Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 17

ON STRATEGIC UNDERSTANDING Shinseki directed a report on leadership from the U.S. Army War College that concluded the Army should “begin growing strategic leader capability at the pre-commissioning level.”13 Such preparation might have helped a U.S. Army lieutenant stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Interviewed recently by journalist Rosa Brooks from Foreign Policy magazine, he was asked, “What’s your mission here?”14 His joking reply included the infamous phrase, “Ours is not to wonder why.”15 Such a question should never go unanswered by a commissioned member of the profession of arms. A sense of strategic purpose is a necessary element of competent officership. The solution is education for strategic understanding. Strategic Understanding: Three Critical Components for practice and exercises. These three components are essential for an effective strategic studies course. Multidisciplinary Approaches Consider any real-world conflict, historical or contemporary. Now think of the many perspectives one might consult in analysis to better understand that conflict. There are always many. For example, with respect to the evolving situation in Ukraine, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock writes on his blog, “I believe that nobody can understand the likely outcomes of what is happening unless they bear in mind the historical, geographic, political, and psychological factors at play in these dramatic events.”17 Journalist Sebastian Junger describes war in the broadest of terms: “I mean, the thing about war—it’s sort of everything … in one complicated package.”18 War is a large, complex activity that is entirely too big to fit into a single academic category. Therefore, the study of war is inherently multidisciplinary. Professor Stephen Biddle of George Washington University explains why the study of war cannot be limited to a single discipline: Two pathways to strategic understanding for junior officers are formal and informal education. A prime example of informal education is through selfstudy. A case in point comes from the WarCouncil. org website—a nonpartisan, multidisciplinary academic forum dedicated to the study of the use of force (primarily) for the profession of arms.16 While writers can submit Components of Strategic Studies contributions to the WarCouncil. org blog, its users also can take advantage of a self-study section History • Geography • Law • Philosophy • Political Science with over 20 topics and approxiPsychology • Sociology • Kinesiology • Physics • Media mately 300 curated links to videos, Engineering • Art • Math • Economics podcasts, maps, and graphics. Such Strategic Studies informal learning can support formal education. A formal strategic studies course would be as Gen. Shinseki’s Strategic Frameworks: Critical Analysis (Kritik); Legal, report counseled: each soon-to-be Moral, Effective, Wise?; Ends, Ways, Means (Risk) junior officer would begin growing strategic leader capability by taking a course during pre-commissioning Practice & Exercises: War Councils; WarCouncil.org; Case education. Simply put, strategic Studies; Staff Rides; Study Abroad; Capstone Projects studies is the multidisciplinary study of the use of force. As depicted in the figure, three critical components to a strategic studies course are including multiple acContext • Critical, Reflective Practitioners • Improved Judgment ademic disciplines, using strategic Strategic Understanding –▶ Strategic Thinking frameworks, and providing venues MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 15