WAR IS MY BUSINESS
Warriors & Citizens:
American Views of our Military
Warriors & Citizens:
American Views of our Military
GEN James (Jim) Mattis & Kori N Schake
Hoover Institution Press
Kindle, Hardback (360 pgs)
Synopsis from Author
Synopsis from Author
A diverse group of contributors offer different perspectives on whether or not the different experiences of our military and the broader society amounts to a "gap"—and if the American public is losing connection to its military. They analyze extensive polling information to identify those gaps between civilian and military attitudes on issues central to the military profession and the professionalism of our military, determine which if any of these gaps are problematic for sustaining the traditionally strong bonds between the American military and its broader public, analyze whether any problematic gaps are amenable to remediation by policy means, and assess potential solutions. The contributors also explore public disengagement and the effect of high levels of public support for the military combined with very low levels of trust in elected political leaders—both recurring themes in their research. And they reflect on whether American society is becoming so divorced from the requirements for success on the battlefield that not only will we fail to comprehend our military, but we also will be unwilling to endure a military so constituted to protect us. Contributors: Rosa Brooks, Matthew Colford, Thomas Donnelly, Peter Feaver, Jim Golby, Jim Hake, Tod Lindberg, Mackubin Thomas Owens, Cody Poplin, Nadia Schadlow, A. J. Sugarman, Lindsay Cohn Warrior, Benjamin Wittes
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"The American public may know little about the military, but we recognize that it is the only reasonably well-functioning public institution we have these days. We do not trust Congress, and the budgets of civilian foreign policy agencies have taken a beating, along with their capabilities. Faced with problems, we send in the troops - after all, who else can we send? Unlike any other part of the government, the U.S. military can be relied on to go where it is told and do what it is asked - or die trying."
The previous quote by Rosa Brooks, in her chapter "Civil-Military Paradoxes," underlies a serious problem within the United States. The problem is that the American people have such great trust in our military and so little trust in other federal institutions, that the military is the go-to instrument for many foreign policy concerns. It isn't a bad thing that our people have put their faith in our efforts, but - to paraphrase a well-known allegory - when your most reliable and useful tool is the military, all your problems are treated like battles.
What this book offers to the general public is an understanding of the potential dangers of being ignorant about the ways and means of our nation's military. For businesses, this book can offer a glimpse into problems that could arise when you rely too much on one characteristic of your business. One department that has always performed so reliably that you redirect funding to the detriment of others. You will find an allegory for failing to properly get your entire organization or customer-base on board with a decision as well as the problems that can arise when you try to influence the internal policies and procedures of a uniquely different department. You will also find the danger of entitlement that star performers and their departments may have - all at the expense of the organization's long-term goals. Before we discuss examples for business any further, as usual, let's look at the contents of this book.
Summary of Book from War Is My Business
Summary of Book from War Is My Business
Warriors & Citizens: American Views of our Military is a collection of focused assessments of survey data that was implemented to determine how well the American population understood civil-military affairs. The surveys in question - the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (TISS) survey of 1998 and the YouGov survey of 2013 - asked questions related to how well participants understood military life and its requirements; the relations between the military, the government, and the public; and various hypothetical situations in order to assess their perception of the civil-military dynamic. The bottom line determined by these surveys, and reflected in this book, is that the American people have great trust in the military as an institution, but don't truly understand how it functions. To quote General James Mattis and Kori Schake, both editors and contributors to this book, in the first chapter called "A Great Divergence" they state,
“While pessimism Americans have about the policies being pursued stokes support for stronger actions, the public’s ignorance about military issues precludes them from developing stable views on the complex issues of current conflicts where military operations are tightly integrated with issues more often associated with law enforcement and justice. [Some contributing authors] worry that this combination will lead to ineffectual counterterrorism policies, policies that symbolize toughness without achieving lasting effects, unless political leaders engage the public more substantively.”
