As part of IDSS’ 25th anniversary celebrations and in conjunction with the 2021 Asia-Pacific Programme for Senior Military Officers (APPSMO), Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London, delivered the APPSMO 2021 Distinguished Lecture on 6 October 2021. The lecture was on the topic of “Strategy and Command in an Age of Extreme Uncertainty”.
Strategy, Professor Sir Lawrence argued, is a relationship between policy and the politics of a country on one hand, and the exercise of military power on the other; the study of strategy is, in other words, the study of civil-military relations. The dominant model of the civil-military relationship comes from the American political scientist Samuel Huntington. It is a model where the military respected the civilian role in setting political objectives, in return for civilians respecting the professional autonomy of the military when it came to the conduct of operations. It is a model that reflects the character of wars that the US had faced in the 20th century.
However, the character of wars in the 21st century has — at least from the experiences of military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo — shifted significantly from the wars that informed the Huntington model. From the geopolitical shifts that have since taken place — notably, the emergence of China as a near-peer competitor to the US — to the increasing influence of information and communications technologies, wars in the 21st century have been, and will continue to be, subtly but importantly different from their historical precedents. What is increasingly needed is a new way to organise the relationship between policy makers and their military organisations, where there is greater mutual recognition of one another’s competencies and the creation of a new modus vivendi between these actors.
Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel: