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After MSC: A New EU and a New Strategic NATO concept?

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There are many reactions to the Munich Security Conference and the speeches of Macron, Pompeo, Laschet and Steinmeier. Two are documented here. Firstly, the more pro-Russian perspective in the person of Dr. Alexander Rahr, who calls for a reinvention of the EU and proposes a Franco-German working group that, based on the eroding power and cohesion of the West, has a more European orientation along Macron’s proposals, wants compromises in adhering to liberal values ​​and seeks a balance with Russia.

The conclusion of this year’s Munich Security Conference is that the US is ruthlessly fighting to maintain its global monopoly on power and the status of the only world order power. The EU-Europeans cling desperately to the idea of ​​the liberal order of values ​​under Western leadership, which is waning every year. China and Russia enjoy their power roles, but are still too weak to put their sole stamp on the new world order.

The EU complains about the lack of multilateralism. But what does the EU mean by this: the sole power of the West? Russians and Chinese complain that the EU only hopes for America’s appreciation, but does not want Russia and China to shape the new world order. Meanwhile, the United States is demanding that Germany and other Europeans mercilessly ostracize Russia and China as opponents and stop all technology and gas deals with them. The American Secretary of State Pompeo spoke of the permanent victory of the West, but meant only „America first“.

The helplessness of the EU results in the fact that it continues to lose its role in shaping world politics. Steinmeier, Kramp-Karrenbauer, Maas – they all complained and complained. But today the EU is militarily weak, meanwhile also economically battered and weakened by internal conflicts. Despite constant calls from French President Macron, it lacks the will to take control of the action itself.

Macron tried to wake up the EU at the Munich Security Conference. He envisions a new European architecture that also includes Russia. But the other EU countries do not follow him; if they move closer to Russia, they fear the weakening of the transatlantic community and the sell-off of their beloved liberal values.

The liberal European elites, the powerful media and the business world lack the imagination to emancipate themselves from America. This reveals what the sovereignty of the EU actually was in the post-war years and the 30 years after the turnaround. The pressure to act is not yet strong enough for the EU. The transatlantic navel show of a western elite at the Munich Security Conference, which is convinced that it is not doomed, reminds outsiders of the warning words of the late Foreign Minister Westerwelle about late Roman decadence.

France and Germany should quickly set up an informal working group to develop the concept of a future European architecture. The prerequisite is that the group is not dominated by transatlantic think tanks or representatives of Soros foundations. After a lively exchange with Russians, Britons and Central Eastern Europeans, the results would then be presented to the heads of state for further use. Time is short: the EU has to learn to think outside the box, even if it has to cut back on its liberal focus on values. “

The second major contribution is from General ret. Wittmann in the Tagesspiegel, who criticizes the speechlessness of the EU and NATO and calls for a new strategic NATO concept in the tradition of the Harmel report:

„President Macron’s description of NATO as“ brain dead „was certainly unsuccessful. But, critical reference to inadequate consultation and coordination in the alliance was justified. This does not only apply to specific occasions, such as the uncoordinated withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria and their invasion by Turkey. There has always been a debate culture in NATO that spares many sensitive issues. On existentially important questions such as Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions or China’s rise there have never been any serious consultations in the NATO Council. The reason appears to be twofold To be concerned: Disagreement leads in public to the assumption that NATO stands before the breaking up or dealing with a region outside of NATO territory creates suspicion that NATO wants to intervene militarily there, and the alliance must free itself from such inhibitions. It should raise „consultation“ on a new core function of NATO – in addition to the three core functions defined in the strategic concept of 2010: collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security.

That would be an explicit revaluation and activation of Article 4 of the Washington NATO Treaty. Already in the short “London Declaration” of the heads of state and government after its meeting on the 70th anniversary of NATO in December 2019, there was twice talk of „consultation“: It was reaffirmed that NATO is the essential forum for security consultations and decisions. And the Secretary General was asked to put forward the proposal for a „forward-looking process of reflection“ to further strengthen „the political dimension of NATO, including the consultations“. This is an emaciated version of the proposal, the president Macron and Secretary of State Maas had done. They wanted a more fundamental strategy debate. So it is to be hoped that the “reflection process” leads to the decision leads to renew the strategic concept of NATO .

This is the basic document of NATO, which has so far been decided about every ten years as the decisive specification of the NATO Treaty. The current one dates from 2010 – long before the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which catapulted NATO „back into the Article 5 world“ to the question of the alliance case. The pendulum moved for more than two decades priorities for NATO and member states‘ armed forces towards foreign missions. Defense of the country and the alliance no longer seemed to be necessary. In 2014, given the concerns particularly in Poland and the Baltic States, it had to be demonstrated convincingly: If NATO could not help its partner Ukraine militarily, every square meter of NATO territory is taboo for Russia. With the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO’s greatest reorientation began since the fall of the Berlin Wall: once again towards national and alliance defense.

The consequences affected aspects such as operational readiness, reinforcement planning, exercise, leadership, air surveillance – up to the „improved front presence“ with multinational NATO battalions in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All of this and the new look at Russia is not reflected in the current strategic concept, nor is the development of the past ten years in terms of threats, such as new weapon technology, cyber threats, security-related consequences of climate change, militarization of space and “hybrid warfare”. The latter is not a completely new phenomenon, but it is a new challenge: a method that combines open and covert military and non-military resources and that can (and should) make it difficult for the Alliance to respond collectively. In the Ukraine conflict, Russia demonstrated the seamless orchestration of military and non-military instruments: military threats beyond the Ukrainian border, use of paramilitary units without sovereignty badges, cyberattacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and the support of „separatists“ with military equipment.

The threats mentioned are to be countered increasingly by strengthening the “resilience” of societies, military structures and critical infrastructure. This keyword, borrowed from psychology, means resilience and flexible responsiveness. This task of NATO is so crucial that it should also be included as an additional core function in a new strategic concept. Why are you not yet in the process of designing a new strategic concept? Like over ten years ago, there is a fear that this work will be a “divisive process”. Secondly, one wants to avoid a debate on the political and strategic foundations of NATO during Trump’s presidency. On the military side of the headquarters, in the responsibility of the military committee, at least the military strategy policy document MC 400 was revised.

But it cannot remain there, not least because this document is classified as „NATO-confidential“. With the decision at the time to publish the strategic concept of 1991, NATO opted for transparency and confidence-building the public. She owes the world her right to exist, discloses the threats and skills required under the circumstances that have changed since 2010. It is time for a new strategic concept for the transatlantic alliance. This was also intended to counter the nonsensical talk about an „identity crisis“ of NATO. The new strategic concept must analyze the changed conditions in the field of security policy, represent the interaction between institutions and actors, and convincingly explain the continuing importance of the transatlantic link and the growing responsibility of Europe for its own security. „Consultation“ and „Resilience (Development)“ should finally be understood as core functions.

Also needed is a new strategic concept that substantiates the role of the “European pillar” in NATO, based on the “Common Security and Defense Policy” of the EU, which can only be successful, complementary, not competitive with NATO. The strategic challenge should also face up to the challenge posed by China and Russia’s place in the European security order. A Dedicate concept – provided that Russia ends the violation of the rules agreed for them. The range of dialogues offered by NATO based on the harmony philosophy (defense and relaxation, firmness and willingness to talk) should be specified.“

Brigadegeneral Retired Dr. Klaus Wittmann is a senior fellow of the Aspen Institute Germany and teaches contemporary history at the University Potsdam.

A new NATO concept expanded to include the functions of consultation and resilience is certainly necessary, as well as paired with a new version of the Harmel report (the latter has also been suggested by General ret. Kujat). In my opinion, however, this will not happen while Trump is still in office, as the transatlantic relationship after him will no longer be the status quo ante. In addition, the suggestion of Prof. Alexander Rahr is interesting no longer to wait, but to set up a Franco-German working group that at least design an architecture of the European pillar that was in line with Macron’s proposals, so that one finally has a basis for discussion. This is no longer expected under Merkel, but hopefully the next black- green government will tackle this question. Armin Laschet accused the current Merkel government of inactivity in Europe on the MSC, while, despite being invited, Spahn and Merz never even came to the MSC.

However, Merz who is considered to be more transatlantic than Laschet due to his former position as chief of the Atlantic Bridge and member of Blackrock also pointed out that Germany and the EU should now actively react to Macron´s proposal as in the future there won´t be a better and more pro-European French president and Marine Le Pen was just waiting for her chance in the next presidential elections. And Merz is now also a supporter of a China Bridge, a new organization pushed by former CSU minister Friedrichs. At the MSC Laschet and Baerbrock had a panel together, but Baerbrock has no concrete ideas except the normal phrases that she was for „more Europe“ and for human rights. While the Greens would have with Omnid Omnipour or even with Cem Özdemir an excellent foreign minister, their time is over at the Greens. Hopefully, Laschet or Merz as next chancellor will make foreign and security policy a chief issue and not delegate it to green idealists.

