Monday, November 29, 2010

When "Strategy" Is Not Strategy . . .

If you wish to follow this post entirely, you'll have to read, or be roughly familiar with a series of recent posts on strategy. Following Admiral JC Wylie's challenge, I'm attempting here to initiate a dynamic in terms of strategy discussion with the view of developing in time a general theory of strategy . . .

This is a follow up to an earlier post, which concerned Admiral JC Wylie's classic Military Strategy of 1967. That post in turn - as is normal among those who write about this type of stuff - got a mention from Zenpundit. Zen had found himself in strong agreement with my definition of strategy, as a necessary element of a larger theory of strategy:

Focused adaptation of divergent sources of power assisted by control 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.

Please refer to my above post for my reasons for emphasizing this very specific and limited definition of "strategy".

The actual subject of Zen's post was in part this post from Kings of War. In "Is Politics the Enemy of Strategy?" the Faceless Bureaucrat argues that "politics" being the larger range of social activity that war operates within makes avoiding political "interference" impossible. This was well known to Clausewitz as well btw:

when people talk, as they often do, about harmful political influence on the management of war, they are not really saying what they mean. Their quarrel should be with the policy itself, not with its influence. If the policy is right - that is, successful - any intentional effect is has on the conduct of the war can only be to the good. If it has the opposite effect the policy itself is wrong.
On War, Book VIII, Chapter 6

OK, you follow me so far probably, but why the picture of the Trojan Horse? I'll get to that . . .

But first, this comment I made on Zen's post, in response to the KoW post above:
If the "war of choice" in question is so hamstrung - or rather becomes so hamstrung - by domestic political considerations, maybe that’s a good reason not to get involved in such a conflict in the first place . . . I would add that both Afghanistan and Iraq were more than just "wars of choice", they were essentially unlimited wars since we overthrew the governments in question and took over responsibility for their replacements, ensuring a long-term and open-ended commitment which obviously we were not really interested in fulfilling . . . or am I reading it wrong? Also I would argue that Bush’s war in Iraq didn’t really involve any "strategy" at all, at least as how I have defined it on the post you link. "Politics" loves a strategic vacuum . . .

The "war of choice" refers to actually two wars: Afghanistan and Iraq. In both we, or rather Bush/US government at the time decided to incur unlimited benefits/costs in regards to these two conflicts. In both, as in with our demand of unconditional surrender in 1943, we had taken on responsibility for establishing the follow-on government of (by us) defeated states. Germany in 1943, Japan in 1945, followed by Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. These are all such by-war-created-new-government states the US has taken on in our history, with the exception of perhaps the Philippines in 1899-1949 . . .

So, both wars of choice were taken on in a rather cavalier fashion since our leaders at the time thought of themselves as "history's actors", or as reflected in a quote by Paul Bremer to US State Department officials in 2003, "All you people know about is history - we are making history, we are making the future." What gave us this role and ability, was who "we were" in the eyes of the actors themselves and the amount of raw power at our disposal.

Enter the Trojan Horse. At the time that Homer's Iliad opens the Greeks have been fighting to overthrow Troy for ten years. The "strategy" they had followed relied simply on the personalities involved (especially the heroes like Achilles, Ajax and others) and the use of raw force to physically annihilate/subdue the Trojans. From the point of view of this post, there was actually no strategy at all, simply "history's actors" using brute force to attain their goal. The result was potential defeat or at the least stalemate which for the Greeks was the same thing. With their hopes sinking, the Greeks in desperation try instead to draw upon other sources of power at their disposal to create a strategic dynamic which will play to Trojan weaknesses and allow the Greeks to militarily defeat Troy. Personalities do not enter in to it, by now Achilles is dead, and force will not be used until the last moment and then very effectively. What we have here is a transition from a plan using raw force wielded by "history's actors" to a strategy using a wide range of sources of power with the intention of creating strategic effect far beyond the sum total of the inputed elements. We can look at the two (use of raw force & strategy) also in terms of linearity/non-linearity, with raw force as more linear and strategy as more non-linear in their effects.

