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Strategic Compression The compression of roles and effects. The Strategic Corporal meets the "turn left" National Security Advisor.

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Old 06-08-2009   #1
Rob Thornton
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Default Strategy and change over time

I wanted to break these out of their respective threads because I think in the broader context we are talking about why and how change occurs, the advantages and disadvantages to change, and resistance to change. I saw both of these responses today and started thinking about their relationship:

Ken White said in post #33 in the Flawed Doctrine or Flawed Strategy thread

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Our doctrine must support the elected strategy and if it does not, then new or altered doctrine should be developed to do that. Conversely, our strategy must not be constrained by current doctrine.
Bayonet Bryant said in Post #8 on the Changing the Army for Future Wars Thread

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The first hurdle you need to make sure that you can clear is a justification of why the Army should be involved in nation-building in the first place. I'm not saying they should/shouldn't, just that you need to be very clear in your justification of why they should be. If you can't do that, then rest of it is a bit of a mental exercise, but little more.
In my mind Ken’s quote from a thread that looks hard at establishing a cause and effect relationship, but the really interesting part of this I think is the last sentence “Conversely, our strategy must not be constrained by current doctrine. “ which gets to the first step of determining the objective or the policy end(s). I’m more of mind that History is contingent, and major shifts (aside from the geological type) don’t usually just occur regardless of how they wind up boiled and scripted in a linear historical narrative. They tend to be shaped by events, not all of which are rational, but in fact often appear to be based off of a torrent of information some of which is poorly informed, misinformed, partially informed, maybe even subject to being disinformed – its usually a combination of the good, the bad and the poor. I think getting the objective right is the critical piece because failing to get the objective right probably means starting off in the wrong direction.

Where I think Bayonet Bryant’s post ties in is wrt shaping the ways and means to pursue the objective. In this case the doctrine which would shape the rest of the DOTMLPF-P should follow articulated strategic guidance that in this case should signal a broad and enduring requirement(s), not a flash in the pan, brief episode, but one that recognizes an objective(s) which advances your sustained, long term security. You could argue that losing a war you have invested heavily in has long term effects on your security, or that given broader changes in your interests, or means and will to secure them; your objectives require a different approach. You could also argue the opposite, and in fact we have here on SWJ quite often. Much of this would seem to be subject to how you view the world, e.g. as an idealist or a realist, but even those terms are subject to politics and perspective.

On September 11th 2001 I was still in the field at Fort Lewis, WA. It was the last day of a training exercise for 1/25th Infantry and my BN 1-24th IN had just finished being the BDE’s OPFOR for the rest of the BDE (1-5 IN and 1-33 AR) as the they prepared for a JRTC rotation. During the week long FTX there was virtually no COBs (what was then referred to as civilians on the battlefield) and it was exclusively force on force. I was the BN Asst 3 and had been up all night; I was bagged out down the hill from the TOC. One of the RTOs came screaming down the hill telling me the CDR wanted me to get to the BN HQs as quickly as possible as there had been a radio call that we’d been attacked. What seemed impossible in that moment now looks much different. With a prognosis for “persistent conflict", long wars, etc and going on 8 years its hard to imagine otherwise. How does this affect our strategic outlook? Makes you empathize a bit with the decisions made by the Athenians and Spartans - but we've got a few decades to go to catch them I guess.

Looking forward I just can’t help but wonder about our desire to see things from a single perspective, and to try and make what by nature is uncontrolled into something that we can bend to our will, and build an objective to which it will seemingly self conform. Ken, no age reference inferred, but your comment would have found a good home in CvC’s work. It seems fairly straight forward and at first read, but is packed with complexity. I don’t know if you’ve read any William Carlos Williams, but he did one called “the Red Wheel Barrow” I think which is like that.

Best, Rob
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Old 06-08-2009   #2
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Rob,what about if both Strategy and Doctrine are Flawed?
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Old 06-08-2009   #3
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Slap - I think if you have the strategy wrong, then the best you might be able to do is succeed in spite of your best efforts to the contrary - what did that Irish guy say to Wallace in that scene in Braveheart, something about being fooked
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Old 06-09-2009   #4
John T. Fishel
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Default What is

strategy? What is doctrine? How are they related?