Remember the last green foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, who made no significant contributions except for the Yugoslavia war and the Iraq war, and Schröder made clear to him who was the waiter and who was the chief and cook, especially in relations with China and Russia, in which Eurasianist Schröder had even the Eurasiazisation of the G7 to a G9 with Russia and China in mind. The Green Fischer was more the liberal human rights transatlantic and had a strong ally in Madeline Albright, who later included him in her consulting firm and as a lobbyist for the Nabucco pipeline, while Schröder accepted positions with Putin, Gazprom and Rosneft as well as Rothschild, whereby Macron was also employed by Rothschild before he started En Marche.

AKK, which had already unsuccessfully wanted EU or NATO missions in northern Syria, was also speaking at the MSC and their suggestion of an EU mission in the Persian Gulf with German participation was gratefully received by Macron as France is already there with the first warships and Macron proposed a vote in the EU about such a joint mission to get a picture of the mood, as well as sending a Coalition of the Willing as the first European mission to set a precedent. However, the Europeans do not want to participate in the US mission in the Persian Gulf, since they do not share Trump’s maximum pressure policy and the termination of the Iran deal and do not want to be drawn into a U.S.-Iranian war, but first only to secure the international trade routes and their own ships Which position a Brexit-Gb under Johnson will take remains to be seen.

Three comments on General Wittmann’s contribution to a new strategic NATO concept in the Tagesspiegel. The Harmel report proposed a new NATO strategy based on the transition from Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) to flexible response and the willingness to engage in dialogue with the Eastern Bloc. Similarly, one might also have to expand the flexible response, also based on the new weapon systems and new international players

Furthermore, the question arises to what extent a new strategic NATO concept also takes into account the questions that Michael O Hannon raises in his recently published book „The Senkaku Paradox“ – that is, how NATO will react to a limited hybrid warfare of Russia, be it in the Baltic Gaps or on the part of China around Taiwan, the South China Sea or the East China Sea- whether NATO and the USA respond massively to this or contain the local aggression of small stakes and respond with massive economic warfare, as he outlines in his book:

America needs better options for resolving potential crises

In recent years, the Pentagon has elevated its concerns about Russia and China as potential military threats to the United States and its allies. But what issues could provoke actual conflict between the United States and either country? And how could such a conflict be contained before it took the world to the brink of thermonuclear catastrophe, as was feared during the cold war?

Defense expert Michael O’Hanlon wrestles with these questions in this insightful book, setting them within the broader context of hegemonic change and today’s version of great-power competition.

The book examines how a local crisis could escalate into a broader and much more dangerous threat to peace. What if, for example, Russia’s “little green men” seized control of a community, like Narva or an even smaller town in Estonia, now a NATO ally? Or, what if China seized one of the uninhabited Senkaku islands now claimed and administered by Japan, or imposed a partial blockade of Taiwan?

Such threats are not necessarily imminent, but they are far from inconceivable. Washington could be forced to choose, in these and similar cases, between risking major war to reverse the aggression, and appeasing China or Russia in ways that could jeopardize the broader global order.

O’Hanlon argues that the United States needs a better range of options for dealing with such risks to peace. He advocates “integrated deterrence,” which combines military elements with economic warfare. The military components would feature strengthened forward defenses as well as, possibly, limited military options against Russian or Chinese assets in other theaters. Economic warfare would include offensive elements, notably sanctions, as well as measures to ensure the resilience of the United States and allies against possible enemy reprisal.

The goal is to deter war through a credible set of responses that are more commensurate than existing policy with the stakes involved in such scenarios.“

The third question is to what extent such a new Harmel report also considers the possibility of diplomatic solutions in the sense of a New Eastern Policy with Russia, as well as arms control agreements after the terminated INF contract, the possible termination of START and other new weapon systems for which there are still no arms restrictions as cyber or space weapons. At the moment, all the militaries in the world are currently busy modernizing their weapon systems and China has announced that, on the one hand, it wants to increase the scope and, on the other hand, it will only be ready for armaments agreements once the modernization has been completed and negotiations should take place on this new basis.

