Addendum on the Strategico-Tactical Nexus

24 May 2011


In Bottlennecks as Vulnerability and as Opportunity I introduced what I call the strategico-tactical nexus, in which choke points and open flanks for tactics, operations, and strategy were laid out in the above table. This table represents a simplified compromise, since I employed tactics, operations, and strategy instead of the five-part distinction of ecological temporality that I have interpreted in strategico-tactical terms in metaphysical ecology.

There is another sense, however, in which this table is a compromise, and that is the sense of introducing the difference between choke points and an open flank as a dichotomy. It will be obvious to everyone that, in the complexity of actual life, this distinction will be expressed as a continuum, with the ideal choke point of zero dimensionality at one end and the ideal infinitely open flank at the other end of the continuum. These ideal will not obtain in fact, but actual facts will approach and approximate these ideals as they approach and approximate on the one hand closure, and on the other hand openness.

It also has occurred to me that a better way to express this dichotomy would be in terms of constraint, which can be expressed as degrees of constraint or degrees of freedom. A choke point has a high degree of constraint and a low degree of freedom; an open flank has a low degree of constraint and a high degree of freedom. Thus we can express the dichotomy between choke points and open flanks as the difference between (relatively) constrained and (relatively) unconstrained circumstances. For a fine-grained account, further distinctions could be made among number, degree, and kind of constraint. This would be more difficult to quantify, and more difficult to express as a continuum, though the gain in detail and complexity would represent a greater degree of fidelity of the model to reality.

Once we have laid out the strategico-tactical parameters in this systematic fashion, we can immediately see that, in so far as we express ourselves in finite dimensionality rather than a continuum, we can produce an exhaustive survey of the possibilities of the strategico-tactical situation. That is to say, we can delineate the strategico-tactical permutations in a simple table.

While the above table gives us eight (8) stragetico-tactical permutations, it, like the other tables above, is a compromise. As with all abstract thought, abstract strategy involves a tension between complexity of the model and fidelity of reality. Complete fidelity to reality would mean the formulation of a surrogate reality, identical to the original at all points. But this would not be helpful in terms of thinking about the situation. To think our way through a situation systematically and rigorously, we choose to highlight the salient features of the situation and so produce a map that is not identical with the territory it maps.

Fortunately, if we keep our minds flexible, we are not constrained to any one model or any one formulation of a model. It is natural to extend and deepen our analysis at any point and seems to promise further illumination from further analysis, or to switch to another model incorporating distinct analytical principles.

The above table of strategico-tactical permutations is highly imperfect because it implies that there is a relatively smooth gradation between most constrained and the least constrained circumstances. There may be a way to demonstrate a systematic gradation, and we can clearly identify the end points of the continuum as the most constrained and the least constrained, but in the above I have simply laid out all the permutations, arranging them logically, and not according to increasing (or decreasing) constraint. That will be the work of a later model, or a revised analytical scheme.

Moreover, just as there is a tension between complex fidelity and simplification, which is expressed above in the distinction between finite dimensions or continua, so too there is a tension between a systematical delineation of circumstances, which seems to have a place for everything and to put everything in its place, and an ecological perspective, which is always concerned to show the inter-relations and inter-actions between distinct and artificially pigeon-holed categories.

Thus it is to be expected that strategic constraints will reach down into the details of operations and tactics, and that tactical constraints will pass upward to constrain operations and strategy. I am presently working on this problem, and hope to post more on the topic soon. The “later model” I mentioned above would perhaps be an ecological model that also takes into account the strategico-tactical nexus as I have delineated it here. An ecological model would allow us to pass beyond finite dimensionality even while retaining these categories. At least, that’s what I’m thinking now.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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