For the many contributors to this book, they have all identified some issues resulting from this gap. Some are minor, inconsequential issues while others are major and create problems for our security. Some are present, while others are potentialities. From these writings, however, Mattis and Schake mention three particular issues coming from the divide - there are more, but we will focus on the small set of concerns. These following three issues are of concern for our military and, therefore, our nation. Later on, I will discuss why these same issues can be found in businesses - though to a lesser degree in severity - but first, the problems as they apply to civil-military relations.
Military as Spokesman of Dictated Policy
The U.S. military operates under objective civilian-control by the government. What this means is that while the military is afforded considerable autonomy to develop its own requirements - DOTMLPF. They are still ultimately under the control of our elected president and their appointed representatives. Every branch has a civilian secretary, and the whole Defense Department is headed by a civilian - the Secretary of Defense. The president - who dual-hats as the commander-in-chief - has the final say, and as long as their orders are lawful, the military will execute. Congress, additionally, can declare the military's budget, conduct inspections, and raise and maintain the Services. Control, in a sense, is divided between these two – the executive and legislative branches of government – and the military is compelled by professionalism and law to subordinate itself.
The president is elected. Congresspersons are elected. Ideally, they are supposed to carry out the will of the people - as nebulous as that concept may be - as their representatives. As the civil-military divide increases, you have an electorate that doesn't know the requirements of their nation's security and the needs of the military that provides it. The civilian leaders of the executive and legislative branches as well suffer from this divide as more now than ever, they have chosen to focus predominantly on domestic affairs. They themselves have become ignorant of military affairs, and this has created a lack of confidence in their abilities in the eyes of the public. As a result, they dictate general policies for the military to carry out without an effective understanding of the long-term effects of those policies on military readiness. They then require the military's spokesmen to support those policies and leverage the military's good image to gain the people's placid acceptance.
“Respect for the American military is widespread, but the public’s knowledge of the military is shallow… It contributes to strategic incoherence, encouraging politicians to consider their strategic choices hemmed in by public opposition and to shift responsibility for winning policy argument onto the military.”
Difficulty in Sustaining the War Effort
Conflicts are as diverse as business endeavors. There are different desired ends, unique operational and mission requirements, and these together can impact what is required to achieve those ends. Civilian political leaders have to balance both domestic and foreign policy requirements, while the military leaders provide their uncensored and honest assessments of military realities. In our history, often military leaders provided estimates for military forces necessary for campaign victories that were too high for those civilian leaders to accept. They would have to curtail the military's numbers, at the detriment to the success of operations.
For civilian leaders and the public that elects them, there is danger in failing to understand the nature of wartime operations and the uncertainty that it creates. Battles can be relatively easy to plan for desired effects. Still, the campaigns necessary to shape an environment, to shape a war, are so complex that other than resources, the most crucial aspect is time. Warfare is a "whole of government" activity, and while the military can be relied on to carry on the fight indefinitely we can't guarantee the civilian government and the electorate can do so as well. Failure to keep the people engaged falls on the shoulders of civilian leaders.
“Political leaders just are not expending the effort to change attitudes; they are instead decrying their lack of public support to justify inaction. But by expending political capital to engage and educate the public, political leaders could create larger decision space: they could expand their strategic options by fostering an educated public and choosing strategically sound courses of action that would draw and sustain public support.”
But military leaders - and military members as a whole - can help support this by educating the populous of the harsh realities of conflict and the uncertainty of warfare. Hopefully, War Is My Business helps in this effort.
Imposing Social Policies to the Detriment of Military Capabilities
All organizations have a purpose for their existence. Businesses seek to achieve their objectives through commerce, trade, etc., and the military organization seeks to achieve its objectives through force or threat of force. All seek to influence others and shape their environments for their benefit, and while the ways and means may appear different, this premise underlies all human activities. The ways and means are essential; however, and were tailored specifically to influence and shape their people and their environments. If you were to change the characteristics of the ways and means of armed conflict then you inherently change how effects are produced.
