McChrystal and ACW strategy

Civil War readers who want to stretch their strategy legs a bit might enjoy reading Stanley McChrystal's report to the sitting administration. Spoiler alert: don't read further down if you want fresh impressions from the link. Read the linked document first.


My view of the current general officer corps is reflected in an earlier post, and it strikes me that this is what you'd expect from that cohort: a policy brief asking for policy commitments rather than a strategic assessment with recommendations. It goes without saying that Civil War authors and readers become positively unhinged when they see policy discussed by generals, especially in certain Harrison Bar letters, so you likely caught this yourselves.

What was required was a paper that says, "If you define victory as this, here's what we can achieve; if you define it as that, here's what we can achieve; if you want status quo, here's what's needed." Also, "Here's what's happening as I see it."

Sometimes, today's bureaucrat in uniform will will excuse himself from reviewing and presenting any options to civilian leaders by saying "There are no good options." That leaps to a policy conclusion (not the job of a soldier) without investing work in option development for civilian review. The current chair of the Joint Chiefs is an absolute master at this as was his predecessor.

This report has its merits and it is interesting to see history unfold, especially when it puts to use our reading and thinking from another sphere.