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Thread: Michele Flournoy on strategy

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    Default Michele Flournoy on strategy

    Michele Flournoy, President of the Center for a New American Strategy and a Principal DASD in the Clinton Administration, has an outstanding editorial in the Washington Times, quoted in the SWJ Blog. The most important point she makes is that the Bush Adminsitration has never had a political strategy for getting the Iraqi government to do the things it must do to achieve stability and legitimacy in the long run.

    There is no question that Michele understands strategy - it was her portfolio in DOD. There is also no question that she is very bright or that her observations are well informed. My only caveat is that while strategy is conceptually easy, doing it well is hard. And executing it is harder still. Today, everybody and his dog is a strategist. But, in government, only the military does it well - and not all the time. Among the many definitions of strategy is: strategy is the process of relating ends to means (through ways). Here is my army bias coming through: I see strategy in ends, ways, and means terms - objectives, courses of action, and resources. But even Army people and our Navy, Air Force, and Marine brothers, do not always get it right often slighting the resource component of strategy. this was true of the SOUTHCOM Regional Security Strategy that I was responsible for in 1988 - 89. We did it better, by far, in Max Thurman's SOUTHCOM STRATEGY of 1989 because he insisted on beefing up the resource component and adding a formal IO supporting strategy.

    This brings me back to Michele's point. Who in the USG is responsible for a political strategy in and for Iraq? the answer probably should be State Department. But who in State does strategy? The problem will exist, I think, no matter whether John McCain or Clinton or Obama is elected in November. It will exist unless the next President selects someone who knows what it takes to develop strategy to run the process and backs that person with the authority and power of the Presidency to force the process not only to produce a workable document but also to execute it with all the instruments of national power.

    Cheers

    JohnT

    PS In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote two case studies for a project that Michele headed in the Clinton Administration and have attended conferences and workshops with her. I was impressed with her at the time and am still impressed.

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    Council Member Featherock's Avatar
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    how about a link?

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    Excellent article, but a somewhat depressing analysis (no fault of the author's of course). Sadly, the Shi'a parties appear to have little ability to govern effectively, whilst the Sunni parties, which include some who do have some real government and administrative talent, are in no position to to do so. I have often suspected that a U.S. Military Government may have been a better way to go until Reconstruction had achieved at least a solid foundation of basic infrastructure and administration in-place, prior to making way for the formation of a popularly-elected civilian Government. At least the basic essentials would have been up and going prior to the hand-over of power back to the Iraqis.

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    Quote Originally Posted by the article
    We are now in what U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine calls the "build" phase certainly the hardest phase in which the primary objective is enhancing the legitimacy of the host-nation government in the eyes of the population. The problem is that, to date, improved security has increased our legitimacy, not that of the Iraqi government.
    This observation was very interesting. How do you create "breathing space" without creating dependency? (The Bible talks about giving a man fish and teaching him to fish. Nowhere does it say that if you fish for him he'll eventually insist on doing all the work himself.)
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    thinking through withdrawal

    Ties in well with Marc Lynch's thoughts about Green Zone politics and politicians.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You don't. So then you have to wean them off

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    This observation was very interesting. How do you create "breathing space" without creating dependency? (The Bible talks about giving a man fish and teaching him to fish. Nowhere does it say that if you fish for him he'll eventually insist on doing all the work himself.)
    dependency, which is happening. Takes time. Some people wean more easily than others; in the ME, it'll be pretty slow. All we could ever do was open the window, crawling through it is up to the Iraqis -- who are as politically diverse and fractious as a bunch of Americans. Herding cats come to mind...

    Still, that's a minor problem. The flaw in her argument is the paragraph in the article following the one you cited:
    "And herein lies the cause for concern. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki government appears largely unwilling or unable to take advantage of the space created by improved security to move toward political accommodation, provide for the basic needs of the Iraqi people and lay the foundation for stability and its own legitimacy. And the Bush administration appears to lack a strategy for getting it to do so."
    Perhaps I missed it but I didn't see her prescription for such a strategy in convincing a sovereign government to do ones bidding. Much less an address of the issues of doing so.

    As has been often said, any idiot can surface a problem; the genius provides a solution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    for such a strategy in convincing a sovereign government to do ones bidding.
    I'm glad you said that. Is there a way to make it happen or are we in a "no win" situation?
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default We were never going to 'win.' Bad choice of word

    on the part of those either pro or con. We were not going to destroy the Army, a fourth or so of the civilian population and half the infrastructure so there was never going to be a military victory or 'win.'.

    All we could hope for was and is a satisfactory outcome. I put the odds at 60:40 going in and they're, I think, in the 65:35 to 70:30 range now. Still up to the Iraqis and my guess is it'll work out okay. Certainly not to everyone's satisfaction and certainly not as soon as anyone would like. We'll just have to give it time and see.

    Not sure it's really in anyone's interest to "make that happen" as rushing things in the ME tends to push them into telling you what they think you want hear -- or what they want you to hear. Neither may accord with reality. That aside from the fact I'm unsure it's our job to make that happen in any event. It's their country, we just gave them a chance to rearrange it -- with, to my mind, anyway -- no real idea what the final product would resemble. Nor did we or do we need to know.

    The alternative of a precipitous withdrawal would be, I think a major error (90:10 on that ) -- however, I doubt, regardless of campaign rhetoric that we'll do that. We're gonna be there a while...

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    Default If the Democrats win

    Michele Flournoy will be one of those who will be responsible for a strategy - a POLITICAL military strategy to help the Iraqis do what is in their own interest...

    My point was that until the new president takes office this adminsitration will be responsible and afterwards the new one. In any case, I don't see President Bush, McCain, Clinton, or Obama pointing his/her finger at someone and saying you're my guy and everybody else works for you. Hope I'm wrong but as GEN Gordon Sullivan said, "hope is not a method."

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Well, she'll sure do better than Strobe III or

    Wolfotwits...

    As for:
    ...a POLITICAL military strategy to help the Iraqis do what is in their own interest...
    Uh, which subset of Iraqis? Not a snark, a serious question. And is that what they think is in their own best interest or what we think?
    My point was that until the new president takes office this adminsitration will be responsible and afterwards the new one. In any case, I don't see President Bush, McCain, Clinton, or Obama pointing his/her finger at someone and saying you're my guy and everybody else works for you.
    'fraid not. Not the American way.
    ...Hope I'm wrong but as GEN Gordon Sullivan said, "hope is not a method."
    Gordy was right but that, regrettably, does not change the fact that IS the American way. Again, no snark, serious point. As you said above in your starting post:
    "...My only caveat is that while strategy is conceptually easy, doing it well is hard. And executing it is harder still. Today, everybody and his dog is a strategist. But, in government, only the military does it well - and not all the time."
    All too true -- and while we do it more and better if not perfectly, we end up doing a lot that is outside our purview. Which, if it falls apart, lets the hammer fall on not necessarily the right person.

    Be that as it may, the point is that strategy IS hard -- and it becomes devilishly hard when you have to do it in conjunction with another government whose goals differ radically from yours (or with people in your own government to whom that comment also applies). Even harder when you have few folks who really understand the host country culture and those that do tend to fall into various and differing ideologically based schools of thought on what needs to happen.

    Really superior strategists have floundered on those rocks for a great many years. Regardless of who was in charge...

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    Default Ken, I wish I didn't agree

    with you on all this.

    Consider this one: John Abizaid knows the culture of the region as well or better than any military or foreign service officer. Yet, his regional strategy as applied to both Iraq and Afghanistan was seriously flawed.

    Charles Lindblom, an economist who was also President of the American Political Science Association, wrote a classic article called "The Science of Muddling Through" which states American (Western) policy reality as well as it has ever been stated. Just when we think we really know how to do something we often find that muddling through is the best we can do. It's just that some folk do it better than others...

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Hi John,
    Michele Flournoy was one of the panelists here for the SFA Symposium. I was not here (I was TDY), but I recently watched all the videos from it as part of a review of a forthcoming product from the symposium. Mrs. Flournoy's thoughts were articulate and complete on the topic, and you could tell she'd served as a DAS-D, I believe Mrs. Celeste Ward has the same job currently, she was also here (incidentally her recorded remarks are also articulate and concise). While Mrs. Flournoy could move into a direct position to affect U.S. Grand Strategy if a Democrat enters office, I think its fair to say that she and many others are already having an indirect effect of a substantive nature, and I see many similarities between how OSD under Secretary Gates and the various "think tanks" are looking at things. I don't think that's bad, in my opinion it gives the direction more validity as people with differing opinions on domestic policy reach similar perspectives on foreign policy. It also creates more synergy and dampens friction some.