One could argue, that this was not a strategy at all, but simply a ruse (thanks FDChief), but that would be forgetting my definition above. The intention is to use a wide range of power to achieve strategic effect. The idea of using a wooden horse to trick the Trojans was a ruse, but that would have hardly worked on its own. What was required was a strategy using a wide range of power available to the Greeks, in this case the intercession of the various gods in support of the Greeks in addition to the distraction of the various gods in support of the Trojans. If you recall, the Trojans were divided as to how to proceed with the horse. The Trojan priest Laocoön threw a spear into the horse to show that it had nothing to do with the gods and that the Trojans would be better off setting it ablaze. But the gods intervene here and Laocoön and his sons are killed by giant snakes sent by Athena. Obviously the unfortunate priest of Neptune had angered the gods by throwing that spear, but was that actually the case? The Greeks had also left behind a spy, Sinon, who feigned opposition to the Greeks, and told the right version of events to the Trojans.

We see here a very clear distinction between the tactical nature of a ruse, and the strategic nature of the effect of the overall Greek strategy. The fact that the political purpose was the same in the case of the use of personality and force and in the use of strategy does not matter, since strategy is not an end in itself, but a means.

What was key for this strategy to work was excellent intelligence, a clear view of how the enemy would react to the situation and clear political goals which could be achieved through military action, that is the destruction/looting of Troy, not the establishment of a new Trojan state controlled by the Greeks.

Compare the Greek experience before Troy with America's recent wars of choice and the similarities are clear. It was not a bad strategy, or too many strategies that got us to the situation we are in now in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but no strategy at all in the terms I have defined it. Instead was an assumption of American exceptionalism linked with reliance on a great use of force. Understanding of the area or its history were discounted since both the exceptionalism of being history's actors and the nature of our tremendous available force would sweep all before us. This was tied as well to notions in regards to the "magic of the market", especially in regards to post-invasion Iraq. Paul Bremer was instrumental as head of the CPA in instituting a whole series of sweeping laws which reflected neo-liberal ideological assumptions. Contrary to many critics, there was a plan, as Naomi Klein described it, "to lay out as much honey as possible, then sit back and wait for the flies", that is the "market" or rather US corporate interests to come in and turn everything around.

Sound familiar? It should, since that is the same rhetoric we have heard in regards to the current financial crisis: "just wait for the market to do its magic". That is the current political situation in the US has fundamentally affected the nature of not only how we approach our wars and our inability to identify the limits of military power, but also many serious problems at home. Notions of American exceptionalism - unquestioningly promoted by those with the most to gain from the current situation - are used to explain away what should be indicators of crisis: lower life expectancy, lower educational results, increasing gap between what is left of our middle class and the working classes and those at the top. It is of particular interest that the recently triumphant GOP is using this very notion of exceptionalism to once again bamboozle the American people, as if we have learned nothing from the last nine years . . .

The inability to think in strategic terms not only limits our military/economic/political effectiveness abroad, but endangers our social/political existence at home.


Thanks for the comments on this post. As we can see it was a good interaction and some of the comments added to clarify specific points.

There are two points I would like to make. First, the narrow definition of strategy I have proposed is illustrated well by the history of the Trojan War. The lack of strategy and the use of strategy show the clear distinctions between the two. Strategy is a force multiplier. But it need not be present to create strategic effect, since if the targeted population does not resist, or cannot resist effectively, the stronger side can impose their will by force alone. I think Al has made a good argument in regards to the Morgenthau Plan being a strategy, albeit a poor one. Still, given the lack of resistance from the German people, it need not have been a strategy in order to have succeeded. Force alone would have sufficed.

Second, let's look again at Wylie's quote that I added in the comments, that being: "I would suggest that a primary fault in the last war in Europe was that we brilliantly fought and implemented what turned out to be an obscure, contradictory, and finally nonexistent strategic end. Peace, in and of itself, is not necessarily a proper objective . . .p15".

To understand this we have to go back to Wylie's very broad definition of strategy: "A plan of action designed in order to achieve some end; a purpose together with a system of measures for its accomplishment."

Wylie's saying that we can judge a strategy in terms of both its purpose and the means used and come up with quite different conclusions. The means for instance can be applied effectively, while the purpose itself might not be achieved in the way it was intended. It's when you put both together that you get the full picture and that may indeed be mixed.

