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Old 06-03-2010   #1
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Default Who are "The Strategists"?

H/T to Mike Innes for this link. The Strategists, in Current Intelligence. It asks a couple of those hard questions such as "why there were so few American strategists compared to those from Europe" (debatable premise) and "what then is the essence of strategic thinking."

We've touched on the grand thinker A-list thing a couple of times, in threads such as Who Are the Great Generals? But going to post this thread, I realized the true Grand Strategy thing transcends a lot of our buckets. Where was I going to put this -- Military-Other, Futurists, Historians? All lacking in one way or another, as is this forum. Oh well.
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Old 06-03-2010   #2
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I guess part of it depends on how you define “strategist.” Certain other factors also have to be considered. Europe’s history is more extensive than that of the US, and the involvement of higher military figures in actual government and policy-making has been higher. There was also a significant period of US history where our focus was very much inward (although the Frontier expansion was warfare and did involve strategy…although not in what might be considered the traditional or European sense), and our political structure has always militated against the formation of long-term policy.

That said, I do believe we have produced more than a few “grand strategists.” By that I mean strategy that focuses on the integrated (political and military) level and tries to carry over through more than one 2-year election cycle. Theodore Roosevelt was one of our first in my view. Nixon attempted to be one, and did meet with some successes on the political side. Wilson thought he was one, as did MacArthur.
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Old 06-03-2010   #3
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I guess part of it depends on how you define “strategist.”
I am not sure you can. Mao knew how to set forth a policy via all instruments of power, but I am not sure that he did it alone.
Does asking "Who are the great leaders" ask the same question. My opinion of Hannibal would suggest "No," in his case.
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Old 06-03-2010   #4
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I am not sure you can. Mao knew how to set forth a policy via all instruments of power, but I am not sure that he did it alone.
Ah, but to me that's one of the hallmarks of a good strategist...knowing when to get others to buy in and how to coordinate that effort. Nimitz was good at that. I agree that in many ways it's not a solitary effort, but there is still usually a guiding idea or vision lurking in the back of that coordinated effort.
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Old 06-03-2010   #5
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Default 2 criteria

1. Have expressed the strategic contributuon in writing - either writing oneself or having the essence of your strategic thought captured by others and credited to you.
2. Having seen one's strategic innovations applied successfully in the field.

In both cases need to encompass ends, ways, and means and remember that the enemy has a vote.

I would then nominate Henry Kissinger as a strategiston the basis of his books Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy and The Necessity for Choice. I would also nominate my friend and colleague Max Manwaring.

Cheers

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Old 06-04-2010   #6
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Ah, but to me that's one of the hallmarks of a good strategist...knowing when to get others to buy in and how to coordinate that effort.
Concur. Good point. Useful.
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1. Have expressed the strategic contributuon in writing - either writing oneself or having the essence of your strategic thought captured by others and credited to you.
2. Having seen one's strategic innovations applied successfully in the field.
Very tough criteria, but leaves me back at Clausewitz!
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I would also nominate my friend and colleague Max Manwaring.
In that context, I would also nominate Colin S. Gray (also a friend). I shall endeavour to acquaint myself more with Max Manwaring.
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

Last edited by William F. Owen; 06-04-2010 at 06:57 AM. Reason: Size
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Old 06-04-2010   #7
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H/T to Mike Innes for this link. The Strategists,
I would urge folk to read this. It actually highlights that not a lot of people really understand what strategy is, as some of the names suggested patently fall short of differentiating between military thought and strategic thought. Ver much worthy of discussion.
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 06-04-2010   #8
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Default Strategy Lesson

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfmkR...eature=related
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Old 06-05-2010   #9
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A Strategy Lesson from a South London Bank Robber.

"....when it matter, and when it don't."
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 06-05-2010   #10
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One of the biggest challenges I see in the US is that too many seem to think that "Strategy" is a matter of position, education, rank or duty assignment.

Also, in the US, to reinforce this falacy, when one gets to their Senior Service College, they get the "now that you are at this level, we will teach you strategy and send you out the door as a strategist" pitch, which I personnally found a bit (disturgingly) amusing. Both in that we think someone has to be a Colonel to have this talent; and also in that we think all Colonels can somehow be taught it.

Like so many things in life, strategic thinking is a talent that is not very common, and that must be devleoped and nurtured from an early age. If you never had the talent to begin with, you will never be much of a strategist regardless of your Ph.D., or the fact that you are a War College grad assigned to a Strategy shop on the Joint Staff.

I think we also over codify the term "Strategy." Certainly it is a word that means many things to many people. We need professional terms of art, but I'm not sure we have this quite right yet. As John points out, there are those few who emerge from the pact that had a combination of vision, position and skill to move a concept forward.

Not sure if CvC falls into that pack, as most of his impact was through how others took his ideas and applied them to their work after he was dead. (this final sentence added solely for the entertainment value of poking the CvC disciples!) :-)
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Old 06-05-2010   #11
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If you never had the talent to begin with, you will never be much of a strategist regardless of your Ph.D., or the fact that you are a War College grad assigned to a Strategy shop on the Joint Staff.
I am in absolute and un-restrained agreement!!
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I think we also over codify the term "Strategy." Certainly it is a word that means many things to many people. We need professional terms of art, but I'm not sure we have this quite right yet. As John points out, there are those few who emerge from the pact that had a combination of vision, position and skill to move a concept forward.
I disagree. We actually have an extremely precise and useful language for this. The problem is folks are ignorant of it. People still say "Strategic Weapon" or "Air power is Strategic." - which just show that a great many senior officers do not know what strategy is.
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Not sure if CvC falls into that pack, as most of his impact was through how others took his ideas and applied them to their work after he was dead.
Well Moa Ze-Dong was a student of Clausewitz as was Giap. The real problem is that 99% of folks quoting and contesting Clausewitz have never read or studied his work. (this sentence added solely for the entertainment value of poking the CvC detractors)
We're still left with the fact that when it comes to the instrumental use, of violence as a means to set forth policy, no one has been able to improve on his work.
CvC was not even that original. All he did was to write down what he saw as the enduring truth as gained by a classical understanding of human history. - which is why his work is so timeless.
Quote:
(this final sentence added solely for the entertainment value of poking the CvC disciples!) :-)
Wallah? Wow... never saw that coming. - but if anyone can show me better work, I'm interested.
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Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

Last edited by William F. Owen; 06-05-2010 at 07:18 AM.
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Old 06-05-2010   #12
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Asymmetrical Warfare
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