#Monday Musings: Olivia Garard

"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.)?

Although not a who, the study of philosophy provides the foundation with which I buttress my arguments, demanding only that I write cogently, using sound logic and clear analysis. Moreover, it is my collective (educational) experience that I draw upon for ideas. Nothing is off limits for inspiration, however. Nevertheless, it was at King’s College London that I developed my foundational understanding of On War. Jan Honig’s course on Clausewitz and his legacy provided a structure to understand Clausewitz’s text. As I engaged with Clausewitz on a theoretical level, I began to develop the confidence to enter into current debates concerning war and strategy. Yet, for all this talk of theory, I often find that it is those unprompted conversations with colleagues or spontaneous discussions with friends that triggers most original thought. Stimulating intellectual debate; that’s where learning occurs.

2. What book (fiction, history, or academic) do you think best explains strategy?

Despite my clear predilection for Clausewitz, I won’t respond with On War because I don’t believe it best explains strategy. For clarity of understanding how ends, ways, and means function together, Carl is not the man. Clausewitz derives strategy from a definition of war, but there’s a difference between strategy and war. War ought to have a strategy, but war is not a strategy. I recently discovered Henry Mintzberg’s article “Crafting Strategy.” I am not yet willing to say it best explains strategy—Lawrence Freedman’s Strategy: A History wins in that regard, if only through sheer thoroughness—but Mintzberg’s article articulates the potential snags and inherent complications that stem from attempting to institute a determinate, yet flexible plan.

3. What do you want your legacy to be?

I find it a bit forward to think of any sort of legacy right now. I merely hope to add to the conversation, to make people question and think in new and interesting ways, to concede my own points in the face of solid reasoning, and to encourage others to jump in and contribute. I’m learning that good arguments are met with welcoming arms, where only rigor, not agreement, is required. And finally, I strive to become as technically and tactically proficient as I can, enabling me to attempt to translate all this wonderful theory into reality.

Olivia A. Garard is an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. She has an MA in War Studies from King's College London. The opinions expressed are hers alone and do not reflect those of the Marine Corps, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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