the moderates, it was the attainment of the maximum political ends (some rollback of the intraKorean border, defeat of the NKPA offensive, establishment of a strong South Korean client) attainable given the means available and the avoidance of risking Chinese entry into the war.


  10. (from above):

    And both sides had "process":

    The maximalists had a military plan; a land (supported by air and sea) invasion of the North that had at its goal the establishment of a political border along the Yalu.

    The moderates had a similar plan but that ended the invasion at or near the 38th Parallel.

    Both had a collective component in the policy making, which for the maximalists involved the Republican leaders of the legislature, opinion makers like Luce, MacArthur and his allies in the Pentagon, and the people working for the Nationalist Chinese in Washington and for the moderates included people in the administration like Truman, Acheson and the China Hands at State and military leaders like Marshall and Ridgeway.

    But there were also individuals involved, particularly Kennan on the moderates side and MacArthur on the maximalists.

    And it's worth noting that the maximalists saw themselves as wielding a strategy of the strong; they saw this as a unique advantage to isolate the Reds where we could use our advantages in technical and tactical superiority and hand them a hell of a whipping.

    But...the moderates saw Korea as a place where we were uniquely weak; the mountainous terrain and long supply lines made it difficult to apply our armored and airpower, and the chance of a Chinese response and the disastrous stalemate, or even defeat, outweighed the possibility of success.

    I think that we have a situation today where our "maximalists" see these wars in central Asia as central to the strategy of the strong, where military defeat of the Islamists is what is needed for national security. While the "moderates" see this as a baited hook in which the Islamists want us to keep fighting in hopes that we will continue to "exaggerate the contradictions" and keep them in business.

    My personal opinion is that the maximalists are mistaken. It's not that I think there's no "strategy"; I just think their strategy is wrong because it is based on a flawed analysis of the political factors and the likelihood of a successful military solution to them.

  11. Chief-

    "So it can be the process of an individual commander or a collective group of policymakers, and it is equally applicable to both strong and weak polities."

    That's not what I mean in the distinction between "individual" and "collective". The individual commander is still operating in the interests of a collective. All the concepts connected with strategy - "victory", "defeat", "operations", with the exception of "tactics" refer to collectives. Tactics is the exception due to the nature of tactics.

    Look at sheer's and Andy's definitions: They could both refer to individuals seeking individualist goals: say a man attempting to woo a woman or a person attempting to get a job promotion. Your definition is the first to be unambiguously about collectives.

  12. Chief-

    The subject of the Korean War is outside the scope of this thread, but why not delve into it since it might shed some light on what I hope to get across here . . .

    Your two sides are both US. So they only represent "two sides" of essentially the same side. To get how the Chinese, for instance, were thinking about the war you would have to go to a Chinese source.

    I'm reading Shu Guang Zhang's "Mao's Military Romanticism" which offers a Chinese perspective.

    Zhang's argument is that Mao's reasons for intervening were more complex, that he saw US/UN intervention in Korea as both a threat and an opportunity - "War is the highest form of struggle for resolving contradictions . . . between classes, nations, states or political groups". From Mao's perspective, the US had force but not really a strategy, whereas he had a strategy, strategic thought, the dialectic of Marxism, and force . . . The material element may have been not in his favor, but the moral?

  13. Granted. But in the case of the U.S. political classes, war was ALSO a struggle for resolving contradictions; the China Lobby saw Korea as an opportunity - the opportunity to take on and destroy the new China to restore the Nationalists. The "moderates" - the China Hands and the people like Marshall who had seen Chiang and wanted no part of him - saw it more as a threat, the threat of a protracted war for no gain, or at least not worth the cost. Their strategy was a sort of Fabian one, to minimize the commitment of resources and reduce the risk of disaster.

    So I wouldn't say that either faction had no strategy. The one's was wrong, IMO, but they had a coherent vision of the outcome they wanted.