There is also another element in judging the effectiveness of a particular strategy that is implied by this quote. Wylie was writing over 20 years after the fact. In 1945 what looked like a resounding success looked more like still success, but with missed opportunities 20 years later. The way that a particular strategy plays out over time can vary much. Consider how the First Gulf War of 1990-91 is perceived today, or compare how it was perceived in 2003 with how it was seen in mid 1991.

As Clausewitz wrote in the first chapter of Book I of On War, In War the result is never final.


  1. Seydlitz,
    I've recently touched on the Trojan Horse over at Ranger. Your cmts got me thinking.
    We use the TH as a symbol of Spec Ops, or we used to, but it's totally inappropriate since the TH was used to destroy Troy.( As you point out)
    We try to convince ourselves and others that our goal is to build nations. UMM?!
    The whole PWOT thing confuses my little Ranger brain.
    What do we have to gain by nation building?
    In fact what did we gain from rebuilding Japan, and Germany? We built economic rivals that whipped our butts AFTER we renovated and updated their manufacturing base.
    Real smart. Bomb them into dust and then modernizing them ; now that's a plan.
    In fact what did we gain from our supposed victory in WW2?
    As you always so clearly write- where's the strategy?
    I'd like to think that the first strategic implication should be- how do WE benefit?
    Do we really believe that we fight to benefit the OTHERS?
    You keep beating the drum- i hope somebody is hearing your beat.

  2. jim-

    I think Wylie would agree in regards to WWII. He writes, "I would suggest that a primary fault in the last war in Europe was that we brilliantly fought and implemented what turned out to be an obscure, contradictory, and finally nonexistent strategic end. Peace, in and of itself, is not necessarily a proper objective . . ." Military Strategy, p 15.

    As to the GWOT, we as country had nothing to gain, but rather the political/economic interests behind the war saw it as in their own interest . . .

  3. On the other hand, we did get a pacified Japan who was, at the time, in the solid grip of the Warrior caste, and was threatening the stability of the entire region.
    Knocking the Japanese back, and then rebuilding them didn't really change their over all need, which was, and still is raw materials, but rather brought them into the world market.
    Yeah, they're competitors, but overall, they're not an existential threat to us, nationally.
    The Germans, well, they needed an ass kicking of epic proportions, and they got it which left them in a very vulnerable spot...being forever the bitch of the USSR, and hence, access to some really creative German engineering; or, we take over and face down the Soviets.
    Needless to say, yes, the German's rebuilt with our loans, and became a contender, but they also became another productive society without all the Prussian, "hey, what about some liebenstraum?"

    So, in a way, by turning two "warrior" nations towards a more productive course we have allowed economies to grow throughout the world.
    The key goal then, as far as I see, is that we should see about cutting out the whole "lets beat them down" and try enticing the country to participate in the world economy.

    Of course, this is pie in the sky, and N. Korea and Iran tend to be flies in the honey, but I think even those two nations are feeling the isolation of other nations around them basking in the glow of growing economic opportunity while their stone-age cultures unravel with desire for a better life.

  4. sheer-

    I think Wylie's (and Clausewitz's) point would be that there wasn't much thought beyond defeating the Axis, not much thought as to forming the type of peace that would be to the Western Allies best interests . . . Having the Russians on the Elbe and occupying the northern half of Korea weren't really in our interests . . . since it would have to be assumed that our cooperation would not long last the end of the war.

  5. I guess my only question would be; would it be legitimate to consider the Horse a "strategy" (since the political goal hadn't changed - punish Paris and the Trojans for the abduction of Helen, sack the city to pay for the expedition) or a "strategem"?

    My thought would be the latter; a trick or tactical gimmick.

    But I think your analogy holds on the higher level; much of what we are being told are our "strategies" for fighting the islamic neoconservatives in the Middle East and southcentral Asia are in fact nothing but tactics or, worse, mere strategems designed to buy the U.S. government another Friedman unit.

    Likewise our domestic politics. We no longer attempt anything significant or long-term; things like the TVA, the Bonneville Power system, or the FHWA, would be impossible in today's U.S. Instead of strategy we have strategems to defeat political rivals and tactics to hold off bankruptcy or obtain favors for wealthy and influential factions.

  6. In re: the endgame of WW2, I think there WAS a sort of Allied grand strategy; but it was predicated on a bunch of things, especially Stalin playing nicety (which was ridiculously optimistic) and went to hell when the cease-fire line became the German and Korean (and almost the Iranian) internal borders.

    FDR, especially, had a semi-Wilsonian notion of a "League of Nations with balls" which was the original concept of the UN. But he also hated the British Empire and planned to use the UN to rip the colonies away from the UK, which Churchill - indeed, most British pols of the day outside Labour - were utterly unwilling to accept, and he was idealistic about both Chiang and Stalin.

    Churchill's "strategy" was to reestablish the UK as a world power, which sank on the rocks of Britain's economic exhaustion.

    The rest of the Allied powers were only in the boat until Germany folded, at which point they started pulling their own oars...

    So I would opine that the problem wasn't so much that there wasn't a "strategy", but that there wasn't a "strategist"; the Allies were at best a marriage of convenience that folded when the Axis did, rendering whatever had passed for an Allied strategy notional.

  7. FDC: the Allies were at best a marriage of convenience that folded when the Axis did, rendering whatever had passed for an Allied strategy notional.

    In other words, each of the Allies might have had a different strategic geopolitical objective, but all of these strategic objectives required the total military defeat of the Axis powers. Following VE and VJ Day, a whole new calculus of strategic action (non-military) had to be applied by the various actors to move towards their various geopolitical goals.

    To the extent possible, the post hostilities strategic objectives were wrestled with well before the fact, to include the plans for the temporary occupation of Germany and Japan. Thus, even with the partitioning of Germany, things moved toward a rational, desired outcome.

    Yes, we weren't able to thwart the Soviet expansion into eastern Europe and Asia, but that really wasn't a serious blip on the radar. The Axis Powers consumed much more attention due to them being the aggressors, and pretty serious ones. The nations swallowed into the Soviet sphere were, unfortunately, small potatoes at the time, and in the long run, were mostly a drain in the Soviets.

  8. OT, but lacking an off-blog method of contacting you, seydlitz, I'll do it this way.

    I have seen references to Spain & Portugal wallowing in their financial woes, often in conjunction with those of Ireland.

    Can you put up a piece on that subject as a resident in that area of the world?


  9. We seem to forget that the initial Occupation document (JCS 1067) for US Forces in Germany was a harsh instrument, heavily influenced by Henry Morganthau's desire to reduce Germany to an eternal agrarian minor entity.

    The US military government of occupation in Germany was ordered to "…take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany [or] designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy" and it was also ordered that starvation, disease and civil unrest were to be kept below such levels where they would pose a danger to the troops of occupation.

    1067 directed the Occupation for some two years before JCS 1779 was published in Jul 1947, stating, "An orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany."

    Our geopolitical objective for Germany was harsh and punitive at first. Morganthau's perpetual agrarian state effectively meant very limited sovereignty for Germany, as external forces were to define their future. It was only after emotions cooled that the benevolent objectives now given center stage were instituted. I would be willing to bet that most Americans think the Marshall Plan went into play immediately after the end of hostilities. In all honesty, not only did Germans suffer considerably following the end of WWII, but policy was to ensure that they did. Only when it was seen that such suffering worked against long term US interests did our approach change.

    Thus, not only did the various Allies have different strategic post war objectives, but the US objectives changed considerably in 1947. Unlike today, our country's leaders, assisted by folks like George Marshall, learned from their mistake before events got out of control.

  10. Al: Point well taken. The "Allies" included some pretty odd lots. You have to give the Big Three some credit for just holding thart herd of cats together long enough to get to VE/VJ Days.

    But once the Axis were history and Stalin went his way the internal pressures of the various Allied states - which had been deferred to finish the war - became more important again.

    Actually, when you think about it, the U.S. did a fairly decent job transitioning from a leader of the anti0Axis coalition to the leader of the anti-Soviet coalition. I can't see how anyone could have tossed Stalin out of eastern Germany, much less Eastern Europe. He left Iran, Korea, and much of Japan and that in itself is a sort of miracle - Stalin NEVER gave away anything he could avoid.

    I would, instead, opine that strategically the U.S. had been really adrift only since 1991 globally. I'd throw in our reaction to the anti- and post-colonial wars pre-91; we always seemed to get those wrong, lumping the nationalists in with the communists.

