by SWJ Editors
Theory, Policy, and Strategy
A Conceptual Muddle
by Adam Elkus and Mark Safranski
It is impossible not to notice that elements of the current acrimonious debates over theory, operations, and practice are proxies for larger political differences over the use of force and its relationship to American national interests. So why are these fundamental policy disagreements being expressed through debate over technical points of military doctrine?
The answer lies in the uncertain, even negligent, muddle that has substituted for a clear paradigm to guide US grand strategy. Because policymakers have failed to define clear US interests, goals, and objectives, attempts have been made to derive grand strategic principles from theoretical debates or operational concerns. While these debates have been intellectually stimulating and often very useful to developing US national security and military doctrine, they cannot sustain US grand strategy. While strategic drift might be inevitable in country where much of strategy is determined by the cleavages of domestic politics, the cost of meandering can be measured in lost opportunities, treasure squandered, and lives lost. Policymakers must make a stand for a strong strategic paradigm to guide US operational methodologies.