Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 57

STRATEGIC SUCCESS or the rank order of values and interests changes, the strategic proposition itself changes. Victory is a changeling mirroring the shifts in values and interests of those who have the power to define it. Moreover, because the nature of strategic thought requires thinking about systemic (interrelated) conditions over time, quantitative measures are of limited use. Most important, strategic thinking is less a discrete activity than a habit. Developing the habit of thinking strategically after assimilating a professional culture focused on quantitative measures of tactical proficiency is extraordinarily difficult. This is not to say that quantitative measurement does not have its place in military science. There are good reasons quantitative measures are preferred in the military. Skills such as hitting a target with a bullet decisively and repeatedly are properly assessed with quantitative measures. As soldiers advance in their Army careers, the dominant evaluation method they are exposed to is quantitative. The issue for leaders and planners is knowing which approaches to evaluation suit each situation. Each approach represents a different way of knowing about the world; neither is perfect or foolproof. The quantitative approach supports strategic thought but is not sufficient to ignite or sustain it. When making decisions, commanders frame questions as problems to be solved. This is the language of quantitative algebra. Let us suppose that to counter a certain threat, U.S. forces were considering invading Country Y. Strategic thinking would ask about metaproblems, such as— What would an invasion gain for us? How long would this gain last? Would it be worth the cost to invade Country Y? Is there a better alternative such as bombing or letting a partner take action? What might be the unintended consequences of invading? What would happen after the invasion? How would invading qualitatively change our situation? Quantitative analysis can inform this decision-making process, but quantitative analysis still depends on making subjective judgments about what constitutes success. Every measure of effectiveness requires a standard to be established against which actions will be measured. Do you measure if a military • • • • • • • MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 action is worth the cost in terms of causalities, money, or both? Does worth the cost mean achieving territorial or political gains? Could the action in question simply be a moral imperative and thus be outside the standard cost-benefit discourse? That is, even when strategists use quantitative methods, they must be aware that they reflect a value judgment from a subjective perspective—that of their bosses, themselves, the enemy command, the enemy population, and so on. In military planning, even the standards used in quantitative analysis need to be framed from the perspective of the key actors in the conflict. What is the Context? Every measure, quantitative or qualitative, should be interpreted in context. By their nature, qualitative measurements presuppose the kind of theoretical frameworks essential for strategic thought (a theory must exist to justify the measure). Though qualitative methods certainly can be used to generate quantitative-looking measures of effectiveness, categorizing focus-group information into numerical scores, for instance, would require an explicit causal framework as a basis for the categorization. Since there would be many different contexts for causal frameworks—national culture, the professional cultures of the military services or the government, or the view from partner nations—no single result would be definitive. Moreover, time as a variable would complicate the articulation of context. Thinking in terms of the interrelated nature of variables across time is thinking about context. One of the biggest challenges to implementing the strategic landpower concept will be embracing qualitative analysis. The culture of the U.S. Army still tends to discount its value. Army commanders’ institutional norms enable a can do attitude based on an institution-wide overconfidence in the ability of analytical methods to provide understanding of cause and effect. However, the idea that the quantitative scientific methods with which Army professionals are comfortable will be adequate for strategic landpower undermines real strategic thought by upholding the false objectivity of quantitative measures. Operations are, and always have been, too complex to reduce to supposed scientific analyses. Even if politics and warfare were hard sciences, the reliable 55