Strategy is the relation of ends to means through ways. It addresses 3 questions: What do I want to accomplish? How can I achieve my goal? With what?

Military doctrine is our best guess as to the best practices to conduct engagements and operations. It has been vetted and published as a textbook - we call that textbook a FM. As such, it addresses the how question of strategy.

The huge caveat about doctrine is that it is written by too few people, usually Majors and LTCs (or ex Majors and LTCs - contractors) , in too little time, with too little information and so suffers the same failings as most civilian textbooks do. (Just look at the books your kids use or the ones put out for college courses) Sometimes, of course, they actually say something as does 3-24 and a few others. (I think pretty highly of FM 100-20 of 1990, for instance, but then I had something to do with it. Nothing in 3-24 contradicts anything we said in 100-20, just exapnds on it.)

Doctrine, of course is not strategy but it does tell us how we plan to do the "how" of strategy. If there is a mismatch between doctrine and the strategic ways then the 3 legged strategy stool is off balance and the ways leg must be fixed. That means bringing doctrine in line with the strategic ways - usually by changing the doctrine.

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Old 06-09-2009   #5
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Hey John,
I don't disagree. I think what has got my attention is the relationship between the how the end change and what follows. It would appear that sometimes pragmatic change is really just acceptance of popular perspective (yes Marc - I'm hearing your observations about the illusions of society and civility). The idea of the impact of political change amidst a perceived long war (e.g. for us what is long?) and how it affects us and our will (particularly our appetite) is very interesting. Consider the tale of Alcibiades, here was a really good politician ( I also like the fiction work by Steven Pressfield ). I mean when you go from Pericles all the way up through the end you see allot of sway in how the public reacts. I was noticing our own media of late - it appears its not just casualty rates or operational measures of success that influence what is reported. To guys like you and Ken (and again - no age jokes intended), that may seem old hat as having seen it many times - but for me its very interesting to see group domestic agendas and FP objectives twined, un-twined and re-twined. Its caused me to reconsider how the flavor of the sausage is arrived upon.

BTW - I blame you a bit for turning me on to Morgenthau

Best, Rob
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Old 06-09-2009   #6
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I think that the first step is to be univocal in what we mean when we talk about strategy. JTF posted a definition. JP 1-02 has a different one, culled from JP 3-0:

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A prudent idea or set of ideas for employing the instruments of national power in a synchronized and integrated fashion to achieve theater, national and/or multinational objectives.
This is not quite the same as JTF's position and, I submit, may well put the notion of doctrine as pre-eminent, especially if we happen to identify doctrine as, "a prudent idea or set of ideas for employing the M in DIME (the instruments of national power)."

I suspect that doctrine often drives strategy. For an example, check out Robert Doughty's work on the French in WWI, Pyrrhic Victory. I submit that he argues that the French doctrine drove how the force was equipped, which in turn drove the techniques and planning the French used to respond to the Germans' invasion.
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Old 06-09-2009   #7
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I think "911" pretty much proved that discussions in Strategy are somewhat pointless.

a.) Strategy is a function of foreign policy.
b.) Foreign policy is a function of party politics.

So views on strategy are actually views born from personal political belief. Doctrine on the other hand is what is taught, which is a product of what is believed, so actually a product of what you think military history teaches you.
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Old 06-09-2009   #8
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...may well put the notion of doctrine as pre-eminent, especially if we happen to identify doctrine as, "a prudent idea or set of ideas for employing the M in DIME (the instruments of national power)."
However, I will note that that the 'M' is only 25% of that equation...
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I suspect that doctrine often drives strategy...
No question. There is also no question that doctrine drives equipment puchases which in turn contemporarily impose limits on strategy.

My belief is that doctrine has too often driven US strategy to the exclusion of the other parameters and, further, that doctrine is -- but should not be -- seen as so very important that it becomes an inflexible driver of means.

I also believe that the inflexibility thus induced permeates the defense establishment and effectively -- nowadays -- constrains strategic thought. We have become risk averse and use 'doctrine' as an excuse. A major US advantage in previous wars has been our ability to innovate and improvise. By paying excessive heed to 'doctrine' we have partly eliminated that significant advantage, constrained imaginative and resourceful leaders and encouraged mediocrity.

