Leggendo un articolo del Washington Post nel quale si parla di una prossima review della Casa Bianca sulla strategia afghana mi è venuto in mente questo bel saggio (ahimè a pagamento) di Hew Strachan pubblicato nell'ultimo numero di Survival. Un saggio che sicuramente piacerà agli illustri lettori con le stellette.
Il docente inglese infatti traccia, molto brevemente, l'evoluzione del concetto di strategia da Clausewitz fino ai giorni nostri evidenziando la nascita, tra gli anni '70 ed '80 del secolo scorso, dell'arte operativa, il ruolo che questa ha acquisito nel pensiero strategico degli ultimi vent'anni ed il conseguente impatto sui conflitti iraqeno ed afghano.
Strategy is about the relationships between means and ends. It has become common currency to talk about the plan of the campaign in Afghanistan as a ‘counter-insurgency strategy’. If that is the case, then it rests on an old-fashioned and narrow definition of strategy. When Clausewitz defined strategy as the use of the battle for the purposes of the war, he was thinking along not dissimilar lines, and his characterisation of strategy remained fairly standard among European armies up to and including the First World War. But it did not carry much weight thereafter. Twentieth-century descriptions saw strategy as linking war to policy. That broader interpretation of strategy was the product of three factors: the inclusion of sea power in strategic thought; the impact of the two world wars, which were won not solely by fighting but also by economic pressure and social mobilisation; and the recognition of ‘grand strategy’ as a conceptual tool to understand and direct those wars. The ideas of counter-insurgency do not operate at this level, either geopolitically or institutionally. They are means to an end, not an end in themselves. To paraphrase Clausewitz, they explain the use of armed force for the purposes of the war, but they do not explain the purpose of the war itself. (…)
During the Cold War, thinking about war neglected tactics to focus disproportionately on strategy. The stand-off between NATO and the Warsaw Pact provided a clear strategic context within which the utility of force could be considered and a firm geopolitical framework within which it could be set. But the Cold War also meant that force, because it found functions short of war, became divorced from actual fighting; deterrence theory, strategic thought’s principal output by the 1960s, was largely shaped by civilian strategists. The effects of this evolution were twofold. Firstly, during the Cold War the actual conduct of war was little studied, with the result that strategy did not put much weight on war-fighting itself. Secondly, and consequently, soldiers were left without a clear role in the shaping and development of strategy.
The early strategic thinkers, those of Clausewitz’s generation, would have been flabbergasted: the very factors which drove the need for strategy in the first place had been ripped from strategic thought. It was an unnatural void, and one that was likely to have dire consequences if armed force were actually applied in war. In the 1980s the operational level of war filled this void. Operational art, which could be defined in just the same terms as those used by Clausewitz to define strategy, ‘the use of the battle for the purpose of the war’, both focused on the conduct of war and was clearly the province of uniformed thinkers, rather than of academics and politicians (…).
The operational level of war and its bundle of associated ideas, including manoeuvre and then ‘manoeuvrism’, spread through NATO armies like wildfire, and remain present in their doctrines today (…).
Strategic thought, such as it was, continued on the trajectory set for it by nuclear deterrence, becoming a synonym for policy, not the means to link policy to the waging of war (…).
What was happening was that, subliminally, the operational level of war was moving into the space created by the absence of strategy (…).
Arguably, strategy has been absent throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In part that is because the political objects have been unclear, or variable, or defined in terms too broad to be deliverable in strategic terms. Because there has been no clear relationship between the ends and the limited (and often inappropriate) means, strategy is simply not possible. The result has often been war shaped by platoon and company commanders, a series of ill-coordinated tactical actions, where killing and casualties define success, rather than the objectives of securing the population, establishing law and order, and delivering aid and reconstruction. Counter-insurgency theory has stepped in to give shape to what has happened.