The Best Defense

What bothers me about the making of strategy through 'ways, means, and ends'

I was thinking about the "ways, ends, means" strategic formulation recently, because it long has seemed to me to be insufficient. I suspect that "ways, ends, means" leaves out a key aspect of warfare -- the spiritual aspect. This is not just a matter of faith or morale, but is a key aspect of warfare, because it goes to the question of will.

So, I am beginning to think that "ways, ends, means" doesn't work for me because it pretends to be a scientific approach. But there is a reason that Clausewitz referred to "the art of war."

This is why I prefer the formulation of strategy as another three questions -- much broader ones: "Who are we, what are we trying to do, and how are we going to do it?"

I asked the estimable Chris Mewett about this, and he wrote back:

I think the ends/ways/means construct is just another way of approaching the same set of questions you've posed. The intent of both is to require thought: to force the would-be strategist to consider whether the tools he has at his disposal can offer a reasonable chance of accomplishing the desired objectives. 

"The spiritual aspect" and matters of will are only left unconsidered if the would-be strategist ignores how those factors inhere in the very nature of war. If we recognize that war's nature is violent, emotional, and uncertain -- if we acknowledge that the basic means of war is fighting, from which all of these tendencies/conditions are inseparable -- then how can we say that the ends/ways/means construct fail to take account of moral factors?

This is exactly why I think the debate about war's enduring nature is important. War is a different phenomenon from not-war. It operates according to the influence of those tendencies that are essential to its nature: instinctive passions born of violence; chance and uncertainty; and its subordination as an instrument of policy. (In Clausewitz's memorable phrasing, war has its own grammar, but not its own logic.) 

Excluding the moral, the "spiritual," and the will can only happen when we lose touch with this uniqueness and imagine that the violent means of war function in precisely the same way as the non-violent means of other forms of political intercourse. This isn't a flaw in the ends/ways/means construct but in the way we understand what war is.

Alma 7:12/Flickr

The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: Dog teams search the wreckage of Washington's mudslide

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Dogs have been on the scene of the March 22 mudslide in Oso, Washington, that's so far claimed 30 people, a count that is likely only to rise as a number of people are still missing.

The conditions caused by the mudslide have been particularly difficult, posing challenges for the dogs' powerful sense of smell and the way they track odor. As one veteran handler on the scene told National Geographic, "there is so much debris, everything is torn apart, and the human scent can be really spread around.... Plus, it's been raining and cold -- one dog ended up with hypothermia from working in the water."

Despite the difficult terrain, more search and rescue dog teams have even been called in from other states -- like California and Utah -- to help with the search. These include dogs like the one pictured above, who sits at the feet of Washington National Guardsmen to be washed after working the debris field created by the mudslide, and Cody, pictured below with her handler Lisa Bishop from Northwest Disaster Search Dogs. The pair is looking up to watch a Washington National Guard helicopter circle overhead.

Some of the photos of the search and rescue dogs in Washington show them as beleaguered and worn as their exhausted human counterparts. And the dogs can only search for so long before they get worn out and their efforts becomes ineffective. (One of the best photo series on search and rescue dogs is this New York Times collection: "The Search and Rescue Dogs from 9-11".)

War-dog history is flush with legions of dogs who located the wounded (or the fallen) on the battlefield, and the U.S. military has employed search and rescue dogs in recent years, adding them to their ranks. In many ways, we're most accustomed now to using dogs to prevent tragedy -- to save lives. But sadly, when the occasion calls, we also bring in dogs for recovery -- to lead with their noses and do what humans and technology still cannot do better without them.

Photo by Spc. Matthew Sissel