The strategic vs a-strategic opposition derives from “The US Needs to Re-Discover the Concept of Strategy,” a post by “seydlitz89,” though the figure “a/strategy” does – obviously, possibly somewhat serendipitously, possibly according to some inner necessity – happen to fit within my own recently heightened focus on such figures – a/theism, un/reason, and so on. I may return at some point to the post, which I found more interesting than my necessarily brief, summary comments may suggest: I don’t have the time to be more dialectical, less oppositional.
For now, I’ll just record and briefly annotate my two comments at zenpundit.com, where seydlitz89’s post was reviewed. My first brief comment follows below – the quoted and bolded words are from seydlitz89’s description of “a-strategic” action:
I’d like to see an example of a successful US embrace of strategy that was both effective and not “organized violence linked with ideological assumptions regarding the market system as well as US exceptionalism.” My strong suspicion is that in each major instance or in each instance carefully defined, the two notions of “strategy” and “a-strategic action” (or spontaneity) will tend to converge.
seydlitz89 referred in a reply comment to “two examples” in his post, though I disagree that they clearly support his thinking, or that either was not meaningfully “linked” to the specified “ideological assumptions.” Comment #2:
The “two examples” would appear to be the Cold War and the First Gulf War.
These are, to say the least, very unlike “wars.” The latter more conventionally war-like war can even be seen as an aftershock of the resolution of the first, which was a much broader historical event that was very much not a war like the wars of the directly preceding era going back at least to Clausewitz: As much a global-historical developmental process as a “war,” beyond the Clausewitizian horizon, largely defined and sustained precisely by a clash of “ideological assumptions,” especially ones regarding the “market system” and US exceptionalism or exceptionality properly understood.
The Cold War did also entail a rather substantial amount of organized violence on both sides, along with somewhat credible threats to destroy civilization or perhaps the world as we knew it, but it remains questionable whether what really “won” that “war” would qualify as more strategic or “a-strategic” under the definitions advanced. Perhaps it was either both at once or an illustration of the untenability of the opposition in relation to the United States in particular – which is what I meant to indicate by proposing a very exceptional convergence, producing a quandary for would-be strategists of all types, who would naturally see the insusceptibility of the US predicament in different epochs to inappropriate strategic concepts as a collapse.
As for the First Gulf War, the name already points to the problems defining it as a “success.” It was in many ways a predicate for the “collapse” of the ’00s: The declared victory contributed to hubris about the indomitability of American arms and the competence of American leadership, reinforcing and being reinforced by Cold War triumphalism and the notion of a unipolar world or New World Order. At the same time, the actual ambiguities of the result included an unresolved and de-stabilizing as well as morally-politically unsupportable situation, requiring continual military involvement and intermittent relatively minor interventions, providing among other things a non-incidental pretext for the 9/11 attacks, and an obvious if deceptive strategic problem for anyone intending to prosecute a “war on terror” to solve – in the form of a sequel to an in multiple senses unfinished war.
Of course, you can have a strategy to remain the only superpower on Earth. The question is whether pursuit of that strategy or defensive maintenance of such a successfully implemented and indeed difficult to frustrate grand strategy, a kind of privilege/responsibility [“burden” might have been better] of the world-historical power, yields useful lesser or lower level strategic concepts.
The last paragraph refers to a claim – the superpower-strategy claim – from seydlitz89’s post, quoted by zenpundit (Mark Safranski), and also noted by another commenter. Needless to say, at least for regular readers of this blog, I’ve gone over this territory many times before, but I hope at some point to be able to work out the logic further, in a longer more “synthetic” post on strategy that I never have gotten around to finishing and publishing.