The Problem of Expertise in Strategic Studies

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  • September 2015

    Strategic geniuses are natural strategic thinkers even without much guidance. While the complexity of strategy makes it extremely difficult to formulate and execute, geniuses like Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz or Chinese General Sun Tzu were successful in developing strategies that are still relevant today. However, as strategic history suggests, military strategists do not need to be geniuses to succeed in creating decisive strategies.1 Strategists only need sufficient expertise to be able to outthink and outmanoeuvre their adversaries. Regrettably, strategic expertise has been elusive because existing strategic education and training has not provided the skills and knowledge that are necessary for developing the potential of future strategists. This problem is manifested by the clear absence of academic literature on strategic education and the unreliable performance of public officials.2

    In this context, this commentary argues that developing strategic expertise is problematic for three critical reasons: (1) a clear profession for strategists does not exist; (2) strategic education is biased; and (3) scholars have not accepted a general theory of strategy that consolidates the subject. The first section surveys the criteria for strategic expertise as defined by philosophical literature. The second section examines the main barriers to advancing expertise in strategic studies.