Center for Strategic Communication

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

Top Billing! The Bridge Series on #Operating  – #Operating, The Army #Operating Concept, The Army #Operating Concept ‘s Global Landpower Network, The Army #Operating Concept and Allies,  Operationalizing the Army #Operating Concept  and Undue Emphasis on the Army #Operating Concept 

The new Army Operating Concept (AOC) posted earlier this week received a lot of feedback on social media and in the halls of military installations – which ultimately led to this series, titled “#Operating: A Personal Reflection on the Army Operating Concept,” on The Bridge. This post will kick things off by taking a holistic look at the document; later posts will focus on personal reactions to the document – what it says, what it fails to say, or even particular elements from it that resonate.

To begin, the framing of this future-oriented document is solidly rooted in the past…something we should all expect given that the overseer of its publication is the noted Warrior-Historian, LTG H.R. McMaster. A military document that not only references in the endnotes historical analysis and theory found in texts like those by Thucydides, Clausewitz, and even past military doctrine, but also conceptually intertwines their wisdom throughout, is likely to be more valuable than a document typified by “buzzword bingo.” While professional vernacular is a tool to accurately and quickly convey terms among members of the profession, it can also be used to gloss over or even replace deep thought and vital understanding, even among the “initiated.” So, while the AOC certainly reduces its use of typical military language from previous versions, it does still contain its fair share of jargon.

For the uninitiated, the AOC is supposed to “describe how the Army…employs forces and capabilities…to accomplish campaign objectives and protect U.S. national interests” (Page 8). It takes a little digging to find that in this document. To make things a little easier (at least for me), I’m going to break out some key elements and translate its contents into my language, hopefully increasing the accessibility of the concepts.

War on the Rocks – Sir Lawrence Freedman – THE MASTER STRATEGIST IS STILL A MYTH 

This problem of functional separation, a feature of the specialization of contemporary life, is relevant to the problem of strategy-making. It might be much easier to propose a bold and imaginative strategy when you are not going to be held accountable if it all goes wrong. There are other forms of functional separation. Steed takes seriously the problem of the regular disconnect between the political from the military, which I highlight. I was citing this as a problem with the classical tradition, associated with Jomini and Clausewitz, which focuses on decisive battle as the source of political victory. I dealt with this in a recent War on the Rocks article. This divide between generals and politicians has become a matter for concern among a number of contemporary writers, including Hew Strachan. But the problem goes wider, as can be seen in laments about the separation of planners from doers in large businesses. Steed and I can agree that there is a real challenge when it comes to translating the language and concerns of the military into terms that the politician will grasp. Conversely, it is equally difficult to give the military an appreciation for the real, and often contradictory, pressures that a politician faces. But even if structures are improved, there will always be distinctive interests and perspectives. A succession of rounded strategic people is unlikely to develop.

….We may do better, therefore, looking for good strategy rather than worrying about great strategists. What fascinates me about good strategy is not that it comes from people who are uniquely qualified, but that it can be generated by fallible human beings working through imperfect organizations operating in conditions of great uncertainty. People can be propelled into challenging roles (Harry Truman and Clement Attlee in 1945) and then do surprisingly well. Neither of them would have been identified as putative Alexanders. In general I would encourage those preparing for some major strategic decisions to think about how to diagnose situations and focus on the problem at hand, and manage a degree of empathy with their opponents as well as with their partners. The will need to think ahead, forge coalitions and hold on to long-term objectives. As they appreciate the importance of chance and unintended consequences, they should stay pragmatic, changing course when one does not work and shifting goals as new opportunities arise and others are closed off. But in practice it may turn out that an actual situation will really suit somebody who is stubborn and bloody-minded, autocratic rather than consultative, narrowly focused and ruthless, and so able to act as a force of nature and push aside all obstacles.

Scholar’s Stage – Bargaining with the Dragon 

Lets start with the protestors.

What are the protestor’s demands?

    1. When the protests began the protestors rallied around two demands:
      Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying (hereafter CY Leung) will step down.


  1. Hong Kong will institute a democratic system where candidates for popular election are  chosen by voters, not a committee selected by the Communist Party of China.

The original body of protestors who demanded these things were organized by two groups, the Hong Kong Federation of Students (????????, abbrv. ????, or just ??), composed of Hong Kong university students, and Scholarism (????), headed by 17 year old Joshua Wong and mostly composed of youth about his age. The famous photos of umbrella clad youth being pepper sprayed as they charged government lines were of these folks. 

They were joined by a third group, known as Occupy Central with Peace and Love, or Occupy Central for short (?????????, abr.??), on the second day of the protest. Occupy is a different sort of beast than the other two organizations; it is run by seasoned political activists and university professors who have been planning a civil disobedience campaign to protest the 2017 election reforms since early 2013. They had planned to start the protest on October 1st (the PRC’s National Day, the closest equivalent China has to the 4th of July), but when the clashes between students and police escalated on Friday (Sept 26th) they decided to abandon their original plan and join the protestors. Had they been in charge of the show from the beginning I am not sure they would have made the same demands—at least in the beginning—that the students did. But they came late to the party and have to deal with what the students’ demands hath wrought. 

There are two important things about these groups we must remember when assessing the protestors’ strategy and the government’s response to it….


Haft of the Spear –We’re Not Breaking Up Anything

Dart Throwing Chimp – Thoughts on the Power of Civil Resistance

Global GuerrillasBlockchain Companies and The Internet of Chains

Sam Harris –Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself? 

War Council –Clear Strategic Thinking About Drones 

Michigan War Studies ReviewExposing the Third Reich: Colonel Truman Smith in Hitler’s Germany

Technology ReviewThe Contrarian’s Guide to Changing the World and Revolution in Progress: The Networked Economy

InformationWeek Internet Of Things Intrigues Intelligence Community

The Chicago Progressive Issue #4

The GuardianAre the Robots about to Rise?

Politico – The Congressman who Spied for Russia

The AtlanticThe Lies of Adolf Eichmann  and How Gangs took over Prisons

The National InterestMachiavelli: Still Shocking after Five Centuries 

The New York Times –  The ancestors of ISIS