From our partner RIAC

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Foreign fighters a ‘serious crisis’ in Libya

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The 20,000 foreign fighters now in Libya represent “a serious crisis” and “a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty”, UN Acting Special Representative Stephanie Williams said on Wednesday, during the latest meeting under the country’s political dialogue forum. 

Seventy-five people from across the social and political spectrum of Libyan society are taking part in the forum, aimed at establishing a transitional body that will govern the country in the lead-up to elections next year.  

“You may believe that these foreigners are here as your guests, but they are now occupying your house.  This is a blatant violation of the arms embargo”, said Ms. Williams, who also heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). 

“They are pouring weapons into your country, a country which does not need more weapons. They are not in Libya for your interests, they are in Libya for their interests. Dirou balkom (take care). You have now a serious crisis with regard to the foreign presence in your country.” 

Chaos, ceasefire and dialogue 

Following the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya descended into chaos, resulting in the country being divided between two rival administrations: the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the west, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), located in the east. 

The sides agreed a ceasefire in October in Geneva, after mediation led by Ms. Williams. Provisions included the withdrawal of all military units and armed groups from the frontlines, and the departure of mercenaries and foreign fighters from the country.   

The ceasefire paved the way for the start of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), with a first round of talks held in Tunis from 7- 15 November.  The outcome was a roadmap to elections on 24 December 2021:  the 70th anniversary of Libya’s independence. 

Women participants also issued a statement outlining a series of principles and recommendations for improving women’s participation in the political process and governance.  

The second round of talks began last week, with Wednesday marking the third virtual meeting of the parties.  

Corruption, misgovernance and ‘political tourism’ 

Ms. Williams highlighted ongoing challenges in Libya, pointing out that some 1.3 million citizens are expected to need humanitarian assistance in January. 

She also reminded participants of the country’s “terrible” electricity crisis, stating “I am not pointing fingers.  This is a crisis in the west and in the east. You have a crisis of corruption. You have a misgovernance crisis, and now you have only 13 of 27 powerplants that are functioning.” 

Although around $1 billion is needed immediately to avert a complete collapse of the electrical grid, she said “this is very difficult now because of the divisions in the institutions, and because of the epidemic of corruption and this kleptocratic class that is determined to remain in power.” 

Meanwhile, human rights abuses are a daily reality nationwide, with reports of kidnapping, arbitrary detentions and killings, and estimates indicate that there are nearly 94,000 cases of COVID-19, though the actual number could be higher. 

“While there is a lot of political tourism going to different countries and capitals, the average Libyans are suffering, and the indications of improvement for their situation are not there,” said Ms. Williams. 

‘Time is not on your side’ 

For the UN envoy, the LPDF is the best way for Libya to move forward.  Underscoring that there is “a direct cost for inaction and obstruction”, she warned participants that the clock is ticking. 

“I know that there are many who think that this whole dialogue is just about sharing power, but it is really about sharing responsibility for future generations”, she said. 

“This is my ask of you as we have the discussions today in going forward, because, and I will say it again, time is not on your side.”

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The Need to Reorient New Delhi in the Indo-Pacific

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Beijing’s overt expansionism in South Asia and the South China Sea (SCS) continues to threaten India’s maritime security. The rise of China as an Asian military and global economic power has also disrupted the inherent security and multilateralism of the Indo-Pacific region (IPR).

In response, New Delhi along with others has adopted the concept of the Indo-Pacific. However, over the last decade New Delhi’s orientation in the IPR has been particularly “Pacific-oriented”, resulting in a less than comprehensive approach to India’s maritime security priorities in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India’s Strategic Goals in the Indo-Pacific

China’s so-called “peaceful rise” has been betrayed by Beijing’s growing territorial designs in South Asia and the SCS; the ongoing buildup along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and China’s militarised outposts in the SCS are evidence to this. These designs have also been operationalised through economic measures under its predatory Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which the “silk road” is a challenge to India’s maritime security.

India’s strategic competition with China has provoked the expansion of national material capacity and foreign policy measures. These are aimed at developing and preserving collective regional security and multilateralism, in India’s primary and secondary interest areas.

However, over the years, New Delhi’s adoption of the IPR concept has witnessed a disproportionate emphasis on the eastern sub-region of the Indian Ocean (EIO) in terms of its maritime security priorities, resulting in a Pacific-oriented approach. A number of factors have brought about such an orientation.

