Errors in Strategic Thinking: Anti-Politics and the Macro Bias

  • Colonel Celestino Perez, Jr.

How can military professionals improve U.S. strategic performance? Prominent policymakers, military professionals, and opinion leaders argue that the United States suffers from repeated bouts of strategic discontent arising from the failure to conjoin strategic intent and actual outcomes. This paper presumes that military professionals share with policymakers the responsibility to improve U.S. strategic performance. Motivated by assessments from top military professionals and Séverine Autessere’s research on the failure of international peacebuilding, I argue that two intellectual errors plague American strategic thinking. The first error, anti-politics, describes the military professional’s tendency to discount the importance of ground-level politics as a military concern. The second error, the macro bias, leads strategists and military professionals to neglect local knowledge and bottom-up dynamics. This error eclipses crucial strategies to mitigate violence. Both anti-politics and the macro bias have strategic consequences, which military leaders and educators can help reverse through educational reforms that integrate cutting-edge social and political science into the military classroom.