    As for Mao, I would argue that his "strategy" had even more facets than that. He wanted to warn the U.S. off Taiwan. He wanted to demonstrate the military power of China, as much to Stalin as to the West. He wanted to humble Kim, who Halberstam portrays as a mouthy little shit who had written a check with his offense that he couldn't cover with his defense. He wanted to ensure that his northeastern borders were secure.

    And that's just at the "grand strategic" level. From there you have to drop down a level to "strategy" and contrast MacArthur's conventional and linear strategy for the attack up to the Yalu with Lin Biao's strategy based on misdirection and a series of hidden movements and encircling attacks.

    So I would continue to argue that true "strategy" can be both individual and collective; a combination of individual plans combined towards a politico-military goal. Even tactics is collective, down to the individual soldier's IMTs.

    And strateies are often divided even within one of the parties in the conflict, as with the U.S. factions in Korea, and even more so in a coalition effort such as we're seeing today.

  14. Chief-

    Agree on Mao's motivations and would only add that he saw his revolutionary approach as having much wider applications.

    "So I would continue to argue that true "strategy" can be both individual and collective; a combination of individual plans combined towards a politico-military goal. Even tactics is collective, down to the individual soldier's IMTs."

    So, there would be no conceptual distinction between my "strategy" for finding a parking place in the morning and Mao's "strategy" going into the Korean War, since the term applies equally to the individual and the collective? Tactics from my perspective is the only strategic concept that can be both individual (as in the individual soldier on his own) and collective (tactics of a rifle company). I would grant that "tactics" could also apply to my approach to finding that elusive parking spot in the hectic rush of early morning traffic, whereas "strategy" obviously would not.

    However, you do add the requirement: "a combination of individual plans combined towards a politico-military goal", which I would say makes this collective and not individual. "Politics" following Niebuhr providing the distinction between individual and group dynamics.

    Why does this matter? Because imo the term "strategy" has lost all meaning. We use it as a label to attempt to give more substance to what is essentially in many instances a desire or whim. The government comes out with a new "strategy" (essentially propaganda) to give the impression that their goals actually make sense - have some connection between ends and means operating in the real world - although there is precious little actual indication of that.

    In addition using force to achieve a goal doesn't really require strategy at all. Smashing Iraq was easy, establishing a new Iraqi state, which was taken for granted by Bush and the neocons, would have required an actual strategy, which did not exist.

    So for my own updated definition:

    Focused adaptation of divergent sources of power over time in pursuit of a political purpose through methodological theoretical construct (strategic theory) with the aim of creating strategic effect/a strategic dynamic greater than the sum of the individual power sources. For the strong political community, strategy can be an option, for the weak it is a necessity.

  15. Seydlitz,

    Are not "strength" and "power" relationships? Usually clear enough to be understood as such by both sides? Hidden power on the other hand is intentional is it not? Also that neither side or no side see the actual relationship is a given.

    I agree and would add that disparities may not necessarily be hidden, but may be misperceived or known by only one party. For example, France was thought to be strong enough to defeat/deter Germany prior to WWII but what was perceived as strength was turned into weakness through German tactics. This is what I meant by asymmetries.

    The comments on the Korea war and Bacevich's book got me thinking about ideology. How does that interact with strategy? If one's ideology opposes another ideology (such as the divide between communism and capitalism) then how does that influence strategy? Is opposing the the ideological "other" ever considered strategy? What about values that inevitably make their way into policy?

  16. seydlitz, Andy: I would opine that ideology comes at the top level of the geopolitical pyramid. Bear with me here.

    I think that this entire business has a sort of conceptual or ideological framework from which everything else hangs. Call it "ideology", if you will, or you could call it "national goals" or "national objectives". It's the "big picture" lens that we view the rest of the pyramid through.

    So I would say that your Cold War example is at this level, Andy. The U.S. had an overarching national goal of "opposing Communism" between about 1946 to 1991. This wasn't a military strategy in itself, but it impacted everything from procurement to forming alliances to funding schools to domestic policies.

    In general, the U.S. has never had more than a couple of these sorts of broad goals at any one time, but it has been fairly consistent at developing them and applying them to the rest of the pyramid, that is, applying these values to the policy.

