On Grand Strategy
the processes, complexities in
devising grand strategies
applied to Lincoln, Wilson
and
FDR
edited by Walter Antoniotti
 

1. Summary

2. Grand Strategy of Western Leaders

3. REVIEWS

WSJ Review by John Nagl

Kirkus Review

 

See Strategic Thinking

 

Book Summary

1. Victory required denial a of justice,
Justice required a denial of victory

Britain suspended1935-1945 elections.
US had fighting over US direction as few
 wanted the mistake of getting into WW 1.
FDR was political and won a war,
Wilson's morality lost a
League

 

2. Silences vs. cacophony

Reporting on the world from the US,
Irving Berlin
had learned institutions
are less important than individual relationships.
Trying to report from Russia he ran into
individuals who were fearful and silent and
separated from the Western world.
Lenin, changed the USSR ecology
made
it differed from that of the U.S.
One demanded silence,
the other thrived on cacophonies.

3. The Need for Truth 19:11

Russians had suffered during the czars
but Stalin's suffering was different. It was
Marxian as interpreted by revolutionaries
who felt truth did not exist time flowed slowly,
someone had to organize and lead people
into a national planned system.

Marxist/Fascists followed the true
correct theory, judgment was not needed.
They knew answer in advance so
contradictions could be ignored as they
would be removed by the flow of time.

Being correct provided the confidence
needed to not fear the future.

4. The Importance of Scale15:00

Berlin felt FDR was sure of himself,
self confidence. He could solve
WW2related problems not knowing of
Dialectical and Historical Materialism
by J. V. Stalin 9/38. He had no theory
beyond his own ability if he was in control.
His self confidence did not come from
a search for truth. He learned to live
with incompatible alternatives
.
He was a juggler, knew importance of balance,
was not consistent but could see the big picture
and create balance by knowing the
importance of scale
.
He managed variables need to
balanced goals with resources
.

The BEAR was needed to stop Germany,

Victory required denial of justice and
Justice
required denial of victory.
FDR no guaranties for Baltic and Poland,
we need Russia, FDR said screw Poland.
It would be the US and USSR deciding
on direction, no morals or ethics involved.

Oliver Wendell Holmes- said of FDR,
"
a second class intellect but
a first class temperament.

5. Grand strategy requires the
directional compass of intellect
and a gyroscope to provide for
a balanced temperament.

Carl von Clausewitz on Grand Strategy

Complexity requires intellect to determine
course which requires adjustment which
combined with temperament to determines
how adjustments.
 

Napoleon  the conqueror couldn't balancing
aspiration with capability
and lost an empire.
Lincoln save a country by not doing so.
Wilson the builder could nor adjust,
FDR the juggler
balanced important variables
.

Philip Tetlock suggested we survived as
a species by combing habits of Berlin's foxes
when adjustments to rapid changes are needed
and like hedgehogs to thrive in stable times.
He believed good judgment required a
balancing act that requires rethinking
core assumptions while preserving
our existing world view
.

6.  Good judgment assumes Moral equivalents
across opinions with equal cost from failure.
Berlin saw WW 2 Politics as a polarity
with in equivalent concepts of Liberty at either end.
 

Positive liberty:
individuals yield freedom of choice to some higher authority that
Silenced contradictions
with disposition and the possibility of slavery or even extermination.
Hedgehogs herding foxes,
they were sure of being correct and wanted few alternatives:
Risk
was lessened or postpones with a promise of treasure.
No proof beyond theory
because with compatible of means, ends automatically converge.
All knew how world worked, allowed little opposition.

Negative Liberty:
individuals allowed choices
Allowed contradictions even cacophonies
provided no compass

They were foxes without a compass
resulting in drift leading to possible anarchy
Machiavelli, Octavian Caesar, Elizabeth I 
American founders, Lincoln, and FDR
were foxes with a compass
Risk is accepted
by low expectations using
proven means for achievable ends while
subjecting theory to corrections.
Required No compatibility,
no convergence with theory when subjected
 to experience and corrections.
Pluralism was required which Berlin felt
created a dynamic, antagonistic, discontented world...

7. Accepting Past and Present incompatibles 

In 1962 RFK response to a  Mexican War question
was taking Mexico by force was probably incorrect.
It cause Deep Do Do.

Should we give Texas back. Most would say no.
The resulting justice would cause  chaos and too
much injustice would result. Contractions exist.
Learning to live with history means living
with incompatibles.

Grand strategies helps because all fair deals
are based on proportions,
the item received must be in balance,
be in proportion to that paid.
Grand strategy aligns desires with ability.
Fairness is helped by bending toward
freedom or negative liberty.

