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Understanding and Accounting for National Will in Strategies that Use Military Forces

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2014,23 May 2015

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US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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This paper argues that national will is crucial to the successful use of military force and therefore military strategists and policy makers must understand and continuously account for the impact of national will throughout strategy development and implementation. After highlighting recent challenges regarding the use of military force by the United States, the paper examines a basic model for explaining strategy from the Army War College. While the model is useful in capturing the synergy that must exist between political and military objectives and strategic risk derived from compatibility issues of ends, ways, and means, it does not capture the risk to a strategy related to national will. A way to improve upon this basic conceptual model is to incorporate the element of national will as an integral and vital part of any strategy that involves the use of military force. National will is the foundation that both the political objective and military strategy must rest upon. As such, national will defines the limits of what is acceptable in terms of a strategys ends, ways, and means, and also determines the amount of deviation from reality that is tolerable during a strategys implementation. Similarly, national will is a critical component in determining the time available for the strategy to achieve desired results before change or abandonment is required. Finally, national will impacts the effort and efficiency of all of those involved in developing and carrying out the associated strategy. A strategy is more likely to be successful when national will is understood and accounted for by military strategists and policy makers because it lends itself to achieving a critical three-way balance between the people, military, and government.

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