Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Regaining strategic competence

And now for something different...

I happened across a study about Regaining Strategic Competence [pdf] in the US [thanks to The Best Defense blog for the link]. It consists of four parts: discussing the deterioration of US strategic competence, defining strategy, illustrating the importance of good strategy and finally debating the common mistakes.

The strategy chapter brings out a good point that strategy is applicable to many pursuits, not just military. I also like their definition of strategy:
"Strategy is fundamentally about identifying or creating asymmetric advantages that can be exploited to help achieve one’s ultimate objectives despite resource and other constraints, most importantly the opposing efforts of adversaries or competitors and the inherent unpredictability of strategic outcomes."
The only problem I see in it is that it does not explicitly state that strategy is usually a 'grand' affair, with long term and/or wide spread effects, versus the tactical gains of here and now.

As far as historical analysis is concerned, I am not sure I agree with some of their facts (Soviet soldiers happy to die en masse for the Rodina) and conclusions. The argument that in 1942 Western Allies could have launched a cross-channel invasion into occupied France, that is - before Germans had been overextended in the East and before Allies had enough troops, weapons and supplies for a full campaign in Europe - seems a bit far fetched. I would guess that the Torch landings would have produced a very different outcome for the Allies, had they been directed at France, instead of North Africa.

The final chapter addresses many typical mistakes that lead to bad strategic decisions.

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