Secondo Daniel Steed, docente di strategia presso l’interessantissimo Masters in Applied Security Strategy di Exter, sì. Prendendo spunto da un capitolo dell’ultimo libro di Lawrence Freedman, “Strategy: A History“, nel quale il noto studioso britannico critica il “Myth of the Master Strategist”, Steed sostiene, invece, che così come figure di strateghi sono esistite nel passato, anche recente, così esisteranno anche nel futuro. Scrive Steed:
It is in the present where Freedman’s case is on surest ground, especially in his articulation of the separation of the military and political worlds. Freedman insists that strategic man is a myth because of this separation. It is true that the separation of the military and political worlds, especially in liberal democracies is a hurdle for strategic man, but not an insurmountable one.
The rise of the state system, and the harnessing of the full resources of the state (especially financial and manpower), has necessitated the creation of huge administrative bodies to optimize those resources. Arguably the creation of civil service structures, large military bodies beyond corps level and, most notably, the expansion of warfare itself into the air, then space, and now cyberspace, has rendered strategy simply too large for strategic man to cope.
The strategy bridge in the state system is today an incredibly large, cumbersome machine with many moving parts, each requiring professional expertise to manage. Strategy became, much in the spirit of the industrial revolution that catalysed so many of these dramatic changes, a machine. While daunting, this does not render strategic man a myth either. The real challenge lies not in developing mastery of the vast array of complex matters that now traverse the strategy bridge, but instead in resolving the dislocation of military matters from the political.
The moving of the military sphere away from the political has created the most difficult conditions for strategic man to emerge. The fear of military officers wielding political power while commanding troops stems all they way back to Julius Caesar and the Roman Senate, and not without justification. In liberal democracies the structure is deliberately established to prevent true intimacy between the military arm and executive power. It is only a logical consequence that such separation prevents military strategists from also developing superior political skills. Conversely, those holding political office rarely have even basic experience of military affairs.
The solution to finding strategic man in this environment is not easy. First, foster closer political involvement by the military leadership. But this is obviously very controversial and historically risky. Second, mandate some level of military experience on the part of the political leadership. Such a move, however, would be unpopular and no guarantor of strategic acumen. After all, Margaret Thatcher held no military experience yet performed national strategy in several cases extremely well (the Falklands War, Cold War strategy, domestic counter-terrorism against the IRA), meeting the standard of strategic (wo)man by any measure of success.
Despite the difficulties, improving the odds of finding strategic man lies in establishing closer links between the military and political worlds once more. The alchemic process of strategy that translates the results of tactical action into political capital is the essence of strategy. Only by charging people in some measure to man this critical juncture can strategy hope to be performed skillfully once more. Solving this architectural problem in present governmental systems may represent the surest route to better strategy.
Strategic man does not need to resemble the Supreme Being, they need only be good enough. Eisenhower performed the task very well both as a commander in the Second World War and as President in establishing early Cold War strategy. President Reagan also performed well with his more aggressive Cold War strategy that ultimately proved decisive. The actions of David Petreaus in aligning counterinsurgency methods with local Iraqi politics during the 2007 Surge serve as an example of aligning the use of force to political intent. Numerous other examples of effective practice can be found in contemporary history that should provide hope.
Ma soprattutto, secondo Steed, in un sistema internazionale sempre più competitivo e pericoloso sarà fondamentale che l’Occidente democratico riesca ad esprimere nuove figure di strateghi:
Strategic man has existed in the past; we have Alexander the Great as the supreme example of what this being should be. We have had good enough strategists emerge in the past century within the state system, with Eisenhower and Thatcher among others offered as examples of effective performance. Despite the difficulties of finding strategic man, empirically we are on sure ground to argue that he will exist in the future.
Significantly, Freedman’s underlying assumption in the myth of the master strategist is a liberal democratic prism that fails to acknowledge other political systems across the world. Strategic man may have a far easier rise in Africa, South East Asia, and the Far East. Indeed the fear among Western democracies should instead be what do we do if strategic man rises against us, instead of for us.
Nobody can predict the future, nor will the attempt be made here. Instead the assumption moving ahead will be that we can expect the state system to remain dominant, with liberal democracies playing a central role. This assumption will at least provide a framework to guide further thinking of how to nurture strategic man within that liberal democratic system.
At present in the liberal democratic system, we simply hope that either political leaders take office who instinctively know how to conduct strategy, or that we are blessed with an officer corps that can translate the use of force well enough for political ends. In order to better cultivate the emergence of strategic man three avenues should be considered:
– A reconceptualization of who “does” strategy in government. The bureaucratic architecture of government should be optimized for greater interaction not separation between the political and military spheres.
– A closer relationship should be encouraged between the military officer corps and political executives, to develop greater understanding of their respective needs.
– Both military officers, and the political classes holding executive office, should benefit from a thorough strategic education, ensuring that the basic concepts of applying strategy are understood.
A closer examination and adjustment to the architecture of government (structure), the relationships between the military and the executive (agency), and the education of strategy throughout, represent the surest actions liberal democratic societies can take to cultivate the rise of strategic man.
In conclusion, we know that in the present we have significant problems in finding strategic man. Whatever the solution is in detail, it is critical for the future of strategy that we enable better conditions for strategic man to rise. It is certain that strategic man will rise once more; the big question is whether we can enable his rise within our own system first, before he rises elsewhere.
Qui l’altrettanto interessante replica di Lawrence Freedman.