    But as far as the "big picture" between 1945-1991...I think we did pretty decently.

  11. FDC: But as far as the "big picture" between 1945-1991...I think we did pretty decently.

    Or we were, at least, somewhat coherent.

    Richard Armitage, speaking at the Naval War College in about 1995, said that we didn't defeat the Soviet Union. We simply woke up one morning and it had toppled, as so sagely predicted by George Kennen, of it's own weight. This abrupt and radical change in the world left us without a strategic objective of any sort. We had invested nearly a half century being the "Good Guys" because we had a terrifying "Bad Guy" to oppose. Our self image was defined in terms of what we opposed, and the magnitude of that opponent was so huge, our self esteem was huge.

    Interestingly, the strategic geopolitical end state of the Cold War was actually the avoidance of something, not the achievement of something. Think about it.

    So there we were, with no serious "Bad Guy" to readily define us as the "Good Guy". We had "won" the Cold War, and there wasn't anything significant to oppose. We should be thankful for the rise of radical Islam. Without it, we wouldn't be "good".

    P.S. - Armitage was intellectually honest enough to admit that at the rate things were going, if the Soviets had been able to hold on, they could have awoken to a collapsed US.

  12. Sheer,
    Re Japan and destabilization of the region. Per your cmts.
    What the key point of the Pacific war was - the white boys can fuck up the region to their hearts content, but little yellow fuckers were not allowed the same freedom. Korea is a fine example, the peninsula has always been a point of friction between larger players.
    The south can be repressive b/c they are white boy surrogates, but the north is aggressive b/c it's a little yellow fucker causing the trouble.
    All the while the white boys have nucs, and have fried yellow people with them, but NK can't join the club?
    And pls tell me why Germany needed an ass kicking? What did they do that the allies didn't, at one time or another?
    The US didn't need to fight any part of ww2- it wasn't our fight. That's my take.
    I think Pres. Monroe would agree.

  13. Jim,
    Germany got it because as far as the view of which side of the pond America was sitting in the middle of the Alantic side had the trade partners...aka Britain, France, and other European markets...that, and Hitler declared war on America, America only returned the favor.
    Japan got sacked because they didn't pull off their grand spectacle of a Pacific Empire by failing to kick our teeth all the way in.

    So, in part, yes, the US did have to fight in the war because Japan, after hitting the US, also, by limited action with surface subs, also shelled the Mainland. Pathetic results ensued, hilarity was had by all, but the gesture was more than enough that said Japan wanted the US out of the way. The US said no, and so voila, our quaint little disagreement in the Pacific.
    Germany on the other hand could have said, "yep, the Japanese, you kicked that hornets nest all by your lonesome, good luck with that, let us know how it turns out for you." But alas, they didn't, and considering the condition of our military at the time...we should have told Germany and their declaration of war to go suck a wurst.
    In all, the current of public opinion during the lead up to the America's involvment in WWII was more of, "Are we sure we want to get entangled in European affairs...again?" Which was pretty much how a lot of the isolationists/we're-quite-comfortable-here politico's were popping off about.
    However, there were those who felt war with Japan and Germany was inevitable and we should hop to it.
    That is why America, from the history books, looks double-minded during the pre-war, early war period.

    As for today, why can't North Korea have a nuke?
    Well, for one, I'm of the mind that I don't want my country selling them one, and I'm thinking that China, and Russia are of the same mindset, of course, I'm just guessing at that.
    Secondly, North Korea has shit for money, squat for resources, and motivation comes from "do it or die!" so in a way, I think North Korea has a lot of problems that preclude them building a nuke...but hey, if they want to build one go on ahead.
    My thinking is that only good will come from them going totally stupid with a nuke, or if they don't use it, that they'll march parades around the damnable thing, get a hefty does of REM's pounding their sensitive tissues to jelly, and again, the whole problem takes care of itself.
    Radiation has a way of making it's point even when it's not put to critical mass.

  14. Sheer,
    I'm confused-didn't the US declare war on Germany??Didn't we enter that war thru the back door?
    Did US policy give the Japs many options?
    Did the US reaction to the Jap-Russo War encourage their militarism?
    So in your world if a country messes with our trade partners, then this is a reason for war.?
    My bottom line is that the Japs had more reasons and rights to expansion in the region than did the US or Britain/France.
    How did the Pacific become a US pond?
    As always , it's nice discussing these issues with you.

