Discerning the Role of the Narrative in Strategy Development
ARMY COMBINED ARMS CENTER FORT LEAVENWORTH KS MILITARY REVIEW
Pagination or Media Count:
During the hectic years of 1940 and 1941, a strategic disagreement among German military staff officers and their civilian leaders grew into an infeasible strategy. Operation Barbarossa was handicapped from the outset, caught between Hitler s intent to destroy Russian manpower and seize the Caucasus oilfields and his General Staff s desire to make Moscow the objective of the main effort. Because of this discord, the operational preparations and ultimately the tactical execution of Barbarossa failed. While some may argue about degrees of operational success, there was no shared strategic vision or narrative linked to Barbarossa s military objectives. Furthermore, a reluctance to discuss diverse perspectives inevitably crippled any operational momentum German divisions might have had. The failure to forge a strategic narrative spelled disaster on the battlefield. Yet, developing strategies and narratives is not a mystery. There is a misconception that strategic planning is an amalgam of big ideas writ large on white boards by an elite crew of experts isolated from extrinsic realities as well as their own organizations. While policy emanates from top-level authorities and compels strategic leaders to act within set parameters to achieve specific goals, strategy is a more pragmatic process that involves dialogue and results in action. Strategy typically refers to the normative ends-ways-means paradigm describing, in author Ronald Tobias words, a unified course of action that guides . . . decisions about what choices to make. Strategy affects all operational participants and is meaningless when national policy is decoupled from actions on the ground. This disconnect becomes even more problematic for those who believe that the U.S. no longer possesses a grand strategic narrative to answer the question, Where is the U.S. headed Strategy is both an object and a process.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics