Yesterday I mentioned the irony of John McCain's complaining that Barack Obama "didn't understand" the difference between strategy and tactics, given that the Obama campaign seemed guided by a long-term strategy leading to November 4 while McCain was fighting day by day tactical battles.

After the jump, an email just in from Gerald A. Lechliter, a career U.S. Army officer, with some interesting elaborations on this point. I'll use this opportunity to restate a procedural note:

If you send me a message via the "email JF" button on this site, I will assume that I can use some or all of the contents of your message in subsequent posts unless you say otherwise, but that I should not use your name or other identifying details unless you explicitly say that is OK. [Original version of this post did not include G. Lechliter's name, but I got a subsequent message from him OK'ing its use.]

For instance, I'd remove parts of a message that said "I am a 67-year old man from Wyoming currently living at the U.S. Naval Observatory but contemplating a relocation next January" but might use the parts that said, "I have had several heart-bypass operations, and I've begun to reflect on how they might change someone's personality..."

That is a fake email. After the jump, a real one about strategy and tactics.

A reader Gerald Lechliter writes:

I'm a retired (1999) Army colonel and was astounded by McCain's confusion about military "strategy" during the debate. I listened to it and then read the applicable area in the transcript. Either he was using language extremely carelessly or he didn't learn some basics in his military career. He was a Navy captain who attended, I believe, the National War College and national security is supposedly his strong suit. It should be second nature.

A good analogy to explain military strategy is a stool with three legs: goals (mission); means (concept of operation); and resources (people and equipment). If the legs are not balanced, you have an unbalanced stool, increasing the likelihood of failure.

The surge added troops (resources) to carry out the counterinsurgency mission of defeating the insurgents and establishing enough stability so that the Iraqis themselves could develop the means of controlling the violence.

The final goal (grand strategy as distinguished from military strategy) is the emergence of a fully functioning Iraqi state friendly to the US. Military strategy must support that goal. The primary means (concept of operation) in the military strategy was to station small units among the Iraqis rather than in large Forward Operating Bases; cordon off the neighborhoods of Baghdad with cement walls; co-opt the Sunnis by paying them to fight al Qaeda in Iraq; and winning the hearts and minds of the population that tolerated and supported insurgents (dry up the sea in which the insurgents found nourishment). His continued stating that the surge was a strategy is inexplicable.

Finally, many factors unrelated to a preceding the surge led to the reduction in violence. For example, the decision of Sunni tribal leaders to eliminate al Qaeda in Iraq by cooperating with the US for personal reasons and money; the completed ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Baghdad; and Sadr's truce with the US, among others

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