Anyone concerned about why Captains and Majors (not to mention SGTs and young SSG) are departing in large numbers -- and have been for many years, before 9/11, should take a hard look at that issue
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Old 06-09-2009   #9
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Default The Logic is Biconditional: Strategy If and Only If Doctrine

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My belief is that doctrine has too often driven US strategy to the exclusion of the other parameters and, further, that doctrine is -- but should not be -- seen as so very important that it becomes an inflexible driver of means.

I also believe that the inflexibility thus induced permeates the defense establishment and effectively -- nowadays -- constrains strategic thought. We have become risk averse and use 'doctrine' as an excuse. A major US advantage in previous wars has been our ability to innovate and improvise. By paying excessive heed to 'doctrine' we have partly eliminated that significant advantage, constrained imaginative and resourceful leaders and encouraged mediocrity.

Anyone concerned about why Captains and Majors (not to mention SGTs and young SSG) are departing in large numbers -- and have been for many years, before 9/11, should take a hard look at that issue
I concur wholeheartedly that some seem to view the linkage between doctrine and strategy as a one-way, linear relationship, and one that tends to have a "materiel" step in-betweeen the two (part of my point in mentioning Doughty--the French 75 was poorly suited to the counterfire mission that would be imposed by a static war situation but it was not replaced as it was great for close support and quick displacement in a war of maximum offensive maneuver.)

My position is that doctrine and strategy are interrelated and ought to create a dynamoic that causes a continuous reassessment and revision of on based on what is (or isn't working) in the other. Wilf's last post indicates to me that he will disagree for he holds yet a third position on the definition of strategy

As to doctrine being used as an excuse for risk aversion, I submit that we have a doctrine which has risk aversion at its center rather than the other way around. Working with a doctrine that uses technology to reduce the risk of casualties has been with the US military for a long time--off the top of my head, I'd say since at least the end of the Civil War. (Please don't beat me up on this last point for I have nothing other than gut feel to support it right now.)

During the Cold War, we used to say that besides our technolgical edge, the thing that would allow us to win WWIII was the innovativenss of our junior officers and NCOs, that we, unlike our Soviet counterparts, were not hamstrung by an unthinking attachment to doctrine. I used to fear that this was not the case and think that Ken has similar fears based on his closing lines in the above quotation.
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Old 06-09-2009   #10
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Cool I agree on the matriel but have reservations on the material...

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My position is that doctrine and strategy are interrelated and ought to create a dynamoic that causes a continuous reassessment and revision of on based on what is (or isn't working) in the other.
I agree. My belief however is that such is not now the case...
Quote:
Wilf's last post indicates to me that he will disagree for he holds yet a third position on the definition of strategy.
I'm not sure that's a third position (with respect to this thread, thus far, though I'm not sure where John T. and Rob might fall...). I agree with Wilf, strategy, to me is political (and is very much based on domestic politics) and that has been true since the Republic was founded. Winfield Scott succeeded as well and as quickly as he did only because he was at the end of a long message chain. Every US Commander since then has more closely followed the dictates of the Administration in power -- as they're supposed to.

That needs a caveat -- the national government determines the strategy and the services execute their portion of that. In the process, they may develop subsidiary and implementing strategies of their own but their task is essentially -- or should be -- purely military and most such 'strategies' are merely aggrandized operational plans. I realize that today for many reasons, the services are involved in other than purely military tasks and that undesirable condition will not soon disappear but their effort is still operational and strategic implementation rather than the development of strategy.

I also realize the services must have input to the strategic process, the 'M' in DIME and I think DIME about hits it -- the service input is or should be about 25% of the total.

Further, your contention on materiel is, as I agreed earlier, spot on -- and doctrine does drive that procurement ergo doctrine does affect strategy. That's okay, it should. What doctrine should not do is effect strategy beyond that parameter -- and even that should be modified if needed.

