Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Importance of Defining Purpose - World War II vs. Vietnam

By Pascal Dennis

In recent blogs I've talked about Policy, Strategy & Tactics using military metaphors.

Let's talk a bit more about Policy - why we're fighting.

In the absence of a clearly defined Policy (or Purpose - I'll use the terms interchangeably) all bets are off.

During WWII the allied Purpose was crystal clear:

  1. Remove Hitler and Tojo from power

  2. Destroy the Nazi and Japanese war machines

  3. Destroy their will to fight

"Unconditional surrender" was an apt expression of this policy.

Result: absolute clarity of purpose among the troops. They could focus on getting the terrible job done.

By contrast, during the Vietnam war, America's Purpose was vague.

And this was America's critical error, argued Col. Harry Summers, the late, great author & US Army College lecturer.

America's efforts, he argued, amounted to "grand tactics".


Misalignment and tragedy.

For the only time in the history of the republic, the Army and the People were not aligned.

A famous exchange between an American and Vietnamese general goes like this:

US General, "You never defeated us in battle."

Vietnamese General, "That is true. It is also irrelevant."

Some implications for leaders at all levels, no?

Best regards,


No comments:

Post a Comment