A Pacific-Oriented Approach and the EIO

First, India’s strategic advantage along the “Indo-Pacific straits”. The “Malacca dilemma” gives New Delhi an edge over China’s energy supply-lines, and regional trade from the IOR to the western Pacific Ocean. This advantage is furthered by the development of material capacities, most significant of which has been the establishment of India’s first integrated command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar Command’s (ANC) surveillance and kinetic capabilities not only improves India’s own security status, but also signals its contribution in preserving collective regional security in the EIO, for example, through the India-Australia-Japan-US Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), or Quad.

Second, the origins of the IPR concept in the now famous “confluence of the seas” speech delivered by PM Shinzo Abe to the Indian Parliament in 2007. The  mention of,  “[a] “broader Asia” that broke away geographical boundaries…”, or Southeast Asia, highlighted the political locus of the IPR’s confrontation with an “assertive China”. The continued militarisation of the SCS, growing tensions in East Asia, and the US-China strategic competition, helps perpetuate Southeast Asia’s prominence in the IPR discourse.

Third, New Delhi’s continuation of the “Look East” policy as the “Act East” policy (AEP)  in 2014. Building on historical ties with Southeast Asia, New Delhi placed ASEAN at the core of the AEP. ASEAN is also considered “central to India’s footprint in East Asia”. These foreign policy measures, focused on developing resilient trans-regional connectivity and supply-chains, flow past the EIO, from the Andaman Sea, through the Malacca strait, to Southeast Asia and beyond.

Fourth, and finally, India’s growing importance in the US-China strategic competition. China’s economic influence in Southeast Asia, along with its large military capabilities, poses a threat to the US’s position as an influential extra-regional power. The recently ratified Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has been the latest in a list of disruptions to the US’s predominance in the IPR. 

As India’s maritime goals continue to converge with that of the US and its regional allies – Japan, Australia, and the Republic of Korea – New Delhi’s interests will stretch further into the Pacific theatre, to the SCS, East China Sea and Western Pacific. In fact, some suggest that the idea of a military command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was in fact, first discussed by President Bill Clinton and PM P.V Narashima Rao as a deterrent against China in 1995.

Furthermore, the US defines the IPR as, “…the region which stretches from the west coast of India to the western shores of the United States…”, thereby excluding the WIOR from its strategic approach to the Indo-Pacific theatre. This explains why the sub-region is understated in India’s IPR discourse. 

While Indian Navy (IN) manoeuvres in the region have been generally limited to the IOR, the recent Galwan Valley clash saw an IN warship deployed to the SCS; coincidentally, during an ongoing US naval exercise in the area. There is also a growing call for the expansion of IN presence to the Western Pacific, beyond its mission-based deployments.

Reorienting New Delhi Towards the WIOR

This Pacific-orientation has resulted in the omission of the western sub-region of the Indian Ocean Region (WIOR) from India’s strategic approach to the IPR. The use of the term “Indo-Pacific straits” for those between the EIO and Southeast Asia, already exclude the sub-region from India’s strategic approach to the IPR.

A comprehensive approach to the IOR should obviously entail an emphasis on India’s maritime security priorities in both sub-regions of the IOR.

This in turn will allow New Delhi to realise its interests in the larger Indo-Pacific theatre.

The WIOR is physically a much larger arena, with different regional and extra-regional actors. However, it is a significant arena within the IPR for much of the same reasons as the EIO

The main obstacle of the WIOR, when placed within the IPR concept is that India’s approach to the region diverges greatly from its current IPR partners. Differing priorities, conflicting interests and historical contexts, for example with regards to Pakistan and Iran, have generally muted the region.

The decision to hold the second phase of the 2020 Malabar Exercise in the Arabian Sea is a welcome move in reinforcing the sub-region in India’s IPR approach. New Delhi’s reception of the recently signed Maldives-US defence agreement is also a sign of India’s slow reorientation to the WIOR.

India’s position in the WIOR gives it a number of strategic advantages. The Indian peninsula along with the Lakshadweep Islands and Laccadive Sea, offers New Delhi a unique edge in protecting and overseeing much of the world’s goods trade from the Atlantic Ocean, and energy supplies from West Asia to the Pacific Oceans. The development of material capacities in this arena will act as a springboard for the further enhancement of collective regional security.

The growing participation of extra-regional actors in the WIOR, such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the EU, signals to New Delhi the need to include the region in its IPR approach. Pursuing mutually beneficial security and economic arrangements with actors besides its existing IPR partners will also help circumventing current contrasts in maritime priorities and geostrategic interests.

More importantly, China’s growing military and economic presence in the Arabian Sea, through the “string of pearls” and the “maritime silk road”, remains a threat to India’s traditional ties to, and its status as a net-security provider in the WIOR. The Chabahar Port in the Balochistan-Sistan province in Iran is one such economic interest that has seen much controversy; the recent exclusion of India from the Zahedan railway project, and the subsequent agreement of a $400 billion strategic partnership between China and Iran.

The WIOR is also of concern to India due to extant interests, such as maintaining a strategic advantage vis-a-vis Pakistan, enhancing trade with Afghanistan and East Africa, piracy/terrrorism in the Arabian Sea, and energy supplies from the Middle East.

Conclusion

To secure India’s maritime priorities in the IOR, but also consolidate its vision for the IPR, New Delhi needs to reorient itself, determine its strategic advantages in the WIOR, and develop national capacity and foreign policy measures equivalent to those in the EIO.

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On the Universality of the “Logic of Strategy” and Beyond

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Just like several other scholars, military strategist Edward Luttwak argues that “the universal logic of strategy applies in perfect equality to every culture in every age”.[i] This implies that there is indeed one logic inherent to strategic thought, which, according to Luttwak, “cannot be circumvented […] and must be obeyed”.[ii]Mahnken further underpins the idea of the universality of the logic of strategy with the argument that war is a human activity and human nature has not changed throughout time.[iii]When considering Colin Gray stating that “there is an essential unity to all strategic experience in all periods of history because nothing vital to the nature and function of war and strategy changes”, it seems rather natural to accept a certain inevitability of strategic conclusions.[iv]

It is therefore necessary to pose the question which implications the existence of a universal logic of strategy might entail. If such a universally valid logic is assumed to exist, those who understand – or rather master – it best and manage to uncover its underlying cognitive mechanisms will be the most successful actors within the international system as they will be more able to foresee and therefore counter the strategies of possible opponents.

Additionally, to investigate the notion of a logic of strategy is particularly relevant considering the prospect of future wars. If there is a logic of strategy, which is further universally valid, then neither the scenario of a militarized outer space, nor the invention of highly lethal, insuperable biological weapons or the increasing development of and reliance on artificial intelligence will have any substantial, altering effect on it. This thought is congruent with Colin Gray, who claims that it would be a major fallacy to fall prey to the assumption that the invention of ever more modern weapon systems might change the presumed continuity inherent to strategy.[v] In this respect, it must also be emphasized that a certain trust in a universally valid logic of strategy must be handled carefully and must not confine strategic thinking. Hence, the notion of a logic of strategy hints towards the very practice of strategy.[vi]

The term “strategy” itself evolved over time and certainly captured a different meaning before World War One than it does today. This caesura was introduced by Freedman, who argues that this experience led to a widening of the concept “strategy” and to several attempts of redefinition, thus diverging from earlier notions of the concept as provided by von Clausewitz and others.[vii] However, Whetham points out that the notion of strategy and its inherent logic already permeated pre-modern eras, even if it was not yet considered or referred to as such by the respective protagonists.[viii]Approaching the term from a contemporary perspective, Gray very prominently defines strategy as “the bridge that relates military power to political purpose”.[ix]Angstrom and Widen engage with the term similarly when they write that strategy must be viewed as a rationalist process that reconciles “the political aims of war and the military aims in war”.[x] The notion of strategy can therefore be boiled down to the combination of means, ways and aims.

The term “logic” shall in this essay be understood as a rational process of reasoning that is based on various premises and finally leads to the acceptance of a valid conclusion.[xi]Considering that the sub-discipline of strategic studies was traditionally occupied with the question whether and to what extent strategic action is subject to historical, economic, social and technological regularities and patterns – thus whether certain premises indeed necessarily lead to specific strategic conclusions – the assumption of a specific “logic of strategy” does not seem far-fetched. Therefore, this essay argues that indeed a universally valid logic inherent to strategy can be identified, having overcome the constraints of time and space. However, this logic is not the only one. Strategy further operates along the lines of a time- and space-bound, actor-specific logic, which is why strategy must be perceived through a multidimensional lens – and which finally makes strategy so difficult.