Some changes to the policies imposed on the military can have uncertain effects on how we conduct operations and achieve objectives on a battlefield. Whether those changes have positive or negative outcomes, we can't be sure until they are put to the test; in daily garrison operations; in field training exercises; and in combat. Change creates uncertainty, and warfare already carries great amounts of uncertainty. Most of the time, the military operates on calculated risks, but with increased uncertainty, it becomes much more difficult to calculate that risk and achieve objectives. Since lives are literally at peril, and the security of the nation is in danger, the military is naturally conservative when it comes to change. Too many changes, or too big a change, too quickly is seen as dangerous and foolhardy. If you ever thought the military was slow to change its ways and systems, now you know why.
“Those people making decisions about military issues are generally in line with public attitudes, but those elites who shape the cultural environment create pressure on politicians to make choices not in line with the traditional values of military culture or the attitudes of the general public… To the extent that sustaining a military is fundamental to sustaining the American Experiment, decisions made for nonmilitary reasons and against military advice are potentially reckless.”
Warriors & Citizens for Business
Warriors & Citizens for Business
Putting on our business suits, we can identify why those previous three issues that Mattis and Schake brought up can also be found in the business world.
We have three players:
- The political leaders that dictate policy, but suffer from a lack of trust and faith in their capabilities from the general public.
- The military is subordinate to the politicians and must execute their dictates (if legal and ethical), but benefits from great trust and faith from the general public.
- And the general public itself, who trusts the military and distrusts politicians, but doesn't really understand the civil-military dynamic and what is required to make military organizations function effectively.
Treating these players as surrogates in the business world we can use these scenarios:
- We can substitute the politicians for business owners, C-Level executives, or anyone involved in the decision and policy-making authority within that business.
- The military can be substituted for the various departments of that business: sales, marketing, operations, logistics, research & development, etc., and the department manager and team leaders being those senior military leaders who hold great influence and control over their people, but merely execute policy. They can help shape company policy, but ultimately they will still perform if told to do so.
- Finally, the general public can be changed out for those that have a vested interest in the performance of the company, who have considerable sway as a group, but may not be aware of the daily operational and market requirements that are familiar to the other two. These can be the customer-base, the employees, stakeholders, and shareholders - especially the vast amount of shareholders involved in publicly traded companies.
So in the first issue, we are seeing that our senior leaders are identifying a worrying trend were political leaders can institute change upon the military while making the military justify that change to the general public. They are leveraging the trust and faith of a subordinate to do what they find difficult - convincing the people of policy and justify its implementation. To get the masses to comply or accept a policy that they themselves may have reservations about, but whose open criticism or shirking of implementation would be considered insubordination. Imagine a chief operations officer, unpopular among the corporate body, leveraging the respect of a trusted manager to facilitate change amongst their personnel. The manager cannot disagree with the policy or voice any concern; they simply must extol the value of the policy change or lose their job. At this point, you may see middle-management and employees – those who now the ramifications of a particularly poor policy decision – engage in some form of malicious compliance. This isn’t going to help the business of course.
In the second issue, we have a problem with developing a shared understanding of what is required to achieve desired ends. As Clausewitz said, "Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult," In this quote, what he alludes to is that in the complex environment of warfare, a simple task will not necessarily produce the desired result given the variable nature of that environment. He uses the imagery of walking through water to emphasize this - in that walking is easy, but with the resistance of the water it becomes much more difficult. In warfare, there are many known and unknown variables in the environment that make a simple task more complex in its results. But I would say that this may be the case for all of life's endeavors. Systems and processes may appear to be complicated when viewed as a whole by the untrained eye, but they are all merely a collection of many simple tasks undertaken in a specific order.
