I DO NOT INTEND to make a complete commentary on Dr. Jack D. Kem's very interesting article "Military Transformation: Ends, Ways, and Means" (Air and Space Power Journal, Fall 2006); instead, I will outline a few thoughts that it inspired in one reader. The first concerns the four considerations discussed by Dr. Kem, namely, the geostrategic setting (context), the ends, the ways, and the means-as well as the manner in which these considerations interact.
Undoubtedly, one could consider the overall context as almost a given, impervious to any sort of action. Of course, some powerful countries or organizations might exert some degree of geopolitical influence in a part of the world and for a certain time. One has seen the United States create and sustain governments in South America, and France has done the same in Africa. But, ultimately, what remains of them? Has doing this changed the course of things permanently or even durably? Thus, a particular country must consider the context as a given, a backdrop for its thoughts about the ends it seeks.
The end is the political policy that a country agrees to define and hold. Quite clearly, nearly as many different ends exist as do countries in the world-hardly an exaggeration. In effect, numerous countries lack the power, means, or will to have clearly defined goals for foreign policy. Some blocs, such as Europe, try to organize themselves in order to define common ends, but they do so with difficulty and only over the long term. We therefore live in a world in which the ends sought by countries or organizations (al-Qaeda, the Mafia, etc.) are multiple and, of course, contradictory.
Naturally, this is a source of tension and conflict since each country or organization having an end will obviously seek to attain it. However, for a given country, the flexibility of its ends-that is, of its foreign policy-remains limited. In countries such as the United States and France, political philosophy evolves very slowly. In France, foreign policy represents almost the only point of agreement between the political left and right.
Conversely, one could think that Russia is currently evolving its foreign policy very strongly. In fact, however, it is merely returning to the power formerly possessed by the Holy Russia of the tsars and, once, by the Soviet Union. Since the so-called fall of the Berlin Wall (actually the signal of Russian renewal), Russia has opened itself to a market economy and knows how to both politically and economically optimize the clout conferred by its riches of oil and natural gas. That country has again become powerful because today it has the economic means necessary to wield political power.
Thus, one sees that a country's end is often a heavy trend that certainly evolves, but with the slowness required for its population to grasp great currents of thought. In contrast, ways and means evolve at a much less restrained speed and rhythm.
People have an uninhibited capacity to conceive of the best manner of attaining their ends. They can exhibit treasures of imagination, patience, and perseverance in order to achieve them. In parallel with their thought about the ways, they display the same energy concerning the means. In these domains, things can move very fast-a phenomenon commonly seen in industrial techniques and revolutions but equally true concerning military tactics and armament.
Ways and means can strongly interact and evolve at the same rapid pace without either of them taking precedence over the other. In effect, the way will spur development of the means necessary to its realization, but the availability of new techniques will permit the implementation of other ways. History contains many examples of these two cases.
Another thought inspired by reading the article concerns the role of mechanized forces and the manner in which they are used, as well as the investment the Allies made in them prior to the Second World War. …