Wednesday 01 April 2015

Strategic leaders understand that strategy is difficult. Effectively using diplomacy, military capabilities, economic power and information at the national level requires deft orchestration and artful balance. Though the UAE is fortunate to have riches where most other nations have few resources and relatively few people in an era threatened by bulging populations, strategic balance will still be crucial to navigating coming challenges and ensuring the UAE remains as successful in the future as it has been fortunate in the past.

One of the key conclusions reached by Carl von Clausewitz was his understanding that conflict should always be addressed by a “remarkable trinity” of the government, the armed forces, and the people – the same holds true for strategy. In conflict and in strategy, the government should establish the strategic end, the military and other federal agencies provide the ways for achieving the strategic end, and the people provide the means. All three are indispensable legs of a single triad; indispensable because an imbalance among the three can have catastrophic effects on national initiatives.

Balance should be achieved both internally and externally. Internal balancing typically involves enhancing national resilience through economic resource development and military technological improvements. Enhancing domestic capabilities improves responsiveness to threats and raises the profile of a state within the international system. Such domestic balancing enhancements could include efforts to increase GDP or incentives to increase the population. On his accession day, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid affirmed that “The UAE people, leadership and army are one hand and one heart, one team all seeking to build a promising future of the UAE.” Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi also noted that “The UAE leadership and people recognize the momentous role the armed forces play and the tremendous challenge they face amidst a world plagued by conflicts and threats.” The recent positive response to national service is yet another strong indication of the bond between the people of the UAE and its armed forces, demonstrating the internal balance that the UAE seeks.

External balancing involves strengthening and enlarging alliances and strategic relationships in order to counter threats. External balancing includes alliance arrangements wherein states join together against perceived dangers, assuring security through combined opposition to an aggressor who poses danger. When facing a common security threat, states should be expected to put aside their secondary disputes and join a balancing alliance; strategic balance also includes the development of such relationships in time to peace to deter aggression and improve regional stability – the Gulf Cooperation Council is a good example of such wisdom.

The American war in Vietnam saw the people (means) turn against the government, eventually leading to a Vietnamese victory; during WWII the German armed forces (ways) were too dominated by Hitler to develop strategic success; and, in 1941 the Japanese armed forces took the nation into a war against America they could not hope to win because they lacked a rational government purpose (end) and regional allies. Most analysts also identify three other elements: emotion, uncertainty, and volatility that add complexity and risk to every strategic effort reinforcing the value of balanced strategic approaches. Maintaining balance then represents one of the key attributes of successful strategy execution. In the past, the UAE has achieved remarkable equilibrium within the region and among its own capabilities (as current UAE efforts against extremism quite clearly demonstrate) – such balance will be ever more important in the complex future ahead