Image (proudly) created by Matt Cavanaugh.
Choices made both close and create opportunities. For a simple Valentine’s-ish example, consider that when one selects a (soul)mate for life, while that choice closes potential relationships with other partners, at the same time such a decision creates life opportunities through a committed relationship. The old saying is useful; decisions open doors and close windows (or something like that).
Both Clausewitz and Jomini viewed the first decisions for war critically important. Specifically, both agreed that military and political elites must be on the same page. Clausewitz:
“The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.” And Jomini: “…the first care of its commander should be to agree with the head of the state upon the character of the war.”
Upon that lofty altar of initial decision making I would add what I consider to be a military intervention’s most critical initial decision – if ground force is to be used, how should we think about the commitment? Will the force be light, lean, and long; or heavy, huge and hasty? Is this the proverbial marathon or sprint? Afghanistan 2001 or Iraq 1991?
Choices have consequences, both good and ill, and for my money that initial strategic landpower decision is on par with Clausewitz & Jomini’s counsel regarding pre-war thinking.