leaders not only can but should intrude at will far into the profes sional

Leaders not only can but should intrude at will far

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leaders not only can but should intrude at will far into the profes- sional military domain is both wrong and dangerous. 10 While they may overlap, there are clear lanes that distinguish appropriate civilian and military areas of responsibility and expertise. All parties understand and accept the doctrine of ultimate civilian control; however, asserting civilian control is the poorest excuse for bad strategy. 11 Civilian leaders have an unquestioned right to set the aims, provide the resources and identify the parameters that guide and bound armed conflict. They have an unchallenged right to select and remove mili - tary commanders, set strategic priorities and, when necessary, direct changes in strategy. For their part, military leaders have a right—indeed, a duty—to insist on clarity in framing strategic objectives and to object 10 Eliot A. Cohen is a primary exponent of this view. See his “Supreme Command in the 21st Century,” Joint Force Quarterly (Summer 2002): 48-54. 11 An apposite example is Secretary Rumsfeld’s tinkering with military deployment orders in Afghanistan and Iraq. See Peter M. Shane, Madison’s Nightmare: How Executive Power Threatens American Democracy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 73.
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62 Parameters 42(4)/43(1) Winter-Spring2013 when, in their best military judgment, either the constraints applied or the resources provided preclude success. 12 Prior to assuming office, many political leaders have little interaction with the military and with strategy itself. The lack of strategic training and practical experience cited above, if combined with a contempt for military expertise, can dislocate strategy altogether. Often in the post- war era, we see strategies advanced where the level of ambition outraces the resources provided, leading to protracted, costly, and open-ended ventures with decidedly unsatisfying outcomes. 13 In contrast, military leaders are generally cautious about use of force and, if ordered to fight, argue for larger and not smaller forces. The military preference for avoiding wars is based on an historical appreciation for how quickly violence gets out of hand, how devastating less-than-total victory can be for military institutions, and how painful and expensive success can be. The military preference for large forces is likely grounded in an intuitive understanding of the complexity and unpredictability of conflict. One way to deal with these uncertainties is to overwhelm the problem with mass at the outset (Desert Storm being the obvious case in point). Larger forces, though harder to manage and more costly in the short term, provide more options and greater leverage amidst uncertainty, often leading to fewer casualties and lower costs than long, open-ended conflicts. In a sense they smother the friction of war and increase the chances of quick, decisive campaigns. Smaller forces, emphasizing air and sea power and special operations, may seem more transformational, but the historical record is on the side of the bigger battalions. “Transformation” has lost at least some of the glamour it
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  • Spring '19
  • Wind, Armed forces, Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Military strategy

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