Well Met: Two Responses to the Six Word Strategic Challenge

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

I received a few responses to the post I wrote about maximizing our “nano cognitive surplus” (AKA doodling time during long-winded briefings). I proposed answering the question “Why war?” using only six words…here are a couple of the best responses:

*From Major Drew Betson:

“Values, Interests, Strategic Position Threatened? War.”

*Another came via email from First Lieutenant Sarah Grant – it was so good that I asked her permission to post in it’s entirety – which is what follows:

Sir,

A slight departure from thinking about the causes for which we go to war, to the mental/emotional tipping point that makes war palatable. Hopefully it still fits in the context of the thought experiment you proposed.

In response to the challenge of answering “Why war?” in six words, I propose the following, taken from the cheer originated by my alma mater and recently made famous by fans of the U.S. World Cup team: “I believe that we will win.”

What ultimately enables us psychologically to commit to war is a resolute belief that victory and the achievement of our goals is, somehow, a sure thing. Feasibility of success is a consideration in most “road to war” paradigms, from Just War Theory to the Powell Doctrine, but we don’t go to war when victory is only possible. The risks and costs of war are so severe that we only proceed with violence when we feel certain of eventual success. An absolute sense of self-assuredness is, in that sense, the tipping point between everything-other-than-war and war.

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