BARNETT ON GRAND STRATEGISTSDr. Barnett
had one of his more freewheeling, "thinking out loud" posts up today, "What grand strategy is to me
" that I recommend. It's not short but Tom hits many points of interest from horizontal thinking to cultivating the mindset of a grand strategist for the need to shift persons but not the position of grand strategist from American life. Some excerpts:"Systematic thinking about the future means you're not "for" or "against" issues like peak oil or global warming, you just accept the dynamics implied and rank them accordingly. As such, you will always disappoint the single-issue-trumps-all crowd, because you do not subvert your entire logic to their presumed hierarchy.....When government's role in grand strategy is explored, its primary function is that of enabler of overriding era trends, thus grand strategy is contextualized at all times. This is crucial for someone who approaches grand strategy from the perspective of national security, because the military's tendency--especially in the United States--is to view war strictly within the context of war (our penchant for annihilation). Thus, one great purpose of grand strategy for me is help the military come back to society ....A fundamental characteristic of grand strategy is adaptive planning according to fundamental rule sets enunciated in said strategy. Strategy is neither confirmed nor denied by events, for it is not an objective reality but a desired end state (think "Groundhog Day").....It is a good and worthy profession. It needs serious exploration for the purposes of rule-setting. It is too often tied to individual personalities when it needs to be a skill set that is repeatably applied as a strategic planning solution. It should not be outsourced to columnists and talking heads, but should remain organic to the field of national security. It is a skill we lost across the Cold War, primarily because of the success of the "wise men" in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But that vision no longer holds sway."
It is a highly useful exercise, in my view, to go back and plumb the memoirs and papers of men like Churchill, Stimson, Acheson, Marshall, Nitze, Forrestal, Kennan, Dulles, Byrnes and others who were " present at the creation". Not all of them were, technically speaking, grand strategists and quite a few were wrong on points large and small. Some of them schemed and others curried favor, while holding their democratically elected superiors in contempt. But these were insightful, well educated, men who took the responsibility of statesmanship seriously and for whom country came before party. At least most of the time.
At times, their prose is even a pleasure to read. Acheson on the Coal and Steel community that healed 80 years of Franco-German rancor or Stimson on the art of the possible in Eastern Europe after Yalta, is a level of understanding of foreign affairs often absent in Washington today.
Labels: barnett, foreign policy, history, horizontal thinking, strategy