Friday, June 16, 2017

Moon of Alabama When Generals Make Policies - From Tactics To Strategy To Political Decision


Let me draw out a bit the point that b makes about strategy versus tactics. The priories in descending order are policy, which set goals and purpose, strategy which sets objective for reading the policy goals and achieving purpose, and tactics, which is concerned with operational means in achieving objectives.

Policy is fixed, strategy is adaptable, and tactics agile.

Mixing these up is unprofessional and can become amateurish, as in mission creep led by tactics.

The etymological root of "strategy" is Greek strategos and Latin strategus, meaning a general, or other general officer such as a field marshall. Generals are in charge of strategy. They are part of the general staff. Their portfolio is planning. In the US, "the Pentagon" is an abstraction for this function.

Officers from colonel below are officers of the line, or line officers. They are responsible for the actual fighting, that is, tactics.

A problem arises because generals are promoted from the line. Therefore, the Peter principle applies. Since candidates for promotion are chosen on the basis of past performance rather than intended performance, some candidates may be promoted beyond their level of competence.

This is a persistent problem in militaries. Good tacticians don't necessarily make good strategists. For example, Patton and Rommel are known as great tacticians, even superb tacticians, but they are not considered great strategists. 

This is a problem for President Trump since he doesn't have the military competence to make good choices. He knows that so he has ceded military choices to his commanders. However, to be successful he must have the ability to distinguish good strategist, or be lucky. He was neither in choosing James Mattis.

The entire general staff seems to suffer from this syndrome when they say that there is no end in sight the global war on terror and it may go on for many decades. They have no plan and it is appearing that there is no viable plan without massively occupying many countries for the foreseeable future, which is not viable politically.

They need to be figuring out an exit strategy that saves as much face as possible, instead of repeating a Vietnam situation where they end up fleeing as they draw down.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Dear General Mathis,

Stop pussyfooting around in Afghanistan and Syria and go after Iran.

Sincerely,

John McCain. USAF Retired.