Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 03:02 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 03:02 | SYDNEY

Generals, statesmen, bureaucrats and trategy'

This post is part of the What is 'strategy'? debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

16 August 2011 11:16

This post is part of the What is 'strategy'? debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

Nicely put by Hugh White.

The big challenge is to get people on both sides of the civilian/military divide to know what they are talking about, even in their own civilian or military specialty.

A large number of Australian military officers get to senior rank without having much of a clue about real-world military operations because in the past (at least before we gained some solid but low-level military experience in Afghanistan and a bit in Iraq), Australians spent much of their time in delusional military exercises and insignificant operations, and the learning process was clouded by self-delusion.

I also wonder how many civilians really 'immerse themselves in strategic-level problems from the age of twenty'. How much experience of strategic issues do you get from academia or Taxation or Customs or Lowy before you move across into security-related positions?

The next issue is the unpreparedness of our politicians, when they become statesmen, to exercise power. There is a certain inevitability that these issues of strategic imperfection will not be addressed until the wolf is at the door. If this was not the case, there would have been an uproar about the stripping out of essential monies from Defence in the last budget, and the return to the past in the Rufus Black Review.

I should add that, in many years of watching the play between civilian and military within Defence, and in playing around the edges, the stereotypes rarely came out as you would expect. I could name civilians and politicians who understood the use of military power far better than any military officer, and military officers who could work far better than their civilian counterparts at the political/strategic level. I used to refer to one civilian bureaucrat as the toughest General in Defence.

In the end, we are an imperfect human team, and we depend for ultimate strategic success on the quality of our statesmen and a large measure of luck.

Photo by Flickr user malias.