Military Strategy Magazine - Volume 8, Issue 1

Volume 8, Issue 1, Summer 2022 6 Left. In contrast to liberal-democratic notions of the individual self and its autonomy, Maoist thought devotes considerable attention to addressing how to break down the barriers between the interior and external worlds in a manner that undermines established Western understandings of politics to a degree often overlooked in appreciations of strategic formulation. In that regard, Maoist ideas open up possibilities little understood either among scholars of strategy or mainstream political practitioners. Strategy can be understood as the endeavour to relate means to ends: the use of available resources to gain defined objectives,[iii] encompassing the attempt to maximise interests with available resources.[iv] Actions are thus consciously intended to have utility. They are intended to achieve goals and therefore are constructed with a purpose. Strategy is, then, an inherently practical subject, concerned with translating aspirations into realisable objectives. Strategy, as Colin Gray explained, functions as the ‘bridge’ between tactics, that is, actions on the ground, and the broader political effects that they are intended to produce. [v] From this perspective, we can analyse the challenges and possibilities that Maoism poses for strategic conduct in a Western liberal democratic setting. Strategy as objectively observable The conception of strategy as a goal-orientated enterprise thus delineates a pragmatic concern with realising tangible objectives with available means. In its intellectual and operationalmanifestations, therefore, strategyconcentrates on practices as physically observable phenomenon. Strategy is revealed and evaluated in relation to material facts, acts and outcomes: political mobilization, armed clashes, organised violence, plans, battles, campaigns, victories and defeats. Simply put, a successful strategy can usually be gauged by real world effects that are clear and demonstrable: objectives achieved, battles won, victories secured. Strategy as a method of completion Focusing on achieving empirically observable outcomes, strategy, as traditionally conceived, has little to say about the mind: the sphere of the self of private thoughts, reflections and beliefs. Strategy, conventionally understood, is about transforming an idea – a desire to achieve an objective – into reality. Strategy, in this sense, is a movement from inception to completion. The desire for completion, winning in war or attaining any other goal, reflects the wish to make something final, that is, to reach a definitive end that will be hard to question or undo. Moreover, a physically observable aftermath demonstrating the achievement of aims validates that final completion. Where the aim might arise in the individual or collective consciousness is something in which the study of strategy has evinced little interest. The political distinction between war and peace This conception of strategy as something that is focused on achieving tangible outcomes also reflects the clear distinction often drawn in Western political thought between the state of war and peace. Although, of course, professional thinkers on strategy, military planners and policy makers, do not see strategy as simply a wartime activity, the point is that the liberal conception of war is regarded as a largely negative consequence of the public breakdown of civil or inter-state relations, requiring a decision to be reached through force of arms.[vi] By contrast, ‘peace’ is war’s antithesis – the absence of fighting – and an altogether more preferable state of affairs. Indifference to the private sphere Yet where ‘fighting thoughts’ come from in the first place is rarely, if ever, examined in Western strategic discourse. This dichotomy itself reflects understandings in Western philosophy concerning the self. Modern philosophy begins with René Descartes’ mind-body dualism and the method of doubt.[vii] Seventeenth century liberal thought gradually came to treat the mind as an internal sphere free from the legal and confessional controls imposed on external behaviour (the Catholic Church was very happy to examine men’s souls as was the Puritan version of election). This was for seventeenth century materialists a function of the body, whether it was the arm that threw the stone or the mouth that uttered an insult. This mind-body dualism in Western thought over time came to delineate, at least in England, the separation of the private from the public realm, which in turn established the grounds of social contract theory and the ‘cultural inheritance’ of Western liberalism. Through a series of unintended consequences, it enabled a more liberal and rationally enlightened polity to develop. In essence, so long as subjects acknowledged their temporal allegiance to the constitutional monarch or the republic, the state would not seek to look into men’s souls. Over time, the quid pro quo of outward conformity in return for the state’s indifference to the private beliefs of its subjects enabled a political language and practice of individualism. Inexorably, the idea of the liberal democratic state as a container of individual legal rights, including the right to free speech and dissent became normalised. Although the concept of the private self was to be challenged by the growth of the administrative state and totalitarian ideologies during the twentieth century, the notion of the self-regarding autonomous individual – endowed with the vote and a right to political participation – remained the foundational condition of the Western liberal polity. The Strategy of the Mind: Maoism and Culture War in the West David Martin Jones and M.L.R. Smith