    To continue your example, Andy, the U.S. took this value and selected a Grand Strategy for military/geopolitical actions to apply it; "containment" as laid out in Kennan's Long Telegram. So specific alliances, diplomatic, and political maneuvers were planned around the grand strategy of containment to fulfill the national goal of "oppose Communism".

    From there you drop down to "Strategy", and here's where I think the situation gets more murky. In SE Asia, for example, the "strategy" in 1950 was "use a multinational military force to defend Korea from Communist aggression". But we lost focus when we broke the back of Kim's summer 1950 offensive, seeing the opportunity to not just contain but to roll back Communism (as we saw it) in Korea.

    The strategy of "defend Korea" (which translated into the military strategies of delaying down the peninsula, defending Pusan, and then making a strategic maneuver to Kim's rear at Inchon) would have mandated a halt at or near the 38th Parallel.


  17. (con't from above)

    But the combination of the seemingly irresistable vacuum left by the retreating North and the opportunity to remove a Communist entity or even (as seen by the China Lobby) to challenge Mao and take a step towards unleashing Chiang led us to believe that a military strategy of "invade the North and reunite Korea under Syngman Rhee" would best fulfill the larger political strategy of "defend Korea".

    I think this is where the U.S. has often run into trouble. We had a similar problem in Vietnam, where we tried to shoehorn a civil war into our Grand Strategy of "containment". In fact, we've had this problem a lot since 1945, conflating nationalist revolts with communist insurgencies. I think this has more to do with our political myopia. We have a hard time dealing with people who are "not-us", and a lot of the post-colonial leaders are and were deliberately non-Western. Often the ones who are a problem, too, as in the case of this guy ( are the ones that work the best with our soldiers and get the most rapid short-term results. We seem to have a hard time thinking through the short-term local strategies (or even forgetting all about strategy and letting the tactics drive, as I think we have in the Middle East all the way back to the First Gulf War).

    I'm not sure why this is. Is it driven by the two-year electoral cycle here? Is it an artifact of our noncolonial military history, where most of our overseas campaigns were conducted as expeditionary warfare? One thing we don't seem to do well as a military, for example, is the sort of business the Brits were terrific at; finding men who could organize, train, and lead native troops. We did it once, in the hill country of Vietnam, and then proceeded to almost deliberately destroy the institutional memory of how we did. Certainly our record to date in both Afghanistan and Iraq has been pretty poor...and that, to me, speaks volumes of our inability to translate our Grand Strategy (develop reliable clients in the Middle East/Gulf area to counter the influence of Iran and the Islamic fundamentalists) into working political and military strategy.

    Here's where I fall apart; I don't know why we can't seem to figure this out, I don't see where the institutional and personal failures are, so I don't know how you repair the damage. I suspect it has something to do with fixing State (and reining in DoD to make it an equal or even junior partner to State in foreign strategizing) and possibly even the NSC (?), but I'm really grasping at straws here.


  18. Nice looking flag, and I used to be real good at Stratego.

    I'm afraid that's as far as I go.


  19. Very interesting comments gentlemen.

    Ideology is the same as thinking in terms of a "system" or metaphorically like wearing tinted glasses - everything is judged in terms of the system or seen in shades of green, pink or blue. Does that preclude one from being able to think strategically? It depends on the ideology as to the extent. The Nazis could not conceive of losing a war to the subhuman Slavs, whereas the more "racially pure" British were seen as a real threat. The Soviets would have had difficulty accepting the idea of the collapse of communism since it was "scientific" and historically dialectic. And the US has its own Washington Rules which provides its own assumptions according to Bacevich. This goes along with what is known in strategic theory as "strategic culture". The strategic culture of the US is for instance to see war as an industrial process of destruction, at least since 1865, that mixed in with not a little racism. After 1941 it has also been to see the enemy as an ideological and world-wide threat, an existential danger to the American way of life: Nazis, Imperial Japanese, Soviet Russians, Communist Chinese, North Koreans/Vietnamese as Soviet/Chinese proxies, and finally "Islamofabulism".

