This edition starts to see articles written in relation to the War in Ukraine. My last two editorials warned against being tempted to prognosticate and pontificate on that war as all the military strategists on Twitter and other social media platforms seem to do. Any modern theatre commander must count himself lucky in that he can mine the wisdom of policy commentators, military historians and journalists all of whom possess enough expertise to share insights with the entire world. The Russians read Twitter, so the would-be Rommels all giving advice on what the Ukrainian General Staff should do next, do so for only social messaging reasons.
One thing apparent from the 24th of February 2022 was that anyone professionally connected with the current war in Ukraine (as opposed to the ongoing Tigray war in Ethiopia) was working 100-hour weeks; so little time to chew on the commentary surrounding the war. This again brings us back, yet again, to the hard reality that Military Strategy is a practical skill. The study of military strategy should be conducted with the aim to improve what practitioners do. That may be recreational for some but most of the serious writing extant today is essentially academic, thus the existence of this magazine.
Should serious students of military strategy comment on current conflicts? Probably not. Strategic history is the only body of evidence strategic theory can employ. The recent past is not history if the recent events are still clouded in ambiguity and the fall out from information operations, journalistic opinion and propaganda. Again, most of the early calls on the Ukraine War were wrong, as were all the declarations that the Russians would not invade. To prognosticate is to appear foolish. No policy or military analyst or serious person’s job is to predict. You cannot defend your bad predictions by saying your job was to predict so sometimes you are wrong. Strategy requires preparation, not prediction. If any part of what you do requires you to predict events that have not occured, then you work for a broken organisation. This means no army, strategists, military professional, or serious student of warfare should ponder the future of war, other than to be able to provide guidance as to how to prepare in a way that delivers the greatest possible utility.
Fundamentally, much discussion on military strategy and even military science that occurs beyond the page we publish here is not of a standard that meets that criteria. Some do, but they are rare. There will be a natural tendency to express opinions of the events of the Ukraine War but they should be resisted in terms of this magazine. That is not to say we cannot see useful writing occur. War after all cannot change, and warfare can only change in ways apparent to the practitioners. Warfare is about human action, thus human choice. It cannot defy explanation. Explanation for the furtherance of understanding is always going to be a good thing.
William F. Owen
Editor, Military Strategy Magazine