Far horizons be damned

Did strategy die in the 1990’s?

That’s too big a question for a Friday morning. But here’s a disturbing thought.

While business schools and corporate visionaries embraced the study of strategy, some people in government did not.

Two samples of the age: Sandy Berger, President Clinton’s national security advisor, claimed that he preferred to ”worry about today today and tomorrow tomorrow.” More disturbingly, as John Lewis Gaddis observes:

It was a bad sign when President Clinton assured an aide in 1994 that Roosevelt and Truman had gotten along fine without grand strategies. They’d just made it up as they went along, and he didn’t see why he couldn’t do the same.

The answer was 78 days of a bombing campaign in Serbia that was supposed to be quick and decisive, that strained and threatened NATO when it was supposed to vindicate it, and confusion over ground forces and aims.

This is an important point, because it suggests that the erosion of rigorous thinking about power and national interest did not begin and end with the Bush II Administration and its Iraq catastrophe, its torture disgrace, and its fiscal irresponsibility. It was there in less spectacular form before, in the relative prosperity of the Clinton years, and it may be with us still.

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