On the logic of strategy

When approaching the notion of a logic of strategy, it is necessary to emphasize two preconditions. Firstly, the utility of the use of military force as an important tool of statecraft must be acknowledged.[xii] Secondly, one has to consider the general overarching perception of international politics that widely underlies the field of strategic studies, namely the notion of an anarchic self-help system with independent states at its center, which are all armed to a certain extent and therefore find themselves in security dilemmas.[xiii] Within this framework we will now consider what might constitute the logic of strategy.

When elaborating on the question whether there exist “guidelines” that inform strategic thinking, Gaddis concludes that the fact that strategists do not always have to start from square one increases the likeliness of a certain logic of strategy.[xiv] According to Angstrom and Wilden, the logic of strategy unfolds as its design necessarily bases on three core pillars.[xv]Firstly, military and political ends are perceived as two distinct aspects that need to be put into accordance, the application of military means serving the political ends. Moreover, the actor being concerned with strategy does not have unlimited resources at his/her disposal. Therefore, the aspect of the scarcity of resources is to be viewed as a cornerstone or fixed determinant of the underlying logic of strategy. This is a crucial factor because, as Gray points out, examples like Imperial France, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union all demonstrate that the pursuit of political ends beyond one’s means is bound to fail.[xvi]Thirdly, Angstrom and Widen emphasize that the logic of strategy builds on the confrontation of opposing wills, which accounts for strategy’s interactive and consequently dynamic nature.[xvii] This component might be captured best by Beaufre, who approaches strategy as “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute”.[xviii] It is crucial to highlight that the “opposing will” belongs to an intelligent, capable opponent. These three elements that define the logic of strategy are further interlinked, leading to repercussions among them.

As strategy describes the use of military means for the achievement of political ends, several authors have thus attempted to categorize the possible ways to use force. For instance, Robert Art distinguishes four functions of the use of force: defense, deterrence, compellence and swaggering.[xix] Why is this categorization important when reflecting on the logic of strategy? This is because the possible ways to use force (independently of which form the specific “force” takes) are not time-bound. When for example thinking of deterrence, one might be tempted to assume that this specific way to use force is inextricably linked to the deterrence function of nuclear arms in combination with the principle of mutually assured destruction (MAD). However, as Lonsdale vividly illustrates, Alexander the Great already mastered the interplay of military power and psychological effects and made use of coercion and deterrence in order to expand and sustain the newly shaping borders of his empire.[xx] This demonstrates that the logic of strategy operates on the basis of a certain toolkit of ways to use force, which have persisted over time.

Another aspect which could be interpreted as part of a universal logic of strategy might be its inherent paradoxicality. This feature is above all emphasized by Edward Luttwak, who postulates that the whole strategic sphere is permeated with a paradoxical logic deviating from day-to-day life’s ordinary “linear” logic.[xxi] He underpins this notion by referring to the proverb “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, the idea of nuclear deterrence (thus the interpretation of one’s readiness to attack retaliatory as genuinely peaceful intent) or by providing specific examples.[xxii] In this sense he draws attention to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and claims that the Japanese were able to create a momentum of surprise only by neglecting crucial preparations.[xxiii] This means that within the realm of strategy, Luttwak’s paradoxical logic finds thorough application as the straightforward “linear” logic is viewed rather predictable and is therefore more likely to be punished.

In sum, the aspects outlined above could be perceived as being universally valid, throughout time and space. However, as will be argued, there is more to the logic of strategy that must be considered.

Going Beyond Strategy’s Universal Logic

In the following, the attempt should be undertaken to challenge the notion that there is indeed only a logic of strategy. One could firstly argue that strategy, bridging between military means and political objectives, is not only grounded in the specific universal logic as outlined before but that strategy is also always a choice among several available options. Then the question follows, if all options available would theoretically all be equally feasible, require the same resources and are similar in terms of effectiveness, which strategy would be adopted? One could argue that this depends on the involved actors, which, even if acting under the premise of rationality, are rooted in their specific historical, social and political contexts.

