Strategic conceptions and practical difficulties

N. Lygeros

Translation: Paola Vagioni

The paradoxical aspect of strategy is not devoid of consequences on the practical level. This might seem somewhat inevitable but it is not an insuperable obstacle. The true difficulties appear when the process becomes self-referent. Thus the problem of the institutional status of strategy is inherent in its nature. Imposing an institution, whatever it may be, favors a doctrine and therefore of composing with a dogma. As long as it remains strictly strategic it does not cause any intrinsic problem. However this is rarely the case and the multiplicity of cases that it covers invariably cause frictions. Moreover, these frictions highlight the relational difficulties between strategy and democracy. Because the latter has the tendency to think that the first is not necessary except in times of war and it suspects it of scheming in peacetime. In every case, the institutionalization problem of strategy is real and at all times. This does not mean that relatively flexible structures such as RAND cannot exist in this context. Still, we must not consider either that the institutionalization of strategy represents a necessity for it. It is primarily a national issue that must now extend to the supranational rank, because of the existence of the European Union. Another important point of this problem is the status of civil strategic research. Because we must not forget that time was needed for military thought to become what we henceforth call strategic thought. Indeed the intervention of academics in the military world has not only created problems but military men are nonetheless reluctant because they believe that they function in a difficult to compare framework. In reality we notice that the rupture is even deeper in conceptual terms. The military mind is coping, even if this is sometimes formal, with the problem of discipline through hierarchy. By subsiding into problems of tactical nature, operational and even logistical, strategy, mostly the one of strategists, seems a bit abstract to the military mind. The latter does not realize the fact that even disorder obeys certain rules. Also strategy must manage equally well problems of order and disorder. Like Nash’s theory that generalizes the one of Morgenstern – Von Neumann, by moving in a non-cooperative framework since it has demonstrated that it also encompasses the cooperative framework, strategy organizes a wider space. Institutionalization, like the militarization of strategy, creates structural constraints that do not necessarily represent the ideal framework for the development of strategic thought. It is not therefore indispensable to search for very hierarchized and wide structures. Because we must allow the diversity of this though in order to enable its conceptual enrichment. The hierarchical grouping of structures tends to create a pursuit axis of priority that easily transforms itself in a doctrinal stance. It is a known phenomenon in the entire university research and which, we dare say, is not without negative consequences for the real research. Also it is not really deconstruction that is lethal for strategy. We must be much more careful not to create very rigid structures that inevitably end up becoming sclerotic structures before being literally obsolete. Strategy is thought in war phase but above all though.

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