What's the Matter with Being a Strategist?

By The Cove May 15, 2019


In this article via the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, General John Galvin examines why we need strategists and how to develop them. The article was adapted from a speech given by General Galvin to the House Armed Services Committee Panel on Professional Military Education.

He suggests that we can find plenty to read and study on the subject of leadership, but not on how to build (or become) a strategist. General Galvin indicates that we owe it to those junior strategists to educate them and prepare them to assume the heavy responsibility of providing military leadership and military advice in the service of the state. A military strategist is an individual uniquely qualified by aptitude, experience, and education in the formulation and articulation of military strategy. They must understand national strategy and the international environment, and appreciate the constraints on the use of force and the limits on national resources committed to defence. Additionally, they must possess a fundamental knowledge of the structure, functions, and capabilities of the military organisations of friend and foe.

General Galvin provides a number of stepping stones for personnel to acquire this knowledge. An early firm grasp of tactics and how organisations and equipment function synergistically in war is the first step. Then they should understand how units move and how they operate: a junior strategist will know they are not just moving chess pieces but real organisations with real possibilities and constraints. Building a sound foundation is key, first in the tactical and then in the operational level of warfare. They also need to become aware of the intricacies of staff functions and procedures in order to understand how units will handle themselves and the operational requirements they are given. After a while they will begin to comprehend what things are possible, what units can and cannot do, and what happens to them under various conditions of battle. A good strategist must also have a firm grasp of logistics as it can profoundly shape what is strategically possible.



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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