Transformation has lost at least some of the glamour enjoyed a decade ago while

Transformation has lost at least some of the glamour

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battalions. “Transformation” has lost at least some of the glamour it enjoyed a decade ago, while more traditional approaches have grudg- ingly regained ground, as seen in the “surges” of Iraq and Afghanistan. 14 Political leaders and strategists should also be mindful of strategic culture , that mélange of history, tradition, custom, world view, economy, sociology, and political systems and mores that largely shapes how nations fight and for what causes. For example, there may be no agreed upon American theory of war, but an “American Way of War” surely exists, based on concepts of mass, firepower, technology, strong popular support, and a focus on decisive battle. “Good Wars” have historically followed this pattern, “Bad Wars” have not. While the analogy can be taken too far, it captures central truths that should inform our strategic calculations. Strategic culture is real and powerful, whether we acknowl- edge it or not. So how do we to square the circle to make effective strategy? Clausewitz, of course, posited that the ideal solution was to combine the 12 This is the great lesson of H. R. McMaster’s classic Dereliction of Duty . It is now clear that the Joint Chiefs knew, early in the Vietnam conflict, that the strategy adopted would likely fail. But individually, and as a body, they both supported and enabled it, resulting in 58,000 US deaths, hundreds of thousands wounded, and a defeat that would take a generation to overcome. See H. R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (New York: Harper Collins, 1997). 13 The short, massive campaigns waged in Grenada, Panama, and the Gulf War stand in vivid contrast to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan in this regard. 14 See Richard D. Hooker, Jr., H. R. McMaster, and David Gray, “Getting Transformation Right,” Joint Force Quarterly 38 (July 2005): 27.
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Hooker 63 statesman and the commander into one—influenced, no doubt, by the experiences of Prussia at the hands of Napoleon. Those days are long gone, never to return. The challenge today is to optimize strategy in an interagency, highly political, multinational decision setting character- ized by multiple threats, declining interest and knowledge of military affairs, financial stringency, and limited reservoirs of public support. Accordingly, the following strategic considerations might usefully be kept in mind. Understand the Nature of the Conflict. This sounds easy but usually isn’t. Both in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in Vietnam, the United States seems to have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the conflict and to have persisted in the error for far too long. In each, intervention and initial success signaled not the end but the beginning of a long, expensive, tortuous conflict that dragged on far longer than most experts predicted. This is not Monday-morning quarterbacking. Strategists must be able to understand circumstances and make concrete assessments of the problems to be solved and how to solve them. Just as importantly, they must be ready to jettison failed policies and strategies and make new ones when needed.
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  • Spring '19
  • Wind, Armed forces, Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Military strategy

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