[May 21, 2018] Strategy is the commerce of leaders. It is what separates the good from the bad and the eager from the lazy. This is why, in the study of history, strategic blunders are worth a closer look for important lessons that make us better.
It has been said that the greatest strategic blunder during World War II was Adolf Hitler’s decision to invade Russia. Instead of concentrating his forces on England and destroying it, he opened a two-front war that ultimately led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Others believe the worst blunder was Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor bringing the U.S. into the war.
“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” – Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general
What of the 21st Century? Are there any strategic blunders that are on the table for us to review? For my purposes here, I will restrict my comments to strategic blunders involving Western countries; solely for the reason that I know more about them.
The biggest strategic blunder of all in the 21st Century, to date, was the attack on the United States’ homeland by Muslim extremists. This was a massive failure by any measure. It brought about two wars on Muslim countries they could ill afford it and led to the death of thousands, the demeaning of the religion of Islam, and worsening of the Sunni-Shia divide.
The War on Terror that followed also had its share of strategic “military” blunders.1 A greater strategic blunder occurred in concert with these wars. Europe and much of the Western world began to allow large numbers of Muslim immigrants into their nations with welcome arms and a promise of a better life. This did not work out as planned as immigrants began to overwhelm these nations as they failed to assimilate and abused the welfare systems.
Can we learn from these blunders? Or, the more important question is whether our political leaders can learn from them. The lessons are rather obvious. One lesson is that attacking the United States is a bad idea regardless how much the U.S. fumbles its reaction. And a second lesson is that immigration should be measured and always in the best interests of the nation receiving them.
The responsibility for good strategic planning and execution is at the senior political leadership level. Failures will have dramatic, negative consequences.
- Initially, Paul Bremer, American diplomat, was responsible for Iraq’s descent into chaos that resulted mainly from his decision to prohibit members of the Ba’ath Party from holding public office and disbanding of the Iraqi army. The second major blunder was President Barack Obama’s decision to pull troops out of Iraq on a public timetable that was not tied to any progress or goal. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/paul-bremer-on-iraq-ten-years-on-we-made-major-strategic-mistakes-but-i-still-think-iraqis-are-far-8539767.html