Strategy is therefore clearly not designed within a vacuum. The contents of strategy do not only derive from what was described above as composing the universally valid logic of strategy. If we return to the definition of “logic”, the term was understood as a process of thought, which leads from several given premises to a valid conclusion under the condition of rationality. Therefore, also the given time- and space-bound circumstances under which a certain strategy is formulated could be considered as forming their own logic. Angstrom and Widen summarize these circumstances as strategic context, which unfolds along the lines of six dimensions of politics (without claiming to be exhaustive): geography, history, ideology, economy, technology and the political system.[xxiv] Instead of treating them as mere contextual factors, it is important to consider the respective as constituting their own logic, along which strategy is aligned. However, Angstrom and Widen emphasize that these actor-specific factors only bear limited explanatory power and that it is difficult to assess to what extent these factors influence the design of strategies.[xxv] This, nevertheless, does not invalidate the notion that these actor-, time- and space-specific circumstances should be considered as another logic by itself. Acknowledging the existence of more than one logic of strategy penetrating the realm of strategy would further emphasize the importance of the specific embeddedness of strategy – without undermining the significance of the above identified universally valid logic of strategy. One would consequently accept that when it comes to strategy, one encounters several logics in action.

Conclusion

When returning to the initial question, which implications the existence of a logic of strategy would have, specifically regarding the prospect of success, it is worthwhile to consult Richard Betts, who asks “Is Strategy an Illusion?”.[xxvi] He argues that effective strategy is often impossible due to the unpredictability and complexity of the gap between the use of force and the aspired political ends.[xxvii] However, it is indeed because of this overwhelming complexity in which strategy operates that its underlying logics should be reflected upon. Gaddis refers to the universally valid features of the logic of strategy as a “checklist”, which shall be considered to contribute to the design of a successful, effective strategy.[xxviii] As was demonstrated above, it is nevertheless also crucial to consider the additional specific time-and space-bound logic of strategy. To understand the strategy of potential opponents, it makes sense to deconstruct its logical foundation, to consider the universally valid logic of strategy but also the respective underlying actor-specific logic. Strategy thus operates along a multidimensional logic, both universally valid and time- and space-bound. This is what makes strategy difficult but acknowledging this conceptual aspect might notwithstanding contribute to its further mastery.


[i]Luttwak, Edward N., The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2012), vii.

[ii]Ibid., viii.

[iii]Mahnken, Thomas G., The Evolution of Strategy… But What About Policy? Journal of Strategic Studies 34 no. 4 (2016), 52.

[iv]Gray, Colin S.,Modern Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1.

[v]Gray Colin S., Why Strategy Is Difficult. JFQ (1999), 8.

[vi] Cf. Lonsdale, David J. and Colin S. Gray (eds.), The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011).

[vii]Freedman, Lawrence. The Meaning of Strategy: Part I: The Origin Story. Texas National Security Review 1 no. 1 (2007), 90-105.

[viii]Whetham, David, The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present. Edited by John Andreas Olsen and Colin S. Gray. War in History 21 no. 2 (2014), 252.

[ix] Gray, Modern Strategy,17.

[x]Armstrong, Jan and J. J. Widen,Contemporary Military Theory. The Dynamics of War (New York: Routledge, 2015), 33. Original emphasis.

[xi]Hintikka, Jaakko, Logic. Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessible via: https://www.britannica.com/topic/logic [accessed: October 25th 2020].

[xii]Art, Robert J., To What Ends Military Power? International Security 4 no. 4 (1980), 35.

[xiii]Gilpin, Robert G., No one Loves a Political Realist. Security Studies 5 no. 3(1996), 26.

[xiv]Gaddis, John Lewis, Containment and the Logic of Strategy. The National Interest 8 no. 10 (1987), 29.

[xv] Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 46.

[xvi]Gray, Why Strategy Is Difficult, 10.

[xvii] Cf. Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory.

[xviii]Beaufre, André, An Introduction to Strategy (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), 22.

[xix] Cf. Art, To What Ends Military Power?

[xx]Lonsdale, David J., The Campaigns of Alexander the Great. In: John A. Olsen; Colin S. Gray (eds.). The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011)33.

[xxi]Luttwak, Edward N., Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2001), 2.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid., 6.

[xxiv] Cf. Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 36-43.

[xxv] Ibid., 42-43.

[xxvi] Cf. Betts, Richard K., Is Strategy an Illusion? International Security 25 no. 2 (2000), 5-50.

[xxvii]Ibid., 5.

[xxviii] Gaddis, Containment and the Logic of Strategy, 38.

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