This Month at the War College: November-December 2012
At the beginning of November 2012, students at the National War College moved into the third core course of the school year-Course 6300, "Non-Military Instruments of Statecraft." The course follows 6200, "War and Statecraft," and between the two they provide students with a four-month examination of the various means of national strategy.
The core curriculum at NWC is designed to support an in-depth examination of strategy and the strategic art. It offers major courses in a number of the main requirements of strategy: Understanding context; appreciating the capabilities, constraints, risks and costs of various means; developing strategic concepts-"ways"-to tackle problems; and more. Courses 6200 and 6300 focus on means.
Specifically, Course 6300 considers such possible tools of statecraft as diplomacy, economic sanctions, financial actions, and covert action. Through general readings as well as case studies, the course aims to help students deepen their understanding of each tool. Of great value is the fact that-as with the course on war and statecraft-dozens of War College students and faculty have had practical experience trying to put these means into action, and can speak from this experience in class.
The course this year responds to comments from students as well as faculty in past years and focuses strongly on two themes: the character of the instruments themselves, from the viewpoint of a strategic leader; and the challenging of applying the learning of the course to real-world strategy exercises. Indeed the course this year is built around two parallel course-long, student-led, peer-to-peer strategy-building efforts, guided and overseen by faculty and with extensive background materials put in place by the course director. The idea is to give students an opportunity to do strategy as well as talk about it, and to think about problems from the perspective of a senior leader, rather than merely an observer or analyst.
Readings in the course, which the students will be making their way through over the next seven weeks, include experienced diplomat Dennis Ross's book Statecraft, John Gaddis's history of containment, original source documents from the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, as well as dozens of articles and op-eds from a variety of leading scholars and practitioners. In an average NWC course, assigned readings change 20% to 40% per year, even in the core, to reflect new developments, new research, and major new titles by established authorities and practitioners.
The course concludes with a capstone strategy exercise in which students, having developed a strategy for their given problem during the course, are presented with new developments and variations on the current situation and asked to react in real time, using their strategic concept as the foundation.