On The Relationship Between Purpose And Strategy In War

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Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (left) and Commander, Central Command Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. Army, listen to a question at the close of a Pentagon press conference on March 5, 2003.  Rumsfeld and Franks gave reporters an operational update and fielded questions on the possible conflict in Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (left) and Commander, Central Command Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. Army, listen to a question at the close of a Pentagon press conference on March 5, 2003. Rumsfeld and Franks gave reporters an operational update and fielded questions on the possible conflict in Iraq.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik (ret.) writes that “our Army too often looks at war as independent from its purposes.” That’s troublesome, he continues, because, “Purpose gives war its meaning, and purpose determines the war’s character.”

In other words, if you don’t understand the purpose of the war, then you can’t develop an effective strategy. And if you don’t have a strategy, then your tactics are just meaningless noise. I think some Chinese guy said that. But Gen. Tommy R. Franks provided a sad illustration of the idea.

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