More Strategy Than You Can Shake a Stick At

On the previous note, Zenpundit has posted a host of videos from the recent Army War College Strategy Conference, featuring the likes of John Nagl, Martin van Creveld, Andrew Bacevich, Antulio Echevarria and T.X. Hammes. Anyone interested in getting the full feed can check this out.

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Studying and Teaching Strategy

If you open any defense or international relations-related journal, you’ll see a host of articles related to what strategy we should approach. But rarely will you see anyone talk about the structure of how we make and/or think about strategy. The framework from which we think about strategy is much more important than any issue of the day.

That’s why I want to highlight this Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) monograph edited by Dr. Gabriel Marcella. It’s a great compilation of writings on what strategy is, how to teach it, and why it is difficult to learn. It’s full of great writing, but you should check out Christopher Paparone’s entry, which challenges the traditional ends-based strategic method. Whatever your feelings on the ends = ways + means model, we should always be open to reconsidering the structure of our strategic reasoning.

Another standout article in this vein is Ionut C. Popescu’s article on strategic planning methodology. Popescu convincingly outlines that the traditional method of formally planned strategy does not take into account the past 50 years’ worth of research on how organizations make effective strategy. Popescu advocates that the US take a look at a more bottom-up system instead of a purely top-down “rational design” model.

PPT Zen

There’s an new NYT article on defense and PowerPoint that prominently features Wings over Iraq‘s Crispin Burke.

As a sometime user of PPT, I can agree with much of the criticism featured here (see my old RTJ post on the subject). That being said, I can see some use of it as long as the speech itself does the talking and not the PPT. As for me, I’ll at least do my best to avoid adding to the problem.

The Cold War: Not What You Thought It Was

Lawrence Freedman touches on an important point in this month’s Foreign Affairs: the Cold War was much more than a confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union. In fact, the label of “Cold War” as a marker of the postwar period is in itself somewhat misleading:

“It exaggerates the importance of the superpower confrontation. The Cold War is a central part of the story of its time but not the whole story — in retrospect, other parts, particularly the process of decolonization, may turn out to have had more of a long-lasting impact. At the same time that the two superpowers were vying for influence, Europe was dismantling its empires in Africa and Asia, Western Europe was beginning its long process of integration, Japan and South Korea were discovering economic growth, the oil-producing countries were joining together to influence supply, and Islam was developing new political forms.”

I suspect that 9/11 and the War on Terrorism will be viewed by historians in a similar manner, compared to the events in the global system that occured over the last twenty years. This doesn’t mean that fighting terrorism is unimportant, but that a grand strategic view defined primarily by counterterrorism (as many post 9/11 strategic documents were) is bound to be a skim view of a complex environment.

Drug Lords and Skynet

Read two great pieces last weekend. First, Samuel Logan and John P. Sullivan have a great piece in ISN on the further fractalization of the Mexican drug war. Not surprisingly, the Zetas have gotten tired of playing second fiddle and now want to run their own show – and the Gulf Cartel stands in the way.

Second, Joseph Fouche puts Clausewitz to the ultimate test – extrapolating Clausewitzian logic to the Terminator franchise.