    SWC Member Old Eagle showed me a piece yesterday from CNAS I'm reading now by Shawn Brimley and Vikram Singh. "Stumbling Into the Future? The Indirect Approach and American Strategy", and of course there is also the current piece at the top of the SWJ Blog by Brimley, "A grand Strategy of Sustainment". They all interest me because of my interest in SFA and how it fits within our broader strategy.

    I think we've talked about it before here, but to me this is part of an evolution in better understanding things and how they relate. Most of the ideas (SFA, RoL, BPC, Direct and Indirect) may not be new from the vast historical perspective that in the West goes at least back to the Greeks (they've had different names and been described in manners that fit the times), but the relationship between the context of the ideas as they relate to political ends, the way we think about the use of various means, and how we implement ways would seem to be new for Americans.

    I think there is a challenge in reconciling how we see the world from the inside looking out, how the world sees us from the outside looking in, and the interactions that take place from the variance in perspectives and interests. These interactions I think are political by nature, but their impetus may be idealogical, economical, social etc. and the consequences of those actions are increasingly intertwined with other areas, and touch a broad international audience in ways that are often undervalued.

    Over time I think this is a discussion that has to be pitched to the U.S. public in a manner that illustrates why its in their interest that the United States remains engaged over an indefinite period on a scale that appears at odds with who we'd prefer to be. If that sounds a bit counter-intuitive, I think its may be because the vast majority of Americans only see the products of globalization that effect them as an individual, be it the products that wind up on the shelf at the Wal-Mart, the outsourcing or off-shoring of jobs and activities, or the new faces and places that move into their cities, but as a whole we don't consider the causes and inter-actions that generate those effects and why those should interest them until something dire and unavoidable enters the discussion. Such an effort has to go beyond a State of the Union, or an occasional speech, it must be part of a cultural shift and the mechanism for implementing such a narrative must be enduring and woven throughout the "whole of government" because such is the growing degree of "inter-connectedness".

    The second tier of education I think needs to occur is the education of our children toward understanding the world as it is, and what it may become, and what that means for them in terms differentiating the lives their parents led, and better prepares them for the future. Our children are going to communicate, cooperate, inter-act, collaborate on a scale I think that is hard for most of us to imagine (its hard for me anyway). Part of what a "grand strategy" should do for us is look out over the horizon some and help put us in a better position by shaping what can be shaped in a manner that when something occurs it is not a complete surprise, and we are better prepared to meet the challenges posed then if we had done no planning. A grand strategy must accommodate some vision and imagination to frame it broadly enough to account for change over time (since resources have their own cycle), but it should also be firm enough to stand on enduring principles and interests which sustain and conserve what is best about us for our posterity while dealing with immediate and identified challenges.

    Best, Rob

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Red face *I* wish I didn't agree with me on this...

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    with you on all this.
    Penalty of being (a) old; and (b) cynical. Or is that sinnable...
    Consider this one: John Abizaid knows the culture of the region as well or better than any military or foreign service officer. Yet, his regional strategy as applied to both Iraq and Afghanistan was seriously flawed.
    Funny you mention that. Great minds. I was thinking about him and that earlier when I posted. I agree with that statement -- and I've long wondered why it's true. My suspicion is that he was constrained by high order National or Army politics but I can't figure out all the factors. I think it will come out eventually but I do know that not only I but several others who knew him when were really surprised at his near invisibility.

    He wasn't a micromanager which is good but he was really unusually quiet and unassertive during his Tampa tour.
    Charles Lindblom, an economist who was also President of the American Political Science Association, wrote a classic article called "The Science of Muddling Through" which states American (Western) policy reality as well as it has ever been stated. Just when we think we really know how to do something we often find that muddling through is the best we can do. It's just that some folk do it better than others...
    Unfortunately. The domestic political process is of course the big impactor and our venal and corrupt political parties which used to care at least a little bit about the Nation have, IMO, converted to solely focusing on their wants and hopeful primacy; that worsened the already disruptive four / eight year cycle.

