Why is it, in the nation that is supposed to be the “shining city on a hill,” are we forcing people not to work? Why are we telling some 800,000 men and women with jobs that they are prohibited from showing up to their places of employment? Because of choices. Choices made by policy makers. Choices made by legislators. Choices made by society. Choices made by individuals fed up with not getting their way. Choices on how to retain, or achieve, power…in a word, politics. What is politics but a series of choices? Or in the words of a recent strategy brief by the Infinity Journal, “politics is all about the distribution of power;” choices on who gets what, when, and how. And what is strategy, the raison d’etre for IJ, but the extension of politics…but I won’t go all Clausewitzian on you…it makes Crispin angry. And you don’t want to make Crispin angry.
The newest edition of Infinity Journal, coming out on Monday, is all about choices. At least that’s how I read the articles when the publisher provided me an early copy. There are six articles that span the breadth and historical depth of strategy, from Clausewitz to covert action and massive retaliation to Afghanistan and Syria. All are about the choices that were, can, or should be made in regards to strategy, national doctrine, and the threat/use of violence to achieve strategic effect.
As I’ve done before when reviewing an edition of IJ, I won’t bore you by going article by article, pointing out the goodness of each. You should take the time to peruse them all, though. And for full disclosure, I have a piece in this one (if you think Syria’s complicated, it turns out you’re right. So don’t fault me if I didn’t solve it.).
That said, I would direct your attention to two (much better) articles. The first is the leading piece, “Does War Have its Own Logic After All?” by Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria II. In this piece, Dr. E, one of the pre-eminent scholars on Clausewitz, re-examines the grammar and logic of war as relayed in On War. Through historical example, he demonstrates that military imperatives or “rules” (the grammar of war) sometimes drove and changed the policies (the logic of war) decision makers were trying to achieve. Instead of war having logic (policy) that drove the grammar (military imperatives), they more frequently are at odds that must be reconciled through a strategy development process.
While I agree that policy and military objectives affect each other in a very symbiotic, continual process, I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the ghost on Uncle Carl’s logic and grammar just yet. Regardless, this is a great article on how we have choices in what we accept and use from our theoretical underpinnings.
The second article that you should pay particular attention to is, “Why Did the US Adopt the Strategy of Massive Retaliation?” by Dimitrios Machairas. This historical analysis of Eisenhower’s “massive retaliation” strategy is quite strong, not only in its accuracy, but in its applicability to today. Machairas does a wonderful job explaining how this approach, this choice, was undertaken as much to prevent “overextension and ‘practical bankruptcy’” as it was to better integrate a growing nuclear arsenal into our strategic approach. As the United States continues to wrestle with decreasing resources and a turbulent economy, lessons from such times as these should be dusted off and used to help frame the issues of our own day. I can’t think of a better leader to emulate than Eisenhower…but I may be biased.
While I cherry-picked two articles, I highly recommend the rest. There really is a beauty in a journal that can span historical strategic doctrines to current military strategy and foreign policy issues – all while focusing on the most important element of them all: strategy. As I seem to say every time I discuss the Infinity Journal, one of the core reasons I support it is because it focuses on quality articles pertinent to strategy. We need more people interested in this topic to write – not just to fill the pages of IJ with quality pieces – but also to continue the robust discussion strategy deserves. If we are not critically analyzing the choices we make, and theoretical knowledge such choices are based upon, we are failing as strategists.
So, write something for IJ. Send it to me or to the journal and join the discussion. Now.