"Monday Musings” are designed to get quick, insightful thoughts based around three questions from those interested in strategy, from the most experienced and lauded, to our newest thinkers/writers.
1. Who had the greatest impact on you intellectually (whether through writing, mentorship, etc.)?
I have been shaped intellectually by a network of supporters and mentors—a long list of incredible individuals at different stages of my life, but I will mention just a few. Maram Epstein supported my quest to learn all-things-China, which began as an undergraduate, giving me the opportunity to produce a thesis in Chinese and offering mentoring and guidance long beyond my time in Oregon. In my first “real” job, I owe a particular debt of intellectual gratitude to Carla Robbins and Janine Davidson. Carla taught me how to write—and to write well—both academically rigorous and policy relevant pieces. And it was a series of conversations with Janine that cemented my intent to devote my professional life to the study of strategy and security in Greater China. All three women continue to inspire and fuel my intellectual growth.
2. What book (fiction, history, or academic) do you think best explains strategy?
To understand the nuanced interaction of ways and means with ends, I think there is no one better to read than the father of strategic theory, Thomas Schelling. In The Strategy of Conflict, he brilliantly and effortlessly traces the relationship between tactics and outcomes with a theory of how threats and/or promises combine with the conditioning of actor inter-dependencies. Insofar as such a tradition of strategic theory has continued, I have also found the works of M.L.R. Smith and John Stone (“Explaining Strategic Theory”) and Harry Yarger (Strategic Theory for the 21st Century) to be essential reading. Finally, as I am focused on China, there are few texts that adequately explain how Beijing conceptualizes strategy; relying on Chinese-language materials, notably the Science of Military Strategy (战略学), is essential but should be caveated as scholarship that draws significantly upon the Western academic tradition of strategy and statecraft.
3. What do you want your legacy to be?
At first, I found myself wondering if I am too early in my career to be thinking about a legacy. But a legacy does not need to be something handed down only at the end of one’s career. If I am able to help others think more deeply about the complexities of contemporary Chinese strategy and the cross-Strait relationship, and to encourage others to contribute to these important discussions, this will be a legacy I will be proud to claim.
Lauren Dickey is a PhD candidate in War Studies at King’s College London and the National University of Singapore where her research focuses on Chinese strategy toward Taiwan. She is also a member of the Pacific Forum Young Leaders Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
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