Category Archives: Grand Strategy

Strategy: An Art or a Science?

There are different levels of strategy. If we were to give a very broad definition though on what is strategy, we would say that strategy is the use of means for the achievement of ends. If we are talking about military strategy then we are talking about the use of military means for the accomplishment of the end of war. If we are talking about a state’s or coalition of states’ grand strategy, then, as Liddell Hart put it, we are talking about the use of all available means – including the military – to accomplish an end.
Given all the above, generally speaking, the way each strategist uses the available means in given situations differs and is not determined by certain laws. To paraphrase Clausewitz, the way a strategy is created and the way means are used, depends on the “genius” and “ability” of the leadership or the commander. Therefore, strategy cannot be explained as positive science, but rather as an art, since it has to be flexible and adaptable based on the creativity (art) of the strategist.
Nonetheless there have been people who disagreed with this notion like Bernard Brodie and Jomini who argued that a more scientific/systematic methodological approach has to be adopted for the better understanding of strategy and also the creation of certain strategy rules that could solve – according to Brodie – practical problems. However, both the above persons revised their views to a certain extent: Brodie was surprised by the lack of ‘political sense’ in the scientific strategic analyses and Jomini, even though he never clearly acknowledged it, he later tented to agree with Clausewitz’s explanation.
After all, strategy is created to manage certain political or military situations and ultimately war. Based on the fact that war – as every other political situation – is a social activity, and given that social activities are unbelievably complicated due to the different types of people involved in them, then the formation of a strategy cannot be simple or easy. Furthermore, because of this complexity, we have to admit that the axiom suggesting that strategy is more of an art than a science is oversimplified. Theoretical or even philosophical concepts contain much more than a mere definition no matter how wide or complicate it is. Thus, especially considering the different levels of strategy (e.g. operational level, national level, and grand strategic level), strategy contains both scientific and artistic/creative parameters. If we are talking for example about the operational level then scientific methods and innovation could play an important role in the formation of strategy.
Limiting the concept of strategy in one word like “art” or “science”, or even in both, is methodologically wrong; maybe that is why experts like Jomini and Brodie reconsidered their ideas and also why Clausewitz concluded that art and science cannot be clearly distinguished. I would argue that they rather co-exist in different analogies and degrees according to the given situation.
Conclusively, as mentioned earlier, if we were to strictly characterise strategy as an “art” or a “science”, it would have to be “art”. That is not only because of what has been already mentioned, but also because of the ability and creativity that is needed to face the constant change of data in such situations due to the “friction”, or just due to the fact that social activities are too complex. Science, although creative in many cases, at times of fluidity, rapid developments and emotional upheaval is inflexible.

Turkey’s Grand Unknown Strategy

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Barak Obama

Turkey’s actions and foreign policy are evidence of a well shaped long-term geopolitical strategy. Analysing the facts brings us to the understanding that Turkey’s foreign policy objectives extend further than it seems.
Overall, Turkey has aligned itself towards the West. It is an ally of NATO and the U.S, it seeks E.U membership, its government strives for democratization and westernization with a very expanded diplomatic agenda. On a regional level, it follows a peaceful ‘zero problems’ policy with its neighbours, in addition to becoming an energy transportation hub. Through these strategies the country seems to want to emerge as a regional superpower with strategic weight to the West.
Although the above illustration of Turkey is, to a great extent, valid, it is relatively simplified compared to reality. Ankara’s ambitions seem to be much greater. Although its relations with the U.S. remain largely stable, Ankara does not hesitate to challenge them by collaborating with Iran and Russia in the economic and energy/nuclear field. Furthermore, Erdogan’s recent statements on the Palestinian problem conflict show a hostile attitude towards Turkey’s traditional ally, Israel. This action primarily aims to approach the Arab-Islamic states using Islamic solidarism and also to internationally “alienate” Israel.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has released provocative statements on the importance of Turkey to the E.U. and also on the fact that Turkey does not need the E.U. to emerge as a major strategic power which indicate the balanced diplomatic rhetoric of Ankara.
Regarding the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, Turkey is doing everything it can to prevent the control – through mutual agreements and the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zones – of underwater energy resources from Cyprus, Greece, Israel and Egypt. Finally, regarding the Cyprus Conflict, although Turkey seems to want a solution, it keeps delaying it seeking more concessions or new parameters that would allow it to handle not only the North but also the South marine part of the island. However this does not seem to be easy because of the increased diplomatic relations of Nicosia with its neighbours.

A clear shift
The result of the above equation, which includes many other summands, is clearly indicative of an emerging Turkey spreading its “tentacles” in every direction. Turkey aims to play not only a regional but also a global role. Its changing relations with Israel, the provocative attitude towards the U.S., NATO and the EU, the prospect for its own nuclear program, its cooperation with Iran and Russia and the closer relations with the Arab-Muslim world show a gradual but clear shift of foreign policy towards a more autonomous, stronger and global role. It should be noted, however, that although this scenario is realistic, is not a near future scenario.

Means to an End
An important point to be made is that Turkey has currently an absolute need for the millions of Euros of EU funding it receives for its development and in order to achieve its objectives. In this light, Ankara appears to be using the EU for its own gain but at the same time is not showing the necessary political will to properly entering it. Let us not forget that while in past years Turkish public opinion was in favour of joining the EU, this has now changed dramatically. Erdogan’s government cannot just disregard this fact because the Turkish public opinion has always been a key factor in Turkish foreign policy and because, now more than ever, AKP (Erdogan’s party) needs the support of the people in the upcoming elections. Furthermore, Ankara seems to be using its position in the NATO alliance to seek funding and the placement of weapons facilities in its territory which is one of the reasons why Turkey still keeps close relations with the US and NATO.

Conclusion: Realistic but not so easy
To conclude, it is clear that Ankara’s ambitions extend beyond the borders of the Middle East and the greater Mediterranean region. The emergence of Turkey as a global power is visible and its efforts for a global and regional Islamic cooperation under the Turkish umbrella is not impossible to be materialised. To fulfil its goals mobilizes all means available; exploits all the resources; takes advantage of all of its allies and creates policies with long-term results. However, Turkey has still a long way to go and plenty of time to get there. We should not forget that a lot of things might happen during this course, given the fact that we live in a constantly changing local, regional and international system.

Zenonas Tziarras
Posted on on December 10, 2010