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International Politics Nations, Their Interests, and Their Competitors.

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Old 1 Week Ago   #61
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Bloomberg Q&A with Hugh White, a former top Australian official who feels Beijing has already filled the U.S. leadership void.

White put these thoughts to paper and pixel with a much-debated essay in the Australian publication Quarterly Essay. "Without America" envisions a Situation Room scene where a fictitious U.S. president decides that, even with America's superior conventional military, the risk of a confrontation with China just isn't worth it. Even if the U.S. prevailed, all China would need to do would be to inflict a couple of glancing blows and it would, politically, have triumphed.

For context, White is no raging left-wing academic. He has worked for Bob Hawke, a former Australian prime minister, and Kim Beazley, Hawke's defense minister. Both politicians were among the most pro-American figures in the Australian Labor Party. Beazley subsequently served as Australian ambassador to Washington from 2010 to 2016.

White's opinions have not gone unchallenged -- among others, frequent Bloomberg View contributor Hal Brands took a few shots.
Link to Q&A:
A scrimmage in a Border Station
A canter down some dark defile
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail

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Old 1 Week Ago   #62
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Default Australian doubts

There has been a series of articles on WoTR over Hugh White's views and I have read a few. See:

From this faraway spot I rely on this website for Australian input on strategy and to say the least there is an exchange there - a development I expect accelerated by President Trump holding office.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #63
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Seems much of our strategy and planning frameworks are informed by legacy thinking and doctrine, and have little to do with the real world. Strategies, campaign plans, and contingency plans take months to years to develop unless their a crisis, and then we develop uninformed responses based on limited understanding of the environment and the second, third, etc. of our actions.

I'm not overly concerned with our strategy framework of ends, ways, means, and risk mitigation if they're not taken to literally. Whether we're implementing strategy during competition or war, we're interacting with competitors or adversaries, while simultaneously shaping and responding to changes in the strategic ecosystem. The most important element of strategy is developing a holistic understanding of the strategic ecosystem so our leaders can make informed decisions.

What about ends? We need aim points, otherwise we are simply treading water, but the ends can't be overly specific. Rather they need to be broad goals, and for the most part national level strategies address ends broadly. Another consideration for ends is clearly articulating what we can't accept, because it presents a significant risk to our national interests. Ends combined with strategic understanding enables decision makers to better recognize challenge and opportunities; thereby, enable them to direct responses more intelligently than say quickly flexing military forces to every location where some crazy is waving a black flag.

Ways and means should provide a broad view of we envision competing or fighting, but not be overly prescriptive. The world is changing too fast, but our thinking on strategy is overly informed by the historical aberration of the Cold War, where we were locked into a bipolar competition for decades that informed our strategic decisions. That myopic focus caused us to either miss or ignore the rise of radical Islam which started on industrial scale in 1979, while our recent focus on terrorism blinded us to the threat of Russia and China's gray zone strategies. Our current focus on Russia and China could blind us to other threats, which is why ends should be focused on interests, not adversaries. Ways should be focused on protecting interests from multiple challenges based on our evolving understanding of the strategic ecosystem. Otherwise we once again engrain the political and military-industrial bureaucracy to develop the wrong means. Agility at the strategic level is as important as agility at the tactical level.

Our outdated campaign and contingency planning construct as described in joint pub 5-O is most concerning. The changes the Chairman is trying to inject to fix very real problems he and others have identified, has mostly resulted in additional staff work that simply distracts from the deep thinking required to clearly define the problem and appropriate response. Clearly this wasn't the intent, but new planning guidance doesn't replace the old, rather it is additive, so it simply piles on more requirements upon existing requirements this is the unavoidable result. The result is planners must produce more and more within the same timeframe, so planners cut and paste from old plans and color between the lines. Developing deep understanding and creative solutions takes time, often our most precious resource.

Finally, a short comment on so-called SMART objectives and assessments. SMART objectives are appropriate for business practices, but have limited application for strategy and plans. I don't want to overstate this, because some objectives can be SMART, but for our assessment process we need to inject more art than science. As stated above, we're interacting in an ecosystem, hopefully responding smartly to emerging challenges and opportunities as we attempt to navigate toward or desired goals or prevent what we need identified to be unacceptable. The military tends to cling to outdated measuring/assessing SMART objectives, while failing to realize we have in many cases lost our strategic position of advantage, and even if those objectives would change, our adversaries have developed strategic approaches that negate their value.

Simply food for thought.
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