Notes from Assigned Readings - POLI439

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HTST 490
Robert Neil Huebert

Poli 439 – Understanding the Nature of the Field (Week of Jan 13-17) - Agreement has been contested as to what constitutes “strategic studies” since the collapse of the bi-polar system constituting the enthof the Cold War, as well as the events following the attacks of September 11 , 2001. There will be a traditional approach to strategic studies, followed by examining the new approaches to the field. - Core Issue: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the foundations of the study of Strategic Studies? - i) Development of the Field of Study – why is this important? ii) Nature of the field – why should we care? - Strategy: the application of military power to achieve political objectives, “the theory and practice of the use, and threat of use, of organized force for political purposes.” - Grand Strategy: “the coordination and direction of all the resources of a nation, a band of nations, towards the attainment of the political objectives sought.” - A mix of politics and military knowledge. There is no such thing as purely military advice when it comes to strategy issues. A multi-disciplinary concept that relies on the power of military. - Most popular viewpoint associated with strategy is realism. Power is the only currency of value when security is threatened. See law and morality as irrelevant when security is threatened. - Strategists are criticised for being obsessed with conflict and force, insufficiently concerned with ethical issues, not scholarly in their approach, part of the problem and not the solution and state-centric. Strategists do not oppose the idea that a peaceful co- existence is possible, but see it as highly unlikely, and do not get their hopes up to the idea of “perpetual peace.” - It is argued that security should be emphasized over strategy in today’s post-Cold War era. Security studies on its own becomes too broad, however, as it needs to focus on military as a major aspect of the world’s affairs still in play today. Strategic Theory: - The stakes in war are very high, so strategy is needed and is a very practical thing to learn to think strategically. - Strategy ultimately about how to win wars. War not senseless. Using military means to achieve political objectives. (Clausewitz). Strategy makes war usable for political purposes. Policy drives strategy and bad strategy can lead to defeat, even with statistical success. - Clausewitz views war in four different contexts: 1. Killing and dying (war cannot be waged without bloodshed). 2. War is a contest (between armies, generals, and states. Physical and mental, each side trying to pin one another as well as avoid being pinned themselves). 3. War is an instrument of policy: pursued not for its own sake, but to serve the ends of the state. 4. War is a social activity (social condition mould the character and conduct of war). - Clausewitz views it as a paradoxical trinity: violence, hatred, and enmity. These three tendencies correlate with three groups: people, military, and government. Passion = the people. Probability and chance = military. Reason = the government. Interaction of these three determines the characteristics of war. - Believed that states achieve military victory by attacking the enemy’s centre of gravity. War of two kinds, overthrowing the enemy or “merely occupy some of his frontier districts …” - Should be direct correlation between the value a state attaches to its ends and the means it uses to achieve them. - Wars with limited aims usually end with tacit negotiation and what amount of military force that should be utilized is strategized. War with unlimited aims is settled by imposition rather than negotiation. - The rational calculus of war: based on ability to go to war using cost-benefit analysis. Clausewitz also identifies the “friction” of war. - Wide gulf between Clausewitz and Sun Tzu. Sun’s perspective was from ancient China, quite opposite from Clausewitz. - Tzu sees victory without bloodshed as ideal, and a display of skill. Less a matter of destroying the army, and more of depleting their willingness to fight. He sees psychological deception as key, and utilizes the idea of comparative advantage. Sun Tzu also is optimistic of intelligence as an advantageous strategy. Whereas Clausewitz is skeptical of the advantages of intelligence. Tzu inspired Mao Tze-Tung, which in turn has influenced jihadists. - Some argue that the information age now demands a new type of strategic theory. Critics argue that old works on strategy apply to war between states and armies, wh
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