To Carl von Clausewitz it meant
subordinating war to policy for what
freedom comes from violence.

The contradiction of life and death
is the greatest we will behold,
almost all participants deserve  respect.

 

Grand Strategy-Western Leaders

1. Strategy Success
requires temperament.

Xerxes
had uncontrollable ambitions,
no fear and advisor Artabanus
could not control his fears.
No balance meant a poor team.

 

Pericles
Percales went from intolerance
to repression  in a single speech,
and then Athens soon followed.
Octavian Cesar rose by teaching
himself self-control,
Mark Antony
fell by forgetting it.

2. Princes as Pivots that
changed Western History.

Augustine and Machiavelli served pivotal monarchs
 
Philip II micro managed a vast empire that pivoted down.
Elizabeth I balanced the needs of Parliament, her colonies,
align end to means and began the replacement empire.

 

3. Ambition Must Be
Balances with Capabilities

Napoleon confused aspirations with capabilities,
failed to align end to means, lost a war and went to prison.
Lincoln align end to means, balances politics and military,
won a war and saved his country.

Wilson the builder failed to align means to ends
and maintained justice but lost a League.
FDR
aligned ends to means, gave up justice and won a war

 

WSJ Review

‘On Grand Strategy’ Review: The War Against Decline and Fall
enduring empires and the mistakes that may
lead to ruin. review by John Nagl

 

This most important book covered the evolution of strategic thinking from Machiavelli to the nuclear age,

 "Like “Makers of Modern Strategy-FROM MACHIAVELLI TO THE NUCLEAR AGE,” it explores the facets of wisdom, temperament and courage that create great leaders and enduring empires.

“On Grand Strategy” begins with the Persian king Xerxes ’ invasion of Greece in 480 B.C., an invasion that went spectacularly wrong. Xerxes suffered from an inability to connect the ends he desired—control of Greece and ultimately all of Europe—with the resources available. Xerxes was not the last warrior-king to suffer from that particular affliction.

Napoleon underestimated Russian winter and the will of Russian peasant even before he met defeat at Waterloo. Hitler had troops invade Russia in summer uniforms expecting quick victory but another cruel winter took its toll.

These leaders were like Isaiah Berlin figures. They were hedgehogs over-focused on a doctrine or an objective and failed to adapt to meet the current situation. Gaddis respected foxes more. They hold fast to objectives and adjust their tactics to difficulties—geography, weather, time, public support.

Desires often overwhelm available means requiring a strategy set priorities, build alliances and conserve resources.

Mr. Gaddis presents an array of leaders who mastered this strategy method. 
Queen Elizabeth I
understood British geography strength and her sea power would keep her safe.
Abraham Lincoln
adjusted his thinking on slavery from wanting to block its growth to arming free blacks to emancipation of slaves held in belligerent  territory. Franklin Roosevelt focused on the greater strategic threat Germany  rather than Japan who had struck first. They all choose historically successful strategic principles that Mr. Gaddis feels will work in the future.

Not a perfect book, On Grand Strategy short-changes Eastern tradition and doesn’t effectively analyze how the nuclear revolution affects military strategy.  He shows many leaders with few strategy skills led their countries poorly.

Success is not guaranteed. It require wisdom, historical sense, and the ability to “respects time, space, and scale.”

Mr. Nagl is the headmaster of The Haverford School. A retired Army officer, he saw combat in both Iraq wars and is the author of “Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice.”

How great leaders make good and terrible military decisions  a less favorable review by

Gordon M. Goldstein is an adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam.

Kirkus Reviews


Gaddis analyzes the processes and complexities involved in devising grand strategies: “the alignment of potentially unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities.” Strategic leaders need to be flexible, creative, and observant. Political theorist and philosopher Isaiah Berlin popularized this memorable line from an ancient Greek poet: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

Both Tolstoy and Carl von Clausewitz, respect theory and practice “without enslaving themselves to either.” Abstraction and specificity “reinforce each other, but never in predetermined proportions.”

That big thing—an obsessive idea or abstract ideal— is likely to prevent innovation. “Assuming stability is one of the ways ruins get made,” “Resilience accommodates the unexpected.”

Elizabeth I defied traditional expectations by “... tolerating (within limits) religious differences...Rather than impose a grand design, she responded deftly to her changing world. Napoleon failed because of limited “peripheral vision” blinding him of “landscapes, logistics, climates..." troop morale  and enemy strategy.” Abraham Lincoln was astoundingly intuitive, managed polarities: they didn’t manage him.” FDR had a Second Class Mind and a First Class Temperament according to O. W. Holmes.
Editor's Note: