What is strategy and why is it important? Strategy is not confined to one realm of life. Strategy is not merely political, nor is it confined to the business realm. Simply put, strategy is ubiquitous. It is a premeditated attempt to contend with situations as they arise in order to achieve a desired outcome. Lawrence Freedman, professor of War Studies at Kings College in London and foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair, describes strategy as “The best word we have for expressing attempts to think about actions in advance, in the light of our goals and our capacities.”
A clearly defined strategy for organizations, governments, and sports teams can lead to more successful endeavors. A bad strategy, or worse, a lack of strategy can lead to a grinding halt in the process, or a grinding halt may be part of a much more elaborate strategy – much like Kristina Vogel in the 2014 UCI Track Worlds. One would believe that a sprint would be a test of raw strength. However, Vogel, relying heavily on strategy, brings her bike to a standstill in the middle of the race – hoping that her competition will pass her, thus allowing her to draft behind and save her legs until she would need to pass in the last seconds. In an intensely strategic maneuver, she stops her bike not once, but twice, in the last heat. She established a predetermined final outcome and used a counterintuitive but brilliant strategy to achieve victory. Regardless, Vogel ended up beating her opponent using raw skill and strength – showing that strategy is based on real time events and must be flexible and fluid in order to be successful.
An end goal is paramount to the development of a strategy. Freedman emphasizes that “strategy comes into play where there is actual or potential conflict”. It would be quite accurate to call the current situation in Syria a conflict. The ongoing civil war along with the influx of other powers in the region has caused not only a major migrant problem, but has raised several questions of international human rights violations.
In 2012 President Obama issued a “red line” for the Assad regime which was additionally bolstered by a 2003 congressional legislation aimed at forbidding Syrian use of chemical weapons. This red line was crossed and surprisingly enough no promised military action or “enormous consequences” have been taken against those responsible for the violation. This begs the question: Did the Obama administration have a strategy for dealing with Syria or did they rely mainly on bluffing in hopes that the Assad Regime wouldn’t advance further? The US’s delayed reaction to the crisis in Syria has allowed many other players such as Russia to assert themselves in the region, leaving us with even worse intervention prospects. As noted above, a proper strategy must be both fluid and flexible, something that the US response has not been. The lack of strategy in this scenario left us blindsided and thus hurt our international credibility. Additionally, the influence of Russia in the region has shown us Russia’s desire to be an international player and the strategy used to establish this status.
If we look to continue to be a world leader it is imperative that we formulate a strategy. Whether this strategy is driven by a heavy reliance on international intervention or a withdrawn international presence, it is crucial that we have a strategy. As a leader it is inappropriate to speak in one way and act in another. We should first look internally and decide who we want to be, how we wish to act, and most importantly develop a strategy that mirrors these two ideals.