Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dumbest Thing Uttered by Strategy Professor

I was reading a sharp blog post by Josh Rovner that distinguished security scholars from strategists (I am of the former), but could not help but be astonished by a key quote:
Colin Gray is probably seen as one of the most premier strategists, but this is just about as dumb as anything I could possibly imagine.  There is so much wrong with this statement. 

First, one could spend all day coming up with a list of developments that happened after these dead guys that might just be relevant for strategy.  My quick attempt: electricity, railroads, chemicals, biological warfare, airplanes, nuclear weapons, missiles, democracy, mass media, the internet, submarines, satellites (space, not dominated allies), civilian expertise, Marx, Mao, end of colonialism, Geneva conventions, international organizations....  On twitter, I forgot to mention missiles, drones, autonomous weapons, and on and on.

Second, Thucydides and Clausewitz (don't know about Sun-Tzu) are kind of like the bible in that people can interpret much of the stuff in very different ways.  How much has been written on the real meaning of the Melian Dialogue?  Heaps (4000 articles or more). 

Third, and most importantly, the quest for understanding does not stop after a few smart people said stuff.  Physics did not stop after Einstein.  Not only is there new stuff to consider, but the old smart dead guys might not have gotten everything right.  Worshipping the dead strategists is a good way to avoid thinking. 

Fourth, lots and lots of generals and admirals have read these three strategists as they are on all of the required, and yet still mess up.  Riddle me that!  And for my interest as a security scholar, lots of people read the same stuff and then do different things. 

So, I know it was hyperbole, but, please.  I have a hard time thinking of a generalization about war or strategy or security that is as just incredibly stupid as this statement.

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