Military Strategy and the War in Iraq

President Bush“I call upon the United States Congress to give General David Petraeus a chance to come back and tell us whether his strategy is working,” said President Bush on 10 July 2007.

Imagine being in General Petraeus’s position. Could you do better?

The answer is that strategy depends on objectives. What are we trying to do?

  • Minimize deaths of US troops?
  • Minimize deaths of Iraqi civilians?
  • Maximize oil exports from Iraq?
  • Establish democracy in Iraq?
  • Battle Islamic radicals?
  • Disengage ASAP?

The problem here is not that the General’s strategy is unsuccessful, but that we have too many objectives – too many ways of measuring success. Given the resources available ($5B/month) it is possible to achieve some but not all objectives.

2 responses to “Military Strategy and the War in Iraq

  1. Welcome to the real world my friend. There is no such thing as a single objective. Maximizing profits is not as simple as it sounds when one considers time. The simple minded apporach that many MBAs take to strategy has left many American firms with the inability to compete. The car industry once the greatest sign of American know how and wealth has been devasted by MBAs who listen to simple minded consultants also armed with MBAs miss the simple fact that consumers want value (it was the unions that drove costs – no the cars were ugly and performed poorly). Yes, MBAs have recently trained to recite the definition of a value proposition.

    Offering perspectives from business strategy to the world of politics is sheer stupidity. The constructs developed in the field are hopelessly narrow and niave. Please refrain from the tempatation and focus on screwing up US companies foolish enough to listen to you and your niave tribe.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Melida. I think we are both in agreement that the situation is indeed complex: a pareto-optimal curve must represent finite resources spanning multiple dimensions/objectives.

    Although business schools may over-simplify, politicians are guilty of everything from the 30-second soundbite at one extreme, to sophism at the other.

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