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Strategic Assessment in War

Strategic Assessment in War

Scott Sigmund Gartner
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Strategic Assessment in War
    Book Description:

    How do military organizations assess strategic policy in war? In this book Scott Gartner develops a theory to explain how military and government leaders evaluate wartime performance, how much they change strategies in response to this evaluation, and why they are frequently at odds when discussing the success or failure of strategic performance.Blending history, decision theory, and mathematical modeling, Gartner argues that military personnel do reevaluate their strategies and that they measure the performance of a strategy through quantitative, "dominant" indicators. But different actors within a government use different indicators of success: some will see the strategy as succeeding when others see it as failing because of their different dominant indicators. Gartner tests his argument with three case studies: the British shift to convoys in World War I following the German imposition of unrestricted submarine warfare; the lack of change in British naval policy in the Battle of the Atlantic following the German introduction of Wolf Packs in World War II; and the American decision to deescalate in Vietnam after the Tet Offensive. He also tests his approach in a nonwar situation, analyzing the Carter Administration's decision to launch the hostage rescue attempt. In each case, his dominant indicator model better predicts the observed behavior than either a standard-organization or an action-reaction approach.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16096-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Strategy and Organization
    (pp. 1-25)

    During World War I, the careers of British infantry officers whose units suffered low casualties were ruined because they were seen as lacking the essentialesprit de corps.The fewer of their men who died, the worse the unit was doing: “A low casualty rate was taken as evidence that a regiment was shirking, and also led to dismissals.”¹ If this seems like a rare phenomenon that was brought about by the unusually brutal and inane fighting of World War I, consider the following discussion between Generals Orlando Ward and George S. Patton during World War II, as described by...

  5. Chapter 2 The Dominant Indicator Approach
    (pp. 26-61)

    The purpose of this analysis is to create a theory of decision making that can help us understand better how organizations assess strategies in war, as well as provide some general insights into how organizations evaluate their implemented policies. Like others who apply organization theory to military politics (Posen, Snyder, and Van Evera), I am interested in understanding the factors that influence organizations’ decisions.¹ But unlike these authors, I do not assume that organizational incentives facilitate leaders’ misperceptions. Instead, I claim that the modern battlefield produces too much information for individuals or organizations to assess fully. So they reduce the...

  6. Chapter 3 British Antisubmarine Decision Making in World War I
    (pp. 62-90)

    The major naval threat to Great Britain in both world wars resulted from German U-boat attacks on British and Allied merchant ships. The U-boat attacks killed merchant marines and destroyed food, raw materials, and vital war supplies and damaged or sank the ships. During World War I, a serious debate developed in Great Britain between military and civilian leaders over how to respond to the U-boat threat.

    Both civilian and naval decision makers viewed two main strategies as potential responses to the U-boat problem: convoy and sea patrol.¹ In a convoy strategy, naval escorts accompany merchant ships in order to...

  7. Chapter 4 British Antisubmarine Decision Making in World War II
    (pp. 91-116)

    Unlike World War I, in which the British were never forced off the European continent, the British lacked both a presence on the continent and a major European ally during much of World War II. Without supplies from the United States and the Western Hemisphere, the British were unable to feed themselves, let alone beat off the planned German invasion of their islands (code-named Operation Sea Lion).¹ The transportation of supplies by sea was thus even more critical to Great Britain during World War II than during World War I. Recognizing the country’s dependence on merchant shipping, the Nazis directed...

  8. Chapter 5 U.S. Ground Strategy in the Vietnam War
    (pp. 117-146)

    In spite of the vast amounts written on the Vietnam War, there are surprisingly few analyses that apply generalizable models to decision makers’ strategic choices and assessments.¹ In particular, there are hardly any causal analyses of the strategic evaluations made by military and civilian decision makers during the U.S. ground war in South Vietnam. Without a general approach, it is difficult to determine which characteristics were unique to the Vietnam War and which were common to other wars. In addition, a causal analysis can help determine which of the many factors described by historians contributed most toward influencing U.S. behavior....

  9. Chapter 6 Disagreement During the Vietnam War and the Hostage Rescue Attempt in Iran
    (pp. 147-162)

    Up to this point I have examined how the different lenses employed by different kinds of organizations can affect their evaluations of policy performance. Leaders do not have to come from different kinds of organizations, however, to employ separate lenses. Sometimes actors from similar kinds of organizations rely on different dominant indicators and reach fundamentally dissimilar evaluations of strategic performance. Two military organizations or two civilian organizations from the same country may make contradictory assessments based on common experiences.

    In this chapter, I examine two cases. First, to illustrate how conflicts develop between similar types of organizations, I build on...

  10. Chapter 7 Decision Making in War
    (pp. 163-178)

    The battlefield provides leaders with information that helps them assess their strategies. We can think of strategy as a policy implemented by organizations to pursue desired goals. Leaders view the world through their organizations’ lenses and thus can reach conflicting policy assessments from common experiences. A critical element in an organization’s lens is the set of quantitative indicators on which it relies—its dominant indicators. By looking at sudden and dramatic changes in an organization’s dominant indicators, we can capture the influence of environmental changes on decision makers’ policy assessments, a critical factor in policy change. The model combines rational...

  11. Appendix A: World War I Data
    (pp. 179-182)
  12. Appendix B: World War II Data
    (pp. 183-190)
  13. Appendix C: Vietnam War Data
    (pp. 191-197)
  14. Appendix D: President Carter’s Approval Rating
    (pp. 198-198)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 199-222)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-234)
  17. Index
    (pp. 235-248)