    We're not very good at carrying the whiteman's burden because times have changed. Nobody wants some pale-faced foreigner coming in and telling them how to do things, how to organize their own political life. Brzezinski's been writing about the "Global Political Awakening" for some time and Martin Luther King spoke of the same thing - and the example that his non-violent direct action - could have for all the "people of color" around the world.

    Bush's Iraq expedition made sense in terms of 1903, but 2003? It never had a chance, politically speaking.

  20. I would offer that Chief has hit upon a legitimate point, and is not grasping at straws at all:

    I suspect it has something to do with fixing State (and reining in DoD to make it an equal or even junior partner to State in foreign strategizing) and possibly even the NSC (?), but I'm really grasping at straws here.

    We need State to help identify worthwhile and achievable strategic policy objectives, and DOD to honestly offer whether there is a military strategy that can reach the objectives, as well as what that (those)strategy(ies) might be. Without a strategic objective, there can be no strategy.

    Therein lies our problem - a lack of clear, worthwhile and achievable policy objectives, coupled with applying the wrong tools for what we think the objective might be were the objectives possible and worthwhile to begin with. If something ain't gonna happen (a futile objective, for example), then all the so called "strategy" that can be drummed up is for naught. Power, leverage, individual or collective will cannot accomplish the impossible, and may not have the staying power for the improbable, no matter how we apply them. We are not going to get FDChief pregnant, no matter how many fertility drugs we feed him.

  21. Well, there goes another perfectly good plan shot in the ass by inconvenient facts!

  22. Al: One thing I do wonder about...

    The Halberstam book talks about the "China Hands", and just the other night PBS did a program on The Pentagon Papers where there was a fair amount of discussion about the sort of people we had in the RVN on the civilian side, guys like Paul Vann, who could afford to look outside the OD box on everything from tactics to strategy. These folks seem to have been largely sidelined by the people running the wars, and the China Hands at State were defenestrated by the McCarthy nonsense. But there seems to have been at one time a community within the US government - mostly at State but also with the CIA, DIA, some of the other quasi-governmental organizations like RAND - that had a fair amount of understanding of the rest of the world.

    That seems to have gone - at least, I suspect it has or we wouldn't be in the mountains of central Asia for the eighth year hoping that Asian political corruption will just go away if we walk around in our cool digital cammies long enough. Or something.

    The problem is that I suspect that you have to spend a LONG and patient time building that sort of knowledge and understanding. I don't think we either have it or are willing to gain it. We seem to prefer to prop things up long enough that we can scuttle around the corner before they collapse...

  23. Chief-

    In the political process, politics trumps rationality. That's why, for example, we call such elected and appointed offices "political" offices. Add factors like ideology and group think into the mix, and the results are never guaranteed to be optimal. In the political process, what "sells" is much more important than what is "right", "optimal" or "rational". While we should have rational pros in the "civil service" at State, or in the military, they are not the final decision makers, nor are they immune to being influenced by the voices around them.

  24. Al: True. But it's a whole lot easier to sell the bullshit when everyone in the room has a head cold. I think that part of the problems we're seeing with the breadth and depth of politicized military and foreign policy decision making is that there are so few people with the training and experience to state confidently to the political decision-makers that what they're smelling isn't rose petals.

    But the final Jeopardy answer is always political, yes. The drive to the Yalu, the escalation after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the invasion of 2003...there were lots of people even then who were talking sense. The people with the power just didn't want to listen. Or take the sniff test.

  25. Yes, agree, "politics" is the 500 pound gorilla in the room that everyone pretends is not there.

    For instance, the NSC was formed around the Clausewitzian ideal of strategy formulation - one need simply consider who sits on the NSC - but it is easily subverted by having a weak National Security Advisor who is working at odds(?) with a strong VP and SecDef who have their own working groups putting the rationale for war together. In the end the NSC simply becomes a rubber stamp for what the executive planned to do all along. The institutions are there, but they are easily subverted when there is the political will/interest to do so. What exactly is the downside to this? As far as I see there is no downside, no penalty, no accountability, everyone acts like nothing has happened and continues to play by the "rules", as Bacevich has pointed out.

    Consider also how "preemptive war" has so easily become US policy since 2001. Originally the concept was a strategic theory concept connected with nuclear war theory, which was supposed to be more the nature of a warning as to vulnerabilities and thus was meant to avoid war. Under Bush II it became a reason to promote war by attacking any state that could possibly be a threat . . . That the logical connection for this concept was irrational nobody seemed to notice or that those responsible for 9/11 according to the government were non-state actors seemed not to matter. Instead all Bush had to do was holler "dangerous threat"! and everyone joined the parade to war.

    We are unable to "do" strategy imo because we are incapable of seeing the nature of the domestic political interests behind our belligerent foreign policy. Waging war against methods, such as "terrorism", are logical absurdities. Hoping that military action will provide "total security" is a pipe dream. Rather our very policies make us more of a target and more hated around the world. Ask any US expat . . .

    Our current war policy is the foreign policy equivalent of the Ponzi scheme that passes for our economy, only with more explosions and lots of dead brown people.

  26. Andy-

    C Wright Mills's comment made a lot of sense in 1956.

  27. Seydlitz,

    Is preemptive war still US policy? I kind of doubt it. I don't think there is much appetite for more. Even Bush said "no" when pressured to act against Iran.

    On "politics" I think that problem doesn't just affect foreign policy. For example, I think Dave Shuler makes a pretty good argument on why the reality of a consumption tax won't match the theory.

  28. Y'all,

    Thought this might explain how the U.S. Gov't approaches strategic plannin' --

  29. Andy-

    "Is preemptive war still US policy? I kind of doubt it."

    I hear a lot of war talk in regards to Iran and how "all the options are still on the table" . . . Wouldn't a US attack, US support of an Israeli attack on Iran count as a pre-emptive war? Obama made a lot of promises during his campaign for Prez, but has backtracked on most of them . . .

  30. YT-

    Greetings and welcome to the blog, since I don't recall seeing your moniker before . . .

    Interesting that you mention Fouche's post on Wylie since I've been working on a review of Wylie's book which I will be posting soon. Btw, cumulative and sequential strategies are both Clausewitzian concepts (On War;Bk 8,Ch 3A) . . .

  31. Seydlitz,

    Wouldn't a US attack, US support of an Israeli attack on Iran count as a pre-emptive war?

    If that actually occurs, then yes.

  32. Andy-

    So, we'll only know for sure if the policy of pre-emptive war is no longer in effect when nothing happens . . . I would point out that the last "war scare" was in August. So far so good.

  33. Seydlitz89,

    I've read some of the voluminous work that you've contributed regardin' Vom Kriege. It's a notable feat to be featured at the site that Dr. Bassford hosts.

    Unfortunately, I sorta ovelooked Wylie's work while I was in a country equipped with a well-stocked military library (3rd-world backwater neck-o'-the-woods where I'm presently at lacks such conveniences).

    One thing I don't understand: why is there such a huge hoo-ha 'bout Master Sun, Herr Clausewitz or the honorable Col. John Boyd's ideas bein' valid or otherwise @ It's just lookin' at the same phenomena (that is War) thru different prisms or lens. I've some familiarity with the world-views of all three theorists & I find li'l that is of contradiction.

    If only we could all learn to become synthesists like the late Michael Handel.

    I'll be lookin' forward to your post on the Rear Admiral's thesis sir.

  34. YT-

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Yes there were notable discussions on I learned a lot from my experiences posting and commenting there . . . I also learned that there seems to be an unavoidable conflict between those who think in terms of "tactics" and those who think in terms of "strategy" . . .

    I'm thinking about the Wylie post.

  35. Re: I also learned that there seems to be an unavoidable conflict between those who think in terms of "tactics" and those who think in terms of "strategy"

    Ain't that the holy truth. Oversight for so many (sigh). Or maybe it's just the way Indo-European languages are structured?