1st Edition

Military Strategy as Public Discourse
America's war in Afghanistan

ISBN 9780415704236
Published November 15, 2013 by Routledge
232 Pages

USD $180.00

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Book Description

This book presents the current history of United States military strategy in Afghanistan as an example of dysfunctional policy discourse among the nation’s elites.

The legitimacy of a country’s military strategy can become a subject of intense public debate and doubt, especially in prolonged conflicts. Arguments typically hinge on disagreements about the values at stake, the consequences of action or inaction, and the authority of those responsible for the plan. As the US entered its second decade at war in Afghanistan, political and military leaders struggled to explain the ends and means of their strategy through internal policy debates, the promotion of counterinsurgency doctrine, and day-to-day accounts of the war’s progress.

Military Strategy as Public Discourse considers recent US strategy in Afghanistan as a form of valid and equitable public discussion among those with the ability to affect outcomes. The work examines the dominant forms of discourse used by the various groups of elites who make and execute strategy, and considers how representations of these forms of discourse in news media shapes elite understanding of the purpose of US efforts in wars of choice. The book proposes how policy-makers should address the problems of public discourse on war, which tends to exclude or marginalize relevant elites and focus on narrow questions of validity.

This book will be of much interest to students of strategic studies, US foreign policy, and security studies in general.

Table of Contents

Preface  1. Introduction: Military Strategy as Public Discourse  2. Prolonged Indecision, Not Victory: Fundamentals of Strategic Discourse  3. Boxed In: Policy Discussions of US Strategy in Afghanistan, 2009  4. Counterinsurgency Redux: Doctrine as Public Discourse  5. Victims and Villains: Conflicting Identities in Afghanistan’s War Stories  6. Tell Me How This Ends: Achieving Public Discourse on Military Strategy  7. Conclusion: Authority Without Compulsion

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Tadd Sholtis is a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force and has a PhD in Military Strategy from the Air University.


"Tadd Sholtis has written a compelling book that challenges foreign policymakers to take a new approach to military strategy. Sholtis makes the provocative argument that in a globalized media age, where controlling the message environment is difficult to nearly impossible, the strategic process needs to be more public from its earliest stages and throughout a military engagement. Using the U.S. war in Afghanistan as an often depressing but illuminating example, Sholtis shows how traditional models of developing military strategy shrouded in secrecy and engaged in by small circles of policymakers encouraged groupthink, limited the range of options considered, and ultimately made the strategic decisions not only less accountable but less effective. This is an important book for those who study and engage in foreign policymaking."--Sean Aday, George Washington University, USA.