Continues from last week’s edition
IN war strategy, it is natural that one focuses on the physical aspect which includes but not limited to enemy’s forces, firepower, mobility and reserves. War is a visceral, emotional, an arena of physical danger, and it takes great effort to rise above this level and ask different questions. In order to establish the centre of gravity even in the hit of a battle, there are a number of questions a strategist must interrogate in order to be able to strategise. These questions may include; what makes the enemy force move? What gives it impetus and endurance? Who guides its actions? What is the underlying source of its strength? Once those questions are quantified, they will help the strategist to map out enabling strategic plans for action. Generally, war is destructive by its nature and so no nation wants to get engaged into a prolonged war. But war can always be prolonged if strategists will fail in their endeavour to establish the centre of gravity. It is only after the centre of gravity was established, destroyed or neutralised that one would cut short what could be a protracted war, for without a centre of gravity, the whole structure will collapse. The enemy may have great generals and strong forces, like Hannibal and his invincible force in Italy, but without a centre of gravity those armies cannot move and have no force or coherence. Hitting the centre of gravity will have devastating psychological effects, throwing the enemy off balance and inducing a creeping panic. The conventional generals look at the physical aspect of the enemy force, focusing on its weaknesses and trying to exploit them. In the contrary, superior strategists look behind and beyond, to the support system. The centre of gravity is where an injury will hurt the most or where the recovery will take long. While identifying and planning to destroy the centre of gravity, it is vital to protect your own high value targets whose loss to the opponent is expected to contribute to substantial degradation of important function and results. However, as a way of identifying a centre of gravity, the best is to select high payoff targets which if successfully dealt with, would contribute substantially to the success of the strategic plans. Let us also look at the clarion call by the President which is about poverty eradication. As a starting point, if we are to eradicate poverty, it is ideal to holistically diagnose the causes of poverty. It is those causes that can be considered as the centres of gravity that the government must deal with. Failure to understand the causes of poverty, the nation will not be able deal with unknowns as they will be in the forms of ghosts. Hypothetically, it is believed that poverty in this country is caused by skewed and imbalancement of wealth distribution. Should that be empirically proven, then skewed and imbalanced of wealth distribution may be considered as centres of gravity. It is no doubt that, balanced wealth distribution shall be a panacea to poverty eradication. It is also important to know that, strategies are not static as they do change with the changing circumstances. A strategy formulated yesterday may not necessarily be applicable today as the situation may have changed. As such, strategies are subject to constant review for adjustments and alignments. That demands a strategist who is very versatile, flexible and adaptable to change. It is natural that human beings are inept to determine when to finish a race despite the fact that there may be a hindrance to achieve a goal. However, from a strategic view point, there is always need to withdraw from the race when it’s realised that the goal is unattainable. Persisting with an endless goal with exhausting human capital and depleting other resources, a wise strategist generally prefers the art of exit when the situation so dictates. A wise strategist finds ways and means to end the problem quick and preserve resources for tomorrow’s needs. That is so because, the more you get engaged into a prolonged problem, the more resources you will need and commit. It is therefore, very critical and important to apply the concept of lightning action in order to get the problem solved quickest and preserve scarce resources for tomorrow’s needs.
Our actions are judged in this world by how well and quick we bring things to an end. Incomplete conclusion can reverberate for years to come and ruin our reputation in the process. In strategy, the art of ending things well is knowing when to stop. Do not go so far that you exhaust yourself or create a situation that embroils you in a problem for too long. Sometimes it is not a question of simply solving a problem, but the way you solve it within what span of time. The height of strategic wisdom is to avoid getting engulfed into an endless problem. When to stop, however, demands well-calculated risks as it will have its consequences. Stopping too soon you will lose whatever you might have gained by advancing. Stopping too late you sacrifice your gains by exhausting yourself and grabbing more than you can handle. Carl von Clausewitz analysed what he called “the culminating point of victory.” To reorganise the culminating point of victory, you must know your own resources and how much you can handle. It is always best to end with energy, flair and on a high note. Since achieving or failing a goal is sometimes inevitable in life, you must master the art of giving up well and strategically. Exiting from a battle and suspending a chase for an endless goal may just be considered as a temporary setback, something to wake you up and teach you a lesson for future strategic actions. Giving up a problem in a strategic fashion would mean knowing the culmination point. In the history of strategies, leaders have been faced with and continue to be faced with a lot of strategic predicaments and dilemmas. That is so because, the success of any strategic effort depended on the ability to know what is wanted and what one can afford. The other predicament and dilemma are how to measure the required strengths and balance it with weaknesses in order to be able to achieve the set goal. The actual problem is because problems do surface in a very hazy form. Diagnosing and translating a problem is yet another dilemma that demands a strategic mind.
Lt Gen (rtd) Ndaitwah is a former Chief of the Defence Force. He is now a part time lecturer at UNAM, and Head of Department and senior lecturer at IUM.
Continues from last week’s edition
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