Let me give an example. I believe 'Strategic' Raids are feasible and for the impatient US, desirable. They are not really part of our doctrine -- indeed the doctrine writers have been told not to go there -- thus we have no 'requirement' for totally covert insertion and egress capability for medium sized combat elements. Therefor, that option is denied strategic planners. I could also have fun with Kosovo but that's another thread...
Quote:
As to doctrine being used as an excuse for risk aversion, I submit that we have a doctrine which has risk aversion at its center rather than the other way around. Working with a doctrine that uses technology to reduce the risk of casualties has been with the US military for a long time--off the top of my head, I'd say since at least the end of the Civil War. (Please don't beat me up on this last point for I have nothing other than gut feel to support it right now.)
Yes and no, I think. No question that your statement is correct in application -- but IMO, that was over the years simply the desire of good Commanders; to make the other SOB die for his country. In my observation, the stronger emphasis on force protection and minimizing casualties as 'doctrine' (written or not...) occurred only after Viet Nam (and Mogadishu) when many people misread -- and are still misreading IMO -- many things. The American people, broadly are more accepting of casualties (provided some payback is obvious) than are Politicians.

The services today are more politically focused than at any time in my life; though they have been understandably attuned to the political for all my life. Low casualties are a politically desirable as well as militarily desirable thing -- it used to be that the effort to preclude casualties was almost totally militarily driven. I'm not at all sure that is the case today. My sensing is that it is not.
Quote:
During the Cold War, we used to say that besides our technolgical edge, the thing that would allow us to win WWIII was the innovativenss of our junior officers and NCOs, that we, unlike our Soviet counterparts, were not hamstrung by an unthinking attachment to doctrine. I used to fear that this was not the case and think that Ken has similar fears based on his closing lines in the above quotation.
On attachment to doctrine we have indeed become overly attached and will be hamstrung by that attachment if we do not change. Pogo was right; we have met the enemy and he is us...

I do not have fears, I watched the destruction of innovation and intitiative, inadvertent to be sure but none the less very damaging, take place from 1949 through 1962 in very slight increments as the Army got into the peacetime swing after WW II with only a hiccup for Korea. In the early 60s, McNamara induced stupidity rapidly accelerated that trend, the one year tour in Viet Nam cemented it into place as a way of life and a deeply flawed training regimen has exacerbated the problem since 1975. Recall that the nation and the Army -- the Pentagon -- have not really been at war since 1945; they've sent people off to fight wars to be sure but the peacetime mentality has not been banished. We've simply done what all Armies do in peacetime, allowed ourselves to be buried in minutia...

Uniform changes are a great example of peacetime mentalities in Armies. Did I ever tell you that White Shirts are for Waiters...

Thus from 1949 until 1995 I watched an organization eat its young and move into the shade. It wasn't a pleasant thing to see and I retired several years before I wanted to simply because I didn't want to continue to be a part of the destruction. Fortunately, I've now totally retired and I'd really like to see a reversal of all that before I head south...

Afghanistan and Iraq have helped lift some -- not enough but some -- of the stifling. We'll see where that goes...

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Old 06-09-2009   #11
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Hmm - something we were sidebarring today - if campaigns and operations that fill them out are the physical manifestation of the ways - or the way the "ways" play out on the ground, and they in turn drive the requirements or the "means", then how does doctrine - and I mean doctrine in terms of what is accepted as being appropriate and feasible given a current set of beliefs - beliefs based on recent experience, popular wisdom, or convenience, - drive strategy?

Its a kind of back door manner of doctrine driving strategy I guess - maybe it happens without us really even realizing it. I may regret going down this road, but I was reading one of the blog posts where COL Gentile asked Niel to imagine a different way of achieving stated objectives in AfPak. In fact the whole GG debate is worth considering in this light (which to be fair is I think the thrust of his argument)

I tend to agree that there is the way we describe the relationship of strategy to doctrine (and to operations and tactics), which is one we can articulate and teach, one that suits our our need to order; but I also believe that description is subject to influences we either don't acknowledge or discount because it would force us to re-examine things we'd rather not.

This is why I thought Ken's observation on the relationship between strategy and doctrine was valuable, it acknowledges the requirement to at least re-examine the strategy and the ideas which support it, and be self critical. Otherwise no matter what the equation, the sum always = the same. I suppose then that is where I come down, it fits with my thoughts on the relationship between requirements and capabilities.

I find myself thinking more and more about Marc's comments about how we form our perception of reality and how we often avoid challenging it, how we defend it, etc.

