Strategic Assessment in War

Scott Sigmund Gartner

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How do military organizations assess strategic policy in war? In this book Scott Gartner develops a theory to explain how military and government leaders evaluate wartime performance, how much they change strategies in response to this evaluation, and why they are frequently at odds when discussing the success or failure of strategic performance.

Blending history, decision theory, and mathematical modeling, Gartner argues that military personnel do reevaluate their strategies and that they measure the performance of a strategy through quantitative, "dominant" indicators. But different actors within a government use different indicators of success: some will see the strategy as succeeding when others see it as failing because of their different dominant indicators. Gartner tests his argument with three case studies: the British shift to convoys in World War I following the German imposition of unrestricted submarine warfare; the lack of change in British naval policy in the Battle of the Atlantic following the German introduction of Wolf Packs in World War II; and the American decision to deescalate in Vietnam after the Tet Offensive. He also tests his approach in a nonwar situation, analyzing the Carter Administration's decision to launch the hostage rescue attempt. In each case, his dominant indicator model better predicts the observed behavior than either a standard-organization or an action-reaction approach.

Scott Sigmund Gartner is professor of international affairs at Pennsylvania State University.

"The common wisdom in security studies is that military organizations are tied to offensive strategies at all costs. This book shows that military organizations can change strategy and offers a persuasive explanation of how this is done. It is an important contribution to security studies and military history. "—James D. Morrow, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace

"Scholars and students of international relations, military strategy and organizational behavior will all find much of interest in Strategic Assessment in War."—Allan Stam, Yale University, Department of Political Science

"Strategic Assessment in War represents an important and overdue contribution to the extensive literature on the way military organizations select and assess strategy in wartime."—James J. Wirtz, American Political Science Review

"The book is a useful addition to the literature on strategy. It is recommended as an auxiliary text in courses dealing with decision-making and military strategy."—Stafford T. Thomas, Perspectives on Political Science

"This book is readable, clear and concise. Strategic assessment in war is vital because it can directly affect and policy can directly the outcome. This is a fascinating and important book that deserves a close reading by all military strategists."—Philip S. Meilinger, Naval War College Review

"A quantified approach to strategic assessment in war whose conclusions yield interesting . . . insights."—Harold R. Winton, Journal of Military History


"When do states change their operational plans? Under what conditions do they change their military or political strategies? . . . Gartner answers these questions by developing and testing a model of decision making that fits into the bounded rationality tradition of political science. . . . Scholars and students of international relations, military strategy and organizational behavior will all find much of interest in Strategic Assessment in War."—Allan Stam, Harvard International Review
ISBN: 9780300080698
Publication Date: September 10, 1999
256 pages, 5 x 8