Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tactics vs Strategy

When the President starts talking about tactics the war is already lost.

Tactics are what field commanders study and practice. Tactics is the science of how to move individuals or units around on the battlefield to best meet - at the highest levels - strategic goals. Politicians - and most especially the President - should be talking about broad-stroke strategy. It's the job of the generals to translate those strategies into tactical orders for their subordinate commanders. Eventually those orders are translated right down to the soldier walking behind an M-16, driving a tank or flying a helicopter.

When Bush starts talking tactics, there are only a couple of possible reasons. The first is that we already know he has trouble saying "strategy;" anyone remember "strategery?" The second possibility is that he doesn't know the difference between strategy and tactics; not a comforting proposition, but one that wouldn't surprise me in the least (although you'd think his handlers would brief him more thoroughly). The final possibility is one that's even scarier than the second: think Johnson and Nixon and Viet Nam.

The thought of Bush leaning over a map of the Iraq and discussing where to place units, what targets should be hit and how infantry squads should move from house to house is frightening beyond belief.

The vast majority of citizens, politicians and - most especially - media talking heads have never served and know little to nothing about military matters. So the idea of the President talking about "tactics" rather than "strategy" does not frighten them as much as it should. But then that's a huge part of why we've found ourselves in this situation in the first place.

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