September 4, 2014

Strategy 101: A Primer for Obama

In August 1961, while the Soviets erected the Berlin Wall to plunge the Cold War into the deep freeze, President John F. Kennedy ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to devise a nuclear-first strike plan. The Strategic Air Command responded with a plan involving 55 B-52’s hitting 80 Soviet bomber and missile bases and eliminating an estimated 90 percent of the Soviet’s nuclear capability. Since Russian bomber and rocket bases were located in isolated areas, civilian and military casualties, assessed at around one million, were thought low enough when compared to the more than 20 million deaths Russia suffered in World War II. Kennedy considered, but rejected the option. Nevertheless, the episode reflected bold thinking at both the grand and operational levels of strategy.

Simply put, strategy is a plan to achieve an objective. Speaking at the White House recently, President Obama stated that his administration had no plan to deal with the jihadist threat in Syria. U.S. force against ISIS in Iraq has, so far, involved disparate precision air strikes meant to curb the ISIS jihadists advancing on Iraqi and Kurdish forces. This is clearly combat at the tactical rather than the strategic level of war.

There are two separate, but related, levels of strategy. The highest, grand strategy lies within the president’s purview. The White House defines national policy, prompting a grand strategy that the military fulfills with an operational strategy devised to correspond to national strategic objectives. In short, President Obama must clearly state the policy objective so the Pentagon can respond with an effective strategy to employ its forces at the operational level of war.

Grand strategy reflects national policy objectives and must correctly identify the nature of the threat. This is not easy. A half century ago, the United States lost the war in Vietnam because the White House failed to recognize the true nature of the conflict: The United States was at war with a determined enemy whose multi-layered strategy included destroying the South Vietnamese army and government with the goal to unite Vietnam under a single communist system while simultaneously compelling the U.S. to withdraw through a war of attrition focused on inflicting enough pain to frustrate, and eventually break, American will. A viable grand strategy clearly identifies the enemy and specifies a definitive end state. Take a cue from General Douglas MacArthur, “In war there is no substitute for victory.”

Grand strategy considers resources. Does the U.S. military have the capabilities needed to deal effectively with the threat posed by the ISIS?  While the short answer is “yes,” the world poses a wide range of threats: Russian aggression in Ukraine, Iran’s nuclear programs, Syria, new threats from North Korea, and an increasingly truculent and regionally hegemonic China.

National will is essential. After 13 years of war do the American people have the will to properly take on ISIS? President Obama must look beyond the far left political base’s disdain for using military force and make the case to the American people that it is in the national security interest of the United States to move decisively against this threat. He has to believe it to sell it.

Operational strategy is the purview of military leaders who know what their forces can do. It is the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s job to inform the president concerning what resources are available and how a major recommitment to the Middle East will affect readiness in the larger scheme of international security. It is likely that a range of plans for dealing with ISIS are ready for approval by the president.

Limiting the bombing of ISIS to Iraq is a tactical approach to a strategic threat. The center of gravity, that hub from which all else emanates, is in Syria and it must be struck a decisive blow. Blasting trucks, tanks and artillery pieces in Iraq is like whacking at the serpent’s tail when the head is in Syria. Otherwise, the shadow boxing will continue, and more lives will be at risk, as ISIS advances.

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

The Patriot Post and Patriot Foundation Trust, in keeping with our Military Mission of Service to our uniformed service members and veterans, are proud to support and promote the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, both the Honoring the Sacrifice and Warrior Freedom Service Dogs aiding wounded veterans, the National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, the Folds of Honor outreach, and Officer Christian Fellowship, the Air University Foundation, and Naval War College Foundation, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13)


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

Join us in prayer for our nation, that good and righteous leaders would rise and prevail, and that division would be healed so we can be united as Americans. We pray also for the protection of our Military Patriots, Veterans and First Responders, and for their families.

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2023 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.