  15. Sheer,
    I'm confused-didn't the US declare war on Germany??Didn't we enter that war thru the back door?
    Did US policy give the Japs many options?
    Did the US reaction to the Jap-Russo War encourage their militarism?
    So in your world if a country messes with our trade partners, then this is a reason for war.?
    My bottom line is that the Japs had more reasons and rights to expansion in the region than did the US or Britain/France.
    How did the Pacific become a US pond?
    As always , it's nice discussing these issues with you.

  16. jim-

    The US declared war on Japan on 8 Dec 1941. On 11 Dec 1941, Hitler declared war on the US.

    There is not a lot of solid info as to Hitler's logic in issuing the declaration of war. He definitely was suffering the effects of our logistical support to England. Some scholars have offered that Hitler did not expect the US to be able to pursue the war in the Pacific as well as in Europe. While he was stupid enough to initiate a two front war, he figured America just wouldn't have the capacity for a two front that was across two oceans.

  17. FDChief-

    "I guess my only question would be; would it be legitimate to consider the Horse a "strategy" (since the political goal hadn't changed - punish Paris and the Trojans for the abduction of Helen, sack the city to pay for the expedition) or a "strategem"?"

    I've updated the post to respond to your very good point. I had thought of the question of ruse, before, but in my haste didn't include it in the post. I think the updated version deals with your question adequately.

  18. basil-

    I asked my advanced level English Portuguese students your question this evening . . . they had no response. I think people here take it all as a bit too confusing . . . when you're in the middle of the storm it is difficult to see where you are exactly, let alone the way forward . . .

    My email is

  19. The discussion has veered off into WWII which is off topic, but talking strategy. Plus this detour is also my fault . . . Mea culpa.

    I'll throw a few ideas out to stimulate this one and maybe we'll get back to the subject of strategy this way . . .

    Wylie obviously wasn't too impressed with our strategy in WWII and he was a war hero of that particular war. Why? Because imo there had been so little thought by the US as to the actual nature of the following peace during the war. The Soviets on the other hand were already talking to the Brits in 1941 of annexing Königsberg . . . . which tells you how much they were thinking about the aftermath even as Guderian's Panzers were nearing Tula.

    If Churchill's primary goal as to retain the British Empire, then he should have made a deal with Hitler in 1940. Otherwise his strategy was self-defeating.

    Allowing Poland to fall into Soviet orbit with its borders dictated by Stalin was counter the original reason that France and Britain had gone into the war in the first place.

    "Unconditional Surrender" in 1943 was a mistake, instead FDR should have appealed to the German people to overthrow the "madman Hitler who has led Germany to disaster".

    Instead of landing at Normandy, we should have seized the Danish straits/most of Denmark and then landed on Germany's Baltic coast threatening Berlin directly. The goal should have been to take control of as much of Germany as possible with the Soviets as far east as possible.

  20. Seydlitz: Because imo there had been so little thought by the US as to the actual nature of the following peace during the war.

    What would you call the Morganthau Plan? Putting it on the table in 1944, Henry definitely mapped out what Germany would look and act like following "Unconditional Surrender".

  21. Al-

    Yes, but it wasn't really very objective was it? more the nature of a reaction - a plan, but not a doable or effective strategy. Eliminating all heavy industry? and then there was the food policy, which was disastrous. But that's not what I think Wylie means - and that is definitely not what I mean - by "the nature of the following peace". Rather it would be the balance of power relationship in Europe, not just occupation policy, which was the opposite of the Morganthau Plan which would have created a power vacuum in the center of Europe . . .

  22. Seydlitz,
    I apologise if i was ot, but my cmts are aimed at the lack of strategic thinking in all our wars.
    Propaganda and racism is not strategic thought.
    I always enjoy your articles, as they are always solid.

  23. Forgive me Seydlitz, but I think us discussing the beginning's of WWII falls within your discussion of Strategy.
    For example, our trade with Europe, especially with England, prompted our government to send "help" in various forms, including "volunteers" to help the English stave off the German attack.
    And when the US did hop into the war, the first phase of the American warfare was to knock Germany out of the fight.
    Now, a good question could be asked, "why did Germany get picked first instead of Japan?"
    What was the reasoning behind that decision?
    Was it grand strategy, or was it economic?
    or was it a combination of both?

    Jim Bakker III said in a PBS interview in a review of George H.W. Bush's first gulf war that part of U.S. Foreign policy, and one could assume grand strategy, was that we were willing to go to war to protect the Oil flow to the world...specifically, us, the US.

    You see, me thinks you are limiting your view of what strategy is, and I'm going to assume you are focusing on Military, but for me, discussing any form of strategy means we must discuss all aspects of that Nations' methodology, social/legal connections, and above all else, it's economic setting in regards to itself, and with the world.

    It's a huge subject.

  24. Seylitz-

    Yes, Morganthau's plan was ill advised for the long run, but still "strategic" in nature in that it had a geopolitical end objective that he and others thought could be sustained.

    We discussed this at great length at Naval War College. Strategic thought can be bad and still be strategic. Erroneous assumptions and/or objectives do not disqualify it from being strategic in nature.

    Compare the existence of the Morganthau Plan with our approach to Iraq, where there was no plan of any sort for the period following the collapse of the Iraq government. Rather, a make it up as you go along, everything will magically sort itself out approach. Morganthau envisioned a specific end state for Germany and the Europe that it would be a part of, along with the actions to get there. That it was misguided is a separate issue.

    We can discuss good versus bad strategic thought and action, and we can discuss whether a given situation was subject to a strategic level of thinking or not. I just am not convinced that it is worthwhile to call bad strategy, non-strategy.

  25. Jim,
    My feeling is yes, economic reasons were part and parcel for the decision to knock Germany out first.
    We had very limited trade with Japan, in fact, most of our trade was scrap metal, which fits since Japan had a need for raw materials.
    Also, if you look at the situation, Japan was still a militaristic society, and for them, they had not achieved a social evolution where forty years later they could conduct warfare by business transactions (Go Rin No Sho, Book of Five Rings, the go to book for Japan's 1980's Business model who viewed Business as another form of War.)
    So yes, Japan painted itself into the corner. Ask the women in the Philipines, China, and fact, Nanking, imo, pretty much sealed Japan's fate as far as their attitude goes about humanity.

    Which brings me to an amusing exchange between one of the ladies at my work aunt who was traveling in Japan with her niece and nephew.
    A tour guide, guiding their group through Hiroshima was regaling them with the tales of humiliation, and horror of the nuclear blast finishing with, "And the United States has never apologized for this horrendous act of inhumanity!"
    To which, the aunt replied, "you'll get your apology as soon as my Grandmother and her sisters gets their's for being made sex slaves to your copuntry's soldiers during WWII!"
    The tour guide, this lady said her aunt described, was quite flabbergasted, shocked, but no apology was forth-coming from him; Or, for that matter from any Japanese government official. In fact, a lot that information is not taught in Japanese schools. The Japanese talk about carrying shame, but carrying shame and seeking forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things...something the Japanese will not do, or are incapable of doing.

    I suspect, with limited proof, that a society that has buttressed it's ego with rationalizations by acting cruelly to others is a society that won't change until it's head has been beaten by it's own hand, or by the hand of another. QED

    Just my opinion

  26. sheer & jim-

    You're right, WWII is an excellent example for discussing strategy. Right after I had posted that, I thought, that's not really what I wanted to say . . .

  27. Al-

    "I just am not convinced that it is worthwhile to call bad strategy, non-strategy."

    Agree, and that is not my purpose here. Rather I wish to indicate the specific nature of strategy as opposed to operating under the notion of personality (the ancient Greeks) or exceptionalism (the US today) using unlimited force. The one is strategy, the second is not, although both are in pursuit of a political purpose. Of course strategy would include both bad and good.

    That's the main point of this thread, and we can use WWII as an example for . . . and that's where Wylie's quote comes in. He argues that we lacked a "clear appreciation for [the] purpose" of our strategy in World War II. So, if the "strategic end"/result is "obscure, contradictory, and finally nonexistent" can it be said to have been a strategy at all? I still haven't quite figured out Wylie's quote.

