Free Republic: US Grand Strategy? List of 11 No-Nos

Articles & Chapters, Methods & Process, Officers Call, Strategy

Phi Beta Iota: Free Republic came to our attention today, as a good example of the common sense of We the People.  We have added  them to Righteous Sites.  Below found there on Grand Strategy.

FPRI-Temple University Consortium on Grand Strategy • The Telegram No. 3

Can the United States Do Grand Strategy?

April 2010

By Walter A. McDougall

Excerpt: Angelo Codevilla, who says that what passes for strategy in the U.S. government is mostly wishful or sloppy thinking, made the same point in operational terms. “Because doing the right thing is important to Americans as to no other people, American politics is like politics nowhere else…. Basing statecraft on the American people’s penchant for trying to do the right thing, as did Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, brings forth awesome energy…. But using the American people’s righteousness as a propellant for private dreams, as did [Woodrow] Wilson, or as cover for tergiversation, as did George W. Bush, is ruinous.”

Related piece same title, with bibliography, by McDougall in Orbis, Journal of World Affairs:

Excerpt: “So whatever buzz words become the shorthand for a new American strategy, I expect the most we can hope for is that our national security agencies and their consulting firms just post on their walls the business strategist Richard Rumelt’s list of ten strategic blunders and meditate on them every day.[32] They are:

1. Failure to recognize or take seriously the fact that resources are scarce
2. Mistaking strategic goals for strategy
3. Failure to recognize or state the strategic problem
4. Choosing unattainable or poor strategic goals
5. Failure to define the challenge competitively
6. Making false presumptions about one’s competence
7. Loss of focus due to too many stakeholders and bureaucratic processes to satisfy
8. Inaccurately determining one’s areas of competitive advantage
9. Failure to realize that few people have the cognitive skills needed for strategy
10. Failure to understand the adversary.

I would add to this list one more:

11. Failure to understand ourselves.

In his famous “Silent Majority speech” President Richard Nixon assured listeners that North Vietnam could not defeat the United States, “only Americans can do that.” I suspect that were we to run our minds over the whole sweep of U.S. diplomatic and military history we could readily trace our nation’s disasters and wasteful detours in good part to our own nation’s foibles. They are legion. We are human. But chief among them is a tendency to be so dazzled by our own destiny and morality that we cannot see ourselves as others see us. So even as the American people must figure out how to frustrate our terrorist enemies and Great Power rivals in the era to come, so must we hearken to Edmund Burke. “Among precautions against ambition,” he warned, “it may not be amiss to take one precaution against our own. I must fairly say, I dread our own power and own ambition; I dread our being too much dreaded…. [W]e may say that we shall not abuse this astonishing and hitherto unheard of power. But every other nation will think we shall abuse it. It is impossible but that, sooner or later, this state of things must produce a combination against us which may end in our ruin.

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