Strategy talk

You may have noticed a rich variety of articles and speeches complaining the dire state of strategy in Western countries. Strategy of force structure design, regional strategies, warfare strategies, nation-building strategies - hardly anything appears to be safe from criticism or even be safe from criticism that claims it doesn't exist at all.
I've seen plenty such articles, and over time I've grown a resentment towards them, for they appear to follow a dominant pattern: The lack or low quality of strategic thinking is under attack, and the language used is very abstract and very theoretical, seemingly 'academic'. Afterwards, the authors of such articles portray themselves as strategic thinkers.

The one thing they don't appear to do (much) is to do something about the perceived lack of strategic thought themselves. They don't criticise a lack of strategy in regard to a specific challenge and then offer an example that a strategic approach is possible by outlining one.

I think I myself did it (mostly) different; examples are

I am observing a variation of the "very serious people" phenomenon. Comments that add nothing, but excel in style and pretensions are getting attention and recognition. Authors who summarise self-evident ideas from other countries and introduce them in an easily readable book for their domestic market get misunderstood as great thinkers (literature research and pleasant writing is not 'great thinking').
Meanwhile, the lack of actually good strategic ideas - and the dissemination thereof - plagues policy just as does the perpetuation of old errors and the non-exclusion of those who consistently give bad advice.

Maybe a different style of strategic debates could help a lot. Let's fund writing contests for well-defined strategic problems. A thousand bucks for the 1st place, 500 for 2nd place, 250 for 3rd place, honourable mention for 4th to 10th places if there were at least 40 submissions. That's peanuts compared to the importance of the most likely topics.
A jury ought to be non-invested in institutional interests, so a strategy for a maritime problem could score 1st place even without advocating additional budget for the navy or coast guard simply because the jury wouldn't be dominated by navy officers and navy-biased think tankers.
A "popular vote" alternative ranking could exist in parallel, with no prizes due to its vulnerability to manipulation.

This way we would address the lack of strategy, foster strategic thinking and create benchmarks against which to compare official policies.

Meanwhile, those who attempt to assemble 'deep strategic thinking' articles with 100 cryptic words and references per page but no actual applicable proposal would fade away into well-deserved obscurity because hardly anybody would find them convincing or interesting any more.


P.S.: In case you wonder, I had people like Elkus and Seidler in mind.

1 comment:

  1. I don't like your idea

    It seems you recognized that strategy is one of the most important factor, but then you want to make a contest for it, which will fail.

    The reason is simple, while strategy is important, it is just idea and needs to be done to become reality. But on the other hand, strategy is hard to understand, especially important strategy that can impact hot topics. So even a very good strategy, but without supporter, that is just some imaginations.

    So, to implement a strategy, it is quite hard, and, in many case, will bring tremendous benefit. E.g. google strategy for search engine, facebook strategy for social network,... all those strategies to solve some problems that changed the world.

    So don't be jealous with fake strategists. There are many real and successful one. And on the other hand, even google can not realize the important of their strategy, which turned into a multi billion dollar corp.

    So, talk is cheap and easy. Even with a good strategy, but if its first supporter does not push it, then who will do it for him? Or does him believe in his own theory?

    If he does not believe in his own theory, which means it may be not good, and he just pretend to sell his book. If he believes in his own theory, then why doesn't he try to implement it? Or because the lack of belief in humanity?