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Complexity Strategy – Furthering Military Research and Education

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Annemarie Peen Rodt - Foredragsholder

Bridging science and art, strategy is a core discipline in Military Studies. One of the greatest challenges to strategy is how to understand and handle complexity. The contemporary security context in which militaries engage is complex, just as militaries themselves constitute and represent complex actors. How to handle these different aspects of complexity should be at the forefront of the strategic agenda. Today complexity is widely acknowledged but poorly understood. There is hardly a strategic document out there that does not explicitly point to complexities in the contemporary security arena; however, very few make a concerted effort to explain let alone address that complexity. Gaskarth (2015) is among the few, who argue that complexity can and should be understood. Regular patterns can be identified, explained and predicted. That is the foundation for complexity strategy. This in turn, will enable militaries to better handle the contemporary complexity challenge.

The proposed paper first contextualises and then conceptualises complexity in Military Sciences. The strategic challenge, it identifies, is how to navigate in a complex security environment, where the armed forces have a series of diverse yet interconnected objectives to meet with limited resources. It goes on to suggest that contemporary complexity requires an inter-disciplinary strategic approach that bridges the art and science of Military Studies. Likewise, we should not strive for a single strategy identifying ends, means and ways for every single security challenge. For as Clausewitz (2010) reminds us: we must be concerned with realities not mere abstractions. In other words, strategy must reflect reality. As contemporary security challenges are interconnected, so must be our strategies. Moreover, strategy cannot only respond in the short-term to ad-hoc events, if and when they occur, but must provide longer-term focus for the future. Thus, the challenge for today’s strategists is to carefully consider past, present and future complexity in strategic analysis, so as to avoid making ‘the right decision for circumstances that are about to become history’ (Bower and Christensen, 1995: 53). This is not to undermine the importance of military history or the strategic classics, but rather to stress their importance for strategic foresight.

To this end, the Institute for Strategy at the Royal Danish Defence College is currently developing a new research agenda and teaching portfolio. This will encompass – in the first instance – a module for our Masters in Military Studies and a simultaneous research project upon which this will be based. Peers from the International Society for Military Sciences are invited to join an informal network of scholars and practitioners working with issues related to ‘Strategy and Complexity’. The purpose of this undertaking is to further both research and teaching; to better understand and manage complexity in contemporary strategic study and practice; and ultimately, to ensure that our contribution to knowledge meaningfully prepares the armed forces to think and act strategically in a complex future.
17 nov. 2017

Begivenhed (Konference)

TitelThe International Society of Military Sciences
Forkortet titelISMS
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