What Are We Trying to Achieve?

Posted: February 26, 2022 in Geopolitics, Readiness & Strategy
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by Richard Martin

An acquaintance who is a business consultant raises an interesting point: This geopolitics thing is a lot harder than consulting. In fact, it’s a completely different paradigm, even though some of the tools and tactics may be superficially similar.

I served for 26 years in the Canadian Army. The profession of arms is about the reasoned application of force in the solution of a social problem. Social in the widest possible sense. There are no easy solutions. If there were, we wouldn’t be in the conundrum we are in.

While there are experts in logistics, communications, armament, intelligence analysis, operational planning, and even tactics and weapons handling, true military professionals the world over will tell you that there is no such thing as ultimate military and strategic expertise. You can study history, politics, geography, and economics all you want, but in the end you are dealing with mutable goals and motivations.

Plus, it all comes down to one simple principle: selection and maintenance of the aim. In American military terms, the principle of the objective. What is the goal, intent, outcome, end state, or any other way of expressing the end to be achieved? Everything depends on that.

Is the end to try to deal with Putin and Russia as good faith actors of the international community of nations? That was tried and didn’t work.

Is the end to deter Putin and Russia with superior arms and a credible threat that the cost of his gamble would outweigh the benefits? Obviously, that didn’t work either.

Now that battle has been joined, the US, Canada, UK, Germany, and all the NATO nations need to decide what the aim is, what the end must be. In the early days of NATO it was hard enough to get 12 countries to agree on something. Now there are 30 members, and the attack is not on a NATO country, although there are NATO allies who are feeling threatened right now.

I honestly don’t know what actions are to be taken, because I don’t know what the goals are. Those are matters for political decision, which is beyond the province of the profession of arms, diplomacy, and even economic and financial sanctions.

In a word, we need political will. A reminder, Clausewitz called war a clash of arms with the aim of imposing our will on the enemy. Who is the enemy, what is our aim?

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin is a veteran, thinker, educator, and trusted advisor. He focuses on extracting valuable signals from all the noise.

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