“It’s Time to Stop Using the Term Exit Strategy”
In recent decades every time the United States’ political and military leaders discuss the use of force to deal with complex issues in the international security environment the conversation inevitably turns to the need for an exit strategy.[i] Such discussions of exit strategies have had a deleterious effect on the development of strategy because the exit has become an end unto itself. Thus, senior leaders have lost sight of the need to win when using force in order to secure political objectives. The focus on exit strategy ignores the need to conduct messy consolidation operations to secure victory and ultimately translate this into political success. Once military victory has secured the stated political objectives, then it is appropriate to discuss redeploying committed forces. This essay offers that the focus on exit strategies is a factor that has led to strategic incompetence and therefore, it is time to discard the use of the term exit strategy as a necessary step to regain strategic competence. This paper will discuss the origin of the term exit strategy, how it has affected policy and strategy formulation, and offer suggestions for regaining strategic competence.
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