One senior Obama administration official described the difficulty of trying to develop a coherent strategy during a period of extreme tumult.
“We’re trying to beat ISIL — and there are complications,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We have a partner who is collapsing in Yemen and we’re trying to support that. And we’re trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Is this all part of some grand strategy? Unfortunately, the world gets a vote.”
If I had said something that incoherent, I’d have kept my name off the record, too. But really, you can’t blame some “senior” official for incoherence — because in this case incoherence starts at the top.
In any case, this story perfectly illustrates an Administration whose thinking doesn’t even rise to the level of amateur. Strategy isn’t something you come up with on the fly to deal with a deteriorating situation; strategy is your grand design — not the little details — for creating the situation you desire. Operations are how to put your strategy into practice, and tactics are the small-scale methods used in your operations.
Barack Obama was quoted saying, “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” And yet the Bestest Guy Ever at Everything somehow sits at the head of an Administration which doesn’t know the difference between strategy and tactics, then marvels when it can’t formulate a strategy for dealing with the chaos resulting from its failure to formulate a strategy.
Unless of course chaos is Obama’s grand design. In which case: Mission accomplished.