There are many variables present in a market, and they all can have an impact on the execution of a business plan or a product launch. For the untrained individual, they may see a simple cause and effect relationship - if you want profits, then increase revenue and decrease expenses - but there is more behind the execution of a plan. Second and third-order effects - the effects that are subsequent to the first effect you planned - can impact your calculations and can cause a delay in the achievement of particular objectives. The market isn't static. It is affected by local, national, and international events that put its variables in a constant state of flux. Your employees, managers, customers, shareholders, and competitors will each impact the nature of these variables. They are not static inputs that you can predict with one-hundred percent certainty.
As a result, we may plan for the execution of a course of action for a business to last a certain amount of time, but we can't guarantee it due to the non-static nature in which we operate. Those that know this it be true - the executors of plans and policies - must communicate this to the public and leadership. They may plan for a quick resolution of a problem or implementation of a policy, but they know that there is always uncertainty at play and must communicate this truth. Not being able to explain why things may take longer than anticipated will cause the people not directly involved to become strained and unable to sustain the time and capital it may truly take to achieve those ends.
In the third issue, we have a situation in which a subordinate organization is compelled to change its ways at the behest of its superior. It isn't that the change is necessarily wrong in the general sense, but it may be unwise given the unique operational variables for that subordinate. While I may be tempted to use a comparison by saying - for businesses - what works in New York won't necessarily work in Texas, or what works in a metropolitan city won't necessarily work in rural America. This concern, however, isn't about comparisons between similar organizations; it is about forcing social changes without acknowledging these unique variables.
We must remember that the institutions, conventions, and organizations we form - be it a business or battalion - are shaped in such a way that allows them to influence and shape others toward a desired end. Both of them shape and influence in different ways using different means. Their differences are based on how variables impact the cause and effect relationship between the means employed and the ways they are used - creating different ends based on those variables. Or I should say, military and business planners will determine what ends are required for success, look at the variables present, and shift the implementation of ways and means accordingly. The problem occurring here is that superiors, without concern for the unique operational variables placed upon a subordinate - institute change for change's sake alone, and not for any perceived benefit to achieving desired ends.
Retired Marine General John F. Kelly put forth the idea that every change should be judged on whether it improves lethality on a battlefield.
"So if you look at anything we are contemplating doing, does it make us more lethal? If the answer to that is yes, then do it. If the answer to that is no, clearly don't do it. If the answer to that is, it shouldn't hurt, I would suggest that we shouldn't do it because it might hurt."
This sentiment can be carried forward to business. For marketing, will a change improve target audience reach and increase revenues over expenditures? For logistics, does a change increase throughput, reduce shipping errors, or improve inventory management? For any department, does a change improve the execution of its tasks and help achieve desired ends more effectively? If the answer is "no," then you must question the logic of change, and provide justification to oppose it.
The primary lesson that all of the authors - published within this book and emphasized by General James Mattis and Kori Schake - is that with a greater shared understanding of how the military operates - the reasons for why it does what it does - we will see a more engaged electorate and more competent elected leaders. In the business world, we know the dangers involved when executives don't understand the institutions and conventions of those they lead. They blame the sales department for decreased revenue while failing to see variable market conditions. They blamed manufacturing for poor quality control when it was the leadership that contracted the production of a sub-component to a supplier with a history of subpar performance. They may blame R&D for failing to develop a new successful product line when it was the executives that forced them to operate within restrictive parameters. So in these instances, we see a potential failure from both sides - a failure of the superior to understand the nature of the subordinate, and a failure of the subordinate to educate the superior. This is the value we will derive when we read this book.
Warriors & Citizens: American Views of our Military on the surface is an interpretation of survey data. This data helps us understand to what degree there is a familiarity gap between the military, the government, and the people. At its heart, however, is a series of assessments that warn the reader of the dangers of not having a shared understanding — a valuable read for military and government personnel. If you can appreciate the commonalities, a useful read for anyone involved in a business organization with a complex and departmentalized structure. Give it a buy if this applies to you!