The (Military) Strategist's Oath
A pledge, a commitment, and a way of thinking about a strategist's value
Strategists’ just sort-of exist out there in the world, free-floating, without much of an ideal to strive for. We often fill that gap with hero-worship, but our heroes are often confined to narrow circumstances that may or may not track well with our own careers.
So what follows aims instead for a set of principles, tailored to the military strategist, that might form the basis for a strategist to strive for. (With modest adjustment, this might be fit to other disciplines.)
I pledge, to the best of my ability, that:
I will take pride in being part of the Nation’s arsenal of ideas, because wars are won as much in the mind as by the fist.
I will remember the battlefield punishes vanity. I am the most loyal skeptic, and personal investment will never obscure focus on clear-eyed, selfless support for the best strategy available.
I will be prepared to articulate some vision for strategic advantage, or even victory, when my commander says, “Tell me how this ends.”
I will draw upon the sum total of all academic disciplines, the accumulated wisdom of the policy community, and the hard-fought lessons of warfare.
I will anticipate, design, and facilitate security decisions for the Nation’s strategic leaders, always prepared to adapt to the real world’s ever-shifting circumstances.
I will remember that strategy is an inescapably human endeavor—my advice and analysis will strive to balance genuine compassion with rational calculation.
I will know that all war is relative; in violent competition against a willful opponent and with a hostile environment, I seek not the “good” strategy, but instead, a superior strategy.
I will demonstrate my deepest respect for those Strategists that came before me by learning of their struggles and committing to continual growth in the craft of strategy.
I will never forget that my highest loyalty and fiercest dedication is to the Nation’s strategic success, and that my efforts matter in securing military objectives, political outcomes, and strategic narratives consistent with the Nation's interests.
If I do not violate this oath, and always seek to uphold the finest traditions of my calling, I will have earned the title, “Strategist,” and may take satisfaction in having preserved this distinct honor for future generations.
*Note: This was inspired by Dr. Louis Lasagna’s 1964 “Modern” Hippocratic Oath, most likely written while he served as dean of the Tufts University Medical School.