In Search of a Sensible Grand Strategy (IV): Alliance SITREP on Eve of War

March 19, 2003

Comment: #478

Discussion Threads - Comment #s: Grand Strategy & Iraq Crisis: Comment #s 453, 457, 458, 465, 469, 476

DNI Web Pages: Thread:  Grand Strategy

URLs for Past Comments are Archived at the Defense & National Interest Website:  Index of Comments

Attached References:

[Ref. 1] Dan Balz and Mike Allen, "U.S. Names 30 Countries Supporting War Effort," Washington Post, March 19, 2003, Pg. 1

Grand Strategy is, to repeat, the art of harmonizing the destructive effects of a military strategy within the constructive framework of a larger national policy that conforms to six criteria:

1. Supports our national goal, which at the highest level involves improving our nation's fitness, as an organic whole, to shape and cope with an ever-changing environment (i.e.., a goal that strives toward a "fitness" that increases our interaction with the world as opposed to our isolation from it).

2. Pumps up our nation's resolve and increases our internal political solidarity.

3. Drains away the resolve of our adversaries and weakens their internal cohesion.

4. Reinforces the commitments of our allies to our cause and makes them empathetic to our success.

5. Attracts the uncommitted to our cause or makes them empathetic to our success.

6. Ends conflicts on terms that do not sow the seeds for future conflicts.

Subordinating the imperatives of a military strategy to the criteria of grand strategy is always difficult for men of action in times of crisis, but as the lesson of Imperial Germany in 1914 shows, a country that allows its strategic imperatives to preempt the common-sense criteria of grand strategy does so to its long-term peril [see Comments #453 & 476].

United States now stands on the brink of launching its first preemptive war against a country that poses no immediate threat to it. How such a preemptive military strategy fits within the context of a sensible grand strategy for the long term remains unclear, but at this point, that question is an academic one. Congress gave a blank check to the President to begin this war under conditions of his choosing, so the war is legal within the context of our Constitution, and as employees of the government, we are all sworn to support and uphold the Constitution.

Within the context of this blank check, Secretary of State Colin Powell has worked assiduously since September to build a coalition of allies conforming to grand-strategic criteria #4 and to attract uncommitted nations who are empathetic to the success of the United States' preemptive military strategy against Iraq, thus conforming to grand-strategic criteria #5. Today, the Washington Post reported on the fruits of his efforts [see Ref 1 below].

Powell released the names of those countries conforming to criteria #4 as well as a claim that another 15 unnamed countries, including some Arab nations, also supported our military strategy, or in the language of grand strategy, a claim that 15 unnamed countries conformed to criteria #5.

Attached herewith is Powell's list of named countries, categorized by me -- think of it as Grand Strategic SITREP laying out the "going in" position of the United States with respect to grand-strategic criteria #4:

Grand-Strategic Criteria #4: 30 Partners in "Coalition of the Willing"

  • "Old" Europe: Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom

  • "New" Europe: Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia

  • Central Asia: Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Uzbekistan

  • Asia: Japan, South Korea (The State Department listed Japan as available for "post-conflict" support.)

  • Latin America: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia (a senior Columbian diplomat was reportedly unaware that his nation had been listed)

  • Oceania: Australia, the Philippines,

  • Middle East: Turkey

  • Africa: Eritrea, Ethiopia,

The grand-strategic challenge for the United States is therefore clear: The application of destructive military force must reinforce the other five criteria in a way that is sufficient to overcome the evident weakness of grand-strategic criteria 4.

Chuck Spinney

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference 1

Washington Post
March 19, 2003
Pg. 1
U.S. Names 30 Countries Supporting War Effort
By Dan Balz and Mike Allen, Washington Post Staff Writers
Staff writer Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.

Boyd and Military Strategy