Best, Rob
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Old 06-10-2009   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wm View Post
My position is that doctrine and strategy are interrelated and ought to create a dynamoic that causes a continuous reassessment and revision of on based on what is (or isn't working) in the other. Wilf's last post indicates to me that he will disagree for he holds yet a third position on the definition of strategy.
I think have to understand that "Strategy" is something different from "the Strategy." "The Strategy" may make, no "Strategic" sense. EG: We are in A'Stan to deny Al Qeda a base, when Al Qeda could plan another 911, from cells living in Canada.

The Military is a tool used to achieve the desired Strategic outcome. How that is done is "the military contribution to strategy" or "military strategy."

I don't really have a definition of Strategy because it is entirely irrelevant, to the "the strategy."

Doctrine is what is taught. Sorry to repeat this, but just in case, Doctrine is what is taught. - so yeas, logically doctrine is a tool, and it can enable the contribution to strategy. So doctrines can be something other than military, and nothing to do with strategy. Basically gardening is not about the tools, yet what tools you have, in some way defines how your garden will look.
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Old 06-10-2009   #13
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Default All good points

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
I think have to understand that "Strategy" is something different from "the Strategy." "The Strategy" may make, no "Strategic" sense. EG: We are in A'Stan to deny Al Qeda a base, when Al Qeda could plan another 911, from cells living in Canada.

The Military is a tool used to achieve the desired Strategic outcome. How that is done is "the military contribution to strategy" or "military strategy."

I don't really have a definition of Strategy because it is entirely irrelevant, to the "the strategy."

Doctrine is what is taught. Sorry to repeat this, but just in case, Doctrine is what is taught. - so yeas, logically doctrine is a tool, and it can enable the contribution to strategy. So doctrines can be something other than military, and nothing to do with strategy. Basically gardening is not about the tools, yet what tools you have, in some way defines how your garden will look.

All of this is very true, and it goes to our initial challenge at USSOCOM when we were tasked to stand up a Strategy Division. While US SOF forces are employed globally, USSOCOM itself is primarily a Title-10, Service-like force provider with an additional recent task to write GWOT plans for the Joint Staff and to synchronize those plans with the GCCs. So the first question becomes: "Strategy to do what?"

So you have to bin these things out. Yes we need a strategy for what the force needs to look like. We also need a "strategy" for how we will implement the Synch mission. As to the strategy for the plans themselves, that was provided from the very top and was sacrosanct. It could not be challenged, or when challenged, the challenger was quickly shot down. It was, as WILF says, a product of policy and politics, and not a product allowed to be shaped in any way by those at USSOCOM who had the greatest knowledge of the problem set we were taking on and who had been tasked to essentially set that knowledge aside and merely scribe out a plan. Frustrating business, that.

So what do we do today to attempt to break this cycle, while still remaining in our lane? Essentially we practice what I call "Staff UW."

We identifiy critical nodes, networks and individuals within the policy strategy community and engage them directly and indirectly, creating trust and rapport, and building a network of influence within the commuity. Behind the scenes we drill down into the problem set going far beyond our assigned lane of SOCOM's mission, to seek the greatest possible understanding of the problems we face around the world, their root causes (often linked frighteningly directly to former and current policies and strategies), and develop concepts for how to best address the same. We then use our staff UW network to peddle these concepts, not because of some formal authority to do so, but because the fact is, the people who do craft strategy and policy are for the most part good people, who want to do the right thing, and often simply don't have the background in the specific problem set they are tasked to address; and when approached properly they listen.

Do they have to listen? No. Do they agree with everything one says? No. Is everything they develope shaped by current politics? Absolutely. But often they take key concepts and fold them into their own. The seeds of strategy are being planted and they are growing, and it is shaping the national policy / strategy environment.

