Strategy vs. Execution

STRATEGY vs. EXECUTION….Dan Drezner asks:

Which is better: a foreign policy with a clearly articulated grand strategy but a f#$%ed-up policy process, or a foreign policy with no articulated grand strategy but a superior policy process?

In real life, it turns out that there are quite a few workable strategies, and any one of them has the potential to work out OK. Very few of them are brilliant, whether they are clearly articulated or not.

However, one aspect of minimally competent execution is that it takes into account facts on the ground: people who are obsessed with their strategy to the exclusion of all else are almost 100% likely to fail. These are the kind of people who end up haranguing crowds at Speakers Corner on Sunday mornings.

Bush and Kerry both have defensible foreign policy strategies. Bush, however, is so convinced of the righteousness of his strategy that he considers it a positive virtue not to judge it against reality. When the tide comes in despite his entreaties not to, he’s then forced into panicky and ill-considered action.

It’s unlikely that Kerry will be a brilliant foreign policy president. But since Bush’s clearly articulated strategy is exactly that ? clearly articulated and nothing else ? it’s hard to see how anyone would find it preferable.