The ‘prose’ vs ‘essence’ of strategy

There’s always a danger of the prose of strategy overriding its substance. This review of Ron Robin’s fascinating book highlights how brilliant thinkers can become captive to such false cognates.

http://www.chronicle.com/article/Beware-of-Defense/238603

“Powerful nations and empires enjoy a certain luxury in how they make decisions. Herodotus tells of how the Persians, when confronted with a question of foreign policy, would first consider the problem sober, then consider it again when they were drunk. A courtier aiming to sway Louis XVI could not rely on appeal to necessity; counsel had to be laced with wit. Bon mots, wisecracks, and puns ruled the day.

If you are tempted to think that the United States operates in a more reasonable fashion, Ron Robin’s The Cold World They Made: The Strategic Legacy of Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter will disabuse you. The Pentagon is no more immune to claims of form and style than was Versailles.

Robin’s book is about a rabid form of foreign-policy thinking that speaks with placid assurance about “reality,” that presents itself as “pre-emptive” but takes the form of outright aggression, that claims to be “strategic,” but is often more enamored of tactics than actual strategy.”

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