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Talking Strategy

Sep 6, 2022

Dr Jeannie Johnson, Director of the Center for Anticipatory Intelligence at Utah State University, joins us to discuss the legacy of Colin S Gray. Most notable for originating Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘unknown unknowns’ through his tetrarchy of enquiry, Gray’s thinking on strategic culture remains influential today.

With a career and influence straddling the Atlantic, and as an adviser to successive US administrations, Colin S Gray was a favourite in military academies. His approach went beyond theory and into practice, enabling him to challenge much of the abstract International Relations (IR) theory and to ground thinking and strategy in hard reality. One of Gray’s key contributions to strategic thought was his enquiry into strategic culture. He cautioned against the assumptions underlying game theory and many other IR theories that claim that the enemy necessarily thinks like us. Instead, he would ask, ‘what is the organisational culture engendering, what are the habits and patterns of thinking that we need to factor in when forecasting the enemy’s moves, and how will the enemy react to our moves in a crisis?’ In most contexts of crisis intervention, our resources are limited, so this response, he emphasised, could not be perfect. What, then, would be ‘good enough’?

That having a particular strategic culture is not an attribute only of the adversary has been demonstrated by Gray’s disciple Dr Jeannie Johnson, who will discuss his legacy with us. Herself a specialist on the US Marine Corps’ (and wider US) strategic culture, she is the founding Director of the Center for Anticipatory Intelligence at Utah State University, and conducts research on cultural terrain mapping for the public sector.