    So, the Morgenthau Plan? How does it fit in with my intentionally narrow definition of strategy: Focused adaptation of divergent sources of power assisted by control 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. ???

  28. seydlitz-

    The political purpose of the plan was to eliminate Germany's ability to ever again wage war by "converting Germany into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character."

    Methodology, construct or application of power? Among the circumstances to be imposed

    * Germany was to be partitioned into two independent states.
    * Germany's main centers of mining and industry, including the Saar area, the Ruhr area and Upper Silesia were to be internationalized or annexed by neighboring nations.
    * All heavy industry was to be dismantled or otherwise destroyed.

    * Germany was to be reduced to the standard of life it had known at the height of the Great Depression (1932)

    Where post war German capabilities exceeded the non-industrial end state, the facilities were to be destroyed to dismantled and shipped to other countries.

    And the list goes on.

    Power can be applied as a denial as well as a force. The original Occupation Document (JCS 1607) prohibited .S. occupation authorities from providing any economic or reconstruction assistance of any kind to the German people, not even to maintain the current economic levels. The German Red Cross was disbanded and the International Red Cross was denied access. Won't even go into the millions of POWs employed in forced labor in Allied countries through 1947, when the Allies realized the wrong headedness of this approach.

    And, JCS 1607 was a kinder, gentler version of the original Morganthau plan. The toning down into 1607 was a result of American public outrage at the severity of Morganthau's proposal.

    While "converting Germany into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character" was not a sound strategic objective, it was, indeed, until late 1947, the Allies' objective end state, with severe steps taken to reach this objective.

    It's one of the things that Patton railed against, contributing to his ultimate relief. His objections to de-Nazification" are what have been popularized, but his personal writing decry the barbarity of the official Occupation objectives and methods applied to get there. I doubt folks would want to dwell on 1945-7 in Germany and the worsening fate of the populace we ensured, especially when we pin so many roses on ourselves for the Marshall Plan, Berlin Airlift and other more humane treatment that did not begin until 1948.

  29. Al-

    Agree, coercion and punishment are also applications of military power as well as is destruction/brute force, but does that qualify as an additional source of power applied to gain this dynamic of strategy? I suppose one could argue that the cumulative effect of these actions does translate into strategic effect, but I can't help but see a lot of "exceptionalism" and brute force in this whole project.

    Which brings up the question of whether the notion of personality/exceptionalism wielding brute force cannot indeed achieve strategic effect if the political purpose is negative, that is simply destruction/starvation/subjugation of an essentially non-resisting population.

  30. Seydlitz: "does that qualify as an additional source of power applied to gain this dynamic of strategy?"

    Well, you have a totally defeated nation that has surrendered its ability to resist the conquering powers. Withholding the basics of life, for example, would strike me as an additional source of power being applied to achieve the aim of creating a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character. Not military power, but political/economic power.

    So yes, I would consider the Morganthau Plan, later implemented in a slightly weaker, but fully effective form (JCS 1607), as strategic effect.

    Not the prettiest 2 years of American history.

  31. Al-

    Actually, the distinction IS the ability to resist . . .

  32. Postscript added.

    Thanks to all those who commented and/or read this thread. There was a nice interaction here, with ya'll not only keeping me on track but adding valuable insights to the subject. It achieved my expectations.

  33. "Focused adaptation of divergent sources of power"
    I am not sure a strategist would actually want to use focused adaptation.
    Not being a military person myself I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the enemy tends to see things if some sort of focus is being used. I understand sometimes (perhaps when your strategy is to use nukes) it's good for the enemy to understand your strategy, but not addaptations when focusing power.
    I think it is correct to say one should stay focused to the fact that some sort of strategy is being used, but it may also be good strategy to use some sort of dynamic strategy where focus is purposefully keep obscure.
    Perhaps a focus of vision would be a much better thought, i.e. when the vision of the strategist becomes clear, his/her strategy has already been judged winning or losing.
    "assisted by control over time in pursuit of a political purpose"
    I think adaptation of divergent sources of power could be better assisted with control in the "changing" of both distance and time, as control over divergent sources of power has to be either self-control or under command of a force.
    In that case, self-control should be the better, as it seems to me that force gets us back to just brute force, which as a strategy maybe an option, but, as you suggest, not a very good option.