Doing as the Essence of Strategy (Updated)

Danger Room has a piece on Soft Power that’s worth reading.  It’s not terribly revelatory, but does make a necessary point:  A mere increase in Soft Power assets and capabilities does not amount to a strategy.

The Secretart of Defense, Robert Gates, recently said:

“We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military,” Gates said in his speech at Kansas State University last year. “There is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on civilian instruments of national security — diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development.”

This is most certainly true, and necessary.  But this is not strategy.  Strategy is defined more by what our forces actually do, and what they do is very important.  Doing something is not sufficient; they must do the correct thing.  Danger Room continues:

But what do you do when “soft power” actually makes things worse? That appears to be what’s happening in Sudan and oil-rich Chad, where the U.S. government and private donors have spent around a billion dollars to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees fleeing the five-year-old civil war in Darfur.

Diplomatic forces must not merely exist, they must do the correct thing.  And they don’t appear to be doing the correct things in Darfur.

This is analogous to the common misconception that the “Surge” strategy was merely composed of an increase in the numbers of troops sent to Iraq.  An increase in troop numbers is certainly part of the Surge MO, but the quantitative increase in troops is not the strategy.  The increase in troop numbers allowed for troops to fan out for cloistered Forward Operating Bases into smaller Combat Outposts that were manned jointly by Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army units.  These actions, combined with an increase in kinetic operations, and co-opting of the Sunni tribal leadership, are what defined the Surge.  The success of the Surge gives credence to what defines a strategy.  Strategy is not only numbers of troops, it is what those troops actually do.

Likewise, the mere increase in Soft Power/diplomatic forces that the SecDef requested is not a strategy, but a means to a strategy.  We still need to figure out what those increased Soft Power forces would actually do.  And as the DangerRoom piece exposes, it is entirely possible that an increase in Soft Power capability might do more to worsen a situation if the increase is not accompanied with a change in their strategy.

There is a Boydian aspect to his.  Strategy has aspects of Being and Doing.  The forces we have in existence equate to the Being (existence) of American Power.  But Being is inconsequential if we don’t Do something with those forces.  Therefore Doing is the defining element of strategy.

Forces in Being does not constitute strategy.  Forces Doing does, and what they Do matters a great deal.

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