Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Military strategy...what is the first thing that comes to your head when you hear this phrase? Is it the double encirclement patterns of Hannibal and his army at the Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C? Or are you thinking of nuclear deterrence in an age of weapons proliferation? To better explore these questions I employed a writing tool that allows consideration of a topic in multiple lenses.
The "Topoi" can elaborate on topic analysis: adding depth, contrast, valuation, form, and structure to topics ideas. The first thing I realized when applying the Topoi to "military strategy" was the paradox that exists when a military force whose mission is to establish order and unity, must achieve these goals through physical force and combat. When applying this paradox to valuation I discovered four surprising conclusions: Practically, military strategy is for for national defense, order, and streamlining communication in order carry out national policy and national military objectives. I asked myself, now why does a nation want to carry out national policy and national military objectives? For monetary and territorial gain, of course! So then ethics becomes a consideration. Are certain types of military strategy or national policy objectives unethical? Is nuclear proliferation, or mutual assured destruction (MAD), simply controversial because it is against the norm of conventional warfare or because these actions are considered unethical? To view these questions I had to view the social culture and historiography of the nation that is employing this type of military strategy. How is the culture of the military decision maker affected by the society that he is in? Is a general influenced by the education he receives, the philosophy of his nation concerning militarism? What about the historical milieu of his nation? When speaking of the general I could not help but want to know the relationship between the military and the political arena. Does the soldier, the general, the sailor, and the admiral's decision influence the political arena? If it does, why is this? Is this because the military is such a centralized part of the government? If not, why is this? Is this because the military has a separate political culture that is different fron the political perspectives of the government?
It is these questions and the answers to these questions that make the "Topoi" such a useful tool. While some of the answers are quite clear, in that war is conducted when there is a need for nation-states to resolve disputes and all other diplomatic/economic avenues have been exhausted, others are slippery, and often come with ethical, political, and at times, spiritual strings attached. Military strategy is an excellent topic to explore The Topoi in terms of teasing ideas into conclusions, and it further provides the necessary medium of intellectual exchange for further considerations on other topics.