Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 53

STRATEGIC SUCCESS Military victory merely sets the conditions for the transformative social and political order that come after the guns go quiet. For better or worse, the job of winning the victory always falls to the military. There are not, nor have there ever been, State Department divisions parachuting in to do the “political” work of securing the victory. This is a false dichotomy. War is political work. Militaries—armies especially—are tools used to do the fundamental work of politics. They use force to determine which side gets to decide the key questions of social and political order when the normal structures for determining order have ceased to work. War demands a qualitative mindset because war is a social phenomenon. Military commanders need to understand politics in a deep and systematic way if they are to ensure military force is a successful strategic tool. They need to think strategically about the ultimate aims the force under their control will support. The way to do this is to begin to think in context, to put the role of force in context with the other variables on the battlefield. To think in context systematically, commanders need to buttress their ability to think qualitatively and use the methods of social science to approach military questions. Strategic thinking involves evaluating “political, economic, psychological, and military forces [i.e., influences]” to ensure military operations support national policies.1 These types of “forces” have a common characteristic: they do not lend themselves to quantitative analysis. Army professionals who wish to practice strategic thinking will need to adopt a qualitative approach to evaluating such factors. This is more easily said than done because qualitative analysis is unnatural to Army culture. The study of political science, economics, psychology, and military science requires grounding in qualitative social science methodology. While this methodology is essential to effective strategic thinking, it is contrary to the Army’s dominant professional culture. Army culture prefers a techno-scientific, quantitative, and predictive approach based on mathematical-type analysis; that approach cannot provide an accurate understanding of strategic issues, let alone predict outcomes of military operations with anything close to certainty. Contemporary social science studies social phenomena in terms of interdependent—rather than independent and dependent—variables. For phenomena that MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 are made up of interdependent variables—phenomena such as war—establishing clear cause-and-effect theories is frustrating even for social scientists accustomed to that type of research. In fact, interdependent variables make predictions of the hard-science type impossible. This does not mean, however, that qualitative approaches should be dismissed. Rather, understanding the value and limitations of qualitative methods is crucial for a profession tasked with using force to create qualitative sociopolitical end states. What is the Problem? Quantitative approaches work best when researchers can isolate individual problems and when relationships are hierarchical. A complex military problem, such as “how do we invade Region X and establish security?” provides a simplified example. The problem-solving process typically used is quantitative and predictive. It starts with a defined highest-order problem (invading Region X and establishing security) and breaks it down into smaller problems such as— How would we get there? How long would a trip by boat or plane take? How many weapons and supplies would we need? What kind of weapons and supplies would we need? A reductive approach is then used along with the analytical tools of mathematics and statistics in a repeating process until a series of answers can be summed together to solve the original problem. Strategic probl ems, on the other hand, are not really “problems” at all; they are metaproblems. Strategic questions ask about intent and values; they are questions about choosing an explanatory framework to use when addressing problems of application. Strategic problems have only qualitative answers. Rather than ask, “How do we invade Region X,” a strategic question seeks to understand why or whether invading Region X would indeed help achieve larger goals and whether its negative ripple effects over time might outweigh its short-term benefits. Strategic questions are first-order questions: Should we invade Region X, considering all the potential consequences? What would we expect an invasion to achieve? In what other ways could we achieve our goals (e.g., such as by bombing alone)? Should we also seek the dissolution of the region’s monarchy or ruling system?2 • • • • • • • • 51