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The Making of Strategy during the Early Modern Era Essay

Strategies are mainly geared towards fulfilling certain politically-motivated objectives. Strategies are most important in situations where one of the engaging sides has superior advantage such as ownership of latest technologies, machines and other resources such that the opponent can only win the war through application of techniques hence the need for a strategy. Strategies are put in place so as to ensure efficiency is achieved with use of the available resources with minimum waste, greatest efficiency and success being the main target, is achieved ( Metz 1976, 127).

Luck is seen to play a greater role in the making of strategies during the periods. The genius component is also seen to help a lot in determining whether the strategies so formulated come to implementation. Subjective judgments do determine strategic choices to be arrived at. In luck, it is hard to determine the likely outcome of a project or activity in this case a war. It all has to do with taking risks in which case there are very high potential gains just as the re are high potential losses.

It proves really hard to accurately tell the chances of military success or failure since the odds are usually higher before going to

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the war but practical cases have shown otherwise. Luck coupled with hope, played a primary role in seeing America through its operations in Kosovo, and of late, in Afghanistan as Betts highlights. Strategies are mere motivators. It just proves hard to accurately state whether for example the USA could win against Vietnam and even if it does how much will have been lost in terms of personality/soldiers, how much extra money will have to be allocated towards the project.

The recent example where the USA has been reported to be losing so many soldiers in Iraq can be attributed to either underestimation of the opponent’s ability during initial formulation of the strategies or overestimation of the US ability in disarming the enemy so as to completely disable them and keep a clean win. Rating of the winning chances like 40% or 50% does not help much but only stimulates the soldiers. In terms of strategic genius, (Smith1976) describes what Edward calls ‘paradoxical logic of strategy’ in which he says it is very hard to determine how good one in strategy until tested.

In this approach, the strategist who intimidates the enemy to a point where he makes the enemy so terrified that application of military power becomes useless. This is practical skill which wins a war without having to fight. It is a skill that can as well be said to be attached to luck and some of the countries used to apply it in the cold war. It also becomes very hard to improve on strategies unless there is a conflict as (Smith 1976) quotes from Sun Tzu’s writings.

Here, Smith defends the fact that history or hindsight claiming it to be crucial in determining the kind of military leaders we are developing in future. This is what is called bringing up ‘strategic geniuses’. (Cornish 2003, 512) Geniuses are brought up basing on modeling a person who will have special strategic traits more than those possessed by other peers. By looking at former strategic geniuses we can tell who we want so that he/she fits in this traits. This way, there will be a leader who is able to come up with strategic decisions in critical moments.

The geniuses approach considers having leaders with strategic knowledge as being crucial in having a competent force. Strategic geniuses are known to have knowledge in many fields and can be relied upon to make the most appropriate decisions in various fields. Several historic figures particularly in Europe and USA were strategic geniuses. Winston Churchill for example had mastered language and he employed these skills in dealing with socio-political situations requiring careful intervention.

Another case is that of the Duke of Marlborough who happened to be extremely social. This helped them so much in being efficient leaders of their respective countries and as heads of governments, they were able to make the considerate decisions especially regarding military issues. Cornish 2003, quoting from Clausewitz’s work says that a genius has a greater power of vision than an ordinary person will. Napoleon for example, was termed as being restless most of the time due to the multiple intelligence he possessed.

He had a greater sense of imagination than other ordinary French people and this culminated in him making decisions that other people considered unworkable or inappropriate yet he stood by them and he is considered a key character in the French history. There are cases when analysis of past experiences otherwise called hindsight, have not resulted in positive outcomes hence it is not obvious that when you consider them, there will be a win situation (Brawan 1987, 356).

On the other hand, the foresight approach provides that it is necessary for an analysis be done so as to determine the likely chances of success before deciding to go to a war. If the chances of success are high enough, it is not necessary to follow a laid down strategy and in the first place it is not important to come up with it. Strategy is seen to be pure gambling as it is hardly possible to determine the likelihood of any of the sides winning the fight in other words it is not a matter of who has the best strategy for winning the war or how armed one of the sides is.

Sometimes situations require that an individual in charge of carrying out the project goes against advice from specialists of the field. In the article, Betts shows how Adolph Hitler, Churchill Winston and Douglas MacArthur succeeded by luck in winning some of the wars their countries fought. Hitler for example, declines to listen to what the generals in his army were advising but he proved them wrong by rolling the dice more than once. His main failure regarding strategic decisions came in 1941 when he decided to attack the USA and to invade the USSR.

This was against common reasoning, a key component in strategic decision -making President Churchill on the other hand managed to grab several wins notably the one against Germany and this was of course by under-estimating the power of Germans and expecting that in any case, the US would intervene to help Britain. There was literally no hard plan which could lead to employing extra means. By good luck, this approach and expectation came to be true and it aided Britain in win. Strategically, landing at a place called Incon in 1950 could prove disastrous for USA planes according to senior USA army officials.

However, President MacArthur decided otherwise hence the planes landed. The final result was the president’s speculation yielded great success. This implies that not all the analysis by senior professionals were right and even if they were, luck and surprise decisions some times lead to success. When the aim or goal for the war proves important enough, then it calls for more gambling in making up the final strategy. Betts clearly argues against the engaging the use of hindsight (experience) in coming up with a strategy as it has failed many a time.

Strategists do not have sufficient time to carry out enough analysis regarding the project at hand hence the shorter the time it takes to come up with a strategy, the more effective it will be in the end. The fact that it is very difficult to guess how a war will end, the likely effects to both sides makes strategy to be important before going to a war but this does not necessarily mean it is what the leaders and soldiers will adhere to as some plans have been made only to be easily countered by the enemy who may be having more superior weapons and strategies.

Considering the cultural and coercive approach of, it can be noted that differences in cultures brought about massive differences in meaning of what was being communicated hence communication is essential for any activity to go on. Schelling (1985) gives the example of during the attack on Vietnam in 1965. In this war, the Chinese had a role to play but lack of a common understanding due to use of varied languages meant that Chinese interpreted signals in reverse meaning. It was the target of USA to kill as many opponent soldiers as possible using their superior weapons.

The Chinese on the other hand, aimed at taking advantage of their population to win against the USA. The values, norms and meanings of symbols were so different in both cultures hence both armies took any symbol from the second side in entirely different ways, misinterpreted versions. It’s reported that whatever President Johnson addressed the nation about was not exactly what went on the battleground. An example is that the time, place technique of attack he talked about was not the actual ones on the field. As a culture, he could not say directly what was coming.

This was aimed at distracting the enemy. The Chinese were on their part, united had the advantage of being many but their many dialects and varied culture tended to act in favour of USA troops ( Keith 1995, 145) In conclusion, there was more application of the luck-genius approach in the early modern times than any other means in formulating the strategies. As earlier explained, those cases where luck was more engaged yielded favorable results. Apart from that, it was a more readily available option hence it was a common approach especially in Europe.

Genius approach has produced leaders whose strategic decisions have made history, such as Napoleon of France. Reference List Betts, Rolex. Is Strategy an Illusion. London: Macmillan, 1992. Brawan, Maxwell. Strategy Effectiveness in Modern Times. New York: Henry Holt, 1987. Cornish, Paul. Armed Forces’ Seasoning, an Analysis According to Clausewitz’s. Chicago: Henry Holt, 2003. Keith, Nelson. Genius Strategists and their Potential Contributions. New York: Routledge, 1995. Metz, Samson. Combating Techniques and Ethics. New York: Henry Holt, 1976. Schelling, Taxen. Strategic Control and Arms Policy. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.

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