    Correct on the some do it better than others and our penchant for changing people in jobs so frequently means that it's really hard to figure out where the better muddlers are -- and when you do find one or two, they move...

    Thanks for mentioning the article -- I'll track it down

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    Hi John (I think you know this guy),It's on here somewhere but I can't remember where but it is a handbook for planning Operations by Dr.Jack Kem...who I think is SWC Dr. Jack. Anyway in his handbook he says in there somewhere that Strategy is often expressed as Ends, Ways and Means but it is often understood better as Ends+Means then develop the Ways. I probably screwed that all up but it is a better way to say and understand it. And not to disappoint anybody also in the handbook is a great section about using Wardens Rings from an Army point of view. which also works when you are doing Grand Strategy.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Hi John (I think you know this guy),It's on here somewhere but I can't remember where but it is a handbook for planning Operations by Dr.Jack Kem...who I think is SWC Dr. Jack. Anyway in his handbook he says in there somewhere that Strategy is often expressed as Ends, Ways and Means but it is often understood better as Ends+Means then develop the Ways. I probably screwed that all up but it is a better way to say and understand it. And not to disappoint anybody also in the handbook is a great section about using Wardens Rings from an Army point of view. which also works when you are doing Grand Strategy.
    Let me throw in my two cents worth (which, at current global exchange rates, is worth about 60% of that).

    I've always felt that the "ends, ways, means" construct (which, the best I can figure, was devised by Art Lykke at the Army War College, but was based heavily on longstanding ideas) is useful but incomplete. In particular, it doesn't account for expected costs and risks.

    I think that was EXACTLY the flawed strategic thinking that led us into Iraq. The logic went something like this: "Saddam Hussein is a threat, therefore he should be removed." The strategic logic should have been: "Saddam Hussein is a threat but in order to decide how to address that threat, we must weigh the extent of the threat against the expected costs and risks of various methods of addressing it."

    What the administration and its supporters did (and continue to do today) is simply focus on the extent of the threat and suggest that it's self evident that a threat should be addressed by the most effective method available rather than by the method that makes the most strategic sense. In other words, we distorted the logic of strategy and are paying the price for it.

    Let me elaborate with an analogy: if I decide I want a new car, the most effective way of getting one is to pay full sticker price and put it on my American Express card. But given the expected risks and costs of this technique, it is not the one that makes the most strategic sense.

    Break, break. As Monty Python often said, "Now for something entirely different." On the uber theme of this thread--I think the only logical locus for grand strategic thinking and planning is the National Security Council. Problem is, since Kissinger, the NSC has evolved into a current ops organization rather than a strategic planning one. My belief is that it both needs to revive its capacity for long range strategic planning, to include development of its own think tank to develop "whole of government" strategic concepts.
    Last edited by SteveMetz; 03-21-2008 at 10:52 AM.

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    Council Member Dr Jack's Avatar
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    Default Campaign Planning

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Hi John (I think you know this guy),It's on here somewhere but I can't remember where but it is a handbook for planning Operations by Dr.Jack Kem...who I think is SWC Dr. Jack. Anyway in his handbook he says in there somewhere that Strategy is often expressed as Ends, Ways and Means but it is often understood better as Ends+Means then develop the Ways. I probably screwed that all up but it is a better way to say and understand it. And not to disappoint anybody also in the handbook is a great section about using Wardens Rings from an Army point of view. which also works when you are doing Grand Strategy.
    Thanks for the advertisement... here's a link to the book:

    http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cgi-bin/show...11&CISOPTR=377

    I'm overdue for a rewrite -- for the next edition I'll include MOE/MOP and expand the wargaming section.

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    Default From the Motherland

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Today, everybody and his dog is a strategist. But, in government, only the military does it well - and not all the time.
    Personal observations, if I may:

    1. The Military are good (often excellent) at Campaigning, not Strategy. Strategy (especially in a democracy) should be set by the civilian Government not by Servicemen, whose role is to implement that Strategy through military means in conjunction with other policy instruments (Diplomacy/Economics etc).

    2. Terminology can be confusing. For 'Strategy' regularly read 'Plan'. The phrase 'Grand Strategy' might reinforce a point that Strategy should be at the top of the food chain, but it paradoxically encourages the use of 'Strategy' at lower levels. The previous UK position outlined in 'British Defence Doctrine' (Oct 01) of having a 'Grand Strategic' level and a component 'Military Strategic' level has been removed by JDP-01 (Mar 04), with both terms replaced by 'Strategic level'.

    3. It seems beyond degate that progress has to be made in Iraq beyond the security arena. But the time required to achieve that progress is greater than the political cycle in Western democracies. Perhaps a reasonable strategic move would be to focus on economic progress before political. It might happen sooner and would tangibly benefit more of the Iraqi population than political developments. Improved/ing lives may secure continued investment in security.

    4. We can't take a graph with Time on one axis and Progress on the other and draw a line on it which is the model solution against which assessments of progress should be made. If nation building and/or COIN take decades to resolve then how can we make judgments on success or failure after only 5 years?

    PS

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    Default Hi Steve

    My understanding of the origin of "ends, ways, and means" is the same as yours - Art Lykke did put it in an article that found its way into - or was written for - the earliest editions of the AWC course 2 book on strategy. We used the article at Leavenworth as well - I think you did when you were there. You are correct as well that the construct leaves things out. The FAS test, which you mentioned on a different threat, was part of the original Lykke article but NOT part of the construct itself. It is the FAS test that addresses the problem you raise in your post of cost-benefit analysis. You may well be right that this was one of the major problems with Iraq strategy even though it seems obvious today. (That's the kind of thing that we labelled in SWORD [the Southcom Small Wars Operations Research Directorate] the "almost obvious" - an aha moment.)

    There is one other failing that a limited reading of the construct has. It is dependent on a prior estimate of the situation or strategic appraisal. That too, I think you are arguing, was badly flawed with respect to Iraq. Indeed, it was. In general, if the strategic appraisal is wrong, then the strategy will fail regardless of how well linked are the ends, ways, and means and how well it does when subjected to the FAS test. In the Iraq case, the strategic appraisal was wrong and the original strategy also failed the FAS test - especially the Acceptability part which directly addresses costs v benefits.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    My understanding of the origin of "ends, ways, and means" is the same as yours - Art Lykke did put it in an article that found its way into - or was written for - the earliest editions of the AWC course 2 book on strategy. We used the article at Leavenworth as well - I think you did when you were there. You are correct as well that the construct leaves things out. The FAS test, which you mentioned on a different threat, was part of the original Lykke article but NOT part of the construct itself. It is the FAS test that addresses the problem you raise in your post of cost-benefit analysis. You may well be right that this was one of the major problems with Iraq strategy even though it seems obvious today. (That's the kind of thing that we labelled in SWORD [the Southcom Small Wars Operations Research Directorate] the "almost obvious" - an aha moment.)

    There is one other failing that a limited reading of the construct has. It is dependent on a prior estimate of the situation or strategic appraisal. That too, I think you are arguing, was badly flawed with respect to Iraq. Indeed, it was. In general, if the strategic appraisal is wrong, then the strategy will fail regardless of how well linked are the ends, ways, and means and how well it does when subjected to the FAS test. In the Iraq case, the strategic appraisal was wrong and the original strategy also failed the FAS test - especially the Acceptability part which directly addresses costs v benefits.

    Cheers

    JohnT
    The three legged stool developed by "Strategic Art" really got wider exposure when he presented in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1987. A January 13 hearing called "conceptual framework for strategymaking" included Art, Bob Wood of the Naval War College, Denny Drew of the Air Power Research Institute, and Greg Foster of INSS/NDU. I'm not sure about Foster (haven't seen him for a few years), but the others are all retired.

    You're right that I made major revisions to the Strategic Analysis Model then taught at CGSC. Since the original one was known as the "SAM," my revisions, of course, was called the "Son of SAM."

    I remember picking up a CGSC distance education book at the house of a major on the MILGRP in San Salvador about five years later. I noticed that they were still using my revision then--they'd just taken my name off of it!

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