Ken worries that I am beating my head on a rock. Don't worry Ken, I'll always be an unconventional SF guy at heart, and rocks are something one goes around...
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Old 06-10-2009   #14
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I find myself thinking more and more about Marc's comments about how we form our perception of reality and how we often avoid challenging it, how we defend it, etc.
If we combine this idea with Wilf's point that doctrine is, rather literally, what is taught, then I think we must end up giving the nod to doctrine as driving strategy. This follows from claims that our language shapes our reality (or at least how we communication our perceptions of our reality) and that our language is taught to us--unlike the way Athena was born from Zeus, language does not spring from our heads fully-formed. Since it is taught to us, it is a form of doctrine. Thus, doctrine forces how we undertake our strategic approaches since it constrains what we can speak about and how we can say/express it to others. This view also seems to map quite nicely to BW's staff UW approach--his technique is a way of introducing a new set of meanings into the heads of the Cerberus-like policy wonks past whom he and his fellows must move to get their agendas approved and funded by Hades/Pluto (who just happens to be the god of wealth/the riches of the earth as well as the god of the dead).
(Sorry for the excursus into Greco-Roman mythology. Perhaps Rob's invocation of MarcT pushed me in that direction. )

BTW, if we want to follow Wilf's lead and identify the meaning of doctrine by reflection on its Latin origins (docere--to teach), perhaps we should do the same with strategy, which derives from the ancient Greek strategos. The office was more than just a miltary one, even though the term is usually translated into English as 'general.' Here's a link to consider .
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Old 06-10-2009   #15
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Quote:
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If we combine this idea with Wilf's point that doctrine is, rather literally, what is taught, then I think we must end up giving the nod to doctrine as driving strategy. This follows from claims that our language shapes our reality (or at least how we communication our perceptions of our reality) and that our language is taught to us--unlike the way Athena was born from Zeus, language does not spring from our heads fully-formed.
The idea that doctrine is what is taught, is not mine. It is what the word means.
Additionally, I would say that doctrine should be substantially why something is done, not how. That allows for the role of context. This is useful when applied to military operations. It is very much less useful, when you have something like the Powell/Weinberger Doctrine, which is actually not a doctrine at all, but a check list, based on a selective reading of history
Quote:
BTW, if we want to follow Wilf's lead and identify the meaning of doctrine by reflection on its Latin origins (docere--to teach), perhaps we should do the same with strategy, which derives from the ancient Greek strategos.
I would strongly caution against anyone following me, but I would suggest having clear and shared understanding of the terms we are using.
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Rob Thornton
I find myself thinking more and more about Marc's comments about how we form our perception of reality and how we often avoid challenging it, how we defend it, etc.
Well there is the crux of the matter. Most folk here do not challenge the messages they gain from, and stay clear of those who will challenge them.
It's extremely interesting that most of the well known names who post on Journal, stay clear of the discussions on the board.
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Old 06-10-2009   #16
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The problem I think is you have to get them all right. On another thread I mentioned the word alignment. The Political Objective has to be achievable and has to link or align with Strategy and Doctrine and Operations and finally Tactics. That is what makes it all so hard and when something goes wrong there is a tendency to blame one part instead of looking at the whole linkage of different processes. If you fail at the highest level it can affect the outcome of everything else at the lower levels no matter how good each piece is by itself.
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Old 06-10-2009   #17
John T. Fishel
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Default Doctrine is what is taught - yes

Doctrine drives strategy - yes, but strategy also drives doctrine.

"All politics is local." Tip O'Neil, Speaker of the US House. - yes and necessarily so.

Stuff drives doctrine which drives stategy which drives doctrine whch drives stuff - which came first, the chicken or the egg? - yes

Staff UW is HOW "we" can influence strategic development. Writ large, it is the story of the surge (see Woodward's The War Within, Robinson's Tell Me How This Ends, and Ricks' The Gamble).

Back to politics and strategy and for a different definition, see Steve Metz' Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy. This also raises the question of Grand Strategy, National Strategy, Theater Strategy...

On innovation, we go back and forth. But, in the end, my perception (nod to Marct) is that the military does tend to reward it more often than we suspect. I have been amazed at the number of our newly selected general officers who don't fit the expected mold/career pattern.

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Old 06-10-2009   #18
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Wm, my definition of strategy is fully compatible with yours
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Old 06-10-2009   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
Wm, my definition of strategy is fully compatible with yours
Concur John. I think the one I lifted from the JP is actually a wholely contained subset of yours.
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Old 06-10-2009   #20
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Default Test

OK, Do doctrine writers get a brief from the State Department on the National Strategy? Did State sign off on FM100-5 or FM3? If not, then Strategy does not drive doctrine, or vice versa.

More over what doctrine and what strategy? They are very wide areas of concern. I am aware of tactical and operational doctrine. What is Strategic Doctrine?
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