Saturday, September 27, 2008

On Preconditions and Strategies

There was a lot of useless back and forth in the debate about two distinctions, preconditions vs. preparations, and strategy vs. tactic.

In my book a precondition isn't, as Obama put it in the debate, "Until you agree to do exactly what we say, we won't have direct contacts with you." A precondition is more along the lines of "you don't have to dismantle your entire facility right now, but as a gesture of good faith we demand that you suspend your uranium enrichment program."

I'm pretty comfortable with "preconditions".

The line between tactic and strategy is a little less clear. I posit that there are many layers of strategic thought, and it is often hard to separate the tactic from the strategy.

Let's say the goal of our current policy in Iraq is to leave behind a tolerably secure country with a political system that is, if not perfectly democratic, at least internally inclusive and not externally aggressive. The surge was a comprehensive plan with several moving parts designed to meet that goal. You might call that a strategy. The components of the surge - small neighborhood camps, supporting the Sons of Iraq, etc. - are more tactical in nature.

I think it's wrong to refer to "the surge" as "a tactic" as though the surge was so crudely defined as to simply mean the introduction of more troops. It is at least a collection of several tactics, not unreasonably referred to as a strategy.

And one can take a broader perspective too. Securing Iraq is part of a larger geopolitical strategy of reducing safe havens for terrorist organizations, eliminating potential sources of WMD, introducing democracy as an inherently pacifiying force, etc.

Taken from the other side, the IED is a tactic which is part of a strategy of demoralizing American support for the war. But without the IED tactic, the enemy doesn't have much of a strategy, do they?


Anonymous said...

"I'm employing a new strategery."
-V. Sookdeo on early implementation of hydralisks

Anonymous said...

"My tactics suck"
- M. Vitale on failed attempt to spread dissent and his resulting destruction